How Effective is Creatine For Building Muscle?

Creatine has been a bit of a mystery in the world of sports and fitness celebrities. Professional athletes provide endorsements and bodybuilders often sell their own brand of creatine supplements. Some people talk so highly of it, creatine seems magical to those who are not familiar with it. People accuse fitness celebrities who use creatine of steroids or other illegal substances, when in reality creatine is a natural and important part of fitness and athleticism. The truth is very clear and I hope to explain exactly what creatine is and how you can use it properly.

Creatine is a naturally occurring substance which can be found in many animals. As a chemical, it is used to recycle adenosine triphosphate molecules, or ATP. Creatine is produced in the liver and kidneys, and also obtained as part of a normal diet through meats. A healthy body will provide around 1 gram of creatine per day from your body and an additional gram from a normal diet. A diet high in red meats can provide amounts greater than this. However, supplementation of creatine is very common and can lead to improved results in athletes at a much lower cost than adding red meat to your diet. When your body exercises, it uses the ATP stored in the muscles to provide short bursts of energy. Having large amounts of creatine allows your body to replenish the ATP used in your muscles and allow you to push harder, run faster, or lift more weight. Creatine does not increase your strength or speed, but allows you to train harder and make faster progress because of that. Due to the short burst nature of creatine and ATP, supplementing will have better results for short duration exercises like sprints or heavy lifting.

Using creatine is a very easy process because you take it for your body to store. Creatine supplements can be taken all at once, preferably before a workout to ensure there is creatine able to be absorbed by your body as you use it. The most common form of creatine is creatine monohydrate. When you take creatine monohydrate, your body absorbs the substance into your muscles and adds water. Sometimes, you can see this additional water weight on the scale but as long as you stay hydrated with lots of water, the weight will drop back off. Creatine monohydrate has been around for many years, and is a very cost effective way to supplement the creatine you get from your diet. The rule of thumb is to ingest 1 gram of creatine for every 25 pounds of body weight. For a 150lb man, this would be 6 grams of creatine every day. Keep in mind that at first, your body will be able to absorb more of the substance and so it will take a few days to reach maximum effectiveness. If you choose to supplement your diet with creatine, be sure to be consistent to make sure you get the maximum effect from your supplement. This means daily intake, including any days where you do not exercise at all. Following this creatine supplement plan will allow you to get the best results from your workouts, but this may not be as much as you had hoped.

The common use of creatine, mostly in the form of creatine monohydrate, across bodybuilders and other fitness celebrities, has led to many exaggerated claims of what the substance is capable of. Creatine, as a naturally occurring substance, does not have any magical properties to make you significantly stronger, blazingly faster, or increase the size of your muscles quickly. Supplements like creatine monohydrate allow you as an athlete to work harder during your workouts. This will lead to faster progress, but only if you train seriously. Many advertisements for creatine make the supplement seem like the only substance that the fitness celebrity uses in order to get in and maintain the amazing shape they are in. What the advertisements do not show you are the hours dedicated to a gym every day and years of consistent effort including a meticulously planned diet and regimented supplementation, including but certainly not limited to creatine monohydrate. Adding supplements to a lackluster fitness routine will not improve your results without additional effort. Remember, creatine only increases the ability of your body to do work. The progress from creatine is from the additional work you are able to put your body through.

Creatine monohydrate supplementation is a very important part of a well-rounded fitness supplementation routine. Other factors which play into fitness progression are providing your body an excess of protein to regenerate muscles with and a planned routine which targets all fitness elements targeted to your goals. The fact that creatine is a naturally occurring substance should ease concerns with adding creatine to a fitness regimen. It is no different than taking protein powders throughout the day. In fact, creatine can be much healthier than eating large amounts of red meat because some meats can be high in fats or cholesterol. Taking 1 gram of creatine monohydrate per 25 pounds of body weight in a glass of water is a quick and cheap way to ensure you are progressing towards goals as fast as possible.

Creatine Supplements

creatineCreatine is one of the most commonly used supplements in the fitness world. It is also known for being widely tested and actually effective. So what is it exactly and how does it work?

There are some myths out there about creatine and some may feel skeptical or afraid to take it. Let’s take a look at the facts together and see if it is worth the money.

What does it do?

Creatine – or the nitrogenous organic acid helps to supply energy to all cells in the body, primarily muscle. This is achieved by increasing the formation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP).   Creatine is completely natural, it is present in meat and around 1% of human blood is creatine. It is only reasonable that it was named after the Greek word ‘meat’ (kreas).

