Creatine And Your Muscles…

What is the effect of creatine on your muscles?

If you recall my previous article (How Muscle Growth Occurs), I explained that muscle growth occurs when you engage in intense physical activity (such as lifting weights) that causes ‘micro-tears’ to the muscle tissue. The subsequent healing of these ‘micro-tears’ aided by the availability of excess protein calories from your diet results in growth. The process is very similar to how calluses form on the skin when you get injured. i.e. Your body forms a thicker and harder patch to protect you from future ‘attack’. The key factor is that your workout must be intense enough to cause the ‘micro-tears’. The more intense the better the resulting muscle growth.

You generally make your workout more intense by lifting heavier weights and resting less between sets but obviously there is a physical limit. Lifting a heavy weight makes you want to rest more, reducing the intensity of your workout. This is where creatine helps.

By allowing you to perform more work (lift more weight) as a result of additional energy, increased protein synthesis is stimulated.

Secondly, when an abundance of creatine phosphate is stored in the muscle, the muscle will hold more water in its cells and become what is known as “volumized” or “super-hydrated.” The more volumized a muscle is, the more it will promote the synthesis of protein as well as deter protein breakdown.

Creatine is naturally occurring and therefore has never been illegal. It is produced by the body in small amounts and can also be found in protein rich foods such as fish and beef but to really get the full benefit you need at least 2-3 times as much as what the body produces naturally. This is generally obtained in the form of creatine monohydrate powder.

It is best taken with sugary drinks such as orange juice to maximize its absorption into the body. The best time to take it is early in the morning on an empty stomach or just prior to working out. It is somewhat unpleasant tasting and does not mix well. I recommend that you drink plenty of water afterwards.

There are now hundreds of varieties of creatine, each touting a different benefit such as being longer lasting or easier to mix, but most of these differences are really just commercial. The product is essentially creatine monohydrate powder in various guises.

I’ve briefly mention ‘creatine loading’. Some creatine products recommend that you go through a loading phase where you take 3 or 4 scoops per day for the first 4 days and then one scoop a day afterwards. I’ve found these products to be more effective.

There are newer products that claim to eliminate the need for ‘loading’ but in my experience, even though they are more convenient, they are not nearly as effective. One in particular comes in the form of a tasty syrup and all you need to do is take a teaspoon before working out. Frankly it worked no better than a placebo for me.

If you are going to use creatine you might as well use what works even though it is a little unsavory.

There has been a lot of controversy about the effect of creatine. While it is a well established fact that creatine aids in rapid muscle growth much of the controversy is about its long term health effects.

Some early studies concluded that if used for long periods of time it causes damage to the liver and other internal organs. Most of these early studies have been discredited since the product has now been in use for several years. Stay Younger, Tips for Fitness. Unless you have kidney or liver disease it is probably safe to use.

In conclusion, creatine helps you workout more intensely-lift much heavier weights and rest less between sets and reps-thereby stimulating muscle growth. You can build muscle without creatine but I’d say this is like trying to be a carpenter without power tools.

It can definitely be done but…you get my point. If you are serious about muscle building you will want to use creatine. Use it during the bulking phase and then stop using it when you start trimming. Used this way in on/off cycles you also further reduce any chance of long term adverse effects.

By Don Demarco. Don is an amateur bodybuilder and fitness coach. He shares bodybuilding secrets learned over several years at Men’s Workout Heaven Enroll for a FREE Muscle Building course. Visit Men’s Workout Videos

Have you been misled by these popular fitness myths? Don debunks them at Men’s Workout Routines

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