1. Are you tracking calories? Doesn't have to be religiously but one should have a general idea of where they're at if the goal is mass gain and things have stalled. I'm not talking about weighing every gram of food you put in your mouth and meticulously logging your life on MyFitnessPal. As long as you're aware (within 100-200 calories) of what's going in, you should have an idea of what to adjust.
Creatine non-response is when muscular loading of creatine is under a certain threshold (10mmol/L), while “response” to creatine means having more muscular creatine loading (20mol/L or more). There also exists a “grey area” inbetween, where some benefits are achieved but not as many as pure responders will experience. Response appears to be positively correlated with muscle mass and type II muscle fibers.
Hopefully I didn’t put a big damper on your Captain-America fueled dreams! I just want to set proper expectations so you don’t get discouraged with slow progress, and instead get SUPER encouraged with any progress. Getting strong should be freakin’ fun! Weirdly enough, once I stopped trying to get there quickly is when I started to actually make permanent progress.
After your standard whey protein powder, creatine may be the most popular sports supplement on Earth, and with good reason. A lot of supplements out there have a few promising studies suggesting they may improve some aspect of performance. Creatine has hundreds of them, and study after study has shown that among most people (a small percentage of are non-responders) it can have a significant effect on several areas of performance.

Amanda is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist in Chicago who graduated with a bachelor's in Nutrition from Northern Illinois University. She completed her dietetic internship at Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital in Hines, IL. Amanda has a strong background in clinical nutrition, nutrition education, and experience working with specialized populations like children, acute care, intensive care, outpatients, and eating disorders. Amanda works with athletes and weight loss clients in the Los Angeles and southwestern Arizona area as a virtual Dietitian. Amanda prides herself in connecting with her audience while providing evidenced-based information and practical nutrition therapy for a complex population.
Arguably the most influential factor, exercise is what instigates muscle growth. When you exercise, especially if you engage in resistance training, it causes trauma to your muscles. This is exactly what you want because it’s this trauma that triggers a response from your body that grows your muscles. To repair the injury or damage to your muscles, special cells called satellite cells arrive. Typically, your muscle fibers thicken and lengthen in this process. (1)
Guanidoacetate (made by AGAT) then receives a methyl donation from S-adenosyl methionine via the enzyme guanidinoacetate methyltransferase (GAMT), which produces S-adenosylhomocysteine (as a byproduct) and creatine. Deficiencies in GAMT are more severe (although equally rare) relative to AGAT, resulting in severe mental retardation and autism-like symptoms.[31]
If you’ve been training longer than 6–12 months, you can split your workouts into upper- and lower-body days. The most common setup is to train upper body one day and lower the next so that each area gets trained twice in one week. If you train four days per week, you can train upper body on Monday, lower Tuesday, rest Wednesday, and then do upper body again on Thursday, lower body on Friday, and then rest on the weekend.
Although some have voiced concerns about kidney damage with creatine supplementation, it’s generally regarded as a safe supplement when taken responsibly. The Mayo Clinic advises against taking it if you have an allergy. When used properly, the incidence of potential side effects such as low blood sugar and dehydration, are minor in healthy people taking a safe dosage.
In fact, in one new study comparing the effects of aerobic exercise versus resistance training on the psychological health of obese adolescents, researchers found that people in the resistance group experienced significantly greater self-esteem and perceived strength over four weeks. But what’s most interesting is that the feeling of getting stronger — rather than any measurable gains — was all it took to give them a boost.
Gualano, B., de, Salles Painelli, V, Roschel, H., Lugaresi, R., Dorea, E., Artioli, G. G., Lima, F. R., da Silva, M. E., Cunha, M. R., Seguro, A. C., Shimizu, M. H., Otaduy, M. C., Sapienza, M. T., da Costa, Leite C., Bonfa, E., and Lancha Junior, A. H. Creatine supplementation does not impair kidney function in type 2 diabetic patients: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical trial. Eur.J.Appl.Physiol 2011;111:749-756. View abstract.

Skin degradation is caused by a loss of collagen and degradation of the extracellular matrix,[536] which is enhanced by UV radiation (produces reactive oxygen species which stimulate MMPs[537]) and contributes to skin integrity loss and wrinkling. Due to the stimulation of collagen being associated with a cellular surplus of energy[538] and intracellular stores of energy declining with age,[539][540] creatine has been investigated as a topical anti-aging agent. In vitro, creatine appears to be rapidly absorbed through the skin (52% within an hour, remaining similar at 3 hours) with most creatine found in the stratum corneum (79.6-86.5%) follwed by the epidermis (9-13.2%) and dermis (4.5-7.1%).[541] It is successful in stimulating collagen expression and procollagen secretion in fibroblasts, with the latter increasing to 449+/-204% of control.[541]


