For several years creatine has been one of the most popular supplements sold. But it hasn’t always been this way.
While creatine was first discovered in 1832, its popularity as a nutritional supplement did not arise until 160 years later. After winning the 100m Gold medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Linford Christie shared that he had been using creatine as part of his preparation. Reports also surfaced that Sally Gunnell, who won the 400m gold medal in Barcelona, also had been using creatine while training for the Olympics. Shortly after, companies began commercially producing creatine to be marketed and sold to the masses.
Where Does Creatine Come From?
Creatine is a naturally occurring compound present in most muscle tissues. It can be synthesized by the body in the liver and kidneys before being transported to the muscle cells. Creatine can also be consumed through various foods. Beef, pork, and some types of fish can also be significant sources of creatine. After digestion, creatine can be shuttled to the muscle cells via the bloodstream. Once creatine is in the muscle cells, a phosphate molecule is added to creatine converting it into the molecule phohpocreatine (PCr). Phosphocreatine is then available to work as an energy source for cellular metabolism.
Creatine Becomes An Energy Source For Your Muscles
Our muscle cells need ATP (energy) to contract. Unfortunately, ATP is not able to be stored in the cells of the body. and during intense exercise, there is only enough ATP for muscle cells to work for 1 or 2 seconds before they run out of ATP. The solution is to use other molecules to supply the cells with a constant supply of ATP. In our muscle cells, the concentration of PCr is three to four times greater than the concentration of ATP. This makes PCr a valuable fuel source for muscle cells and the renewal of ATP for energy. PCr is quickly broken down to replenish ATP and prevent the immediate fatigue of our muscles.
In our muscle cells, ATP is supplied through three metabolic pathways: the phophocreatine pathway, glycolytic pathway, and the oxidative pathway. While each pathway is continuously producing energy, at different times during exercise each pathway becomes the primary source for ATP. The phosphocreatine pathway for energy production becomes the primary energy source for muscle cells for the first 8-15 seconds of energy as the cell ramps up the release of ATP through glycolysis, the initial breakdown of glucose to release ATP. The Journal of the American Pharmaceutical Association concluded that while creatine appears to be beneficial in shorts bursts of high-intensity exercise, it may not be as useful for endurance exercise. This is because most of the ATP produced for endurance exercise is derived from the oxidative pathway, and less from the use of PCr and glycolysis.
Creatine Supplements Can Prevent Muscle Fatigue
While high levels of stored PCr in muscle cells may reduce the need to rely on anaerobic glycolysis and lactate creation during ATP production, creatine appears to have another benefit as well. Creatine can act as a buffer which can help stabilize the pH levels in the body. Excessive H+ ion production from the use of ATP can lead to muscle acidosis or the “burning” feeling experienced during exercise. Having high levels of creatine and PCr in muscle cells appears to lessen muscle acidosis allowing for muscles to perform more work before the effects of fatigue set in.
Creatine Improves Muscle Size and Strength
I have been using creatine for several years as a supplement to help me get stronger. Studies show increases in strength and mass have been seen after as little as one week of usage. The initial increase in mass is generally between 1-3 pounds and may be the result of increases in water retention in the muscle cells, the stimulation of protein synthesis, or a decrease in muscle breakdown. Over time, creatine can contribute to muscle fiber growth by signaling biological pathways to stimulate muscle growth. This benefit works in conjunction with creatine’s metabolic function to allow for more ATP production during resistance and high-intensity exercise. A 1999 study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology noted that individuals who consumed creatine during a 6-week training program gained on average 4.4 more pounds than those in the control group.
Are Creatine Supplements Safe?
With over 200 peer reviewed article and some studies lasting over 5 years, creatine is one of the most studied supplements being used today. To date, no studies have reported that the effects of creatine can be detrimental to a person’s health. However, many people report that consuming creatine can cause symptoms such as muscle cramping, nausea, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal issues. Because creatine tends to contribute to the retention of water in muscle cells, it is important to stay properly hydrated while consuming creatine as a supplement.
How Do I Start Using Creatine?
