Creatine, a popular sports supplement

July 7, 2010 at 2:38 pm | | nerd, science and the public, stupid technology, tutorial

Creatine, a small-molecule found naturally in red meat (and biosynthesized in our bodies), is a popular supplement for weight lifters. To understand how it works, one needs to know that ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is the body’s energy molecule.  It gives muscles the energy they need to function, but in the process, it loses a phosphate group and is converted to ADP (adenosine diphosphate).

Creatine monophosphate has the ability to convert this low-energy ADP molecule back into the super-charged ATP molecule that muscles crave.

Creatine monophosphate

As a consequence, lifters that supplement with creatine can do more reps, which can lead to better results in the gym on a shorter timescale.  Creatine supplementation also has the effect of increasing water volume in the muscles, causing them to swell and look bigger; this effect subsides quickly once creatine supplementation is stopped.

It is well known that consumption of simple sugars with creatine increases creatine absorption.  When you consume sugar, your blood-sugar level increases, and your body releases insulin in response (assuming you don’t have type 1 diabetes).  Insulin instructs the cells to take up sugar from the bloodstream.  Insulin also has the nice effect of stimulating creatine transporters, which transport creatine from the blood into cells.

Now that the background is finished…

I was at GNC yesterday buying some creatine.  I looked at the ingredients on the GNC-brand creatine and gasped.  Creatine and sucralose!?!?!?!  Sucralose???  OK- a little more background.  Sucralose is a zero-carbohydrate, synthetic, sugar mimic.  As you can see below, it looks a lot like sucrose, only it has some chlorine groups that basically make it unrecognizable by the body’s enzymes.  So your tongue recognizes it, but your waistline doesn’t because it’s not metabolized.



Now to the remarkable part.  Sucralose has no effect on the blood sugar level. So this GNC-brand product that I bought containing 17% sucralose/83% creatine is ridiculous.  Uninformed weightlifters don’t want “sugar” calories so the industry introduces 1 g calorie-free sucralose per 5 g creatine, which has no effect on creatine uptake and actually tastes quite disgusting (sucralose is 600x sweeter than sucrose, which is regular sugar).

So who is the bigger idiot?


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  1. Hi Nick. Nice post. :)

    This reminds me of the diet sports drinks. Or sports-utility vehicles, for that matter.

    Comment by sam — July 7, 2010 #

  2. This is actually a very helpful post. Many people are un-aware of the big difference between sucrose and “sucralose”.
    17% Sucralose in any product is more like a filler at that quantity..

    Comment by Jacobson — February 24, 2011 #

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