Sunday, June 5, 2011

Creatine & Fenugreek, a Dynamic Duo for Glucose-Independent Creatine Uptake: 900mg Fenugreek Extract as Effective as 70g Dextrose

Image 1: Dried Fenugreek seeds
(image from Wikipedia)
Although it has been shown times and again that the real world significance of the effects of large boluses of glucose (dextrose) on skeletal muscle creatine-uptake has largely been overestimated (for a review cf. Jaeger. 2011), the proponents of consuming your creatine with grape-juice or other "fast-acting" carbohydrate sources, can still refer to a handfull of studies, which - if no increases in performance - could at least show improved creatine clearance (interpreted as muscle uptake) with simultaneous carbohydrate administration. Personally, I have always considered the addition of fast-acting carbs superfluous and for a certain group of people, such as figure athletes, even detrimental: in the long run, the additional carbohydrates do not only increase your chances of getting fat, the accompanying insulin spikes could even predispose you to diabetes; furthermore, the net effect of carbs on body water, could in fact be the actual reason for the "bloat" that is often ascribed to creatine supplementation, alone - a side effect, that turns out to be a major problem in weight-regulated sports or fitness, figure and even bodybuilding competitions, where the unaesthetic "bloat" is highly undesirable.

If you still insist to maximize creatine uptake, though, you might be interested in the results of a recent study of a recent study by Taylor et al. (Taylor. 2011), which found that meager 3.5g creatine + 900mg of Fenugreek extract produced the same increases in lean body mass as the combination of 3.5g creatine + 70g of dextrose in an 8-week 4-day-per-week resistance training regimen (upper/lower split with 3 sets of 10 and 3 sets of 8 reps in weeks 1-4 and 4-8, respectively).
Figure 2: Effects of 8 weeks resistance training on Body composition in control, dextrose + creatine and fenugreek + creatine groups (data adapted from Taylor. 2011)
As the data in figures 1 and 2 shows, the fenugreek group did not only gain the same amount of lean mass and thus significantly more than the placebo group who received 70g dextrose, only. The subjects who consumed fenugreek also had similar increases in 1RM bench press and leg press strength.
Figure 2: Strength gains after 8 week resistance training in control, creatine + dextrose and creatine + fenugreek groups (data adapted from Taylor. 2011)
So why risk any negative side effects of popping tons of high-glycemic carbs, if you get the same benefits from a small capsule of fenugreek extract? Well, the only reason I could think of is the funding of the study which came from Indus Biotech(TM), a company with a vested interest in selling their products, one of which - you guessed it - is a fenugreek extract...

On a side note: Did you see that even the dextrose group lost body-fat? This should make all you no-carbers and sugar-haters re-evaluate whether or not you can transfer advice on macronutrient composition from housewifes to athletes. And, this one goes out to all the "hardgainers" out there, a mean increase of 4 pounds in lean mass for both creatine groups in the course of eight weeks already is a huge success! 1 pound of lean mass a week is a tremendous amount of muscle to build - so don't make the mistake to fall for the advertisment-claims (or should I write "lies") in the glossy ads in your favorite muscle mag.