SUPPLEMENT SERIES: L-CARNITINE

L-carnitine (L-3 hydroxytrimethylaminobutanoate) is an amino acid whose name comes from the Latin word carnus, which means meat, from which it was first isolated. It can also be synthesized in the body from the essential amino acids lysine and methionine.

Though not essential itself, L-carnitine is considered conditionally essential for many people who aren’t synthesizing as much as they need, such as those with angina or intermittent claudication. It plays an essential role in the transport of fatty acids into the mitochondria (the powerhouses of the cell) for oxidation and energy production.

Due to its fat burning role in the body, carnitine has been thought to be beneficial as a weight loss supplement and as a sports performance aid (to increase available energy and to spare glycogen). Therefore, researchers have investigated possible benefits that consuming L-carnitine could have on recovery from exercise, weight loss, and athletic performance.

RECOVERY

Strong evidence exists for carnitine as a recovery product. Several studies have indicated that carnitine supplementation can reduce muscle damage after exercise [1-3], even after as little as 2 weeks of consumption.

Both endurance and resistance exercise were utilized in the muscle damage studies, and various markers for recovery were measured, including MRI scans for muscle damage, creatine kinase (a biomarker used to measure muscle damage), and perceived soreness.

A decrease in oxidative stress was also observed with carnitine use [2-4], after both chronic and acute supplementation. The antioxidant activity could also improve recovery after strenuous exercise, since exercise raises oxidative stress.

WHAT ABOUT WEIGHT LOSS?

Since carnitine plays such an important role in fat burning, it makes sense that people would take it for weight loss and fat loss. However, not all studies agree that carnitine promotes weight loss.

  • Four weeks of carnitine supplementation at 1 gram per day significantly increased weight loss in conjunction with a weight loss diet over the diet alone in a study of 100 obese subjects [5].
  • In another study, eight weeks of carnitine supplementation at 4 grams per day did not induce changes in total body mass, fat mass, or fat burning at rest in overweight women [6].
  • Also, taking 2 grams of carnitine before and 2 grams during a marathon run did not increase fat burning in young, healthy men [7].
  • However, studies in elderly people and animal models have demonstrated fat loss benefits [8-10].

In all, the research suggests that carnitine can induce fat loss, but more evidence is needed to determine the precise dosage and supplementation period for fat loss in young, healthy people, and how different diets may affect the action of L-carnitine.

PERFORMANCE BENEFITS

Employing a 6-month supplementation period, Wall and colleagues were able to induce improvements in performance [11].

  • Work output increased 11% during a 30 minute “all-out” performance test on a bicycle.
  • Skeletal muscle metabolites were tested during low-intensity and high-intensity exercise bouts to elucidate how carnitine might be working.
  • After the low intensity exercise, muscle glycogen content was 35% greater in the carnitine group, indicating that carnitine may spare glycogen for endurance athletes.
  • After the high-intensity exercise, carnitine supplementation induced lower muscle lactate, which indicates that more carbohydrates are being burned more efficiently (aerobically), and suggests that high-intensity athletes may also have more fuel later in the competition.

Other researchers have induced performance benefits after acute carnitine supplementation using a time to exhaustion cycling test [12] and sprints on a bicycle [13]. However, many studies did not observe performance benefits.

  • After 2 weeks of carnitine supplementation, no differences were observed in healthy, active men during a time trial test [2].
  • Similarly, 3 weeks of carnitine consumption did not improve squat and leg press [3].
  • Taking carnitine directly before exercise did not improve marathon run time [7], sprint times [14], bench press reps to failure or bench press power [4].

Though some studies have not demonstrated performance benefits from L-carnitine supplementation, it is important to note that the dosage and supplementation period have not been consistent among studies, and these two factors are essential to increase carnitine in the muscle.

WHO SHOULD/SHOULD NOT TAKE IT?

Athletes of all types and levels could benefit from carnitine use. Endurance athletes interested in performance enhancement will need to ensure that they are taking an adequate amount of carnitine daily for a long period of time. High-intensity athletes and endurance athletes alike would benefit from the antioxidant activity and the reduction in muscle damage.

SIDE EFFECTS

There are no known side effects with carnitine supplementation. Individuals supplemented with 4 grams for 24 weeks with no medical issues [11]. Some people have noticed a fishy body odor when consuming 3 grams per day.

DOSAGE

Though some studies have tested doses as large as 4.5 grams, most studies agree that the effective dose is 1-2 grams per day. This dose has been demonstrated to benefit recovery, fat burning, and exercise performance.

For carnitine supplementation to exert maximal benefit for athletes, it must get into muscle tissue. Though studies have demonstrated increases in circulating carnitine, muscle carnitine content has often remained unaltered at shorter supplementation periods [15,16].

In one study, muscle carnitine content increased 21% after consumption of 2g of L-carnitine L-tartrate with carbohydrate daily for 24 weeks [11], suggesting that a long period of supplementation may be necessary to increase muscle carnitine and thereby maximize benefit for athletes.

BOTTOM LINE

Carnitine is effective at improving recovery after both endurance and resistance exercise by lowering oxidative stress and muscle damage.

Carnitine also increases fat burning and may increase fat loss over time, but more research is needed in a variety of populations.

Improvements in metabolism occurred at low and high intensity endurance exercise, such that a wide variety of athletes could benefit from carnitine supplementation; however, long periods of supplementation should be employed to see these benefits.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paul Falcone, MS, CISSN, is a certified sports nutritionist (ISSN). He was awarded a Master’s degree in Nutrition after completing research on fish oil supplementation in an animal model of chronic disease.  He works as a research coordinator at MusclePharm Sports Science Institute in Denver, CO.

