Creatine & Beta Alanine – Which is Better?

I often get asked by my personal training clients about the best ergogenic aids to boost workout performance. This is a truly massive subject in itself, one to which I have devoted an entire chapter in my upcoming book “Forging the Ultimate Physique”, so today we will just look at two of the main kids on the block – the old stalwart Creatine Monohydrate, and the new challenger Beta Alanine.

I will admit right away that I like both products – I have used them extensively both in my own training and with a significant number of clients. If I have to pick a favourite however, it has to be Beta Alanine. It gives a boost to my training the like of which very few compounds can compete with, and I have seen it make some trainees so energetic that I have had to double check that the tub reads Beta Alanine and not crystal meth! Sure, Creatine is great the first time you use it in a cycle, but there lies the problem – after the first period of use we always see diminishing returns.

Creatine

So much has been written about Creatine that it would be going over very well-trodden ground to go into excessive detail. In a nutshell however, what you need to grasp is that explosive movements (such as resistance training) are powered by the creatine phosphate energy system. It may help (although it is rather simplistic) to think of creatine phosphate as being the “energy supply” for movements that require explosive speed and power. We do have natural levels of creatine phosphate (of course), but extra supplementation in the form of creatine monohydrate (creatine “mono-hydrate” basically means a creatine molecule bound to molecule of water). During its uptake the creatine monohydrate leaves the water molecule, adding the phosphate molecule to the creatine for storage of the usable form of creatine by the body.

When you understand its action in these basic terms, creatine and its usage should be far easier to grasp. More creatine phosphate equals more energy potentially available during bouts of heavy training.

Also, although there are various forms of creatine for sale in supplement form, the bioavailability of all forms is reasonably good so there is no need to get too picky if choosing either creatine monohydrate or creatine ethyl ester. What is more important is the delivery system that is used – levels of circulating insulin, and its ability to drive more creatine into the muscle cell for uptake, creates far more variance in uptake percentage than the form of creatine that is actually ingested. So if you do wish to use creatine, pick a good simple carb delivery system such as grape juice, maltodextrin, or my favourite – vitargo.

Beta Alanine

Beta Alanine is probably the first supplement that I have seen in the last decade that really matches up to both its marketing and scientific hype in real world (real gym) situations.

Beta Alanine is the rate-limiting precursor for the amino acid carnosine, so the more Beta Alanine you ingest the higher your levels of intramuscular carnosine. This translates into improved performance in the gym – basically your work capacity shoots through the roof.

Countless studies have proven that increasing carnosine levels leads directly to

  1. A very dramatic increase in work capacity.
  2. An increase of the anaerobic threshold.
  3. An increase in lean muscle mass and rate of recovery.
  4. Dramatic strength increases.
  5. A reduction in body fat.

Now what is particularly interesting is the way certain companies have combined their Creatine and Beta Alanine into one supplement in order to exponentially enhance the results we are seeing in the gym. If you haven’t tried Beta Alanine I urge you to give it a go – I promise that you won’t disappointed.

By Nick Mitchell