The major controversies regarding creatine are its side effects and the best form to use. Nearly all side effects attributed to creatine, such as muscle cramps, kidney disease and gastrointestinal disturbances, haven't proved significant under controlled scientific scrutiny. Although various claims are made for a variety of creatine supplements, creatine monohydrate, which is 99 percent absorbed, is the best form to use.
A loading phase of 10g creatine monohydrate for two weeks and 4g for the final week in subjects with MELAS (Mitochondrial Encephalomyopathy Lactic Acidosis and Stroke-like episodes) has been noted to increase physical strength relative to baseline, although the poor VO2 max seen in these subjects was not affected. A case study exists in which a patient with a relatively novel mutation in their mitochondrial function (affecting cytochrome B) experienced benefits from creatine at 10g daily. Researchers examining another case of MELAS found both cognitive and physical benefits with 5g creatine supplementation, while four controlled case studies of 100-200mg/kg daily in children with myopathies found improved muscular endurance (30-57%) and muscular power (8-17%) after 100-200mg/kg daily for at least three months.
These supplements can vary considerably from product to product in ingredients, serving sizes, and more. But the goal of each of them is generally quite similar. Most bodybuilding supplements are designed to help stimulate new muscle growth, cut away excess fat, and improve the recovery process so that you can get the most out of each trip to the gym.
Jager et al  observed 1.17 and 1.29 greater peak plasma creatine concentration 1 hour after ingesting creatine pyruvate compared to isomolar amount of CM and creatine citrate respectively. However time to peak concentration, and velocity constants of absorption and elimination, was the same for all three forms of creatine. Although not measured in this study it is questionable that these small differences in plasma creatine concentrations would have any effect on the increase of muscle creatine uptake. Jäger et al  investigated the effects of 28-days of creatine pyruvate and citrate supplementation on endurance capacity and power measured during an intermittent handgrip (15 s effort per 45s rest) exercise in healthy young athletes. The authors used a daily dose protocol with the intention to slowly saturate muscle creatine stores. Both forms of creatine showed slightly different effects on plasma creatine absorption and kinetics. The two creatine salts significantly increased mean power but only pyruvate forms showed significant effects for increasing force and attenuating fatigability during all intervals. These effects can be attributed to an enhanced contraction and relaxation velocity as well as a higher blood flow and muscle oxygen uptake. On the other hand, the power performance measured with the citrate forms decreases with time and improvements were not significant during the later intervals. In spite of these positive trends further research is required about the effects of these forms of creatine as there is little or no evidence for their safety and efficacy. Furthermore the regularity status of the novel forms of creatine vary from country to country and are often found to be unclear when compared to that of CM .
Kerksick, C. M., Wilborn, C. D., Campbell, W. I., Harvey, T. M., Marcello, B. M., Roberts, M. D., Parker, A. G., Byars, A. G., Greenwood, L. D., Almada, A. L., Kreider, R. B., and Greenwood, M. The effects of creatine monohydrate supplementation with and without D-pinitol on resistance training adaptations. J.Strength.Cond.Res. 2009;23:2673-2682. View abstract.
Longer rest periods are more ideal for making progressive tension overload happen, and shorter rest periods are more ideal for generating metabolic fatigue. So, if you’re doing an exercise that is better suited for progressive overload (i.e. primary compound exercises), you’re going to want to rest longer between sets to maximize strength output. And if you’re doing an exercise that is better suited for metabolic fatigue (i.e. isolation exercises), you’re going to want to rest less between sets to make that happen. And if you’re doing an exercise that is suited equally for a combination of the two (i.e. secondary compound exercises), you’re usually going to want a moderate rest period somewhere in between.
Creatine is known to be present in the retina due to the expression of creatine kinase (CK) and the GAMT enzyme of creatine synthesis, which is also present in the mammalian retina. Creatine in the blood can be transported into the retina via the creatine transporter (confirmed in humans), and inhibiting transporter activity (by depleting the medium of chloride and sodium) reduces uptake by 80%. The fact that not all uptake was inhibited suggests that another transporter, such as the monocarboxylate transporter MCT12 (or SLC16A12), plays a role, perhaps moreso in the lens, where its levels were comparable to that of the major creatine transporter SLC6A8.
