Creatine For BJJ: Should You Take It?

November 18, 2021

The hype supplement companies place on their supplements is highly unbelievable. I mean, who really believes that a scoop of “name your supplement here” turned little Johnny into the athletic freak he is now? But what about creatine? Should you be taking creatine for BJJ?

Creatine should be a staple supplement within your BJJ preparation. Creatine will help you scramble, apply chokes, and grip opponents harder and longer so you don’t gas out.

If creatine is such a powerful BJJ supplement, is it even legal?

Is Creatine Illegal In BJJ?

Creatine For BJJ

Creatine is not illegal in BJJ or in any sport for that matter. As stated by USADA, “creatine is not prohibited and can have a small effect on performance.” It is one of the legal supplements that actually provide a performance benefit.

Many sports supplements available today have very little efficacious research behind them and offer very little in terms of performance enhancement. So, if you’re looking to spend your money on a supplement for BJJ that has been proven to work over, and over again, then creatine should be in your supplement cabinet.

Should You Take Creatine For BJJ?

You should definitely be taking creatine for BJJ. Creatine is most well-known for increasing strength within the gym. For example, taking creatine as part of a weight training routine has shown to increase strength by 8% compared to a placebo group [1].

Just as important for BJJ, the creatine group was able to complete 14% more reps for a given load. So not only will creatine help you get stronger when strength training for BJJ, but it will also improve your strength endurance.

Creatine is a mega enhancer of the a-lactic energy system that only requires you to drink powder mixed in some liquid. Pretty cool huh? But it doesn’t stop there.

Creatine also improves anaerobic power in a 30-second all-out cycling sprint test indicating creatine can help you sustain higher intensities for longer [2]. The American College of Sports Medicine’s position stand supports these findings where they state that “exercise performance involving short periods of extremely powerful activity can be enhanced, especially during repeated bouts by creatine supplementation [3].”

So how does creatine give you these insane BJJ conditioning benefits? Bear with me as I break down the science behind creatine as simply as possible. Creatine is a molecule that binds with another molecule called phosphate which is stored within the muscle. Creatine and phosphate bind together creating phosphocreatine or PCr for short.

7 Powerful Ways To Get Stronger For Grappling/BJJ, Without Being Tired & Sore!

PCr is what you need to rapidly regenerate energy for the muscles to contract and produce force. This rapid regeneration is supplied by the a-lactic energy system which is also known as the ATP-PCr energy system.

How does PCr regenerate energy? Adenosine triphosphate, known as ATP for short, is the energy that our muscles use. It is triphosphate because it has three phosphate molecules. As ATP is used, it turns into adenosine diphosphate or ADP meaning two phosphates.

To replenish ADP back to ATP quickly, and therefore energy, the stored PCr is used. This phosphate is added to ADP to go from two to three phosphates. Other energy systems are too slow to regenerate energy fast enough to give you an extended fast burst of energy. Hence how important creatine is so you can extend the time of high-intensity effort.

Further, PCr consumes hydrogen ions which are responsible for acidifying the muscle during high-intensity anaerobic exercise [3]. This is highly applicable to BJJ when holding long isometric contractions like gripping a Gi or squeezing a choke. During a prolonged hold, you’ll start to feel your forearms or biceps burn! You also need this ability to buffer hydrogen ions when scrambling hard.

As the muscle’s environment acidifies, it inhibits its ability to contract reducing force output and therefore, causing you to fatigue and lose the submission or position. Since PCr buffers these hydrogen ions, you delay the time to fatigue and therefore, can produce more power for longer during high-intensity bursts.

Not to mention that creatine enhances the ability to replenish glycogen which is your carbohydrate fuel source that gets broken down to create more ATP [4]. To sum all this up, take your creatine to enhance BJJ performance.

How Much Creatine To Take For BJJ?

Just like any other sport, 5 g per day is the standard dose of creatine for BJJ. 5 g is the easiest dose to use since it is 1 tsp or typically one scoop. However, you can get similar benefits going as low as 2-3 g per day especially if you eat a lot of red meat. It will take up to 28 days to increase muscle creatine saturation [5].

If you are in a rush, for example, if you have a competition coming up in the next couple of weeks and you want to take advantage of these benefits, then you can load creatine. The loading strategy involves taking 20 g a day for 6 days. This can be split into 3-4 smaller doses each day to make it easier to stomach. After this, taking 2-5 g maintains creatine muscle saturation [5].

I prefer just taking 5 g per day from day one and making a habit out of taking it each day. If you don’t have a competition in the next few weeks, it’s not worth loading.

When To Take Creatine For BJJ?

