Protein and Creatine:
A Combination For
Combining protein and creatine (along with carbs) can mean a big boost to the amount of creatine your muscles are able to absorb and retain. In this article, Dr. Franco-Obreg?n details a 2000 study which showed that taking your creatine with protein is an effective technique for creatine retention. Since this article was written, more research has confirmed the effectiveness of this approach.
As Dr. Franco-Obreg?n says, "Creatine transport into skeletal muscle is a complicated process," and if you are using creatine or considering use, you would be well-advised to check out his ebook, Creatine: A Practical Guide. It will provide you a scientific approach to supplementing that will prime your body for muscle growth.
Is creatine and protein powder
a bad combination?
By Alfredo Franco-Obreg?n, PhD
The basic strategy of creatine supplementation is quite straightforward. Simply, it is to increase muscle creatine content through increased creatine intake. Although generally producing an effect this approach is somewhat naive. Creatine transport into skeletal muscle is a complicated process requiring that muscle be in a receptive state.
Creatine gets into skeletal muscle by the action of creatine transporters on the muscle surface. Among other factors, insulin increases the activity of these creatine transporters. This is similar to the stimulatory effect that insulin has on amino acid transport into cells and isn't too surprising since creatine is closely related to amino acids.
By deduction, anything that increases insulin release should also enhance creatine absorption by skeletal muscle. This hypothesis turned out to be mostly true. In 1996 is was shown by Dr. Paul Greenhaff's group in the UK that taking creatine with glucose (releases insulin) enhanced creatine absorption by almost 60%! At the time this caused a lot of excitement in the sports nutrition field. Unfortunately, the amount of glucose needed to get this effect (~100 grams of sugar for each 5 grams of creatine) approached the level of sweetness tolerated by most individuals.
Lately it has been shown that the combination of protein and simple carbohydrates has a greater effect than that of carbohydrates alone in releasing insulin. This finding, in conjunction with the possible ill side effects of ingestion large amounts of sugars (carbohydrates), prompted Dr. Greenhaff and colleagues to examine the combined effects of protein and sugar on creatine uptake.
Creatine: A Practical Guide clearly discusses how to enhance creatine absorption while at the same time creating the optimal anabolic environment for muscle growth.
Twelve healthy male volunteers (mean age 27 years) participated in the study. They were asked to refrain from strenuous exercise, protein and alcohol intake for 24 hours before commencing the study. They also had to be clean of creatine use for at least three months prior to commencing the study. These precautions were necessary since all of these factors influence the effectiveness of creatine and could influence the outcome of the study.
Subjects were given creatine in combination carbohydrates with or without protein. In all, four conditions were tested:
Condition 1. Creatine (5 grams) and very low carbohydrates (5 grams glucose). Placebo Condition.
Condition 2. Creatine (5 grams) and low carbohydrates (50 grams glucose).
Condition 3. Creatine (5 grams) and high carbohydrates (96 grams of glucose).
Condition 4. Creatine (5 grams) and carbohydrates (47 grams of glucose) and protein (50 grams of milk protein).
Afterwards their blood insulin levels and the amount of creatine retained by the body were measured.
This study found that the combination of protein and carbohydrates (Condition 4) increased insulin release and consequently muscle creatine absorption to the same extent as high carbohydrates alone (Condition 3). Furthermore, this augmentation in creatine absorption was much greater than that observed with either placebo (Condition 1) or low carbohydrates (Condition 2). Importantly,the increase in creatine retention with creatine and protein (Condition 4) was 25% greater than that observed with placebo (Condition 1).
Take your creatine with protein and carbohydrates! There are several advantages to doing this:
First, the combination of protein and carbohydrates increases creatine absorption via the actions of insulin.
Secondly, you only need to take half as much sugars to get the same boost in creatine absorption.
Lastly, adding protein to your creatine mixture promotes the production of new muscle proteins.
Steenge, G. R., Simpson, E. J. and Greenhaff, P. L. (September 2000) Protein- and Carbohydrate-induced augmentation of whole body creatine retention in humans. Journal of Applied Physiology Volume 89: 3: pages 1165-1171.
This article was written by Dr. Alfredo Franco-Obreg?n, research scientist, author, and owner of Nutritional Supplements Newsletters.
Dr. Alfredo Franco-Obreg?n has had over 20 years of in depth research experience in major laboratories world-wide. His principal scientific interest is the understanding of the cellular mechanisms leading to muscle cell death.
Dr. Franco-Obreg?n is also the author of Creatine: A Practical Guide, a highly recommended resource.
Read my review of Dr. Franco-Obreg?n's Creatine: A Practical Guide
More on Dr. Franco-Obreg?n and a listing of his other creatine articles