Is Creatine Good For MMA Fighters? What You Should Know


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Creatine is a popular sports supplement. It’s worked its way into the gym world, used as a way to gain muscle mass fast. But is it used in the MMA? 

Creatine is widely used in MMA. It aids the development of muscle mass and boosts strength. It also helps to lower recovery times. The downsides are minimal. The side effects are mild and it isn’t viewed as a performance-enhancing substance by the USADA. 

Like most supplements, there are pros and cons to taking creatine. Keep reading to learn more about how creatine can affect MMA fighters. 

What Is Creatine?

Let’s start by getting a brief overview of what creatine is and how it can affect the body. Creatine is a substance that is naturally produced by the body. It is primarily used to provide muscles with energy during intensive activities.

In supplement form, you will be producing phosphocreatine. This increases your body’s store of ATP which is a molecule that carries energy within cells. As a result, those using it will be able to perform better during exercise. Typically, these benefits won’t last for long. In most cases, athletes will only feel this for 30 seconds, during a high-intensity exercise.

Is Creatine Good or Bad for MMA/Combat Sports? 

There are a few benefits that this supplement can unlock, including: 

  • Increased muscle mass
  • Lower recovery time
  • More strength 
  • Lowered chance of neurological disease

There have been numerous studies showing how effective this supplement can be. For example, a study from Bloomsburg University showed that taking creatine could improve weightlifting performance by up to 43 percent

For a more MMA-specific example, athletes who take creatine will be able to get better at delivering repetitive strikes, at a higher intensity. This has the potential to give them the edge needed to win the fight, as many bouts come down to the activity that occurs in the last 30 to 45 seconds. 

Do MMA Fighters Take Creatine?

In many ways, this supplement is ideal for athletes, like MMA fighters. It allows them to gain more strength while lowering their recovery time. Because of this, many trainers might recommend the athlete considers taking creatine.

However, it’s unlikely that they will use creatine all the time. This is because of the side effects that this supplement can have. Namely, it can make them appear bloated. 

This isn’t because creatine is fatty. The average scoop will contain around five calories, which can be burnt off within a few seconds. It does, though, cause an increase in water retention. This can sometimes have a pronounced impact. According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, it’s standard to see athletes gain one to two pounds within the first week of using creatine. 

This can cause big problems when it comes time to weigh in because MMA fighters have to lose weight rapidly to make weight. Because of this, they will often stop using creatine when it comes time to cut weight.

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What Are Possible Side Effects of Creatine?

No sports supplement is perfect. Because of this, there are some downsides that MMA fighters taking creatine might experience. This can include: 

  • Kidney issues. Some people report that creatine can lead to cramping and kidney failure. There is also the risk that it might cause dehydration if the fighter forgets to drink enough water. 
  • High blood pressure. This has the potential to cause problems for people who have diabetes. 
  • Dizziness and diarrhea. These tend to be fairly minor side effects, which will usually pass fairly quickly.
  • Mania. There is some evidence that those with pre-existing schizophrenia will have higher risks of manic episodes when taking creatine.  

How severe these effects become might depend on the type of diet being consumed. Energy drinks have been known to worsen dehydration, increase the risk of heart problems, and worsen muscle cramps. Because creatine is being given in a controlled environment, it’s unlikely that a professional MMA athlete is going to have a severe negative reaction to the supplement. 

If these side effects get worse, the MMA fighter will likely visit their doctor. In some cases, they will be unable to take this supplement. However, these side effects are usually fairly minor and will pass once the body becomes used to the supplement. 

How Much Creatine Should an MMA Fighter Take During Training?

The amount of creatine that athletes will take varies. However, there have been studies done to determine the optimal dose. According to research from the International Society of Sports Nutrition, athletes should start with a dose of 20 grams. This will need to be spread throughout the day in four doses of five milligrams. 

This dose level should be maintained for five to seven days. Then, the maintenance stage will begin and the required dose will fall. Only three to five milligrams will be required. 

There are some ways that the body’s absorption of creatine can be improved. One of the most notable ways of doing this is including meat as a regular part of the diet

Does UFC Allow Creatine?

The UFC bases its drugs policy on the recommendations of USADA. Interestingly, this organization doesn’t class creatine as a performance-enhancing substance. There are a few reasons behind this decision. First, as we’ll discuss later, it doesn’t put the health of the athletes at risk. 

But the more significant reason is that not all athletes will benefit from creatine. It’s only when paired with the right training program that the benefits begin to appear. Because of this, the supplement is not a determinant of success in the fight.

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What Supplements Can UFC Fighters Use?

There are a few other supplements that aren’t banned by the UFC. This includes: 

  • Protein powder
  • L-carnitine, though it can’t be taken via UV injection
  • Beta-alanine
  • Caffeine

Various other substances are allowed. Athletes can get a ruling on a range of substances by looking them up in the USADA/WADA prohibited list because all the UFC drug tests are conducted and evaluated by USADA.

Is Creatine Safe to Take?

One of the biggest concerns about any supplement is the potential health risks that it can pose. The popularity of creatine has sparked a lot of research from the medical community into what impacts it has on the body. 

As we discussed, many of the side effects associated with this supplement are fairly benign. Because of this, the focus has shifted to the longer-term implications that stem from this supplement. In this area, the research is less clear. 

However, initially, it seems like the health risks are relatively low. A study by The University of Memphis tested a group of 98 footballers over 21 months. During the study urine samples were taken and analyzed. At the end of this period, there was no significant difference in the health markers of those who took creatine and those who didn’t. 

This research was confirmed by a review from the Free University of Brussels. They looked at studies of people who had been taking creatine over the long term. This was defined as being up to five years. They found no significant changes to kidney function

What Are the Alternatives to Creatine?

There are no other supplements that replicate what creatine does. But there are some ways to get creatine naturally. These include: 

  • Eating more red meat
  • Eating lean fish
  • Taking an amino acid supplement
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Do Fighters Use Pre-Workout Supplements Before Fights?

It’s common for MMA fighters to take protein shakes and other supplements before they fight. Many of these will contain creatine. This is used to build strength and muscle before the bout. Afterward, it’s used as a part of the recovery process. 

Final Thoughts

Creatine has become one of the most widely used supplements in sport. It’s a common ingredient in muscle-building supplements and sports drinks. In MMA, it’s used in the training process, helping fighters gain muscle mass before a bout. However, it’s likely avoided during the weight cutting process, as it can lead to water retention. After the match, they will start using it again as part of the recovery process. 

Jeff J.

Jeff J is a retired Gunnery Sgt. with the United States Marine Corps and a former Federal Police officer. He was involved with extensive training with weapons systems, and hand to hand combat, mentored and trained hundreds of Marines in high-level fitness programs.

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