If you’re the kind of person who shops for popular dietary supplements like protein or collagen powder, you’ve probably seen another popular bottle on the shelves: creatine. This supplement, which can be taken as a powder or liquid (and usually in some kind of healthy shake), is a staple in the bodybuilding community thanks to its ability to help you pack on muscle and work out longer and harder. (1) While creatine is generally considered safe — and is one of the most researched supplements out there (according to a review published in July 2012 in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition) — it is still a supplement, which means it’s not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and product claims don’t necessarily need to be substantiated (though the FDA can pull products that are found to be unsafe). (2,3)
Creatine concentration is normally increased in the placenta and brain in the midgestation phase until term, with further increases in the brain for another two weeks after birth. This effect appears to be due to the fetus itself expressing the creatine enzymes of synthesis (AGAT and GAMT) after 5% of the gestation time has passed (0.9 days in spiny mice). Despite creatine normally suppressing AGAT when supplemented at high concentrations, it appears that maternal supplementation of the diet with 5% creatine from the halfway point of pregnancy until term does not alter creatine synthesis in the newborn (no alterations in either AGAT or GAMT), nor does it affect the creatine transporter.
xEndurance’s Creatine-JB is a fantastic, all-natural creatine for athletes. It’s a little expensive at a dollar per serving, but it has a really pleasant citrus flavor and it contains a gram of lactate, which has been shown in some studies to improve time to exhaustion in short duration, high intensity workouts. It’s also third party tested by Labdoor and Informed Choice.
Different forms of creatine in combination with other sports supplements as well as varying doses and supplementation methodology should continue to be researched in an attempt to understand further application of creatine to increase sports and exercise performance of varying disciplines. It is important to remain impartial when evaluating the safety of creatine ingested as a natural supplement. The available evidence indicates that creatine consumption is safe. This perception of safety cannot be guaranteed especially that of the long term safety of creatine supplementation and the various forms of creatine which are administered to different populations (athletes, sedentary, patient, active, young or elderly) throughout the globe.
The concentration in healthy controls (57+/-8 years) without supplementation of creatine appears to be around 1.24+/-0.26µM per gram of hemoglobin and appears to decrease in concentration during the aging process of the erythrocyte. Otherwise healthy subjects who take a loading phase of creatine (5g four times daily for five days) can experience a 129.6% increase in erythrocytic creatine concentrations from an average value of 418µM (per liter) up to 961µM with a large range (increases in the range of 144.4-1004.8µM), and this effect appears to correlate somewhat with muscular creatine stores.
Include cardio training. Good cardiovascular health improves blood flow, a requirement for muscle growth. Doing cardio also improves your cardiovascular fitness, which allows you to use your muscle gains for various sports and activities. The standard recommendation is 150 minutes of moderate cardio each week, or 75 minutes of vigorous cardio, or an equivalent combination of the two. A good place to start would be doing 30-60 minutes of cardiovascular activity every other day or 3 times a week. Examples of cardio include running, biking, swimming, and any sport that involves constant movement.
For the bench press, start with a weight that you can lift comfortably. If you are a beginner, try lifting the bar along with 5lbs or 10lbs on each side. With arms at shoulder-width apart, grab onto the bar and slowly lower the bar until it's at nipple level; push up until your arms are fully extended upwards. Do 8–10 repetitions (reps) like this for three sets (3 x 8), adding additional weight each set. Once you have a few months of practice, slowly increase weight and go down to 6–8 reps per set, aiming to reach muscle failure at the end of the third set.
Most experts recommend starting with your larger muscle groups and then proceeding to the smaller ones. The most demanding exercises are those performed by your large muscle groups, and you will need your smaller muscles to get the most out of these exercises. But don't feel limited by that. You can do your exercises in any order you like, and changing the order is a great way to challenge yourself in different ways.
Tribulus Terrestris: A fruit from the Mediterranean, this supplement has been used in the Indian traditional medicine of Ayurveda. In addition to helping increase testosterone, many people take it to increase libido and as a cardioprotective aid. (10) Unfortunately, despite the fact that there are claims that tribulus terrestris can increase testosterone levels, studies don’t back up these claims. There is some evidence, however, that it may improve athletic performance. If you want to choose one of the supplements for men, this should be your pick.
The lower the rep range (and therefore the higher the intensity and the heavier the weight), the more rest there should be between sets. So most of the time, exercises being done in the 5-8 rep range need longer rest periods than exercises being done in the 8-10 rep range, which need longer rest periods than exercises being done in the 10-15 rep range.
In regard to liver fat buildup (steatosis), which is normally associated with reduced availability of S-adenosyl methionine and a suppression in expression of genes involved in fatty acid oxidation (PPARα and CPT1), creatine supplementation at 1% of the rat diet alongside a diet that induces fatty liver is able to fully prevent (and nonsignificantly reduce relative to the control given standard diets) the aforementioned changes and the state of steatosis, as well as changes in serum biomarkers (glucose and insulin) that accompany steatosis.
