Creatine monohydrate is one of the most researched supplements for sports performance on the market, yet it seems there are still misconceptions out there. Even those who take it regularly lack an understanding of how it can help you. Many people know that it can help build muscle strength and size, but how?
Creatine can be viewed as an energy aid. The human body has multiple energy systems to create muscle contractions, and each one is specialized for a certain activity based on the size of muscle fiber that uses the energy system, and how quickly those muscles get tired. The first energy system at your disposal is Immediate ATP. This is stored energy that only lasts a couple seconds. Once this energy is used, the Creatine Phosphate system comes into play.
Adenosine Triphosphate (one adenosine with 3 phosphate molecules, also called ATP) is the powerful energy used by the body. When a muscle is ready to contract, one phosphate is broken off and energy is released. Now that we lost a phosphate from our ATP, we are left with Adenosine Diphosphate (1 adenosine molecule with 2 phosphates, also called ADP). ADP is not as strong and preferred as ATP, so the body reaches into the Creatine Phosphate System to find a spare phosphate molecule. The Creatine Phosphate system is essentially a pool full of backup phosphates. However, the phosphates can not be stored alone, as they are young and party too hard. The stored phosphates need a chaperone, and this is where Creatine comes into play. Each of the phosphates is stored with a Creatine molecule, so when the phosphate is needed to turn ADP to ATP, the phosphate separates from the creatine and goes to work.
Supplementing with creatine enlarges the pool of creatine phosphate in the body. This energy system only lasts between 10-15 seconds and is the main energy system used when completing your heaviest lifts, or when you need to recruit your largest muscle fibers. If you naturally have 10-15 seconds of energy from this powerful system, by supplementation, you may get 12-20 seconds out the creatine phosphate system. This will help you increase the amount of volume you lift, and could help turn what was once your 3-rep max into your 4-rep max.
There are several forms of creatine on the market for supplementation, however, creatine monohydrate is the cheapest and saturates your muscles with creatine to 100% capacity. You can’t beat 100% saturation.
Creatine won’t make you incredibly strong overnight, but it will help you progress faster. If you consistently stay on creatine for the long term, it could have a huge payoff.