REFERENCES

  1. Volek JS, Kraemer WJ, Rubin MR, Gomez AL, Ratamess NA, Gaynor P: L-Carnitine L-tartrate supplementation favorably affects markers of recovery from exercise stress. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 2002;282:E474-482.
  2. Parandak K, Arazi H, Khoshkhahesh F, Nakhostin-Roohi B: The effect of two-week L-carnitine supplementation on exercise -induced oxidative stress and muscle damage. Asian J Sports Med 2014;5:123-128.
  3. Ho JY, Kraemer WJ, Volek JS, Fragala MS, Thomas GA, Dunn-Lewis C, Coday M, Hakkinen K, Maresh CM: l-Carnitine l-tartrate supplementation favorably affects biochemical markers of recovery from physical exertion in middle-aged men and women. Metabolism 2010;59:1190-1199.
  4. Bloomer RJ, Farney TM, Trepanowski JF, McCarthy CG, Canale RE, Schilling BK: Comparison of pre-workout nitric oxide stimulating dietary supplements on skeletal muscle oxygen saturation, blood nitrate/nitrite, lipid peroxidation, and upper body exercise performance in resistance trained men. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 2010;7:16.
  5. Lurz R, Fischer R: The Global Word, Inc. Job#: L1919 Lonza Inc. 8/3/00.
  6. Villani RG, Gannon J, Self M, Rich PA: L-Carnitine supplementation combined with aerobic training does not promote weight loss in moderately obese women. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 2000;10:199-207.
  7. Colombani P, Wenk C, Kunz I, Krahenbuhl S, Kuhnt M, Arnold M, Frey-Rindova P, Frey W, Langhans W: Effects of L-carnitine supplementation on physical performance and energy metabolism of endurance-trained athletes: a double-blind crossover field study. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol 1996;73:434-439.
  8. Center SA, Warner KL, Randolph JF, Sunvold GD, Vickers JR: Influence of dietary supplementation with (L)-carnitine on metabolic rate, fatty acid oxidation, body condition, and weight loss in overweight cats. Am J Vet Res 2012;73:1002-1015.
  9. Malaguarnera M, Cammalleri L, Gargante MP, Vacante M, Colonna V, Motta M: L-Carnitine treatment reduces severity of physical and mental fatigue and increases cognitive functions in centenarians: a randomized and controlled clinical trial. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;86:1738-1744.
  10. Pistone G, Marino A, Leotta C, Dell’Arte S, Finocchiaro G, Malaguarnera M: Levocarnitine administration in elderly subjects with rapid muscle fatigue: effect on body composition, lipid profile and fatigue. Drugs Aging 2003;20:761-767.
  11. Wall BT, Stephens FB, Constantin-Teodosiu D, Marimuthu K, Macdonald IA, Greenhaff PL: Chronic oral ingestion of L-carnitine and carbohydrate increases muscle carnitine content and alters muscle fuel metabolism during exercise in humans. J Physiol 2011;589:963-973.
  12. Cha YS, Choi SK, Suh H, Lee SN, Cho D, Li K: Effects of carnitine coingested caffeine on carnitine metabolism and endurance capacity in athletes. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo) 2001;47:378-384.
  13. Jacobs PL, Goldstein ER, Blackburn W, Orem I, Hughes JJ: Glycine propionyl-L-carnitine produces enhanced anaerobic work capacity with reduced lactate accumulation in resistance trained males. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 2009;6:9.
  14. Naclerio F, Larumbe-Zabala E, Cooper R, Allgrove J, Earnest CP: A multi-ingredient containing carbohydrate, proteins L-glutamine and L-carnitine attenuates fatigue perception with no effect on performance, muscle damage or immunity in soccer players. PLoS One 2015;10:e0125188.
  15. Barnett C, Costill DL, Vukovich MD, Cole KJ, Goodpaster BH, Trappe SW, Fink WJ: Effect of L-carnitine supplementation on muscle and blood carnitine content and lactate accumulation during high-intensity sprint cycling. Int J Sport Nutr 1994;4:280-288.
  16. Smith WA, Fry AC, Tschume LC, Bloomer RJ: Effect of glycine propionyl-L-carnitine on aerobic and anaerobic exercise performance. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 2008;18:19-36.

SUPPLEMENT SERIES: CAFFEINE

Caffeine (1,3,7-trimethylxanthine) is the most widely consumed drug in the world and is commonly used by athletes, both recreational and professional, for performance enhancement.   In the United States, over 70% of caffeine intake comes from coffee, followed by soft drinks and tea, although energy drinks and sports gels and chews containing caffeine are quickly gaining popularity for use before and during competition. Caffeine is also frequently found in pre-workout supplements and weight loss products, often in multiple forms.  With caffeine use so widespread among athletic populations, one must question its effectiveness in terms of improving sports performance, and also whether there are any negative side effects from acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term) consumption.

Caffeine is absorbed rapidly by the gastrointestinal tract and enters the bloodstream within 15-45 minutes of consumption, with peak blood concentrations evident about one hour post-ingestion.  Its rapid absorption rate makes caffeine an effective pre-workout supplement, since it doesn’t need to be “loaded” for days or weeks, and you can take it in a targeted manner just before a competition or training session. Many consume caffeine for its effects as a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant in order to increase focus and alertness, but there is also evidence that the benefits of caffeine supplementation extend beyond these effects, specifically prolonged endurance, increased metabolic rate, enhanced fat metabolism and improved neuromuscular function.

WHAT ARE THE PERFORMANCE BENEFITS?

Improvements in endurance performance following caffeine intake have been observed consistently in events lasting 15-120 minutes at an intensity of 70-75% VO2max, in time trial performances (simulating competitive events such as the 10k), and in time to exhaustion tasks in cycling and running.  A possible explanation for these improvements may be that caffeine alters substrate utilization (energy source) during exercise by decreasing reliance on glycogen (carbohydrate stores) and increasing dependence on fat stores, the latter of which is we have in relative abundance in our bodies compared to glycogen. However, recent studies have brought this theory under scrutiny.  Another proposed explanation for the endurance benefits of caffeine consumption is that it decreases pain perception, thus lowering the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) at a given work rate, and making the discomfort of fatiguing exercise seem more tolerable.  Either way, extensive research exists supporting the ergogenic effect of caffeine on aerobic endurance.

Furthermore, both habitual users and non-users alike appear to reap the benefits of caffeine supplementation on endurance performance.  In a study measuring aerobic endurance in a time to exhaustion cycling test at 1, 3, and 6 hours after caffeine consumption (6 mg/kg body weight), both users (habitually consuming ≥ 300 mg/day) and nonusers (consuming ≤ 50 mg/day) showed significant performance improvements with caffeine; however, nonusers demonstrated a more prolonged treatment effect, up to 6 hours post-ingestion, whereas habitual users only demonstrated a significant increase in performance at 1 and 3 hours post-ingestion. So, depending on the duration of your event, caffeine supplementation may be more effective when taken just prior to competition, and not on a regular basis.  Alternatively, repeated doses can be taken throughout an event lasting more than 3 hours to prolong the effects of caffeine.

The evidence supporting caffeine supplementation in strength and power athletes is not as extensive, although research has demonstrated that it may result in improved neuromuscular function and muscular contraction. Effects on maximal strength (1RM) have thus far been inconsistent, but caffeine ingestion does appear capable of increasing the number of repetitions to failure in exercises such as the leg press, bench press, and leg extension.  That being said, completing more repetitions during exercise may be of interest to bodybuilders or physique competitors who often use high-volume strength training to induce muscle hypertrophy.

Research on anaerobic power output and caffeine is also inconclusive, but evidence suggests that in activities lasting at least 60 seconds, caffeine can provide an ergogenic effect.  Most studies looking at high-intensity, short duration efforts (such as repeated sprints or 30s Wingate tests) have found either improvements or no effect, but none have shown any negative effects.

WHAT ABOUT WEIGHT LOSS?

