Will Creatine Make You a Better Circus Athlete?

I am a performance dietitian who has worked with professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes. Although I enjoy many forms of exercise such as rock climbing, hiking, kayaking, and even weightlifting, my preferred type of exercise is aerial arts. I have been an aerialist for over a decade. In that time, I have learned a lot about things that are important to developing a strong and functional aerial body that will last many years. Now after years of coaching, performing, and studying aerial movement, I have knowledge to pass on to the next generation of circus artist! This week we are focusing on creatine and how it may be a beneficial supplement for circus artist and other unconventional athletes.

Overview

I specialize in food and nutrition with a focus in performance nutrition. Many circus artist don’t realize they are athletes and need to treat their body as such for a healthy and long life doing what they love. 

In this post we will discuss creatine, what it is, why it is important, and how to use it. I will give you a few examples of how it can be beneficial for circus artist, safety on creatine supplementation, and some products. Last, we will discuss best practices in choosing options that are safe and effective. 

What is Creatine?

Creatine is a non-protein nitrogen that is naturally occurring in the body. This substance is found naturally in muscle cells and many protein containing foods. It helps your body generate energy during activity through the ATP-PCr system. The supplement form that is widely studied and used is creatine monohydrate. It is synthesized in a lab and does not contain animal products unless encapsulated in gelatin. 

Why is Creatine Important for you?

Creatine can help you increase muscle repair efficiency and muscular strength. What does it mean to have more efficient muscle repair? Basically, this improves your recovery when putting stress on your muscles during a workout. Also, It may reduce muscle damage and enhance the recovery process after intense exercise. Creatine may improve muscle gain, strength, power, and performance. 

Outside of just athletics and performance creatine may also be helpful in fighting certain neurological diseases or promoting overall brain health and function. This is an area that is being heavily studied now.


How to Choose the best type for you?

Creatine can be obtained through the diet by eating meats, fish, and poultry but the amount needed to obtain many of the benefits is very difficult without supplementation. Creatine has been one of the most studied supplements for use in the athletic population. It has been proven safe to take daily for many years with limited to no side effects. There is no scientific evidence that the short- or long- term use of creatine monohydrate has detrimental effects on otherwise healthy individuals. As with any supplement that does not mean it is risk free. 

Common myths and side effects:

  • Weight gain – this often starts initially due to water retention but then with continued use is likely due to muscle growth. 
  • Some people experience mild digestion issues such as GI distress, bloating, and cramps.
  • Renal Function impairment – there are no signs of renal function impairment in studies that have lasted as long as 5 years with continued use. 

Examples of recommended products

  • Klean athlete creatine – NSF for Sport certified – specifically labeled vegan 
  • Momentous creatine – NSF for Sport certified
  • Optimum nutrition micronized creatine powder – informed choice for sport
  • Thorne – NSF for Sport certified
  • BioSteel – NSF for Sport certified  – specifically labeled vegan

Tips and Reminders before using Creatine for the first time

  • It is important to remember all supplements and products taken should be third-party tested by at least one company such as NSF for sport, Informed choice, or USP. This is to reduce the risk. further details on this in another blog post.
  • If creatine is taken in a pill form, the capsule may contain gelatin (animal product), therefore the powder form may be best for vegans and many vegetarians. 
  • Time of day does not matter when taking this supplement. Most people remember to take it pre or post training. 
  • The loading phase is not necessary for most people. Best to start with a smaller dosage of 3-5 grams daily and increase as needed. 
  • If experiencing any abnormalities, please alert your doctor. Discontinue use as needed. 

Take Aways

Remember not everyone needs supplements to support their training, but this post is to help those who are interested feel safe and confident when choosing to supplement. 

I hope you found this information helpful. Coming soon: nutrition focused handouts that may be useful for you or the population you work with. If you are interested in a Nutrition education for your group, contact me to get this set up. If you want to see information on other supplements send me a message or comment below and maybe I can include it on another blog post. 

The post is for educational purposes only. Always consult with a health professional for your specific needs before making any dietary changes. Use of any dietary supplement is at your own risk.

Sources: 

Buford, T.W. et al. (2007). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: Creatine supplementation and exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 4(1). Doi:10.1186?1550-2783-4-6

Mawer, R. (2018, October 25). Creatine 101 – What is it and what does it Do? Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-is-creatine

Preiato, D. (2019, August 12). Creatine and Whey Protein: Should You Take Both? Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/creatine-vs-whey#muscle-gain

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