Whether you’re taking a supplement or not, creatine is already functioning inside you, doing its very important job. It’s an amino acid found naturally in the meat and fish you consume and, according to the Mayo Clinic, your liver and kidneys crank it out as well. The creatine is mainly stored as creatine phosphate in your muscles, ready for use in energy production.
Researchers have long been interested in how exercise improves cognitive thinking — and whether it can ward off dementia later in life. Now, a whole slew of new studies is comparing whether strength training affects the brain differently than cardio. One Italian study of 80 older people found that those who completed a 12-week strength regimen showed improved capacity for practical skills, whereas cardio training helped bolster them on analytic tasks. Researchers are still trying to understand the “why” behind this study — but so far, we’re impressed.
One case study exists of a man with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis who experienced an accelerated rate of GFR decline during supplementation (5g thrice daily for loading, then a 2g maintenance for seven weeks) which was partially reversed upon supplement cessation. This was deemed strong circumstantial evidence, and the brand of supplement was not named. Elsewhere, interstitial nephritis associated with creatine supplementation has been reported in a man, although symptoms arose four weeks after supplementation started with no evidence to support correlation. Some studies involving athletes and various dietary supplements have attempted to draw a correlation with creatine and cases of rhabdomyolysis. Finally, one study in a diabetic person ingesting both metformin and creatine resulting in metabolic acidosis has attempted to place causation on creatine, but it did not establish causation or circumstantial evidence.
The creatine transporter is a sodium and chloride dependent membrane-associated transporter that belongs to the Na+/Cl-dependent family of neurotransmitter transporters. In muscle cells and most other cell types, the isomer of the creatine transporter is known as SLC6A8 (solute carrier family 6, member 8). SLC6A8 is encoded by the gene present on the Xq28 region of the human X-chromosome and is expressed in most tissues. A related gene encoding a creatine transporter variant has also been identified at 16p11.1 that is expressed exclusively in the testes. These two transporters share 98% homology.
Even if you have a schedule that allows for a 5-day workout split, many people (I’d even call it the majority) simply don’t have the recovery capacity needed to make that work. This could be due to genetics, age, injury history, various lifestyle factors (sleep, stress, etc.) and more. In these cases, better results would be seen with 3-4 workouts per week instead.
Heath says to consume 1.25-2 grams of protein per pound of body weight for growth and he never exceeds a 1:1 meals to protein shake ratio, meaning if he has 3 shakes, he’ll have 3 meals. He suggests if you’re going to drink protein shakes, drink two and have four meals. Also, increase your protein consumption and decrease carbs to look lean. “Once I got to a certain size, I wanted to get leaner so I got to 50% protein, 30% carbs and 20% protein.”
Synthesis primarily takes place in the kidney and liver, with creatine then being transported to the muscles via the blood. The majority of the human body's total creatine and phosphocreatine stores is located in skeletal muscle, while the remainder is distributed in the blood, brain, and other tissues. Typically, creatine is produced endogenously at an estimated rate of about 8.3 mmol or 1 gram per day in young adults. Creatine is also obtained through the diet at a rate of about 1 gram per day from an omnivorous diet. Some small studies suggest that total muscle creatine is significantly lower in vegetarians than non-vegetarians, as expected since foods of animal origin are the primary source of creatine. However, subjects happened to show the same levels after using supplements.
Free weights include dumbbells, barbells, medicine balls, sandbells, and kettlebells. Unlike weight machines, they do not constrain users to specific, fixed movements, and therefore require more effort from the individual's stabilizer muscles. It is often argued that free weight exercises are superior for precisely this reason. For example, they are recommended for golf players, since golf is a unilateral exercise that can break body balances, requiring exercises to keep the balance in muscles.
de Salles Painelli V, Alves VT, Ugrinowitsch C, et al. Creatine supplementation prevents acute strength loss induced by concurrent exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol 2014;114:1749-55.del Favero S, Roschel H, Artioli G, et al. Creatine but not betaine supplementation increases muscle phosphorylcreatine content and strength performance. Amino Acids 2012;42:2299-305. View abstract.
Casein, the source of the white color of milk, accounts for 70-80% of milk protein. Casein exists in what’s known as a micelle, a compound similar to a soap sud which has a water-averse inside and water-loving outside. This property allows the protein to provide a sustained, slow release of amino acids into the blood stream, sometimes lasting for hours. This makes casein a good protein source immediately before a workout to provide a continual amino acid supply to the muscles. Some studies suggest that combined supplementation with casein and whey offers the greatest muscular strength improvement (Kerksick, 2006).