Weight-class athletes, bodybuilders and physique competitors may periodically use caffeine-containing products in addition to calorie restriction as a means of weight loss prior to competition. Caffeine is considered a thermogenic (“heat producing”) substance and is known  to increase metabolic rate (calories burned) and fat oxidation following acute ingestion.  Weight loss products often combine caffeine anhydrous with other caffeine sources, such as green tea extract, guarana, yerba mate, and kola nut to increase metabolic rate and lipolysis, the breakdown of fat for energy.  Although caffeine has been shown to induce a thermic effect actuely (resulting in more calories burned), chronic studies on weight loss with caffeine have failed to indicate sustained benefits for long-term weight loss or maintenance, likely as a result of caffeine habituation.  So, for contest prep or athletes attempting to make weight, a cyclic approach to caffeine-mediated weight loss may be more appropriate.

WHO SHOULD/SHOULD NOT TAKE IT?

Both recreational and competitive athletes stand to benefit from caffeine supplementation prior to exercise; however, little evidence exists to support caffeine supplementation for ergogenic effects in untrained individuals.  While trained men and women seem more likely to benefit from caffeine ingestion, there are so-called “responders” and “non-responders,” a factor which is genetically determined and will ultimately influence individual responses to supplementation.  Habitual and non-habitual caffeine users respond well to supplementation, however for an enhanced ergogenic effect, caffeine abstinence for 1-4 days (or more) has been shown to re-sensitize habituated users to caffeine’s effects. Those looking to lose weight may initially see results from using products containing caffeine, but other long-term strategies, including diet modification and exercise, should be employed to maintain weight loss.  Non-habituated users with hypertension should avoid caffeinated products, since it can acutely increase blood pressure in these individuals.  Patients with cardiovascular disease, glaucoma, and women who are nursing or pregnant should not start taking caffeine products without first consulting their primary care physician.

SIDE EFFECTS

Despite popular belief, current research does not support the notion of caffeine-induced dehydration during exercise, or any change in fluid balance that could be detrimental to performance.  High doses of caffeine (≥ 9 mg/kg body weight) have been associated with increased anxiety, palpitations, restlessness, headache, difficulty sleeping, and gastrointestinal distress, particularly in non-habituated users.  Long-term caffeine use results in habituation, meaning you need more to get the same effects, and increased tolerance to caffeine can develop in as little as 3 days.  Caffeine toxicity is extremely rare, due to the amount that would be required to reach lethal limits in the blood (5-10 grams, or roughly the equivalent of drinking 75 cups of strong brewed coffee over a short time period).

DOSAGE

According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition guidelines, caffeine effectively enhances performance in trained athletes when consumed in low-to-moderate doses (~3-6 mg/kg or roughly 200-400 mg for a 150 lb person) approximately 60 minutes before exercise, but does not result in further performance benefits when consumed in higher dosages (≥ 9 mg/kg). Additionally, for prolonged exercise sessions lasting longer than 2-3 hours, smaller additional doses of caffeine may be repeated during the exercise bout, in the amount of 1-2 mg/kg.  This amount is easily obtained in caffeinated sports gels or chews and may be preferable for endurance athletes competing in events lasting several hours. Caffeine anhydrous (usually found in capsules and pre-workout powders) exerts a greater ergogenic effect when compared to drinking caffeinated coffee, tea, or cola. Caffeine is reported to have a half-life of 2.5-10 hours (depending on the individual), meaning it takes that amount of time to break down caffeine levels in the blood to half of the initial peak concentration.  This is important to consider if you work out in the afternoon or evening, as taking caffeine late in the day may interfere with sleep for some.

BOTTOM LINE

Caffeine has many potential benefits for performance and body composition alike, and appears to be ergogenic in most exercise situations.  Aerobic endurance performance is enhanced. Strength endurance and anaerobic power may also improve, but more research is needed in this area.  Metabolism and weight loss benefits are more evident  in the short term, but long term weight loss has not been observed.  Improved concentration, increased energy, and alertness are primary reasons for caffeine consumption.  Athletes and trained individuals seem to benefit more than untrained individuals, at least as far as performance is concerned.  Side effects and adverse events are generally mild and occur more often in naive users, with dosages ≥ 9 mg/kg known to  increase their incidence.  Be sure to read labels and know how much caffeine is in the products you are taking, particularly if you consume more than one type of caffeine-containing product daily (thermogenic, pre-workout, caffeinated beverages, etc.).  As with most interventions, individual results may vary.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Roxanne Vogel, EP-C, CSCS, CISSN, is a certified strength and conditioning specialist (NSCA), exercise physiologist (ACSM), and sports nutritionist (ISSN) currently completing her graduate coursework for an M.S. in Applied Exercise Science with a dual concentration in sports nutrition and human movement science.  She works as a research assistant at MusclePharm Sports Science Institute in Denver, CO.

REFERENCES

Anderson, D.E. (2013). Caffeine. In A.E. Smith-Ryan & J.A. Antonio (Eds.), Sports nutrition & performance enhancing supplements (pp. 201-223). Ronkonkoma, NY: Linus Learning.

Astorino, T. A., & Roberson, D. W. (2010). Efficacy of acute caffeine ingestion for short-term high-intensity exercise performance: a systematic review. J Strength Cond Res, 24(1), 257-265. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181c1f88a

Astrup, A., Toubro, S., Cannon, S., Hein, P., Breum, L., & Madsen, J. (1990). Caffeine: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of its thermogenic, metabolic, and cardiovascular effects in healthy volunteers. Am J Clin Nutr, 51(5), 759-767.

Diepvens, K., Westerterp, K. R., & Westerterp-Plantenga, M. S. (2007). Obesity and thermogenesis related to the consumption of caffeine, ephedrine, capsaicin, and green tea. American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, 292(1), R77-R85.

Goldstein, E. R., Ziegenfuss, T., Kalman, D., Kreider, R., Campbell, B., Wilborn, C., . . . Antonio, J. (2010). International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr, 7(1), 5. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-7-5

Graham, T. E. (2001). Caffeine and exercise: metabolism, endurance and performance. Sports Med, 31(11), 785-807.

Jeukendrup, A. E., & Randell, R. (2011). Fat burners: nutrition supplements that increase fat metabolism. Obesity reviews, 12(10), 841-851.

 

 

SUPPLEMENT SERIES: BETA-ALANINE

Beta-alanine (BA) is a version of the amino acid alanine which serves as the precursor to carnosine(β-alanyl-L-histidine) in skeletal muscle.  Supplementing with BA is a highly effective means of increasing muscle carnosine content.  What’s so great about carnosine?  Increased muscle carnosine content has been linked to improved exercise performance at higher intensities in both trained and untrained individuals in events lasting 1-4 minutes.  Think 400 m run, 200 m swim, and so forth.  In the muscle, carnosine is believed to act as a buffer against the accumulation of hydrogen ions (acid build-up) during intense exercise, thereby regulating intracellular muscle pH levels, delaying the onset of peripheral (muscular) fatigue, and ultimately increasing work capacity.  Carnosine is found in greater concentrations in type II (fast twitch) muscle fibers than type I (slow twitch) muscle fibers, which may partially explain the benefits of BA supplementation for short duration, high-intensity exercise.  BA supplementation is also reported to reduce perceived exertion and feelings of fatigue during exercise, which could account for the increase in total work performed before exhaustion.

