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By Alvaro Arnal
Administrator
From Aspen, CO
Jan 25, 2013
Pup Tent OS
Has anyone experimented or had success with using small amounts of creatine during winter training? I'm thinking about consuming a small amount of creatine daily throughout my winter training cycle. I like the claimed benefits of increased strength and energy levels. Of course there's the big negatives of water retention and increased weight while taking creatine, but as I understand, this can be minimized by not loading at the start and by taking smaller amounts each day.

I'm considering taking 5 grams per day either before, during or after my daily workout and then coming off of the creatine as my winter training ends to lose any excess weight I gained while on it before trying hard projects. Has anyone else had success with this method? Will I keep the strength gained while on the creatine after I stop taking it? When is the best time to take it: before/during a workout for added energy during the workout, or after (with a recovery drink) to help recovery?

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By Scott McMahon
From Boulder, CO
Jan 25, 2013
Bocan
Back in the day I used to take just about every supplement on the market and honestly after all that I've found that by developing a better diet through whole natural food you'll see the best result. I rarely even take protein powder anymore.

naturallyintense.net/blog/diet...

As far as creatine, I'd have an increase in strength and size due to the increase in cell volume due to water retention, however was it worth the $50-75 I was paying for it? I don't think so. Additionally it's been a while since I researched the intake methodology, but I couldn't get a consistent answer on how best to take it. With grape juice or with water, before or after etc. I'm sure they've done more consistent research, but overall results were inconclusive. Additionally once off a cycle, I seemed to lose the minimal size growth due to my cells shedding that excess fluid.

My personal opinion is that the cost to results ratio is not worth it and you'd be better off spending that extra money on higher quality food or a nutritionist.

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By Dustin Drake
Jan 25, 2013
Creatine is cheap, like 20 bucks for 200 servings. Just get plain creatine monohydrate. The stuff with extra 'carbs for an insulin spike' is a gimmick. Take it with water. Doesn't matter when you take it, just be consistent. 5 grams a day is fine, don't worry about that 'loading phase' bs. It is one of the very few supplements that have scientific backing of its effects and benefits. Water retention and size are greatly exaggerated, but the strength gains are pretty significant for the minimal cost.

Granted, its best suited for people who are lifting weights, but if you are focusing in on a max weight hangboard routine, it could be worth trying out.

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By AGParker
From San Angelo, TX
Jan 25, 2013
Dustin is right on. The only comment I would add is that it may take up to 30 days to return to pre-supplementation weight.

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By Climbing Badger
Jan 25, 2013
I second the natural foods idea but if you want a climber owned recovery drink check out mikesmixture.com Some times a recovery drink is the most efficient way to get the protein you need asap after a workout.

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By Rob Gordon
From Hollywood, CA
Jan 25, 2013
Tough Mantle Problem.  Haven't sent yet...
I've tried it. Seemed to make me stronger, but it also caused a weird thing where when I went jogging it made the muscles around my shin feel like they were gonna explode. So I stopped.

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By Woodchuck ATC
Jan 25, 2013
Rock Wars, RRG, 2008
tried it years ago.crystal form mixed in drinks..did NOTHING at all but cost me big bucks. waste of my time.

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By MTKirk
From Billings, MT
Jan 25, 2013
Me on Supercrack
I tried Creatine Monohydrate for a couple of years, mostly just to bust through a plateau with weight lifting. I figure it helped me bang out another rep when I was doing heavy squats, deadlifts, & that sort of thing (this could have been purely psychological). I gained around 3 pounds every time I cycled on and lost the weight within a week of cycling off. I never tried it for climbing, I can't imagine it having a positive effect. It seems like the extra three pounds would cancel out any minute effect it might have on my grip strength. On the other hand, it is really cheap these days and apparently pretty safe (it's been used heavily for decades with no real negative effects).

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By SeaJellie
From Ann Arbor, MI
Jan 25, 2013
Adrift on the oceans.
Completely agree with Rob and MTK. It will boost your overall muscle power, but how is benching another 30 lbs gonna help your rock climbing?

