The secret of creatine is out – and has been for quite some time now. Bodybuilders, football players and athletes of all kinds have been using creatine over the last decade to improve their performance and increase muscle mass. But what about MMA athletes? The physical demands of mixed martial arts are far from the demands of bodybuilding. Well, in order to determine whether or not it’s worthwhile for MMA fighters to supplement with creatine, let’s first review exactly what creatine is, and how it works.
How It Works
Simply put, creatine phosphate supplies our energy needs during short duration, high intensity activity. For example, a heavy set on the bench press, a 100 meter sprint and a 5 yard touchdown run all rely on the energy provided by creatine. Of course, as with anything relating to how our bodies function, there is quite a bit of science behind it. Adenosine tri-phosphate, otherwise known as (ATP), is our bodies immediate source of energy. Whether you’re utilizing fats, protein, carbohydrates or creatine to meet your energy demand, they all must be broken down into ATP molecules.
However, only a small amount of ATP can actually be stored in the muscle cells. Such a small amount in fact, that the stored ATP can only supply 2-3 seconds of activity. After this initial 2-3 seconds of activity, the body must utilize a secondary source to fuel the high intensity activity. This is where creatine phosphate comes into play.
The creatine phosphate that is stored within the muscle cells converts what’s known as Adenosine tri-phosphate (ADP) into ATP for energy. Remember, during high intensities, creatine phosphate only provides energy for approximately 30 seconds. Beyond that point, your body shifts into what’s known as fast glycolisis. For more information on energy systems, click here.
In addition to the obvious improvements during high intensity / short duration activity, creatine supplementation carries many additional benefits. It has been shown to pull water inside the cells, thus hydrating the muscle fibers. This cellular hydration causes the muscle to swell and this swelling then stimulates protein synthesis.
Should MMA Fighters Use Creatine?
Creatine phosphate supplies energy during brief periods of high intensity activity and while MMA fights are as intense as it gets, the duration isn’t exactly “brief”. The rounds are typically 5 minutes long (in America anyway) and the fights go on for either 3 or 5 rounds. So, is creatine really worth the investment seeing as how “creatine phosphate only provides energy for approximately 30 seconds of intense activity”? Well, simply put – yes, it’s worth the investment.
While creatine only provides the energy during brief, high intensity bursts of activity, sometimes that “brief” burst is all it takes to end an MMA fight. If creatine supplementation can add a few extra seconds into a powerful punching flury, it’s well worth using. An MMA fight often times performed at varied intensities. A quick, powerful burst of punches can be followed up with a period of calmness – in which both fighters are just feeling each other out. These “feeling out” stages allow for somewhat of a recovery period.
If the fight is action-packed and the fighters go “balls to the wall” the entire time without showing any signs of slowing down, the energy systems being used will vary between creatine and the glycolytic system. The glycolytic system is categorized into two phases. One is termed “fast” glycolysis and the other termed “slow” glycolysis. Fast glycolysis utilizes carbohydrate without the presence of oxygen and lactic acid accumulates. Slow glycolysis on the other hand, occurs in the presence of oxygen and therefore, the accumulation of lactic acid isn’t as much of a concern. Again, you can learn about all this stuff in this article on energy systems.
To summarize, supplementing with creatine can be very beneficial for MMA fighters as it will increase your “power endurance”. As for the accumulation of lactic acid (which inhibits muscle contraction) that accompanies fast glycolysis (energy system that kicks in once your creatine stores are exhausted), you should check into beta alanine. Check this article out for more info. on beta alanine.