Creatine is an extremely popular supplement with thousands of studies attesting to its effectiveness in humans. It works well in athletes, older people, women, men, teens, vegans and vegetarians, and probably even children. It’s well-tested, safe in normal amounts, and there are very few downsides.
But because so many people use it, creatine also generates a lot of questions. Every time I do a post on creatine, I get more queries in my inbox.
Does it cause hair loss?
How much should you take every day?
Is there a good time to take it?
Will creatine make you gain weight?
And is creatine bad for the kidneys?
What about side effects—anything we should worry about?
Let’s dig right in and answer those questions.
For this week’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering a question that came in response to my previous post on teens and creatine usage. Should women take creatine? Are there any differences in creatine metabolism between men and women? Does creatine work the same in women? And, the age-old question, will creatine make women bulky?
Let’s dig in.
For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering questions about a rather mysterious supplement called turkesterone. I’ve been getting questions about it lately, specifically regarding its promise for muscle building.
Turkesterone has exploded in popularity, but there isn’t much solid information to go on. Compared to supplements with reams of human research, like whey isolate or creatine or magnesium, you’re flying pretty much blind with turkesterone. I’ve had to sift through animal studies, murky Russian research, and anecdotes to bring you my best take on the compound.
It’s not the final word, but I stand by it for now.
For today’s Dear Mark, I’m answering a reader question about whether colostrum supplements are worth trying. Let’s get right into it.
A buddy of mine has been taking colostrum powder for a few months now. He swears it’s helping him bulk up in the gym. I’m training for a century ride this summer and he says I should start using colostrum for leg strength. Ever since he mentioned it I feel like I’m seeing more fitness types talking about it on social media too. I’d love to get your take before shelling out the money. Thanks Mark!
Ah yes, your phone heard you talking about colostrum. Now your social media feed is full of colostrum posts, and you want to know if it’s legit or just another empty promise.
Colostrum, as you might know, is the “first milk” that mammals produce in the two to three days after giving birth. Compared to regular milk, colostrum is particularly rich in antibodies, enzymes, growth factors, and other nutrients all designed to protect the newborn and kickstart their immune system and digestion. If you were breastfed at birth, you received colostrum from your mother. Colostrum that you buy as a supplement is almost always bovine (cow) colostrum, usually in powder or capsule form.
The liver is incredible. Most people think of it as a filter, but filters are physical barriers that accumulate junk and have to be cleaned. The liver isn’t a filter. It’s a chemical processing plant. Rather than sit there, passively receiving, filtering out, and storing undesirable compounds, the liver encounters toxic chemicals and attempts to metabolize them into less-toxic metabolites that we can handle.
It oxidizes the toxins, preparing them for further modification
It converts the toxins to a less-toxic, water-soluble version that’s easier to excrete
It excretes the toxins through feces or urine
Bam. It’s an elegant process, provided everything is working well back there. And it’s not the only process it controls.
“You should take probiotics.” “I heard probiotics are good for you.” “Oh, probiotics are so, so important.” Yes, yes. These are all true statements. But they are broad. Which probiotics? Which strains for what purpose? Simply saying “probiotics” tells us very little about what we’re supposed to be taking. It’s like saying “You should eat food.” Technically accurate yet operationally useless. Today I’m going to rectify that. I’m going to describe the best probiotic strains for each desired purpose, because there is no single strain to rule them all. The probiotic strain that’s best for anxiety may not be the best probiotic strain for allergies, and so on. Of course, these aren’t the final word. What follows is the best available evidence as it exists today. That may change tomorrow. And it will certainly change based on your individual makeup. With all that in mind, let’s get right down to it. Instantly download your Guide to Gut Health Best Probiotic for Anxiety The existence of the gut-brain axis — that mysterious thoroughfare running from the gut to the brain and back again — and the presence and even production of neurotransmitters along the gut suggests that “gut feelings” describe real phenomena. Mental and gut health are strongly linked, and it’s most likely a bi-directional relationship where each affect the other. You know this already, though, don’t you? We’ve all felt fear or discomfort in our guts. We’ve all had instinctual responses to certain people that seemed to manifest in our stomachs (and later be proven). These are real. They aren’t figments of our imagination. For instance, we know that some strains of gut bacteria can produce GABA, the “chill-out” neurotransmitter responsible for sleep and relaxation. We know that feeding prebiotics (bacteria food) to people can lower their cortisol and induce them to focus on positive stimuli instead of negative stimuli. We know that the greater the intake of fermented food like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, or sauerkraut, the lower the incidence of social anxiety. The best candidate for anxiety is Lactobacillus rhamnosus. Although no human anxiety studies for this strain exist (yet), there are plenty of animal studies that support it. One notable paper found that dosing mice with L. rhamnosus increased cortical expression of GABA genes and reduced cortisol and anxiety-like behaviors. Best Probiotic for IBS Irritable bowel syndrome is, well, irritating. Even more irritating is the fact that it describes a confluence of symptoms rather than a specific disease; two people, each with “IBS,” can have disorders with completely different etiologies. This complicates the probiotic you choose. In one study, IBS patients who took a combo of Saccharomyces boulardii, Bifidobacterium lactis, Lactobacillus acidophilus, and Lactobacillus plantarum saw a 73% improvement in symptoms—but only if they also had small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). IBS patients without SIBO only had a 10% improvement. (Side note: since gastro-esophageal reflux disease, or GERD, usually presents with SIBO, there’s a good chance that this lineup of strains could also help there) Another paper, a meta-analysis from … Continue reading “What Are the Best Probiotic Strains?”