Electrolytes derive mainly from minerals in the diet and they maintain fluid balance and assist the nervous system to perform muscle contractions. Electrolytes are sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium and chloride, bicarbonate, phosphate, sulfate. Exercisers are particularly dependent on sodium and potassium balance. Carbohydrates are important for fueling exercise, including vigorous weight training, and in post-exercise energy replacement nutrition. Carbohydrates, mostly sugars, are formulated in sports drinks with electrolytes such as sodium chloride and potassium and sometimes magnesium.
You've figured out the exercises you should be doing, but what about the number of sets and repetitions? Your decision should be based on your goals. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 4 to 6 reps for strength and hypertrophy, 8 to 12 reps for muscular strength and 10 to 15 reps for muscular endurance. They also recommend at least one set of each exercise to fatigue although you'll find that most people perform about 2 to 3 sets of each exercise. In general:
Creatine has been found to increase skeletal muscle glycogen when given to sedentary adults for a loading and maintenance phase for 37 days at 2g (13.5% after five days of loading, but returning to baseline at the end of the trial). Exercise was not enforced in this study. This study also noted that, despite a normalization of glycogen after the trial, total creatine and ATP was still higher than placebo, and a loading protocol appears to have failed elsewhere in increasing glycogen stores in sedentary people subject to an aerobic exercise test before and after the loading phase.
Don’t make the mistake of trying to bulk up when you should be on a diet. While you might have muscle on your mind, most people need to get leaner first. If you’re fat and you start eating for size, you’re only going to get fatter. Get rid of the excess blubber first, to the point where you can see some abs, and then worry about getting big. You should be as low as 12% body fat before you change your diet up to focus on mass gain. That will ensure that your insulin sensitivity is high. When it is, you can eat more carbs and your body won’t store them as fat.
Several review studies assessing the safety of creatine supplementation tend to make note of increases in formaldehyde and possible carcinogenic results. Specifically, creatine is metabolized into an intermediate called methylamine, which can be converted to formaldehyde by the SSAO enzyme. An increase in urinary formaldehyde has been noted in youth given 21g of creatine for one week, during which both methylamine (820% increase) and formaldehyde (350%) were increased, relative to control. However, a more prolonged study using 300mg/kg (loading dose of around 20g) in adults for ten weeks failed to replicate these effects.
There’s no need to go overboard on creatine intake, though, in search of crazy muscle growth: “The maximum amount of creatine that you can hold depends on the amount of muscle mass you have,” explains Bates. “So if you have more muscle, then your body can store more creatine. In general, the muscle can hold about 2 to 3 g of creatine per kilogram of muscle mass. So the amount of creatine you use will depend on the amount of muscle mass you have.” (7)
It can be hard to know where to start when beginning strength training. There are countless exercises you can do, some of which work some muscles, but not others. There are safety concerns to beware of, a wide variety of sometimes confusing equipment to help you in your efforts, and so on. With some familiarity of the basics of getting started with strength training, actually doing so can become far less daunting, and you can begin to craft a routine that is targeted toward helping you achieve your personal goals.
Creatine is not an essential nutrient as it is naturally produced in the human body from the amino acids glycine and arginine, with an additional requirement for methionine to catalyze the transformation of guanidinoacetate to creatine. In the first step of the biosynthesis these two amino acids are combined by the enzyme arginine:glycine amidinotransferase (AGAT, EC:18.104.22.168) to form guanidinoacetate, which is then methylated by guanidinoacetate N-methyltransferase (GAMT, EC:22.214.171.124), using S-adenosyl methionine as the methyl donor. Creatine itself can be phosphorylated by creatine kinase to form phosphocreatine, which is used as an energy buffer in skeletal muscles and the brain.
It’s important to remember that since everybody is different, these estimates are just that. How the numbers work out for each person will definitely vary. So many factors—like genetics, hormones, sleep, and diet—can change the rate at which our bodies burn calories. And some people may have a harder time than others when it comes losing fat or gaining muscle—again, there are so many factors at play and our body chemistries are all different. Strength training is important for many, many, many other reasons (more on that later), but if you’re looking to increase your metabolism, it’s important to have realistic expectations and know that strength training can make a difference, but probably won’t drastically affect how many calories you burn from one day to the next.
It is known that intracellular energy depletion (assessed by a depletion of ATP) stimulates AMPK activity in order to normalize the AMP:ATP ratio, and when activated AMPK (active in states of low cellular energy and colocalizes with creatine kinase in muscle tissue) appears to inhibit creatine kinase via phosphorylation (preserving phosphocreatine stores but attenuating the rate that creatine buffers ATP). While phosphocreatine technically inhibits AMPK, this does not occur in the presence of creatine at a 2:1 ratio. It seems that if the ratio of phosphocreatine:creatine increases (indicative of excess cellular energy status) that AMPK activity is then attenuated, since when a cell is in a high energy status, there is less AMP to directly activate AMPK.