The Simple Truth: It Works!
Phil Kaplan shares some of the
realities behind creatine use for muscle gain.
I was about to
do my third set of lat pulldowns when a voice from behind
me interrupted, "Phil. Can I ask you a question?"
I nodded and held up my hand to indicate that Iíd prefer the
question wait until I find benefit in the spark of motivation
Iím experiencing. I growled out 9 or 10 reps and turned to
take on the question.
about five or six years ago you did a radio show about creatine.
Now, it seems as if all of a sudden everyoneís taking it!
Is it the same stuff you were talking about back then?"
I nodded as I anticipated the next question. Itís the one
I always get in reference to supplements. "Does it work?"
I continued to nod as I went into automatic pilot reciting
the oft-repeated pro-Creatine Monohydrate monologue Iíve developed
strictly by repetition of the "Does It Work" question.
Hereís the short version:
(monohydrate) works! It absolutely works. If you want to perform
at higher levels demonstrating greater strength and power
legally, safely, and with greater muscle volume, then yes,
it works!" Does it end there? No. The questions just
begin. "Do I get better gains if I use more?" "Should
I take it with fruit juice?" "Do I need to "load?"
They go on and on. Let me take you back to the radio show
from over half a decade ago where I first endorsed this breakthrough
supplement on the air.
I remember the
particular radio show clearly because it threw my office into
a frenzy. The phones rang for days with listeners in search
of muscle magic asking, "where can I get some?"
It was a weekly episode of my Mind & Muscle Fitness Hour.
Anthony Almada, then a biochemist out in California and part
owner of a company named California Body Club was a guest
along with his partner (at the time), Ed Byrd. I even remember
the details leading up to the show. It started when I received
a phone call from a subscriber to my Newsletter. Iíd never
spoken to this Personal Trainer from the West Coast before,
but he knew I was in the habit of separating "scam"
from those things that offered true promise. He was excited
in telling me that he found a supplement that worked! Really
worked! He went on and on telling me about his strength increases,
his muscle gains, and the similar results his high profile
clients were receiving using this new Creatine compound. If
anything was getting anybody this excited, I knew it demanded
at least some investigation. Through a chain of telephone
calls I found Anthony and Ed. These guys were more excited
than the Personal Trainer was. They explained the science
behind Creatine, quoted the results of a study in Europe with
cyclists, and then began to throw out the now familiar strength
and muscle gain stories. The conversation ended with three
words. "Send me some."
A funny thing
happened. Two bottles of Creatine Monohydrate showed up in
my mailbox a day apart. The California Body Club creatine
was the second to arrive. As excited as I was, when the first
product showed up, I wasnít going to wait. I tried the fist
brand to arrive. I did exactly what Ed and Anthony suggested.
I mixed a heaping teaspoon of the white powder into a small
amount of water and drank it four times a day for five days.
I then continued the mixing and drinking ritual twice a day,
once in the morning and once at night. After two weeks I called
Anthony Almada. He was ready to hear me jump on the "more
strength, more muscle" bandwagon and was sincerely shocked
when I reported, "Nothing." I was ready to assume
this was the next short-lived overhyped supplement soon to
be written off as soon as another "miracle" showed
up in its place.
"load" for five days?"
sure youíre using a heaping teaspoon?"
eating and training?"
the first person who has been disappointed. Did you use the
whole bottle I sent you?"
"Nope. In fact, I didnít even open it. The day before
it arrived I received a bottle from another company."
There was a short
silence which I now realize was Anthony being polite. He couldíve
filled the silence in with "you idiot, how could you
assume that other company sent you anything resembling Creatine
Monohydrate?" His silence spoke for itself. Before allowing
him to utter another word I ended the conversation with, "Iíll
call you in two weeks."
I should have
known, after spending years exposing false label claims and
fitness fraud that it's quite possible words on a label are
less than honest. I knew nothing about this other company.
Somewhere between the time that the bodybuilder called me
and I reached Ed and Anthony, my chain of phone calls alerted
people that I was on a Creatine hunt. Someone was quick enough
to beat California Body Club to my mailbox. That didnít mean
they used the same product in their Creatine labeled bottles.
After five days
of using Anthonyís Creatine Monohydrate I was asking questions.
"Did the creatine do it, or was I just stronger today?
Two extra reps on the bench? Hmmmm. My weight had gone up
a couple of pounds. Was it the creatine, or was I just more
conscientious with my eating and training? Three days later
I was almost convinced, and by the time I spoke with Anthony
again I had increased my body weight by five pounds measuring
at the same % bodyfat as I was two weeks prior. My bench and
squat had substantially increased, certainly more dramatically
than in any fourteen day period in the past. I was sold.
you guys to come visit with me on my radio show. This is the
first strength supplement Iím ever going to give a thumbs
up to, provided you can send me research data, legitimate
testimonials, and anything you have to lend credence to the
safety of the product. The following morning there was a pile
in front of my fax machine. A large envelope followed in the
mail. I made more phone calls, gave some product to a few
associates to try, and this Creatine stuff was proving to
be all that was promised!
