By Steven Ellis, former Chicago Cubs pitching pro
If you've ever considered taking creatine to increase pitching velocity or gain lean muscle mass, there are a few things you should know. In this article, I stick to the facts about creatine and baseball pitching. My hope is that instead of using creatine to improve performance, you will consider a better, safer alternative — The TUFFCUFF Strength and Conditioning Manual for Baseball Pitchers.
If nothing else, please remember that in baseball there are no magic bullets or shortcut solutions. Getting to the next level requires work, not supplements.
Baseball pitchers have used creatine since the supplement first appeared on store shelves. The manufacturers of creatine have made extravagant claims about creatine's ability to increase muscle size, increase muscle mass, increase endurance, etc. It's important to understand that when it comes to creatine, the basis of many of those claims are marketing and advertising, not scientific data.
Creatine comes from three sources:
* the body is able to synthesize it
* it is a natural substance found in food
* it can be prepared synthetically
Creatine is composed of three amino acids (amino acids are the building blocks of protein), and it is found in most protein-rich foods – especially fish and meats. Creatine is stored in the muscles as creatine phosphate, a precursor to andenosine triphosphate, which is an immediate source of muscle contraction.
Creatine is comprised of three-amino acids:
Most people already consume 1 to 2 grams of creatine in their diets and produce a similar amount in their bodies, thus maintaining normal energy metabolism. Creatine alone does not appear to increase muscle mass or pitching velocity. However, it has been shown in studies to increase the intensity of training workouts, which can lead to faster and more pronounced muscle growth.
On the other hand, there may be dangers associated with rapid muscle growth and the issue certainly requires further study.
Studies have shown that the ingestion of creatine in large doses increases the creatine phosphate in the muscles, which allows for the sustaining of powerful muscular contractions and delaying fatigue.
There also appears to be an increase of short-term energy for explosive muscle movements. This can clearly be an asset in a workout regimen and may improve performance in short-term, high-intensity exercises like sprints. Other studies have shown that athletic performance and maximum oxygen uptake are not enhanced by creatine supplements. (Hand-eye coordination, used for pitching a baseball, throwing a baseball, hitting a baseball, or fielding a baseball, is not improved by creatine supplementation, either.)
Creatine dosages recommended by manufacturers vary from 10-20 grams a day for 5 days followed by a total maintenance of 2 to 5 grams per day. Increasing the dosage will NOT increase the effects of creatine supplementation – it only increases the side effects.
It is still not known exactly how safe it is to use creatine. Overuse may put an excessive amount of strain on the kidneys and liver. It also has been shown to cause dehydration, and it's highly recommended that athletes who use creatine drink at least 64 ounces of water daily, even more. Remember, the kidneys excrete creatine and inadequate hydration can lead to muscle cramping.
There is also very little information about the purity standards of creatine so the major question that remains is: “What are you really ingesting?”
The bottom line is this: Ask a physician, do your research (outside of label claims, which are often nothing more than advertising), and carefully consider both sides of the creatine debate before your decision.
Source: STEROIDS AND NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS, Major League Baseball Players Association in Conjunction with Major League Baseball. June 2001. Pages 1-11.
Related Pitching Materials
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