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        FITNESS TIPS FOR 12/30/2002  

Is Whey Protein Better or Creatine?

Creatine vs. Protein
by Bob Wolff, LittD & Jim Wright, PhD 

People are confused. All of this talk about creatine supplements has them 
wondering just what the heck does it do and, more important, how will it 
help their workouts? A lot of claims have been made about bodybuilding's 
hottest supplement. Some say it makes you bigger; others say it gives 
you energy. Who's right?

Creatine is an energy-producing substance found primarily in animal 
tissue, particularly in red meat. The common belief that red meat is an 
important part of the diet for maximum muscle growth is probably linked 
to creatine. Although creatine is made in the body from amino acids - 
arginine, methionine and glycine - found in both plant and animal 
sources, vegetarians lack a presynthesized or concentrated source of 

Creatine is a substance--a small quantity of which is stored in muscle 
cells--that after binding itself to a phosphate serves to provide a 
recharging, so to speak, of the main high-energy phosphate, adenosine 
triphosphate (ATP). When ATP releases its high-energy phosphate 
group to provide energy for muscle contractions and becomes adenosine 
diphosphate (ADP), creatine phosphate (CP) is able to donate its
phosphate group to ADP to rephosphorlyate, in essence to recharge, 
ADP into ATP.

CP itself doesn't provide energy. What it does is provide a simple, 
one-step reaction to restore ATP levels. CP is the substance that's 
primarily responsible for maintaining energy levels for the first 25-30 
seconds of high-intensity exercise. Although creatine's potential for 
providing large amounts of energy is limited (most energy for 
bodybuilding workouts is supplied by muscle glycogen), research has 
demonstrated that it plays a prominent role in high strength-power 
activities and even in helping to increase lean tissue mass.

Basically, what creatine offers bodybuilders--especially when 
consumed in concentrated amounts as a supplement--is more energy 
for long, high-intensity workouts and to facilitate the recovery process. 
As stated by Paul Greenhaff, PhD, a pioneer in creatine research from 
the department of physiology and pharmacology, University Medical 
School, Queens Medical Centre, Nottingham, England: "Creatine
should not be viewed as another gimmick supplement. Its ingestion is 
a means of providing immediate, significant performance 
improvements to athletes involved in explosive sports. In the long 
run, creatine may allow athletes to train without fatigue at an intensity 
higher than that to which they are accustomed. For these reasons 
alone, creatine supplementation should be viewed as a significant 
development in sport nutrition."

Since bodybuilding involves high-intensity, explosive-type effort, it 
makes sense for bodybuilders to make sure that their stores of 
creatine are full. Some of the most effective methods of using creatine 
have been by ingesting 10-20 grams of creatine per day for a period 
of 5-7 days to reach a level of muscle-creatine saturation.

Research has shown that the body can maintain ergogenic levels of 
muscle creatine with as little as 5 g per day. General 
recommendations suggest that creatine be consumed after training, 
although some scientists and trainers recommend taking creatine 
both before and after the workout for optimal restoration of muscle 
energy stores. If cost is a factor, you can take 10 g a day for five days, 
then 5 g a day for 10-15 days, then stay off for 10 days as you drop 
your training volume and intensity.

The Role of Protein
A minuscule quantity of our body mass is made up of creatine, yet 
the majority--with the exception of water, fat and some 
carbohydrate--is protein.

Protein makes up the structure, the backbone, of all our cells. It 
constitutes all the enzymes that catalyze and speed up all the 
chemical reactions that take place in living systems. It also 
constitutes the contractile machinery, the actin and myosin filaments
that make up the myofibrils (the basic contractile units of muscle).

Many studies have demonstrated the minimum protein need for a 
hard-training bodybuilder to be about 1.5-1.6 grams of protein per 
kilogram (or about 0.8 grams per pound) of lean bodyweight per day, 
and perhaps 10% less for endurance athletes. This would be the 
minimum amount of protein required to stay in nitrogen balance and
maintain optimal health, immune system function and energy levels. 
To make maximal muscle and strength gains, however, the 
collective wisdom and experiences of the athletic community 
suggest one gram of protein per pound of lean bodyweight is

Protein is the critical ingredient that supports growth. Although 
protein (specifically amino acids) provides a small but significant 
amount of energy for your hard-charging workouts, most of it comes 
from carbs, with help from creatine. Your body, however, isn't 
building muscle from carbs. Your body needs protein to grow, to 
keep insulin levels stable, and to keep your bodyfat low.

Give your body enough protein every day--spread out over 4-6 
meals--and make sure you drink at least 8-10 eight-ounce glasses 
of water. For convenience and to give your digestive system a 
break and enhance assimilation, you can support your training by 
adding a high-quality protein supplement to your diet. If you also 
train hard and get 8-9 hours of sleep each night, you've got a 
winning combination for energy, motivation, growth and strength!

References Greenhaff, P. Creatine and its application as an 
ergogenic aid. International Journal of Sport Nutrition 5:S100-S110, 
1995. Lemon, P. Do athletes need more dietary protein and
amino acids? International Journal of Sport Nutrition 5:S39-S61, 

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