Creatine, Caffeine, Vertical Jump and RATS! (yes, rats)

Here’s a strange one: researchers tested the effect of high doses of creatine and caffeine on the lean body mass (LBM) of subjects involved in vertical jump training. The strange part? The subjects were rats! According to the research, soon to be published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, but already available online, the creatine supplementation had no effect on lean body mass, but the caffeine did.

Many human studies have shown that creatine improves muscle power, contributes to the growth of lean body mass, helps in recovery and reduces muscle breakdown during exercise. Meanwhile, caffeine has been shown to help with endurance and also with power output during high-intensity cycling.

As it turns out, the effects of caffeine are somewhat antagonistic to the effects of creatine, so the question was whether or not subjects taking caffeine and creatine would get the benefit from the creatine. Now here’s the crazy part. They outfitted the rats with lycra weight vests and made them jump for four sets of 10 jumps with a one-minue rest between sets. The lucky rats performed this exercise regimen five times per week for five weeks.

Okay, so the rats weren’t so lucky – the researchers measured their body fat and lean body mass by, uh, processing them into their components, which is good for research but not so good for rats. As it turns out, the rats who sat around doing nothing, unless they happened to be in the caffeine group in which case they presumably sat around twitching and fidgeting (these were the control groups), got fatter than the rats who exercised. No surprise there. But there was no difference between those who took creatine and those who did not. The only supplement that made a difference was caffeine alone, which reduced the percentage body fat. Lower body fat is good for improving vertical jump, of course, but it seems like just eating better would make more sense.

Sadly, the researchers don’t say if any group got better at vertical jump, presumably because lab rats are not motivated to break records in the event and it’s hard to know how hard they’re really trying. Still, in the annals of jump research, this is one of the stranger studies I’ve come across. And frankly, I’m not sure I want people to train rats to be super jumpers anyway!

I will say that personally, having read the research and having used creatine myself, I think that creatine is both safe and effective during periods of heavy training. That merits a more serious article in the future, but I think it’s one of the few supplements that is actually worth trying when training for strength and power.

Source:
Frederico SC Franco, Neuza MB Costa, Susana A Ferreira, Miguel A Carneiro-Junior, Antonio J Natali, “The effects of a high-dosage creatine and caffeine supplementation on the lean body mass composition of rats submitted to vertical jumping training,” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2011, 8:3.

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