Is Creatine Beneficial for Footballers?
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If you want to improve your performance on and off the field, you may have considered the possibility of taking Creatine.
It’s actually one of the most common questions I get in the DM’s…
We both know how competitive the game is nowadays, which makes playing at the college or professional level that much more difficult.
Like I always say, if you take care of your training, nutrition, and recovery and you stay disciplined with your routine, you’ll reach your genetic potential.
That being said, most pros at the top level have their routines and habits dialed in : they work hard and smart with properly planned training regimens so that they can reach their goals consistently.
That’s why the little details matter so much.
Details are what separate a good amateur player from a pro, a good pro from a great pro, and a great pro from a legend.
Obviously, you should pay close attention to all of these details so you can reach your ultimate goal.
One of those key details is proper nutrition and supplementation.
I am consistently asked about supplements and “what are the best supplements for footballers?”
And the truth is, the most important thing for you is to focus on are the simple things:
- Real, whole food nutrition in combination with following the 80-20 Rule (80% of the time eat according to your goals, 20% of the time, eat what you love).
2. 8 Hours of High-Quality Sleep Per night.
3. 3-4 Liters of Water per day based on your gender and activity level.
4. Proper training & proper training load.
After you have all the routine habits in place and you do them consistently, you can start to “plug the holes” with supplements.
In general, before taking supplements, I highly recommend you consult a physician and do routine blood work.
Once you do your blood work and you see what your deficiencies are, you can then create a proper supplement plan.
Though, one supplement you don’t have to test too closely for and one that has been studied for decades is creatine.
Creatine is a potential supplement that you can try out as a footballer.
What is Creatine ?
Creatine is a natural compound found in muscle cells that help to produce energy during high-intensity exercise.
It’s also found naturally in some foods, especially animal products like meat and fish.
For example, salmon has about 4 grams of creatine per kg.
In recent years, creatine also became a popular dietary supplement that has been shown to enhance muscle strength, power and endurance.
The most common and safest form of creatine is “creatine monohydrate” (in powder form).
Is Creatine Worth It For Footballers?
Now you must be thinking “Come on Ric, isn’t creatine just for bodybuilders…”
Good question & good thought..
But I wouldn’t say so.
Of course, it’s good to be skeptical about anything you put in your body, especially with the amount of BS the supplement industry put in some of their products to make you think their supplement is working, but a lot of the time, they might just be adding some “extra juice.”
With that being said, creatine is one of the most researched and scientifically proven supplements on the planet.
As always, I highly recommend that you consult your doctor before starting to take creatine, especially if you’ve never taken any supplements before.
Also, as a disclaimer, I’m just a pro footballer, certified personal trainer and certified nutrition coach and I am just sharing my experience from 15 years of obsessive study, research and working with over 500 clients online over the past 7 years.
Let’s hop into the 3 main benefits of creatine for footballers and if it’s actually beneficial for footballers:
1- Increased Muscle Strength and Endurance
2- Faster Recovery
3- Enhanced Brain Function
1- Increased Muscle Strength and Endurance
First of all, creatine works by increasing the availability of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) in muscle cells.
Now, don’t be overwhelmed by the science behind this : ATP is basically the primary source of energy for muscle contractions.
When ATP runs low, fatigue sets in the body.
More energy available for your muscles means… Better performance during short bursts of high-intensity exercise like sprinting, jumping and tackling.
Which are the most important actions for a footballer. These are the actions that can change the game at the flip of a switch.
This energy boost will help you perform better in the gym too. Whether you’re squatting or doing plyometrics, supplementing your diet with creatine has been proven to help you get an extra rep or lift some extra weight.
If you do it correctly with a properly designed program, this will directly translate to improvements on the pitch.
These facts have been backed by scientific evidence for many years.
Just a quick example: a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in 2018 examined the effects of creatine supplementation on lower body strength and sprint performance in elite youth soccer players.
One group of players was given creatine monohydrate, and the other group was given a placebo (which means they thought they were also getting the supplement when they really weren’t).
That’s what an experiment is all about 🙂
Guess what they found …
Creatine supplementation significantly improved quad and hamstring strength, as well as sprint performance for the group taking the supplement as opposed to the placebo group.
Secondly, lower ATP levels result in potential cramps or fatigue for footballers.
However, creatine acts as a buffer for ATP : it basically allows it to be replenished quicker during exercise.
Creatine can delay the onset of fatigue, meaning it can improve endurance in high-intensity efforts like those we encounter in football games.
2- Faster Recovery
This benefit is a direct consequence of the first one we mentioned.
One way that creatine promotes faster recovery is by reducing muscle damage and inflammation.
Exercise, especially high intensity exercise like football, can cause micro-tears in muscle fibers, leading to soreness and inflammation.
Creatine has been proven to have anti-inflammatory properties by reducing muscle damage post-exercise.
One study published in the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that creatine supplementation significantly reduced muscle damage markers and inflammation in footballers after a high-intensity match.
Therefore, creatine will help you recover faster and is a good way to supplement a diet made up of lean proteins, solid carbs and healthy fats.
3- Enhanced Brain Function
This one may come as a surprise to you.
We both know, football is a physically demanding sport.
But, the mental part of the game is just as important or more important than the physical part of the game.
Decision making is arguably the most important part of the game and the differentiator between good and great players.
Also, you need to have the ability to remain focused and mentally sharp for 90 minutes of the game.
The higher of a level you play at, the more focus you require.
My coach said something the other day that really rung a bell with me.
“Talent is the ability to be focused, concentrated and consistent. It’s easy to play the ball to the correct foot of your teammate for 70 minutes but can you do it for 90 minutes?!”
