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Cutting Protein and Creatine

Thanks to the internet (and its endless source of anecdotal information) I came across a reddit user by the username of Iafn1996 whom had ceased taking protein and creatine as his own science experiment (Original Post).  I found this to be in the vein of experiments that Brawn for Brains is all about.  Below we break down and attempt to explain his results:

1. Lost 8 Pounds in a Month
When I read this I instantly wanted to say “Water weight” because of the creatine cut and be done, however Iafn1996 revealed to Brawn for Brains that he was taking Kre-Alkalyn, which is said to minimize the amount of water retention due to creatine.  Typical creatine monohydrate can cause around 5 pounds of water retention according to www.examine.com.  The main culprit in weight loss seems to be the calorie deficit caused by the lack of supplementary protein.

The aesthetic result here was that he began to look more cut and defined.  The performance result was that he was not meeting the necessary requirements needed to further his strength.

2. Maintained Strength but No New Personal Records
This one may be a bit surprising since he was cutting out his protein intake but the human body is built to adapt. His muscles were adapted to the weight he was lifting before and, although he cut out a major fuel source of repair for these muscles, the demand on his strength was the same and his body maintained the strength.  However without eventually receiving the proper protein and caloric requirements he would not be setting any new personal records and possibly be risking injury.

3. Endurance Declined, Loss of Performance in Metabolic Conditioning
Again he was no longer meeting his necessary caloric needs and removed a supplementary energy molecule (creatine) from his diet. His strength was able to remain at the same level due to previous conditioning, but the sustained output would quickly decline due to the diminished amount of creatine phosphate regenerating ATP within the cells.  The strength was there but the energy simply was not.

TL;DR:  he lost 8 pounds in a month, looked ripped, didn’t lose strength but couldn’t set new PRs and his endurance suffered.

Since writing this post, Iafn1996 has started creatine and protein supplementation again.  He may not be as cut as he was during the experiment, but seems very happy to be right back at it setting new personal records and kicking ass.

If you like this article please give the original post a read – the experimenter definitely gives a great breakdown of his experiment and workout stats.  Thank you to Iafn1996 for letting Brawn for Brains use his story in our article.

-Matt

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Do I Even Need Glutamine?

There you are, at your supplement station, making another post-workout shake immediately after a grueling lifting session.  You only feed your muscles the best and, as you admire your pump while you manhandle little shovels and tubs of powder, you hesitate….

“Do I even need the glutamine?”  At first you heard it was great for recovery, so you started taking it and saw some increases at the gym.  Unfortunately you also started taking BCAA’s, beta-alanine, creatine and god-knows-what-else around the same time.  Now you’re not sure if it had anything to do with your increases or if it’s even necessary to maintain your gains, but you’re not willing to risk it and cut it out of your stack.  

To start: Glutamine is the most abundant free amino acid of the human body1.  So yes, you absolutely need glutamine. The real question you’re asking is “Do I really need glutamine supplementation?”

According to a study by McMaster University, the addition of glutamine to post-exercise shakes had no effect on muscle protein synthesis but may suppress proteolysis (catabolism) during the later stages of recovery2. Luckily preventing catabolism is something gym rats have had the solution to for awhile: eat more, eat often.  Supplementing with glutamine will be no replacement for a balanced diet, however a balanced diet is a great replacement for glutamine supplementation.  On average glutamine makes up nearly 5% of the amino acids in the protein of meat and almost 9% of the amino acids in milk and milk products (Whey & Casein)3.  So if you’re like 99% of the weightlifting world you’re already consuming enough milk proteins and chicken breast to meet any glutamine requirements your body needs to recover from your grueling workouts.

Glutamine does have another role however.  Glutamine is a great supplementation when the body has been critically injured or is experiencing illness4. In these situations glutamine becomes the preferred fuel source for rapidly proliferating cells (white blood cells).

My recommendation: keep a jar of glutamine on hand for times of illness or when you feel as though your injuries are severe enough to require it.  Other than that, keep it out of your daily workout stack and keep it simple for maximum uptake.

 

Sources

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9045524 – Glutamine: effects on the immune system, protein balance and intestinal functions.
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17111006 – Addition of glutamine to essential amino acids and carbohydrate does not enhance anabolism in young human males following exercise.
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19756030 – Evaluation of a novel food composition database that includes glutamine and other amino acids derived from gene sequencing data.
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2080048 – Is glutamine a conditionally essential amino acid?