No doubt its affects will vary from person to person. In me, I got the "compartment syndrome" that Rob mentioned. And the weights were piling on the bars in the gym, almost as if by magic. But I also went from a body weight of 175 to 195 in no time, and could not run anymore.

Maybe it would give you enough energy to train through some general muscle fatigue, but be really careful about the weight gain.

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By Robert D.
From Boulder, CO
Jan 30, 2013
Yargh, Pirate Rob do be in Yosemite
Experiment. I think it's pretty safe, just be mindful of hydration and the fact that muscle develops quicker than tendon. I would suggest taking it after your workout with a recovery drink. You will probably gain a couple pounds (literally 1-3) when your body adapts to the increased CP and lose that weight when you stop taking it (about a week for each). Because of the weight gain, taking it during your winter training cycle (when performance is secondary to training) makes sense. Theoretically, you'll get the benefit of an improved CP-ATP cycle while you train (better recovery), which should allow a greater volume of training, which should in turn improve your strength. You shouldn't lose that strength when you stop.

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By CaptainPoopyPants
Jan 30, 2013
hydration is KEY....tons of water throughout the day. You also should mix it with juice or something with sugar (either fructose, sucrose etc). This allows facilitated diffusion into the muscle cells (without using your precious glucose stores). I used it for several months this past fall while I was training for ski season in a cross-fit gym. I definitely felt a difference and could maintain a higher workout intensity and duration. I did however gain around 8-10 lbs, most of which was water weight. When ski season came around I quit working out so much and lost about half of it. If you are interested building muscle mass it's great in combination with an amino acid supplement. If you just want to train harder and have a higher absolute max without a lot of weight gain eat a normal healthy trim climber's diet.

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By Gregory D
From La Verne
Jan 30, 2013
fun in the (twilight) sun
Like I tell me students, it's pretty much expensive pee. On the other hand sometimes just believing it's going to work is enough to see "results", in which case I say drink up.

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By Brassmonkey
Jan 30, 2013
Brass monkey
There is no doubt that creatine works, regardless of whether or not you think it simply makes expensive pee. Numerous studies have proven the benefits of it. Without getting too in depth Creatine monohydrate is the first source of energy in the muscles for high intensity exercises. It is the most powerful but it runs out quickly (If I remember correctly somewhere around 4-10sec). Taking high levels saturates the cells and gives them a slightly longer supply of the energy source. Creatine essentially gives you the ability to "push" a little harder for the last rep/pullup/etc. It doesn't help with building muscle like anabolics, if anything it helps you tear them more by pushing the last rep that you may not have normally been able to. This in turn gives the muscle the ability to recover stronger. The NCAA bans everything, and they havent banned creatine. Its safe if taken properly. Get the powder from GNC, its $20 for 100 servings I think. Take it mixed into juice with a scoop of sucrose. The sucrose helps as a delivery agent, which is basically what the designer (expensive) creatines have in them. It helps with power and high intensity but no studies have really been able to prove it has any effect on endurance. Also, not everyone gains 10 pounds of water weight. I took it for pole vaulting in college and only gained maybe 2 pounds. It made a huge difference in my overall strength and I only took it 3 or 4 days a week on the heavy lifting days.

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By Mark E Dixon
From Sprezzatura, Someday
Jan 31, 2013
At the BRC
Tried this for a while, had terrible muscle cramps, which at least proved it was doing something.
Used to have one segment of my rectus abdominus cramp, then I'd just pray it wouldn't set off the rest, cause that would be painful enough to make me lay there moaning.
Had a bicep cramp mid route once, got lowered to the ground and never really got over the 'flash pump' that day.
Was trying on shoes at Neptunes, had a foot muscle cramp up, had to lay down on the floor with my foot in the air for several minutes, (with the store employee looking on, no doubt wondering if I put my shoes on this way at the crag too,) until it finally relented and I asked in a feeble voice to "try on the next half size up?"

FWIW, I still have some left, if anybody local wants it, let me know.

