Category Archives: Nutrition

Does Fish Oil Cause Prostate Cancer?

There’s been a lot of hullabaloo recently about a study concerning fish oil and prostate cancer. If the breathless reporting can be believed, consuming fish oil increased your chances of prostate cancer.

This could be true, but the study in question did not show that at all.


The Study In Question

This will get science-heavy. If it’s too heavy for you, just skip to the next section.

In short, this study initially looked at participants of the SELECT trial and got a sample of persons who were diagnosed with prostate cancer (n=834) and made note of how many had advanced cancer (n=156), then 1393 persons from the SELECT study who did not have prostate cancer were selected for comparison. The researchers then measured serum omega-3 fatty acids (EPA, DHA, and their intermediate DPA) and stratified the groups into quartiles to see if there was an association.

The results showed that persons who had prostate cancer were more likely to have higher circulating omega-3 fatty acid levels (excluding ALA, which was not associated) and that omega-6 was unrelated to prostate cancer. Trans fatty acids were mostly unrelated aside from a possible positive relationship with palmitelaidic acid (16:1). When comparing the quartiles against one another (the lowest quartile being set at 1.00 as a reference), the highest levels of fish based omega-3 fatty acids (collectively) was associated with increased risk as assessed by Hazard Ratio for low (1.07-1.40), medium (1.07-1.43), and high (1.00-1.54) grade prostate cancer. While DHA had an HR showing an association with low (1.07-1.37), medium (1.06-1.38), and high (1.03-1.54) grade prostate cancer, DPA was only associated with low (1.03-1.46) and medium (1.08-1.57) while EPA was not significantly associated with an increased risk. Alpha-linolenic acid, omega-6 fatty acids, and trans fatty acids were not related.

Note: The above ranges are known as the 95% confidence interval, and show the range of values that the researchers are 95% confident that the true value lies in. So for a range of 1.03-1.54 this means a possible 3-54% increase (with a 5% margin for error), and if the interval crosses 1.00 (the zero point where lower means reduced risk) then the observation is not considered significant

When adjusting for the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, it seems that the HRs for low (0.98-1.36) and medium (0.97-1.36) grade prostate cancer became nonsignificant while there was still a significant relation with the high (1.40; 1.03-1.92) grade. The average value here, 1.40, may be where media sources are claiming a 40% increase in prostate cancer risk. The ’71%’ referenced in most publications was a direct comparison of the risk in the highest quartile against the lowest (with a confidence interval of 0-192%) with a 43% (9-88%) overall increase in risk.

Important Note: The actual association for people with high-grade prostate was in the range of 3% to 92% – this gets averaged to 40%. When comparing the highest quartile (25% of sample) to the lowest, the average risk was increased to 71% but became more variable at 0-192%.

The variables that were made note of in the analysis were education, history of diabetes, family history of prostate cancer, and SELECT intervention assignment (so, placebo or vitamin E groups). So despite the increased risk seen with vitamin E previously in SELECT it likely does not influence the results.

This study found that, when comparing the lowest 25% of subjects (assessed by how much fish oil was in their blood) against the highest 25% that the higher group had a higher frequency of prostate cancer at the time of measurement. They conducted a one-time measurement of blood lipids, and there was no supplemental intervention

What This Means

First of all, the study was a retrospective study. What that means is that it heavily surveyed a lot of people – about what they ate, their lifestyle, their diet, and so forth. The problem with such a study is that trusting people’s memories tends to be a bad idea – people’s recall of their dietary and fitness habits can be quite awful.

Thus, as this was a retrospective study, it was not an intervention with a control/placebo group and a drug group. What does this mean? Normally you want a double-blind trial – half your test group takes a placebo, and the other half takes your drug (in this case, fish oil). No one, not even the people running the test, know who is taking what. All things being the same, you then see if there were differences between the two groups. Without this kind of explicit control, it’s hard to know what caused what (cause and effect is very important). This is extremely critical as one of the recommended things to do when you have prostate cancer is to supplement with fish oil! To be fair, there are ethical considerations, so you cannot directly induce cancer either!

Most importantly, this study simply measured the amount of omega 3s in the bloodstream, not fish oil consumption itself!