BENEFITS:

For untrained populations, BA is reported to increase total work done, time to exhaustion, and physical working capacity at the fatigue threshold during exercise performed at maximal and supramaximal intensities…Wingates, anyone?  For the trained athlete, BA may also be beneficial for anaerobic, high intensity efforts of short duration.  Improvement in muscular endurance has been observed in experienced resistance trained men supplementing with BA, which led to an increase number of repetitions and total volume lifted per workout.  In short, BA supplementation appears to allow people to work harder for longer (in events lasting 1-4 min) before fatiguing.

SIDE EFFECTS:

Paresthesia, a tingling sensation of the skin, may occur in the face, neck, chest, and hands as a result of high single-dose (> 1 g) pure BA intake.  This effect is generally considered harmless and may be avoided by taking smaller doses (< 10 mg/kg bodyweight) multiple times per day, or by using a time-release formulation of BA.

WHO SHOULD/SHOULDN’T TAKE BETA-ALANINE:

Both trained athletes and untrained individuals may benefit from BA supplementation, and will respond well in terms of elevated muscle carnosine content following chronic daily ingestion of at least 2 weeks.  Vegetarians may particularly benefit from BA supplementation, as they do not typically receive BA in the diet (found primarily in meat products).  Weight class athletes (wrestlers, boxers, etc.) looking for a competitive edge, yet not wanting the weight gain that can accompany creatine supplementation may also benefit from BA in the weeks leading up to competition.  Those who are sensitive to paresthesia should consider taking a lower dose or not take BA at all.

DOSAGE:

To increase muscle carnosine content, supplementation periods of several weeks is suggested, with daily ingestion of 4.8 – 6.4 g BA shown to increase carnosine levels by 60% after 4 weeks, and by 80% after 10 weeks.  A total daily intake of 2-6 g BA (depending on the size of the person) is considered an effective dose.  However, the absolute increase in muscle carnosine content is more dependent on the total amount of BA consumed over time than the daily amount taken.  So, if you are taking less daily, it’s probably a good idea to supplement for a longer period of time than if you were taking a higher daily dose.  Once “loaded” in the muscle, carnosine levels decline rather slowly (about 2% per week) if BA supplementation ceases.

If taken in pure (non time-release) form, single doses of 10 mg/kg bodyweight spread throughout the day (at least two hours apart) are recommended to avoid the tingling sensation that larger doses may cause.  Often, BA is included in multi-ingredient pre-workout supplements, in which case the manufacturer’s dosage instructions should be followed.  Worth noting, BA and creatine are commonly taken together to achieve an “additive” effect.

BOTTOM LINE:

BA supplementation appears to benefit both trained and untrained individuals seeking improved muscular endurance and performance in short-duration, high-intensity efforts lasting 60 – 240 seconds.   Supplementation with BA may be beneficial for vegetarians or those who don’t consume very much meat as part of their regular diet and athletes with a high concentration of type II (fast-twitch) muscle fibers, such as sprinters, rowers, weightlifters, and others with a high power output component in their sport.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Roxanne Vogel, EP-C, CSCS, CISSN, is a certified strength and conditioning specialist (NSCA), exercise physiologist (ACSM), and sports nutritionist (ISSN) currently completing her graduate coursework for an M.S. in Applied Exercise Science with a dual concentration in sports nutrition and human movement science.  She works as a research assistant at MusclePharm Sports Science Institute in Denver, CO.

REFERENCES:
  1. Derave W, Everaert I, Beeckman S, Baguet A. (2010). Muscle carnosine metabolism and beta alanine supplementation in relation to exercise and training. Sports Medicine, 40, 247–63.
  2. Harris RC, Wise JA, Price KA, Kim HJ, Kim CK, Sale C. (2012). Determinants of muscle carnosine content. Amino Acids, 43(1), 5–12.
  3. Hill, C. A., Harris, R. C., Kim, H. J., Harris, B. D., Sale, C., Boobis, L. H., … & Wise, J. A. (2007). Influence of β-alanine supplementation on skeletal muscle carnosine concentrations and high intensity cycling capacity. Amino Acids, 32(2), 225-233.
  4. Hoffman, J., Ratamess, N. A., Ross, R., Kang, J., Magrelli, J., Neese, K., … & Wise, J. A. (2008). Beta-alanine and the hormonal response to exercise. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 29, 952-8.
  5. Quesnele JJ, Laframboise MA, Wong JJ, Kim P, Wells GD. (2014). The effects of beta-alanine supplementation on performance: a systematic review of the literature. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 24,14–27.

SUPPLEMENT SERIES: BCAAs

Leucine, valine, and isoleucine are the three branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), so named because of their non-linear (branched) structure of carbons.  They are essential amino acids, meaning they are not produced in the body and must be obtained via diet, and yet they make up 35-40% of the content of proteins found in human tissues.  They are primarily broken down in the muscle as opposed to the liver, like most other amino acids.  This means they enter the bloodstream fairly rapidly and are readily available for uptake by the muscles and other body tissues.  BCAAs play an important role in protein metabolism.  Leucine in particular has been shown to promote protein synthesis and inhibit protein breakdown.  This is a very good thing if you are trying to build muscle or maintain lean body mass.

BENEFITS:

For the endurance athlete, BCAA supplementation may promote resistance to fatigue and increase fat oxidation during exercise.  In other words, you can tap into your fat stores (of which you have plenty) to utilize as an energy source as opposed to glycogen, of which you have a limited amount stored.  Furthermore, BCAAs may improve recovery from exercise and have been shown to conserve muscle mass under extreme conditions characterized by protein breakdown and muscle wasting.  Think ultramarathons, century rides, and trekking.  Other studies have indicated the potential role of BCAAs in reducing central fatigue in response to strenuous exercise.

For the strength athlete, BCAAs increase the amino acid pool when taken prior to exercise, thereby providing the working muscles with free amino acids while they are needed most.  This will help maintain an anabolic (muscle-building) environment in the body.  BCAA administration prior to and following exercise has also been shown to reduce the severity and duration of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

WHO SHOULD/SHOULDN’T TAKE BCAAs:

BCAAs have been researched extensively and appear to be well tolerated by healthy adults.  Athletes and recreationally-active individuals may benefit from supplementation, as well as those on low-calorie diets who are at increased risk of lean tissue breakdown related to weight loss.  People with Maple Syrup Urine Disease (a congenital disorder that impairs BCAA metabolism) should not take BCAAs.

DOSAGE:

The exact dosage and ratio of leucine:isoleucine:valine is still debated in the literature, but most agree on a range of 4-20g per day.  A recent recommendation for safe upper limit of leucine intake was 0.53g/kg body weight.  That is roughly 35g of leucine per day if you weigh 150 pounds.  That’s a lot of leucine!  BCAAs can be taken before, during, and after workouts to maintain amino acid levels in the bloodstream, promote protein synthesis, and prevent protein breakdown.  They may also be taken between meals if you feel your diet is not providing adequate levels of BCAAs in the form of protein from meat, dairy, fish, eggs, etc.  BCAA’s are frequently sold in powder form, which can be mixed into liquid, or in capsule form.

