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Creatine Questions and Answers

Creatine FAQ, Frequently Asked Questions about Creatine

Q. I have heard some people say that certain creatine products from certain companies are not as effective (pure) as others. Is there a difference between the different types of creatine on the market?

A. Actually, there are no different "types" of creatine available on the market, only different brands. Creatine is a very specific biomolecule, therefore if there were any modifications to its structure, it wouldn't becreatine. However, creatine is available in tablet, gel capsule and powder forms. The tablets and capsules are perhaps more convenient because establishing exact doses is easier. The powder, however, is typically cheaper and has no taste. Remember, in the initial loading phase you may use up to 100 grams of creatine in just 5 days. This makes cost an issue for most of us.

Q. Is it dangerous at high doses?

A. In the first couple of days up to 50% of the creatine you ingest will be taken up by the skeletal muscles of your body. This amount decreases over time. Any creatine that is not taken up by muscle is rapidly degraded to the waste product creatinine. This conversion of creatine to creatinine is a nonenzymatic process. This is important because it means that the degradation of creatine is not limited by enzyme concentration. So, no matter how much creatine you ingest, it is degraded easily by the body. The waste product creatinine is excreted easily by the kidneys. In fact the kidneys are so efficient at excreting creatinine that it is difficult to show an increase in blood creatine or creatinine with supplementation. It is doubtful then that doses, even in the 20-40 gram a day range, would be harmful to the body.

Q. Can I take it with other supplements, such as Ripped Fuel, by TwinLab?

A. There is no reason to believe that creatine should have a negative reaction with any other supplement.

Q. Recently, the clerk at a vitamin/health food store strongly suggested I also buy L-glutamine to take with the creatine to make it more effective. Is it worth getting the l-glutamine? Does it really help to make the it more effective?

A. There is no evidence to suggest that l-glutamine should have any effect on creatine supplementation. It has been suggested, however, that glucose might enhance creatine uptake. Creatine is very similar in structure to the amino acid arginine. In fact the skeletal muscle receptor for creatine (the protein structure that carries creatine into the muscle cell) looks very similar to an amino acid receptor. Glucose enhances amino acid uptake through the actions of insulin on the amino acid receptors. It has been proposed that the same effect may occur with creatine. Therefore, some scientists suggest ingesting a small amount of glucose with each creatine dose to enhance uptake.

Q. How much grape juice with Creatine?

A. Actually I would suggest mixing creatine in water with half of a tablespoon of sugar as was discussed above. The primary sugar in grape juice is fructose which does not evoke the same insulin response as glucose. Since creatine is virtually tasteless it should be palatable in water.

Q. A friend of mine has high blood pressure, and his doctor told him to avoid taking creatine. Does creatine really affect blood pressure in any way?

A. There are three ways to increase blood pressure. First, blood pressure can be increased by an increase in cardiac output. This occurs transiently during exercise and is not clinically relevant. Second, blood pressure can be increased by an increase in peripheral resistance. This occurs when flow is impeded through the small vessels of the body or when the smooth muscles lining the vessels contract. There is no reason to believe that creatine would affect either of these two processes. The third way to increase blood pressure is by increasing blood volume. During the first couple of days of creatine supplementation people do tend to experience a pound or two of water retention. However, this water retention is intracellular (inside of the muscle cell) and so would have no effect on blood pressure. Water concentration inside of a muscle cell remains constant. Therefore when any substance moves into the muscle cell (like creatine) water must move in with it. This is why some people have a "pumped" feeling after taking creatine for a couple of days.

Q. Are you supposed to cycle Creatine Monohydrate? If so, how many weeks should you stay on it and how long off.

A. Muscles can hold only a finite amount of creatine. Research has shown up to a 50% increase in skeletal muscle creatine content following 5 days of supplementation. It is not known if this is the limit. In fact we know very little about different creatine dosing regimes. Creatine requires a receptor on the surface of the muscle cell to carry it into the cell. As soon as a person starts taking creatine, the body begins to get rid of some of these receptors. Also, the body stops producing its own creatine. This is the body's way to try to maintain the status quo. Therefore in the first few days your body will absorb about half of the ingested dose. After a week or so, however, it is likely that most of the creatine you ingest is not absorbed at all. That is why after an initial 5 day loading phase, very little creatine is required to maintain muscle levels. Perhaps after a few weeks there would be enough receptor downregulation to make further muscle creatine uptake very difficult. That is why cycling creatine might be a good idea. After 6-8 weeks of supplementation you might take 2-3 weeks off and then begin with the loading phase followed by a maintenance dose for another 6-8 weeks. This time off will allow the body to begin to increase the number of creatine receptors and perhaps increase the body's ability to absorb creatine.

Q. What happens to your strength when you stop using creatine? Does it decrease a little, a lot, or stay the same?

A. When a person takes steroids (which are actually synthetic forms of the hormone testosterone) the body begins to get rid of steroid receptors and stops producing its own testosterone. Because of this when a person stops taking steroids he may experience unusually low testosterone levels. In addition the receptor downregulation makes his body less responsive to the testosterone his body is producing. This may result in muscle loss. There is no equivalent process for creatine. Although creatine supplementation does cause creatine receptor downregulation, there is no decrease in skeletal muscle creatine content to below normal levels when a person stops supplementation.

Q. I am on creatine right now and am experiencing absolutely nothing. I've done an insane loading phase, and have taken it with a high carb, simple sugar drink. How many grams a day do you use to load and how many do you use to maintain?

A. The recommended dose is 20 grams per day for 5 days followed by 1-3 grams per day for 6-8 weeks. This seems to produce pretty good results in most people. However, there are no magic bullets or guarantees. No supplement will produce good results if you have a faulty workout or poor diet. Perhaps you should begin by reevaluating your workout program. Supplements should never be the cornerstone of your overall plan.. At best, even a very good "natural" supplement will make only a 20-30% difference in your rate of progress. Also, as with any supplement, individual results may vary. Perhaps this supplement is not for you.

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