Have you had your creatine today?
Because of my long history of weight training (40
years!) that includes competition bodybuilding,
personally training other bodybuilding champions,
writing for Web sites and magazines, as well as owning
my own health club for over a decade, I have seen a
plethora of supplements come and go. Since I don’t
accept anecdotal evidence alone but demand scientific
evidence of efficacy before I will accept nutritional
claims, I am always slow to adopt a new supplement into
my own nutritional program.
ago I found enough evidence of the safety and efficacy
of vitamins, minerals and protein supplements to use
them religiously myself. Gradually I have begun to
acknowledge the benefits of some other supplements. For
example, it was only recently that I have been convinced
that glutamine is another important supplement that
athletes should add to their nutrient regimen (see
Diane’s great article on glutamine by clicking
Another supplement I have been hearing a lot of
anecdotal evidence about for years is creatine. Sales
of creatine are estimated at between $100-200 million
(that’s a lot of believers) so I finally began to
investigate the evidence for creatine and have recently
become convinced that it is another important,
What is Creatine?
Creatine is produced naturally in our kidneys, liver and
pancreas out of Arginine, Glycine, and Methionine, but
small amounts can also be obtained from eating meat and
salmon. We store 95% of the approximately 100 grams of
this amino acid in the skeletal muscles and the rest in
the brain, heart and testes. When ingested orally
creatine combines with phosphate to create
phosphocreatine and is stored in muscle cells. This
phosphocreatine is involved in the ATP-PC system when
the body uses Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) for energy.
When your body runs out of ATP it uses phosphocreatine
to convert ADP (Adenosine Diphosphate) back into ATP.
In other words, the ingestion of creatine provides more
ATP for energy for short, intense exercise. In
addition, it appears to buffer lactic acid by increasing
the pH in cells during the conversion process, thus
reducing the burning sensation from lactic acid as well
as increasing work capacity by delaying the point of
Creatine and its role in bodybuilding and exercise.
Besides providing energy and buffering lactic acid, the
anecdotal evidence for the efficacy of creatine in
accelerating size and strength gains seems to be
supported by the scientific literature. One complaint
about creatine is that even though you get a great pump
after working out that may last days while taking
creatine, any gains made are just water. In fact, when
I first experimented with creatine on myself, I seemed
to experience some water retention and stopped taking
it. I wanted lean muscle, not water-bloated muscle. (I
don’t need to be reminded that muscle is 70 % water, but
if I just want to retain water I will go back to using
It turns out that creatine does attract water so that
muscle tissue does enlarge form being saturated. But
studies in the United States and Europe also have
demonstrated increases in lean body mass with creatine
supplementation. The anecdotal evidence therefore was
correct this time about creatine increasing muscle mass,
even lean muscle tissue.
much Creatine is needed?
The common method of supplementing creatine is to ingest
20 grams in five-gram servings for up to a week followed
by 5-10 grams per day after that for another 4 to 6
weeks (as long as you keep growing or getting
stronger). Then take at least a month to a month and a
half off before repeating the cycle so that the creatine
receptors remain effective.
It also appears that mixing creatine powder into a
protein drink and taking in some carbohydrates 20-30
minutes later maximizes the intake into the muscles.
Since creatine breaks down in liquids, you should only
buy the powdered form and you should not let your
creatine shake sit very long before ingesting it.
everyone take Creatine?
It appears so. I have seen no major problems with
creatine reported in the literature, even in long-term
studies. Yet, just to be safe, anyone with diabetes or
kidney dysfunction should probably avoid creatine until
further long-term studies are done.
Some people do experience bad breath, flatulence,
cramping or an upset stomach with high doses. If
cramping occurs, just drink more water; for an upset
stomach just ingest less creatine. Bad breath and
flatulence are babyboomers’ companions anyway, so big
deal. Take some mints and stay out of crowded rooms.
Additional benefits of supplementing with Creatine.
Creatine has been shown to have a number of other
benefits beyond the ergogenic ones athletes are
particularly interested in. Creatine appears also to be
brain food! Yes, indeed, it seems to increase memory
and analytical skills.
Creatine may even lower the risk of heart disease, Lou
Gerig’s disease and Alzheimer’s. In addition, it’s been
shown to reduce brain damage by 50% from concussions (TBI
or traumatic brain injury) by maintaining proper ATP
levels in brain tissues
Incredibly, creatine also may be good news for the 8
million Americans (1 out of 6 adults) that have
contracted herpes: it apparently helps inhibit the
replication of herpes simplex 1 and 2!
The bottom line here is that I can finally add another
supplement that I feel confident in endorsing to those
who ask about the best natural supplements to enhance
gains in size, strength and energy. Indeed, creatine
seems to be a supplement we’ve been searching for. So,
have you had your creatine today?
Train hard, train smart
and take your creatine!
Diane Fields, Member. Legendary Fitness, LLC.
Richard Baldwin, Member. Legendary Physique, LLC.
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Copyright 2003. Diane Fields, Member. Legendary Fitness,
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The advice given in this column should not be viewed as
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undertaking any exercise or nutrition program, Legendary
Fitness, LLC advises all to undergo a thorough medical
examination and get permission from their personal
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