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Bulletin #42 – Creatine: Why Has This Become A Must Supplement For Bodybuilders

We are excited to announce a newproduct to our supplement line—ParrilloPerformance Creatine Monohydrate™.During the last year several reports haveappeared in the scientific literature docu-menting the effectiveness of creatine inincreasing muscle mass, strength, andendurance (1-6). We’ve been doing ourown trials here as well and have seen im-pressive results.What is creatine, and how does itwork? You’ll recall last year I did a seriesof articles about cellular energy metabo-lism and explained the biochemistry in-volved in some detail. Briefly, the imme-diate source of energy for all cellular ac-tivity, including muscle contraction, is amolecule called ATP. This stands for ad-enosine triphosphate, which is the nucleo-side adenosine with three phosphategroups attached.

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The phosphate groupscontain negative electrical charges, andsince negative charges repel each otherthe molecule is inherently unstable. Inother words, the negative charges pushagainst each other and try to tear the mol-ecule apart. When one of the phosphategroups breaks free, energy is released.During the process of muscle contrac-tion this energy is transferred to the actinand myosin filaments which make up themuscle fiber. This results in a change inthe three dimensional configuration (i.e.,the shape) of the filaments, causing themto slide past each other. When this hap-pens the muscle contracts. When ATPloses one of its phosphate groups it formsadenosine diphosphate, or ADP, plus afree phosphate group. Thus muscle con-traction is powered by the breakdown ofATP to ADP.Food provides two basic purposes forthe body. It provides the building blocksthat body tissues are made from, and itsupplies energy to fuel the body. Thechemical energy contained in food is usedto form ATP. As you know, food is oxi-dized, or burned, in the body to releaseenergy. This energy is used to form ATP,which then goes on to power cellular ac-tivity. The body’s stores of ATP are verylimited. In fact, each muscle cell containsonly enough ATP to power contractionsfor a few seconds. Therefore, ATP mustbe continuously regenerated. That’s wherecreatine fits in. Creatine itself binds a phos-phate group, forming creatine phosphate,or CP.

When ATP is broken down to ADP,creatine phosphate steps in and donatesits phosphate group to ADP, regeneratingan ATP molecule (1). This allows highenergy muscle contractions to continue.After about 45 seconds to 2 minutes (de-pending on the intensity of effort) the cre-atine phosphate is also used up, and powerproduction by the muscle rapidly declines.This is what happens when you fail at theend of a set – you’ve used up all yourATP and CP, which means you’re out offuel. This is also why high intensity weightlifting sets usually last about a minute be-fore you fail. After the CP is used up, ATPcannot be regenerated fast enough tomaintain a high level of intensity. Lowerintensity exercise (aerobic exercise likebike riding) can be continued almost in-definitely because you can generate CPand ATP fast enough to keep up with theenergy demands of the activity.You’ll notice our creatine is in theform of creatine monohydrate. Why don’twe just use creatine phosphate or ATP it-self as a supplement instead? Simply put,because it doesn’t work.

Triphosphatemolecules such as CP and ATP are notabsorbed through the intestine. To reachthe bloodstream nutrient molecules mustfirst cross the membranes of the cells lin-ing the gut and then the cells forming thecapillaries. Cell membranes are made oflipids, which are hydrophobic. This meansthey repel molecules with a strong elec-tric charge like ATP and CP. If you feedsomeone ATP or CP it must be brokendown before it can be absorbed. Creatinemonohydrate is readily absorbed, how-ever, and does in fact reach the musclecell when administered orally (2). This iswhy it can be used as an effective supple-ment. Once inside the muscle cell it isconverted to creatine phosphate. Whatabout the sublingual route? This is bogus,since the molecule still has to cross cellmembranes to reach the circulation. Whatabout liquid creatine? Doubly bogus, sincecreatine tends to break down when storedas a solution.Creatine occurs naturally in meat,especially red meat. This is probably themain reason red meat has a reputation forincreasing strength. No other foods are agood source of creatine, and this is whyvegetarians are often creatine deficient.The problem is to get a significant amountof creatine you would have to eat a lot ofred meat, which would bring with it a tonof fat.

