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9 Scientifically Proven Reasons to Use Creatine Year Round

There are several myths that have spread over the last decade in the fitness community regarding creatine consumption, such as it causing dehydration, muscle cramps, even kidney disease. And the myth that in order for it to be effective you need to take it with grape juice. Creatine is undoubtedly one of the most effective and cheapest fitness supplements you could ever use.

In a meta-analysis done in 2004, 42 out of 66 studies showed that supplementing with creatine led to increased lean muscle mass in young and middle-aged adults. There are people who do not respond to creatine supplementation, but that percentage of the population which doesn’t experience any benefits is pretty small.

Creatine supplements usage is a well-established practice for professional athletes who are seeking for that edge in their physical performance and recovery across a range of fitness and athletic fields. This has made creatine the biggest selling sports supplement in the world, and it is widely used by baseball and football players, bodybuilders, weightlifters, Cross-Fitters, MMA athletes, sprinters and millions of fitness enthusiasts. It is by far the most effective sports supplement you can find on the market.

Creatine monohydrate is the top ranked performance-enhancing sports supplement currently available to athletes for increasing the capacity for high-intensity exercise as well as lean body mass while training. Around 95% of the creatine in your body is found in skeletal muscle. It works by supplying energy to all your cells, primarily muscle cells, by increasing the production of Adenosine TriPhosphate (ATP) which acts as the cell energy reserve for muscle contractions.

The main process of creatine in your body is to store phosphate groups high in energy in the form of phosphocreatine. When the body is under stress, such as when training, phosphocreatine releases this contained energy to power proper cellular functioning. This is the exact process which causes creatine to increase muscle strength, however, almost every other body system can benefits, such as the brain, bones, and liver. Most benefits from creatine happen through this energy releasing mechanism.

Taking 3 grams of creatine daily is scientifically proven to increase physical performance in successive bursts of short-term, high-intensity training like interval cardio and weight training. Being one of the most popular supplements used in the sports industry, it has been used by all types of athletes around the world to help promote energy output, strength, muscular energy, endurance, and repair. As a compound that is naturally found within the human body, supplementing with it has been shown to increase the formation of ATP molecules which ultimately helps optimize and prolong workout sessions.

In this article, we are going to list the top 10 reasons why you should use creatine during the entire year.

  1. Creatine decreases myostatin and increases muscle IGF-1

In 2008, a study reported something rather shocking. Supplementing with creatine for 10 days straight stimulated genes related to anabolic signal transduction. In a study published in the Journal of Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology, scientists examined how creatine consumption affected the levels of the catabolic gene myostatin and the anabolic gene IGF-1 in muscle tissue in men who were experienced in resistance training. Myostatin is known to suppress the growth of muscle tissue and its levels are often increased in muscle-wasting diseases like AIDS and cancer. Many therapies meant to combat muscle wasting involve myostatin suppressing genes.

Animals born with various genetic defects in myostatin tend to have very big muscles. This means that any time myostatin levels are lowered, it is a good thing for building muscle. IGF-1 is an anabolic gene found in muscle tissue and it is often increased after doing a high-intensity workout session. Anytime IGF-1 levels are increased, lean muscle tissue is also increased. When scientists blasted the legs of mice, they found that radiation therapy eliminated IGF-1 levels in their muscles completely and the muscles atrophied. So, raising IGF-1 levels in muscle tissue is a good thing for building muscle mass.

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Simply put, raising IGF-1 levels in muscle tissue and decreasing myostatin levels is a great combination for building muscle mass. In one study, 28 healthy male participants were put on a resistance training regimen and supplemented with creatine. The study found that supplementing with creatine while on a resistance training regimen further amplifies the decrease in serum levels of myostatin induced by training, thus increasing the effects of training of muscle mass and strength. Other studies have found that creatine consumption increases muscle IGF-1 responses as well combined with raising satellite cell activation. This means that creatine is helping increase muscle mass on a cellular level.

  1. Creatine raises resting testosterone levels and reduces cortisol levels

Another study produced results which showed that continuous supplementation with creatine for 5 days straight when combined with weight training is sufficient to increase the concentration of testosterone in the bloodstream and decrease cortisol levels. Twenty males who were physically active were assigned randomly to either a creating supplementing group or a placebo group. During each workout session, the participants did 3 sets x 10 repetitions of 9 exercises that included: overhead press, bench press, lat pull-down, biceps curls, squats, leg extensions, leg press, leg curls and ab crunches.

The program’s intensity was set at 75-85% of the subjects’ one-rep max. A rest interval of one minute was allowed between sets of each exercise. When the study ended, subjects of the group that took creatine showed a significant increase in testosterone concentrations and decreased cortisol levels, compared to the placebo group and baseline, after 5 and 7 days of “loading” with creatine. The results of this study suggest that supplementing with creatine for more than 5 days combined with weight training is enough to increase testosterone concentrations and decrease cortisol levels. If you’ve been considering to supplement with creatine, this is a perfect example of why you should get started as soon as possible.

