Athletes absorb creatine better when they combine it with 50-100 g fast carbohydrates. But not all strength athletes want the carbs: even if you take them close to a training session, fast carbs are still just empty calories. American sports scientists at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor have come up with an alternative: fenugreek with creatine works just as well as glucose and creatine.
How to enhance the effect of creatine
It was back in 1996 that researchers discovered that a good dose of glucose boosts creatine uptake in muscle cells by sixty percent. [Am J Physiol. 1996 Nov; 271(5 Pt 1): E821-6.] This is probably because glucose boosts the insulin level and insulin in turn activates the transport protein GLUT4 in the muscle cells. As a result, the muscle cells not only absorb more glucose but also more creatine.
In 2000 British scientists discovered that a mix of 50 g protein and 50 g fast carbohydrates stimulated the creatine uptake in muscles as effectively as 100 g carbs. [J Appl Physiol. 2000 Sep; 89(3): 1165-71.] This solution is already an improvement, but not enough to convince strength athletes who want to avoid carbohydrates.
Supplements manufacturers are constantly on the lookout for creatine combinations that work better than creatine alone. So far there are few creatine-plus products that come out well in tests. One exception is Creatine.
Fenugreek improves effect of creatine more than carbs
The combination of alpha-lipoic acid and creatine. [Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2003 Sep; 13(3): 294-302.] But most of the improved creatine combinations land up in what supplements expert Will Brink has called The Creatine Graveyard.
The Americans were also out to improve creatine’s effectiveness. They did an experiment with 47 male strength athletes, aged between 19 and 21. For the eight-week study the researchers divided their subjects into three groups.
The placebo group were given 70 g glucose dissolved in water to drink. [PL] A second group got the same but with 5 g creatine added [CRD]. A third group was given 3.5 g creatine in capsules and 900 mg fenugreek extract also in capsule form. [CRF]
T1 = before the experiment started; T2 = after four weeks; T3 = after eight weeks. BP = bench press; LP = leg press.
The CRF group achieved the same amount of progression as the CRD group. The asterisks in the table above indicate where there is statistically significant effect.
“This alternative creatine supplementation strategy may prove beneficial to certain populations concerned with the negative implications of consuming large quantities of simple carbohydrates”, the researchers conclude.
It seems that fenugreek takes over the role of fast carbohydrates. How this works the researchers don’t know, and they don’t speculate either. Unfettered by too much knowledge, we are willing to take a gamble. Fenugreek slows down the rate at which food moves through the digestive tract. As a result the small intestine absorbs more creatine. Fenugreek also ensures that the body’s glucose level remains constant and that the muscles’ sensitivity to insulin increases. And therefore the muscle cells absorb more creatine.
Oh yes. The study was funded by Indus Biotech, a manufacturer of fenugreek extracts. Also worth mentioning.
EFFECTS OF COMBINED CREATINE PLUS FENUGREEK EXTRACT VS. CREATINE PLUS CARBOHYDRATE SUPPLEMENTATION ON RESISTANCE TRAINING ADAPTATIONS
The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of combined creatine and fenugreek extract supplementation on strength and body composition. Forty- seven resistance trained men were matched according to body weight to ingest either 70 g of a dextrose placebo (PL), 5 g creatine/70 g of dextrose (CRD) or 3.5 g creatine/900 mg fenugreek extract (CRF) and participate in a 4-d/wk periodized resistance-training program for 8-weeks. At 0, 4, and 8-weeks, subjects were tested on body composition, muscular strength and endurance, and anaerobic capacity. Statistical analyses utilized a separate 3X3 (condition [PL vs. CRD vs. CRF] x time [T1 vs. T2 vs. T3]) ANOVAs with repeated measures for all criterion variables (p < 0.05). No group x time interaction effects or main effects (p > 0.05) were observed for any measures of body composition. CRF group showed significant increases in lean mass at T2 (p = 0.001) and T3 (p = 0.001). Bench press 1RM increased in PL group (p = 0.050) from T1-T3 and in CRD from T1-T2 (p = 0. 001) while remaining significant at T3 (p < 0.001). CRF group showed a significant increase in bench press 1RM from T1-T2 (p < 0.001), and also increased from T2-T3 (p = 0.032). Leg press 1RM significantly increased at all time points for PL, CRD, and CRF groups (p < 0.05). No additional between or within group changes were observed for any performance variables and serum clinical safety profiles (p > 0.05). In conclusion, creatine plus fenugreek extract supplementation had a significant impact on upper body strength and body composition as effectively as the combination of 5g of creatine with 70g of dextrose. Thus, the use of fenugreek with creatine supplementation may be an effective means for enhancing creatine uptake while eliminating the need for excessive amounts of simple carbohydrates.
In conclusion, combining 900 mg of a commercially available fenugreek extract with 3.5 grams of creatine for eight weeks in conjunction with a structured resistance training program can significantly impact strength and body composition in resistance trained males as effectively as combining 5g creatine with 70g dextrose. This alternative creatine supplementation strategy may prove beneficial to certain populations concerned with the negative implications of consuming large quantities of simple carbohydrates. These findings are novel to the respect that no studies have previously investigated the effects of fenugreek extract in combination with creatine monohydrate on performance measures.