Creatine Super Feature - Part 2: Creatine Overview.

One of the best kept secrets in the sports nutrition industry is research grade creatine monohydrate. Below is an in-depth overview of the supplement king including a short rant on ads.

Jump To:


Part 2:
Creatine Overview

One of the best kept secrets in the sports nutrition industry is research grade creatine monohydrate; the highest quality of creatine used in research studies.

The results of the research studies spanning over a decade continue to substantiate that research grade creatine works to help increase strength and muscle size at a faster rate.

So one of the important points to getting results from taking creatine monohydrate is to get a product that meets research grade quality, meaning it is full potency, soluble, purified, and free from impurities.


The Fantasy World Of Magazine Ads

Each month after I read through the fitness and bodybuilding magazines, I find many of the ads for sports nutrition products perplexing, some of them outright fantasy.

These days more then ever the market place has become a new-ingredient horse-race; you know, products with new and different combinations of ingredients making "I'm better" claims.

Tragically, I see too many people, too often, getting diverted away from what scientific studies prove work best, to get you to try some new hype-of-the-month product instead.

Getting results in bodybuilding and sports performance is about doing what works best, and sticking to it - perseverance. Sure, you want to be open-minded and test new approaches and products. But, you do not want to stop doing what works best at the sake of trying something new.

If I Can't Trust the Ads...

    The number one question people ask me at seminars is how do you know what works and what does not? Second question is; what should I take?

    Well, taking products with research proven ingredients, the ones with scientific studies backing their claims, is a good starting point. Now, I don't mean that ingredients without comprehensive scientific studies do not work.

    I have worked on the cutting edge of science my entire career, formulating and inventing products based on biochemical and physiological premises, as well as through testing and evaluation with all sorts of research.

    Including gathering information from people like you, pumping iron day in and day out to get big and strong, and keep good notes on how your bodies respond to new nutrition products.

    But, when I have to make a final decision about an ingredient, the ones that have the most human clinical studies usually win the selection race, with an occasional exception.

    Which leads me to the creatine story, keeping in mind that no one ingredient will do it all for you. In fact my list of efficacious sports nutrition ingredients keeps getting longer, and has filled entire books writing about them.


The Time Tested Reputation Of Creatine

From reading through the magazine ads I get the impression that the marketers of some of the newer, unproven products, like to take a stab at creatine's time-tested and research proven reputation, to make their products appear better then they really are. As part of my work, when I read through these ads and product related books, I look-up the scientific references and read through the studies.

Have You Ever Bought A Supplement Based Purely On An Ad?
Yes
No

I'm continually disgusted from doing this, because most of the time all of the references used by these marketers (not scientists) offer no proof that their product works; I guess they think people won't take the time to check on this.

The references usually are just phantom references included in the advertisements to impress the non-scientist reader.

When comparing this non-science to the dozens and dozens of good clinical studies conducted using creatine monohydrate, it turns out that creatine monohydrate remains one of the best strength and muscle building supplements you can purchase, assuming you are getting a quality product; note that a poor quality creatine product is a main reason why people don't always experience the results that they should.

Research Grade Is Best

    As discussed below, research grade creatine is best. When you get a high quality sports nutrition product, you will get results. Too often however, companies create product with the appearance of being scientific and high quality, but are actually over priced and low quality.

    This is tragic, as the scientific research does indeed conclude that there are many ingredients that will significantly improve your muscle building, strength building, and sports performance, in addition to promoting good health.

    So hopefully, this special report series will help empower you with the knowledge you need to determine what is best to achieve you specific goals.

    To underscore this point about the proven effectiveness of creatine monohydrate, recently a team of independent scientists, headed by Ira Wolinsky, Ph.D., of the University of Houston, and Judy Driskell, Ph.D., R.D., of the University of Nebraska, put creatine monohydrate on the top of their "What Works for Strength and Muscle Mass" sports supplement list (Note that creatine has been on the top of my list for over 2 decades).