Adding creatine to your daily routine is simple. It usually comes in a white powder that is both tasteless and odorless. Personally, I add it my super-food shake or recovery protein shake each day. Creatine can be mixed into juice or water as well. Many people recommend a “loading phase” for creatine where 20g/day (5g servings taken 4x each day) are consumed for the first 6 days to help increase the total creatine concentration in the muscle cells. Alternatively, the loading phase can be skipped and individuals can simply begin adding 5g of creatine daily. While the initial concentration in the cells isn’t as great, studies have found that by day 28, both regiments will increase the PCr concentration to the same level within a month. You body does not build up a tolerance to creatine so there is no need to cycle on and off using it. To make sure my body has it available when needed, I consume it on both days when I am working out and on rest days.
Which Creatine Supplements Should I Buy?
Walking into your local supplement store or shopping online will yield a wide variety of options that can be overwhelming. Supplement companies will market creatine as Creatine HCl (hydrochloride), Creatine Nitrate, Creatine Citrate, and others. And all will come at a premium price. However, Creatine Monohydrate is the version that has received most of the testing and has been proven to be effective for both providing energy and assisting in building strength. So this is all I chose to consume. Next, when you look at the ingredients label it should ONLY say one thing, creatine monohydrate. Again, supplement companies will try to boost profits by mixing in other ingredients. I am a fan of other supplements (I’ll share those later), but I don’t need to pay extra to have them formulated with my creatine. Artificial sweeteners, salts, and other compounds are frequently add to creatine supplements which means you are getting less creatine per serving.
A final consideration is that the FDA regulates supplements under different standards than the regulations of “conventional” food and drugs. And several studies and lawsuits revolve around the fact that supplements and supplement companies have been shown to not be truthful when labeling their products. This topic could be a whole article on its own, but in short, supplements are not rigorously tested to ensure that only what is on the label is in the supplement. Other compounds have been discovered to be added to supplements and the concentrations of ingredients has been found to be inaccurate. The solution is to ONLY BUY SUPPLEMENTS THAT ARE THIRD PARTY TESTED. Both NSF and Informed Sport test supplements to ensure they can be trusted. And I will only use supplements that display their labels on the packaging.
Creatine is one of the most asked about topics I get from both adults and students. Because of this, I created an enrichment article I use in class to explain the science behind creatine and how it works. If you are interested, you can grab a copy of my enrichment article here.
If you’re ready to get started adding creatine to your routine, here is a link my online store where I offer the same creatine I use. Still unsure? You can also buy a serving a creatine as part of a supplement sampler pack to see if it’s right for you.
WHY ARE MY MUSCLES SORE AFTER WORKING OUT?
Have you ever woken up sore muscles the day after working out?
If so, chances are you have experienced DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). Sore muscles are a result movement or activity is completed beyond the scope of what the body is used to accomplishing. The common symptoms include inflammation, tenderness, and muscle fatigue. DOMS are commonly referred to as “muscle fever” because of the overall sickly feeling that comes with the symptoms.
What Causes Sore Muscles After Working Out?
People generally have sore muscles 12 to 48 hours after working out. If pain or soreness occurs during or immediately after a workout, it is due to acute muscle soreness. Acute muscle soreness is different from DOMS and should be treated differently as well. While researchers know very little as to what causes this type of soreness (and even less on how to effectively prevent or treat it), several studies have debunked many of the more popular myths surrounding the DOMS.
While the exact cause of DOMS is unknown, studies have found a correlation between DOMS and specific activities. A 1994 study published in the Australian Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport found that “unaccustomed exercise may lead to significant damage to skeletal muscle and DOMS in both recreational and elite athletes.” The study went on to explain that metabolic and mechanical stress may damage the muscle cells. Twenty-five years later, scientists still do not understand the specifics of the “metabolic and mechanical” stressors.
DOMS are frequently seen when individuals go beyond their normal scope of exercise. Because of this, even highly trained athletes can still incur DOMS. However, as the individual becomes more accustomed to exercise, the degree of delayed muscle soreness will decrease. This is frequently referred to as the repeated bout effect (RBE). The RBE is why an athlete doesn’t get as sore after completing a workout that they have done before. That doesn’t mean that soreness in a sign of increased muscle strength of hypertrophy. When someone is just starting to exercise, they will coincidentally experience rapid gains while also experiencing the greatest amount of soreness. But these are not connected. You can still experience gains, event if you aren’t sore following a workout.
Why Isn’t Everyone Sore After Working Out?
