Cell-Tech is perhaps MuscleTech’s most well-known supplement to date. It is essentially a Creatine formula enhanced with Alpha Lipoic Acid as well as some other recovery ingredients such as BCAAs and Taurine.
Creatine has the ability to rapidly produce ATP (cellular energy) to support cellular function (in this case exercise). During high intensity exercise, creatine is used for energy which tends to spare the glycogen that would normally be used. For this reason, creatine indirectly decreases lactic acid build up because lactic acid is a byproduct formed when glucose (from glycogen) is burned for energy. Creatine has consistently been demonstrated to increase power output as well as muscle size, with maximum benefit being reached at around 8 weeks of consistent supplementation. It is generally recommended to consume 5 grams per day but lower doses (minimum of 3 grams) can still be effective if consumed over a longer period of time. Creatine comes in various forms, the most common of which is Creatine Monohydrate, which is formed by dehydrating a solution of creatine, where a single water molecule remains bound to the creatine powder. MuscleTech Creatine Monohydrate, as well as another form of Creatine, known as Creatine Hydrochloride (HCl). Creatine HCl is made by adding hydrochloric acid to a solution of Creatine, forming a salt. Creatine HCl is more acidic than the monohydrate form, thus making it more water soluble, though there is no scientific evidence to support the notion that it is superior in terms of efficacy. MuscleTech includes both forms for a combined total of 5 grams per serving, a scientifically validated dose.
ALPHA LIPOIC ACID:
Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) is a versatile antioxidant that can be both fat and water soluble. While currently under investigation for a variety of applications, MuscleTech’s inclusion of ALA in the CellTech formula is based on preliminary evidence suggesting a synergistic effect of ALA and Creatine Monohydrate. A 2003 study showed that co-ingestion of Alpha Lipoic Acid and Creatine Monohydrate increased Creatine absorption in muscle cells versus Creatine Monohydrate alone. However, it is worth mentioning that this particular study used 20 grams of Creatine Monohydrate and 1000mg of ALA, whereas the Cell Tech formula contains 5 grams of total Creatine (3.5 monohydrate and 1.5 Hcl) and 100mg ALA.
Considered a beta-amino acid, Taurine plays a variety of roles in the body. It is most concentrated in the brain and liver where it functions as a versatile antioxidant. A 2004 study showed that Taurine may decrease exercise induced DNA damage, as well as “enhance the capacity of exercise due to its cellular protective properties”. In a 2011 study, Taurine was shown to significantly decrease oxidative stress in skeletal muscle following exercise. These antioxidant effects may be responsible for the results of a 2013 study in which Taurine (1000mg) was demonstrated to improve exercise performance in trained athletes. Taurine has developed a sort of stigma due to its inclusion in energy drinks, but it may actually convey a variety of health benefits, mostly pertaining to its potent antioxidant properties.
L-Alanine is an amino acid, the primary functions of which (aside from building proteins) pertain to glucose metabolism and the transport of nitrogen to the liver. In a 2010 double-blind placebo controlled study, published in the FASEB Journal, L-alanine supplementation slightly reduced delayed onset muscle soreness. However, there is some controversy as to whether including l-alanine with other amino acids may result in absorption issues due to competition. No studies have been conducted to determine whether this hypothesis is correct, so for now we support the use of L-Alanine as muscle recovery agent.
BRANCHED CHAIN AMINO ACIDS (BCAAs):
Leucine is an amino acid that belongs to the group known as Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs). If you have ever purchased a BCAA product, you may have noticed that it contains more Leucine than the other two BCAAs (Isoleucine and Valine). The ratio is generally something along the lines of 2:1:1, but we’ve seen as much as 8:1:1 in favor of Leucine. CellTech contains the standard 2:1:1 ratio of Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine respectively. While no study has ever proved that there is an “optimal” ratio, several studies have confirmed that Leucine is the most important BCAA in regards to muscle protein synthesis. Supplemental Leucine has been shown to increase protein synthesis in rats as well as humans in dozens of studies. Most recently, a 2012 study found that supplementation with 12 g of L-leucine per day resulted in improved protein synthesis in elderly males consuming a low protein diet. However, Leucine has also been shown to be effective at dosages ranging from 2-5 grams. Leucine is the most frequently studied of the three BCAAs and several studies now have demonstrated that leucines primary mechanism of action is via activation of Mammalian Target of Rapamycin (mTOR), a protein that signals the body to synthesize protein. Leucine signals mTOR which in turn stimulates protein synthesis, thus increasing muscle mass.
