Sunday, September 11, 2011

The worst supplement of the decade by Jerry Brainum

In terms of efficacy, the best supplement of the decade is creatine. In terms of efficacy, the worst supplement of the decade was creatine. No, that was not a typo. Creatine monohydrate, the original creatine supplement, works for 80% of those who use it. Creatine ethyl ester works for zero percent of those who use it. Critics at this point may protest that statement, using as evidence the many positive feedback remarks made about creatine ethyl ester on many of the Internet forums and web sites. I have one word in response: placebo. If you believe something will work, it appears to do just that. But the substance in question is working more through your brain than anywhere else.
      I chose creatine ethyl ester (CEE) as the worst supplement for a number of reasons. Foremost among these is simply the fact that it's useless garbage. It provides no ergogenic effects, as does creatine monohydrate. And even worse, CEE is considerably more expensive compared to creatine monohydrate (CM).I have to admit that I was suspicious of CEE from the start. The hyperbolic ads announcing this "new and improved" form of creatine made such claims as "400% better than creatine monohydrate." My first thought on reading a statement such as that is,"Who says so?" In other words, where's the published study that directly compared CEE to CM, finding that CEE is 400% better? There was never any reference provided for claims like that. In fact, the references weren't provided because there weren't any. The 400% figure was made up.
     When CEE was first introduced to the commercial market, I looked up the patent application for the product, which was  held by a group from Nebraska. According to the patent application, CEE was vastly superior to CM because it contained an alcohol group in its structure that allowed it to pass through fatty membranes. That led to another claim about CEE: that it had the ability to bypass the creatine transport protein in muscle, the usual limiting factor for creatine uptake into muscle. But this was never actually shown. The mechanism was entirely theoretical, just as was the 400% better than CM claim.
      As CEE became more popular, a number of studies began to appear that examined precisely what happened to CEE when ingested. Even the patent application had mentioned that CEE was subject to the actions of esterase enzymes in the intestines, which would cleave off the ester portion of CEE. That would leave you with just free creatine. This means that the now free creatine would still have to travel in the blood to the muscle, and be subjected to the actions of the creatine transport protein. The implications of this were that CEE was just another supplement gimmick. But the worse was yet to come.
      Additional studies actually compared CM to CEE. What these studies found was that within 30 minutes after oral ingestion, CEE was converted into the major waste product of creatine metabolism, creatinine. Creatinine has no ergogenic benefit. This means that neither did CEE, since it was largely broken down rapidly into creatinine after oral ingestion. But I soon found out that this wasn't recent news. CEE wasn't new at all. It was initially produced back in 1926. A 1955 study examined the properties of CEE, and concluded that since it largely converted into creatinine, it was both useless and unstable. So the guys who took out the use patent on CEE knew that it was junk all along. They figured they could dupe the greedy supplement companies into selling it anyway, and that's precisely what happened.
    A number of other studies have since been published in which CEE was provided to athletes engaged in weight-training. As expected, the results were nil. CEE did  nothing at all to boost training progress, unlike plain, old creatine monohydrate, which worked well for most people. A recent study even documented how one man was suspected of having kidney failure because of his use of CEE. A basic test for renal function is creatinine levels. These levels normally stay within a certain range, and don't waver much. But if you're producing much larger amounts of creatinine than normal, as would be the case if you used CEE, the test could point to kidney failure. The article was warning physicians not to jump to conclusions if they see elevated creatinine levels in young, apparently healthy people. In many cases, it's just the CEE they are ingesting that's producing the high creatinine levels.
     Dishonorable mentions go to several other products that don't work. Kre-alklyn is a brand name of a creatine supplement that combines creatine with baking soda. It's based on the notion that creatine is largely degraded in the harsh acidic environment of the stomach. That notion is utter nonsense. Creatine is 99% absorbable, and only about 1-2% is degraded by stomach acid.Similarly to CEE, when tested against CM, Kre-alkyn proved grossly inferior, breaking down into creatinine shortly after ingestion. It's useless junk. Ribose was thought to boost ATP levels. In fact, it doesn't do a thing. Another total waste of money. My advice about new and "revolutionary"supplements is to do some research before you buy such products. Look beyond the hyperbole and investigate whether the claims made about products have any real proof to back them up, such as published research. And most importantly, never rely on the anecdotal evidence such as "Well, it worked for me!" That is no guarantee  that any product will work for you, too, and most of the people that rave about these supplements online either have a financial interest in the product, or are associated with those that do. Their testimonial "evidence is completely worthless, about as worthless as the products they are pushing on you.

©,2013 Jerry Brainum. Any reprinting in any type of media, including electronic and foreign is expressly prohibited.

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