Can creatine reduce muscle damage?

March 4, 2002


1- Featured Article:
Can creatine reduce muscle damage?

2- Anthony’s Training Tip:
Eat Fat To Gain Muscle!

Welcome to the March 2002 issue of the Creatine Newsletter. We’ve been in business for over a year and there’s no stopping us now!

In this issue of the Creatine Newsletter we discuss a recent study that attributes antioxidant properties to creatine and possibly in this capacity creatine supplementation helps reduce exercise-induced muscle damage.

This month we would also like to introduce Anthony’s Training Tips. Each month Anthony Ellis, former EAS Body Transformation Champion, will provide us with pointers on how to get the most from our workouts and nutrition.

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This Month’s Featured Article:

Can creatine reduce muscle damage?

Muscle damage is a natural consequence of exercise. A small amount of muscle damage is not a terrible thing. In fact, small amounts of muscle damage actually stimulate new muscle growth, which is good. However, if the extent of muscle damage exceeds our body’s capacity to repair it and rebuild, we’re in big trouble. We then have a scenario of net muscle breakdown, otherwise known as catabolism, which defeats the whole point of working out and is a huge waste of time, money and effort.

Two principal forms of muscle damage arise from physical exertion. The first is mechanical and occurs immediately. In other words, our muscles tear slightly during the physical stress of exercise. The second form of muscle damage is the result of chemicals that are released during exercise and that exert their degenerative effects a few days later.

Free Radicals

Now, for more details on the second type of muscle damage. Intense exercise produces what are known as Reactive Oxygen Species, or ROSs for short. One of the most dangerous of the ROSs is the Superoxide Radical. Even sounds dangerous! Our body normally has the capacity to neutralize Superoxide as soon as it is produced.

How is Superoxide Produced?

Superoxide is produced from oxygen. Heavy breathing during intense exercise increases the rate of Superoxide production and surpasses the body’s capacity to neutralize it. This gives rise to a situation known as oxidative stress.

Superoxide weakens the muscle membrane causing it to tear. These small tears allow muscle’s contents to leak out and calcium ions to seep in. Importantly, an unregulated increase in intramuscular calcium activates enzymes that cause the muscle cell to self-destruct. Obviously, something we want to avoid.


Our bodies contain a line of defense against oxidative stress; special molecules known as antioxidants that neutralize ROSs. Vitamins A, C and E are examples of vitamin antioxidants. Vitamin E is a particularly potent antioxidant that protects our cellular membranes from degradation following oxidative stress. Some studies suggest that the vitamin antioxidants can reduce exercise-induced muscle damage. Our bodies also come equipped with their own antioxidant molecules. Some of the most important are Superoxide Dismutase, Glutathione Peroxidase and Catalase.

Eating foods rich in antioxidants and getting plenty of rest increases our body’s capacity to deal with oxidative stress.

Is Creatine an Antioxidant?

Very recently (January 2002) a study was released suggesting that creatine might act as a Superoxide scavenger in its own right. It is therefore possible that part of the benefit we obtain from creatine derives from its capacity to act as an antioxidant.

The salient points of the study are as follows:

1. The concentration of creatine used in this study was within physiological limits. In other words, comparable to that found within skeletal muscle (20-60 mM, for those who are interested). This gave relevancy to the study.

2. Creatine is a mild antioxidant. Creatine was not as effective as Glutathione at scavenging free radicals.

3. Creatine’s ability to neutralize Superoxide was measured in a test tube, not an exercising person.

Take Home

This preliminary report seems to suggest that creatine possess’ antioxidant properties and can effectively neutralize Superoxide, one of the more insidious free radicals produced by exercise. However, since these findings where obtained in a test tube, it remains to be shown if creatine has the same effect in an exercising person. Although preliminary, this result is surely provocative and worth pursuing.

Scientific Reference

Lawler JM, Barnes WS, Wu G, Song W, Demaree S. (January 2002) Direct antioxidant properties of creatine. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications. Volume 290: 1: pages 47-52.

Anthony’s Training Tips:

Eat Fat to Gain Muscle.

Studies have shown that dietary fat has a direct relationship with the production of the hormone testosterone. Testosterone is directly related to muscle growth. An increase in dietary fat seems to bring on in increase in testosterone levels. A decrease in dietary fat intake is usually accompanied by a decrease in free testosterone levels. A vegetarian diet causes lower testosterone levels than a meat-rich diet.

If you don’t want to eat meat, you can supplement your diet with healthy fats like those found in fish, olive oil, or other unsaturated oils. In addition to stimulating the production of more testosterone, these “good fats” can help to improve your overall cardiovascular health. More on “good fats” next month.

Read more of Anthony’s training tips.

Read our recent interview of Anthony.

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