Creatine supplementation allowsyou to get much higher levels of creatinein your muscle than you could ever getfrom conventional food, and without sup-plying any fat.Though much of the creatine used by our muscles is obtained through diet, ithas also been found that the body cancreate its own creatine in a two-reactionextramuscular sequence. Starting in thekidney, arginine and glycine undergotransamidination, creating guanidinoaceticacid and ornithine. The guanidinoaceticacid is then methylated by S-adenosylmethionine in the liver, creatingcreatine, which is then shipped off forusage in the muscle. So the creatine poolin the muscle is really a composite of theamount synthesized by the body, whichis about one gram/day, and the rest re-ceived through dietary sources, most no-tably from meat (1,2,3).So how does creatine increase musclesize and strength? It increases strengthby increasing the intracellular levels ofcreatine and creatine phosphate, whichallows more rapid ATP production. Thismeans more energy is available to the cell,allowing it to work harder. This samemechanism explains why creatine in-creases endurance performance too. Ifyou increase the creatine pool inside themuscle this increases the cell’s energyreserve, allowing longer, as well as morepowerful, contractions. Creatine is verypopular among endurance athletes, and iswidely used in track and field.Creatine increases muscle size be-cause it attracts water. Creatine is ab-sorbed into the muscle cell and pulls a lotof water along with it, causing the muscleto swell. This results in larger, firmermuscles and a better pump. Please realizethat creatine itself does not directly in-crease muscle protein. As with all supple-ments, it is vital that you use creatine inconjunction with a solid bodybuilding diet.You need protein to build muscle tissueand carbohydrates to provide energy. Cre-atine itself is not burned to produce en-ergy, rather it acts as an energy buffer totransfer the energy derived from carbo-hydrate and fat oxidation to ATP. Creatineis not incorporated into protein. It will,however, indirectly increase the proteinmass of muscles over time by allowingyou to perform higher intensity workouts.

That is, of course, if you are eating enoughlean protein and quality calories to sup-port muscle gains. .What can you expect from creatine?Typically in hard-training bodybuilders,we observe an increase of 4-14 poundsof lean mass during the first month ofusing creatine. This is remarkable. Thisdoes not mean you have to consume 4-14 pounds of creatine. Remember, mostof the weight gain and size increase comesfrom water. Creatine is stored in musclecells, where it attracts water. The moremuscle mass you have to start with, themore creatine you can assimilate and themore weight you will gain from using cre-atine. Small bodybuilders usually gain 4-6pounds and the really big guys gain 10-14pounds. We have verified that this weightgain shows up as an increase in lean bodymass when you do body composition test-ing. Remember that lean mass is a mea-sure of everything in your body that’s notfat, including the skeleton and muscle,including water. It’s hard to imagine any-body happier than a bodybuilder whogains 10 pounds of lean mass in one month.Regarding performance, we’ve seenathletes experience a 5-15% increase instrength on their maximum lifts, and anincrease of about 2 reps per set with theirworking weight. This increase in trainingintensity allows you to put a greater loadon the muscle, which will indeed increaseyour gains in muscle protein mass overtime. The amount of strength gain eachindividual can make may differ consider-ably, because the strength of your ten-dons also determines how much weightthe muscle can lift. While it seems clearthat creatine will allow faster and greatergains in size and strength over the long-term, firm numbers cannot be attached atthe onset.

A lot is dependant on whetheryou are eating enough protein and calo-ries to support gains. Remember, creat-ine itself has little impact on gaining musclewhen taken alone. The building blocks(amino acids) and extra calories must alsobe present in the muscle for serious gainsto be made. Most people will see a sig-nificant increase in size and strength whenusing creatine, but a lot of this dependson the amount of protein and quality calo-ries you are eating. If you don’t eat enoughto support muscle gain, you won’t seeany, it’s that simple. But with a solid, high-calorie, high-protein diet and intense train-ing, your muscle gains can be incredible.Regarding endurance exercise, we’ve seenathletes experience a 5-10% increase inspeed and a 10-20% increase in time tofatigue.What’s the down side? As explained,most of the immediate weight gain result-ing from creatine supplementation happensduring the first month when you’re load-ing the muscle cells with creatine. Youwill experience an immediate gain instrength at the outset because of the in-creased leverage advantage from the in-creased water gain as well as the creatinephosphate stores. At some point the cre-atine pool becomes saturated and themuscle can’t hold any more. So you canexpect a very rapid and dramatic gain inlean mass (muscle + water) for the firstmonth, but after that creatine supplemen-tation is mainly maintenance. Remember,proper nutrition from food, increasedcalories and nutrients from supplementsand intense training are the keys to pack-ing on more muscle month after month,year after year. By using creatine you canimprove the intensity and duration of yourtraining for better overall workouts. Andwhen you add to this proper nutrition, which includes plenty of high quality pro-tein and increased calories, you’ll be righton track to gain one pound of lean masseach week.How do I use creatine? As with nearlyall supplements, actual usage will varyfrom person to person and will likelychange as your body and training changes.

