Creatine – The Dark Knight of Damage Control
New Research Reveals Creatines Darker SideBy George L. Redmon, Ph.D.
New research emerges showing how Creatine not only enhances strength and performance but also helps prevent muscle damage after intense exercise.
Creatine supplementation has long been established as a key substance that increases maximal work output during short, high-intensity workout
routines. Researchers discovered some time ago that creatine serves as a rapid energy source for muscles, supporting quick ATP re-synthesis, which allows for the continuation of muscular
productivity for longer sustained periods of time. Overall, as cited by well- known sports nutritional researcher Peter Lemon, Ph.D. at the University of Western Ontario, the mechanisms thought to be responsible for any ergogenic effect of creatine supplementation include, increased stores of muscle phosphocreatine (PCr), faster regeneration of PCr during exercise recovery, enhanced adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production from glycolysis, which occurs when glucose is broken down into pyruvate followed by the release of usable energy, secondary to increased hydrogen ion buffering, and or possible contraction muscle relaxation time.
As a growth agent, creatine as you know plays a role in increasing muscle cell volume, a process that pushes more nutrients and water into the muscle causing it to swell, paralleled by increased protein synthesis, the process by which cells make new proteins out of individual amino acids. Creatine (Cr) has also been shown to have a positive impact on improving and or recovering the muscle’s performance in a variety of muscular disorders such amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease) and muscular dystrophy.
In retrospect, when you take a close look at the impact that creatine has on improving muscle performance, as well as its ability to help build muscle tissue, it is easy to understand why researchers had theorized that creatine also has the ability to diminish exercise induced muscle damage and speed post-damage muscle recovery. However, despite this assumption, past studies had shown it to have little impact on post-exercise muscle soreness and muscle damage. In fact, researchers at the Department of Exercise Science, University of Massachusetts in 2001 evaluated the effects of oral creatine supplementation on markers of exercise-induced muscle damage following high-force eccentric exercise in subjects randomly administered Cr or placebo(P) in a
double-blind designed inquiry. They found that 5 days of creatine supplementation didn’t reduce markers of muscle damage from high-force eccentric exercise.
As a point of reference here, eccentric training is defined as active contraction of a muscle occurring simultaneously with lengthening of the muscle. It focuses on slowing down the elongation of the muscle process in order to challenge the muscle, which can lead to stronger muscles, faster muscle repair and increased metabolic rate.
The Running Game
In 2007, investigators at the Department of Exercise Science and Athletics at Bloomsburg University, conducting a randomized controlled trial noted that previous studies did shown that creatine supplementation reduces muscle damage and inflammation following running, but not following high-force, eccentric exercise. These researchers thought that the mechanical strain placed on muscle fibers during high-force eccentric exercise may be too overwhelming for creatine to exert any protective effect, and that creatine supplementation may protect skeletal muscle stressed by a resistance training challenge that is more hypoxic (deficiency in the amount of oxygen reaching body tissues) in nature. The purpose of their study was to examine the effects of short-term creatine supplementation on markers of muscle damage (strength, range of motion, muscle soreness, muscle serum protein activity, C-reactive protein) to determine whether creatine supplementation offers protective effects on skeletal muscle following a hypoxic resistance exercise test. These researchers also found that creatine supplementation didn’t reduce skeletal muscle damage following a hypoxic resistance exercise challenge.
New Research Emerging
Nevertheless, in a collaborative study appearing in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, researchers at Victoria University and the University of Tasmania, both in Australia, and Baylor University examined the effects of creatine supplementation on the muscle’s recovery after damage. In this examination, one group consumed creatine and the other carbohydrates for a period of 5 days prior to, and 14 days following a resistance training workout session.
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