The real question that this study poses is why is there higher omega 3s in people with more aggressive prostate cancer? Is it because people are supplementing with fish oil? Is it your body’s response to the cancer? Or is something else going on?

We don’t know. But to state that fish oil causes prostate cancer is about as lazy reporting as you can get (though it is equally wrong to say that fish oil does not cause prostate cancer).

Author: Sol Orwell

Sol is an author at






10 Must-Have Vegetables To Build Muscle And Strength Fast

We all know muscles aren’t built by vegging out on the couch or by spending more time in the kitchen than at the gym. Also, most people probably don’t associate vegetables with muscle building and strengthening, but it’s true. This article reviews 10 vegetables you can eat to enhance muscle growth and strength.



Not only is kale affordable, it is a low-calorie vegetable rich in calcium, roughly 101 mg in 1 cup (67 g). Calcium is an important nutrient for maintaining strong bones. But, more importantly, calcium is needed for muscles to move and for nerves to carry signals between the brain and the rest of the body.

According to the National Institutes of Health, recommended daily calcium amounts for adults 19-50 years old is 1,000 mg and can be safely consumed up to 2,500 mg. Excessive calcium intake, above the limit, may interfere with zinc and iron absorption in the body. [1]

Because calcium regulates muscle contractions and strengthens bone foundations, weight lifters consume it in high amounts to resist injury during physical exercise. [2]

Kale is a great start to get daily calcium amounts, especially since many weight lifters avoid other calcium sources like milk. This is because they are concerned that milk in calcium-beneficial amounts will pack on body fat.


Broccoli contains indoles, a phytochemical that metabolizes excess estrogen into safer forms which inhibit prostate cancer cell proliferation. Broccoli is also great for lowering cholesterol, which prevents cardiovascular disease and provides cardiovascular support.

Calcium and vitamin D are also important nutrients found in broccoli, 70 mg and 922 IU per serving (148 g), respectively. These nutrients enhance skeletal muscle strength and performance.

Four volunteers deficient in vitamin D were supplemented with vitamin D (60,000 IU/month) and 1 g elemental calcium per day. Research reveals 6 months supplementation led to enhanced muscle strength and physical performance. [3]

Mushrooms are a vegetable also high in vitamin D, so steam broccoli and throw in some mushrooms for a healthy meal that aids in healthy muscle development and contractions.


Beets are high in potassium, magnesium, fiber, and many vitamins. Beets also add the extra kick you need during weight lifting and aerobic training, due to its sugar content.

Beetroot juice, in particular, is clinically proven to boost stamina by allowing users to exercise 16% longer. [4] Beetroot juice reduces oxygen uptake “to an extent that cannot be achieved by any other known means, including training,” says one scientist.

A research team came to this conclusion by conducting a clinical study involving 12 men. Before they were put under a series of cycling tests, each man received 140 ml organic beetroot juice or a placebo for 6 days. Time-trial performance and power output improved in athletes who consumed beets. [5]


Glycogen levels become depleted during intense workouts. Carbohydrates in potatoes are excellent sources to refuel depleted glycogen storage. [6]

Not only are potatoes great energy sources, they are also excellent sources of fiber. Eating enough fiber increases satiety and keeps your waistline in check to ensure for visual muscular growth results, and not fat. [6]

Potatoes are also great sources of vitamin B6, a substance required for more than 100 enzymatic reactions. Protein and amino acid building blocks require vitamin B6 for their synthesis. Approximately 21 % of the daily value of vitamin B6 comes from 1 cup baked potato. [7]



Garlic is a great way to increase testosterone levels when supplemented with protein.

One animal study indicates 25% protein diets with .8 g/100 garlic powder increased testosterone in the testis. [8]

This is relevant because testosterone production, in turn, enhances muscular strength and size.

In one clinical study lasting 10 weeks, researchers administered testosterone injections (100mg/week) to men who weren’t able to produce hormones. The testosterone injections enhanced fat-free mass, strength, and muscle size. [9]

Though you might not be getting as much testosterone as the clinical study, any production is better than none.