  1. Creatine decreases muscle fiber damage and soreness

Creatine monohydrate could be a very useful supplement to your diet for preventing muscle fiber damage and speeding up recovery from high-intensity training, which perfectly fits into the field of sports rehabilitation. In a recent article that was published in the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation titled, “Role of creatine supplementation in exercise-induced muscle damage: A mini review” scientists have a discussion on the many benefits that creatine offers for increasing muscle recovery.

Creatine’s ergogenic effect has become well-known in its ability to improve physical performance such as explosive muscle power and increased lean muscle mass after a training session. A couple of studies have shown that creatine decreases muscle damage induced by resistance training.

One study showed that healthy males supplementing with creatine beginning 5 days before exercise until 2 weeks after exercise increased maximal isometric strength and decreased muscle damage markers (creatine kinase) compared to subjects who only took a carbohydrate placebo. There are some potential mechanisms that explain creatine’s effect on exercise-induced muscle fiber damage, including decreasing inflammatory response and oxidative stress.

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Supplements

This Unregulated Dietary Supplement Could Damage Your Heart

Ten years ago, Dr. Pieter Cohen noticed some of his patients were becoming ill because of the weight loss pills they were taking.

Cohen, an internist and associate professor of medicine at Harvard University, had some of those supplements tested and found that some of the pills and powders contained substances his patients didn’t even know were in there. Essentially, they contained drugs like ephedra, a natural stimulant promoted for weight loss that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has since been banned for use in supplements.

Ephedra, like many other stimulants, is falsely promoted as being safer because it’s “natural” — i.e., it’s a substance that comes from plants.

“It is found in nature,” Cohen said. But just because something occurs naturally doesn’t mean it’s always good for us.

Most recently, Cohen has turned his sights on yet another plant-based stimulant: higenamine. Found in plants like the Sichuan aconite and nandina fruit, higenamine is a beta-2 agonist, which allows the smooth muscles in the lungs to absorb more oxygen. These stimulant qualities may pose a risk to the heart.

Because of how it works in the body, higenamine is marketed — also under the names norcoclaurine or demethylcoclaurine — as a supplement to help a person lose weight or increase their athletic performance. But, among the problems some athletes are finding, it’s been on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances since the beginning of 2017.

Despite this, it remains available over the counter in a variety of preparations in the United States.

One problem is that higenamine is still in supplements promoted to athletes, and new research suggests that in the largely unregulated supplement market, it’s often hard to tell exactly how much of it is actually in those pills and powders.

Between 0 and 200 percent

In a study published in the journal Clinical Toxicology, Cohen and other researchers discovered vastly different levels of higenamine in different dietary supplements, from barely detectable levels to 200 percent of the listed quantity.

In their study, Cohen and his team analyzed 24 dietary supplements that were for sale in the United States before higenamine was banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency in 2007.

The samples were processed at the NSF International — an independent lab based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, that also tests for the dietary supplement manufacturers — and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands.

Some of the products tested were sold under the brand names Adrenal Pump, Burn-HC, Diablo, Gnar Pump, HyperMax, iBurn2, OxyShred, and Uplift and were labeled as a pre-workout, weight loss, or energy and focus aid. Two brands didn’t list a labeled indication.

Of products sampled, the levels of higenamine in the supplements varied greatly. Five listed higenamine but didn’t contain any, while one, Razor8, contained up to 62 milligrams in one serving.

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“No matter how carefully you read the label, you have no idea how much you’re taking,” Cohen told Healthline. “There’s so much leeway into what can go into supplements.”

Cohen is quick to note that no clinical trials on higenamine have been conducted in the United States, and the only research that has had the same kind of scrutiny as a pharmaceutical drug has occurred in China. The doses administered were 2.5 milligrams, and those involved directly injecting higenamine.

“Two studies, both funded by a supplement manufacturer, purport to demonstrate the safety of orally ministered higenamine, but neither provides clinically relevant information,” the study states of the available research.

So, medical professionals aren’t sure how the drug responds when it’s ingested, as it’s the most common way people take it.

Higenamine can still legally to be sold in over-the-counter supplements because it was “grandfathered in” due to being a “botanical remedy” when the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, which exempts it from new safety testing standards, took effect.

Risky for competitive athletes

While over-the-over supplements can still contain higenamine, it’s a banned substance for competitive athletes in sports with strict anti-doping standards.

Higenamine isn’t Lance Armstrong-level doping, but the people getting caught with higenamine have to pay a real price. In 2016, before it was on the anti-doping banned list, a Liverpool soccer player tested positive for it and was temporarily suspended. (It was banned by some leagues, but not yet worldwide.)

In the United States, athletes caught using higenamine involved moms, weekend warriors, and others chasing a “natural” edge. While a few have received warnings, some have been banned from competition for two years.

According to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, five people have been sanctioned for having higenamine in their system while competing. The majority of those cases involved amateur female weightlifters who had no other banned substances in their blood or urine samples.

Because of the dangers it poses to the careers of competitive athletes at all levels, as well as the lack of scientific research and varying doses found in supplements for sale in the United States, Cohen says higenamine and other substances in some supplements marketed as “natural” dietary aids come with many unknown risks.

“Consumers shouldn’t turn to supplements and think they’re safer than pharmaceuticals,” he said.

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