BOTTOM LINE:

BCAAs are beneficial for individuals who exercise regularly, or for those who are at risk for lean tissue breakdown.  Research has shown them to be safe and pose no threat to healthy adults in doses of 4-20 g per day.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Roxanne Vogel, EP-C, CSCS, CISSN, is a certified strength and conditioning specialist (NSCA), exercise physiologist (ACSM), and sports nutritionist (ISSN) currently completing her graduate coursework for an M.S. in Applied Exercise Science with a dual concentration in sports nutrition and human movement science.  She works as a research assistant at MusclePharm Sports Science Institute in Denver, CO.

REFERENCES:

Cynober, L., Bier, D. M., Kadowaki, M., Morris, S. M., & Renwick, A. G. (2012). A proposal for an upper limit of leucine safe intake in healthy adults. The Journal of nutrition142(12), 2249S-2250S.

Howatson, G., Hoad, M., Goodall, S., Tallent, J., Bell, P. G., & French, D. N. (2012). Exercise-induced muscle damage is reduced in resistance-trained males by branched chain amino acids: a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. J Int Soc Sports Nutr9(1), 20.

Kainulainen, H., Hulmi, J. J., & Kujala, U. M. (2013). Potential role of branched-chain amino acid catabolism in regulating fat oxidation. Exercise and sport sciences reviews41(4), 194-200.

Pencharz, P. B., Elango, R., & Ball, R. O. (2012). Determination of the tolerable upper intake level of leucine in adult men. The Journal of nutrition142(12), 2220S-2224S.

Schena, F., Guerrini, F., Tregnaghi, P., & Kayser, B. (1992). Branched-chain amino acid supplementation during trekking at high altitude. European journal of applied physiology and occupational physiology, 65(5), 394-398.

Shimomura, Y., Murakami, T., Nakai, N., Nagasaki, M., & Harris, R. A. (2004). Exercise promotes BCAA catabolism: effects of BCAA supplementation on skeletal muscle during exercise. The Journal of nutrition134(6), 1583S-1587S.

Shimomura, Y., Yamamoto, Y., Bajotto, G., Sato, J., Murakami, T., Shimomura, N., … & Mawatari, K. (2006). Nutraceutical effects of branched-chain amino acids on skeletal muscle. The Journal of nutrition136(2), 529S-532S.

Shimomura, Y., Inaguma, A., Watanabe, S., Yamamoto, Y., Muramatsu, Y., Bajotto, G., … & Mawatari, K. (2010). Branched-chain amino acid supplementation before squat exercise and delayed-onset muscle soreness.International journal of sport nutrition20(3), 236.

 

SUPPLEMENT SERIES: CREATINE MONOHYDRATE

Creatine Monohydrate is a naturally occurring organic acid. It is the original and likely the most effective form of supplemental creatine on a gram-for-gram basis compared to creatine malate, creatine hydrochloride, creatine ethyl-ester and others. Those other forms are sexy though, huh? Ethel and Esther were the best looking ladies at the senior strip tease last week. Creatine is stored primarily in muscle tissue, and it is used for rephosphorylating ADP into ATP [1, 2]. This means that when our muscles use up our energy stores, creatine helps to replenish those stores in a fairly rapid manner. Obviously, you can imagine the benefits creatine may present for athletes just from that information alone.

From that mechanism of action (how we nerdy scientists like to complicate the phrase “this is how this works”), it is no surprise that creatine improves repeated sprint performance, strength, and relative lifting volume [3]. This increased strength and training volume leads athletes to not only use creatine for quick performance enhancement but also to aid their off-season training. In addition to performance benefits, creatine supplementation increases muscle mass [4-6]. Whether creatine increases muscle mass via increased strength and training volume or increases strength and training volume via increased muscle mass can be debated. It cannot be debated, however, that creatine positively augmenting anabolic hormone status [7] increases muscle gain. Following 8 weeks of resistance training, Saremi and colleagues confirmed creatine’s beneficial effects on body composition, and they also determined that creatine contributed to decreased levels of myostatin [8]. Have you ever seen dogs or bulls deficient in myostatin? They are legitimate genetic freaks.

Clearly, one side effect of creatine is weight gain. That is, if you consider weight gain a side effect as opposed to a primary or desired effect. Apart from that, the claims that creatine is unsafe are largely fallacious.  A connection between creatine and kidney, liver, and/or heart complications has not been affirmed [9]. However as creatine may cause muscles to retain water, appropriate water consumption is encouraged, just as it would be in the absence of creatine supplementation. Although, even water retention has been contested in the research [10].

Thus, athletes in weight restricted sports may desire to be selective in timing their creatine relative to weigh-ins. For pretty much all other athletes, creatine is going to be the number one to number four choice for supplementation depending upon whether or not protein powder is classified as supplement or food and the endurance component of the sport. If we consider protein powder a food, creatine would be my first recommendation for supplementation for athletes such as football players, hockey players, body builders, sprinters, powerlifters, baseball players, and others performing activity in short bursts. For more endurance oriented athletes, I would recommend creatine after caffeine, nitrates, and maybe beta-alanine in some cases; these athletes would be soccer players, cyclists, runners, and others performing exercise in prolonged bouts.

Standard dosing for creatine is 5g/day following a loading phase of anywhere from 10-20g per day for 1-2 weeks. In actuality, creatine doesn’t need to be front loaded, as it will accumulate over time with the 5g/day dose, but loading will get your muscles to the “saturation point” faster. The saturation point is when the muscles are full with creatine and cannot hold any more of it, and the saturation point is different for different people. For example, your 130lb younger brother needs less than 250lb linebacker Clay Matthews. Timing of creatine ingestion is unclear, but it may be best consumed post-workout [11] with some protein and carbohydrate [12]. Additionally, creatine does not need to be cycled. Previously, it was believed that it must be cycled to ensure the recuperation of the body’s own natural, endogenous production. Since, new information has emerged confirming that creatine supplementation will not interfere with the body’s maintenance of creatine levels, so once you’re on it, you can stay on for life. Or not, without consequence.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jordan Joy is currently a Research Coordinator at the MusclePharm Sports Science Institute. He is a CISSN certified sports nutritionist and CSCS certified strength coach. He has his MS in Applied Nutrition with Northeastern University.

