Gymnasts have been taking creatine since the 1970s. It’s produced naturally in the body, but isn’t readily available to it. Creatine is also under strict FDA regulation, meaning it can be difficult to find around the country.
Many people believe that creatine helps them by providing energy and improving muscle strength. But if you stop taking creatine before your muscles have stopped working, you may lose your gains.
Creatine is a simple chemical that can be made synthetically. Most of the research on it has been done by supplement companies that are eager to attribute their products to some sort of health benefit. Their studies are small and poorly designed, but they often show positive results, with patients reporting fewer side effects than expected.
The evidence for creatine’s effectiveness remains preliminary, but it shows promise for improving strength and endurance in athletes and people who spend a lot of time in the gym.
In the first week of a marathon, muscles use up all their glycogen; if you don’t replenish it, you will run out of energy. But if you keep your body’s store of glycogen topped up by eating carbohydrate-rich foods, you can keep going for hours and hours. During the second week of a marathon, muscles start to break down more muscle protein than they can regenerate by breaking down fat. But if you keep eating protein-rich foods, your body can continue to repair itself until it has broken down enough protein that it has no more protein left to repair.
During the third week of a marathon, your muscles have run out of both muscle protein and glycogen. The only thing they have is fat. If you don’t eat fat-rich food, then by the end of the race your body doesn’t have any source of energy left to be used in working out.
This is why runners eat gels at mile 25: they aren’t just filling their stomachs: they are topping up their stores with fat so that they don’t run out of energy before the finish line.
It’s easy to see why athletes use creatine. It’s a simple, cheap substance that is probably effective. But as a designer drug, it is not the best choice – it is too slow and uninteresting.
A better drug would be something that made you feel good fast and worked for a long time. We already have a few such drugs in our bodies: amphetamines and anabolic steroids. They do exactly what we need them to do: pump up muscles and enhance athletic performance…
…But they also come with other effects – mood changes, excessive sweating, weight loss, yellow skin. It’s unclear which of these effects are bad and which are good, but they are all undesirable.
We don’t want to depend on our bodies to provide us with illegal drugs or designer hormones; we want something we can control ourselves. We want something that will be there forever – something that cannot be stopped by law or regulation or even the laws of nature.
Cycling is no longer the only sport where a rider’s form can be judged by his ability to sustain an intense effort for hours on end. I have just watched a video of another man, Steve Mounsey, in the British Ironman Triathlon Championships. He broke down to a walk after two hours and walked for another two hours. He then finished in twenty-six hours and forty-seven minutes, which is good enough for second place among around thirty thousand competitors.
He had been riding through the pain barrier during the bike stage, and was pushing himself hard on the run at five per cent above his HRmax target. His legs were meaty and shapeless lumps of muscle that looked as if they could not possibly be of much use to him when he got home.
I am not sure whether sports scientists know why this should be.* It certainly seems possible that weights lifting can improve recovery time because they keep nutrients in muscles while they are being exercised.* But that would imply that endurance exercise – cycling, in particular – would actually make you weaker. So far, there is no evidence of that.
There are three main ways to get ingredients for cryto. Anyone who wants cryto is going to have to learn how to make it. The most obvious way is to steal it from someone else.
The second way is to get it from a natural resource. Cryto can be made using something called a “catalyst.” Sometimes these come from iron ore, or manganese, or uranium; sometimes they come from something else. Some people think the best catalysts are rare minerals that don’t occur in nature. But even this isn’t necessary. As long as you can get enough of the right kinds of stuff, you can make cryto out of anything like dust, or water, or metal filings, or glitter.
The third way is to make cryto yourself. You could do this by growing your own catalyst, but if you live in an area with a lot of the rare minerals, you will probably run out before you run out of things that won’t work for catalyst. There’s no reason you couldn’t grow your own catalyst; just as with making pasta from flour, it’s not that hard.
Crytography is a branch of mathematics that deals with finding discrete solutions to equations of the highest order, which are called cryptosystems.
For example, the equation x2 + y2 = 1 has an infinite number of solutions. We can think of these as being listed in a table like this:
If we have another equation of the same type, say x3 + y3 = 2, what would be the most secure way of storing a list of its possible solutions?
The easy way is to just write them down. But then any hacker who knew about your table could get access to all the solutions by simply asking you for one.
A better way is to write down the solution only if someone asks for it. This is called public-key cryptography – it requires two keys, one public and one private. The numbers x and y are called the coordinates of your answer point on the cryptosystem’s solution plane. If anyone wants to find a particular solution x and y, they must first send you their secret key (the pubic key). This is usually something you can’t remember or even know; you will have to put it into a secure box or document or something. And if they wanted a different solution y, they’d have
There are two ways to make money. One is to get a regular paycheck, which is to say, work for someone else. In that case, if you have no other sources of income, you will always be poor. The other way is to invent something that makes you rich.
There is not enough wealth in the world to go around. So if everyone wants some, it has to be taken from somewhere. It takes more than hard work and intelligence to get rich, or even just a good start. If a teenager with an idea would have to come up with $1 million in the first year, I wouldn’t invest in him. But if he came up with $50 million, he’d have a shot.
Today’s equivalent of Newton’s alchemy is cryptography: figuring out how things work and what secrets they might conceal. Today’s equivalent of Newton’s theology is computer security: finding out how things work and what secrets they might conceal.