One of the most common supplement questions I receive is about creatine. Namely, is it good for you? Is it safe? And, today, should teens be using it?
You should run any new supplement or practice by your doctor, but my quick and short answer is “yes.” In general, teens can safely take it with some medical exceptions. Teens can greatly benefit from it. Teens, especially those who don’t eat any animal products, should consider taking creatine. But I don’t only do quick and short answers here. Let’s dig into the science of teen creatine use to determine exactly why it’s so beneficial and safe. First, the question:
I have 2 sons who are athletes and asking me about Creatine.
One is 21 and plays college football… and the other is 15 and plays football and baseball.
My youngest one is hitting me up to start taking Creatine. Do you have feedback on this? Or an article you can pint me to that you have written. I have always been against it, only because I don’t know enough about it.
Thanks for your help,
Now the details. To begin with, let’s dispel some popular myths about creatine.
CLA, or conjugated linoleic acid, is the “good” trans-fat that occurs naturally in meat and dairy, especially from grass-fed animals. In the stomach of ruminants like cows, sheep, or goats, millions upon millions of bacteria help the animal digest its food. They also help convert dietary grass-based linoleic fatty acids into saturated fatty acids. Well, that conversion takes several steps, and one of the steps is the creation of CLA, some of which never gets fully saturated and instead shows up in the animal’s body and milk fat.
Twenty-eight different CLA isomers, or structural arrangements of the molecules, appear in CLA-rich animal fat. It’s very complex and quite different from trans-fat created by partially hydrogenating vegetable oils. Those lab-created trans-fats have definite negative metabolic and health effects, while the panoply of various CLA isomers from grass-fed dairy and meat seem to be beneficial.
What about CLA supplements? Is synthetic CLA just as good for you as naturally-occurring CLA?
When it comes to essential nutrients, it doesn’t get much more essential than magnesium. At the most basic level, mitochondria can’t make ATP—the body’s energy currency—without magnesium. No ATP, no life. Magnesium regulates the electrical activity of the heart, helps maintain healthy vitamin D levels, and allows nerves to fire and muscles to contract. Low magnesium is associated with everything from PCOS to type 2 diabetes, depression, migraines, and cataracts, to name just a few.
This is just a snippet of magnesium’s impressive resume, which is why it’s such a popular supplement. Foods like leafy greens, nuts and seeds, and dark chocolate all contain magnesium, and drinking water actually provides magnesium, too. However, large epidemiological studies suggest that the majority of adults don’t hit the recommended daily intake of 310 to 320 mg for females and 400 to 420 mg for males. Heavy alcohol use and certain pharmaceuticals (notably diuretics and proton pump inhibitors like Nexium and Prevacid) also increase the risk of magnesium deficiency. So do gastrointestinal disorders like Chron’s and celiac disease, which interfere with nutrient absorption.
Magnesium supplements can be safe and effective for closing the gaps. Perusing the magnesium section of your local health food store is intimidating, though, to say the least. So many different types and formulations. How do you pick?
When a person goes looking for information on “collagen” supplements, they often come out more confused than they went in. There are seemingly dozens of different varieties. There’s gelatin. There’s animal collagen. There’s marine collagen. Hydrolysate and peptides. And then there are all the “types” of collagen: type I, type II, type III, type IV, type V, and on down the line, each with unique properties and applications. Everyone seems to say something different.
What are you supposed to believe? How does a person make sense of it all? What are differences between them?