Another study demonstrated that females receiving 4 days of high-dose creatine intake (20 g/day) followed by low-dose creatine intake (5 g/day) during 10 weeks of resistance training (3hours/week) increased muscle PCr concentrations by 6%. Also, maximal strength of the muscle groups trained increased by 20-25%, maximal intermittent exercise capacity of the arm flexors increased by 10-25% and fat-free mass increased by 60% .
In females, the combination of SSRIs (to increase serotonin levels in the synapse between neurons) and creatine shows promise in augmenting the anti-depressive effects of SSRI therapy. Another pilot study conducted on depression and females showed efficacy of creatine supplementation. The one study measuring male subjects noted an increase in mood and minimal anti-depressive effects, but it is not know whether this is due to gender differences or the model studies (post-traumatic stress disorder).
Cyclocreatine appears to be passively diffused through membranes and not subject to the creatine transporter, which can be beneficial for cases where creatine transporter function is compromised (creatine non-response and SLG6A8 deficiency). Similar to other forms of creatine, it buffers ATP concentrations, although its efficacy as a supplement in otherwise healthy people is currently unknown.
However, protein isn’t everything. Contrary to popular belief, carbohydrates and calories from fats are also important. To gain muscle, people who are slender or scrawny need to create a calorie surplus in order to bulk up. That means you need proteins and plenty of healthy carbs, vegetables and even some fats (think healthy fats like nuts, avocado, olive oil, etc.). Carbohydrates play a key role in building muscle. This macronutrient has gotten a bad rap for making people fat. However, if you work out properly, eating plenty of carbs is in your best interest. After training, it’s ideal to ingest some carbs in combination with protein to help replenish your muscles’ glycogen stores.
Volek, J. S., Ratamess, N. A., Rubin, M. R., Gomez, A. L., French, D. N., McGuigan, M. M., Scheett, T. P., Sharman, M. J., Hakkinen, K., and Kraemer, W. J. The effects of creatine supplementation on muscular performance and body composition responses to short-term resistance training overreaching. Eur.J.Appl.Physiol 2004;91(5-6):628-637. View abstract.
There are several different available forms of creatine: creatine anhydrous which is creatine with the water molecule removed in order to increase the concentration of creatine to a greater amount than that found in CM. Creatine has been manufactured in salt form: creatine pyruvate, creatine citrate, creatine malate, creatine phosphate, magnesium creatine, creatine oroate, Kre Alkalyn (creatine with baking soda). Creatine can also be manufactured in an ester form. Creatine ethyl ester (hydrochloride) is an example of this, as is creatine gluconate which is creatine bound to glucose. Another form is creatine effervescent which is creatine citrate or CM with citric acid and bicarbonate. The citric acid and bicarbonate react to produce an effervescent effect. When mixed with water the creatine separates from its carrier leaving a neutrally charged creatine, allowing it to dissolve to a higher degree in water. Manufacturers claim that creatine effervescent has a longer and more stable life in solution. When di-creatine citrate effervescent was studied  for stability in solution it was found that the di-creatine citrate dissociates to citric acid and creatine in aqueous solutions which in turn forms CM and eventually crystallises out of the solution due to its low solubility. Some of the creatine may also convert to creatinine.
Heath suggests incorporating dropsets into your training routine by immediately decreasing the weight and repping out again to failure. “Dropsets overload the muscle with shorter rest periods and increasing volume which you need to grow,” says Heath. “That overload improves your body’s abilities to utilize more nutrients, natural growth hormone, and natural testosterone into those areas and makes the supplements you take more effective.” Heath’s favorite way to do dropsets is on a pin-loaded machine since it’s faster to switch weights.
Whey protein contains high levels of all the essential amino acids and branched-chain amino acids. It also has the highest content of the amino acid cysteine, which aids in the biosynthesis of glutathione. For bodybuilders, whey protein provides amino acids used to aid in muscle recovery. Whey protein is derived from the process of making cheese from milk. There are three types of whey protein: whey concentrate, whey isolate, and whey hydrolysate. Whey concentrate is 29–89% protein by weight whereas whey isolate is 90%+ protein by weight. Whey hydrolysate is enzymatically predigested and therefore has the highest rate of digestion of all protein types.