    Creatine monohydrate made the Class "A" rating of these prominent researchers, along with some of the other bodybuilding essentials I will be reviewing in other special reports.

    This distinguished group of scientists who conducted the massive research review on creatine included Richard B. Kreider, Ph.D., who is a leading creatine researcher and supporter of using creatine as an ergogenic aid for sports performance and muscle building.

    These and other top sports scientists reviewed the creatine research and concluded the following about the effectiveness of creatine monohydrate:

    • Promotes greater gains in increasing FFM (Fat Free Mass, which includes muscle mass).
    • Increases muscle fiber size; hypertrophy.
    • Increases muscle mass.
    • Increases myosin.
    • Improves maximal strength.
    • Improves maximal power.
    • Improves single-effort sprint performance.
    • Improves worked performed during repetitive sprint performance.
    • Improving performance during exercise of high to maximal intensity.

    The combined results of the research studies prove that by taking creatine monohydrate you can get bigger, stronger muscles, better performing muscles, faster.

    These studies reveal that creatine users consistently experience greater gains and improvements over the people who were not taking creatine in the studies. This means that creatine has been scientifically proven to produce statistically significant results, over and over again.


Why Does Creatine Work?

Improving muscle bioenergetics is one of the main ways creatine works, which I will elaborate on a bit here, and more in Part Three. One thing that occurs in your muscles from engaging in strength sports and resistance training is that you stimulate your type II muscle fibers to grow.

The type II muscle fibers are the ones that can get big in size and generate fast, strong muscle contractions; they can contract very fast to generate tremendous power, when compared to slow-twitch muscle fibers which contract a slower rate of speed.

For example, a 100 meter sprinter has big muscles to blast off of the starting line and run as fast as possible for a short distance. This takes big large, well conditioned fast-twitch muscles. Compare this to the marathon runner, who is faster then most people, but runs half as fast as the sprinter, but can do it for much longer.

This is because marathon runners have well conditioned their type I, slow-twitch muscle fibers, with very little type II muscle fiber development. Type I muscle fibers contract slower when compared to Type II muscle fibers, they also have the ability to keep contracting for longer periods of time, at this lower level of intensity.

Two Kinds Of Type II Muscle Fiber

    But, there is more to this story to understand why and how creatine fits in to the big-strong muscle picture. There are at least two kinds of Type II muscle fibers, Type IIa and Type IIb. Type IIa muscle fibers are also called fast-twitch oxidative glycolytic, FOG for short. At this point you may be detecting a trend in muscle fiber terminology.

    Exercise physiologists have classified these muscle fibers based on their ability to generate energy and muscle tissue contraction characteristics. Simply put, Type IIa muscle fibers have the ability to generate muscle contractions, which results in strength output over a certain period of time. The glycolytic and oxidative capacity of the Type IIa muscle cells can help produce energy to keep these strong, but not strongest, muscle contractions going for a sustained period of time.

    Glycolytic refers to the splitting of glucose in the muscle fiber to create energy. Fast-twitch muscle fibers are able to split glucose very rapidly to help regenerate ATP quickly to sustain strong muscle contractions. Fast-twitch muscle fibers also contain high amounts of creatine and the high energy molecule phosphocreatine (PCr), also referred to as creatine phosphate (CP); note that the scientific community periodically changes terminology. Historically, scientists used the term creatine phosphate, but more recently they started to use phosphocreatine.

ATP: Energy's Currency!
If one has ever wondered just how we are able to summons the energy to perform a number of activities under a variety of conditions, the answer, in large part, is ATP. Without ATP, ones body would simply fail to function. Learn why...
[ Click here to learn more. ]

    Now, Type IIb muscle fibers, called fast-twitch glycolytic (FG), are where creatine supplements have a major benefit. Type IIb muscle fibers are very large and they store plenty of ATP and PCr in their cellular fluid. This immediate chemical energy reservoir can be used to generate a tremendous muscle contraction of maximum effort energy for a few seconds, then as the reservoir of ATP & PCr gets depleted, the ability of the Type IIb muscles to generated maximum effort is reduced.

