Creatine For Performance: Talking with Scott Forbes
The following interview was conducted with top notch creatine researcher Dr. Scott Forbes. He is one of the leading creatine researchers in the world. His research involves creatine and sports performance, creatine for general health and creatine’s role in cognition. Search the web (interviews, videos and research) and you will find he has contributed tremendously to an understanding of creatine and its impact on various outcomes. Be sure to follow the links provided in this interview- great information.
What sparked your interest in conducting primary research on creatine?
In 2006, I was finishing my master’s degree in Exercise Physiology at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada under the guidance of Dr. Phil Chilibeck. Dr. Chilibeck was the first to examine the interaction of creatine and resistance exercise in older adults and one of his former PhD students, Dr. Darren Candow, was also examining creatine supplementation on anaerobic performance and muscular endurance in younger individuals. I was fortunate to be surrounded/mentored by great scientists and was extremely fortunate to be able to partake on a few creatine projects. These project began a decade+ of research into the impact of creatine to improve exercise performance and health. Creatine is one of the few supplements that continues to show consistent and positive effects on muscle performance. We have recently published several reviews and original research clearly showing the impact of creatine combined with exercise to enhance muscle strength and size as well as functional capacity in both younger and older adults. Most people think of creatine as simply improving muscle, however we and others have shown that creatine can also impact bone and improve brain function. The list of benefits of creatine seems to be growing daily and as such has kept me interested!
Are there specific populations that should avoid creatine supplementation?
There are several myths associated with creatine supplementation, such as: creatine is a steroid, it is bad for your liver and kidneys, it causes muscle cramps, it dehydrates you, it causes baldness, it only leads to water retention, etc. However, as a scientist very familiar with how creatine works and having conducted 20+ studies on creatine as well as read hundreds of studies, I can ensure you that creatine is one of the safest, if not THE safest supplements on the market! Also, the International Society for Sports Nutrition published a position stand on creatine supplementation and stated that creatine is extremely safe. I have also reviewed the literature and found that creatine has no consistent side effects in the literature. Lastly, there is evidence that creatine is safe and potentially beneficial for pregnant women, children, and older adults. With all that in mind, I would still suggest that individuals who have kidney disease consult their doctor, but in healthy individuals across the entire age spectrum creatine appears to be extremely safe.
In a recently published review paper (Ricci, Forbes & Candow, 2020 – https://www.journalofexerciseandnutrition.com/ManuscriptUploadsPDF/115.pdf) that you co-authored, practical strategies were provided for mixed martial artists supplementing with creatine. What are some key takeaways from the review?
It was a great opportunity to work with Tony Ricci, one of the leading strength and conditioning practioner’s working with elite MMA athletes. We reviewed the evidence regarding creatine supplementation in combat sport athletes and provided some practical recommendations. The only side effect of creatine is body weight gain that is partially due to water retention, as such it is important for athletes to understand the physiology to successfully use creatine in weight class. sports. In this particular paper we discuss the impact of creatine on performance, on body composition (including muscle mass gain and fat mass loss), and the impact of creatine on brain function. There is evidence that creatine can be neuroprotective against concussions and may also improve cognitive function especially during times of stress such as sleep deprivation and mental fatigue….all of which may be prevalent before an MMA fight. We also discuss some of the benefits that creatine can have over the short-term with regards to glycogen re-synthesis and re-hydration, which are both important following the weigh-ins. Last but not least, we provide practical strategies including the best type, dose, timing, co-ingestion of other nutrients, and how to include creatine during the weight cutting phase. The paper is open access (which means it is free to download) – https://www.journalofexerciseandnutrition.com/ManuscriptUploadsPDF/115.pdf
What are some other specific dietary or supplemental strategies that can benefit combat sports athletes?
There a several nutrients or supplements that can potentially enhance combat sport athletes. We recently published another review investigating supplements and dietary strategies to improve high intensity interval training which would overlap greatly with combat sport athletes. There seems to be great scientific promise for caffeine, sodium bicarbonate, nitrates, and beta-alanine supplements, however, more research in combat sport athletes needs to be done. Higher protein diets may also confer some benefits to combat sport athletes, although these benefits appear to plateau at ~1.6-2.2 g of protein/kilogram of body weight/ day. You can also access that article free here: https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/12/2/390
What is a typical day like in your life- from the time you awake until bedtime?
I have two young kids, so they typically wake me up before 7:00am! I try to exercise regularly, running ~3 times a week and strength training ~4 times a week. At work I spend my time preparing lectures and reading and writing research studies. I usually try to head to bed around 10:30-11:00pm since the benefits of sleep are so well established (thanks Dr. Tartar, for the great sleep science!). My life is not to exciting but if anyone is interested in following me on Instagram: scott_forbes_phd , feel free to do so.
Check out research from Dr. Forbes here: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Scott_Forbes There is so much valuable, practical, information in this research!