What Does Creatine Do?
In the previous discussion (see here), we found out how creatine works. We now want to know what does creatine do?
Remember, creatine is not directly responsible for building muscle. Creatine has an indirect effect at building muscle and strength.
Here's what creatine does: It is used to increase the amount of creatine phosphate you have in your muscle tissue.
Creatine phosphate is than used to replenish ATP which acts as a quick energy source for activities that require quick bursts of energy such as strength training/weight lifting and sprinting.
The more creatine phosphate you have on hand, the more ATP can be replenished during bursts of all out effort.
The more creatine phosphate you have in your muscles, the more energy the muscles will have. This will have a positive effect on the amount of weight you can lift and short-term maximum strength lifts. Let's go back to the bench press example. Let's say you want to get 4 to 6 reps with a heavy weight and you really want to get at least 4 reps (Anymore than 4 reps would make your day!). Also, let's assume your not supplementing with creatine. Since you only get a small amount of creatine from your diet, your not getting a lot of creatine phosphate in the muscle.
So, you take the weight off the rack and power up one rep. You take a deep breath and do one more rep, struggling all the way. You know the next rep will come hard, if at all, since your muscles are losing energy.
In your muscle, you've exhausted your stores of ATP with these two reps. Your body is now looking for additional stores of creatine phosphate to convert to ATP in order to power up an additional rep or two. However, since you only have minimal amounts of creatine phosphate stores in your muscle, you don't have enough ATP to power the weight up. Your muscles give out and the weight falls on your chest.
In short, you simply didn't have enough short term fuel (ATP) to power up those extra couple of reps. Now, let's say you've been loading up on creatine for the past week. You hit the gym and you decide to try that same weight. You take the weight off the rack and boom, you hit two reps with ease. Inside your muscle, you have more than enough creatine phosphate stores to convert to ATP. This means more short term energy to power up the weight.
Boom! You hit two more reps and finally squeeze out one more rep. You hit 5 reps! You sit up in shock and wonder what just happened. Well, simply put, you had more short term energy that allowed you to power up those last couple of reps. This is what it's all about.
This is what creatine does. It helps replenishes short term energy (ATP), energy that is needed to keep on powering up the weight. More weight and reps means more muscle growth.
What else does creatine do? When a person starts out taking creatine, they will notice the greatest amount of size and strength gains in the first couple of months. There have been studies that show a significant increase in body mass. However, there has been speculation that this is mostly a water gain rather than a muscle gain.
That is, creatine has a cell expanding property which volumizes cells. When additional creatine enters the muscle, it brings water along with it. This additional fluid actually expands your muscles giving them a full or pumped look. True, there is some water gain but over time, this becomes a true muscle gain. How are you not going to gain more muscle when your muscles are getting stronger? Scientists now believe that this gain is not a water gain but a muscle gain.
Why? One factor that can be responsible for an increase in lean mass is that when large amount of creatine is taken, the amino acids needed to make creatine are now available in surplus amounts for other anabolic functions. This means that arginine, glycine, and methionine are available for other functions. We know that creatine is derived from these non-essential amino acids.
One fact remains, if you've been taking creatine for over a couple of months and stop taking it, you will lose the cell volumizing effects and the water gain but you won't lose the muscle you've earned. Muscle takes time to build and over time, and as you get stronger the size will come. You will not lose this gain (if you keep on training) once you stop taking creatine.
Remember, a strong muscle will be a big muscle, all things being equal.
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