Creatine + Phosphate Supplementation

Has the muscle-building logic been overlooked?

By: Roger Riedinger
Beverly Nutrition
Magazine 9 #3

Creatine Select Plus Phosphates makes biochecmical sense

Beverly has received all-time high positive feedback on Creatine Select Plus Phosphates from conpeting drug-free bodybuilders

For best results we recommend a "loading phase" of 1 scoop Creatine Select Plus Phosphates per 35-40 lbs. bodyweight each day for five days.

Creatine phosphate (a.k.a. phosphocreatine, or PC) may not be absorbed intact (in fact, you can pretty much guarantee this); nevertheless, the idea of supplementing creatine plus phosphate may have some solid muscle-building logic behind it.

  Has the use of phosphate supplements been overlooked by bodybuilders and like-minded fitness enthusiasts? Could adding this interesting substance to your daily diet enhance the quality of your muscle-building experience?

  Join me in a journey to the answers to these and other questions.

Sometime around January of 2000 I was sitting inside a meeting room at the MET-Rx headquarters, then in Irvine, California. I had recently been hired by Dr. Scott Connelly to work in his 'Advanced Concepts' (clinical science) group.

Our group -all three of us-sat inside the meeting room with several members of the marketing department. We were there to discuss girls I mean new products.

At one point during the meeting somebody brought up a MET-Rx product from the past known as 'MPK'. As best I can recall, MPK was essentially a mixture of milk proteins and rather large amounts of magnesium (Mg), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). It was to be 'stacked' with your protein, as in a post-workout shake.

Soon, others began chiming in, sharing their personal experiences with MPK. Some swore it 'did something', the particular effects including thermogenesis (i.e., increased heat production) and a general "ah hah this is working" type of sensation. Some even talked about buying up the old MPK stock when the product was discontinued. They feared running out of it!

As the meeting participants continued to discuss MPK, I was reminded of some studies by Swedish researchers performed in the 1990s and published in the International Journal of Obesity. They found that a drink containing potassium and magnesium phosphates quite powerfully stimulated thermogenesis in obese, but not lean women.

  I was intrigued enough to begin digging for old (though hopefully still viable) packets of MPK in our many staff kitchens, where boxes of MET-Rx product were available for the taking. Alas, I never found enough MPK to conduct a fair trial on myself.

Jim Collins

Jim Collins uses Creatine Select Plus Phosphates two days out from the 2003 Redondo Beach drug-tested Muscle Mania

The present

Now here we are fast approaching January 2004. I'm staring at a container of Beverly's Creatine Select Plus Phosphates. As I read the text imprinted on their trademark obsidian black label, I see that it contains 5 g of creatine monohydrate and 1000 mg total of potassium + sodium phosphates per serving. Once again, I'm intrigued. I'm also thinking to myself "This makes biochemical sense."

Indeed, the idea of supplementing one's diet with phosphate in addition to creatine seems logical; it has a sound scientific basis. Creatine supplementation clearly has the potential to increase your muscle creatine contents. Total creatine contents may increase by up to 20% or more, of which roughly the same percentage can be attributed to the 'high-energy' phosphorylated form of creatine, phosphocreatine (PC). [NOTE: It's worth pointing out here that there is substantial variability between subjects, with some subjects showing no increase in muscle creatine contents following creatine supplementation, and others achieving twice the figures mentioned above.]

Muscle creatine stores are remarkably 'plastic'

What the bulk of the scientific studies on creatine suggest is that skeletal muscle creatine contents are quite 'plastic', i.e., they display a remarkable ability to increase in size upon supplementing the diet with this naturally occurring substance.

As Lemon (2002) points out in his review article on this topic, muscle creatine stores can be saturated either by 'loading' with creatine (e.g., 280-300 mg/kg body weight/day), or by taking smaller amounts over a longer period of time (30-50 mg/kg body weight/day). [NOTE: Ideally, creatine supplementation should be scaled to the individual's skeletal muscle mass, the site of the bulk of creatine uptake.]

What would Darwin have thought?

