Here’s why and how Creatine and Beta Alanine can aid performance.
The world of supplements is full of amazing - and dubious - claims. It can all be pretty confusing. So in this second of our four-part series, Mac and Jinger discuss the proven science behind Creatine and Beta-Alanine. You’ll learn what they’re good for, how and why to use them, and who can expect the most benefit from them. Oh — and if you’re vegetarian or vegan, you should pay particular attention to this episode!
**Try the SYSTM Training App free for 14 days.**
Have questions? Please ask us here!
Jinger Gottschall 0:00
Hey there. Welcome back to another episode of The Knowledge Podcast by Wahoo. I'm Dr. Ginger Gottschal.
Mac Cassin 0:07
And I'm Mac Cassin. This is part two of our series on legal, scientifically-backed performance-enhancing supplements.
Jinger Gottschall 0:14
And before we get started, we just need a little honesty check. Here's a situation in terms of improving your endurance performance, improving your power production. As an athlete, and specifically a cyclist. What we're talking about today is only a minor contributor to your success, genetics, physical conditioning, you're training, a periodized program, mental-emotional health, recovery strategies, and nutrition are all the things that make a big difference. So what we're talking about today, are improvements in the range of one to 5%. So we just want to make sure we're all clear on what these can do for you. And before you try either of these supplements, please connect with your medical professional, and just have a discussion about your current health condition, and other prescription medications that you're taking and how there could be any influence and kind of
Mac Cassin 1:17
affects interactions. Thank
Jinger Gottschall 1:19
Your interactions are exactly it.
Mac Cassin 1:23
This is also a good time to point out the first two supplements we talked about, which are essentially beetroot juice for simple terms and baking soda. Those are foodstuffs that are federally regulated. So you know what you're getting when you are consuming those things,
Jinger Gottschall 1:42
and purchasing them at your local grocer.
Mac Cassin 1:45
Exactly. Now, the two supplements we're talking about today are creatine and beta-alanine, which yes, you can consume via food, which we'll get to later. But when it comes to taking the actual supplement, it becomes a dietary supplement. The supplement industry has essentially zero regulations. For something to get pulled as a supplement, it basically needs to be proven that it's dangerous. You can say whatever you want about what your supplement does, and put a bunch of rice flour into a gelatin capsule and point oh 1% of your proprietary blend, sell for 60 bucks a bottle. There you go, you've got money. But what it says on the label isn't always there. And you hear a lot about athletes testing positive, correct for contaminated substances. Because a lot of these different supplements, it's made in a factory just like anything else, they run through different products. And so if there's going to be residue because they don't necessarily take a lot of care to clean those things. So what I'm getting at here is, these two supplements, if you want to take them, you have to buy them in some sort of powder or pill form. There are entities out there that will actually test and verify the quality and essentially the lack of contaminants for supplements. One of them is NSF-certified safe for sports. Now to do that, the companies making these supplements have to take a lot more time and effort to make sure everything's clean, make sure everything is what it says it is. Because that is a lot more expensive to buy that stuff. But even if you're not competing and thinking, Oh, it's okay, if I get a little bit of this or that that's illegal. Really what you're saying is it's okay if I don't know what I'm putting in my body. And that's really not.
Jinger Gottschall 3:31
It's actually not okay, exactly. So
Mac Cassin 3:35
when I would take these things, I paid probably three times what you couldn't find on average for these things just to make sure they're high quality, that certified, nothing's gonna go south. So if that becomes a deal breaker, that extra cost then these are definitely not the 1% gains you're looking for, you can just add five minutes to your NAP next time.
Jinger Gottschall 3:56
Very, very smart advice from someone who has raised me at the professional level. And even if you're not quite at that level, but care about your result and actually having that result be verified and not disqualify you. It's worth it. So just another little warning from us here before we get into the two supplements of the day. Get into the fun stuff. Yes. And the first one is creating. This is a substance that is actually naturally found in your muscle cells. So it's an organic compound, and it's derived from three amino acids stored in the muscle as creatine phosphate. The phosphate is an important component because it's essential when you regenerate your big energy producer your battery, the ATP, or adenosine triphosphate.
Mac Cassin 4:56
Yeah, and so about 95% of your body's creatine is store Word in the muscles like in your muscles themselves. And most of that is actually stored in your type two fibers. And then that storage format is, as ginger said phosphocreatine. Now, ATP is what drives all of our muscle actions. And there's basically an instantaneous way to have that of just having ATP. Bam, they're ready to go. You can produce it using oxidative phosphorylation. But it takes some time that's using carbohydrates, fat, and maybe some oxygen, depending on the intensity, it takes a while for that ATP to get produced so your muscles can use it. So when you have greater stores of phosphocreatine, you have greater stores of instantaneous energy, which is why it helps your muscles produce energy during high-intensity exercise, specifically, in bursts lasting less than 10 seconds, that immediate quick sprint, or start a hard effort, you're getting your ATP from these stores.