Think about it for a second…
The little details are what separate good players from world class players.
One key detail is mental strength, mental focus, acuity and concentration.
Top players have the ability to focus for 90 minutes of the game and don’t have any lapses in concentration.
Because they know if they have a lapse in concentration, it can lead to a game changing moment that potentially has the chance to lose their team the game.
Pros have the ability to to deal with the ups and downs of the game, but also have the ability to stay switched on at all times during the game to help their team get over the line and get the 3 points.
Creatine has been shown to enhance brain function by increasing levels of phosphocreatine, a compound that helps to fuel brain cells during periods of stress and high demand.
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Potential Adverse Effects of Creatine:
With tons of positives, we have to also discuss the potential negatives and the side effects of creatine.
Despite numerous rumors on the internet and among many athletes, creatine is one of the safest and most researched supplements on markets, as long as you take it in the correct dosage and you are using a trusted source.
The International Society of Sports Nutrition nor the International Olympic Committee has creatine on their banned substance lists.
Both organizations consider creatine to be a safe supplement.
There may be a few potential side effects that you should consider before taking creatine:
1- It Can Cause Digestive Problems
One study showed that a large dose of creatine supplementation could increase your potential to spend most of the day on the bowl.
Therefore, I recommend taking it slowly and testing how many grams work best for you.
Dosage & When to Take It:
The recommended maintenance dose of creatine is based on your body weight and is typically 2-5 grams per day. It should generally be taken pre or post workout, but the timing doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you need to take it consistently to see results.
Though, as always, I would definitely start on the lower side.
As always, you should only buy creatine supplements from a trusted and high-quality brand to avoid harmful ingredients and additives.
2- It May Lead to Liver and Kidney Problems
Creatine can increase the level of creatinine in your blood.
The medical field uses this chemical to diagnose liver or kidney problems. However, several studies conducted for this purpose haven’t found the supplement to harm the kidney or liver, but it’s definitely something to keep in mind and be aware of.
3- It May Lead to Weight Gain:
Creatine supplements can increase your body weight (depending on your goal, that could be a good or bad thing for you) both in the long term and short term.
Though, if you’re training right, most of the added weight comes from increased muscle mass instead of body fat.
For most athletes, an increase in muscle mass is an advantage that brings numerous benefits, but as a footballer, this obviously depends on your goals, position and phase of your training/season.
As a footballer, you should be cautious of gaining weight too quickly because your main goal should be to be agile and light so you can move quickly in and out of positions and so you can last for 90 minutes.
The heavier you are, the more energy your body is going to have to use to move you.
My Advice on Creatine:
To conclude, despite the possible negative and adverse effects (that appear to be very minimal), I would recommend giving Creatine a try if you are looking to improve your performance.
As always, the goal would be to try a small dose creatine and take it step by step.
Start with a small dosage a couple times a week and see how your body reacts, and then based off of how you feel, you can make your decision of whether you want to include it in your daily regimen.
Timing, Dosage, Type of Creatine:
Like I mentioned before, 2-5 grams would be the recommended dose.
Creatine Monohydrate is probably the best and safest source. Just make sure you do your research and you get your creatine from well-known and third-party tested brand.
Pre or post workout would be the best time.
I wouldn’t overthink the timing of supplementing with creatine.
Obviously, supplement brands will tell you to take their product multiple times a day…
I’ve seen brands recommend you take creatine before, during or after workouts, first thing in the morning or even before bed.
As with any “timing advice,” find a time that you can be consistent with it. Once you find your time, take it at that same time every day.
This way your body gets used to it and the routine of when you take it.
Whether that’s in the morning, in the afternoon or at night.
Some brands will also recommend a loading phase, which means basically taking in higher amounts of creatine for a couple weeks at the start.
Again, I don’t believe that’s necessary. This can increase the possibility of side effects which we certainly don’t want.
I personally like throwing in 3-5g of creatine in my protein shakes: it’s an easy way to keep it in check and not forget it.
Yes, you can be that gym bro who brings his shaker with him to the gym and rushes to chug his shake directly post workout (even though, the “anabolic window” has been proven to be false by many studies).
That’s a topic for another day..
As I always say, you’re a footballer. Not a bodybuilder!
I get it, you must be thinking “Buddy, we get it, why do you always say that? It’s just annoying already!”
The truth is : you can’t be reminded of your goal too often.
I say it all the time but I want you to get it into your subconscious and have it be the fuel behind every decision you make..
Your goal is to be better on the field on the weekend, so you can help your team get 3 points!
Your main goal is NOT to be hitting new PRs on the bench press week in week out.
As a matter of fact, max force isn’t the major goal for you as a footballer in the gym.
You want to focus on quality of movement and explosiveness which is what will benefit you the most.
Of course, there is a place and time for max force training and heavier weights, I’m not saying to cut them out all together.
That all depends on you as the individual: your goal, phase of the season, training experience, injury history, position on the pitch and several other factors.
If you’re really looking to optimize your training and bring it to the next level, I recommend you apply to my 1-on-1 program where I build a fully personalized blueprint for your daily training, nutrition, recovery and technical work:
I plan and lay out the blueprint for you. All you need to do is execute, and you can expect results like this:
All in all, creatine is the safest and most researched supplement on the market for athletes, but it’s no magic bullet!
As discussed within the article taking it as a supplement accompanied by a well-balanced and personalized training and nutrition regimen will aid your strength gains and physical ability, which will ultimately help your performance on the field.
As always, just make sure you consult a trusted doctor before supplementing your diet with creatine, especially if you’re under the age of 18.
Hope all these tips helped you my! Let me know if you have ever tried creatine or if you’re planning on doing so now.
Have a great week !