Effects of combined creatine plus fenugreek extract vs. creatine plus carbohydrate supplementation on resistance training adaptations

Journal Title (Medline/Pubmed accepted abbreviation): J. Sports Sci. Med.
Year: 2011
Volume: 10
Page numbers: 254-260
URL: http://www.jssm.org/vol10/n2/2/v10n2-2abst.php

Summary of Background and Research Design

Background:Creatine is one of the most widely used performance-enhancing supplements due to its safety and efficacy. There is some evidence that simultaneous carbohydrate intake helps increase creatine absorption, but high levels of simple sugars can lead to unhealthful spikes in blood sugar. Fenugreek seed, a spice that is commonly used in Indian cooking, is thought to possess compounds that have biological activities that mimic insulin, thereby having the ability to attenuate blood sugar spikes.

Hypothesis:A creatine and fenugreek supplement will offer similar strength gains as a creatine and carbohydrate supplement, both of which will be better than a carbohydrate placebo

Subjects:Resistance-trained men (n = 47), age 21.2 ± 2.6 yrs old.

Experimental design:randomized, double-blinded (except for the fenugreek supplement, which was a tablet and could not be incorporated into the creatine/sugar powder), placebo-controlled, repeated measures

Treatments:(dose per day)
1)Creatine (5 g) plus dextrose (70 g)
2)Creatine (3.5 g) plus fenugreek (900 mg)
3)Placebo- dextrose (70 g)

Protocol:Participants were first familiarized with the procedures and provided initial blood samples. The participants underwent exercise sessions before supplementation, 4 weeks into supplementation, and 8 weeks into supplementation. For exercise, one repetition maxima (1RM) were determined for leg press and bench press. Muscular endurance was determined on the same exercises. Anaerobic capacity was subsequently determined on a stationary bicycle, peddling for 30 sec. Dietary intake was monitored and controlled for the 4 days preceding the exercise sessions. During the supplementation period (8 wks), the subjects participated in a supervised resistance training protocol 4 days/wk.

Summary of research findings:
  • There were no signs of adverse effects aside from 2 cases of gastrointestinal disturbance (not uncommon with creatine).
  • The groups consuming the creatine, either with fenugreek or dextrose, experienced an increase in lean body mass between the baseline and t = 8 wks. The increase in lean body mass was observed also from baseline to t = 4 wks for the fenugreek group.
  • For bench press, the placebo group experienced increased 1RM from t = 0 to t=8 (114.6 ± 31.4 kg to 118.2 ± 30.5 kg); the creatine + dextrose group improved from t = 0 to t = 4 (108.6 ± 30.4 to 115.1 ± 29.6 kg) and then stayed elevated at t = 8 (118.0 ±30.0 kg); and the creatine + fenugreek group improved from both t = 0 to t = 4 (121.8 ± 18.5 to 127.0 ±20.5) and from t = 4 to t = 8 (128.7 ± 20.8).However, there was a smaller variability (standard deviation) in the fenugreek group, which makes it easier for the numbers to reach statistical significance. In addition, these participants were stronger to begin with. Practically, creatine produced higher gains than no creatine and the strength gains were similar between creatine+dextrose and creatine+fenugreek treatments.
  • Significant improvements for 1RM for leg press were seen in all 3 groups from t = 0 to t = 4 and to t = 8 with no difference between groups.
  • Improvements were not seen in muscular endurance for any group.
  • Slight improvements were seen in mean and peak power in all groups; improvements were not statistically different.

Interpretation of findings/Key practice applications:

Ingesting creatine with fenugreek may increase the uptake of creatine as well as creatine + simple carbohydrates. However, the authors did not compare creatine + fenugreek to creatine only, so it is hard to make conclusions based solely on these results. In addition, there were no before and after measurements of muscle creatine levels to further substantiate the performance/lean mass.


There are a few more controls that could have been done in this experiment to make the results more robust. For example, in this study it was not shown how 3.5 g of creatine/day affect strength gains without fenugreek or carbohydrates affected strength gains or lean body mass. Further, the dose of creatine varied from the creatine+dextrose treatment (5 g/day) to the creatine+fenugreek treatment (3.5 g/day). It is difficult to make direct comparisons when more than one variable is altered.
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