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If you’re not getting stronger, you won’t get any bigger. This seems like a common-sense statement, but think for a moment about how many serious bodybuilders you see in the gym, day after day, hitting the same marks, loading the same plates on the bar, straining for that same fourth or sixth rep. How much real progress are they making?
When it comes to mass increase, force output is the name of the game. If your intramuscular energy potential and strength have flat-lined, so has your growth, plain and simple. To go further, you’ve got to dig down to the muscle cellular level and change the parameters. Fortunately, the best of today’s cutting-edge sports supplement technologies are ready to help.
Creatine: The Strength-Support Supplement
When it comes to strength support, creatine monohydrate is your best bet for achieving improvements in strength and power while also helping to maximize gains in muscle mass. Scores of published papers tell us that supplementing with creatine monohydrate in doses around 20 grams/day for 4 to 5 days can rapidly saturate the muscle resulting in an improved ability to withstand fatigue and produce more force. Indeed, so conclusive is the science in support of creatine, current research has largely moved on to consider the creatine stacking options that might ramp up mass-building potential even further. Two such studies investigated betaine and beta alanine, respectively, in combination with creatine monohydrate.
New Research: Creatine Combinations
A 2012 study published in the journal Amino Acids compared the ingestion of creatine monohydrate, betaine (a form of the amino acid glycine) and their combination against a placebo for changes in intramuscular phosphocreatine content and strength performance (del Favero, Roschel et al. 2012). Over a 10-day period, study participants supplemented with either betaine (2 grams/day), creatine (20 grams/day) or a combination of betaine and creatine. As expected, supplementation with creatine (whether betaine was provided or not) significantly increased the power output during the squat exercise and these changes were found to be significantly greater than the changes made with the placebo group. Upper-body power using the bench press was also found to be significantly increased when creatine was added to the diet. In addition to increasing upper-body and lower-body power production, creatine supplementation led to significantly greater increases in maximal upper-body and lower-body strength as well. So the jury may still be out on betaine, but creatine monohydrate is still passing the strength-increase test with flying colors.
Beta Alanine Plus Creatine: Maximized Performance
Recent research also suggests that beta alanine and creatine monohydrate, taken in tandem, may help your body produce more energy and withstand accumulation of performance-decreasing fatigue.
A recent study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness had forty-four young (20 – 22 years), healthy untrained men supplement daily with either a placebo, creatine monohydrate (5 grams), beta alanine (1.6 grams) or beta alanine plus creatine for approximately one month (Okudan, Belviranli et al. 2014). All of the participants completed three consecutive thirty-second sprints on a cycle ergometer to determine their maximal power output while cycling. After supplementing with creatine, peak power production during the 2nd and 3rd cycle tests were found to be significantly greater when compared to the peak power production before the study was started. When average power production was compared for all three cycle bouts before and after the one month supplementation period, the combination of beta alanine and creatine monohydrate was responsible for significantly increasing all of these values. The authors concluded that supplementing with creatine significantly increases peak power production rates, while combining beta alanine with creatine can significantly improve power production after one month of supplementation.
Supplement Quality Is Essential
To maximize the benefits of creatine supplementation, try supplementing twenty grams per day of creatine in the preferred (and most credibly researched) creatine monohydrate form from a reputable manufacturer. You might also want to consider a premium-quality pre-workout formula that contains a clinically indicated dosage of beta alanine.
Increased power production and steady enhancements in workout productivity, driven in part by creatine monohydrate supplementation, is an anabolic recipe for new growth. Are you stuck on a plateau? Look to creatine monohydrate to shift your muscle mass increase into a new gear.
Del Favero, S., H. Roschel, G. Artioli, C. Ugrinowitsch, V. Tricoli, A. Costa, R. Barroso, A. L. Negrelli, M. C. Otaduy, C. da Costa Leite, A. H. Lancha-Junior and B. Gualano (2012). “Creatine but not betaine supplementation increases muscle phosphorylcreatine content and strength performance.” Amino Acids 42(6): 2299-2305.
Okudan, N., M. Belviranli, H. Pepe and H. Gokbel (2014). “The effects of beta alanine plus creatine administration on performance during repeated bouts of supramaximal exercise in sedentary men.” J Sports Med Phys Fitness.