I find the apparent plasticity of muscle creatine contents to be especially fascinating when viewed from an evolutionary standpoint (hence, 'Darwin').

Here's what I'm talking about. The amount of creatine required to saturate your muscle fibers with creatine, if not increase their ability to generate force and produce a gain in lean body mass, is much greater than can be achieved through diet (i.e., meat-eating) alone (Lemon, 2002).

Take myself, for instance. I weigh 97.3 kg (214 lb). Using a loading dose of 300 mg/kg as a guideline, that's over 29 grams of creatine per day! It has been estimated that 1 kg (2.2 lb) of beef contains 5 grams of creatine. Now, I eat a lot of red meat every single day; however, to consume more than 12 pounds of meat a day would be…err…impossible for me to do. I'd end up fat and constipated, perhaps fatally so (!)

Indeed, how often in the evolutionary history of our species do you think that we consumed ten, twenty or more grams of creatine a day?

Never? Good guess. Certainly, such doses of creatine are 'above normal', or supra-physiological, as I say. This is what makes the ability of human skeletal muscle to increase its creatine contents in response to such doses so remarkable. Why in the world did we evolve this seemingly 'superfluous' ability, one that presumably would never have been exploited for 99.999%+ of our evolutionary journey to this point?

Of greater relevance to this article, the remarkable ease with which muscle creatine contents can be manipulated suggests that muscle phosphate stores may also be quite plastic. That is, provided your diet is supplemented with phosphates in large enough amounts, for long enough, muscle stores may increase substantially. [NOTE: As with creatine supplementation, we should definitely expect some variability in the results achieved.]

Let's think about it chemically. Every molecule of phosphocreatine consists of 1 molecule of phosphate and 1 molecule of creatine. Or, better still, let's listen to Walker (1979), as he talks about this issue in what I consider to be one of the best scientific papers ever written on the topic of creatine:

"A 70-kg man contains approximately 120 g of creatine plus creatine-P [creatine phosphate] in muscle and nerve tissues. This pool must be replenished at a rate of about 2 g/day by endogenous biosynthesis and/or dietary creatine to replace the amount lost each day as creatinine in urine. Growing vertebrates [I suggest we include bodybuilders here] must also synthesize or ingest enough creatine to stock newly formed muscle and nerve tissues. Associated with the 120 g of creatine plus creatine-P in human tissues are approximately 45 g of phosphate and 45 g of potassium ions. These are not trivial quantities..." (emphasis mine)
Wow. "Not trivial quantities" indeed.

How to use phosphate supplements

"Phosphate (i.e., inorganic phosphorus, Pi) is a widely distributed mineral that plays an important metabolic role in the ATP/CP [adenosine triphosphate/creatine phosphate] energy systems." From: Goss et al. (2001)

So, the idea of supplementing your muscles with not only creatine, but also phosphates, makes sense. There is a sound scientific premise behind it. Now how do you go about it?

As explained by Goss et al. (2001, and references therein) and others, the variable results often reported in phosphate supplementation studies may be attributed, at least in part, to differences in loading practices. This same problem has occurred in creatine supplementation studies.

You can't expect to see or feel results overnight or even within 4-5 days by taking just a few grams of creatine. You have to either load with it or take smaller amounts for many consecutive days (see discussion above and review by Lemon (2002).

Much the same can be said for phosphate supplementation. That's why I would suggest that you simply follow the 'Recommended Use' guidelines provided on the back of the Beverly's Creatine Select Plus Phosphates label. These guidelines should more than suffice for your own 'self-experiment'.

Let us know what kind of results you experience!

  Goss F, Robertson R, Riechman S et al. (2001). Effect of Potassium Phosphate Supplementation on Perceptual and Physiological Responses to Maximal Graded Exercise. Int J Sports Nutr Exerc Metab, 11(1): 53.

Lemon PWR (2002). Dietary Creatine Supplementation and Exercise Performance: Why Inconsistent Results? Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology, 27(6): 663.

Walker JB (1979). Creatine: biosynthesis, regulation, and function. Adv Enzymol Relat Areas Mol Med, 50: 177.