Creatine has stood the test of time and maintained scientific prowess better than any other muscle-building supplement on the market in the past 25-plus years. Synthesized from arginine, methionine and glycine in the liver and found in high concentrations in meat and fish, creatine is rapidly taken up by skeletal muscle, where it provides high-energy creatine phosphate to supply working muscles with the substrates that form adenosine triphosphate. Elevated creatine stores in muscle promote dramatic increases in strength and power, with less time needed for rest during explosive and extended performances.
And while creatine’s laundry list of science-backed benefits seems pretty comprehensive, recent research provides new evidence that it positively impacts vascular control and vascular growth, thus providing another mechanism by which it supports physiological adaptations that may improve performance.
In the study, published in Nutrition Journal, 40 healthy and active males took a typical loading dose of creatine monohydrate, ingesting 5 grams four times daily (20 grams total per day) for one week. Researchers then took subjects’ blood, made anthropometric (body) measurements, and evaluated microvascular control (in skin) and microvascular density (number of capillaries).
Study results showed that creatine loading promotes increased vasodilation and blood flow throughout the body. More remarkably, supplementation also modestly increased functional capillary density (that is, improved the number of small blood vessels with blood flowing through them), which increases the exchange of nutrients and metabolites in active tissues. Blood pressure was also reduced after supplementation.
ACTION POINT: The main caveat to this study is that vascular measurements were made in human skin. Although this may seem to limit translation of the results to skeletal muscle and performance, the data presented are consistent with skeletal muscle adaptations generally noted with creatine supplementation.
Although creatine monohydrate dosing is bodyweight- and tolerance-dependent, a good starting point is to first complete a loading phase of 5 grams, four to six times per day for a week. After a week, take 5 grams both 30 minutes before and immediately after training. On rest days, take 5 grams with breakfast and another 5 grams later in the day.