Written by Team MD
19 January 2014

 

Creatine/Beta-Alanine: A Stack For Faster Muscle Growth

 

 

The Creatine/Beta-Alanine Combo

creatineBefore discussing the specifics of why creatine supplements along with beta-alanin are so effective, let's look at muscle growth generally. Muscle growth usually follows strength gains due to adaptations the muscles must make, provided you eat enough calories to build the muscle up. So you want to be able to train with more volume and use shorter rest periods — which means increasing the amount of sets performed and decreasing rest period duration. Without the right supplements, you are going to have to be carried out the gym on a stretcher. Are there any supplements that have been validated to increase the amount of work performed in the gym? The answer is yes... and only two supplements come to mind: creatine and beta-alanine.

 

Beta-Alanine

 

Beta-alanine is one of the top bodybuilding supplements when it comes to increasing the concentration of carnosine in muscles, decreasing fatigue in athletes, and increasing total muscular work done. When it comes to carnosine supplementation, the exact role of this nutrient in human health is not clear at this time. But carnosine appears to be a promising nutrient with much potential, and it’s been called the anti-aging and antioxidant supplement. Being able to go past the burn in a set depends on having high concentrations of carnosine in muscle.

 

So how do you boost carnosine levels? The exciting part is that taking beta-alanine can increase carnosine levels and further increase buffering capacity of muscle. If you are not taking a high-quality supplement like beta-alanine, you are not going to make it through these types of workouts. In fact there really is no other way to increase muscle carnosine levels through diet or exercise; supplementation of beta-alanine is really the only way to raise muscle carnosine levels.

 

One of the promising effects of beta-alanine is its ability to increase the amount of exercise performed in a session. Researchers investigated the effects of four and 10 weeks of beta-alanine supplementation upon cycling performance. At the end of the week, muscle carnosine was significantly increased, which was accompanied by a significant 13 percent increase in total work done during cycling test. An additional six weeks of supplementation yielded a further 20 percent increase in muscle carnosine, which was followed by a 6.2 percent increase in total work done when compared to pre-supplementation values. These results clearly indicate the effect of beta-alanine supplementation on high-intensity performance. Another study showed that beta-alanine supplementation, despite not enhancing maximal strength performance, resulted in a –20 percent increase in total work volume in strength training sessions in well-trained resistance athletes.

 

These data suggest that beta-alanine supplementation is capable of improving performance in exercises, resulting in multiple bouts of high-intensity short-term exercises, single bouts of high-intensity exercises and single bouts undertaken when fatigue is already present.

 

Creatine: Beta-Alanine's Kick Ass Twin Brother!

 

With creatine, a little bit goes a long way. The research suggests that 3-5 grams is sufficient. Some researchers suggest an even lower dosage depending on the amount of dietary creatine consumed, yet the exact dosage remains to be determined... anything more than that is not going to give additional gains. In fact, the bulk of Cr ingested at high dosage is excreted in the form of urinary Cr. Nobody likes pissing money down the drain, so low-dose Cr is the way to go.

 

During dietary Cr supplementation, Cr accumulation is most pronounced in those individuals with the lowest initial Cr stores. When Cr was tested on vegetarian athletes; they made huge gains in strength because they consumed low dietary levels of Cr, which comes with eating no red meat. Dietary sources include beef, tuna, cod, salmon, herring and pork. The normal dietary intake of creatine is 1-2 g/day, although vegetarians may consume less. Basically, individuals with the lowest starting intracellular Cr levels would be expected to have the highest initial Cr uptake rates.

 

Creatine Increases Muscle Hypertrophy

 

It has been reported that short-term Cr intake increases fat-free mass in strength-trained athletes. In addition to the effects on increasing muscle mass, creatine also has numerous health benefits. Cr is also being recognized as a supplement to benefit patients with neurodegenerative and muscle wasting disorders.

 

So how exactly is Cr increasing muscle hypertrophy? At first, it was suggested that the increase in muscle mass after short-term Cr supplementation was due to fluid retention (creatine will make you retain a small amount of water) but later studies over longer periods taking muscle biopsies documented true increases in muscle size. Studies show that Cr does a whole lot more than just increase work capacity. So now you are probably wondering, should I use creatine or should I use beta-alanine? The answer is: YOU NEED BOTH!

 

Creatine & Beta-Alanine Stack

 

Creatine and beta-alanine seem to have synergistic effects when taken together. For example, it was reported that subjects supplemented with beta-alanine and creatine increased fat-free mass and had a threefold increase in strength after 10 weeks of resistance training, compared to a placebo group. Interestingly, there was also a creatine-only group, which displayed the same change in strength, but did not show any body compositional changes. It was suggested that a significantly increased average training volume per week (reps 9 sets 9 load 9 number of sessions) in the beta-alanine + creatine group caused the increase in mass, resulting in greater changes in strength.

 

A follow-up study revealed that a group of males supplementing with the combination of creatine and beta-alanine gained more lean mass and lost more body fat than a group supplementing with only creatine. It is also noteworthy to mention that this study was performed on collegiate football players, and not on inexperienced lifters.

