Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of years, you’ve noticed that creatine has made the turn from “steroid-like” supplement that should be avoided to likely the most prominent, most well-researched, most efficacious non-androgenic (that’s non-steroid) supplement on the planet.
Apart from what you may know about creatine, Olsen et al. – from the Institute of Sports Medicine Copenhagen – claim that “Creatine supplementation augments the increase in satellite cell and myonuclei number in human skeletal muscle induced by strength training.” As you’ll soon understand, this may have some serious implications when it comes to building muscle and strength, and if you aren’t already one of the subscribers to ingesting creatine, you may very well be after reading this article.
What Does Creatine Do?
When you train, (or move, for that matter), your body requires an energy source in order to contract the muscles you are using. When you move, the body will primarily get this energy from ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) by cleaving one or more phosphates, resulting in Adenosine Diphosphate (ADP) or Adenosine Monophosphate (AMP). Creatine’s primary purpose is to create a “pool” of phosphocreatine that will donate phosphates to be readily available to convert ADP back to ATP so that they can be used for energy, once again. In essence, it allows your muscle to be contracted much more readily on succeeding contractions.
The Creatine Supplementation Study
The Olsen et al. study’s results show that creatine’s effect may stretch much further than the fact that it will donate phosphate for energy. Creatine supplementation will certainly aid in building some lean muscle tissue, which will not only make you look bigger, but if used in conjunction with strength training, will actually make you much stronger.
Apart from all of that, arguably one of creatine’s more beneficial side effects is that it will pull more water into the cell. This is one of the most favorable arguments against creatine usage, but it should actually be one the most pro-argumentative cases in favor of creatine. Layne Norton said it best – A hydrated cell is an anabolic cell. In order for proper function of the cell (including muscle cells), the cell needs to be hydrated. Further, to an extent, the more saturated the cell is with water, the better it will be able to perform, including contraction and fat oxidation, both of which you should care about.
As for the results of the paper pertaining to satellite cell number/ fiber, increases tapered once the subjects were past the 8-week mark, showing negligible increases above baseline by week 16. This could be perceived to mean that perhaps creatine was losing its effect and as such should be cycled.
Considering that the rep ranges and intensities used were quite high throughout the study it’s difficult to believe that creatine’s effect would simply stop working. In my opinion, I think that this discrepancy was likely due to the fact that the linear periodization model used did not allow for enough difference in rep range/intensity. As such, the muscle fibers that were primarily used had adapted to the weight and rep ranges used, and as such, less damage was done to the muscle leading to a decreased need for satellite cell recruitment.
If this holds true, it may shed light on the theory that using an undulating periodization model would yield superior results, especially if used in conjunction with creatine supplementation.
How Should You Take Creatine, Then?
Creatine monohydrate is the type of creatine that has the most research behind it. I’ve gotten into one too many arguments with people over which type is the best, which eventually leads to the argument that other forms may be absorbed into the muscle much faster! When it comes to creatine, that (mis)conception is completely irrelevant. Creatine does not show acute effects, because the muscle needs to be saturated with it in order for it to work as intended. Thus, the “quicker” argument really has no merit.
You can go about this creatine saturation in two different ways. Either you can load your body with it for a period of about a week or so, as they did in the study, or you can utilize a 5-g/day protocol, in which you will likely saturate the muscle within about 20 days or so. As for the loading protocol, it would be in your best interest to ingest it evenly in five-gram doses, multiple times a day. Believe me, you do not want to experience the gastrointestinal problems that come along with ingesting too much creatine at once – I’ve been there!
Recent research also suggests that taking your creatine with your post-workout meal is the best time to take it. This makes sense because after a workout, your muscle is in a prime state to absorb anything. In addition to the prior, it has been shown that creatine absorption is much better when taken with carbohydrates, which presumably you will be ingesting with an abundance of water. If taken in this fashion, it is a sure fire way to get to gains-ville.
No supplement in the world will show results if you don’t train, eat and sleep for results. As such, train hard and pick methods that you believe will show great results. Supplements are aptly named because they should be a supplement to an already “anabolic” lifestyle. Train hard and smart, and you just might see the gains that you’ve been searching for.
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