Exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD) causes increased soreness, impaired function of muscles, and reductions in muscle force. Accumulating evidence suggests the beneficial effects of creatine on EIMD. Nevertheless, outcomes differ substantially across various articles. The main aim of this meta-analysis was to evaluate the effect of creatine on recovery following EIMD. Medline, Embase, Cochrane Library, Scopus, and Google Scholar were systematically searched up to March 2021. The Cochrane Collaboration tool for examining the risk of bias was applied for assessing the quality of studies. Weighted mean difference (WMD), 95% confidence interval (CI), and random-effects model, were applied for estimating the overall effect. Between studies, heterogeneity was examined using the chi-squared and I2 statistics. Nine studies met the inclusion criteria. Pooled data showed that creatine significantly reduced creatine kinase (CK) concentration overall (WMD = -30.94; 95% CI: -53.19, -8.69; p = .006) and at three follow-up times (48, 72, and 96 hr) in comparison with placebo. In contrast, effects were not significant in lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) concentration overall (WMD = -5.99; 95% CI: -14.49, 2.50; p = .167), but creatine supplementation leaded to a significant reduction in LDH concentrations in trials with 48 hr measurement of LDH. The current data indicate that creatine consumption is better than rest after diverse forms of damaging and exhaustive exercise or passive recovery. The benefits relate to a decrease in muscle damage indices and improved muscle function because of muscle power loss after exercise. PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS: Creatine supplementation would be effective in reducing the immediate muscle damage that happens <24, 24, 48, 72, and 96 hr post-exercise. In the current meta-analysis, the positive effects of creatine could cause a decrease in CK concentration overall. But, due to high heterogeneity and the medium risk of bias for articles, we suggest that these results are taken into account and the facts are interpreted with caution by the readers.
Keywords: creatine; creatine kinase; lactate dehydrogenase; meta-analysis; muscle damage; systematic review.
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