Controversies, new forms of creatine

Creatine is one of the best checked diet supplements for sports people available legally. In general, scientific studies show its efficiency in aiding physical effort (hundreds of studies). Against common beliefs, new forms of creatine (e.g. CEE – creatine ethyl ester) are not better than the cheapest powder monohydrate. Scientists commented on the mentioned CEE as follows: “it breaks down fast and majority of it is lost before it reaches the muscles” [5]. As a result, CEE increases strength, mass and power of the muscles much weaker than monohydrate.

There was a loud issue of kre-alkalyn (buffered creatine) – which seemed to break down faster than monohydrate [6]. In marketing assurance you could read that “the buffered creatine” is 10 x more efficient than monohydrate and you just need 1.5 g of kre-alkalyn a day, which will give you better results than 15 g of creatine monohydrate. Facts? Well, scientists checked it in 2012: the saturation of muscles with “kre-alkalyn” (All American Pharmaceutical) occurred to be 11 times smaller (-1.1 +/- 4.3 mmol/kg) compared to the German monohydrate creapure (11.2 +/- 4.3 mmol/kg). After 28 days the result of supplementation with kre-alkalyn turned out to be 4.7 times smaller compared to the creapure monohydrate! Those were the results of supplementation with doses advised by the producer, i.e.: 1.5 g of kre-alkalyn a day compared to monohydrate (the loading phase 7 days of 20 g and the sustaining phase 21 days of 5 g of creatine a day). That's not all! Scientists decided to check how kre-alkalyn works in a direct confrontation – 20 g of “the buffered creatine” vs. 20 g of monohydrate. The results? Failure! Supplying even 20 g of kre-alkalyn a day for 7 days and 5 g for 21 days occurred to be of slight efficiency! The level of free creatine in muscles in the kre-alkalyn group was half of the level of the monohydrate group (creapure) [6].

Conclusions? None of the scientific studies, so far, have proved the new forms of creatine (malate, citrate, ethyl ester – CEE, orotate) to be better than monohydrate.

Despite marketing – does it mean that creatine monohydrate will be good in each case? Well, it doesn't. The most surprising study was published in “The European Journal Of Applied Physiology” in March 2014 [1]. 20 men at the age of 55-70 took part in it. As it turned out, creatine monohydrate, together with glucose, gave similar results like glucose itself – at least for men at the age of 55 and over.

This issue is more developed here: Creatine does not work for men at middle age and older

Another study from the year of 2010 [4] was done on men at the age of 48-72 and it was also surprising. 42 men were divided into the following groups:

  • placebo, 10 men,

  • creatine (5 g a day), 10 men,

  • whey protein (35 g a day), 11 men,

  • creatine (5 g) + protein (35 g), 11 men.

The observations were done during 14 weeks of resistance training.

The training included 3 sets with 80% of maximal load:

  • leg curl (quadriceps, hamstring),

  • biceps curl (biceps / triceps),

  • military press (shoulders),

  • lat pull down (back, latissimus dorsi, teres major),

  • leg press (quadriceps),

  • barbell press (chest, shoulders, triceps).

Results?

The mass and strength of the volunteers increased in all groups. Unfortunately, neither creatine, nor whey protein were efficient (they worked like placebo).

Other study from "The Journal of Human Kinetics" [2] cause some doubts: 32 men (soldiers) took part in it:

  • 10 of them used creatine,

  • 10 of them used glutamine,

  • 12 of them used placebo (corn flour).

Those who used steroids or any kind of diet supplements were excluded from the experiment. Also those who smoked or drank couldn't take part in the test.

The training: 5 x a week, 90 minutes per session; strength exercises, muscle endurance, stretching, aerobic and unaerobic efficiency. The experiment took place in the military academy. The measurements and research were done in specific moments in time: at the beginning, after 6 and 12 weeks of exercising.

Creatine was delivered in the following amount:

  • the saturation phase: 0.3 g per 1 kg of body mass (a person weighing 100 kg = 30 g of creatine; 3 even doses x 10 g per day),

  • the sustaining phase: 0.03 g of creatine per 1 kg of body mass (a person weighing 100 kg = 3 g of creatine per day).

Creatine was served after workout (what was shown in one of the experiments as the best time of delivering this supplement).

The following factors were measured:

  • aerobic efficiency – 12-minute Cooper test,

  • unaerobic efficiency – swing run (alternate sprint with the change of direction),

  • strength in the upper body through push-ups,

  • strength in the lower body through long jumps from one place,

  • ABS – crunches.

Results?

Poor – there were no differences between the groups using creatine, glutamine or placebo.