    The muscle fiber then has to make new ATP from primarily glucose, which takes time, and fatigue eventually sets in. Type IIa, fast-twitch oxidative glycolytic muscle fibers also benefit from creatine supplementation.

Using Creatine To Load Up Muscle Fibers

    So, for maximum, explosive muscle contractions you need two things, well developed Type IIa and IIb muscle fibers (which takes time and smart effort), and muscle fibers that are loaded up with a large supply of ready to use ATP and PCr. It is during these first seconds of all-out effort when the PCr (phosphocreatine) is used to make more ATP as fast as possible to keep the maximum effort going. However, eventually this immediate power-house of energy gets depleted, and the muscle's capacity to sustain all-out effort is reduced.

    Taking creatine supplements results in loading up your all of your muscle fibers, in particular the Type IIb muscle fibers with phosphocreatine. This creatine loading gives your muscles ability to work harder and store more strength/power generating PCr. The net result is to stimulate faster gains in strength and muscle mass.

    This is why creatine is best for strength and bodybuilding athletes, in order to promote Type II muscle fiber strength and size development progress. As you develop larger and better conditioned Type II muscle fibers, the benefits of taking a creatine monohydrate supplement will become even more important. It is this specific muscle development from progressive strength training and strength nutrition that needs to be customized to best accomplish your muscle fiber development goals. In addition to creatine, there are other supplements that can also maximize and improve this process, in different ways.

Applied Sports Nutrition Science

    Creatine supplementation is an example of good applied sports nutrition science. As an aside, during the 1980's is when I started experimenting with creatine. I encountered the research on creatine when I was working in my United Kingdom branch office on some product development and marketing projects.

    I was able to secure some of the early produced research grade creatine that was available in Europe; when it was very, very expensive; too expensive to bring to market back then. I can tell you this for sure, when you take authentic research grade creatine you will experience greater gains in strength and lean body mass, when compared to most retail brand creatine.

    Depending on your level of training and experience, you can actually start feeling the benefits of research grade creatine the very first day, including better quality workouts and faster recovery. Improvements in muscle size and hardness are seen within a few days.


Is Creatine Safe?

Yes, according to the most recent research reports. Based on the creatine research reviews mentioned above, the team of independent experts concluded that creatine is indeed safe.

A Landmark Long-Term Creatine Study

    One of the most recent studies to demonstrate the safety of creatine was conducted over a 21 month period of time. In this study, conducted by Dr. Kreider and coworkers, they examined the long-term effects of Division IA football players taking an average of 5 g per day.

    The researchers concluded that long-term creatine supplementation did not appear to adversely affect the measures of health status in the creatine taking athletes, when compared to athletes who did not take creatine.

    Furthermore additional benefits were revealed from this landmark long-term creatine study. According to Dr. Kreider and coworkers, when compared to the group of football players who did not take creatine, the football players who took creatine actually had fewer episodes of cramping, dehydration, muscle tightness, muscle pulls and strains, non-contact joint injuries, contact injuries, illness, number of missed practices due to injury, players lost for the season, and total injuries or missed practices.

    Therefore, this research indicates that creatine supplementation during athletic training and competition may actually help reduce athletic injuries and adverse effects of athletic training. Finally, the safety of creatine supplements is additionally confirmed in the hundreds of studies in which it was used with human research subjects.

Hot-Off-The-Press

    In fact one of the most recent studies hot-off-the press provides further support of the safety of creatine, under conditions of a long-term study, conducted by Groeneveld and coworkers.

