Alpha-Lipoic Acid boosts effect of creatine
Muscles absorb creatine better if you ingest the creatine with carbohydrates, especially if you take the mixture after training. This trick works even better if you add a supplement containing alpha-lipoic acid, sports scientists at St. Francis Xavier University in Canada discovered.
R-(+)- and S-(-)-alpha-lipoic acid
Uptake of creatine is improved by combining it with carbohydrates because of how the hormone insulin works: the body produces more if glucose levels in the blood rise. Alpha-Lipoic Acid, a compound that occurs naturally in liver, spinach and brewers' yeast, has been shown to improve the effect of insulin in muscle tissue, in animal studies at least. [Diabetes. 1996 Aug;45(8):1024-9.]
Most of the alpha-lipoic acid found in supplements is a racemic mixture of R-(+)- and S-(-)-alpha-lipoic acid, and the same was true for the supplement that the Canadian researchers used.
It is above all R-(+)-alpha-lipoic acid, the enantiomer in food, that enhances the effect of creatine. The effect of the other enantiomer is less. [Am J Physiol. 1997 Jul;273(1 Pt 1):E185-91.]
The Canadians' study was inspired by animal studies in which alpha-lipoic acid had enhanced the effect of insulin, and they wondered whether a cocktail of creatine, ordinary sugar [sucrose] and alpha-lipoic acid would work better than a cocktail of just creatine and sucrose. They did an experiment with 16 men aged between 18 and 32, all of whom did regular weight training. During the five days that the experiment lasted the men did no training.
The researchers divided the men into 3 groups. All groups took 4 portions of 5 g creatine daily, spread over the day.
One group took nothing else [CR]. A second group also took 25 g sucrose each time that they took creatine [CRS]. And a third group took 5 g creatine, 25 g sucrose and 1 g alpha-lipoic acid four times a day [CRSLA].
Just before the five days started, and again at the end of the five days, the researchers measured the concentrations of ATP, free creatine, phosphocreatine [structural formula on the right] and total creatine in muscle samples they'd taken from the men. Phosphocreatine is 'charged' creatine that is capable of keeping the amount of ATP in the muscles at a sufficient level during high-intensity exercise.
The figure below shows that the addition of alpha-lipoic acid to the cocktail led to a significant increase in the concentration of phosphocreatine.
The figure above shows the changes in the concentrations of ATP, free creatine, phosphocreatine and total creatine in the three groups. It is clear that a) the addition of sucrose did little to improve the creatine uptake and b) the addition of alpha-lipoic acid did have a considerable effect. Note that the amount of alpha-lipoic acid used was, ehm, considerable too.
"These findings are of interest to individuals wishing to elevate muscle creatine content and anaerobic energy status in an attempt to improve athletic performance or to prevent age-related or disease-related impairment in creatine retention or metabolism", the Canadians write.
"Future studies are needed [...] to determine the minimal effective dose of alpha-lipoic acid necessary to significantly increase muscle total creatine concentration and if this translates into improved exercise performance."
Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2003 Sep;13(3):294-302.
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Nutrition, Supplementation & Strength Training
Alpha Lipoic Acid