Beans are great meat alternatives due to high protein content, as high as 15.2 g per cup (black beans). Eating beans supplies much-needed nutrients to repair muscles after a workout, and you won’t have to worry about high levels of saturated and trans fat that you would normally get in equal amounts of animal-based protein.

Beans are also excellent iron sources, and iron is considered “one of the most critical minerals with implications for sports performance.” Iron is a component of hemoglobin, myoglobin, and other enzymes in the muscles cells responsible for metabolizing and transporting oxygen during endurance exercises. [10]

Your muscles can grow and repair by eating beans. So eat them plain, in a salad, or throw them in some tacos.


Considered a vegetable by the USDA, avocados are excellent protein sources, roughly 3-4 g per cup, adding a variety to your protein consumption. Not only do avocados enhance muscle recovery, making your muscles bigger, but they also offer 10 g dietary fiber, increasing satiety. [11]

Avocados are also rich in phytonutrients which combat heart disease and cancers. Additionally, avocado consumption leads to a healthy heart, as it is rich in monounsaturated fats that lower blood pressure. [12]

Eat an avocado by itself post-workout to optimize muscle growth, or add it in different foods like salads or burgers for extra protein.


Cauliflowers are important due to omega-3 fatty acid content. Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial to muscle growth.

In one study, 16 healthy older adults were given either omega-3 fatty acids or a placebo for 8 weeks. Researchers evaluated muscle protein synthesis before and after supplementation and discovered the group supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids experienced an increase in muscle protein synthesis. [13]

There is also 2 g dietary fiber per 100 g cauliflower, which increases satiety, combating excessive calorie and fat intake that could cover up your shredded muscle growth.

Green Peppers

Green peppers are yet another great vegetable vitamin C source that guarantees healthy muscle contraction. There is about 532 mg vitamin C per 1 ounce of green pepper.

Also, vitamin C reduces muscle soreness, damage, and function from exercise. In one clinical study, 18 men were given either 3 g/day vitamin C or a placebo 2 weeks prior and 4 days after performing 70 eccentric elbow extensions with their non-dominant arm. Both groups experienced muscle soreness, but the vitamin C group experienced significantly less. [14]

Green peppers are low in calories and can be eaten in a various ways. Mix up your plate and maybe even stuff green peppers with other vegetables for healthier, stronger muscles.

Butternut Squash

Butternut squash is another starchy vegetable to consume post-workout because of its carbohydrate content, which replenishes depleted muscle glycogen storage.

Carbohydrates serve as the body’s main energy source. Medical authorities note it is important to consume carbohydrates as soon as you finish working out because “delaying the ingestion of a carbohydrate supplement post-exercise will result in a reduced rate of muscle glycogen storage.” [15]

And, while still preliminary, animal studies are showing vitamin A is important for protein turnover, development, and growth. Being deficiency in vitamin A may cause a shift from fatty acids to protein catabolism as an energy source, resulting in muscle breakdown. [16]

Author Bio:

Mike Jackson is nutritional consultant at, as well as a freelance writer in the field of health and fitness. He specializes in physique transformation and contest preparation for all levels of competition.


[1] “Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Calcium.” National Institutes of Health. Available from:

[2] A G Szent-Gyorgyi. “Calcium Regulation of muscle contraction.” Biophysical Journal. 1975 July; 15(7): 707-723. Available from:

[3] Gupta R. et al. “Effect of cholecalciferol and calcium supplementation on muscle strength and energy metabolism in vitamin D-deficient Asian Indians: a randomized, controlled trial.” Clin Endocrinol (oxf). 2012 Oct;73(4):445-51. Doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2265.2010.03816.x. Available from:

[4] “Beetroot juice boosts stamina, new study shows.” University of Exeter. 6 August 2009. Available from:

[5] Naomi M. Cermak, Martin J. Gibala, and Luc J.C. van Loon. “Nitrate Supplementation’s Improvement of 10km Time-Trial Performance in Trained Cyclists.” Internation Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 2012, 22, 64-71. Available from:

[6] “5 Health Benefits of Potatoes.” Available from:

[7] Available from:

[8] Oi Y. et al. “Garlic supplementation increases testicular testosterone and decreases plasma corticosterone in rats fed a high protein diet.”J Nutr 2001 Aug: 131(8):2150-6. Available from:

[9] Bhasin S. et al. “Testosterone replacement increases fat-free mass and muscle size in hypogonadal men.” J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1997 Feb;82(2):407-13. Available from:

[10] Melvin H. Williams. “Dietary Supplements and Sports Performance: Minerals.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2005, 2:43-49. Doi: doi:10.1186/1550-2783-2-1-43

[11] “Eating Avocados to Gain Muscle and Lose Weight.” April 7, 2011. Available from:

[12] PF Louis. “Ten delicious health benefits of eating more avocado.” April 14, 2013. Available from:

[13] Smith GI et al. “Dietary omega-3 fatty acid supplementation increases the rate of muscle protein synthesis in older adults: a randomized controlled trial.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Feb;93(2):402-12. Doi: 10.3945/ajcn.110.005611. Epub 2010 Dec 15. Available from:

[14] Bryer SC, Goldfarb AH. “Effect of high dose vitamin C supplementation on muscle soreness, damage, function, and oxidative stress to eccentric exercise.” Int. J. Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2006 Jun;16(3):270-80. Available from:

[15] Ivy JL et al. “Muscle glycogen synthesis after exercise: effect of time of carbohydrate ingestion.” J. Appl. Physiol. 1988 Apr;64(4):1480-5. Available from:

[16] Esteban-Pretel G et al. “Vitamin A deficiency increases protein catabolism and induces urea cycle enzymes in rats.” J Nutr. 2010 Apr;140(4):792-8. Doi: 10.3945/jn.109.119388. Epub 2010 Feb 24. Available from:

Pre-Workout Supplementation

One of the questions I am most frequently asked by my athletes is regarding supplements. Do I need them? Do they work? Are they safe? In my opinion, any athlete or person who trains hard and eats correctly can benefit immensely from proper supplementation. There are so many supplements available today that the selection can be at times overwhelming.

Do you want to increase your endurance during workouts? Decrease your recovery time between workouts? Increase strength gain? Increase fat-loss? Effective supplementation can augment your efforts in the gym and in the kitchen, helping you push yourself and your results to the next level.

However, for every great supplement, there are ten that are completely useless and will do nothing but lighten your wallet. Stay away from the flavor of the month “fad supplements”. As in training, the basics are most always the most effective options. As a rule of thumb, if the name of the product contains hardcore, xtreme, or any combination of the two, stay away. If the product is compared to anabolic steroids, stay away. Companies are developing new formulas seemingly everyday, many of which are based on completely useless ingredients. One of the most hyped supplements on the market today has its main ingredient as the extract of an orange tree. Of course it’s not called orange tree extract, instead an extensive chemical name is used to mislead the consumer. If the supplement contains one large proprietary blend with none of the actual amounts of the ingredients disclosed, you can be fairly certain that the key ingredients are under-dosed. Once you eliminate all of the advertising noise, we can get down to what we really need.


What do I need?

The very basics of supplementation include a training aide to prime the body for intense activity, a high-quality absorbable multi-vitamin/mineral to fill micronutrient gaps and allow the body to function properly, and lastly a protein powder if necessary to meet your nutritional needs. These are essentials for anyone looking to transform their body and perform at their best. This article is focusing on one of the above aspects; the pre-workout window.


When you are preparing to workout, the right supplementation can take a good workout, and make it an amazing workout. If you are really serious about getting results, then you have to approach every workout with the mindset that it is going to be the best workout you’ve ever had. An effective pre-workout supplement can do this by increasing your strength, endurance, focus, and energy. Many pre-workout products are really just glorified energy drinks. These products are heavily advertised and poorly designed They often contain 30-40 ingredients that you’ve never heard of, and they are loaded with cheap stimulants like low grade caffeine to trick you into thinking you feel something.