In contrast to the above null effects, ingestion of creatine both before and after a workout (alongside protein and carbohydrate) over 10 weeks seems to promote muscle growth more than the same supplement taken in the morning, farther away from the time of the workout. The benefits of creatine around the workout, relative to other times, have been hypothesized to be related to an upregulation of creatine transport secondary to muscle contraction, a known phenomena.
So, for example, with the moves above you'd do 15 squats followed by 15 push-ups. Take a little breather then repeat that two more times. Then you move on to your walking lunges and lat pull-downs (and repeat those three times total, too). You can really do anywhere from eight reps to 15 (and even just two sets, if you don't have time for three), but "it’s not a bad idea for beginners to start with a 15-rep range to get comfortable with the exercises," says Davis. And while there's some debate over whether three sets of an exercise is really best, "it’s a great beginner model," says Davis. Don't overcomplicate things when you're just getting started.
Bodybuilders often split their food intake for the day into 5 to 7 meals of roughly equal nutritional content and attempt to eat at regular intervals (e.g. every 2 to 3 hours). This method can serve two purposes: to limit overindulging in the cutting phase, and to physically allow for the consumption of large volumes of food during the bulking phase. Contrary to popular belief, eating more frequently does not increase basal metabolic rate when compared to the traditional 3 meals a day. While food does have a metabolic cost to digest, absorb, and store, called the thermic effect of food, it depends on the quantity and type of food, not how the food is spread across the meals of the day. Well-controlled studies using whole-body calorimetry and doubly labeled water have demonstrated that there is no metabolic advantage to eating more frequently.
Aging (senescence, specifically) is characterized by deterioration in many biological processes, including energy supply and regulation of oxidative stress. Therefore, there are good reasons to believe that creatine may improve numerous variables that often worsen with age, including physical function and quality of life in people with osteoarthritis, blood lipids, blood sugar regulation in type 2 diabetes, and cognition. Speaking of which…
Kerksick, C. M., Wilborn, C. D., Campbell, W. I., Harvey, T. M., Marcello, B. M., Roberts, M. D., Parker, A. G., Byars, A. G., Greenwood, L. D., Almada, A. L., Kreider, R. B., and Greenwood, M. The effects of creatine monohydrate supplementation with and without D-pinitol on resistance training adaptations. J.Strength.Cond.Res. 2009;23(9):2673-2682. View abstract.
Because so many product labels list scientific references to back up the manufacturers' claims of performance and efficacy, or effectiveness, it's important to understand what constitutes a solid scientific study. A single study, even an optimally designed one, isn't considered scientific proof. The results have to be replicated several times before they're officially accepted as fact.
Polyethylene glycol is a non-toxic, water-soluble polymer that is capable of enhancing the absorption of creatine and various other substances . Polyethylene glycol can be bound with CM to form polyethylene glycosylated creatine. One study  found that 5 g/d for 28 days of polyethylene glycosylated creatine was capable of increasing 1RM bench press in 22 untrained young men but not for lower body strength or muscular power. Body weight also did not significantly change in the creatine group which may be of particular interest to athletes in weight categories that require upper body strength. Herda et al  analyzed the effects of 5 g of CM and two smaller doses of polyethylene glycosylated creatine (containing 1.25 g and 2.5 g of creatine) administered over 30 days on muscular strength, endurance, and power output in fifty-eight healthy men. CM produced a significantly greater improvement in mean power and body weight meanwhile both CM and polyethylene glycosylated form showed a significantly (p < 0.05) greater improvement for strength when compared with control group. These strength increases were similar even though the dose of creatine in the polyethylene glycosylated creatine groups was up to 75% less than that of CM. These results seem to indicate that the addition of polyethylene glycol could increase the absorption efficiency of creatine but further research is needed before a definitive recommendation can be reached.
Perhaps 1 to 2% of intramuscular creatine is degraded into creatinine each day, which is excreted in urine. Therefore, approximately 1 to 3 g of creatine needs replenishing daily to maintain basal levels. Some of this replacement is fulfilled by the liver and kidneys, which can use the amino acids arginine and glycine to synthesize creatine. A tiny minority of people has gene mutations that result in impaired creatine synthesis or transport. These unfortunate people experience severe neurodevelopmental problems beginning early in life and benefit from consuming more creatine in their diets.
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.
To succeed and thrive as a bodybuilder, it takes more than overwhelming muscular strength or athletic prowess. Judges select bodybuilding champions based on muscle mass, definition, proportion, symmetry, and an athlete’s stage presence. Given the criteria, it is no surprise that most serious bodybuilders consider supplementation to be an essential component of their training regimen.