REFERENCES
  1. Chanutin A: The fate of creatine when administered to man. Journal of Biological Chemistry 1926, 67:29-41.
  2. hultman E, J. Bergstrom, L. L. Spriet, and K. Soderlund.: Energy Metabolism and Fatigue. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics; 1990.
  3. Earnest CP, Snell PG, Rodriguez R, Almada AL, Mitchell TL: The effect of creatine monohydrate ingestion on anaerobic power indices, muscular strength and body composition. Acta physiologica Scandinavica 1995, 153:207-209.
  4. Becque MD, Lochmann JD, Melrose DR: Effects of oral creatine supplementation on muscular strength and body composition. Medicine and science in sports and exercise 2000, 32:654-658.
  5. Kreider RB, Ferreira M, Wilson M, Grindstaff P, Plisk S, Reinardy J, Cantler E, Almada AL: Effects of creatine supplementation on body composition, strength, and sprint performance. Medicine and science in sports and exercise 1998, 30:73-82.
  6. Vandenberghe K, Goris M, Van Hecke P, Van Leemputte M, Vangerven L, Hespel P: Long-term creatine intake is beneficial to muscle performance during resistance training. Journal of applied physiology 1997, 83:2055-2063.
  7. Hoffman J, Ratamess N, Kang J, Mangine G, Faigenbaum A, Stout J: Effect of creatine and beta-alanine supplementation on performance and endocrine responses in strength/power athletes. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism 2006, 16:430-446.
  8. Saremi A, Gharakhanloo R, Sharghi S, Gharaati MR, Larijani B, Omidfar K: Effects of oral creatine and resistance training on serum myostatin and GASP-1. Molecular and cellular endocrinology 2010, 317:25-30.
  9. Buford TW, Kreider RB, Stout JR, Greenwood M, Campbell B, Spano M, Ziegenfuss T, Lopez H, Landis J, Antonio J: International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: creatine supplementation and exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2007, 4:6.
  10. VOGEL RA, Webster MJ, ERDMANN LD, CLARK RD: Creatine supplementation: Effect on supramaximal exercise performance at two levels of acute hypohydration. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 2000, 14:214-219.
  11. Antonio J, Ciccone V: The effects of pre versus post workout supplementation of creatine monohydrate on body composition and strength. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2013, 10:36.
  12. Cribb PJ, Williams AD, Hayes A: A creatine-protein-carbohydrate supplement enhances responses to resistance training. Medicine and science in sports and exercise 2007, 39:1960-1968.

 

 

THE CREATINE REPORT

PART 1: WHAT CREATINE IS AND HOW IT WORKS

WHAT IS CREATINE?

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Derived from the amino acids glycine, arginine, and methionine
  • Synthesized mainly in the liver and kidneys (and to a lesser extent in the pancreas)
  • Stored primarily as free creatine, or bound to a phosphate molecule in skeletal muscle
  • Skeletal muscle contains 95% of all creatine
  • The heart, brain, and testes hold the remaining 5%

WHAT DOES CREATINE DO?

Strength coach David Sandler sums up the benefits of creatine supplementation: “Creatine allows you to have a longer and larger work volume. It helps you get one more rep. Supplementation can increase phosphocreatine and creatine stores by 10 to 40%.” Specifically, research has shown that creatine offers these benefits:

  • Increases fat-free mass
  • Improves maximal strength (as measured by 1RM bench press)
  • Improve muscular endurance
  • Increases anaerobic power and performance (shown in many activities, including continuous jumping, jump squats, knee extensions, and repeated sprints by soccer players)
  • Helps keep you hydrated in extreme outdoor conditions

Creatine supplementation (6 g/d for 12 weeks) during resistance training resulted in increased fat-free mass, thigh volume, muscle strength, myofibrillar protein content, andType I, IIa, and IIx MHC mRNAexpression compared to controls.

CAN CREATINE HELP WITH FAT LOSS?

When one of my athletes needs to lose fat, our first and most effective tactic is to lengthen his sets and shorten his rest periods, with the goal of doing more work in a defined amount of time. It burns more calories both during and after the workout, thanks to a phenomenon called EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption).The harder you can work, the greater the effect.

We know from the research already cited that creatine helps you get an extra rep or two per set, and also leads to strength increases that allow you to use heavier weights throughout your workouts.You work more and work harder, giving you two powerful tools for fat loss.

We also know that creatine helps you gain and retain metabolically active lean muscle tissue. Put simply, the more muscle you have on your body, the harder you can work in the weight room, and the more calories you can burn both during and after your training sessions.

Creatine also helps elevate your metabolism more directly, through its hydration properties. “Awell-hydrated cell tends to be more metabolic,” Antonio says.

CAN CREATINE IMPROVE ENDURANCE?

“Unlike creatine’s consistent benefit for strength and power sports, its track record in the scientific literature for improving endurance is a mixed bag of positive and negative results,”Aragon says. Does that mean creatine is useless for all endurance sports? Not at all,Aragon says. Many of those sports are performed at a mix of intensities. “Any type of training that combines brief bursts of high-intensity output with prolonged steady-state work can potentially benefit from creatine supplementation, as long as net weight gains don’t neutralize performance,” he explains. “In the case of endurance athletes, it’s really an individual matter of trying it out and seeing if it benefits your individual sport.”

PART 2: HOW TO USE CREATINE

WHAT TYPE OF CREATINE IS BEST?

There are several kinds available:

  • Creatine monohydrate
  • Creatine ethyl ester
  • Creatine phosphate
  • Creatine citrate

I recommend creatine monohydrate to my clients and athletes. More specifically: micronized creatine monohydrate.

“Creatine monohydrate is definitely the way to go,”AlanAragon says. “Not only is it less expensive than other forms, it’s actually been shown to have better bioavailability.” Other forms of creatine marketed as superior to monohydrate have been shown to rapidly degrade into the inert waste product called creatinine, while regular creatine monohydrate maintains its active form, and thus its effectiveness. Aragon adds that you want to make sure the product you get has the Creapure seal. That way you know you’re getting the highest-quality creatine available.

HOW MUCH SHOULD I TAKE?

The research shows benefits with doses ranging from 3 to 6 grams per day. More isn’t better; once your muscles are saturated, your body gets rid of the excess.

DO I NEED TO DO A LOADING PERIOD?

Maybe yes, maybe no. It depends on how fast you’d like to see results. “If you’re seeking a fairly rapid improvement in anaerobic performance and lean body mass, it would be sensible to do a loading phase with creatine,”Antonio says. If time isn’t an issue,Antonio recommends taking a maintenance dose every day, which should fully saturate your muscles within a month. If you decide to load, experts recommend 20 grams a day for 7 to 14 days.

DO I NEED TO TAKE CREATINE WITH A CARBOHYDRATE SOURCE?

Fifteen years ago, the answer was “yes.” Everyone was told to take their creatine with fruit juice or some other carbohydrate-rich drink.Today, it depends on your training goal.

“The use of high-glycemic sugars to potentiate the uptake of creatine has good support in the scientific literature,”Antonio says. But a high dose of liquid carbs may not be the best choice for your waistline.

Thus, if your main goal is low body fat, or if you’re a power athlete in a weight-class sport, you’ll want to use creatine without the sugar.Antonio says you’ll still get significant elevations in total intramuscular creatine concentrations.At worst, it won’t happen as fast.

Alan Aragon also notes that no one needs to take creatine with carbs once they’re past the loading stage, or after they’ve been taking maintenance doses for at least a month. At that point your muscles are fully saturated, and the carbs are just extra calories.

SHOULD I CYCLE CREATINE OR USE IT CONTINUOUSLY?

