Recently, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to sit down and do an interview with Dr. Scott Forbes of Brandon University.
Who is he?
A quick rundown of Dr. Forbes on Research Gate will show you that he is one of the leading creatine researchers in the world. His lab, along with that of Dr. Darren Candow from the University of Regina, has been at the forefront of creatine research, not just for sports performance but also for general health.
As a competitive kayaker, Dr. Forbes has studied creatine’s impact on endurance sports, power sports and now even into the impact of creatine on the geriatric world.
What are the top 10 facts I took away from this interview?
- Satellite cells are real and can be imprinted.
- Creatine helps you lose fat.
- Creatine has been shown to be an incredibly beneficial supplement to maintain muscle mass during very stressful periods.
- Dump the marketing, creatine monohydrate is king.
- Creatine prevents cramps.
- Cycling on and off creatine is all about context.
- When it comes to creatine, timing does indeed matter.
- Creatine is not an anabolic steroid.
#1: Satellite Cells Are Real and Can be Imprinted
For starters, what the hell are satellite cells? Satellite cells are sitting next to the membrane of muscular tissue, these cells get stimulated to imprint into the tissue when severe damage or significant stress is placed upon the existing muscle. Think about the satellite cell as a tag team for the muscle, as the muscle undergoes serious stress it will reach out and get a tag team support from a satellite cell that will lead to an imprinted new cell formation.
Ok, I know this one is a little dorky, BUT when I was growing up I remember hearing my dad and my high school strength coach talk about satellite cells as a mythical thing that MIGHT happen. At the time (1996-2000), science knew they existed but didn’t really know about the mechanisms.
Since then, they have been researched a bit further and Dr. Forbes even recognized that creatine can have a positive impact on helping satellite cells turn into nuclei and eventually become imprinted motor units for muscle. This is one of the various mechanisms that creatine utilizes to improve muscular strength and size.
#2: Creatine Helps You Lose Fat
Yes, you read that correctly, in various populations creatine has been shown to aid in fat loss. In one of Dr. Forbes’ studies, he saw an increase of 1.2kg of muscle mass while a loss of over a half kilo of fat mass. That is an incredible swing in the improvement of lean muscle mass! Having a greater ratio of lean muscle mass to fat mass can enhance cardiovascular factors and lengthen life expectancy and dramatically improve quality of life.
#3: Creatine Has Been Shown To Be An Incredibly Beneficial Supplement to Maintain Muscle Mass During Very Stressful Periods
Some research has shown that people participating in resistance training while being forced into stressful situations such as sleep deprivation can maintain and even gain muscle mass while using creatine. I specifically brought up breastfeeding women (because my wife is currently breastfeeding our twins)! By exercising with resistance training and supplementing with creatine, subjects maintained or improved muscle mass while managing their sleep deprivation.
#4: Dump The Marketing, Creatine Monohydrate Is King
Often times we see phony supplement companies using different forms of creatine to “optimize absorption.” This is an odd method of marketing, considering creatine monohydrate is 99.9% absorbed by the body. It’s cheap and effective, stick with CreaStrength and focus on those big gains!
#5: Creatine Prevents Cramps
That is correct, you are reading that right. For years, coaches would claim that creatine causes cramps and leads to muscle problems. In fact, science has shown us that is quite the opposite. The body has been seen to retain water because it increases myogenetic regulatory factors (that’s a real term, look it up) and those regulatory factors are the reason why multiple studies have shown us that creatine actually DECREASES cramping in collegiate athletes.
#6: Cycling On and Off Creatine Is All About Context
For years, we have thought that it is mandatory to cycle on and off of creatine. As a coach, I have even recommended cycling off creatine. To be fair to myself, I believed in cycling off creatine simply for the placebo effect of noticing what happens when you cycle back ON the amino acid. However, as Dr. Forbes pointed out, cycling on and off is entirely based around the context.
What does this mean? Flashback to the fat loss example, although researchers saw fat mass decrease by about a half kilo, they also saw lean muscle mass by about 1.5 kilos. That’s a net gain of 1-kilo bodyweight or 2.2lbs. If you are an endurance athlete, those 2.2lbs during peak season could be a detriment. It would be recommended to cycle on creatine during high volume training phases to enhance recovery, it would then come down to the athlete and coach to decide within the context of performance if they should cycle off the creatine or stay on it during the peaking phase.
My recommendation? If you are an 800-meter runner or a 1500 meter runner and need speed to shut down a race, then stay on creatine, otherwise, it may be helpful to cycle off creatine. If you are a power-based athlete, it almost never makes sense to cycle off of this potent supplement!
#7: When It Comes to Creatine, Timing Does Matter
Various studies have analyzed whether taking creatine before a workout or after workout matters. The difference was not huge but it was statistically significant to take creatine post-workout in various studies. Post-workout creatine consumption is more effective because there is an increase in blood flow which leads to transporter stimulation and optimal usage of the amino acid. A simple method of recovery: use 12-24 ounces of milk or another drink with carbohydrates, add 25-40 grams of protein and then mix in the recommended dosage of creatine. This shake will optimize recovery and enhance performance!
#8: Creatine Is Not An Anabolic Steroid
Hopefully by this point in your reading, you have realized how safe creatine is but let’s briefly go over what creatine actually is. Creatine is a combination of three different amino acid, formulating one amino acid. The work creatine stems from the Greek word for meat, kreas. Creatine is used to facilitate the recycling of ATP, the energy currency of cells! It is one of the most researched supplements in the world and arguably one of the safest as well.