Homocyteine (normal serum range of 5-14µM) is known to adversely affect motor control in genetically susceptible people when their levels exceed 500µM, which is usually associated with genetically induced deficiencies of B12. In these particular instances (assessed by rats fed homocysteine to increase serum levels to such a high level) it appears that administration of 50mg/kg creatine (injections) to these rats can protect dysfunction in muscle metabolism (pyruvate kinase activity, Krebs cycle intermediates, and muscle cell viability) induced by homocysteine.
Cornelissen et al  analyzed the effects of 1 week loading protocol (3 X 5 g/d CM) followed by a 3 month maintenance period (5 g/d) on cardiac patients involved in an endurance and resistance training program. Although CM supplementation did not significantly enhance performance, markers of renal and liver function were within normal ranges indicating the safety of the applied creatine supplementation protocol.
Cross-legged gluteal stretch — Stand upright with one leg bent and your ankle placed over the opposite knee. Move your hips back as you squat and bring your arms forward to help you balance. Your standing leg should try to come parallel to the floor, and your crossed knee should be bent with your knee moving out to the side to help stretch the hips.
Sound complicated? Fortunately, there's an easy rule of thumb for increasing your training volume: For each exercise, perform three to six sets of six to 12 reps, resting for 30 to 90 seconds between each set, she says. The weight used should be enough that you can get out your last reps with proper form but wouldn't be able to perform any additional reps.
These effects are secondary to creatine being a source of phosphate groups and acting as an energy reserve. The longer a cell has energy, the longer it can preserve the integrity of the cell membrane by preserving integrity of the Na+/K+-ATPase and Ca2+-ATPase enzymes. Preserving ATP allows creatine to act via a nongenomic response (not requiring the nuclear DNA to transcribe anything), and appears to work secondary to MAPK and PI3K pathways.
After supplementation of creatine monohydrate (loading phase, followed by 19 weeks maintenance), creatine precursors are decreased by up to 50% (loading) or 30% (maintenance), which suggests a decrease in endogenous creatine synthesis during supplementation. This appears to occur through creatine’s own positive feedback and suppression of the l-arginine:glycine amidinotransferase enzyme, the rate-limiting step in creatine synthesis, as levels of intermediates before this stage are typically elevated by up to 75%.
Deldicque et al  found a 250%, 45% and 70% increase for collagen mRNA, glucose transporter 4 (GLUT4) and Myosin heavy chain IIA, respectively after 5 days creatine loading protocol (21 g/d). The authors speculated that creatine in addition to a single bout of resistance training can favor an anabolic environment by inducing changes in gene expression after only 5 days of supplementation.
How much weight? Start with a pair of light dumbbell hand weights (2 to 3 pounds for women and 5 to 8 pounds for men). If you can’t do 12 repetitions (or reps are the number of times you do the exercise) the weight is too heavy. If your muscles don’t feel tired after 12 reps, it’s too light. Adjustable weights that can be strapped to wrists or ankles may be convenient if you have arthritis in your hands. You can also use home or gym weight machines, or resistance bands.
ZMA: This supplement is a combination of zinc, magnesium and vitamin B-6. Some research shows that this combination can help raise testosterone levels. In the trial, subjects took a daily dose of ZMA (which included 30 mg zinc monomethionine, 450 mg magnesium aspartate and 10.5 mg vitamin B-6) at night during 7 weeks. Other hormones like IGF also increased, while the stress hormone, cortisol was reduced, creating an overall more favorable hormone profile. Not surprisingly, muscle performance also improved. (n) This paper is surrounding in controversy, however, because one of the scientists involved also holds the trademark for ZMA, and the research is company-funded.
If you reflect on the effects of creatine supplementation within cells, you can probably come up with numerous conditions in which creatine may help people prevent or overcome morbidity. Sometimes, for example, energy supply to tissues is temporarily compromised, as in the case of impaired blood flow to the brain (cerebrovascular disease) or heart (myocardial ischemia). Sure enough, there’s preliminary evidence that creatine may help in these pathologies.
