When it comes to building muscle, there are numerous theories, methods, and preferences. Whether the goal is improved health, aesthetics, performance, or a combination of all three, there is no shortage of advice to help you get there. So much so that it can sometimes become overly complicated and you forget about the basic facts. But, it’s simpler than it seems.
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.
The best way to know the real progress you’re making is by recording it on video or taking photos. “Photos mean everything because if you can take them in the same areas and in the same poses, you’ll see your strengths and weaknesses clearly,” says Heath. “Revise your training and diet programs to eliminate weaknesses.” Keep a file of your progress to see just how far you can take your fitness.
When looking specifically at human studies, there has been a failure of creatine supplementation to induce or exacerbate kidney damage in people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Subjects do not experience kidney damage for up to or over a year’s worth of supplementation in the 5-10g range. Postmenopausal women, people with type II diabetes, people on hemodialysis, otherwise healthy elderly, young people, and athletes do not experience kidney damage either. Moreover, numerous scientific reviews on both the long- and short-term safety of supplemental creatine have consistently found no adverse effects on kidney function in a wide range of doses. However, while doses >10 g/day have been found not to impair kidney function, there are fewer long-term trials using such high chronic daily intakes.
Homocysteine is an endogenous metabolite involved in methylation processes in the body. Mildly elevated homocysteine appears to be an independent risk factor for both cardiovascular and atherosclerotic disease, where if the 8-10μM normal range is elevated by around 5μM, it is thought to confer 60-80% greater risk of atherosclerotic disease. Although it may not independently cause problems, it may play a causative role in the context of the whole body system, since it is atherogenic by augmenting LDL oxidation and promoting conversion of macrophages into foam cells.
In regard to practical interventions, concurrent glycogen loading has been noted to increase creatine stores by 37-46% regardless of whether the tissue was exercised prior to loading phase. It is important to note, however, that creatine levels in response to the creatine loading protocol were compared in one glycogen-depleted leg to the contralateral control leg, which was not exercised. This does not rule out a possible systemic exercise-driven increase in creatine uptake, and the increase in creatine noted above was larger than typically seen with a loading protocol (usually in the 20-25% range). Consistent with an exercise-effect, others have reported that exercise itself increases creatine uptake into muscle, reporting 68% greater creatine uptake in an exercised limb, relative to 14% without exercise.
When assessing type I muscle (slow twitch) against type II muscles (fast twitch) in response to creatine supplementation, it seems that glycogen accumulation may only occur in the latter as assessed in rats, where the soleus muscle is a model for slow twitch muscle fibers and the gastrocnemius is a model for fast twitch. This is similar to human creatine distribution, which seems to accumulate in type II muscles rather than type I.
Kornblum, C., Schroder, R., Muller, K., Vorgerd, M., Eggers, J., Bogdanow, M., Papassotiropoulos, A., Fabian, K., Klockgether, T., and Zange, J. Creatine has no beneficial effect on skeletal muscle energy metabolism in patients with single mitochondrial DNA deletions: a placebo-controlled, double-blind 31P-MRS crossover study. Eur J Neurol 2005;12:300-309. View abstract.
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.
In addition to the proper amount of sleep, do not overdo your training regimen. While you might be tempted to think that "more is better," in fact the opposite is true. You can reach a point known as "over-training", in which you'll lose the ability to "pump" (engorge the muscles with oxygen-rich blood) your muscles, and this can even lead to muscle wasting—exactly the opposite of what you are trying to achieve. Here are some symptoms to be aware of if you think you may be falling into the over-training zone:
The reasons for differences in the effect of creatine on testosterone vs. DHT across studies are not clear, but also not mutually exclusive. A measured increase in DHT could indicate that testosterone levels were increased by creatine, but rapidly converted to DHT through a homeostatic mechanism. Differences in study subject populations, methodology, or the presence and type of concurrent exercise could also be contributing factors. At any rate, the literature collectively suggests that creatine has the general ability to cause a modest increase in androgen levels in men.
There appears to be some potential for creatine supplementation. However, many questions remain. Are there any long-term harmful effects from supplementation? Is there a point where enhanced performance levels off from long-term supplement usage? What effect does "stacking" or taking two ergogenic aids simultaneously have on the body? What happens if you immediately stop taking the creatine supplement? Is the enhanced performance great enough to warrant the expense of the supplement? Until further research answers these questions, creatine is not recommended for the average athlete.
So how do you build a stronger backside? Squats are a good place to start. But if you really want to get your booty rock solid, it’s a good idea to incorporate weights, resistance bands, stability balls and even foam rollers into your glute workout. Here are 50 butt exercises that will help you think outside of the box when it comes to squats, lunges, glute bridges, leg lifts and more.
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.