Most gym bros will tell you to take creatine before or after training to get the maximum benefit of creatine. However, there is very little evidence to suggest that taking creatine at a certain time is more beneficial than another.

If your goal is muscle growth, the little research on the topic suggests that taking creatine after exercise may potentially be better but not for strength [6].

However, we don’t know how quickly creatine is taken to the muscle and we know that creatine does not have a stimulatory effect so from a practical standpoint, take it whenever you are going to remember each day.

For me, I have a protein smoothie every day so I put my creatine in there. That way, I always know I’m drinking it.

Should You Take Creatine When Cutting Weight For BJJ?

From personal experience, I take creatine every single day year-round even when cutting weight. I’ve successfully cut weight for many competitions while taking creatine. You can see here where I’m 77-78 kg where I cut from 84 kg.

Best Creatine For BJJ

But this may not be possible for everyone. I would be what is known as a non-responder to creatine in that my weight doesn’t fluctuate when I take it.

Typically, a 1.2% increase in body weight is seen after supplementing with creatine mostly due to the increase in water weight [8]. If you are a non-responder, you will see no body weight change or very minimal. If you are a responder, you may see a 1% or greater increase in body weight.

You can determine if you are a creatine responder or non-responder by weighing yourself before and after a loading phase and again after a maintenance phase [7]. If you are a responder, you may want to gradually reduce your creatine intake as you cut weight for a fight.

Since it takes 4-6 weeks for creatine stores to return to baseline, you won’t lose the performance benefits of creatine if fully tapered off 1-3 weeks before your competition.

Best Creatine For BJJ

Don’t fall for the marketing hype by many supplement companies. Alkaline, HCL, or ethyl ester have shown no greater benefit than the tried-and-true creatine monohydrate. Creatine monohydrate is the most studied sports supplement to date and is dirt cheap.

The reason you have other forms of creatine is that creatine monohydrate is cheap and supplement companies can charge more for a different type of creatine even though it has no further benefits.

You can buy creatine monohydrate at your local supplement store or online. I prefer buying my creatine in bulk at cheap prices since you’re going to be using 5 g every day forever.

I recommend this one by bulk supplements where you can even get 55 lbs in one bag. You can’t beat a deal like that.

Bulk Supplements Creatine Monohydrate

Best Creatine For BJJ

Should You Take Creatine For BJJ?

There is no reason for you not to take creatine for BJJ. There have been no proven side effects and the many myths that surround creatine are just plain false. Simply take 5 g every day at a time you will remember and you’re doing more for your conditioning than most.

References

1. Rawson, E. S., & Volek, J. S. (2003). Effects of creatine supplementation and resistance training on muscle strength and weightlifting performance. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research17(4), 822-831.

2. Mielgo-Ayuso, J., Calleja-Gonzalez, J., Marqués-Jiménez, D., Caballero-García, A., Córdova, A., & Fernández-Lázaro, D. (2019). Effects of creatine supplementation on athletic performance in soccer players: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutrients11(4), 757.

3. Terjung, R. L., Clarkson, P., Eichner, E. R., Greenhaff, P. L., Hespel, P. J., Israel, R. G., … & Williams, M. H. (2000). American College of Sports Medicine roundtable. The physiological and health effects of oral creatine supplementation. Medicine and science in sports and exercise32(3), 706-717.

4. LOON, L. J. V., Murphy, R., Oosterlaar, A. M., Cameron-Smith, D., Hargreaves, M., Wagenmakers, A. J., & Snow, R. (2004). Creatine supplementation increases glycogen storage but not GLUT-4 expression in human skeletal muscle. Clinical science106(1), 99-106.

5. Hultman, E., Soderlund, K., Timmons, J. A., Cederblad, G., & Greenhaff, P. L. (1996). Muscle creatine loading in men. Journal of applied physiology81(1), 232-237.

6. Forbes, S. C., & Candow, D. G. (2018). Timing of creatine supplementation and resistance training: A brief review. Journal of Exercise and Nutrition1(5).

7. Ricci, T., Forbes, S. C., & Candow, D. G. (2020). Creatine supplementation: practical strategies and considerations for mixed martial arts. Journal of Exercise and Nutrition3(1).

8. Branch, J. D. (2003). Effect of creatine supplementation on body composition and performance: a meta-analysis. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism13(2), 198-226.

About the author 

James de Lacey

I am a professional strength & conditioning coach that works with professional and international level teams and athletes. I am a published scientific researcher and have completed my Masters in Sport & Exercise Science. I've combined my knowledge of research and experience to bring you the most practical bites to be applied to your combat training.


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