To start out we recommend for the firstone to two weeks you use 20-30 grams aday divided into even servings taken witheach meal, or with a Hi-Protein™/Pro-Carb™ drink. This is the loading phase.One scoop or heaping teaspoon is fivegrams, so one of these with each mealis about right. Use the lower end ofthese ranges if you’re 150-200 pounds,and the upper end if you’re over 200pounds. We recommend one to twoweeks, but the loading phase may takeas many as four weeks. When you findthat you’re really getting a good pump,the loading phase has filled the creat-ine stores in your muscle. After that,5-10 grams a day is enough to main-tain your creatine stores. Cycling cre-atine is of no advantage. If you stoptaking creatine you simply deplete yourexisting store, which takes 4-8 weeks.The best way to take creatine is to mixit with a scoop of Hi-Protein Powder™or Pro-Carb™ and drink it immedi-ately. It’s also fine to mix it in plainwater. Don’t be concerned that creat-ine doesn’t dissolve fully; just drink thesuspension. Even though it doesn’t dis-solve completely, it gets absorbed verywell. Don’t mix creatine in water toofar in advance of when you take it, sinceit begins to break down. A great way topack creatine is to take a shaker bottlewith a scoop of Hi-Protein™ or Pro-Carb™ plus a scoop of creatine and put itin your gym bag or cooler. Then just addwater, shake, and drink. Another conve-nient way to use creatine is to mix it intooatmeal. Creatine has no flavor, but it is alittle grainy.Are there any medical concerns withtaking creatine? Creatine is nontoxic evenwhen taken in huge doses.

The onlyknown side effect is stomach upset if youtake too much at once. Five to ten gramsshouldn’t bother you. If you take 30 gramsat once you might feel stomach crampsor nausea, but usually not. Excess creat-ine is converted into creatinine (note thesimilar spelling) and excreted in the urine.If you take too much creatine you’ll justlose the excess in your urine. If you haveany blood work done you might find thatcreatine elevates your creatinine level.Doctors use the creatinine level in theblood as an index of kidney function. Ifyour doctor notices an increase in yourcreatinine level and expresses some con-cern about your kidneys, tell him or herthat you’re using creatine. Creatine doesnot damage the kidneys in any way, but iscontraindicated if you have pre-existingsevere kidney disease (for example, renaldialysis or kidney transplant patients).People with severe kidney disease havetrouble eliminating creatinine, and creat-ine supplementation would increase crea-tinine levels further.How does creatine fit into yoursupplement program? Creatine shouldabsolutely be a core supplement for anyserious bodybuilder, powerlifter, or endur-ance athlete. Bodybuilders and powerliftersshould use it year round, and definitelybefore a contest. I guarantee your com-petition will be using it. Endurance ath-letes should use it during training and com-petition. If you’re not a serious athlete butsimply someone trying to lose fat and stayin shape, then you don’t necessarily needit. There’s no evidence that creatine, byitself, aids fat loss. But as you gain extramuscle and increase you metabolism, youultimately will burn more body fat. So in-directly, it can help in body fat loss.The core supplements for bodybuild-ers and strength athletes are EssentialVitamin Formula™, Mineral-Electro-lyte Formula™, CapTri®, CreatineMonohydrate™, Liver-Amino™, andHi-Protein Powder™. Pro-Carb™should be added for those bodybuild-ers with trouble gaining weight. GHFormula™, Muscle Amino For-mula™, and Ultimate Amino™ are ap-propriate for competitive bodybuild-ers.

Liver-Amino Formula™ shouldbe increased for strength athletes, es-pecially in the months leading to a con-test. The core supplements for endur-ance athletes are the Vitamin and Min-eral Formulas™, Liver-Amino For-mula™, CapTri®, and Creatine Mono-hydrate™. The combination of Liver-Amino Formula™ and Creatine Mono-hydrate™ is key for endurance, and Iwould go as far as to say they areessential for an endurance athlete toreach his ultimate potential. Hi-Pro-tein Powder™ should be strongly consid-ered for any endurance athlete who’s los-ing weight or training at the edge. Extremetraining can elevate the protein require-ments of endurance athletes above thoseof even bodybuilders. Endurance athletesexperiencing over-training or a decreasein performance likely need more protein.Collegiate level and professional enduranceathletes should add Max-Endurance For-mula™. The core supplements for peopleon the fat loss program are the Vitaminand Mineral Formulas™, CapTri®, andAdvanced Lipotropic Formula™. Of course, the diet is fundamental to every-one. The Parrillo Bar works well on anyof these programs as a meal replacementor as a source of extra calories for ath-letes trying to gain weight or who needmore energy. Endurance cyclists also findthe Parrillo Bar very useful. Finally, cre-atine should be considered a core supple-ment for all vegetarian athletes. Althoughthe human body makes about one gramof creatine a day by itself (creatine is en-dogenously synthesized in the kidney andliver) vegetarians have a reduced creatinepool because their diet does not provideany additional creatine (1,2,3). Vegetar-ians stand to benefit greatly from creatinesupplementation (1,2,3).With this background on what creat-ine is, how it works, and how to use it,let’s take a brief look at some of the stud-ies of creatine use in athletes.

