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The Best Supplement for Toning Your Body

Although Creatine’s ability to enhance physical performance is well documented, the common theory that it leads to weight gain and increased bulk in female athletes, sees its supplementation often overlooked! However, recent studies in women have shown that both short and long term use of Creatine can enhance muscular strength and power, increase anaerobic and aerobic performance while having a very positive effect on body composition. In short, it helps you get leaner and stronger with modest increases in lean muscle while burning off fat to help give your body that shapely athletic look that is now so popular. Because of this Creatine is an ideal supplement for women involved in aesthetically judged sports like physique or bikini competitions, or for women who need to be lean, light and strong for their sport like gymnastics or where they need to make a weight class.
That’s all good for elite athletes, but should regular female trainers consider taking Creatine as part of nutritional plan to improve their training? The short answer is – absolutely! This article is designed to give you a general overview of Creatine usage for women and provide some research findings to dispel some of the common misconceptions about using Creatine supplements if you are a female trainer. The first and possibly the most common misconception is the Creatine is an anabolic steroid. In fact, Creatine is an organic compound made up of the three amino acids, glycine, arginine and methionine. It is produced by the body, but also found in protein sources such as red meat, eggs and fish. You can also increase your body’s Creatine reserves by taking Creatine in the form of a supplement. To understand the function of Creatine in your body and its role in the production of energy let’s look at the way your muscles produce energy when lifting weights. The first thing to know is when Creatine enters the muscle it binds to excess Phosphate molecules to form a compound called Creatine Phosphate (CP). When you lift weights the energy used to contract your muscles comes from the breakdown of another compound in your muscles called Adenosine Triphosphate or ATP. This breakdown gives off a Phosphate molecules to produce energy and if you go on exercising hard you end up with lots of Adenosine Diphosphate or ADP. For hard heavy training your muscles only have enough ATP for perhaps around 10 seconds of hard contraction. As you start to run low on ATP you will fatigue and your exercise performance drops away. This is when CP comes to the rescue. You see CP can quickly give it’s Phosphate to ADP – making it back into ATP, and bang….. instantly more energy. The limiting factor here is how much CP you have in your muscles. Simply put, the more CP you have stored in your muscles the harder and longer you can train. Now CP won’t let you go on forever, in fact there is only enough to give you a few more seconds of all-out effort, but that extra effort could have made the difference between life and death for our cave women ancestors. But the cool this here is that if you increase the amount of Creatine in your system, it will increase your levels of CP and give you more potential energy. For today’s female trainer that equates to perhaps a few more hard repetition of each exercise, and over weeks and months these extra few reps can really add up into big improvements in strength, power and muscle tone! First of all there are several studies that have examined the effect of Creatine supplementation in women by comparison to men. These studies found that in regards to performance there is actually no significant difference, with both men and women showing similar levels of improvement, so Creatine is certainly not just for guys! One particular study using 8 men and 6 women showed that intramuscular levels of Creatine prior to loading showed similar base line levels, then after a loading phase of 5 days, a 21.5% increase in men and 19% increase women respectively. Contrary to popular belief both long and short-term Creatine supplementation has been shown to enhance muscular strength and power with virtually no effects on weight gain. An early study used a sample of 19 healthy, untrained women and subjected them to a four day loading period followed by a 10 week maintenance phase or a Maltodextrin placebo in the same dosage. They were all given the same resistance training program and assessed throughout the period using measures such as one rep maximums (1RM), 30 maximal contractions (a measure of torque) and underwater weighing for body composition (% body fat). At the end of the 10 week period the results showed no significant differences between groups after the loading phase, however from that point on the Creatine group showed far greater strength values throughout the study. With their 1RM for some exercises increasing by 20-25% by the end of the 10 week period – a big difference over a relatively short time frame! In regards to body composition it was found that there was no significant differences in body weight between the Creatine and placebo group. There was however a significant change seen in fat free mass (lean muscle), with the Creatine group having an average increase of 2.0kg and 2.6ks at the five and ten week marks respectively, while the placebo experienced a 1.1 and 1.6kg in the same period. Effectively this means that the girls increased lean muscle but dropped body fat at nearly twice the rate as the placebo group – so their weight stayed the same but their body composition improved. Most people would know and recommend Creatine for its usefulness in athletes requiring repeated bouts of high intensity and power during exercise like weight training or sprinting. Recent studies however have indicated that increased Creatine stores may enhance oxygen uptake and improve recovery for endurance exercise. One study compared women after twelve days of either Creatine supplementation or a Placebo. They first had to complete a high-intensity 20 minute run, followed immediately by 1RM x 3 sets to failure (80% of 1RM) of resistance exercises on a leg press machine. The Creatine supplemented group showed a marked increase in the number of repetitions to failure – indicating Creatine assisted both aerobic performance and recovery, plus anaerobic performance of the leg pressing. Further studies indicated that such Creatine stores can also reduce the workload of the cardiovascular system. The implication here is that if you are and endurance athlete that also requires short bursts of all out energy, for example the final sprint at the end of a race, Creatine can make a marked improvement to your overall performance. The recommended dosage strategy is a 5g dose every day for a 28 day cycle. This will build a residual level of Creatine in your system that will boost cellular CP levels for maximum results. Why 28 days? Studies have also shown that cycling on and off Creatine tends to give improved results that taking it indefinitely. Take a break of 14 – 21 days and then repeat the cycle. Creatine comes in many forms from including plain and flavoured powders, tablets and capsules. Most trainers prefer the flavoured powders, simply mix in water and drink. Many safety studies have been carried out on Creatine. The dosages recommended here have been shown to be completely safe, and safety data also shows that even at much higher levels Creatine is very well tolerated. Does Creatine have any side affects. Most Creatine studies have been carried out on Creatine Monohydrate, which is the most common form of Creatine. It is not particularly soluble and as such can sit in the stomach and intestinal tract and cause minor discomfort and bloating with some athletes. Newer formulations that use other Creatine compounds (Maxine’s Creatine combines 3 different forms of Creatine) are more soluble and lead to faster absorption, which reduces or eliminates bloating altogether. Creatine Monohydrate was also often associated with water retention, and some trainers report a puffy or fluidy appearance when using the monohydrate form. Once again, modern Creatine formulations with more soluble forms of Creatine don’t cause this fluid retention as they can be taken up by muscle cells more easily and converted to CP. Creatine is a very well studied and proven performance enhancer. Many women have shied away from using it, thinking it was a “men’s only” type of product, that it would make them increase bulk, retain fluid or suffer bloating. But the reality is totally different. Studies show Creatine is very beneficial for women trainers, it increases strength, power and lean muscle without adding weight or bulk to help women build that coveted lean athletic look. If you want to get the very best out of your training then it’s time to give Creatine a try. Bemben MG, Lamont HS. Creatine supplementation and exercise performance: Recent findings. Sports Med 35: 107–125, 2005. Cox G, Mujika I, Tumilty D, Burke L. Acute creatine supplementation and performance during a field test simulating match play in elite female soccer players. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 12: 33–46, 2002. Greenhaff PL, Bodin K, Soderlund K, Hultman E. Effect of oral creatine supplementation on skeletal muscle phosphocreatine resynthesis. Am J Physiol 266: E725–E730, 1994. Eckerson JM, Creatine as an Ergogenic Aid for Female Athletes. Strength and Condidtioning Journal 38: 14-23 2016 Kambis KW, Pizzedaz SK. Short-term creatine supplementation improves maximum quadriceps contraction in women. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 13: 87–96, 2003. Vandenberghe K, Goris M, Van Hecke P, Van Leemputte M, Vangerven L, Hespel P. Long-term creatine intake is beneficial to muscle performance during resistance training. J Appl Physiol 83: 2055–2063, 1997.
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