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Creatine for rapid muscle recovery, new evidence


Daily supplementation with creatine could accelerate the recovery of leg muscle size and performance after being immobilised in a cast for two weeks, report European researchers recently.

The findings, published in the October issue of the Journal of Physiology from researchers at the Catholic University Leuven in Belgium, the Copenhagen Muscle Research Center and the University of Nottingham, England, are the result of a placebo-controlled study with 20 young (20-23 years) male and female university students. Their right legs were immobilised in a groin to ankle cast for 2 weeks. Thereafter, all subjects underwent a 10-week physical exercise rehabilitation program.

"Our findings suggest that a dietary supplement of creatine taken before immobilisation and then throughout the rehab process quickens the body's return to normal appearance and function," said Dr. Peter Hespel of the Catholic University Leuven Exercise Physiology and Biomechanics Laboratory and the lead researcher on the study. "We found the creatine users' casted legs displayed more muscle power and a greater regain of muscle size after three and ten weeks of rehab."

Creatine has been the subject of over 400 research studies in the past decade, focusing primarily on muscle performance and size both in healthy, mobile athletes and in individuals with neuromuscular diseases. Creatine is a pivotal nutrient in muscle energy production and it also appears to influence muscle size.

"It is important that the purity of creatine supplements be addressed when we are discussing their use in clinical medicine. Using a national name brand product is a good starting point but consumers should inquire with the manufacturer about the purity of the creatine they are selling," added Dr. Hespel.

Subjects received 20 grams of either creatine monohydrate or placebo daily (divided into 5 gram doses) during the 2-week immobilisation period. After the cast was removed the dose was reduced to 15 grams/day for the first three weeks of rehab, and then 5 grams/day for the final 7 weeks.

"This is the first good evidence that dietary creatine supplementation may have a role to play in rehabilitation medicine. The clinical and health cost implications of these findings warrant further investigations in patient populations who experience premature muscle fatigue due to wasting," stated Professor Paul Greenhaff, University of Nottingham, UK, and a co-investigator in the study.

"The role of creatine as a therapeutic aid in the treatment of various neuromuscular diseases and in the rehabilitation of musculoskeletal injuries has significant promise and should be studied further." said Dr. Phillip W. Harvey, Chief Science Officer and Director of Science and Quality Assurance for the National Nutritional Foods Association.