Creatine (monohydrate) is a popular supplement, especially among bodybuilders and weightlifters. It is often cited as a supplement that “actually works” (i.e., its effects are readily apparent). Yet, many may wonder 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, 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 or better carrying his own weight or the weight of a leaning opponent.
So Why Not Use Creatine?
For one, its benefits concern a small part of boxing. First, boxing is more precisely a mixture of anaerobic and aerobic fitness. Amateurs require more anaerobic fitness due to the shorter amount of time they box. Professionals require more aerobic fitness since they box for longer periods of time. But creatine mainly helps with anaerobic fitness, not aerobic fitness.
Second, the key and arguably main aspect of anaerobic fitness in boxing is anaerobic capacity. Simply put, a boxer who can throw a 15 second flurry has more anaerobic capacity than one who can only throw a 5 second flurry. Although still very important, boxing doesn’t require much of the other part of anaerobic fitness: anaerobic power. A boxer who can throw 75 punches in 10 seconds has more anaerobic power than one who can only throw 45 punches in 10 seconds. But . . . what boxer would really try to throw this many punches in a given amount of time? What boxer would value this over the ability to throw longer flurries? The quality of one’s punches matters more than the quantity. Creatine is helpful for increasing anaerobic power (e.g., throwing more punches in a given time), but not so helpful for increasing anaerobic capacity (e.g., throwing longer flurries when the time arises).
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.) And this extra water weight would also make weight cutting much harder.
Creatine’s Saving Grace!
According to this study, creatine protects against brain trauma in rats. So maybe it can 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