Creatine and Beta-Alanine for Sprinters, Jumpers, and Throwers

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Creatine has long been touted as potentially the most well proven supplement for performance. Over recent years, beta-alanine has been supported to increase buffering capacity and reduce acidosis during exercise. Both supplements were analyzed in this recently published in the Journal of Exercise and Nutrition: Creatine and Beta-Alanine Supplementation for Increased Anaerobic Performance in Sprinting, Jumping, and Throwing Track and Field Athletes.

Creatine

A 2011 Finish study found that creatine was the most widely used supplement for elite speed and power athletes. In the first 10 seconds of intense exercise, creatine is used to rapidly rephosphorylate ADP to ATP for sustained energy output. Between 10 seconds and 2 minutes, creatine stores decrease acidosis by using hydrogen ions in the rephosphorylation of ADP. It is widely agreed that supplementation increases the intramuscular creatine levels, furthermore enhancing speed and power in events lasting 2 minutes or less.

Maintenance supplementation is recommended at 3-5 grams/day. Previously, loading protocols recommend 20-25 grams/day (at 0.3 g/kg/day). The concept of a loading period is still controversial with mixed evidence.

Creatine for Sprinters: Multiple studies have demonstrated the effects of creatine supplementation during 10s and 30s max effort (compared to the 100m and 200m dash) events. Subjects have demonstrated higher peak power, average power, and more work during these bouts of exercise in as few as 7 days after beginning supplementation (at 0.3 g/kg/day). Other studies have attributed these adaptions to the ability to attain increased training volumes and recoverability. “Regardless, creatine monohydrate supplementation has been shown to increase training volume, VO2 max, and anaerobic power output; therefore, creatine supplementation could be beneficial for track and field sprinters.”

Creatine for Jumpers: When considering the jumping events (high jump, long jump, triple jump, and pole vault), jump and sprint power output are both relevant for success. Creatine monohydrate has shown increases in in countermovement jumps and static vertical jumps after 6 weeks of supplementation (at 0.3 g/kg/day). For jumping athletes, it could be said that “…an increase in the anaerobic ability to perform multiple jumps quickly and recover in between could be beneficial to plyometric workouts for jumping athletes.”

Creatine for Throwers: Technique is key element for throwers, but so is strength and power. We can say that the javelin and discuss rely a bit more on technique than the shotput and hammer throw, but strength and power is crucial for all the above. One paper demonstrated a significant increase in 1RM bench press after only 7 days of supplementation (at 20 g/day). Another paper showed positive increases in body composition and 1RM bench when supplementing after a training session, rather than before, for 4 weeks. “Moreover, after interviewing NCAA Division 1 throwers across the United States, Judge, et al.1 found that 70% of males reported that creatine supplementation was beneficial in some way and that the perception of creatine being beneficial was related to a greater overall belief among them that creatine would improve stamina, muscle endurance, enhance recovery, and improve the distance they could throw.”

Beta-Alanine

“High-intensity anaerobic exercise will result in an accumulation of metabolites such as ADP, Pi, and H+ which can have negative effects on the muscle performance due to fatigue.” By increasing beta-alanine consumption, intramuscular buffering capacity is improved. This is done by carnosine. Carnosine, “…a cytoplasmic dipeptide, has a pKa side chain making it an intracellular pH buffer. The concentration of carnosine in muscles is higher within males compared to females and higher in fast twitch muscle fibers.”

Beta-alanine’s pathway to Carnosine

The onset of fatigue is most commonly demonstrated by the discomfort of metabolic acidosis. The acidosis is a result of an increased glycolytic rate where pyruvate can no longer keep up cellular oxidation. At this point, lactate is used to continue fueling muscular contractions for a short period until hydrogen ions accumulate, further interfering with the resynthesis of PCr, ultimately impeding anaerobic energy production. Beta-alanine has been proposed as the rate limiting substrate for carnosine, which would allow anaerobic exercise to be held for longer durations prior to acidosis.  

Shorter sprinting events, such as a 100m dash, may not deplete enough PCr or stimulate enough lactate/H+ to prove useful supplementations of beta-alanine. Rather, track and field events that exceed 60 seconds such as the 400m and 800m may hold more utility for supplementation. One study examining the effects of beta-alanine on 800m performance showed the supplement “…helped create more carnosine to buffer the increased H+ resulting from a reduction in pH and reduce the negative effects on the muscle, thus leading to an overall faster split time.”

Takeaway

Creatine is a well-proven ergogenic aid for track and field events with a duration of seconds to approximately 2 minutes or less. Effective dosages have varied from higher loading-based ranges (such as 20-25g daily or 0.3g/kg/bw) to lower maintenance ranges (such as 3-5g daily). The efficacy of a loading phase is not yet clear, though recent data has refuted this concept.

Beta-alanine appears to be a useful supplement for middle-distance events that induce muscular acidosis. The effects of beta-alanine on shorter sprinting events are not yet clear, though it may be useful for repeated power/sprint events.


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Thanks, 
AJ

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