Creatine, Beta Alanine & CLA

Sport supplementation is as popular as it’s ever been. More people are ‘taking this’ or ‘swear by that’. But where do they get their info on a particular supplement?

Is it based on which has the best ads in a fitness training magazine? Or is the product recommended or endorsed by the reigning Mr. Olympia? Or maybe even an Olympic champion?

Maybe the person at the local health food store is friendly, healthy looking and seems knowledgeable? They’re there to help, right?

Where does the research factor into the search for safe and effective sports supplements? And if we are going to look at the research than which studies count? Do they have to run a minimum length of time to show a physiological adaptation? Should they include a minimum number of test subjects? Should these subjects be young? Old? Male? Female? Athletes? Sedentary? Healthy? Diseased?

Is the research even on human subjects? Or what if it is using rats?

And does it matter who funded the research?

There are enough questions there regarding research in the primary literature to make your head spin.

And that’s assuming the reader has a background in science and statistics as well as the time to break down all the studies out there.

That eliminates 99% of us, doesn’t it?

And it makes most of us a little more vulnerable to all the ads, marketing and pitches to get us to buy this and take that.

If only there was a better solution. A place where someone in the know could break down the science into small manageable and easily understood recommendations for all the various supplements that exist.

Guess what? There is such a place. And it’s called examine.com. This is my go-to resource for anything related to sports supplementation. But don’t my word for it. Go check it out.

And if you like what they’re doing sports supplementation then you’ll definitely want to check out the Examine.com Research Review. This is a monthly subscription covering all the hot topics with respect to nutritional research.

So if you’re someone who:

* Wants to know what the research says about a particular diet or food

* Doesn’t have the time to do all this research themselves

* Recognizes the benefits of quality nutrition on health & performance

than you’ll want to check out the Examine.com Research Review.

But carrying on with the topic of sports supplementation a few clients have been asking about creatine, beta-alanine and CLA. Let’s take a quick look at each. And again thanks to the folks at examine.com for the excellent resource over there.

Creatine

What is it?

Creatine is made from three amino acids, glycine, arginine, methionine, and helps to replenish energy stores i.e. ATP. Humans get creatine from red meat and other animal products therefore may be especially beneficial for vegans and vegetarians. When we exercise we use ATP as our fuel source. As ATP loses a phosphate it becomes ADP. In other words it goes from tri (3) phosphate to a di (2) phosphate. Creatine can carry a phosphate and is able to provide this to ADP to replenish our store of ATP.

What does it do?

When we exercise intensely we burn through our supply of ATP more quickly. Creatine can help top up these levels of ATP so we can train more intensely, for longer. This would be beneficial for short duration efforts with high power outputs such as sprinting. Creatine can also help increase muscle growth and aid in putting on lean body mass.

Do we recommend it?

This is probably one of the most researched and proven supplements out there. If the goal is to increase strength, power and or lean mass than creatine can help. It is relatively inexpensive and works for most people. For healthy people it may worth trying.

Beta-Alanine

What is it?

Beta-alanine is a version of an amino acid. Similar to creatine it comes from meat products more specifically from land animals. Within the body it is converted to carnosine and helps buffer pH when we exercise.

What does it do?

Physiological pH is slightly on the basic side of neutral at 7.4. When we exercise there is an accumulation of acidic byproducts, such as protons, which lowers pH. With this lowering in pH we can’t train for the same duration with the increased acidity.

Do we recommend it?

For endurance athletes this may be something to look at. As well, for vegans and vegetarians they may miss the benefits by not eating land animals and supplementation might help. One thing to keep in mind is that some people may notice a tingling aka paresthesia from taking beta-alanine. Normal daily doses range from 2-5 grams.

CLA

What is it?

Conjugated linoleic acid a mixture of fatty acids with 18 carbon atoms and 2 double bonds. It might also be referred to as rumenic acid

What does it do?

Those who supplement with CLA do so for its fat burning claims. The fat burning aspect has to do with the molecular signalling receptor PPAR.

Do we recommend it?

The support for CLA in the literature is thin at best. Some results have been shown for obese and sedendary individuals with doses ranging from 3-6 grams. While relatively safe to use there is not a ton of research proving the effectiveness of this supplement. As long as regular nutritional requirements are satisfied first this may help those new to training to achieve their weight loss goal.

The take home message with any supplement is to remember the definition of the work which is ‘in addition to’ and not ‘in place of’. Too many people make smoothies, shakes, bars, pills and other potions the foundation of their nutrition. Real food is an after-thought. Make sure there are no gaps in your regular nutrition plan. And if there are fill them with food first then supplement second.

Chris [fb-like]

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