Jinger Gottschall 6:00
Exactly. So just think about immediate versus delayed. Now we are going to be talking about how you can get some of those immediate stores at the end of a sprint. And what happens is, they can actually get regenerated essentially, so that you can use them after being active for a certain period of time at a lower intensity. But so yeah,
Mac Cassin 6:25
so the phosphocreatine, again, it's a component of that ATP, if you have more of it in your muscles, there's more of it floating around for your body to reuse.
Jinger Gottschall 6:33
Exactly. Now, this brings us to talk about the dose. And it also brings us to where you get this naturally in terms of your nutritional components. And it comes from red meat, pork, poultry, and fish, those are four of the highest foods in terms of having creed to naturally,
Mac Cassin 6:58
which makes sense, because that's where the body stores it in the muscle.
Jinger Gottschall 7:02
Exactly. Now, if you are a vegan or vegetarian, then you likely have lower stores of this. And this is actually my personal, which is interesting about me one, I'm a vegetarian. And two, I have never had any type of two fibers ever. Now, that's an exaggeration, but very low. So maybe I don't notice it as much because I am not a sprinter, I don't produce very much power, but I likely have less of this naturally. So for me, as a vegetarian, I might see more benefits. Now, most supplements are going to come in a creatine monohydrate powder. And another thing we want to mention is that often if you take this in combination with a carbohydrate source, you may actually have an improved uptake with respect to storage and future use,
Mac Cassin 7:57
which I think makes a lot of sense. Because when you if you're consuming that with carbohydrates, your body, you know, wants to absorb those carbohydrates into the muscles. So the gates are sort of open. So some creatine can just sneak in there at the same time, I'm going to
Jinger Gottschall 8:12
call it a win-win.
Mac Cassin 8:14
So a loading phase is what you would initially start with, and that's 20 grams a day usually divided into four doses. So basically five grams, four times a day. And that loading phase is our office for five to seven days. So basically a week of a lot. That will essentially well, that will ensure that you've kind of topped off those stores that your muscles can handle, they can only fit so much in there. And so going beyond that isn't going to help. But once you do have those muscles topped off, you go into a maintenance phase, which would be three to five grams, just once a day. And that's the duration of your supplementation period. Now, with most things on this, these things we're talking about, they don't need to be done every single day. And there are actually much smarter ways to go about planning where these would fit into your training. I know you might, but we've already mentioned this helps with sprinting. And you might say, Well, my event doesn't involve sprinting, so I won't take it well. You don't have to take it for your event, but you can take it while you're training and training harder.
Jinger Gottschall 9:22
Absolutely. And this gets into some of the performance benefits. And in fact, there are chronic adaptations to taking creatine regularly, which is increasing your lean muscle mass, which is helpful for any athlete as well as once you do talk about those folks that are doing sprinting that involves greater muscle mass and power production. We can see improvements in that also. Even if you are an endurance athlete, I am guessing there are times during your training and or racing, where you're putting a little extra effort in, whether that's just the finish, if it's catching someone, or if it's initially when you're transitioning as a multi-sport athlete, but there are times when there are needs for these immediate bursts of higher energy. With chronic training and use of Creighton, we also do see that you have improvements in oxygen consumption at a submaximal. Exercise or training intensity.
Mac Cassin 10:35
So, by improvement, we mean a reduction, correct or using less oxygen at a given or a specific
Jinger Gottschall 10:42
intensity. Yes. And what we're going to get into a little bit more is a particular amount of time when we're talking about the sprint at the end of a race. So let's talk about a time trial that lasts less than 50 minutes. If your time trial or event is less than 50 minutes, then creatine supplementation can help you at the end of that race. However, in longer events, over 50 minutes, whether that be endurance, or let's just say a time trial that lasts 75 to 90 minutes, you may not see as much improvement in that last sprint effort. But if you do have some carbohydrate supplementation with it, then a lot of times that uptake, like Mac, talked about can be beneficial.
Mac Cassin 11:37
So if you're going for shorter stuff, that definitely helps if you're going for longer stuff. It can help.
Jinger Gottschall 11:45
It can help it just isn't as definitive in terms of the results. And it may be more individual. And it could also depend just on what those stores are at the time.