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By Alvaro Arnal
Administrator
From Aspen, CO
Jan 31, 2013
Pup Tent OS
Heh some pretty interesting stories in here. Seems like it's pretty hit-or-miss on how your body will respond and how much weight you'll gain. I'm going to give it a try for an 8-week cycle during my hangboard and campus board phases and report back any improvements/problems I have with it.

I'm still wrestling with whether it's best to take the creatine before my workout with some fruit juice or after the workout with a recovery drink? I've read that drinking it before will top off your stores of ATP which will help you go harder during the workout. I've also heard that taking it after the workout helps you to recover quicker to be more ready for the next workout. Has anyone experimented with before or after? Maybe it just doesn't matter when you take it?

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By Casey Ryback
Jan 31, 2013
Chief Petty Officer and former Navy Seal turned chef
I didnt have great experiences with it. Every time I have taken creatine, I feel like it messed up my electrolyte balance and hydration.

The other thing, which felt really weird was that when doing endurance circuits my biceps and shoulders would feel extremely pumped, like the kind of forearm pump you feel on a route. I kept thinking, 'Why am I taking this stuff if its making me more pumped? Arent I trying to stay less pumped?'

So, maybe it would work as an off season kind of supplement. Take it while you're doing some fingerboard and weights over the winter like you suggested. But I would say get off it before you get out climbing.

Also, is your diet already pretty dialed in? Are you on a good multi-vitamin, maybe a greens supplement, and lots of anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory foods? Already sleeping well and resting well? If not, maybe take care of those things first before adding in creatine.

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By Brassmonkey
Jan 31, 2013
Brass monkey
Alvaro Arnal wrote:
I'm still wrestling with whether it's best to take the creatine before my workout with some fruit juice or after the workout with a recovery drink? I've read that drinking it before will top off your stores of ATP which will help you go harder during the workout. I've also heard that taking it after the workout helps you to recover quicker to be more ready for the next workout. Has anyone experimented with before or after? Maybe it just doesn't matter when you take it?


If you arent loading on it and are only taking it certain days of the week you want to take it 30 min or so prior to your training or you wont have it in your system to be used. The serious lifters/power athletes tend to take it before and after but I dont know that this matters. Taking it after a workout does help relpenish the stores quicker(the same goes for glycogen, protein, etc.) but if you dont need it for another day or 2 it wont help much. Drink plenty of fluids though and you should hopefully not have any adverse cramping or side effects. Good luck!

Also one last thing, make sure when you drink it that as much of it is dissolved as possible. It takes quite a while for it to fully dissolve so you may have to mix it ahead of time, but you will get much better results this way.

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By Scott McMahon
From Boulder, CO
Jan 31, 2013
Bocan
oh and the EAS creatine gave me horrible shits. Like totally evacuated 15 minutes after drinking. Switched to muscle tech after that.

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By Morgan Patterson
Administrator
Jan 31, 2013
Stoked...
used it BITD for recovery... seemed to help a lot when I drank enough water. Def was getting strong as heck when I was taking it and training hard... also got hurt shortly afterwards and stopped using it.

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By Shawn Mitchell
From Broomfield
Jan 31, 2013
Splitter Jams on the Israel/Palestine Security Wall.
Creatine works. I've used it lifting and would like to try applying it to climbing. It helps squeeze out a higher number of repetitive muscle contractions.

It doesn't add magical strength to your first rep: 200 lbs on the bar feels like 200 lbs on the bar. But it slows the rush of burn and fatigue as your reps continue. Where you would have been faltering at 5 or 6, instead at 7 or 8, you think: "Hey, this is working!"

Since you can do more reps, you build more strength, and see gains in both total weight and times you can lift it.

Makes me curious to apply it to climbing: Wonder if on a hard pitch, the burning pump comes on more slowly, so you can cover more cranks or jams before you have to struggle...

I did gain some weight with it, but I was also eating heavy because I was trying to bulk up. If using for climbing, obviously, I'd avoid eating a lot more.

