|While he may be so fast that he is almost out of the focus, when the photographer finally released the shutter, Usain Bolt, the fasted man on earth actually doesn't look as if his fiber type composition was highly type II dominant, does he?|
Ah, yes those phosphocreatine stores, they are great and creatine is the staple supplement for anyone looking to improve his glycolytic performance. But hey, wait a minute: Shouldn't that actually mean that taking creatine would be a bad thing for an ironman (not the one from the cinema, but the Hawaiian ;-)?
GPA - Supplemental creatine unloading for edurance athletes!?
Well, the answer to the question "Is creatine bad for endurance athletes" is, as long as you stick to reasonable doses "No! It isn't.". It neither helps nor hinders endurance performance and a "real" Ironman could probably even get away with one of those sugar-laden "cell-volumizers" without doing much harm. His body is would just burn through the carbs without any of them ending up as additional ballast on his hips. That said, previous studies by Vanakoski et al. or Chwalbiñska-Moneta clearly show that performance detriments are not an issue and in the latter of the two studies, the creatine supplement did even improve the "endurance (expressed by the individual lactate threshold) and anaerobic performance, independent of the effect of intensive endurance training" so that the highly trained rowers who participated in the study at hand would in fact have had an edge at the end of the race and may - if they would have otherwise been on par with the competition - probably have won the race (Vanakoski. 1998; Chwalbiñska-Moneta. 2003).
|Surprise: Anyone of you who has ever taken NO Xplode 2.0 (new or old formula) has already been supplementing with GPA - both the original and the "advanced strength" formula contain an undisclosed amount of GPA. Apropos, if you are interested in the differences between the two, check out my previous article on the matter - I guess I don't give away too much, when I tell you that they are few and far between.|
In short, when you use 5g of creatine as a means to "load" your PCr stores, the administration of GPA will have an "unloading" effect. This effect has in fact been studies in a number of previous studies. The effects and potential side effects of GPA are yet unclear and that despite the notwithstanding that it is freely available on the market and *surprise* you may well have been taking very small quantities of it in the past (maybe even still are), since NO Xplode 2.0 is by no means the only supplement that contains small (and obviously undisclosed) amounts of GPA in its kitchen sink ... ah, I mean "proprietary blend" (see "Ask Dr. Andro: Are There NO Changes in the New N.O.-Xplode 2.0 Advanced Strength Formula?", read full article). Reason enough for Inge Oudman, Joseph F. Clark and Lizzy M. Brewster from the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam (Netherlands) and the University of Cincinnati to conduct a systematic review to assess the effect of this substance on the mammalian energy metabolism (Oudman. 2013).
So what did the scientists find? Is GPA the "next creatine" we've been waiting for? ;-)
The primary outcome of the review was the effect of GPA on energy metabolism, function, and morphology of tissues "with high and fluctuating energy demands" (Oudman. 2013) - this includes the obvious,...
- skeletal muscle, where it reduces creatine, phosphocreatine, total creatine, and ATP by 66.1%, 79.7%, 86.7% , and 38.8%, blunted the total creatine kinase activity (-28.6%), but increased the intra-mitochondrial creatine recycling (CK activity) by 200%, reduced the activity of glycolytic enzymes (phosphorylase -38.8%, lactate dehydrogenase -16.2%), increased AMPK expression by 45% and AMPK mRNA by 20%, promoted GLUT-4 expression (+45% in slow-, +33% in fast twitch fibers) and subsequently doubled muscle glycogen content, while decreasing blood glucose (-5%) and insulin levels (-27% in non-diabetic animals), improved endurance during non-/light weight bearing exercises and hampered it during heavier exercise, doubled mitochondrial DNA (evidence for the shift towards an oxidative muscle type), and decreased total and relative muscle weight by 19% and 10% respectively;
- heart muscle, where similar decreases in creatine, phosphocreatine, total creatine, and ATP occurred and GPA decreased the survival rates after myocardial infarction by ~50%
- a shift from type II to type I fiber predominance,
- increased glucose tolerance, and
- reduced skeletal muscle and body weight
Other, per se unquestionably more favorable confounding factors are the increased cellular fatty acid transporter protein concentration, fatty acid oxidative capacity and the compensatory increase in AMPK expression that is actually a response to the perceived energy (ATP) deficiency that develops in response to the administration of GPA (click here to learn more about AMPK's role in fatty acid oxidation and glucose metabolism). So, as paradox as it may sound: Despite its negative effects on the use of glucose as a substrate GPA could actually improve, not deteriorate glucose metabolism via an AMPK mediated "metformin-esque" effect on GLUT-4 expression.
|Way too many trainees tend to forget the true meaning of "supplement". Supplements are something that "supplement" something else. In the case of creatine supplementation the latter supplements your efforts in the gym and won't (and this has recently been confirmed) build muscle on its own.|
What about GPA as a diet tool, then? While it certainly would appear that taking (hitherto by the way unknown) amounts of GPA could help you lose weight, it is unlikely that this weight loss will make you look the way, you want to look. I mean if you have to lose weight at all costs, because your health depends on it, GPA could provide a viable AMPK promoter that may help you achieve just that.
Especially strength athletes, sprinters and the like, as well as anyone wanting to look / perform like one of these athletes should yet resort to the tried and proven dietary tweaks to get rid of the extra weight. And there is actually no reason not to continue taking a regular maintenance dose of 3g of creatine during the cut,also in view of the fact that the "beneficial" effects of GPA supplementation are actually brought about by blocking one out of two energy sources - much like keto dieting, by the way, but that's a topic for another blogpost ;-)
Related read: "Ask Dr. Andro: The Pharmacokinetics of Creatine"- Part I & Part II
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- Oudman I, Clark JF, Brewster LM. The Effect of the Creatine Analogue Beta-guanidinopropionic Acid on Energy Metabolism: A Systematic Review. PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e52879.
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