Creatine: More Than Just Water Weight!

Everyone knows that when you supplement creatine you gain weight. This is the common "side effect" with powdered creatine consumption. The general consensus however by many is that the extra weight gained is actually just water. Here at The Pumping Station, we've been, in the past, also lead to believe that creatine use results mostly in water gains, however being the worlds number one website for unbiased, untainted bodybuilding information that we are, we dug further, badgered our contacts in the industry, knocked on doors and scoured abstracts in the creatine subject and discovered something astonishing. Creatine causes dramatic growth in skeletal muscle. Creatine supplementation actually promotes the growth of new muscle tissue.

Creatine use, according to one study, leads to the incorporation (significantly) of satellite cells into pre-existing muscle fibers when hypertrophy is induced above and beyond normal incorporation rates. This study is exciting, as it finally reveals a true anabolic-related event to creatine use.

First an explanation at why this study is important limiting factor when growing muscle is the surface area-to-volume ratio of the cell. When cells grow, the volume of the cell increases more quickly than does the surface area of the cell membrane that surrounds the cell. Any substance that wants exchanged into or out of a cell, such as nutrients or anabolic (growth-promoting) hormones, must deal with the cell membrane. In addition, the nutrients must be transported from the cell membrane to the cell's interior or vice versa. As a cell gets bigger and bigger, the surface area of the cell cannot keep pace with the demands of the cell's interior. It is thought that muscle cells may split in an attempt to increase the amount of cell membrane relative to the volume. This is perhaps because a nucleus can reliably sustain only so much cell size. A solution to this problem is simply the addition of more nuclei, which occurs in skeletal muscle cells through the enlistment of nearby satellite cells that are developmentally leftover muscle precursors. Satellite cells are reserve muscle cells in adult animals for injury and diseases. Growth and repair of skeletal muscle are normally mediated by the satellite cells that surround muscle fibers. These cells, which are located between the sarcolemma and the basal lamina of the muscle fiber, divide at a slow rate to sustain both self-renewal and growth of differentiated tissue. When we train our satellite cells divide through mitosis and supply nuclei that fuse to our muscle cells to repair or replace the damaged fibers. However, the self-renewal potential of adult satellite cells is limited, decreases with age, and can be exhausted by a chronic regenerative process such as that characteristic of severe muscular dystrophies, in which most muscle tissue is eventually lost and is replaced by connective tissue. Finding a way to increase satellite cells would mean more fusion of nuclei with muscle cells, the end result of which would be more nuclei to direct protein synthesis and to maintain a more favorable nucleus-to-volume ratio.

The study was performed at the Department of Anatomy, University of Wisconsin-Medical School, Madison, USA by Dangott B, Schultz E, Mozdziak PE.

The abstract quotes:

Nutritional status influences muscle growth and athletic performance, but little is known about the effect of nutritional supplements, such as creatine, on satellite cell mitotic activity. The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of oral creatine supplementation on muscle growth, compensatory hypertrophy, and satellite cell mitotic activity. Compensatory hypertrophy was induced in the rat plantaris muscle by removing the soleus and gastrocnemius muscles.
Immediately following surgery, a group of six rats was provided with elevated levels of creatine monohydrate in their diet. Another group of six rats was maintained as a non-supplemented control group. Twelve days following surgery, all rats were implanted with mini-osmotic pumps containing the thymidine analog 5-bromo-2'-deoxyuridine (BrdU) to label mitotically active satellite cells. Four weeks after the initial surgery the rats were killed, plantaris muscles were removed and weighed. Subsequently, BrdU-labeled and non-BrdU-labeled nuclei were identified on enzymatically isolated myofiber segments. Muscle mass and myofiber diameters were larger (P < 0.05) in the muscles that underwent compensatory hypertrophy compared to the control muscles, but there were no differences between muscles from creatine-supplemented and non-creatine-supplemented rats. Similarly, compensatory hypertrophy resulted in an increased (P < 0.05) number of BrdU-labeled myofiber nuclei, but creatine supplementation in combination with compensatory hypertrophy resulted in a higher (P < 0.05) number of BrdU-labeled myofiber nuclei compared to compensatory hypertrophy without creatine supplementation. Thus, creatine supplementation in combination with an increased functional load results in increased satellite cell mitotic activity.

The creatine enhanced the ability of the muscle cells to maintain a favorable nucleus-to-volume ratio during growth. So, creatine plus exercise is what may allow you to jump-start your satellite cells.

This study is very important as it finally shows us that creatine does indeed promote muscle growth and does not just induce cell volumization.

Powerful hormones such as fibroblast growth factor and IGF-1 are involved in such processes as muscle growth, so it would be exciting to see a further study measure these hormonal levels with creatine supplementation. Halevy O, Hodik V, Mett A Department of Animal Science, Faculty of Agriculture, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Rehovot, Israel, have already done studies on GH which showed that GH, via its own receptor, promotes more satellite cells to proliferate by inhibiting their differentiation, leading to the addition of more nuclei to the growing muscle.

Future studies are need to determine just how anabolic creatine actually is, but this study is interesting and should put to rest the common thought that all weight gained from creatine supplementation is merely water weight.

For more information go to Pumped Extreme Kre Alkalyn Creatine

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