Nowadays, up to 74 percent of athletes are reportedly using creatine because of its well-researched benefits on performance. However, some athletes have concerns about using the supplement in hot or humid environments, as creatine could have a negative effect on hydration. However, new research suggests that creatine could help with thermoregulation and actually support hydration status. Here’s why:
1. Creatine Attracts Water
As an osmotically active substance, creatine attracts water. Because creatine is stored primarily in muscle tissue, supplementation often increases the amount of water muscle cells retain (1). This is a very important when it comes to exercise performance.
2. Increased Fluid Helps With Thermoregulation
It’s well noted in exercise science that changes in total-body water can have profound effects on performance and body-temperature processes, termed “thermoregulation” (2). Previous studies have demonstrated that dehydration impairs aerobic performance, maximal strength, and anaerobic muscular power (3). In hot and humid environmental conditions, increased sweating and core temperature can lead to dehydration and cardiovascular strain (4).
In the average human body, total-body water varies between 45 and 75 percent of body mass (2). This amount is influenced by such factors as muscle and fat mass, fitness level, and glycogen stores (2). Up to 60 percent of total body water resides inside cells. This is called intracellular fluid. The remaining extracellular fluid, outside of the cells, is composed of blood plasma and interstitial fluid (2).
Interestingly, when exercising in hot and humid environments, an increase in intracellular fluid volume can improve thermoregulation. Essentially, the more hydrated your muscles, the better you can control body temperature.
The role that creatine plays is in storing extra water in the muscle cells to transfer into plasma if necessary. The more water in the plasma increases the more fluid in circulation. This can both prevent dehydration and improve thermoregulation by dissipating heat (5). Not surprisingly, creatine has been reported to slow the increases in core temperature during exercise in the heat (6).
3. Supplementation May Support Heat Tolerance
Based on the results of multiple studies, there’s no clinical evidence that creatine supplementation, when taken in recommended dosages, will increase the risk of dehydration and heat illness (7). On the contrary, as an osmotically active substance, creatine supplementation may decrease the risk of heat illness by lowering exercising core body temperature (6).
In addition, performance benefits include maximal strength, vertical jump height, soccer-specific skills, swimming performance, repeated sprint performance, anaerobic running capacity, resistance training volume, and delaying fatigue (7). Now, add supporting athletes with hydration and heat tolerance. This effect alone may be critical for improving performance times in a variety of indoor and outdoor sports alike.
Once again, creatine is found time and time again to be safe and effective (7). Numerous studies have supported the use of creatine as a sports supplement with demonstrated improvements in performance.
- Mendel RW, Blegen M, Cheatham C et al. Effects of creatine on thermoregulatory responses while exercising in the heat. Nutrition. 2005 Mar;21(3):301-7.
- Sawka MN, Burke LM, Eichner ER et al. American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Exercise and fluid replacement. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007 Feb;39(2):377-90.
- Sobolewski EJ, Thompson BJ, Smith AE et al. The Physiological Effects of Creatine Supplementation on Hydration: A Review. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2011 July; 5(4): 320-27.
- González-Alonso J, Mora-Rodríguez R, Below PR et al. Dehydration markedly impairs cardiovascular function in hyperthermic endurance athletes during exercise. J Appl Physiol (1985). 1997 Apr;82(4):1229-36.
- Weiss BA, Powers ME. Creatine supplementation does not impair the thermoregulatory response during a bout of exercise in the heat. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2006 Dec;46(4):555-63.
- Kilduff LP, Georgiades E, James N et al. The effects of creatine supplementation on cardiovascular, metabolic, and thermoregulatory responses during exercise in the heat in endurance-trained humans. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2004 Aug;14(4):443-60.
- Kreider RB, Kalman DS, Antonio J et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017 Jun 13;14:18.