Creatine monohydrate (wikipedia definition) is a supplement that has been around for quite a while now. First discovered in 1835 by French scientist Chevreul, it rose to fame after the 1992 Olympics with 1995 showing a sharp rise in users (a whopping 730% in the US). Befitting its image as a forerunner in sports research, creatine was apparently used in the Eastern Bloc a good ten years earlier.
I distinctly remember the buzz surrounding it in the mid-1990s when it first hit the shelves here in Finland. At first prices were fairly steep, but as the number of users and manufacturers increased prices soon started going down. I think it was in 1996, that my training partner and I jointly bought a 500 gram jar of it. For him it immediately led to more iron on the bar, but I didn’t notice anything. The theory was that a minority of users would see no effects as they already had fully saturated creatine supplies making supplementation useless. With the majority of users reporting everything from good to great gains, this felt like something of a letdown despite the fact that having a naturally fully saturated creatine pool would be a great thing (even more so in the Stone Age).
Nearly a decade later, the efficiency of creatine monohydrate has indeed been clearly demonstrated in a number of studies:
Of the 22 studies reviewed, the average increase in muscle strength (1, 3, or 10 repetition maximum [RM]) following creatine supplementation plus resistance training was 8% greater than the average increase in muscle strength following placebo ingestion during resistance training (20 vs. 12%). Similarly, the average increase in weightlifting performance (maximal repetitions at a given percent of maximal strength) following creatine supplementation plus resistance training was 14% greater than the average increase in weightlifting performance following placebo ingestion during resistance training (26 vs. 12%). The increase in bench press 1RM ranged from 3 to 45%, and the improvement in weightlifting performance in the bench press ranged from 16 to 43%. Thus there is substantial evidence to indicate that creatine supplementation during resistance training is more effective at increasing muscle strength and weightlifting performance than resistance training alone, although the response is highly variable.
Rawson ES, Volek JS.: “Effects of creatine supplementation and resistance training on muscle strength and weightlifting performance”. J Strength Cond Res. 2003 Nov;17(4):822-31.
Those were the days. Now there is a fairly new form of creatine on the market. Creatine pyruvate, a patented molecule, is now being touted as the next generation creatine supplement. Swedish manufacturer Eiselt lists the following benefits (link in Swedish):
- With a 28% better absorption rate, creatine pyruvate delivers an even bigger increase in strength and explosivity than creatine monohydrate. The effect also lasts longer.
- Contrary to creatine monohydrate, creatine pyruvate also increases endurance (a one-week study on cyclist by Van Schuylenbergh R, Van Leemputte M and Hespel P, the only published one I could find on creatine pyruvate, did not confirm this at a dosage of 7 grams/day).
- Contrary to creatine monohydrate, creatine pyruvate provides a direct effect thus making a loading phase at higher dosages unnecessary.
- A fat burning effect thanks to the pyruvate component.
With a sale on Eiselt’s Kreatinpyruvat at the gym (35 euro), I decided to give it a go despite my less than glorious experience with creatine monohydrate. Beginning today, I will be taking a 5 gram dose with some maltodextrin one hour prior to the workout as recommended by the manufacturer. With 30 servings in the pack, this should last me some 10 weeks.
Good thing I like sour things, as the powder proved to be quite acidic. Some 20-30 minutes after taking the supplement I started feeling a noticeable kick quite similar to that produced by caffeine. Although this is not mentioned on the Eiselt website, another guy at the gym had noted the same reaction so it wasn’t just in my head (perhaps in two heads then…?). If nothing else, I now have a decent pre-workout energizer. It is going to be interesting to see if this effect disappears with regular use or not.
Today was the first ME Bench day on my new routine and floor presses were first on the menu. Seven sets later I had a new PR at 100 kg/221 lbs, a 2.5 kg/5.5 lbs increase over my previous max. Ok, so no huge jump in weights but let’s give it some time. It was also hard to say whether I had more staying power or not as the faster pace of my new routine leaves me with very little to compare to. It was a lot of huffing and puffing.
As planned I only did between 2-3 sets on all accessory movements, which was plenty given that my previous routine gave me ample of rest between sets. Basically, I took all the rest I wanted on the floor press and then changed gear for everything else. Supersetting seated curls with tate presses turned out to be a winner as I can handle about the same amount of weight on both. First I cranked out curls sitting the edge of a bench, and then without rest I laid down for the tates. Grrrrrreat stuff! The decent arm pump that followed made me feel like a bodybuilder all over again.
ME Bench, 14 January 2004
Floor press, wide-grip:
10 @ 40 kg/88 lbs
5 @ 50 kg/111 lbs
3 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
1 @ 70 kg/155 lbs
1 @ 80 kg/177 lbs
1 @ 90 kg/199 lbs
1 @ 100 kg/221 lbs
0 @ 102.5 kg/227 lbs
Pulldowns, wide-grip: 3x6 @ 105 kg/232 lbs
Stability ball dumbell bench: 2x5 @ 32 kg/71 lbs
Seated hammer curl: 2x6 @ 18 kg/40 lbs
Lying Tate press: 2x6 @ 18 kg/40 lbs
Total training time: 50 min