Friday, September 23, 2011

Creatine a Proven Non-Anabolic! It's the Increase in Training Intensity that Will Give You the Hypertrophic Edge.

Image 1: Still my creatine supplement
of choice: plain creatine monohydrate
You've been taking CreaMegaSuperBol (or whatever the name of the next "improved" creatine product may be), the fanciest new creatine product on the market, and despite spending 50 bucks still do not look like Phil Heath (not even like Jay Cutler ;-)? Well, you must be a creatine non-responder, then - no... Actually not! If there is someone to blame for the misery, it's certainly not your parents, who would be responsible for your "genetic disadvantage", you cannot even blame the supplement producer, because those guys also have to make a living. The one person you probably do not want, but have to blame is YOU!

Take some responsibility for your gains!

Now that I got your attention, let me give you a simple explanation of why you did not gain despite taking truckloads of creatine: you did not train hard enough! Although even the earliest studies on creatine back in the 1990s clearly state that the muscle building effect of creatine is most likely related to its ability to increase training performance (Vandenberghe. 1997; Volek. 1999), and not vice versa, the colorful ads producers of "next generation creatine supplements" *haha* are plastering print and online magazines, message boards and lately even video portals with appear to convey the expression that creatine would actually build muscle. In an article that was published ahead of print in Nutritional Research exactly one week ago, Andreo Fernando Aguiar and his colleagues from the Universities of Sao Paulo and Mato Grasso bust this myth once and for all.

Illustration 1: Sketch of the exercise regimen (Aguir. 2011, fig. 1) and schematic illustration of the linear progression.
In their study the Brazilian scientitsts put 32 male Wistar rats (80 days old, body weight 250-300g) on a "high-intensity exercise program" for 5 weeks. Five times per week the poor critters were thrown into a 38cm deep vat of water, where they had to jump to the water surface to gasp for air. Each jump the animals executed counted as "one rep". After one week of "practicing" the scientists strapped a vest with a weight (50% of the body weight of the animals) to the rats' chests and had them perform 4 sets of 10 reps, i.e. 4x10 jumps to the surface with +50% body weight load in the first and second week, + 60% of their body weight in the third and fourth week and +70% of their body weight in the last of the five weeks (cf. illustration one for a graphical outline of exercise regimen and study design).

Although this obviously was a progressive training program. It was not adaptive! Meaning a rat that could have done say another rep, or could have used +65% instead of +60% of its body weight would still go with the same number of reps and the same weight as his peers. In other words - the workload was identical regardless of whether the rats received their 0.5g/kg creatine per day or not (the human equivalent for the dosage used in the study would be 0.08g/kg or 6.5g/day for an 80kg human being and is thusly equivalent to what has been shown to produce strength and size gains in human studies).
Figure 2: Muscle cross sectional area in ┬Ám² of 2-3 months old, 250-300 g, male Wistar rats after creatine supplementation and/or 5 weeks resistance training in combination or isolation (Aguir. 2011)
As the effects of training and/or creatine supplementation in figure 2 go to show. Identical workloads (control + training vs. Training + crea) produce identical increases in muscle cross sectional area (CSA), which is the standard measure of hypertrophy in skeletal muscle in response to exercise and supplementation.
Figure 2: Hypertrophy effect creatine supplementation and/or 5 weeks resistance training in combination or isolation on muscle weight and muscle weight to body weight ratio in 2-3 months old, 250-300 g, male Wistar rats  (Aguir. 2011)
And in a similar veign, there were no differences in the increase in muscle weight (something you cannot measure in humans unless you could convince them that, "in the name of science", they would have to sacrifice their soleus muscle, which, by the way, the anesthetisized and decapitated rats probably would not have volunteered to do either) and the ratio of muscle to body weight between the trained and the trained + supplemented group.
Figure 3: Increase in muscle size in sedentary men on 800mg testosterone enanthate for 10 weeks (Bhasin. 1996)
It is important to note that the effects of creatine are in that completely different from those of a "real anabolic" like testosterone enanthate which has been shown in a 1996 study by Bhasin et al. to significantly increase triceps and quadriceps size in 20 "normal" men with prior experience in weight lifting (age 26+/-6y; BMI 26+/-3), even in absence of any exercise training (cf. figure 3), if it is injected at a weekly dose of 600mg for 10 weeks (Bhasin. 1996).
If you add to that that creatine supplementation alone did not have any statistically significant effect on the muscle cross sectional area (figure 1), muscle weight or the muscle weight to body weight ratio (figure 2) Aguir et al. have more than enough evidence to
reject the hypothesis that Cr supplementation promotes an additional hypertrophic effect on the skeletal muscle independent of a greater training intensity on Cr-supplemented muscle in relation to Cr-nonsupplemented muscles [...] any benefits of Cr supplementati on hypertrophy gains during resistance training may not be attributed to a direct anabolic effect on the skeletal muscle.
That being said, you better get your ass back to the gym and put another plate onto the bar (even a 2.5pound plate suffices if you keep making progress) instead of lamenting that your creatine is bunk or that it was your parents fault that you are a "creatine non-responder".
Illustration 1:The Pharmacokinetics of Creatine (Part I/II) - if you want to know more about creatine I suggest you read part 1 and part 2 of the respective installment of the Ask Dr. Andro Series, here at the SuppVersity. I promise you are in for some surprises.
Working your ass off is the way to go, if you want to see those gains the guy at GNC promised you, when he took your 50 bucks for whatever "advanced" creatine supplement he may have conned you into wasting your money on.

Which reminds me - and I am deliberately repeating myself here - to remind you that there still is not a single study which shows that creatine-whatever would produce statistically significant greater strength or muscle gains than the tried and proven, good old (and I know boring) creatine monohydrate. If you insist to spend a few more bucks go for CreaPure to make sure you get a high quality bulk poweder - everything else is an investment in yet another of those colorful ads that may have fooled you or your bros at the gym to believe that creatine was in fact a natural anabolic.