Are creatine and protein powder a bad combination?

May 6, 2002


1- Featured Article:
Are creatine and protein powder a bad combination?

2- Anthony’s Training Tip:
To gain weight, eat more after your workouts!

Welcome to the May 2002 issue of the Creatine Newsletter. Think of this issue as our nutrition and muscle growth issue. All you need to know about nutrition and muscle building can be found in this month’s issue of the Creatine Newsletter.

This month Anthony will teach us how to eat to create the optimal anabolic environment for muscle growth and increase our energy stores.

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This Month’s Featured Article:

Is creatine and protein powder a bad combination?

The basic strategy of creatine supplementation is quite straightforward. Simply, it is to increase muscle creatine content through increased creatine intake. Although generally producing an effect this approach is somewhat naive. Creatine transport into skeletal muscle is a complicated process requiring that muscle be in a receptive state.

Creatine gets into skeletal muscle by the action of creatine transporters on the muscle surface. Among other factors, insulin increases the activity of these creatine transporters. This is similar to the stimulatory effect that insulin has on amino acid transport into cells and isn’t too surprising since creatine is closely related to amino acids.

By deduction, anything that increases insulin release should also enhance creatine absorption by skeletal muscle. This hypothesis turned out to be mostly true. In 1996 is was shown by Dr. Paul Greenhaff’s group in the UK that taking creatine with glucose (releases insulin) enhanced creatine absorption by almost 60%! At the time this caused a lot of excitement in the sports nutrition field. Unfortunately, the amount of glucose needed to get this effect (~100 grams of sugar for each 5 grams of creatine) approached the level of sweetness tolerated by most individuals.

Lately it has been shown that the combination of protein and simple carbohydrates has a greater effect than that of carbohydrates alone in releasing insulin. This finding, in conjunction with the possible ill side effects of ingestion large amounts of sugars (carbohydrates), prompted Dr. Greenhaff and colleagues to examine the combined effects of protein and sugar on creatine uptake.

Creatine: A practical guide clearly discusses how to enhance creatine absorption while at the same time creating the optimal anabolic environment for muscle growth.

The Study

Twelve healthy male volunteers (mean age 27 years) participated in the study. They were asked to refrain from strenuous exercise, protein and alcohol intake for 24 hours before commencing the study. They also had to be clean of creatine use for at least three months prior to commencing the study. These precautions were necessary since all of these factors influence the effectiveness of creatine and could influence the outcome of the study.

Subjects were given creatine in combination carbohydrates with or without protein. In all, four conditions were tested:

Condition 1. Creatine (5 grams) and very low carbohydrates (5 grams glucose). Placebo Condition.
Condition 2. Creatine (5 grams) and low carbohydrates (50 grams glucose).
Condition 3. Creatine (5 grams) and high carbohydrates (96 grams of glucose).
Condition 4. Creatine (5 grams) and carbohydrates (47 grams of glucose) and protein (50 grams of milk protein).

Afterwards their blood insulin levels and the amount of creatine retained by the body were measured.

Take Home

Take your creatine with protein and carbohydrates! There are several advantages to doing this:

First, the combination of protein and carbohydrates increases creatine absorption via the actions of insulin.
Secondly, you only need to take half as much sugars to get the same boost in creatine absorption.
Lastly, adding protein to your creatine mixture promotes the production of new muscle proteins.

Creatine: A practical guide discusses how much protein to add to your creatine for the best results.

Scientific Reference

Steenge, G. R., Simpson, E. J. and Greenhaff, P. L. (September 2000) Protein- and Carbohydrate-induced augmentation of whole body creatine retention in humans. Journal of Applied Physiology Volume 89: 3: pages 1165-1171.

Anthony’s Training Tips:

To gain weight, eat more after your workouts!

After a strenuous weight training session, it is very important that you eat a large protein and carbohydrate meal following your workout. This is important for several reasons:

First, following exercise, your body’s metabolism is increased and you are burning calories at an elevated rate. If there is a lack of food following your workout, your body will begin to breakdown muscle tissue for energy.

Second, protein synthesis is almost doubled following your workouts. In other words, your body is ready to build new muscle at twice the normal speed, provided it has ample nutrients. That means you need to eat a lot of good quality protein and plenty of carbs to take advantage of this enhanced muscle-building period.

Finally, eating plenty of carbs following your workout will help to replace muscle glycogen that was depleted during the workout. Muscle glycogen is used for energy. Quickly refilling these stores will prevent potential muscle breakdown and help to stop the rise in the muscle wasting hormone, cortisol.

Click here for more of Anthony’s training tips.

Still have questions about creatine? You'll probably find the answers in my ebook!

Creatine: a practical guide will teach you how to use creatine safely and effectively for greatest muscle growth. You'll learn: how to design your own personalized dosing protocol, what to eat (and what not to eat) and other methods to make the greatest muscle gains, at the lowest price. Also, find out whether expensive creatine formulations are really worth the money!

All for less than the cost of your monthly creatine!

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