Without exception, when personal trainers start to work with inexperienced clients who are bent on developing muscle mass and size, the question of creatine supplementation inevitably comes up, usually at the very first meeting. This is understandable seeing as this particular supplement, in conjunction with resistance exercise, has the proven reputation of offering some rather attractive muscle-enhancing effects. But, is it for everyone?
Creatine, a nitrogenous acid that carries the tongue-twisting chemical name of alpha-methyl guandino-acetic acid, is obtained naturally through the ingestion of meat and fish. It occurs biologically in the human body, being found in skeletal muscle, cardiac muscle, the brain, and the testes.
It’s primary claim to fame since it came to commercial light in the beginning of the nineteen-nineties deals with its influence on the availability of energy in the cells of the body, energy that is stored in something called Adenosine Triphosphate, also known as ATP.
ATP is the basic source of energy for all living cells, including muscle, and its availability determines just how much potential work a muscle can perform. Creatine, which is eventually converted into a substance called creatine-phosphate, allows for the recycling of phosphates and the regeneration of ATP so that there is a steady supply.
Supplementing with creatine appears to augment circulating creatine levels several fold, thus encouraging muscular development, increased energy, delayed fatigue, and augmented performance, such as strength and power through anaerobic activities like resistance training. These benefits may be enhanced by supplement consumption immediately following a training session. Creatine has also been shown to encourage improvements in neuromuscular functions, thus enhancing muscle contractile properties.
Because of its positive influence on so many physical adaptations, creatine is one of the most studied and the most widely used sports performance product on the market today. One could make the convincing argument that it is the gold standard of all legal ergogenic supplements, which is saying a good deal about its reputation.
While creatine has its foundational influence on the energy systems of the body, it does have an impact on other physical characteristics, of which muscular development is the most prized. This is not surprising considering that the visual results at that level can take place rather quickly.
Research has also demonstrated that creatine usage can possibly lead to gene activation, a result that is proposed to correspondingly lead to greater protein synthesis at the muscle fiber level. Although still debatable, the muscular development effect appears to be more pronounced for men than for women.
Where creatine appears to have a direct and almost immediate influence is at the intracellular hydration level of the muscle. In general, the research seems to be highly consistent across the board in saying that the most likely result of creatine usage at the early stages is an increase in Prostate Protocol water retention. This translates into bigger muscles and a corresponding gain in weight.
In addition, an increase in the water content of a muscle cell has been hypothesized to stimulate protein synthesis, a phenomenon that could be involved in muscle fiber development.
Interestingly enough, a low percent of creatine users fall into the category of non-responders. For physiological reasons that have yet to be fully understood, certain individuals will not derive any appreciable benefits from creatine usage. One of the theories that attempts to offer an explanation for this curiosity is that non-responders may already have high quantities of creatine in their muscle. As such, it stands to reason that those people may not be as reactive as others who have less stored creatine. This particular effect appears to be apparent in vegetarians who are likely to have lower initial muscle creatine concentrations, thus more likely to derive more pronounced results. That being said, there is no easy method of screening to determine who will or will not be a responder. Trial and error remains the simplest way to find out.
In terms of results, changes can be measured in as little as four weeks into a creatine cycle, a period that generally runs along the lines of four to six weeks followed by a break of four weeks.
The effects of creatine can last for upwards of four weeks after cessation of use, with a corresponding maintenance of increased body mass. Of course, this is merely a general consensus and it should be noted that certain individuals could experience longer or shorter washout periods before creatine levels return to baseline.