Mac Cassin 11:55
Gotcha. And so when we're talking about short-term, supplementation, and what you can see there, so ginger was just mentioning the chronic adaptations for the short-term supplementations cyclists have been reported to see an increase of maximal power of five to 15%. work performed during sets of maximal effort is increased. So it's either going harder for the same number of sets are going just as hard for more sets, awesome. The single effort, sprint performance increased by one to 5%. And then yeah, the work performed during repetitive sprints increases. So again, doing more power for more reps is generally speaking, in my experience as a coach, a beneficial training
Jinger Gottschall 12:48
tool. Absolutely. And we're talking about five to 10%, on average here, upwards of 15. But that's kind of in the extreme case, one pro of creatine supplementation in terms of the research and this research is pretty extensive in terms of the number of time people really started utilizing it 15 to 20 years ago. So we do have a significant amount of data to back that there don't seem to be any long-term detriments in terms of health consequences if you use it at the recommended dose. And the time that's been studied is about up to four years here. So pretty significant amount of time.
Mac Cassin 13:30
So as long as you stay with normal doses and have high quality on tainted,
Jinger Gottschall 13:35
yes, uncontaminated and contaminated powder, then you should be good. There is a consequence of this oftentimes, which is a bit of weight gain, or a one to two-kilogram increase in body mass, which is a lot of times water retention. And if you're thinking about pounds, this could be anywhere from one to six. So think about that with respect to if you have a little in terms of flexibility in that area, that won't be a detriment in terms of your performance.
Mac Cassin 14:11
And it's also worth noting that again, that water weight can essentially shift so you can do a supplement regime during training right and then gain the benefits of being able to train harder in specific sessions and then stop taking are highly reduced and you will essentially reverse some of that water again. Super cool. There are some reports that propose that creatine supplementation can be anti-inflammatory and reduce exercise reduces exercise-induced oxidative stress, which is generally a good thing.
It can also increase phosphorus creatine supplements can also increase phosphocreatine stores in your brain, which may promote brain health and improve symptoms of neurological diseases,
Jinger Gottschall 15:07
which is a fairly new finding, but really encouraging with respect to looking at the future data and aging, and taking it away from the performance, but just overall, neuro health,
Mac Cassin 15:23
yeah, a lot of these supplements can get a lot of attention initially because of their performance attributes. And then it turns out that there are all sorts of other benefits that we didn't even know about.
Jinger Gottschall 15:33
Exactly. So again, talking Win-win here. So that's the first supplement we're going to chat about today. And the second one is beta-alanine. And this is a non-essential amino acid that is actually another naturally produced by the body.
Mac Cassin 15:51
Right, so it's produced in the body, it's broken down in the body, and it can be consumed from outside. So what beta-alanine does once you finish, it is the rate-limiting component of another bit in your muscles called carnism. Now comes beta-alanine combined with histidine to form carnism. And it's a dye peptide that helps delay the onset of pH decline and muscle fatigue with the beneficial effects of building endurance and improving recovery. What does that mean? It means it acts as a buffer internally within the cell. In the last episode, we talked about sodium bicarbonate and how that helps buffer the blood that's the fluid outside of your cell carnism functions by buffering inside the muscle cell itself. Now, you might be saying, Okay, well, it sounds like carnosine is what I want here in my muscles. So why don't I just take Carlson? Well, if you supplement Chronos, and your body breaks it down to histidine, and beta-alanine, and then, later on, has to be put back together into Karnas in your muscles. So it's funky that beta-alanine, you're trying to take it so your body can make something else out of it that is not effective to take on its own.
Jinger Gottschall 17:07
A little bit tricky. But the bottom line here is that you cannot take the carnosine independently.
Mac Cassin 17:14
And when we talk about these performance improvements, the mechanism is that an increase in current isn't in the muscles. But that's when we talk about here the benefits of beta-alanine. We're kind of talking about here the benefits of higher concentrations of carnism. In your muscles,
Jinger Gottschall 17:29
yes. Now let's chat about again, where can we get this from actual what we eat and consume. And again, if
Mac Cassin 17:41
it's stored in the muscles, just like creatine, I have a guest on Where's
Jinger Gottschall 17:47
Mac, he's so quick, he beat me to the punch, we're going to be talking again about primary meats. And this is going to include red meats, as well as poultry, and fish. So if you are an individual pescetarian, let's say you can also get it from other meats than red. But again, vegetarians and vegans are going to have about 50% Less carnosine in their muscles compared to an individual who does eat meat. So this is again, a supplement that if you are a plant-based protein consumer, you may want to think about supplementation or try out a bit. In terms of daily consumption, it's about 65 milligrams per kilogram of body mass. And the protocol is a split dose that you would take point eight to 1.6 grams every three to four hours. And that could be over a period of time lasting anywhere from about 10 to 12 weeks. So this does require a little bit of planning, in terms of making sure your stores are built up before you're looking looking for that benefit.
