What is the best creatine for swimmers?
Keep reading for our expert nutrition advice on the best creatine monohydrate supplements for swimmers.
We will also unpack the benefits of using creatine to optimize swim performance and how to start using creatine. Learn more about how much to take, when to take creatine, and more below to see if creatine may help you become a better swimmer.
Disclaimer: This post was written and reviewed by Katie Schimmelpfenning, registered dietitian and swim coach. It is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Consult a doctor or dietitian about supplement questions.
Table of Contents
Benefits of creatine for swimmers
Creatine is one of the most well-researched supplements on the market. Creatine is linked to benefits such as:
- Strength Boost: Amplifies power in the water, potentially improving distance per stroke!
- Muscle Growth Aid: Supports muscle strength and development through enhanced protein synthesis.
- Performance Enhancement: Improved performance in sprint repeats, leading to improved swimming performance.
- Quicker Recovery: Supports and speeds up muscle recovery after intense training.
- Sprint Improvement: Valuable for short bursts of high-intensity swims; however, has not been linked to improved single sprint performance.
- Brain Health Boost: Potential neuroprotective effects and cognitive function support, including memory improvement.
Research supporting creatine use in swimmers
A 2006 research review of creatine supplementation impacts on swim performance hypothesized that creatine supplementation may improve:
- Performance in repeated interval swim sets (such as 8×50’s)
- Improved power, which leads to greater propulsion forward from each stroke
- Potential for creatine to further benefit breaststroke and butterfly performance
Creatine is safe and may be an effective supplement for elite athletes such as competitive swimmers. At this time most research examining creatine use in swimmers has been done in short-term studies that are smaller.
In the future, we hope for research studies that examine results for longer periods, more data on the effects of creatine in both male and female athletes, and a close look at the positive potential for improving breaststroke and butterfly performance!
Will creatine improve overall performance in swimmers?
Maybe! Every swimmer is different.
But do keep in mind that while creatine may have a beneficial effect on swimmers it is not a miracle worker! Do not expect significant improvements in performance like a 5-second drop in a 50 free at your next swim meet after a month on creatine or you will be disappointed. 😉
Why should swimmers supplement creatine?
The recommended dose of creatine for boosting performance is 3-5 g per day. The body is only capable of producing ~1-2 g of creatine per day from amino acids.
Additionally, it would take eating a whole pound of beef or salmon to consume 1 g of creatine from a natural source.
Is creatine necessary for peak performance?
Necessary, no! But potentially beneficial, yes. We recommend creatine to swimmers 18 years old and up who have no underlying medical conditions.
If you are an athlete <18 interested in supplementing with creatine monohydrate you and your parent should discuss it with your Doctor. While research has shown creatine may be beneficial for youth swimmers, further research is needed to verify safety for youth athletes.
Creatine will not replace or outweigh a balanced diet, adequate sleep, or hard work in the pool but it may give swimmers who are already doing “all the things” a competitive edge!
If you have the financial means and are looking to try something new, creatine may help! Also, check out the 9 best supplements for swimmers such as tart cherry juice, beetroot juice, and more. We also review the best whey protein powders for swimmers on the blog.
Creatine may not help swimmers endurance swimmers
Creatine is known for its ability to improve high-intensity short performance.
Therefore, creatine may not be worth it for:
- Endurance athletes
- Open-water distance swimmers
- The casual gym swimmer
- Swimmers who avoid racing and prefer to swim laps at an easy to moderate pace
Our top 4 creatine monohydrate recs for swimmers
*Note, this section includes affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Before starting a new supplement talk to your doctor or dietitian.
We recommend creatine monohydrate over other types of creatine because it is more affordable and more well-researched than creatine HCL, buffered creatine, and creatine ethyl ester.
We recommend athletes use powdered creatine monohydrate supplements that are NSF-certified for sport or Informed sport-certified since supplements are not regulated by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA).
Creatine supplements we recommend for swimmers(ranked by price per oz from low to high):
We recommend these high-quality products because they are third-party tested to confirm they are safe for sport and do not contain contaminants.
How to take creatine
There are two approaches to supplementing with creatine monohydrate:
- Loading phase, then 3-5 grams per day recommended by the International Olympic Committee
- Taking 20-25 grams of creatine for 5-7 days, spread out between ~4 doses of ~5 grams during the day
- After ~1 week decrease to 3-5 grams of creatine monohydrate once per day
- Pros: Swimmers may see creatine work in ~2-3 weeks
- Con’s: Athletes may notice increased bloating and digestive upset during the loading phase
- Skip the loading phase, recommended by the International Society of Sports Nutrition
- Take the low dose ~3-5 g of creatine monohydrate per day from day 1
- Pros: The loading phase is not necessary, skipping the loading phase can reduce the negative effects of creatine supplementation such as undesired weight gain from water retention and digestive issues
- Con’s: May take longer to see creatine work, ~3-4 weeks
When to take creatine
The bottom line
Creatine is a safe and effective supplement for competitive swimmers. I have worked with many athletes, specifically swimmers who have experienced performance improvements that they believe are in part due to creatine.
However, creatine or any nutritional supplements will not make up for nutritional gaps, poor training, a good diet, and working hard in the pool.
If you are trying to improve your swim training capabilities, optimize performance, and increase lean muscle mass and you already mastered the nutrition basics then creatine monohydrate supplementation may be a valuable tool for you!
Read more about our responses to frequently asked questions about creatine such as “Does creatine cause muscle cramps?” and “Does creatine impact body weight?” HERE!
Katie Schimmelpfenning RD, LD is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, USA Swim Coach, and former Division 1 swimmer. She helps competitive swimmers fuel and train to optimize performance, recover faster, and prevent injury! She is passionate about spreading evidence-based nutrtion tips to help swimmers across the globe.