Monday, November 24, 2008

Steroid Alternative

In an effort to identify potential avenues of performance enhancement all the while using new drug regulations as a precipice I have potentially identified a naturally occurring amino acid which has been proven to produce stated desired results.

In 1988 a study by Gaffney and Cunningham (1) using Timeform ratings as an indicator investigated heritability of racing performance between 1952 and 1977. They reported a strong genetic performance and a “steady genetic gain of 1% per year” yet discovered “winning times had not improved during the last 50 years for classic races”. This was described by W. G. Hill (2) (1988) as “Cunningham’s Paradox”, he asked the question of “have horse breeders reached the limit of achievement of racehorses”. Cunningham (3) suggested that the “physiological limit might have been reached, for example, for dealing with lactic acid build up in the muscle during performance”.

Every movement of a muscle a horse makes requires energy, whether sprinting 7 furlongs or batting an eyelash energy is required. Their body produces that energy through the use of ATP (adenosine trihosphate). This energy is released when ATP is split into ADP (adenosine diphosphate) and P (phosphate). The human body, for example, has a very limited supply of ATP only enough to store fuel for about 3 to 5 seconds of work. Our bodies then “borrow” a phosphate group from another substance called PCr (phosphocreatine) and combined it with ADP. ADP + P = ATP.

Herein lays the potential answer to “Cunningham’s Paradox” whereby if genetics have reached their maximum capabilities could supplementation derived from a naturally occurring source thereby negating potential side effects substantially increase output and performance.

Creatine is a naturally occurring amino acid synthesized from lysine, argentine and methionine, in the liver, pancreas and kidneys. Muscles take up the majority of the creatine found in the body it is there that it is converted into phosphocreatine which is necessary (as stated earlier) for ATP production. Research shows that taking creatine supplements can increase muscle creatine by 20 to 30%. Increasing the amount of creatine found in the muscle also increases the amount of phosphocreatine, which aids in producing greater amounts of energy. This is because phosphocreatine is the limiting factor in energy production in high intensity anaerobic exercise. Numerous studies have identified the amino acid as producing substantial results in the performance of anaerobic events as well as increasing lean body mass, such as:

In 1997 a double blind study by Prevost, Nelson and Morris (4) supplemented with 18.75 g/day of creatine prior to high-intensity intermittent work to exhaustion, and then 2.25 g/day during testing “found that creatine supplements significantly delayed the onset of muscle fatigue in endurance athletes by boosting their lactate thresholds”.

Another double blind study in 1997 conducted by Bosco and others (5) provided 20 g/day to qualified sprinters who performed intensive treadmill running until exhaustion. They determined “creatine supplementation increased performance sprinting performance by 13%”.
A 2000 study by Mehlberg (6) stated “sprinters who loaded with creatine (25 grams for 5 days) significantly increased their peak and average power output compared to a group taking an inactive placebo”.

The Mayo Clinic (7) graded the supplement an “A” stating “several high-quality studies have shown an increase in muscle mass, lean body mass and strength”.

To my knowledge no study has been reported regarding the usage of creatine in equine athletes, however a 2001 study by Mc Farlane, Heigenhauser, D G McDonald (8) using fingerling rainbow trout which were “supplemented with equal amounts of creatine (Cr) by two routes: dietary (12.5 mg Cr per g food); or intraperitoneal injection (0.5 mg Cr per g fish). Endurance in a fixed velocity sprint test (at a speed of 7 BL s(-1)), and resting levels of white muscle metabolites (total creatine [a measure of free creatine plus phosphocreatine (PCr), ATP, lactate and glycogen] were assessed following 7 days of supplementation and compared to controls. It was determined that resting muscle glycogen was elevated in creatine-supplemented fish. Higher muscle glycogen corresponded to significantly greater endurance in creatine-supplemented fish”.

Obviously scientific and field testing on Thoroughbreds must occur before and absolute answer to “Cunningham’s Paradox” can be pronounced. However that being said overwhelming evidence must lead one to consider that creatine potentially is a naturally occurring, safe, legal and effective alternative to steroids.

(1) Gaffney, B and E. P. Cunningham, 1988. Nature 332: 722-724
(2) Hill, W. G. 1988. Nature 332: 722-724
(3) Gaffney, B and E. P. Cunningham, 1988. Nature 332: 722-724
(4) Prevost, M.C., Nelson A.G., Morris G.S., 1997. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport 68: 233-140
(5) Bosco, C. and others, 1997. International Journal of Sports Medicine 18: 369-372
(6) Mehlberg, D. 2000. Healthlink, Medical College of Wisconsin
(7), 2008. Drugs and Supplements: Creatine
(8) Mc Farlane, Heigenhauser, D G McDonald, 2001. Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol. 2001 Nov ;130 (4):857-66