The Most Trusted Natural Anabolic: Creatine
How it Builds Muscle and Why you Need it!
Of the many sports supplements to have tremendously benefited serious strength athletes and recreational lifters alike, one product continues to reign as the undisputed champ.
From 1912, when it was first determined that the ingestion of supplemental Creatine boosted muscle Creatine content,
to the late 1920s, during which time scientists labeled Creatine as a key player in the metabolism of skeletal muscle tissue, through to the early 90s and beyond, where it has proven it’s worth as a multifunctional means to becoming bigger, stronger, faster, and better performing overall, Creatine has maintained its position as the king of performance supplements.
Benefiting all athletes, in particular those for which muscle and might dictate competitive outcomes, Creatine gives its users every conceivable performance advantage over the non-creatine assisted. Beginning its rise as creatine monohydrate (the least flashy, yet still most effective and heavily researched form of Creatine available today) and branching into many different forms (including citrate, ethyl ester, nitrate, malate, pyruvate, buffered, liquid and the unproven though heavily touted hydrochloride), this leader in sports supplementation has more than any other such product remained a bodybuilding staple.
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Produced naturally in the liver and kidneys from the amino acids L-arginine, glycine and L-methionine and found in certain foods (beef and fish being the richest sources), Creatine helps to supply energy to all of the cells of the human body, in particular muscle. A nitrogenous organic acid of which 95% is stored in muscle tissue, Creatine produces energy by increasing the formation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
The body’s most efficient form of energy currency,
ATP transports chemical energy within cells to boost muscular endurance during short burst, explosive activities.
Along with its primary role in boosting energy levels, Creatine both directly and indirectly assists in the building of muscle tissue and a great many more functions essential for optimal bodybuilding performance.
The reason many of you are reading this article is to find solutions to your muscle building dilemmas. Let’s face it: we could all use a little more muscle to stretch those shirt sleeves. With all the talk of the many benefits of the ultra effective whey protein and the latest strength training fads, Creatine supplementation is one muscle building method that many sadly overlook. The simple reality is that creatine may help you to build muscle faster than all other ergogenic compounds combined. I would go as far as to say that if steady size gains are your aim, then Creatine use is mandatory.
Creatine builds muscle in a number of ways. When Creatine is ingested, the production of IGF-1, a key regulator of muscle growth via its role in influencing satellite cell activation, is significantly elevated. When researchers placed a group of weight training subjects on a regime of creatine and had another group take a placebo over an eight week period, it was discovered, when IGF-1 levels in both groups were measured after this period, that the Creatine subjects had elevated their IGF-1 levels by 78% compared with the control group who recorded a 54% increase. Creatine may also more directly stimulate satellite cell activation and differentiation. As progenitor cells (essentially stem cells with specific properties) which repair and replace damaged muscle fibers, satellite cells must be recruited post workout to engage the muscle building process.
In a study conducted by the University of Copenhagen, researchers found that weight training subjects who supplemented with creatine over an eight-week period experienced an increase of almost 100% more muscle fiber satellite cells compared with the control group.
Not surprisingly, along with this increased satellite cell proliferation was an increase in muscle size.
In seeking the anabolic edge, many bodybuilders are turning to synthetic testosterone in its various forms. However, testosterone can be boosted naturally, and, yes, the super supplement creatine can assist. In giving 10 resistance-training subjects creatine over a 10 week period, researchers discovered that resting testosterone levels in this group were significantly increased compared with the other 20 study subjects, who received either a placebo or Creatine and BETA-ALANINE combined.
Muscles, when super-saturated with creatine, are able to store a greater quantity of water, giving them a fuller, rounder appearance. In fact, aside from increasing the growth potential of muscle tissue through optimal hydration (a key component of the muscle growth process), Creatine pulls water into muscles, inflating them and promoting size increases of up to six pounds in 3-4 weeks.
Creatine draws water into muscle cells from the blood and from the interstitial space outside of muscle tissue via osmosis. When this happens, the greater cell volume that is created causes muscle cell membranes to stretch, a process that is thought to promote long-term increases in muscle size and strength through enhanced protein synthesis.
Creatine usage also enhances systemic methylation (the regulation of protein synthesis, gene expression, and RNA metabolism through enzymatic catalyzation). Methylation is a key player in keeping us anabolic throughout the day. Unfortunately for most of us, this process is disrupted whenever the molecule SAM (S-Adenosyl Methionine), which heavily supports methylation, is compromised.
During its production phase, Creatine depletes SAM reserves; one drawback to the reliance many have on natural creatine production. By supplementing with Creatine we optimize our SAM status by preventing its depletion due to Creatine production in the body. Methylation is thus boosted and its positive muscle building benefits may ensue unabated.
Enhances recovery rate
The cell volumizing and anaerobic energy production effects of creatine are widely known; in fact, these are some of the initial benefits to be experienced by first time Creatine users, and both support the muscle building process by increasing lifting performance. However, it is the time between workouts, the coveted recovery period during which muscle reparation takes place, which translates our gym efforts into the results we desire.
Creatine has been shown to reduce inflammation and muscle microtrauma following hard physical work. In one key study, researchers assessed 18 male athletes, who were given 20 grams of Creatine per day for five days, and 16 control subjects who took a placebo over the same period (both groups was instructed to run a 30 kilometer race). It was found that the Creatine group, by contrast to the control group, experienced a decline in several important markers of cell damage including lactate dehydrogenase, tumor necrosis factor-alpha, prostaglandin-E, and creatine kinase. The researchers concluded that Creatine appears to support recovery following intensive exercise.
The superiority of monohydrate
With supplement manufacturers savvy to customer demand for effective performance products, a raft of creatine formulations are now available, some near worthless and others providing much the same benefit as the much-heralded monohydrate. Essentially creatine bound with plain old water, monohydrate, because of its cost effectiveness and proven efficacy, is still the most trusted creatine type on the market today.
With the vast majority of research having been done with monohydrate, its benefits are beyond question. While the original monohydrate remains the go-to Creatine for muscle hungry lifters, there are a very small percentage of people who may experience an upset stomach and bloating when taking it. For them, and others who may feel that they are not absorbing regular monohydrate as well as they could be, micronized monohydrate (regular monohydrate ground into smaller particles) may be the best bet.
A form of Creatine that has been receiving rave reviews is the hydrochloride version (Creatine attached to hydrochloric acid). As yet unproven as a superior source of Creatine, hydrochloride is thought to be absorbed to a far greater extent and produce less water retention and bloating (effects that have been the subject of much debate) than monohydrate. As Creatine hydrochloride findings come to light we will report them here, so watch this space.
Do not enter the gym without it!
With its proven results and real world benefits, Creatine (in particular monohydrate) is one training partner all bodybuilders must never neglect. In taking 5-10 grams of Creatine per day, we can be assured rapid muscle building progress. So pick a quality Creating product, and start packing on the muscle today.