Leucine may be the most important for muscle protein synthesis, but Isoleucine does appear to have unique benefits with regards to inducing glucose uptake by muscle cells (while lowering blood glucose). In several rat studies, Isoleucine has effectively lowered blood glucose and increased glucose uptake into muscle cells. While the effects of isoleucine alone on muscle glucose uptake have not been studied in humans, BCAAs in general due appear to induce glucose uptake. Whether this effect is due to isoleucine alone or the BCAAs in general is uncertain.
Valine appears to possess the least unique benefit, but to be fair, it has also been individually studied the least compared to leucine and isoleucine. However, it is hypothesized that valine may decrease exercise induced fatigue. A 2001 study concluded that valine lowered the amount of exercise-induced 5-HT (precursor to serotonin) in mouse hippocampuses. During exercise tryptophan is transported to the brain where it is converted into serotonin. It is hypothesized that serotonin is responsible for fatigue in a broader sense than the cellular fatigue caused by lactic acid build up. It has also been established that Valine directly competes with tryptophan for the same pathway (to the brain), and therefore may reduce the amount of tryptophan available for serotonin production. This would explain certain anti-fatigue effects of BCAA supplementation noted in a few studies. However, the claim that Valine is solely responsible for this effect is unsubstantiated by human studies. Given the current literature, it appears more likely that BCAAs in general help to attenuate fatigue. More studies are needed to directly compare the effects of valine vs. leucine and isoleucine.
A 1996 study demonstrated that carbohydrates ingestion, when coupled with creatine ingestion, was able to increase creatine retention more than just creatine alone. So, while co-ingestion of simple carbohydrates with Creatine appears to improve Creatine absorption, simple carbohydrates also serve to replenish glycogen stores which are depleted (how much depends on how hard/long the workout is) during exercise. Ideally, the faster absorbing carbs are the most effective for immediate glycogen restoration, though Cell-Tech contains a wide spectrum of fast digesting carbs to slow digesting carbs most likely to provide a smoother transition in hopes of avoided an insulin spike then crash. Cell-Tech contains Dextrose (the simplest of sugars) as well as ModCarb, a patented blend of carbohydrates containing Oat Bran, Amaranth, Quinoa, Buckwheat, Millet, and Chia. The blend also contains Waxy Maize, which was originally thought to be a fast digesting carb, though recent research has shown the complete opposite. MuscleTech makes no claims regarding Waxy Maize specifically, so we assume they are aware it is a slow digesting carb. Cell-Tech contains 38 grams of carbohydrates (15 of which are sugar), which is certainly adequate for restoring muscle glycogen after prolonged exercise.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Cell tech is essentially a creatine supplement fortified with BCAAs, though not in the same doses found in the average BCAA product alone. The addition of Taurine, ALA, and various carbohydrates may certainly be beneficial and therefore add some value beyond just Creatine. At a little over $1 per serving, potential consumers may find Cell Tech a bit expensive compared to other Creatine products. Muscle Tech generally provides scientifically validated ingredients in scientifically validated doses, but they certainly tend to charge for it. Ultimately, Cell Tech is an effective product for those looking to increase their size and strength to a relatively noticeable degree, but consumers could also purchase the individual ingredients separately for less and achieve the same results. Ultimately, as with most MuscleTech products, it is not a matter of efficacy (it is certainly effective) but really a matter of balancing convenience with price.
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