Several theories have been tested to better understand the potential metabolic and mechanical stressors thought to cause DOMS. Eccentric exercises tend to cause a greater occurrence of DOMS compared to concentric or isometric movements. An eccentric movement can be defined as a muscle is forced to work during the lengthening phase of a movement. Individual genetics is also a factor in the degree to which DOMS are experienced. Some people are more likely to experience soreness than others. Other factors including dehydration, preexisting conditions, and even the metal fear of future pain have been shown to influence DOMS.
Scientific research has concluded that DOMS are not caused by lactate built up as a result of exercise. The are also not caused by microtrauma inside the muscle cells. Muscle damage may play a role in DOMS, but there is no correlation between the damage and DOMS. Studies have shown individuals to be the sorest when there is the very little damage to the muscle cells.
How To Not Be Sore After Working Out
Since there isn’t any conclusive evidence of what the cause of DOMS is, it is not surprising that science has yet to find much evidence for their prevention and treatment. A 2003 article published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research detailed that most of the conventional beliefs surrounding the treatment of DOMS lacked sufficient evidence. Time appears to be the best treatment for DOMS. Generally, after a few days the soreness decreases. Both light exercise and anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen have been used to treat the symptoms, but it is not clear why they may work. Light exercise increases inflammation while Ibuprofen will decrease it.
If you Are looking for workouts but want to skip the soreness, here are some ideas for you.
Want more info on muscle soreness?
Because delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is something students always ask questions about, I created an enrichment article to explain more about what it is and isn’t. You can grab the article here.
You can also check out the Facebook Live I recently filmed debunking many of the myths around DOMS.
INSTANT POT CHILI RECIPE
Our Instant Pot chili recipe is so simple to make yet tastes so good. It’s a favorite for our family on busy nights when we are short on time. It also works well when we have friends over to catch a football game or fight. It’s a savory blend of beef, beans, and spices that can be poured over chips or eaten as a meal by itself.
Prep Time: 5 min Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Instant Pot Chili Recipe Ingredients:
With the Instnt Pot, you can make chili in under 30 minutes!
2 lbs 93/7 lean ground beef
1/2 tsp salt (or Himalayan salt)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 chili seasoning packet
1 15oz can tomato sauce
2 15oz cans kidney beans
1 15oz can black beans
1 14oz can beef broth
Instant Pot Chili Recipe Directions:
- Set Instant Pot to saute setting
- Add ground beef and brown meat thoroughly. Add salt, peeper, and garlic powder to desired taste
- If using a fattier meat than 93/7, drain the fat the meat to remove some of the fat.
- Once the meat has browned, add the cans of beans and tomato sauce, but DO NOT STIR.
- Add the can of beef broth to make sure the meat does not burn to the bottom of the Instant Pot.
- Seal the Instant Pot and close the vent. Cook on manual for 10 minutes.
- Allow 10-20 for a natural release of the steam before opening the Instant Pot to serve.
We are always looking for new recipes for our Instant Pot. If you have a favorite I’d love to hear it. Send me your favorite recipe and I’ll be sure to share it on social media and the blog!
Until next time,
SCRAMBLED EGG MUFFINS
Scrambled egg muffins are a great way to turn a simple breakfast favorite into a dish that everyone will love. They are quick to make. They can also be personalized. And you can make them in advance and store them for later in the week
They can be made in a variety of ways. You can add veggies to the meat, eggs, and cheese to also sneak in some extra nutrients. If you prefer you can skip the meat and make this a vegetarian dish. Egg whites can also be substituted for whole eggs to lower the calories, fat, and cholesterol for the recipe. Best of all, you can customize them several different ways and bake them all at the same time. This way everyone in the house gets them made to their liking.
Scrambled egg muffins are a favorite for meal prepping before a busy week.
Scrambled Egg Muffins Recipe
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Precook any meat that you would like to add to your cups.
- Dice any veggies that you would like to add to your cups.
- Spray your 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray.
- Add your meat and veggies evenly to the bottom of each cup of the muffin pan.
- Scramble your eggs and add your optional seasonings.
- Pour your eggs evenly into each cup of the muffin pan.