    [Groeneveld GJ, Beijer C, Veldink JH, Kalmijn S, Wokke JH, van den Berg LH.
    "Few adverse effects of long-term creatine supplementation in a placebo-controlled trial."
    Int J Sports Med. 2005 May;26(4):307-13]

    In this study, the researchers performed a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of creatine monohydrate, with patients taking 10 grams of creatine a day for a period of 310 days or a placebo. The patients were questioned periodically and their plasma urea concentrations and urinary creatine and albumin concentrations were measured.

    Groeneveld and coworkers found that there were no significant differences in side effects between the group taking the creatine monohydrate supplement compared to the group of people who were taking the placebo.

    Out of the almost 200 research subjects only 3 experienced side effects like nausea and diarrhea which caused them to discontinue the use of creatine. These side effects disappeared after creatine use was stopped.

    Regarding metabolic factors, the long-term use of creatine supplement did not increase the plasma urea levels or albumin levels.


Who Does Creatine Work For?

Creatine monohydrate works for strength sport athletes and anyone who is resistance training to increase muscle mass and strength. Creatine works best for bodybuilding, weight lifting, power lifting and other competition strength sports, such as boxing, wrestling, martial arts, football, baseball, track and field strength/sprint events, other sprint related sports, including sprint swimming and soccer; Part 4 has a nice summary table about this.

Creatine Is Made By The Body: So Why Take A Supplement?

    Yes, creatine is manufactured in your body. Creatine is manufactured in your body from the amino acids arginine and glycine. These amino acids react to form a compound called guanidinoacetate, which gets turned in to creatine when it receives a methyl group from S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe).

    Also, ornithine is produced via this biochemical pathway. Creatine is also chemically known as: N-(Aminoiminomethyl)-N-methylglycine; N-amidinosarcosine; N-methyl-N-guanylglycine; and methylglycocyamine.

    At room temperature about 1 gram of creatine can dissolve in 75 milliliters, and as the temperature of the liquid is increased more creatine can be dissolved per volume of water.

    Micronized Creatine
    Simply put, creatine monohydrate is the most popular and effective bodybuilding supplement on the market. At only $ 19.99 for 1000 grams, it is a steal.

    Creatine is also present in some of the foods you eat; mostly from meat and fish, and available in sports supplements, mainly as creatine monohydrate. Your body produces creatine primarily in the liver, this creatine then enters the blood stream, and is delivered throughout the body for use by muscles and other parts of the body.

    However, the research has determined that the body does not make enough creatine for optimum muscle growth and strength performance; the body only makes about 1 to 3 grams of creatine per day. In fact, dietary creatine has always been an important source of supplemental creatine.

    In this regard it is interesting to note that throughout history, strength athletes are legendary for consuming large amounts of meat.

    Well, meat also contains creatine. Eat more meat, and increase your intake of creatine; one of the studies I review actually compares the creatine intake from food and supplements. Keep reading to see what form works best.

    In modern times however, the practice of cooking actually reduces the amount of creatine in meat; the heating converts some of the creatine to its breakdown product called creatinine.

    There is about 5 grams of creatine in 2.2 pounds of raw meat. So it is not very practical to rely upon dietary sources of creatine for reliably increasing the body's creatine levels. At some point, a scientist probably thought; let's see what happens when creatine supplements are ingested. The observations were that the total muscle content of creatine is increased, and phosphocreatine content was also increased.

    So, creatine monohydrate supplements are consumed to increase the body's stores of creatine and phosphocreatine. PCr is produced in the body by the combination of creatine and phosphate.

    In the body, PCr is stored in muscle tissue along with ATP. Together, PCr and ATP store the chemical energy of the body. The more energy they store, the better the muscles can perform in short-term maximum-strength events.

Jump To:

Copyright © 2005 by SUPPLEMENTFACTSTM International LLC www.supplementfacts.com All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the copyright owner. Contact dan@supplementfacts.com with questions regarding this article.

Notice: This article is not intended for use as a substitute for consultation with a qualified medical practitioner. If you have symptoms of any illness, it is essential that you see your doctor without delay.