Creatine (monohydrate) is a popular supplement, especially among bodybuilders and weightlifters. It is often cited as a supplement that actually works (whose effects are readily apparent). Yet, many do not consider whether creatine is useful for boxing.
What is Creatine?
Creatine is an amino acid that is naturally produced by the body and also consumed through red meats and seafood. It is found in your muscles (and brain), where it is stored until your muscles need energy. It is not a banned substance by any governing body in boxing.
Why use Creatine for Boxing?
The main upside we see with using creatine for boxing is the same upside we see when using it for anything requiring strength. Creatine helps the muscles produce the immediate energy required for contraction. The more immediate energy there is, the stronger the muscle is and the faster the muscle can contract. In weightlifting, this translates to lifting heavier weights; in sprinting, this might translate to a faster 200m sprint.
In boxing, creatine would affect anything strength related. Some people like to look at the fitness required for boxing as a mixture of strength-based and cardio-based fitness. While simplistic, this isn’t a wrong way to look at it. Since creatine enhances one’s strength-based performance, it would certainly be helpful for boxing. The use of creatine might lead to the boxer throwing stiffer punches or faster combos, better carrying his own weight or the weight of a leaning opponent, etc.
So Why Not Use Creatine?
For one, its benefits concern a small part of boxing. Boxing is more precisely a mixture of anaerobic and aerobic fitness. Amateurs require more anaerobic fitness; professionals require more aerobic fitness. The anaerobic fitness required for boxing mostly shows itself as anaerobic capacity. (A boxer who can throw a 15 second flurry has more anaerobic capacity than one who can only throw a 5 second flurry.) By contrast, boxing doesn’t require too much of the other part of anaerobic fitness, anaerobic power, although this is still very important. (A boxer who can throw 100 punches in 10 seconds has more aerobic power than one who can only throw 75 punches in 10 seconds. But…what boxer would really throw this many punches in this amount of time?) Creatine is helpful for increasing anaerobic power, but not so helpful for increasing the more important anaerobic capacity.
More importantly, the use of creatine adds about 5 to 10 pounds of water weight to the boxer. While there may be some benefits to training with some extra pounds on the boxer, these benefits are offset by training slower due to the extra bulk. (Extra bulk really does slow down a boxer, in case anyone is skeptical.) This extra water weight would also make weight cutting much harder.
Creatine’s Saving Grace!
According to this source, creatine protects against brain trauma in rats. So it may protect one against the permanent effects of concussions or the general effects to one’s brain in sustaining punches to the head.
Sullivan, P. G., Geiger, J. D., Mattson, M. P. and Scheff, S. W. (2000), Dietary supplement creatine protects against traumatic brain injury. Ann Neurol., 48: 723-729. doi:10.1002/1531-8249(200011)48:5<723::AID-ANA5>3.0.CO;2-W