A good pre-workout supplement will contain one of more of: CreaPure, CarnoSyn, Carnitine, designer carbohydrate, and BCAA. These are the things that the body can utilize to get more out of each training session. CreaPure(creatine) has been proven in numerous studies to increase strength and lean mass1 Carnitine supplementation has been shown to increase fatty acid oxidation and improve body composition2 CarnoSyn(Beta-Alanine) has been shown to increase endurance, reduce lactic acid build up, and improve exercise capacity among trained athletes. Utilizing research-supported ingredients, at the correct, full dosages is the calling card of a great pre-workout supplement. Beware of products using proprietary blends with 20-30 ingredients; this is a red flag for a company under-dosing ingredients to create a more impressive ingredient list.

Be aware

As much as a great pre-workout supplement can aid your training, the trouble sometime is finding these great supplements. The market is filled with mediocre and low-grade products that are based on designer stimulants.

The key ingredient in many popular pre-workouts, the designer stimulant, DMAA (1,3-dimethylamylamine) has been banned by Health Canada and many of these popular products have been recalled as a result.4 The FDA has not taken action yet, but they will shortly. It is important to choose your products carefully, and to demand that your products are tested for safety, purity, and effectiveness.

When we train, we set the stage for the physique and performance changes that we are striving for. Our nutrition allows the changes to take place. If this is the equation for changing out bodies, than a pre-workout supplement’s place is as a multiplier on the training variable. The harder you train, the more benefit you can reap from each workout. So, if you’re not already, consider using a pre-workout supplement and see how it can make your next session and everyone after that the best one you’ve ever had.

Author: Sean Torbati

Sean is the owner/founder of the HPN supplement line.



[2] The Effect of L-Carnitine on Fat Oxidation, Protein Turnover, and Body Composition in Slightly Overweight Subjects Klaus D. Wutzke and Henrik Lorenz

[3] Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011 Mar 10. [Epub ahead of print] Effect of B-Alanine plus Sodium Bicarbonate on High-Intensity Cycling Capacity. Sale C, Saunders B, Hudson S, Wise JA, Harris RC, Sunderland CD.

[4] Drug Recall Listings – Health Canada

The Benefits of Milk

Milk is by far one of the best food sources for any athlete to consume. It’s rich in protein and nutrients such as vitamin A & B, calcium, zinc, magnesium, and also contains insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) a hormone that has been shown to accelerate growth in mammals. Since the days of Reg Park milk has been a staple in weight lifters diets due to the simple fact it works.



IGF-1 is a hormone that is similar to the structure of insulin. It plays a vital role for growth during childhood and continues to have anabolic effects (muscle building) into adult years. When your pituitary gland produces HGH(human growth hormone) your liver responds by producing more IGF-1(IGF-1 is the anabolic component of HGH) . With these increased levels we see increases in muscle regeneration, strength, size, and efficiency. In fact it has growth-promoting effects on almost every cell in the body, especially skeletal muscle, cartilage, bone, liver, kidney, nerves, skin, hematopoietic cell, and lungs. The average adult who drinks a lot of milk will have about 20-30 percent more IGF-1 circulating in their system than someone who does not. Normally because IGF-1 is an amino-based hormone the majority of it would be broken down by the digestive system, however the casein protein (which makes up 80% of milk) in the milk creates a protease inhibitor which shields IGF-1 from being degraded.

“milk is one of the best muscle foods on the planet. You see, the protein in milk is about 20 percent whey and 80 percent casein… it’s ideal for providing your body with a steady supply of smaller amounts of protein for a longer period of time, like between meals or while you sleep. Since milk provides both, one big glass gives your body an ideal combination of muscle-building proteins.”- Alan Aragon


Insulin causes cells in the liver, muscle, and fat tissue to take up glucose from the blood, storing it as glycogen in the liver and muscle. Glycogen is just essentially stored energy and when needed is broken down through a process known as glycogenolysis. Insulin is produced naturally by the pancreas, and if timed correctly, causing insulin spikes intentionally is very beneficial to strength and muscle growth. Even though Milk has a low-glycemic-index number, it still has a high insulin stimulating effect. The lactose is converted to galactose (a blood sugar similar to glucose) and into glucose itself, which causes the insulin spikes. The whey protein also contributes to this insulin response.