Most people don’t have to worry about this issue. Continual use offers continual performance benefits. However, fighters and other weight-class athletes may need to cycle off creatine from time to time. Creatine helps your cells retain water, which is good for performance. But it does give you a higher body weight.

I recommend cycling off creatine 6 weeks before a weigh-in.

PART 3: THE EFFECTS OF CREATINE ON HEALTH AND WELL BEING

In the time I’ve been training athletes, I’ve noticed an increasing interest in health.Ten or 15 years ago, I rarely heard a physique competitor talk about the long-term health consequences of his or her training and diet. Partly it’s because young athletes feel invulnerable. But also I think society correlated outward appearance with health. If you look good, you must also be healthy.

Today we all know it’s more nuanced than that. Someone who looks great on the outside can feel bad, due to chronic injuries, overtraining, or poor dietary choices. We’ve known or heard of athletes who died at ridiculously young ages. Sometimes these premature deaths come from undiagnosed genetic conditions, but in other cases the deaths were avoidable.

The athletes themselves are acutely aware of this.They ask more questions than ever about how their dietary choices, particularly their dietary supplements, will affect their health.What’s the point of being stronger, leaner, and better looking than almost anyone else if you can’t live long enough to enjoy it?

Some of the surprising health benefits of creatine:

  • Fights inflammation following muscle-damaging exercise
  • Improves brain performance
  • Improves long- and short-term memory for vegetarians
  • Speeds recovery in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Helps mitigate symptoms for those with neuromuscular disorders
  • Prevents DNAmutations in aging cells

“Clinical and therapeutic use of creatine is a very interesting emerging area in the research,”Aragon notes. For example, a recent showed that creatine improves glycemic control in type 2 diabetics. “It’s also been shown to benefit those with knee osteoarthritis.”

PART 4: CREATINE SIDE EFFECTS

You’ve probably heard the scary stories about creatine. Kidney damage! Muscle tears! Cramps! Funny thing is, no research has shown creatine to have any side effects at all, other than weight gain. For most athletes who use creatine, that’s a feature, not a bug.

Here’s the research debunking the scare tactics.

DOES CREATINE CAUSE CRAMPS OR MUSCLE INJURIES?

According to research at Baylor University, “The incidence of cramping or injury in Division IAfootball players was significantly lower or proportional for creatine users compared with nonusers.”

DOES CREATINE ADVERSELY AFFECT YOUR KIDNEYS?

Many studies show no negative effects:

  • Looking at doses ranging from 3 to 30 grams per day over periods ranging from

10 months to 5 years, “Neither short-term, medium-term, nor long-term oral creatine supplements induce detrimental effects on the kidney in healthy individuals.”

  • Looking at subjects who were either given 10 grams a day or a placebo for 3 months, “Creatine supplementation over 3 months does not provoke any renal dysfunction in healthy males undergoing aerobic training.”The same study suggests that moderate aerobic training by itself may improve renal function.

DOES CREATINE CAUSE DEHYDRATION, MUSCLE TIGHTNESS, STRAINS, OR OTHER INJURIES?

During one season of NCAADivision IAfootball training and competition, it was discovered that creatine users had significantly less cramping; heat illness or dehydration; muscle tightness; muscle strains; and total injuries than nonusers.Thus, even for athletes who are well-trained, it is clear that regular creatine consumption does not cause harm, and in fact may have a protective effect against certain exercise- related maladies.

The following comes from Brad Schoenfeld’s website, in response to a report claiming that creatine is related to a specific type of injury:

“Arecent article in the New York Daily News suggested that the dietary supplement creatine may be linked to the current oblique injury epidemic.According to Lewis Maharam, a sports physician and former president of the NewYork chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine, creatine ‘adds water molecules to muscle fibers, which causes the fibers to separate.This makes for easier muscle tears and slows the repair process, leaving them on injured reserve longer.’

“These are some bold claims. However, with all due respect to Dr. Maharam, I could not locate one peer-reviewed study that even suggests such a cause-effect relationship. Sure, creatine increases intracellular hydration, but this shouldn’t pose any negative effect on muscle tissue. In fact, studies show that increasing water content in a cell has a positive impact on cellular integrity. Hydration-induced cell swelling causes both an increase in protein synthesis and a decrease in protein breakdown, which ultimately strengthens the cell’s ultrastructure (1). If Dr. Maharam or anyone else has evidence to the contrary, I would certainly like to see it.”

This is from the study Brad cites in his post:

“Alterations in cellular hydration not only contribute to metabolic regulation, but also critically determine the cellular response to different kinds of stress.Whereas cell swelling triggers anabolic pathways and protects cells from heat and oxidative challenge, cellular dehydration contributes to insulin resistance and catabolism and increases the cellular susceptibility to stress induced damage.”

The Cellular Hydration State:ACritical Determinant for Cell Death and Survival. Schliess F and Häussinger D. Biological Chemistry 2002 March-April; 383(3-4): 577–583

PART 5: CREATINE AND KIDS UNDER 18

IS CREATINE SAFE FOR CHILDREN?

There’s a long history of using creatine supplements with children, even infants.Avery small number of kids are born with an inborn error of creatine metabolism. It’s extremely rare, but if left untreated the child could end up with severe neurological problems, as well as cognitive problems like mental retardation or autistic disorders.

Some of these children have been treated successfully with creatine monohydrate. One patient was given 4 to 8 grams a day for 25 months, the equivalent of 80 to 160 grams a day for an adult.The patient experienced significant improvement, with brain and total-body creatine rising to normal levels.

As David Sandler says, “Some of the first research studies on creatine were done on overly weak infants. So, yeah, it’s safe.”

ARE THERE ANY CONDITIONS IN WHICH CREATINE HELPS CHILDREN?

Yes, creatine has been used successfully in kids with muscular dystrophy. In one study, kids who took creatine monohydrate for four months gained strength and muscle mass, experienced less bone breakdown, and had no side effects.

It’s also been used on pediatric cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.The corticosteroids they take to alleviate the side effects of the chemo are known to cause rapid gains in body fat.With creatine, that increase in fat was attenuated.

DOES CREATINE IMPROVE PERFORMANCE IN HEALTHY YOUNG ATHLETES?

In a study of 16 elite male swimmers in their middle teens, half were given a loading dose of creatine (5 grams, 4 times a day for 5 days) or a placebo. It did indeed improve strength and performance in kids who were already in peak shape and highly trained for their sport.

CONCLUSION

It’s pretty simple:

  • Creatine is safe
  • Creatine works

Proven benefits include:

  • Increased lean body mass
  • Increased muscle fiber cross-sectional area (muscle density)
  • Fat loss
  • Improved hydration
  • Improved performance in strength, power, speed, and endurance
  • Improved exercise response in the heat
  • Improved functional capacity in patients with various neuromuscular diseases
  • Better cognitive capacity
  • Alleviated brain injury secondary to acute trauma
  • Improved cognitive and motor function in infants with inborn errors of creatine metabolism
  • Better outcomes for patients with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)

In addition, creatine can offer a mild antioxidant effect in vitro, and has a positive effect on mood state and task completion after 24 hours without sleep.