Mac Cassin 19:08
Yeah, and you might say, well, I'll just do a really big, big dose, just once a day or twice a day well, doesn't quite work as effectively of that there's again, a rate limiter to how much of this you can process and move into your muscles. So one big dose at a time isn't gonna cut it,
Jinger Gottschall 19:26
it isn't. And also, you just want to think about how you're dividing that making sure you're well hydrated. It's also good to happen after a meal.
Mac Cassin 19:39
So when we talk about the performance impacts that beta-alanine supplementation can bring, you get small but potentially significant performance benefits, like points two to 3% during both continuous and intermittent exercising, exercise tasks Have 30 seconds to 10 minutes in duration, and so on off intervals or art intervals, basically, if it's under 10 minutes over 30 seconds, there can be an improvement there. Then we've got short duration Sprint so shorter than 10 seconds and longer duration longer than 10 minutes times that high-intensity activity. I'm gonna flip that one up,
Jinger Gottschall 20:23
we can start that one again.
Mac Cassin 20:29
So again with that range of 30 seconds to 10 minutes, what that means is for short duration Sprint's like 10 seconds or less and longer duration, high-intensity efforts like sessions over 10 minutes. There isn't as much evidence that there is any improvement with beta-alanine supplementation despite those increases in carnism content.
Jinger Gottschall 20:51
So a little bit of a bummer. But we're talking a small range here. And it's definitely worth it if you are in that short-duration performance gain.
Mac Cassin 21:05
And it's worth noting that that's pretty much the duration you would want to use for maximal aerobic power intervals. Oh, hello. So maybe your events don't require you to go all out for 10 minutes, maybe it's two hours. But I would guess your training involves some vo two Max intervals. And if this helps you do more power during vo two Max intervals that's going to help,
Jinger Gottschall 21:24
it will help improve your maximal as well as average power output in the longer duration. So definitely worth thinking about in the training component. In terms of average peak power increases, there was a recent study that found that endurance cyclists can benefit up to about 11.4% in terms of their average peak power. So that's again, Mack is using a great example of using it in training during those shorter intervals, you're gonna see a benefit in an endurance event. Another study found that 28 days of supplementation, increased cycling performance via an increased time to exhaustion, as well as an associated improvement in lactate clearance. And this was during passive rest. So again, we're seeing some benefits for you folks out there that do longer events. And it's just a matter of how you utilize it in training.
Mac Cassin 22:30
With both of these supplements, both beta-alanine and creatine, you'll notice that a lot of these protocols are looking at multi-day supplementation periods. And it's because there's not a lot of evidence showing that a one-off single supplementation of either of these has these levels of impacts, it requires regular supplementation over a decent amount of time to get those changes in the muscle stores of the phosphocreatine and carnism. I mentioned taking a big dose instead of lots of small ones. Well, a fun side effect of a fun dose-dependent side effect of Beta Alanine is paraesthesia, which is that pins and needle tingling sensation the higher the dose, the more likely that is to happen. I learned very quickly that I needed to take very small doses because even at a moderate one of them around two grams, which for my size works out to what would be recommended as a really awful whole body tingling, I had some teammates who really enjoy that sensation. So they were fine. They were still doing the two grams and fine with it, but that was not for you know. So I definitely took the route of the smaller and more frequent dosing
Jinger Gottschall 23:48
alright, and when we say smaller and more frequent, we are also talking about for a long period of time that you are maintaining this regimen. And for individuals that do maintain that routine, they did see an increase in lean muscle mass and it also acted as similar to what we talked about with Creighton. it neutralizes the free radicals and reduces oxidative stress. So there are some pros with respect to recovery also, just pretty cool.
Mac Cassin 24:20
And then this is not scientifically validated this is an anecdote for me. But again with the supplementation. I found I always needed to take it with food. Otherwise, I could get kind of nauseous, right, which took me a really long time to figure out when I would do fasted rides, and take my morning Beta Alanine before going in writing and then wondering why I felt so awful. And it was because of the Beta Alanine so ya know,
Jinger Gottschall 24:46
and that's another situation where we talked about not only whether is it going to be better to take it with food for the nausea feeling but also for that absorption. So super cool.
Mac Cassin 24:59
All right. So I'm hoping that a lot of you came in here thinking that you're not going to take creatine or Beta-Alanine because that's for sprinters and bodybuilders and that's not what you are. I hope that's changed.
Jinger Gottschall 25:11
Yes, we did maybe a little bit of myth-busting.
Mac Cassin 25:16
So that is it for this second part of our ergogenic aids legal performance enhancing supplements episode. Hopefully, this will make you a better endurance athlete making better decisions. Thanks for listening to the knowledge podcast by Wahoo. I probably need to do that again.
Jinger Gottschall 25:35
I thought it was good. That was good.