Adding just 200 milliliters of milk to a low-glycemic-index meal raises the insulin response three fold (300%). Increased insulin speeds the entry of amino acids into muscle cells and increases protein synthesis which results in an anticatabolic(non-muscle wasting) muscle environment. This effect combined with the slow digesting casein protein produces the optimum muscle building opportunity. Insulin also helps to rapidly replenish muscle glycogen(stored glucose which is used for energy) which is extremely important after exercise. Studies show drinking milk after a workout increases recovery efficiency more-so than ingesting any protein or sports drink. In fact low-fat chocolate milk has been shown to replenish and refuel muscles better than any sports drink according to Michael J. Saunders, Ph.D., of James Madison University. This is due to the fact the insulin spike is combined with carbs and rapidly shuttles glycogen back into the muscle cells.

Chocolate milk

Low-fat chocolate milk contains 9 essentialchocolate milk
nutrients, some of which are typically not found in recovery drinks. Among these are calcium and vitamin D which reduce the risk of stress fractures. It also replenishes electrolytes as it naturally includes calcium, potassium, sodium and magnesium which are lost while sweating during exercise. Electrolytes are vital because they are what your cells use to carry electrical impulses (muscle contractions) across themselves and to other cells. Chocolate milk also serves for re-hydration purposes as it is a nutrient-laden liquid(milk is made up of about 90% water) that helps you rehydrate. Although these studies have been done on low-fat chocolate milk there is no reason to believe whole chocolate milk will not have the same, or better effects. We know this to be true with regular milk.

“The fat adds more calories and it’s all about calories. The fat also plays an important role in the delivery of certain nutrients and regulation of the body’s hormones. There are other factors at play with what drinking Whole milk does to body composition too. Though I’m not privy to the science behind it, I am sure of the results.”- Alan Aragon

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it gets broken down with the help of lipids (fats) and gets stored in the liver. Low levels of vitamin D are linked to low blood testosterone. An Austrian study showed the supplementing vitamin D (3,000iu per day) for one year increased testosterone by 20% and the biologically active free testosterone by 17%. Milk contains 100iu in an 8 0z glass or 1600iu per gallon and is one of the best food sources for vitamin D, second only to fish such as salmon. Vitamin D also promotes calcium and phosphate absorption in the gut, which translates into greater bone health and helps the body store/use energy more efficiently. It is also a cancer fighting agent as it promotes cellular differentiation (differentiated cells are needed to perform specialized functions effectively), and slows down the rate at which cells multiply. Rheumatoid arthritis, kidney disease, and fatigue have all been linked to deficient levels of vitamin D.

Addressing the Estrogen Phenomenon

In recent years there has been a lot of rumors that the positive effects of milk are counteracted by the estrogen contained within it. Although dairy farm practices have contributed to the increased amount of this hormone found in the milk, the amount is still insignificant to have any negative effects. The average man produces 136,000 nanograms of estrogen per day, which is more than you would get from drinking seven gallons of milk.


Gilson SF, et al “Effects of chocolate milk consumption on markers of muscle recovery during intensified soccer training” ACSM 2009.

Cockburn E, Hayes PR, French DN, Stevenson E, St Clair Gibson A. Acute milk-based protein-CHO supplementation attenuates exercise-induced muscle damage. Applied Physiology, Nutrition & Metabolism. 2008;33:775-783.

Cockburn E, Stevenson E, Hayes PR, Robson-Ansley P, Howatson G, Effect of milk-based carbohydrate-protein supplement timing on the attenuation of exercise-induced muscular damage. Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism. 2010;35:270-277.

Karfonta KE, Lunn WR, Colletto MR, Anderson JM, Rodriguez NR. Chocolate milk enhances glycogen replenishment after endurance exercise in moderately trained males. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2010;42:S64.

Sawka MN, Montain SJ. Fluid and electrolyte supplementation for exercise heat stress. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2000;72:564S-572S.

Miura, Y.; Kato, H.; Noguchi, T. (2007). “Effect of dietary proteins on insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) messenger ribonucleic acid content in rat liver”. British Journal of Nutrition 67 (2): 257.

Farlow, D.W., et al. (2009). Quantitative measurement of endogenous estrogen metabolites, risk factors for development of breast cancer, in commercial milk products by LC-MS/MS. J Chromto B. 877(13):1327-1334.

