Should Runners Take Creatine?

Creatine is a super supplement with tons of benefits.

We have documented many of the benefits in our research article on creatine monohydrate.

It is often suggested that creatine is best for high-intensity anaerobic exercise, which begs the question: what about endurance exercise such as long-distance running?

That’s the question we want to explore in this article: should runners supplement with creatine?

Let’s cut straight to the chase and look at three specific reasons creatine can help runners.

3 Important Benefits of Creatine for Runners

  1. Faster Recovery
  2. Injury Prevention
  3. Improved Thermoregulation

Let’s look at each of these benefits and how they relate to running.

Faster Recovery

One of the most well-documented features of creatine is its role in muscle recovery and training adaptations.

People suffering from delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) often report that creatine supplementation eliminates or dramatically reduces their issues.

The bottom line is that with creatine supplementation you will be able to train harder more often. And the more your train, the more your body adapts.

Injury Prevention

It may seem hard to understand, but studies show that creatine helps prevent injuries and recovery from injuries. But why is this?

One of the suggested reasons is that creatine increases cellular metabolism which helps prevent tissue damage, especially when oxygen availability is compromised.

Creatine also serves a role in strengthening muscle, bones, ligaments and tendons.

Improved Thermoregulation

This may be the most runner specific benefit of creatine: thermoregulation. So what is thermoregulation and how does creatine help?

Thermoregulation is the ability of the body to regulate its internal temperature. This ability gets compromised in extreme situations, such as when the body exerts itself for long periods in the heat.

Creatine promotes hyper-hydration and a more efficient thermoregulatory response during extended exertion in high temperatures.

Creatine and high-intensity exercise

Research by the International Society of Sports Nutrition suggests that creatine is one of the most effective supplements available for high-intensity exercise.

Several hundred other studies have investigated its effects, with average performance improvements of 1–15% reported across the board.

Creatine was shown in one study to significantly reduce the time needed to complete 40-metre sprints, while other research has shown it improves sprinting performance.

A significant benefit of creatine is its ability to improve your training sessions, which may boost endurance performance in the long term.

One study demonstrated creatine increased the number of intervals and subsequent amount of training endurance athletes could complete.

On that basis, creatine may provide benefits for endurance athletes who include sprints, high-intensity intervals or strength work in their training.

should runners use creatine supplements?

The short answer is yes. Creatine will allow you to train harder, longer and endure more extreme temperatures.

Now, it is true that a lot of the studied benefits of creatine relate to high-intensity anaerobic situations.

And while you may not get all the benefits of creatine that say a CrossFit athlete might, you still get plenty.

It is worth noting that weight gain and water retention are common side effects of creatine supplementation, particularly when you first start taking it.

If you are running as part of a weight loss programme, creatine may not be the best supplement to use until you have developed lean muscle mass.

Other commonly reported side effects of creatine include stomach cramping, diarrhoea and nausea. These can be mitigated with adequate hydration and split doses.

If you have heart, liver or kidney problems, consult your doctor to see if creatine is right for you. The same goes for anyone taking any medications.

How Much Creatine Should A Runner Take?

Most of the studies on creatine suggest taking 5-10 grams per day for maximum effect. You can drink it straight or mix it in with a smoothie.

Some research suggests runners should take 20–25g of creatine per day in 5g doses for 5–7 days. This would be followed by a maintenance dose of 3–5 grams per day.

The critical thing to remember is that you need to keep your muscles saturated with creatine, so supplementing daily is essential to help you achieve this.

You will get more out of creatine supplementation on day ten than on the first day. And even more on day 30. After a few weeks, you will hit your maximum saturation levels.

Creatine supplements can increase muscle creatine stores by 10–40%, depending on factors such as your body composition and current levels.

There are several forms of creatine available on the market, some of which are sold with bold claims that are unsupported by research.

The most proven form is creatine monohydrate, with hundreds of studies to support its safety and effectiveness as a supplement.

Some research has shown that creatine absorption may be improved with protein or carbohydrates, so taking it with a meal may be the best way to achieve optimum results.