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Creatine and Military PT

stew smith

This week I decided to answer a question I have been receiving from people using my workouts to prepare for the military and special forces training for over ten years.

Your training programs are effective. I have been following the routines and can do a rather large amount of situps and pushups! The question I would like to ask is, would this program be more affective if I took creatine while doing these workouts? And would you see a difference in a short period of time?

During the early 90’s, Creatine supplementation hit the scene and gyms, nutrition stores, and supplement companies jumped on the creatine explosion. Creatine like all other supplements sold online or in nutrition store are unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration. The reason is that Creatine, protein, amino acids, vitamins, are all naturally occurring in our food and are NOT drugs. Creatine is found in the meat we eat. Taking a daily recommended supplemented dose of creatine is equivalent to eating more than ten steaks. So, in my mind, that goes against all that I have taught with respect to moderation – whether you are trying to lose weight or gain weight. Besides, the long-term effects of creatine supplementation have yet to be fully determined.

Creatine has been and still is being promoted as a way to enhance muscular performance in just about every athletic activity there is. So, why not supplement to perform better in military physical fitness training right? WRONG?

If you take a look at just the testing procedures of military or special operations troops, you are required to perform for several minutes at a high intensity output at pushups, situps, and pullups. Then almost immediately, you are required to swim, run, or ruck march for miles. So, the military person is a cross between an endurance athlete and a gymnast. The requirements of several hours of endurance activities and short explosive body weight movements make taking creatine detrimental to the military person – if you want to be able to perform a wartime mission. If you want to be a bodybuilder or bench press a truck – go for it – creatine can help you then.

Physiology of creatine in exercise – Without getting too technical, basically creatine is best used by the muscles when performing short, high-intensity, explosive exercises like power-lifting, sprinting, and other anaerobic sports. Creatine can help the body grow muscle mass that is only able to do short bursts of 6-10 seconds of full-exertion movements. Once you step into the aerobic or cardio zone with longer, slower runs, creatine offers little assistance.

In fact, while training people for SEAL Training with long 24-36 hour days of constant activity, the military members taking creatine were “locked up” experiencing deep muscle cramping in the major muscle groups of the body (thighs, hamstrings, glutes, and lowerback). These were typical athletes in football, track sprinters, power lifters, and people who liked to lift weights to look good. In a nutshell, they did not make the cut and were released from the program. Their muscles did not allow them to finish. It was always entertaining to see the look on these athletes faces when three to five mile runs were next on the agenda. Even the 1.5 mile run is considered long distance to an athlete training with creatine when in fact - it is a sprint.

Creatine Can Be of Some Use - Even in PFTs BUT.....

Training with weights is NOT the enemy. In fact, it is good to have muscle fiber capable of short bursts of speed and strength in the military. However, you must couple that with higher repetition training and longer distance running. Even though studies have produced positive results on the use of creatine in endurance athletes, it is not for the reason most seek to use creatine - to GET BIGGER! Creatine will get you bigger while you are doing doses regularly with lifting weights. Will it help you increase your PFT scores? Possibly. In fact just doing one set of pushups, situps, pullups, and a cardio event after a few minutes rest - I could see creatine working in that situation. I do not believe it will make you faster in a PFT run of 1.5 miles to 3 mile runs. ALSO - it is not a substitute for hard work - you still have to PT, run, eat right, rest properly in order to score well anyway. Can creatine give you an extra 5-10% increase in scores? I do not know for sure as I have not tested it in that manner. I am still cautious in recommending this supplement to anyone in the military and will still say I am not 100% sold on this product for military / law enforcement use.

Since I am not a doctor, I found one and his statement confirms my ten year reservation on the supplementation of creatine. Mark A. Jenkins, MD at Rice University states, “ Creatine, and other such supplements, are not regulated by the FDA. No published investigation has been conducted on creatine to determine what impurities might be present in creatine supplements, and what their long-term effect might be. The bottom line is that no one can confidently state that prolonged creatine supplementation is safe, and its use would best be avoided until more data can be compiled. Prolonged administration is, in essence, an uncontrolled toxicity study and might yield harmful results. Is it worth the risk? Remember, it's your body!”

I am sure to receive many people disagreeing with me on this one. My philosophy has always been “everything in moderation” when it comes to weight gain, weight loss, and training. I have not taken any supplements other than vitamins for the more than twenty years of training - other than protein bars / carb replacement drinks. I have power lifted and bench pressed more than twice my bodyweight and run a sub 18:00 three-mile run. You can do both types of exercises. I am merely stating and trying to prove that creatine supplementation does not allow you to do both very well. This is my opinion through years of experience of seeing the negative performance effects of creatine supplemented athletes in challenging military training. “Challenging” includes the standard military PFT as well (1.5 mile, 2 or 3 mile runs).

My workouts have both lifting and high repetition PT and running in them to help prepare people for military training and fitness tests. See more information at Fitness eBook Store

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