Hormone and metabolic research Hormon und Stoffwechselforschung Hormones et metabolisme (2011)
Volume: 43, Issue: 3, Pages: 223-225


Creatine is a naturally occurring nitrogenous organic acid in vertebrates that helps supply energy to all cells in the body, primarily muscle. 95% of the creatine in your body is stored in muscle tissue in the form of phosphocreatine, or more popularly known as creatine phosphate. Creatine is produced naturally by the body in the liver, pancreas, and kidneys and reaches your muscles through the bloodstream. Once there it recycles your bodies energy source ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) to improve exercise performance, increase energy levels, and increase your rate of recovery.

ATP is also known as the “molecular unit of currency” because it is the way cells use and store energy. When a cell needs energy ATP turns into ADP (Adenosine diphosphate) to give it the fuel it needs. Any leftover ADP is then turned back into ATP for later usage. Creatine not only gives your muscles more ATP (stored energy) to begin with, but it also helps recycle the ADP and turn it back into ATP during exercise where ATP is crucial. Creatine can also help buffer lactic acid build-up in the muscles during exercise(known as “the burn”).

There are three biochemical systems in the muscle in which energy comes from. The phosphagen system, the glycogen lactic acid system, and aerobic respiration. The phosphagen system is what weight lifters and sprinters use, and is for high intensity training. The other two are for things like swimming and running a marathon and do not do much for weight lifters.

Phosphagen System

The phosphagen system is sometimes referred to as “the immediate energy system” because it dictates your bodies ability to initiate high intensity activities. Your muscle cell only has enough readily available ATP to sustain an average of three seconds of such activity. To replenish these levels your body needs creatine phosphate. The creatine phosphate combines with the ADP(used and uncharged energy) through a reaction started by an enzyme called creatine kinase and rapidly turns the ADP back into ATP. As the work load continues creatine phosphate levels decrease in parallel with ATP resulting in failure and fatigue. With the help of the phosphagen system high intensity activity can be sustained for up to ten seconds, beyond that point assistance from other energy sources is needed.

The average person holds 3.5 grams of creatine per kilogram of muscle(4-6 times the amount of ATP), which makes creatine phosphate the dominate source of immediate energy. When supplementing with creatine you can bring those levels from 3.5g to 5g if taken properly. You can do a “loading phase” which drops off into a steady rate of ingestion, or you can just ingest it at a steady rate from the get-go. The loading phase only helps you achieve quicker results, as once your muscle cells are full any excess creatine is converted to the waste product creatinine and excreted.

Phosphate System

The Loading Phase

For a week take 20-30 grams of creatine spaced throughout the day. You can mix it with non-acidic juice(grape juice is recommended) or water. Studies have shown taking creatine with a meal full of high glycemic index carbohydrates(such as pasta and bread)can increase its effectiveness up to 36%. When you consume simple sugars it spikes insulin which helps transport creatine and protein into the muscles. After the first week you then drop down to taking only 5 grams a day, which since you loaded is enough to maintain those peak levels.

The Maintenance Phase

With this approach you simply start off by taking 5 grams everyday, perhaps a little more if you hold more muscle mass and feel as if 5 grams isn’t working for you. Typically anybody less than 180 pounds only needs 5 grams. Do this for 2-3 months and take a month off before supplementing with creatine again. Even though there are no studies that show you should cycle or go off of it, it may be a good idea to give your kidneys a break.

Research now shows that creatine also plays an important role in the brain. It provides energy for proper neuronal functioning and makes neurons more resilient to trauma and disease. There is a direct correlation to neurodegenerative developmental disorders(impairment of the growth and development of the brain or central nervous system) and decreased levels of creatine. It has also been shown to increase IQ and combat mental fatigue.

Cited Scientific Reference:
Watanabe A. et al. (2002) Effect of creatine on mental fatigue and cerebral hemoglobin oxygenation. Neuroscience Research, Volume 42, pages 279–285.

Conversely, it appears that lower brain creatine levels compromises cognitive function. That is, mice lacking the brain form of creatine kinase (the enzyme that converts creatine into phosphocreatine) were slower at learning mazes.