Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Overlooked Non-ROS-Scavenging Antioxidant Effects of Creatine Monohydrate: CM Works W/ & W/Out Exercise

Creatine, obviously monohydrate and no expensive and often impotent spinoff (Jäger. 2011) is useful for any athlete.
The number of items on the list of health and performance benefits of creatine is about as high as the number of boring articles about "the benefits of creatine" you can find all over the Internet. And even here at the SuppVersity they have been piling up in a way that has me ignore the majority of "creatine supplementation increases strength gains in XY" studies that appear on a monthly, sometimes weekly basis. Against that background I will cut today's creatine post short and get straight to the facts, Giuseppe Potrick Stefani et al. report in their latest paper in (how else could it be) the peer-reviewed Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (Stefani. 2014).
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In what turns out to be another rodent study Stefani et al. investigated whether creatine supplementation exerts intra and/or extracellular antioxidant effects and if it plays a synergistic role in the adaptation of antioxidant enzymes associated with resistance training. The actual aim of the study was thus
"to evaluate the effects of monohydrate creatine supplementation associated, or not, with RT on oxidative stress and antioxidant enzymatic activity in the plasma, the heart, the liver and the gastrocnemius of rats." (Stefani. 2014)
And the results were unambiguous. As you can see in Figure 1, the anti-oxidant capacity of plasma, heart and liver of all 40 male Wistar rats which had been divided into four groups, i.e.
  • sedentary (SED),
  • sedentary + creatine  (SED-Cr), and
  • resistance training (RT) and resistance training + creatine (RT-Cr),
increased significantly in response to the provision of creatine (0.3 g/kg/day of creatine for seven days, 0.05 g/kg for the rest of the 8-week study period).
Figure 1: Oxidative stress in heart, liver and muscle after 8 weeks of intervention.Concentrations of MDA and CAT activity. Values are mean ± SD; n = 10 for all groups (Stefani. 2014).
As you can see, both treatments, creatine-only and creatine + resistance training led to significant improvements in heart, liver and muscle antioxidant status - and that, this is important, in the absense of those direct free radical scavenging abilities that turn vitamin C, vitamin E & co into highly questionably agents with potential anti-adaptational effects (learn more).

Works w/ and w/out exercise, but with the latter creatine really excels

Compared to the sedentary animals the rats in the exercise group did yet significantly increased catalase levels (=good, because it catalyzes the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide - the bad stuff - to water and oxygen - the benign stuff) in the heart and - obviously - increased strength gains.
Figure 2: Absolute and relative 1RM strength before and after the intervention (Stefani. 2014).
What is (positively) surprising, at first, is the fact that the latter, i.e. the increases in 1-RM strength in response to creatine supplementation occurred even in the absence of resistance training.

If you look closely, you will yet realize that the relative increase in strength, a much better gauge for lasting real-world strength gains, in the sedentary rodents was ZERO. So that it is very likely that they would disappear with the increased water the rats were holding, as soon as the creatine supplementation is seized.
If you want to make your creatine even better, super-charge it with baking soda (NaHCO3) and build your own "buffered" creatine | learn more
Bottom line: If you are still not taking your 3-5g of creatine per day religiously, you are either in the last week of your contest prep and afraid of the potential increase in water retention, or you are a soccer mum who has been bamboozeled by the sensational reports about "kidney damage due to dangerous nutritional supplements" that pop up on one of the news channels every now and then.

I mean, what other invalid reason for not making use of this "non-enzymatic antioxidant" as a side-effect free health and performance promoter?
References:
  • Jäger, Ralf, et al. "Analysis of the efficacy, safety, and regulatory status of novel forms of creatine." Amino Acids 40.5 (2011): 1369-1383.
  • Stefani, Giuseppe Potrick, et al. "Effects of creatine supplementation associated with resistance training on oxidative stress in different tissues of rats." Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 11.1 (2014): 11.