"Muscle Building" Supplements
Part One: Creatine

"I have been going to the gym for the past five and a half years now. At first, I just wanted to be fit, but after reaching this goal, I wanted more bulk and muscles. I knew that working out and eating regular food would not make me the muscleman I want to be.

"I started with "branched chain amino acid" supplements. Personally, I believe these products work. I gained mass and strength. The only problem was that if I followed the dosages recommended, I'd get a bad stomach (LBM) and in some cases acne.

"When I started using "creatine monohydrate", I easily became irritable. My patience grew thin and when I'd get mad, I could feel my heart working harder. Why would I still pursue this "muscle mania workout" at the risk of compromising my health? I guess the answer is mainly psychological. Personally, I really get a good "high" after a satisfying work out. Satisfying because I increased the weight I used to lift, even if only for a little less than a pound or an extra repetition.

"Honestly, there is glory knowing that you can do "better" than the next guy who is younger and bigger. It all boils down to ego. My ego. I believe a really good article will be an eye opener for stubborn body builders like me. The availability of magazines like MUSCLE & FITNESS and FLEX plus the readily available over-the-counter supplements like those sold by local health stores, have made a huge profit at the expense of the ignorant public. Perhaps, with your article, like the one you did on those abdominal gimmicks, the information you will provide will create awareness and balance regarding these "too good to be true" advertising claims."

There are many types and brands of products that claim to build muscle size and increase strength levels. Men, in particular, are easy prey for unsafe and ineffective supplements because of their desire to become "musclemen". Here are the pros and cons of creatine monohydrate, the latest craze among body builders.

Creatine monohydrate.
Creatine is a relatively new supplement that has been drawing attention from researchers and athletes and athletes alike. Studies such as that at Penn State University conclude that "there is enough evidence to state, that under certain conditions, creatine supplementation can enhance performance in activities that require short periods of high-intensity power and strength".

This means that creatine supplementation may benefit athletes involved in sports like basketball, football, soccer, hockey, short track and field events, and competitive rowing. These are all sports that require short bursts of power and strength.

The typical dosage is 20 grams a day during the first five or six days to "load" the muscles, then 2 grams a day as maintenance. This is supposed to boost the creatine stored in the muscles by as much as 40 percent.

Instant energy.
Creatine is an amino acid that is not part of protein. It is found primarily in meat and fish. Most people get about 1 to 2 grams of creatine from their daily diet. It is produced in the body by the liver, pancreas, and kidneys and stored primarily in the muscles where it plays a unique role in energy production.

It also helps reduce the amount of lactic acid that accumulates in the muscles when you do very intense exercise. Lactic acid is thought to be responsible for that burning sensation that accompanies extremely intense workouts.

Not a muscle builder per se.
While creatine shows promise as a performance-enhancing supplement for sports requiring short powerful bursts of energy, there is no evidence for it as a muscle builder per se. The weight gain that accompanies creatine supplementation is thought to be due to an increase in intracellular water, rather than an increase in the size of the muscle fibers.

Why few, if any, should try it.
Before you start buying and taking creatine supplements, consider the following precautions from the January 1998 issue of the University of California at Berkeley Wellness Newsletter:

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