Breaking Barriers

by Daniel Gwartney, M.D.

Creatine monohydrate is clearly the most effective strength- and performance-enhancing supplement ever developed. So, why has it been getting such a bad rap? That's easy. It's the same reason that so much of it gets left in your glass: Creatine doesn't dissolve well in water, and that can cause a number of problems.

Many athletic trainers and strength coaches don't allow their athletes to use creatine at all because of the associated cramping, diarrhea and dehydration that have been reported. I, along with several colleagues, have consulted and advised many athletes and teams. Sometimes these problems go away after hydration is forced on the athletes. Reducing the dose has also helped—four five-gram servings a day for five days, then one five-gram serving per

day after that. We've also found that it helps to take creatine first thing in the morning rather than within an hour of an intense practice.

For some people the above may provide the full benefit of creatine supplementation; however, there are other problems. The cramping, diarrhea and dehydration are typically due to the creatine's being retained in the intestines. That causes the body to flush water through the intestines, drawing it away from the bloodstream and muscle. As you can imagine, all that water rushing into the intestines usually leads to its rushing out again. So merely providing extra water doesn't solve the problem, as many people still experience diarrhea due to the excess water in the gastrointestinal tract.

Could the addition of carbohydrates, phosphates, ATP and/or insulin mimickers help? No. Some of those agents are useful when the creatine reaches the muscle, but they do nothing to alleviate the first and worst problem—lack of absorption.

The reasons that creatine doesn't dissolve in water have to do with the biochemical nature of the creatine molecule, the environment in the digestive tract and the transit time, meaning the time it takes for creatine to pass to certain parts of the G.I. tract. You can see for yourself that it doesn't dissolve. Fill a clear glass with water and dump in your five grams of creatine. Let it sit for a minute or five minutes or an hour. What do you see at the bottom? About 3.5 grams of creatine. If you think sugar helps, put a tablespoon or two in the same glass. The white mountain at the bottom of the glass will grow. Go ahead and shake it like one of those Christmas globes with the snow scenes. The creatine won't dissolve.

After that experiment you should realize the consequences of taking this supplement. As mentioned above, when the creatine sits in your gut undissolved, water floods the area in an attempt to break up the particles that are irritating the intestines. That may seem like a small problem—until you realize that it can pull in nearly two quarts of water. I don't know about you, but if I'm going for a record squat, I don't want two quarts of water in my bowels.

Even if the creatine does eventually get enough water to dissolve, that will probably occur too late. The majority of creatine absorption takes place in the first part of the intestine, the duodenum, immediately after passing through the stomach. That area is designed for maximal absorption. Unfortunately, the water gets to the intestines much farther down the G.I. tract, in your colon, right before the exit chute and far from the area of maximum absorption.

It's important for the creatine to be dissolved because only dissolved creatine can be absorbed. The absorption can take place either by active transport, which requires energy and a creatine-specific receptor, or by passive transport, which doesn't. To put it another way, creatine can either float through the gut into the bloodstream or be picked up and dragged across the gut into the bloodstream.

Traditional creatine is only about 30 percent dissolved when you swill it down, so at most only about 1.5 grams are available for delivery. Contrast that with the new effervescent creatine, which is nearly 100 percent dissolved when you drink it, and you see the obvious superiority. With effervescent creatine all five grams are available for delivery. That means no more creatine-associated dehydration, diarrhea or cramping.

Effervescent creatine is also far superior when it comes to transport across the intestinal cell membranes. Creatine has ionic regions. Parts of the molecule have electric charges, like static electricity, and those ionic regions prevent creatine from passing through the intestine without the use of energy to counteract the electrical repulsion. If the creatine molecule is electrically balanced, or neutral, it's called a zwitterion and it can pass through the membranes of the intestine without having to use the receptors for extra energy. That's exactly what effervescent creatine accomplishes. It stabilizes the gastric environment, meaning the stomach and intestines, so the creatine molecules exist as zwitteri-ons.

In traditionally delivered creatine the ionic regions are intact. They create an electrical charge, which requires the use of the creatine-spe-

Traditional creatine is onl about 30 percent dissolved whe you swill it down, so at most only about 1.5 grams are available for delivery. Contrast that with the new effervescent creatine, whic is nearly 100 percent dissolved whe you drink it, and you see the obvious superiority.

Effervescence decreases gastric transit time, so the creatine doesn't sit in your stomach and get chewed up by the acid there.

It passes quickly to the duodenum for rapid availability.

cific receptors. If the receptors were available in unlimited supply and never downregulated, there wouldn't be a problem. (Downregulation occurs when an excess of a hormone or other agent causes fewer receptors to be available.) Unfortunately, there's a limited supply of creatine receptors and they're downregulated during creatine supplementation. So, if creatine is delivered via active transport, as traditional creatine is, it becomes less efficiently absorbed over time. Less and less creatine is available for the muscles, which means a decrease in performance. The only options available for maintaining increased bioavailability are intravenous administration—yes, needles—or creatine delivered through passive transport. Effervescent creatine provides the majority of its creatine load through passive transport as well as by using the creatine-specific receptors. That means it gives you a greater loading effect and can provide greater performance benefits for longer periods.

Transit time is another very important issue. Effervescence decreases gastric transit time, so the creatine doesn't sit in your stomach and get chewed up by the acid there. It passes quickly to the duodenum for rapid availability.

Effervescent Creatine Elite recently proved its superiority in a study performed by Jeff Stout, Ph.D., an assistant professor of exercise science at Creighton University in Nebraska. I know Jeff, and I've read many of his published studies. He's one of the best researchers in the field and has a wealth of knowledge.

Jeffs study analyzed anaerobic work capacity, or AWC, in several groups of athletes. AWC is a measure of how much high-intensity work a muscle can perform without rest, and that's the type of performance creatine enhances. The groups in the study included a placebo, or control, group; a powdered-creatine group; a creatine-carbohydrate-blend group and an effervescent-creatine-and-carbohydrate-blend group. The results were significant—and not just by some mathematical formula.

The placebo group had no change, as would be expected, since the subjects received no active supplement. The subjects in the powdered-creatine group increased their AWCs by 10 percent, those in the crea-tine-plus-carbs group increased by 20 percent, and the effervescent-creatine-and-carbs group showed an almost 30 percent increase—that's like getting three extra reps on your 10-rep bench press. Based on those results, effervescent creatine provides nearly 300 percent of the benefits of powdered creatine and 150 percent of the crea-tine-carb blends, and its performance-enhancing effects should also last much longer due to less downregulation of the creatine receptors.

I hate to be the one to break the news to the old guard, but while creatine is still king, it's riding higher on the shoulders of effervescent delivery. Effervescent creatine is truly a breakthrough bodybuilding supplement.

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