The benefits of creatine in fitness and bodybuilding are size and strength of the muscle. The volume of the muscle is enhanced by creatine holding water in the muscle cells making them look fuller.

On the other hand the ATP, which creatine helps form and accumulate, is responsible for better performance. According to research a significant increase in strength were observed in individuals supplemented with creatine and of course that resulted in more intense workouts and muscle growth.

Myths and Safety

There are myths out there that creatine isn’t safe for the kidneys and the heart or it may cause muscle cramps and pulls, dehydration, and diarrhea. These stories are anecdotal as creatine is one of the safest supplements out there. Multiple studies show that there are no major health risks or side effects associated with creatine.

Some people think they will get ‘fat’ or bloated from creatine if they don’t work out enough. Again, this is a myth and if you don’t do the work in the gym it will simply not work. There is no bloating effect since the water is stored inside the muscles.

Types of Creatine

Creatine Monohydrate is the most common and cheapest type of creatine that has been used for supplementation for years. It is easy to buy and does the job pretty well.

Pros:

-Almost all studies concern creatine monohydrate and prove it effective
-Cheap
-Doesn’t require a loading phase

Cons:
-Not very soluble in water
-Only about 1% absorbed into the body
-Not effective in about 10% of the population

 

Micronized Creatine is creatine monohydrate where the molecules of creatine have been divided or cut up. This increases their surface area 20 times, increasing absorption and reducing possible stomach discomfort.

Pros:
-Effective even on non responders to monohydrate
-No bloating or stomach discomfort
-Purer than monohydrate

Cons:
-More expensive
-Requires a loading phase

 

CEE (Creatine Ethyl Ester) is a creatine molecule with an ester attached which allows for almost 99% absorption into the body.

Pros:
-Increased absorption.
-Very effective for all users
-No bloating or stomach discomfort.
-No loading phase required

Cons:
-Horrible taste but capsules can be purchased
-Expensive

 

Tri Creatine Malate is a compound of molecules created from malic acid and creatine. Tri Malate has 3 monohydrate molecules.

Pros:
-Faster recovery and less fatigue
-Very effective
-More water soluble and absorbent
-Cell Volumizing effect

Cons:
-Expensive
-Health effects unknown

Of course, there are many other types of creatine supplements on the market and the research and development is constantly moving forward. Our recommendation is that it’s great to use creatine supplements and you should try them out and see what works for you personally.

USPlabs reveals their newest product Modern Creatine.

It appears USPlabs is set to push out a creatine product. With little information, we cant assume anything at this time but if Modern Creatine is built like the Modern BCAA+ powder, it should pretty effective. Just a glance at the product label, you can see that have included BioCRE™ and Betaine Anhydrous. USPlabs is set to release this product to their Inner Circle before it goes live in stores. Looks like we will just have to wait and see what exactly makes this creatine, MODERN!

Chasing The Pump (Check Your Pre-Workout)

We ALL love that feeling, the PUMP. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, your training is most likely sub par. Anyway, the pump is that feeling you get when it feels like the muscle your training is about to burst through the skin. Remember Arnold’s famous quote? If you don’t, stop reading this and go watch “Pumping Iron.” Arnold stated, “The greatest feeling you can get in a gym, or the most satisfying feeling you can get in the gym is… The Pump. Let’s say you train your biceps. Blood is rushing into your muscles and that’s what we call The Pump. You muscles get a really tight feeling, like your skin is going to explode any minute, and it’s really tight – it’s like somebody blowing air into it, into your muscle. It just blows up, and it feels really different. It feels fantastic.” Funny, yet true. The pump is probably the best feeling you get in the gym next to a PR (personal record) but I would argue that is more mental than physiological.