For example:

In the swing run, the results at the beginning:

  • placebo 9.87 +/- 0.48 sec,

  • creatine 9.89 +/- 0.25 sec,

  • glutamine 9.91 +/- 0.28 sec.

After 12 weeks of exercising:

  • placebo 9.22 +/- 0.42 sec (improvement by 0.65 sec),

  • creatine 9.15 +/- 0.24 sec (improvement by 0.74 sec),

  • glutamine 9.11 +/- 0.17 sec (improvement by 0.8 sec).

Long jump from one place, the results at the beginning:

  • placebo 227.41 +/- 22.1 cm,

  • creatine 223.1 +/- 14.65 cm,

  • glutamine 218.3 +/- 18.28 cm.

Long jump from one place, the results after 12 weeks of exercising:

  • placebo 235.33 +/- 20.59 cm (improvement by ~7.9 cm)

  • creatine 229.3 +/- 17.0 cm (improvement by 6.2 cm),

  • glutamine 228.3 +/- 21.46 cm (improvement by ~10 cm).

Push-ups, the results at the beginning:

  • placebo 38.41 +/- 7.19 repetitions,

  • creatine 36.6 +/- 5.44 repetitions,

  • glutamine 42.2 +/- 10.43 repetitions.

Push-ups after 12 weeks of exercising:

  • placebo 62.16 +/- 8.36 repetitions (improvement by ~24 push-ups),

  • creatine 56.7 +/- 3.09 repetitions (improvement by ~20 push-ups),

  • glutamine 59.4 +/- 7.8 repetitions (improvement by ~17 push-ups).

Conclusions?

  1. The inefficiency of glutamine is not surprising, apart from the sponsored studies or those done on the ill group of volunteers (its efficiency is minute),

  2. Lack of influence of creatine on improving the result of swing run or in push-ups is surprising,

  3. If you use aerobic or endurance exercises as your main activity – creatine doesn't have to be a good choice, you'd better look for beta-alanine.

There are many studies done on well-trained sports people of high level, moderate level, active or inactive men, where creatine also caused no improvement in the sports result [3]:

  • Delecluse et.al (2003) – sprint 2 x 40 m, break of 5 minutes, sprint 6 x 40 m – break 30 seconds – no influence of creatine on the speed of sprint, body mass: average increase by 0.3 kg (very well-trained sprinters, of national class),

  • Biwer et.al (2001) – intervals on treadmill, 20 minutes of steady pace, 15% bigger slope 2 minutes, rest 0% of slope for 2 minutes, no influence on the efficiency of the competitors, increase of body mass by 1.2 kg (15 footballers),

  • Finn et.al (2001) – bike 4 x 20 seconds of sprint with the break of 20 seconds between the sprints, no influence of creatine on efficiency, increase of body mass by 0.81 kg (triathlonists, moderate class),

  • Wilder et.al (2001) – strength training 4 x a week done for 10 weeks, no improvement of the result in barbell squat, increase of lean body mass by 2.46 kg (in the group of 3 g of creatine a day) or 1.79 kg (the group with the saturation and sustaining phase); (25 very well-trained footballers),

  • Francaux & Poortmans (1999) – resistance exercise 3 x a week (isokinetic squat), the training was done for 6 weeks, no increase of strength, increase of body mass by 2 kg (25 active, untrained men),

  • Odland et.al (1997) – 30-second unaerobic test (WINGATE), no improvement of results,

  • Mujika et.al (1996) – swimming: 3 x 25 m, 3 x 50 m, 3 x 100 m – 20 high-class competitors, no improvement of sports results, increase of body mass by 0.7 kg.

Summary: creatine is still the best supplement for sports people, but... it is not efficient in each physical activity and age group. Its activity in case of older people is arguable.

Sources: “Creatine supplementation post-exercise does not enhance training-induced adaptations in middle to older aged male”. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4019834/ 2. Is Long Term Creatine and Glutamine Supplementation Effective in Enhancing Physical Performance of Military Police Officers? 3. “Creatine Supplementation And Exercise Performance: A Brief Review” Stephen P. Bird 4. J Nutr Health Aging. 2010 Feb;14(2):155-9. The effects of supplementation with creatine and protein on muscle strength following a traditional resistance training program in middle-aged and older men. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20126965 5. The effects of creatine ethyl ester supplementation combined with heavy resistance training on body composition, muscle performance, and serum and muscle creatine levels http://www.jissn.com/content/6/1/6 6. A buffered form of creatine does not promote greater changes in muscle creatine content, body composition, or training adaptations than creatine monohydrate. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22971354