The motor proteins actin and myosin generate the forces exerted by contracting muscles. Current recommendations suggest that bodybuilders should consume 25–30% of protein per total calorie intake to further their goal of maintaining and improving their body composition. This is a widely debated topic, with many arguing that 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day is ideal, some suggesting that less is sufficient, while others recommending 1.5, 2, or more. It is believed that protein needs to be consumed frequently throughout the day, especially during/after a workout, and before sleep. There is also some debate concerning the best type of protein to take. Chicken, turkey, beef, pork, fish, eggs and dairy foods are high in protein, as are some nuts, seeds, beans, and lentils. Casein or whey are often used to supplement the diet with additional protein. Whey protein is the type of protein contained in many popular brands of protein supplements and is preferred by many bodybuilders because of its high Biological Value (BV) and quick absorption rates. Whey protein also has a bigger effect than casein on insulin levels, triggering about double the amount of insulin release. That effect is somewhat overcome by combining casein and whey. Bodybuilders are usually thought to require protein with a higher BV than that of soy, which is additionally avoided due to its claimed estrogenic properties. Still, some nutrition experts believe that soy, flax seeds and many other plants that contain the weak estrogen-like compounds or phytoestrogens, can be used beneficially, as phytoestrogens compete with estrogens for receptor sites in the male body and can block its actions. This can also include some inhibition of pituitary functions while stimulating the P450 system (the system that eliminates hormones, drugs and metabolic waste product from the body) in the liver to more actively process and excrete excess estrogen. Cortisol decreases amino acid uptake by muscle, and inhibits protein synthesis.
As we all adjust to the time change, it’s worthwhile to consider how other aspects of our lives can sway our circadian rhythms. Circadian clocks govern the rhythms of sleep and activity in virtually all animals and are responsive to a variety of stimuli like light and stress. Research is starting to suggest that our eating patterns – specifically when we eat – can also have a pervasive impact.
How to do it: Begin with one foot firmly planted in front of you with your other leg extended back. Keep balance by putting your weight in the ball of your front foot and the back heel of your back foot. Hold a dumbbell in either hand, arms at your sides. Or, place a resistance band under the foot of your working leg, up, and around the same shoulder. Stand tall and bend your front working leg to approximately 90 degrees, keeping your knee directly over your ankle so it doesn’t over-extend. Return to the start position and repeat. Do both sides.
Heath is an unlikely Mr. Olympia. He grew up on playgrounds in Seattle playing basketball. His backcourt mate on the 1998 state championship team at Rainier Beach High School was Jamal Crawford, still in the N.B.A. Heath, just 5 feet 9 inches and a naturally chiseled 175 pounds, got a Division I basketball scholarship at the University of Denver. He majored in business and averaged 1.3 points over four seasons.
The other two, the medius and minimus, work together to aid your gluteus maximus in raising your leg to the side. Plus, those smaller glute muscles help rotate your thigh outwards when your leg is straight, and inwards when your hips are bent. Talk about a dream team! (To learn more about the workings of your glutes, check out The Women's Health Big Book of Exercises!)
As you've probably heard from any muscle-bound behemoth you've ever encountered, protein is the key to building muscle. Just because the shake-pounding meathead has become a trope, however, doesn't mean they're wrong; protein really is the fuel your muscles need to grow. That's real capital-S Science, not just bro-science manufactured by supplements companies.
Mini bands are becoming more popular and with good reason. They are a great way to get the glutes geared up for a workout. The best way to do them? Put the mini band around your feet – yes, your feet - and walk laterally, trying to move your upper body as little as possible. This is usually a pretty fail-safe way of getting a burn in that pocket muscle.
If your fitness goals are to get strong and build hard, visible muscle, then you’re going to want to train in three phases according to Heath. Strength, conditioning, and a blend of the two that works for you. “If you can get to the gym 4-5 days a week, that would be perfect,” he says. “You can still do chest/tri’s, back/bi’s, legs, shoulders, and make the fifth day a cleanup day, meaning focus on body parts you may be weaker in.” Check out Heath’s guide to finding your best muscle-building routine.
Eating the right carbs is important too. Carbohydrate is stored in your body in the form of glycogen. Glycogen in the muscles is an important fuel reserve during intense physical exercise or in times of energy restriction – protein sparing. It is best to restrict or to keep away from junk carbohydrates such as sweets, cakes, and biscuits, and stick to foods like porridge, pasta (wholemeal), rice (brown), bread (wholegrain), and cereals (try to choose the versions with low or reduced sugar and salt). For more on carbohydrate and the effect of sugar on the body, click here.