But it doesn’t …

  • Cause cramping or heat stress
  • Cause oblique muscle strains
  • Impair kidney function

For best results …

  • Take 3-6 grams of creatine monohydrate daily for maintenance
  • If you choose to load for the fastest possible benefits, take 10 to 20 grams daily for a period of 7 to 14 days
  • Weight-class athletes should stop creatine use at least 6 weeks before their next weigh-in

REFERENCES:

  • Terrilion K. Int J Sports Nutr 7:138, 1997;Volek JS &W.J. Kraemer. J Strength Cond Res 10:200, 1997Increased PCr stores improves the ability of your muscles to resynthesize ATP from ADP following high-intensity, short- duration exercise. Kreider RB et al. JEPonline 1.1, 1998Willoughby et al. MSSE: 33: 1674-81, 2001
  • Increase in total-body mass and lean mass with no gain in fat. Balsom Pet al.Acta Phhysiol Scand 1995;154:303; Grindstaff Pl et al. Int J Sport Nutr. 1997; 330-346;Vandenberghe K et al. JAP1997;83:2055
  • IncreasedType I and II muscle fiber hypertrophy Sim Let al. CJAP23(5): 507, 1998;Volek et al. 1999
  • Effect of creatine supplementation on aerobic performance and anaerobic capacity in elite rowers in the course of endurance training. Chwalbinska-Moneta J. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2003 Jun; 13(2): 173-83
  • The effects of creatine supplementation on cardiovascular, metabolic, and thermoregulatory responses during exercise in the heat in endurance-trained humans. Kilduff LPet al. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2004Aug; 14(4): 443-60
  • Bosco C et al. Int J Sports Med 1997; 18:369
  • Greenhaff PLet al. Clin Sci 1993; 84:565
  • Harris RC et al. J Physiol 1993; 467:74P
  • Balsom PD et al. Scan J Med Sci Sports 1993; 3:143
  • Balsom PD et al.Acata Physiol Scand 1995; 154:303
  • Birch R et al. Eur JAppl Physiol 1994; 69:268
  • Earnest CPet al.Acta Physiol Scand 1995; 153:207
  • Mujika I et al. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2000; 32:518-25
  • Chwalbinska-Moneta J. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2003 Jun; 13(2): 173-83
  • Creatine inType 2 Diabetes:ARandomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-ControlledTrial. Gualano B et al. Med Sci Sports
  • Exerc. 2011 May; 43(5):770-8
  • Beneficial effect of creatine supplementation in knee osteoarthritis. Neves M Jr. et al. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011 Feb 8. [Epub ahead of print]
  • Creatine supplementation reduces plasma levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines and PGE2 after a half-ironman competition. Bassit RAet al.AminoAcids 2008Aug; 35(2):425-31
  • Oral creatine monohydrate supplementation improves brain performance: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial. Rae C et al. Proc Biol Sci. 2003 Oct 22; 270(1529):2147-50
  • The influence of creatine supplementation on the cognitive functioning of vegetarians and omnivores. David Bentonand
  • Rachel Donohoe. British Journal of Nutrition 2011; 105: 1100-1105
  • Creatine improves health and survival of mice. BenderAet al. NeurobiolAging 2008 Sep; 29(9):1404-11
  • Clinical use of creatine in neuromuscular and neurometabolic disorders.Tarnopolsky MA. Subcell Biochem. 2007;
  • 46:183-204
  • Creatine supplementation during pulmonary rehabilitation in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Fuld JPet al.Thorax
  • 2005 Jul; 60(7):531-7
  • Creatine supplementation normalizes mutagenesis of mitochondrial DNAas well as functional consequences. Berneburg
  • M et al. J Invest Dermatol. 2005Aug; 125(2):213-20
  • Greenwood M et al. JAthlTrain. 2003 Sep; 38(3):216-219.
  • Long-term creatine supplementation does not significantly affect clinical markers of health in athletes. Kreider R et al. Mol Cell Biochem. 2003 Feb; 244(1-2):95-104.
  • Long-term oral creatine supplementation does not impair renal function in healthy athletes. Poortmans JR and Francaux
  • M. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1999Aug; 31(8):1108-10
  • Effects of creatine supplementation on renal function: a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Gualano B et al. Eur JAppl Physiol. 2008 May; 103(1):33-40. Epub 2008 Jan 11
  • Borsheim E et al. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 2004 June; 14:255-71
  • Williams MB et al. J Strength Cond Res 2003 Feb; 17:12-9
  • Blomstrand E et al. Eur JAppl Physiol Occup Physiol 1991; 63:83-8
  • Greenwood M et al. JAthlTrain. 2003 Sep; 38(3):216-219
  • Kreider R et al. Mol Cell Biochem. 2003 Feb; 244(1-2):95-104
  • Creatine replacement therapy in guanidinoacetate methyltransferase deficiency, a novel inborn error of metabolism. Stockler S et al. Lancet 1996 Sep 21; 348(9030): 789-90
  • Creatine monohydrate enhances strength and body composition in Duchenne muscular dystrophy.Tarnopolsky MAet al. Neurology 2004 May 25; 62(10): 1771-7
  • Creatine monohydrate attenuates body fat accumulation in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia during maintenance chemotherapy. Bourgeois JM et al. Pediatric Blood Cancer 2008August; 51(2): 183-7
  • Creatine supplementation improves the anaerobic performance of elite junior fin swimmers. Juhász I et al.Acta Physiol
  • Hung. 2009 Sep; 96(3): 325-36

SUPPLEMENT SERIES: FACTS & FICTION

Those of us in the athletic community are always looking for that one supplement that will really set us apart from our competition. However, the muscle, strength, and metabolism increases promised from many of these supplements is often unverified by scientific trials or even personal accounts. But still the claims are on the label “increase anabolism by 500%!” “get shredded abs in 3 weeks!” and so on, lead us to believe we need these supplements to gain an advantage, but these claims are on all the labels! So which supplements are actually effective?

We have our two undisputed champions, protein and creatine, which should be the first supplements for most, if not all, athletic goals. Not so fast… Did you know many protein powders on the market don’t technically contain the amount of whole protein listed on the label? What about creatine ethyl ester or other forms of creatine – are they better than creatine monohydrate? For those who damn creatine because the numbers on the scale go up, do you actually gain fat? One of our goals as nutritional scientists is to dispel the myths associated with supplements and provide the knowledge needed so that all athletes can make informed choices.

Over the next few weeks, the MusclePharm Sports Science Institute will be discussing many of the most popular supplements and ingredients to reveal what works and what doesn’t as well as answering questions like in what situations does this supplement work? When should I take this supplement? How does this supplement work?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jordan Joy is currently a Research Coordinator at the MusclePharm Sports Science Institute. He is a CISSN certified sports nutritionist and CSCS certified strength coach. He has his MS in Applied Nutrition with Northeastern University.