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By AdamB
From Charlotte, NC
Jan 31, 2013
Black Boulder Problem, sent after a generous skin donation
I haven't tried creatine, but I've had really good luck with Vega Performance Protein. I'd take it regardless to help me reach my desired daily protein intake (longtime vegetarian), but Ive seen strength gains as well as overall endurance during training phases. THe blend is vegan BCAAs (hemp, rice, pea, alfalfa, and Savi seed proteins), really easy to digest; even mix it in with oatmeal for lunch during bouldering session and I dont get that heavy semi-bloated feeling Ive experianced with other protein powders. Just a thought. vegasport.com

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By Brent Apgar
From Out of the Loop
Jan 31, 2013
Me and Spearhead
Since no one has brought it up. There is some evidence to suggest that like any other supplement, it just doesn't have an effect on some people.
If memory serves, something like 1/3 of people who use creatine monohydrate don't notice any significant difference in strength performance.

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By pfwein
Jan 31, 2013
Just to add my experience since it is the only supplement that I ever took that had any noticeable effect. Took it when I was more interested in lifting weights than climbing; made relatively quick gains in strength (as measured by both max lifts and increased reps) that seemed roughly proportional to the relatively quick weight gain I also experienced. Stopped taking it and quickly went back to "normal."

Didn't seem to have much to offer to a climber since the strength gain coincided with weight gain, but that's just my limited experience.

As there don't seem to be significant adverse side effects, why not try it and see what happens? It's at least slightly interesting to take something that has a noticeable effect, rather than just generating "expensive piss" (and it was prob 15 years ago for me, but I don't recall the expense being at all significant).

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By Douglas Hunter
Feb 1, 2013
I've done a fair amount of research on Creatine and tried it myself. In my own use I gained about 3.5 pounds from water retention which isn't too bad, but any impact of the Creatine (positive or negative) was impossible to see. If it did have an impact, it was less than the daily ups and downs of training. I could not see any increase in recovery time between efforts (I time them on a regular basis, they stayed in the range that I was seeing prior to taking CMH), and certainly there was no short term change in performance level when taking it.

I have to say that many of the claims about Creatine are NOT based on the clinical work that has been done on it. I have seen claims that it increases endurance, muscle size etc. It will not increase energy levels, nor will it increase strength. Increase in muscle size is a result of doing a specific type of workout. Taking supplemental Creatine helps weight lifters be more effective in their workouts, but on its own Creatine does not increase muscular strength. What ingesting Creatine Monohydrate does is increase the amount of available Phosphate Creatine (PC) stored in muscle tissue, and shorten the length of time it takes for PC to be restored to muscle tissue during rest periods. PC is part of the ATP-PC energy system that is at work in the first 5 - 20 seconds (depending upon what source you read) of muscular contractions. So in theory there might be a benefit for boulderers but that is all that the existing research suggests. I didn't observe one, using my casual observations, and Creatine use by climber's has never been a topic of clinical examination.


If you do take it, use the older form of Creatine Monohydrate and follow the procedures used in most of the clinical studies, which is 1 week of loading by taking 20g per day (5g at a time 4 times per day), and then in week 2 drop down to 5g per day. After that you do not need to take it, as the PC levels will stay elevated for several weeks.

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By Mark E Dixon
From Sprezzatura, Someday
Feb 1, 2013
At the BRC
Douglas Hunter wrote:
If you do take it, use the older form of Creatine Monohydrate and follow the procedures used in most of the clinical studies, which is 1 week of loading by taking 20g per day (5g at a time 4 times per day), and then in week 2 drop down to 5g per day. After that you do not need to take it, as the PC levels will stay elevated for several weeks.


This got me motivated to look up some studies, as I never did do a loading phase BITD.

As far as I can tell, most protocols use 4 doses of 5 gm every day for 5 days, then a maintenance dose of 5 gm day. Some studies suggested that 4x5gm for 2 days worked as well. Another protocol uses 1gm every 30 minutes for 10 hours (ie the same 20 gm/day) for 5 days and is reported to be more effective. Other studies suggest that a simple maintenance dose without a loading phase works too, but takes 21-28 days to show an effect (I took it for a couple of months I believe.)

Here's the url of a recent review which seems to be freely available online. It's pretty rah-rah, but apparently peer reviewed.

ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/...

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