The big question:
Can supplementing with creatine and a mixture of electrolytes (phosphorous, magnesium, calcium, potassium and sodium) increase the absorption of creatine and further increase strength output than creatine alone?
At this point, a wide variety of research articles have demonstrated the positive effects of creatine supplementation on strength, lean body mass, and even cognition. Supplementing with creatine with both safe and highly effective. The body is in a constant state of creating and using energy sources. One of those sources is creatine phosphate, which is derived from creatine. An increase in the available energy in the body allows for an increase in intensity during training, which in turn can lead to an increase in strength. On average, the body stores approximately 120g of creatine in skeletal muscles and brain tissue. However, the body has the capacity to store roughly 160g of creatine. Thus supplementing with creatine is the simplest way to increase creatine stores.
Some studies have shown that combining creatine monohydrate with electrolytes leads to an increase in power and strength output. They speculate that the electrolytes help the creatine more readily absorb into the skeletal muscle through unknown mechanisms.
22 participants (both men and women) were either supplemented with creatine + electrolytes or a placebo for 6 weeks. All participants were required to resistance train 2-3 times a week. 1RM back squat and bench press were the main assessments.
The main results show that those in the creatine + electrolyte group significantly increased their 1RM bench press and back squat. Interestingly, the researchers found that the 1RM back squat of the placebo group actually decreased during the 6 weeks. They also found that there was an increase in average rate of force and power output in the creating + electrolyte group but not the placebo group.
The take home:
Supplementation with creatine + electrolytes significantly increased rep maxes of the back squat and bench press, and also increased the force and power output of the athlete. Thus supplementing with creatine + electrolytes might be a good idea.
But hang on:
What is interesting to note about this study is the lack of controls and the lack of actual biochemical testing (i.e. blood, saliva, urine samples) to assess whether or not the the electrolytes actually played a significant role in the uptake of creatine. These results could purely be due to creatine supplementation and have little to nothing to do with electrolytes. The researchers point out that their results are similar to other studies of creatine supplementation, which makes the argument that creatine supplementation alone is sufficient to increase 1RMs in the bench press and back squat.
Additionally, diet wasn’t controlled during the study, which as we know, plays a HUGE role in strength. BUT we won’t get into that here….
What are your thoughts? We’d love to hear from you!
Hummer, E., Suprak, D., Buddhadev, H., Brilla, L., & San Juan, J. (2019). Creatine electrolyte supplement improves anaerobic power and strength: a randomized double-blind control study. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 16:24. https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-019-0291-x#Sec1