- Evenly top the cups with the shredded cheese
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until completely cooked
1 cup shredded cheese
Seasonings (salt, pepper, garlic powder)
Meats(sausage, bacon, ham)
Veggies (onions, peppers, tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms)
5 WAYS TO BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
Unfortunately, our health is something that we put on the back burner. It’s important, but it’s not usually considered urgent. That is until there is a scare of unusual proportions that takes over our thoughts and feelings. You know, like when we can’t get it out of our mind. It takes over our thoughts and emotions. It’s at the center of our conversations. It may seem overwhelming, but what if I told you that there is a way to minimize your risks. I want to let you in on some simple tips for you to boost your immune system.
Maybe you or someone close to you has recently been diagnosed with a life threatening condition (heart disease, cancer, etc). Currently, we are in the middle of a global health crisis as a result of the coronavirus, COVID-19. People are going to stores buying as many goods as possible as the fear for the worst.
While I am not an infectious disease expert (I’ll leave that for the CDC and World Health Organization), I do have more knowledge than most when it comes to staying healthy. And while our health is something we should always make a priority, it seems now more than ever it should be a topic of discussion.
Boost Your Immune System With Adequate Sleep
Chances are you aren’t getting enough quality sleep. In today’s busy world we are working more than ever and very few people are getting the sleep their bodies require to function optimally.
According to the Mayo clinic, “people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to virus. Lack of sleep can effect how fast you recover if you do get sick.”
During sleep your body can prioritize the production and release of disease fighting cells and antibodies, and other proteins that can fight infection. When you reduce the amount of sleep you get, you are reducing your ability to fight any pathogens that may be causing you to get sick.
Daily Exercise Can Help
In addition to helping reduce the likelihood of chronic diseases while strengthening our bones and muscles, several theories point to exercise to assist the immune system in fighting infectious diseases.
While we don’t exactly know how our bodies do this the U.S. National Library of Medicine points to several of the theories that scientists are working to prove.
It is believed that physical exercise will assist the body in flushing bacteria out of the lungs and airways. Anyone who has exercised with a slight cold has experienced this firsthand. Yes, it’s gross when you must get rid of excess phlegm and gunk but it’s better than having it linger in your body.
Another theory points to the increase in your core body temperature during exercise. Much like how a fever works to limit the ability of bacteria and viruses to grow and reproduce in the body, when your body heats up during exercise you slow down pathogens so your cells and antibodies can fight those that currently exist.
If you are looking to for ides on how to build fitness into your daily schedule (if if you are short on time, money, energy, etc) be sure to check out this article.
Foods To Boost Your Immune System
A well-balanced diet is key to helping boost your body’s ability to fight infection. Several studies have been published promoting the fact that foods rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients can boost your immune system.
Dark green veggies such as broccoli, kale, spinach, and collard greens are a great source of key nutrients. In addition, brightly colored veggies such as peppers, cabbage, and squash are also nutrient dense. Berries and citrus fruits are great sources of key vitamins, antioxidants, and phytonutrients that have been shown to help fight infections.
Not sure where to get started? Check out our 30 Day Clean Eating Challenge.
Lower Your Stress Levels
Chronic stress is something that is plaguing our society today. When our body is under stress, our cortisol levels are increased. From a survival standpoint this is a good thing. Cortisol is our “fight-or-flight” hormone that increases our ability to get away from danger. However, cortisol suppresses immune function among other systems of the body. So, while a short dose of cortisol can be beneficial, high levels for an extended period can have a negative effect on the body.
While there isn’t a magic “off” switch in our bodies, there are ways to manage our stress levels. Exercise (see #2) has been shown to lower our stress levels by releasing feel-good chemicals into our bloodstream. In addition, activities such as focusing on a hobby, mediation, or even unwinding with your favorite show on Netflix will help you relax and lower your stress levels.
Fill In The Gaps With Immune Boosting Supplements
In addition to eating plenty of nutrient dense whole foods, there are several herbs and supplements that have been shown to help your body fight infection. One powerful antiviral herb I take daily through my superfood shake is astragalous root. It has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries to boost immune health. A 2004 study concluded the same results.
Adding herbs to foods, shakes, teas, and essential oils have all been shown as effective ways to help boost your body’s natural defenses against infection.
With the threat of disease always looming, people are looking for ways to stay healthy. Preventative measures such as washing your hands before eating or handling food, avoiding contact with sick individuals, and overall good hygiene should be the foundation for not getting sick. In addition, following the above 5 recommendations will help boost your immune system to minimize the effects of pathogens.