A muscle imbalance—when one muscle is stronger than its opposing muscle—can limit your ability to exercise effectively, and could lead to injury down the line. “It’s important to recognize whether you’re really working the muscles you think you are and recognize if you’ve developed an imbalance that alters your movement pattern,” says Eric Ingram, physical therapist at Louisiana Physical Therapy Centers of Pineville. One common imbalance in women is stronger quads and weaker, tighter hamstrings, thanks to prolonged sitting, high heels, and improper training. If you suspect you have a muscle imbalance, make an appointment with a physical therapist, who will prescribe exercises to even you out.
When assessing the antioxidant effects of creatine, it does not appear to sequester superoxide and may not be a direct antioxidant.[241] Additionally, creatine failed to protect neurons from H2O2 incubation to induce cell death via pro-oxidative means.[241] These results are in contrast to previously recorded results suggesting creatine acts as a direct anti-oxidant.[242]
If you have been training properly for at least three years, you’ll find that advanced pump-enhancing techniques like rest-pause sets, drop sets, and some of the other old-school bodybuilding techniques you’ve no doubt heard of can be effective when used sparingly. Just be sure not to overdo the use of them. And never get away from the most important rule: setting PR’s to get stronger.
The neuroprotective effects of creatine appear to exist in regard to dopamine biosynthesis, and the suppression of dopamine synthesis seen with some neurological toxins appears to be partially attenuated with dietary intake of creatine. The protective effect is weak to moderate in animal research, but appears to be additive with anti-inflammatories.
I know this goes against the recommendations you often see in stereotypical bodybuilding routines (i.e. the ones that involve having a single “chest day” or “arm day” or “shoulder day” once a week), but that’s just one of the many reasons why those types of routines suck for us natural, genetically-average people, and work best for steroid users with great genetics.
After all, you’ve probably seen the countless workouts, diets, supplements, programs, products and people claiming that super fast muscle growth is possible. You’ve probably also seen the click-bait headlines (“How To Build 20lbs Of Muscle In Just 6 Weeks!”) and the unbelievable transformations of supposedly “natural” people (bodybuilders, celebrities, athletes, fitness gurus on social media, etc.) that clearly prove it can happen faster than this.
One study on 27 otherwise healthy men supplementing creatine (0.3g/kg loading for a week, 0.05g/kg thereafter for 8 weeks) with a thrice weekly exercise regiment noted that alongside greater increase in lean mass and power relative to placebo at 4 and 8 weeks, myostatin in serum decreased to a greater extent with creatine (around 17% at 8 weeks, derived from graph) than it did with placebo (approximately 7%).[356] Increases in GASP-1, a serum protein that inhibits the actions of myostatin by directly binding to it,[357] were not different between groups.[356]
One study lasting 16 months using 10g creatine daily alongside the pharmaceutical riluzole noted that, after 34 of the patients died from ALS, creatine failed to exert protective effects against ALS-related mortality (adjusted hazard ratio of 0.78 with a 95% CI of 0.47–1.48[505]). A smaller study measuring only eight deaths noted that the six in placebo (relative to two in creatine) was too small of a sample size to detect a statistically significant difference.[506] A nonsignificant trend to increase survival has been noted elsewhere with 5g of creatine daily with a similar ratio: 3 deaths in placebo to 1 death in creatine.[507]
Generally, you should consume about 20 grams of protein with some carbs shortly after a workout. During the post-workout anabolic window, you’ll also want to limit fats, which can slow the absorption of protein. While there is some recent research that suggests the window may actually extend up to several hours following exercise, there’s no harm in getting nutrients in early as long as you’re sticking to your overall caloric and macronutrient goals.

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Creatine is old school and definitely hit a pop culture zenith, but that doesn’t make it out-dated or irrelevant today. Creatine supplementation gets results. For starters, one study from Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise confirms that creatine supplementation can enhance physical performance, claiming that it “exhibits small but significant physiological and performance changes.”
Chwalbinska-Monteta [34] observed a significant decrease in blood lactate accumulation when exercising at lower intensities as well as an increase in lactate threshold in elite male endurance rowers after consuming a short loading (5 days 20 g/d) CM protocol. However, the effects of creatine supplementation on endurance performance have been questioned by some studies. Graef et al [35] examined the effects of four weeks of creatine citrate supplementation and high-intensity interval training on cardio respiratory fitness. A greater increase of the ventilatory threshold was observed in the creatine group respect to placebo; however, oxygen consumption showed no significant differences between the groups. The total work presented no interaction and no main effect for time for any of the groups. Thompson et al [36] reported no effects of a 6 week 2 g CM/d in aerobic and anaerobic endurance performance in female swimmers. In addition, of the concern related to the dosage used in these studies, it could be possible that the potential benefits of creatine supplementation on endurance performance were more related to effects of anaerobic threshold localization.
Han:SPRD‐cy rats (human polycystic kidney disease model[514][515]) have pre-existing renal damage, which is accelerated upon ingestion of creatine supplementation at 0.3% of the diet for five days and 0.03-0.05% for the next 35 days (equivalent to human loading and maintenance).[516] During this particular disease state, renal water content and size progressively increases.[514][515] Since creatine supplementation furthered the increase by an additional 2.1%, it was thought that this property of creatine explained the 23% increased cyst scores seen relative to control.[516]
D-aspartic acid can also help to reduce cortisol levels. Cortisol is known as the “stress” hormone because its production increases during stressful situations. High cortisol levels can have many negative side effects, such as weight gain, muscle tissue breakdown, or increased blood sugar. Taking a supplement that includes cortisol can reduce stress and prevent excess fat storage or muscle loss.
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