A solid pre workout formula can aid you in achieving that lovely pump, which quite honestly is the main reason I supplement with a pre-workout. Granted, the research is there to demonstrate that ingredients making up most of the pre-workout blends on the shelf have proven benefits on strength, endurance, and hypertrophy, I enjoy feeling and seeing it goto work even if that pump fades two-hours later(there’s my bro-esque line of the blog) Before we dig any deeper I am going to be completely honest with you, as all of my articles will be, NO ONE ever got huge off of a pre-workout supplement. So don’t ask if this one works or that one works. I am not going to sell you snake oil, because quite frankly, I’m not getting paid for pushing supplements, rather giving you the knowledge to make the correct choice for your needs. You need to evaluate the ingredients and determine if it contains the ingredients I will talk about below at the the recommended dosage. Sure, you can have all the right ingredients, but if it is not dosed properly, you’re probably not going to see a benefit. This can be difficult as most companies use a proprietary blend to avoid giving out their formula, since this is the case I recommend sticking with a reputable company that has been in the game and proven to produce a quality product time and time again. Beyond the ingredients you have to test what works for you. Many friends of mine have raved about a particular brand but when I tried it I thought it was a dud. Similar to diet, diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks. Again, I’ve never heard of anyone getting huge off of a pre-workout, but I have witnessed many grueling workouts get completed that may not have without the extra boost and ergogenic aid provided by the mythical pre-workout solution. Below I will briefly run through some key ingredients that should be part of your pre-workout and one surprise powerhouse that you may wish to avoid. Later this week I will be reviewing Animal RAGE and demonstrating it’s mixability, taste, as well as go through a training session that I will post for you to give a try.

Proven ingredients have been scientifically shown to improve performance in endurance and strength as well as gains in muscle mass. Caffeine and Creatine are undoubtably ergogenic aids. Both of these have been studied more than anything else and as long as the subjects were given the proper dose both have come out on top time and time again. As for creatine (monohydrate) a 20g loading phase for 1 week followed by 5-10g per day is recommended.This dosage has been shown to increase size and strength in multiple studies, just goto www.pubmed.com and search creatine and hypertrophy and you will find thousands of results for research studies.

Caffeine is really individualized in the amount an individual can handle. Some do not do well with stimulants and require a caffeine free pre-workout, others, like myself, have a high tolerance and can handle upwards of 600-800mG (about 4-5 Tall Starbucks coffees). Caffeine has shown to be beneficial at different dosages and is generally studied by weight of the subject. A 2008 study demonstrated participants to lift significantly more repetitions on the bench press as opposed to those consuming a placebo. The dosage provided in this study was 5mG/kG body weight, which would be the equivalent of 500mG for a 200 pound individual. Assess your tolerance and see what you can handle.

Before we go into the next two. Caffeine actually counteracts the benefit of creatine loading in muscle when combined(2). This is the reason I solely take creatine post workout along with a carbohydrate, which has shown to increase its benefit. By consuming creatine pre workout along with caffeine you are not doing any harm, but you also may be wasting your money.

Beta-Alanine (CarnoSyn) is what gives you that tingling sensation that usually hits about 15-30 minutes after consumption. This should be dosed at 3.2g/day to see an ergogenic effect. This does not all have to be consumed at once and has actually shown benefits to be broken up into two 1.6g doses (you will most likely avoid the tingly feeling). If your pre workout does not contain 3.2g you can purchase this in the raw form, http://www.supplementcentral.com/index.php?filter_name=beta+alanine&route=product%2Fisearch&limit=10, and add it to your post workout shake as it has shown benefits when combined with creatine.

Citrulline-Malate has been around but is starting to generate more buzz for its benefits of reducing muscle fatigue and increasing endurance (53% more repetitions on bench compared to placebo)(4). These studies have provided subjects with 6-8g of Citrulline-Malate prior to working out. Again if your favorite pre-workout doesn’t currently have this in or you are unsure of the dosage, you can purchase it in the raw form and add it in if you wish.

There are definitely more ingredients you will find on the label of your pre-workout but these are some of the main ingredients with evidence to back them up. If you have any questions about additional ingredients feel free to contact me on twitter @LuKKoV or facebook, www.facebook.com/lukekovalfitness

Remember to check back for the Animal Rage review and an accompanying training session.

Stay Fit

.Pre-workout Supplement

1. Woolf K, Bidwell WK, Carlson AG. The effect of caffeine as an ergogenic aid in anaerobic exercise. Int J of Sport Nutr Exerc Meta. 2008;18:412–29.

2. K. Vandenberghe, N. Gillis, M. Van Leemputte, P. Van Hecke, F. Vanstapel, P. Hespel  counteracts the ergogenic action of muscle creatine loading. Journal of Applied Physiology February 1, 1996 vol. 80 no. 2452-457

3. Hobson RM, Saunders B, Ball G, Harris RC, Sale C. Effects of beta-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: a meta-analysis. Amino Acids. 2012;43:25–37. doi: 10.1007/s00726-011-1200-z

4. Perez-Guisado J, Jakeman PM. Citrulline malate enhances athletic anaerobic performance and relieves muscle soreness. J Strength Cond Res. 2010;24:1215–1222. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181cb28e0.