Many people associate creatine supplementation with body builders at the gym lugging around their gallon water jugs and grunting during big lifts. Even if large bulky muscles isn’t your thing, creatine supplementation (if used correctly) can tone your body quickly and promote fat loss. For those of you interested in that quick spike in body muscle mass, creatine can act as an ergogenic aid for you. To fully understand the effect creatine has on body muscle mass, it is best to recognize body’s internal mechanism of energy production.
The role of phosphocreatine (PCr) is to provide a phosphate group for the regeneration of ATP during the initial seconds of high intensity exercise. After the body uses these quick initial sources of fuel, it enters glycolysis, followed by glycogen and fat breakdown. Once creatine is used up by the muscle, the body must work to resynthesize phosphocreatine to prepare enough energy for the next high intensity exercise.
The body naturally replenishes creatine at a rate of 2 grams per day. Half of this comes from endogenous production by the kidney and liver, while the other half comes from exogenous intake from your diet. When creatine intake is high, the endogenous production within the body is suppressed. Therefore, those who don’t eat fish or meat, such as vegetarians, have slightly elevated internal creatine production. Although there is a slight increase in internal creatine production, it is only enough production to reach normal creatine replenishing rates within the body. This means that creatine supplementation can be used to increase the amount of creatine in the muscle at a rate higher than normal, regardless of how your diet effects endogenous production of it.
The typical creatine supplementation protocol is 20 grams per day for the first 5 days followed by a maintenance of 2 grams per day. By increasing the total muscle creatine concentration via creatine supplementation, the ability to resynthesize phosphocreatine during recovery increases, therefore decreasing recovery time and improving repeated bouts of high intensity exercise. The key here is the phrase repeated bouts. Creatine supplementation allows for an increased training volume and therefore more muscle breakdown. As more muscle fibers are broken during each exercise, the rate of protein synthesis increases when combined with a healthy diet and therefore the effects of decreased body fat percentage and increased muscle mass percentage are amplified. Creatine supplementation has been show to result in a 20-25% increase in maximal strength and a 60% greater increase in fat free mass over the course of 10 weeks compared to that of a placebo. Although this is mostly due to the increased training volume, a small portion of protein synthesis in attributed to the increased water retention that occurs during creatine supplementation. The increased amount of water within the muscle leads to the swelling of muscle cells and therefore an increase in protein synthesis. Ultimately, creatine supplementation is a great way to quickly increase lean muscle mass, but only if used properly.
B.S. Biochemistry, Exercise Physiology
University of Miami