How Creatine Works
We're all looking for the best and fastest ways to reach our fitness goals. In that search, we often come across supplements that offer a lot of promise.
However, the promise is almost never realized with many supplements. There is one supplement, though, that's been through the proverbial ringer and has come out smelling like a rose. What is that supplement?
How Does Creatine Work?
There may be 2 possible ways in which creatine works. The first has to do with how our bodies produce the energy that muscle cells need in order to contract. Muscular contractions give us the ability to move things.
For anaerobic work, there are two mechanisms by which the muscle cells derive energy, but both come from adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. For very short bursts of energy, like that needed for a shot-put or single maximum lift, ATP sheds a phosphate molecule, which releases energy in the muscle cell. ATP is stored in muscle cells, and under all-out effort, all muscular ATP can be depleted in less than 2 seconds!
Creatine phosphate, which is also stored in the muscles, can replenish ATP by “donating” a phosphate molecule to depleted ATP, aka ADP (adenosine diphosphate). Once the ATP is replenished, it's able to go back to work again by releasing another phosphate molecule and a burst of energy.
This cycle, also called the ATP/CP Energy Pathway, is good for between 10 and 60 seconds of energy production, or within the time boundaries of a typical weightlifting set.
The idea behind creatine supplementation is that you can raise your creatine phosphate levels inside the muscle cells, thus giving muscles a more potent and long-lasting source of replenishing phosphate.
Now that the muscles have more potential energy, you can lift weights for more reps. This also equates to a moderate increase in strength.
The other way that creatine may work is in the following way:
- Creatine pulls water from the space surrounding a muscle cell into the interior of the cell, causing it to swell like a giant water balloon
- The increased water content inside the muscle cell places a great strain on the muscle cell membrane
- This strain sends a message to increase muscle protein synthesis, triggering it to build more muscle protein and grow larger
The jury is still out on this second method, but the first is the most researched and plausible method. In any event, you should try creatine. It works for most people, on the order of around 70 percent and you'll know within days of its effectiveness for you.