By the time the
day of the on-air interview showed up, I was convinced of
two things. One, Creatine Monohydrate is going to be a true
supplement breakthrough, and two, youíve got to be certain
that the creatine labeled product youíre buying truly contains
pure Creatine Monohydrate.
One of the most
consistent comments Iíve heard expounding the popularity of
my radio show has been the fact that I help listeners to "make
sense" out of issues that can be confusing. In a short
time I had familiarized myself with much of the available
science regarding this new supplement breakthrough. Iím about
to share with you the simple understanding Anthony Almada,
Ed Byrd, and I provided my listeners with on that long ago
radio broadcast, but first, thereís a question you might have
that I feel obliged to address.
If this all happened
more than five years ago, why am I writing this article now?
Simply because the science that held true then holds true
now. When something grows as explosively popular as Creatine
Monohydrate has, rumors, misinformation, and overblown product
hype often fly confusing the supplement buying public as to
the true efficacy of a product. The question I mentioned by
the fellow who interrupted my lat routine was one of many
Creatine questions I receive daily. Some are a bit more far
fetched. "Is creatine a steroid?" "Is creatine
like steroids?" "Can creatine kill you?"
made the papers, creatine was rumored as the secret to Mark
McGwireís home run hitting. It was rumoured responsible for
the death of collegiate wrestlers. Let me take you back to
the simple understandable science and allow you to use Creatine
Monohydrate without question and without concern.
The way I explained
it to my listeners was as follows.
is a "phosphagen" responsible for intra-muscle energy
generation. While muscle maintains a small and limited supply
of Creatine Phosphate, it is used quickly during an anaerobic
burst and then replenishes to allow the next "set."
When you orally ingest Creatine Monohydrate, it appears to
increase the amount of Creatine Phosphate you hold in muscle,
thus, your "strength" and "performance"
are increased. There also seems to be a cell volumizing effect.
Each muscle fiber seems to attract and hold more water. Since
muscle is primarily composed of water, put more water into
each muscle cell and you wind up with greater muscle mass.
Anthony and Ed
backed this up with research evidence, yet it all came back
to the simplicity of, "more Creatine Phosphate = more
strength, more intramuscular water = more muscle." Together
they fielded questions from callers. "When you eat Creatine
Phosphate it does not seem to be absorbed and transported
into muscle in the same form, plus the monohydrate form is
more economical." "You canít mix creatine in your
blender with your post workout drink and carry it with you.
It is not stable in liquid and will convert into creatinine
nullifying the effects." "There may be some benefit
to taking Creatine Monohydrate with a small amount of simple
sugar as the insulin spike might facilitate better creatine
transport." "The only thing taking more than recommended
might bring is stomach upset."
I want you to
understand that Creatine hasnít the least resemblance to a
steroid and the only similarity rests upon its ability to
increase the amount of muscle you carry. While some of the
muscle "volumizing" effect will be diminished when
Creatine usage is discontinued, the hope is that through more
intense training resulting from the Creatine Phosphate boost,
you will add lean body mass that remains. In other words,
while some of the "water volume" that creatine brought
about might be lost if you back off on creatine supplementation,
the added intensity of your workouts should allow you to add
muscle that you maintain with or without creatine.
Iím amazed it
took this long for the general exercise public to become creatine
crazy. Rumors, questions, and confusion now abound. The simple
fact remains that while science has offered insight into better
utilizing the creatine monohydrate we ingest through synergistic
combinations of various micronutrient and macronutrient compounds,
simply combining Creatine Monohydrate with your intense training
and a concern for a supportive balance of proteins, carbs,
and essential fats worked five years ago and it works today!
Begin there. Sure, science moves forward, and there have already
been some new synergistic products developed which utilize
and enhance creatineís value. I encourage you to utilize those
products and formulas which best meet your needs, but do it
without the mystery. Understand what creatine is, what it
does, and how to use it as a basic aid. Then you can go further,
after all, isnít this whole bodybuilding process about progression?
Begin with what you know works, and then build.
today lies in the great abundance of creatine compounds making
the "it works" claim. Testing for purity and content
has been a mission embarked on by a few who either stand to
act as safeguards against fraud, or perhaps act to better
sell their own products. If quality testing and the availability
of honest information are going to help a company sell more
product, I applaud that company for selling "quality"
rather than "hype." Marketing built on honesty is
refreshing and much needed and if those who clamor for consumer
dollars go out there and expose fraud and deceit, the cream
can only rise to the top.
You now have
a simple clear concise understanding of the "mystery"
behind Creatine. The bottom line . . . yes, I can say
this one "works."
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