Citrulline Malate is an amino acid also known as L-Citrulline and is taken for many different medical conditions. There is some research that shows that the amino acid may help improve performance while exercising by reducing fatigue. What does that mean for you? In your muscle building efforts, you can use this supplement to help you make it through longer, harder workouts. This will spur more muscle building in response to the trauma your muscles experience in a tough workout. Not only that, but Citrulline Malate can also help reduce soreness after a workout. Who doesn’t want to avoid feeling sore? Reduced soreness means you can get back to the gym the next day with renewed enthusiasm.
You’ll Feel Better: Not only will you find yourself with more energy and confidence, less stress and anxiety, and a better overall mood, but you’ll actually begin to think better (resistance training has been proven to help increase cognitive function). And while training too close to bedtime can be a bad idea, exercising earlier in the day has been proven to help prevent sleep apnea and insomnia. I even improved my posture – when I started lifting, I was 5’4”. Now I’m 5’5.5”.
Due to this relative deficiency-state in vegetarians and vegans, some aspects of creatine supplementation are seen as more akin to normalizing a deficiency, rather than providing the benefits of supplementation. In young vegetarians, but not omnivores, creatine supplementation can enhance cognition. The increased gain in lean mass may be more significant in vegetarians, relative to omnivores. Supplementation of creatine in vegetarians appears to normalize the gap in storage between vegetarians and omnivores. This is possibly related to a correlation seen in survey research, where vegetarianism and veganism appear to be more commonly affected by some mental disorders like anxiety and depression.
Despite a possible decreasing creatine content in the muscles when maintenance is deemed suboptimal, the overall retention of weight and lean mass is merely additive over time. This is thought to be due to increases in skeletal muscle production (increase in body weight) compensating for the progressive declines in water and glycogen content (decreases in body weight).
While seasoned lifters may choose to do different exercises every day during a week-long period (and repeat the same moves the following week), there's no need to follow this type of program when you're just getting comfortable, says Davis. "Stick to the same basic moves two to three times a week to build a basic level of fitness and strength," says Davis. "Why complicate things if you don’t have to? Great results can be made by repeating the same workout but increasing weights as you become stronger." Switching things up can help you avoid a training plateau, explains Davis, but so can increasing weights while doing the same exercises.
In complex training, weight training is typically combined with plyometric exercises in an alternating sequence. Ideally, the weight lifting exercise and the plyometric exercise should move through similar ranges of movement i.e. a back squat at 85-95% 1RM followed by a vertical jump. An advantage of this form of training is that it allows the intense activation of the nervous system and increased muscle fibre recruitment from the weight lifting exercise to be utilized in the subsequent plyometric exercise; thereby improving the power with which it can be performed. Over a period of training, this may enhance the athlete's ability to apply power. The plyometric exercise may be replaced with a sports specific action. The intention being to utilize the neural and muscular activation from the heavy lift in the sports specific action, in order to be able to perform it more powerfully. Over a period of training this may enhance the athlete's ability to perform that sports specific action more powerfully, without a precursory heavy lift being required.
That said, many people experience stomach cramps when they consume creatine monohydrate and it’s possible that taking a creatine with a different pH — usually creatine hydrochloride — can have a different effect on stomach acid and make for a creatine that digests more easily. As far as we know, the easier digestion doesn’t necessarily mean it’s more effective or that you need less of it to achieve the desired result.
Bodybuilding is the use of progressive resistance exercise to control and develop one's musculature for aesthetic purposes. An individual who engages in this activity is referred to as a bodybuilder. In professional bodybuilding, bodybuilders appear in lineups and perform specified poses (and later individual posing routines) for a panel of judges who rank the competitors based on criteria such as symmetry, muscularity, and conditioning. Bodybuilders prepare for competitions through the elimination of nonessential body fat, enhanced at the last stage by a combination of intentional dehydration and carbohydrate loading, to achieve maximum muscular definition and vascularity, as well as tanning to accentuate the contrast of the skin under the spotlights. Bodybuilders may use anabolic steroids and other performance enhancing drugs to build muscles.
The shortest and most preliminary study noted that, over the short term, creatine delivers on its expected improvement in physical strength. However, longer studies that measure the rate of loss for muscle function (deterioration of muscular capacity that is known to occur with ALS) have repeatedly failed to find a benefit with creatine supplementation.
For example, say you are pursuing a muscle power objective in which you have decided to perform 3 sets of 8 repetitions each. You'll want to make sure you don't add too much weight so that you are able to perform all 8 repetitions before your muscles are too tired to finish the set. Conversely you'll want to make sure you add enough weight so that you are not simply breezing past the repetitions and finish your sets of plenty of energy still left in the tank. While it may take a few workout sessions to find the right combination, once you'll do it'll be easy to monitor and increase weight as you progress.