Creatine – Does it Really Increase Strength?

//Creatine – Does it Really Increase Strength?

This debate started for me years ago in college, when I was playing Division I soccer.  Every athlete is looking for that competativce edge over his opponent.  I was no different. I wanted to be faster, stronger, leaner, and more muscular than the other soccer players. “What would help me get there?” was the question I asked.  I wanted to be stronger, and creatine inevitably entered into the discussions in the weight room with the other players, and the baseball and football players we worked out next too.  I wanted the results.  So I started to look into what it actually was.

What is Creatine?

Creatine is an amino acid which the body naturally manufactures in the liver and kidneys.  It then sends it to the muscle tissue with water attached to it, and thus is an important component of proper muscle hydration.  Increasing the concentration of creatine in muscle tissue increases the water content and by doing so plumps up the muscle, making it larger in appearance.  Creatine can also increase the strength of muscle contractions, which may give an athlete a feeling of greater strength.  This is what many body builders are going for — the appearance of larger muscles and a feeling of increased strength.

Because of this short term effect — temporary increase in strength of muscle contractions — athletes involved in activities involving short term bursts of energy, such as power weightlifting, sprint-type running, football, basketball, etc., seem to derive benefit.  However, there is no significant evidence that creatine increases long term muscular endurance or provides long term benefit.

Taking creatine supplements results in something of an illusion.  Muscles plumped up with water, making them look bigger, isn’t the same thing as an actual increase in the number of muscle cells in a muscle.  And having stronger muscle contractions isn’t the same thing as long term inherent strength which comes from an actual increase in the number of muscle cells in a muscle.

Because creatine increases the body’s water requirements, creatine supplementation can lead to an ironic combination of adverse water retention in some parts of the body — it is common to gain several pounds of water weight within the first week of creatine supplementation — and very serious dehydration at the same time.  Taking high doses of creatine without adequate water intake right before an intense workout can lead to very serious dehydration effects — including increased risk of damage to the liver and kidneys.  The long term health risks of creatine supplementation are unknown and have never been studied.

These are some extreme examples!

So What’s the Alternative if You Want to Develop Stronger Muscles?

Dr. Jim Whittam, head of Shaklee science, research, and development in the 1990s, and president of the company for a short time, presided over many great Shaklee advancements, including the joint venture that Shaklee had for about 5 years with Stanford University — called Shaklee Technica.  Out of this venture came some of the company’s most powerful products — Immunity Formula I, Optiflora, the original Joint Health Complex, Physique, PhytoFem (now called Menopause Balance Complex), and AstroAde (which is made by Shaklee exclusively for and sold to NASA for use by astronauts in the space program, to help deal with the unique physical requirements of long-term weightlessness). Many of these products are now used by Olympic athletes around the country.

Led by Jim Whittam, Shaklee commissioned their own independent clinical trials in human subjects with creatine because they had gotten so much pressure from those in the nutrition field asking for a Shaklee creatine-type product. This study found that the results were disappointing and not up to the hype that creatine was receiving from other companies.  Instead, Shaklee decided to develop a very precisely balanced combination of protein and carbohydrates (referred to as Shaklee “BioBuild”) that maximizes the anabolic (i.e., muscle building and recovery) state.  This BioBuild combination became the foundation for the product Physique.  Independent clinical testing then demonstrated that Physique with BioBuild was far more effective in athletic outcome than any results ever demonstrated for creatine.

Increases in muscle mass may occur when taking creatine simply because the short term muscle contraction-strengthening effects of creatine supplementation results in harder, longer workouts.  But research has demonstrated that the increased muscle mass is actually the result of the harder, longer workout, not the direct result of the creatine itself.  Just taking creatine without the workout ultimately provided no benefit.

[Compare this to Shaklee’s clinical results that found that just drinking a serving of Physique once a day for 60 days resulted in a significant increase in muscle tone for nursing home-bound subjects with no increase in physical activity whatsoever.  Every subject in the study saw measurable improvement in muscle tone (as measured by actual MRI scanning) — with no change in physical activity, diet, or any other factor.]

Instead of creating the illusion of greater strength and muscle mass with creatine supplementation, how much greater is the long term benefit of the real increases in muscle mass, muscle tone, and long term strength and endurance from taking the clinically-developed, clinically-proven precise balance of complex protein/amino acids and carbohydrates found in Shaklee Physique.  With this precise combination of protein and carbohydrates, the body will make all the natural creatine it needs and in harmony and balance with all the body’s systems, rather than out of balance leading to potential risks.

What I Decided

Everyone is going for a different “look” and has a different goal.  If yours is long-term muscle strength, as well as good tone and size, consider using Physique verse Creatine. You may get the bulky muscles with Creatine, but as mentioned above, they are swollen with water and often do not include the strength to go along with the size.  As a D1 athlete, I saw too many friends do things to their body that took them years to recover from.  I decided early on in college that I didn’t want to sacrifice that competitive edge, but I still wanted the results.  So I chose to go with Physique.  That and the Performance hydration drink got me through 3-A-Day practices, 90 minutes of sprinting on a soccer field, and has carried me into my 30s and I can say I’m in better shape now than I was even in college!

1 Comment

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