One testlooked at the effect of creatine versus pla-cebo on performance of 5 bouts of 30maximal voluntary contractions on anisokinetic dynamometer (4). The groupreceiving 24 grams of creatine a day for5 days experienced greater torque produc-tion, which means greater power produc-tion. In another study 30 grams of creat-ine a day for 6 days was given to a groupof endurance athletes (5). During a seriesof four 1,000 meter runs the total timewas improved by 13 seconds in the cre-atine group, with an improvement of 5.5seconds during the last run. Another pla-cebo-controlled trial showed an increasein anaerobic capacity on a cycle ergom-eter after 4 days of creatine at 20 gramsper day (6). These studies demonstrate ameasurable increase in peak power pro-duction and endurance performance dur-ing intense exercise following as little as4-6 days of creatine supplementation. Theeffects of creatine seem to be most pro-nounced during very intense exercise. Notmuch of an effect has been noted in pro-longed, low intensity exercise. This is justwhat you would expect given the role ofcreatine in cellular energy production.During low intensity exercise, energy pro-duction from carbohydrate and fat oxida-tion can keep up with the rate of energyexpenditure. Creatine increases exerciseperformance by sustaining energy pro-duction, and thus work production, dur-ing high intensity exercise (2). Creatinesupplementation has been shown to re-duce the rate of ATP depletion duringmaximal exercise while simultaneouslyincreasing work output (2).Sure, creatine is a terrific supplementfor increasing lean mass and strength. Butcreatine is not some magic potion formuscle gains. Not too long ago I beganworking with a bodybuilder who wasspending a large portion of his limitedbudget on creatine. Sure, his workoutswere great, but his gains were insignifi-cant compared to the effort he was put-ting into his training.

Why? Because hiscaloric base was too low. Everything hewas eating was being used for energy tofuel his workouts, with little to nothingleft for lean mass gains. So what did wedo? First, we got his diet in order, increas-ing his protein and calorie intake with goodfood. Next, we took the money he wasspending on creatine and put that intoCapTri®, Hi-Protein™ and Pro-Carb™.These supplements increased his caloricbase even more than the food alone, pro-viding his body with the necessary en-ergy and amino acids for growth. Somuch so, he was able to gain 30 poundsof lean mass in three months time.The reason I tell this story is not todiscourage you from using creatine. Butrather, to put it into perspective as far asyour nutrition and training are concerned.If you’re not eating enough and provid-ing the necessary nutrients for growth,your body will not be able to maximizethe potential effectiveness of this supple-ment. But if your nutrition is good, ifyou’re providing your body with the calo-ries and protein it needs for energy andgrowth, and if you’re training hard, cre-atine can be of great benefit in terms ofincreasing size, strength and performance.In summary, creatine has been shownin placebo-controlled clinical trials to im-prove exercise performance, both interms of power output and endurance (1-6). We know from our work here that itincreases lean body mass as well. Creat-ine is stored in the muscle and does notcontribute to fat stores. Any weight yougain on creatine will be in the lean com-partment. We’ve seen many athletes ex-perience dramatic gains in muscle size andstrength during their first month of creat-ine use. And when you look for a goodcreatine supplement, make sure it is 100%pure, like our Parrillo Performance Cre-atine Monohydrate™ supplement. Makesure to look at the nutrient content on thelabel and not just the price when you’reconsidering which creatine supplement totake. Parrillo Performance Creatine Mono-hydrate™—one more nutritional tool tohelp you push your physique and perfor-mance envelope.


1. Maughan RJ. Creatine supplemen-tation and exercise performance. Interna-tional Journal of Sport Nutrition 5: 94-101,1995.

2. Greenhaff PL. Creatine and its ap-plication as an ergogenic aid. InternationalJournal of Sport Nutrition 5: S100-S110,1995.

3. Crim MC, Munro HN. Proteins andAmino Acids. Modern Nutrition in Healthand Disease 8: 9-10, 1994.

4. Greenhaff PL, Casey A, Short AH,Harris AC, Soderlund K, and Hultman E.Influence of oral creatine supplementationon muscle torque during repeated boutsof maximal voluntary exercise in man.Clin. Sci. 84: 565-571, 1993.

5. Harris RC, Viru M, Greenhaff PL,and Haltman E. The effect of oral creat-ine supplementation on running perfor-mance during maximal short term exer-cise in man. J. Physiol. 467: 74P, 1993.

6. Ernest CP, Snell PG, Mitchell TL,Rodriguez R, and Almada AL. Effect ofcreatine monohydrate on peak anaerobicpower, capacity, and fatigue index. Med.Sci. Sports. Exerc. 26: S39, 1994.

2018-03-13T11:10:36-04:00 May 27th, 2009|Technical Supplement Bulletins|

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