 

 

 Finally, the last study analyzed the aerobic benefits of beta-alanine as a stand-alone supplement compared to the creatine/beta-alanine combination. Fifty-five subjects participated in the study, and it was revealed that individuals supplementing with the creatine/beta-alanine combination had improvement in five out of the eight measured athletic parameters.
In sum, the combination of creatine and beta-alanine is the only clinically researched combination that is going to improve stamina, increase strength, increase workout volume, and decrease recuperation time. So if you want to increase your workout intensity with “metabolic training,” you should arm yourself with the right supplements: beta-alanine and creatine.

 

References:

 

1. Wolfe BL, LeMura LM, Cole PJ. Quantitative analysis of single- vs. multiple-set programs in resistance training. J Strength Cond Res, 2004Feb;18(1):35-47 Review.

 

2. Derave W, Ozdemir MS, Harris R, Pottier A, Reyngoudt H, Koppo K, Wise JA, Achten E. (August 9 2007). "Beta-alanine supplementation augments muscle carnosine content and attenuates fatigue during repeated isokinetic contraction bouts in trained sprinters" J Appl Physiol, 103: 1736.

 

3. Hill CA, Harris RC, Kim HJ, Harris BD, Sale C, Boobis LH, Kim CK, Wise JA. (2007). "Influence of beta-alanine supplementation on skeletal muscle carnosine concentrations and high intensity cycling capacity" Amino Acids, 32 (2): 225-33.

 

4. Penafiel R, Ruzafa C, Monserrat F, Cremades A. Gender-related differences in carnosine, anserine and lysine content of murine skeletal muscle. Amino Acids, 2004;26(1):53-58.

 

5. Hoffman J, Ratamess N, Kang J, Mangine G, Faigenbaum A, Stout J. Effect of creative and beta-alanine supplementation on performance and endocrine responses in strength/power athletes. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab, 2006;16(4):430-446.

 

6. Takarada Y, Sato Y, Ishii N. Effects of resistance exercise combined with vascular occlusion on muscle function in athletes. Eur J Appl Physiol 2002;86:308–14.

 

7. Takarada Y, Takazawa H, Sato Y, Takebayashi S, Tanaka Y, Ishii N. Effects of resistance exercise combined with moderate vascular occlusion on muscular function in humans. J Appl Physiol 2000;88:2097–106.

 

8. Takarada Y, Tsuruta T, Ishii N. Cooperative effects of exercise and occlusive stimuli on muscular function in low-intensity resistance exercise with moderate vascular occlusion. Jpn J Physiol 2004;54:585–92.

 

9. Burd NA, West DW, Staples AW, Atherton PJ, Baker JM, Moore DR, et al. Lowload high volume resistance exercise stimulates muscle protein synthesis more than high-load low volume resistance exercise in young men. PLoS One. 2010;5:e12033.

 

10. Fry CS, Glynn EL, Drummond MJ, Timmerman KL, Fujita S, Abe T, et al. Blood flow restriction exercise stimulates mTORC1 signaling and muscle protein synthesis in older men. J Appl Physiol 2010;108:1199–209.

 

11. Fujita S, Abe T, Drummond MJ, Cadenas JG, Dreyer HC, Sato Y, et al. Blood flow restriction during low-intensity resistance exercise increases S6K1 phosphorylation and muscle protein synthesis. J Appl Physiol 2007;103:903–10.

 

12. Goto K, Ishii N, Kizuka T, Takamatsu K. The impact of metabolic stress on hormonal responses and muscular adaptations. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2005;37:955–63.

 

13. Tonini J, Michallet AS, Flore P, Nespoulet H, Pepin JL, Wuyam B, Levy P, Tamisier R. Effect of chronic intermittent hypoxia on exercise adaptations in healthy subjects. Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2011 Sep 16.

 

14. Peñafiel R, Ruzafa C, Monserrat F, Cremades A. Gender-related differences in carnosine, anserine and lysine content of murine skeletal muscle. Amino Acids. 2004 Feb;26(1):53-8.

 

15. Hoffman, J., et al. (2008). Beta-alanine and the hormonal response to exercise. Int J Sports Med. In press.

 

16. Zoeller RF, Stout JR, O'Kroy JA, Torok DJ, Mielke M: Effects of 28 days of beta-alanine and creatine monohydrate supplementation on aerobic power, ventilatory and lactate thresholds, and time to exhaustion. Amino acids 2007, 33(3):505-510.

 

18. Zoeller RF, Stout JR, O'Kroy JA, Torok DJ, Mielke M: Effects of 28 days of beta-alanine and creatine monohydrate supplementation on aerobic power, ventilatory and lactate thresholds, and time to exhaustion. Amino acids 2007, 33(3):505-510.

 

19. Hoffman J, Ratamess N, Kang J, Mangine G, Faigenbaum A, Stout J (2006) Effects of creatine and b-alanine supplementation on performance and endocrine responses in strength/power athletes. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 16:430–446.

 

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