The shortest and most preliminary study noted that, over the short term, creatine delivers on its expected improvement in physical strength. However, longer studies that measure the rate of loss for muscle function (deterioration of muscular capacity that is known to occur with ALS) have repeatedly failed to find a benefit with creatine supplementation.
Those 5-pound dumbbells were a great place to start as a beginner, but if you've been lifting weights for a while, it's time to bump up the weight. “You can use both exercise machines and free weights,” explains Michele Olson, PhD, exercise physiologist, professor of exercise science at Auburn University Montgomery, “but, if you are not lifting heavy enough weight, it doesn’t matter if you are primarily using free weights or machines.” In order to build muscle, you must break down muscle tissue using a weight that is challenging enough to cause micro-tears, which when repaired, form denser, stronger fibers.
Many athletes follow a "loading" protocol of around 25 grams a day for five days, but this isn't essential. But as Ciaran Fairman notes in the article "Do I Need to Load With Creatine," you can also get the same benefits with around 5 grams a day, potentially with none of the mild side effects of the loading protocol, which include stomach pain and water weight gain. The catch is that you have to take it consistently. Don't skip it!
It is known that intracellular energy depletion (assessed by a depletion of ATP) stimulates AMPK activity in order to normalize the AMP:ATP ratio, and when activated AMPK (active in states of low cellular energy and colocalizes with creatine kinase in muscle tissue) appears to inhibit creatine kinase via phosphorylation (preserving phosphocreatine stores but attenuating the rate that creatine buffers ATP). While phosphocreatine technically inhibits AMPK, this does not occur in the presence of creatine at a 2:1 ratio. It seems that if the ratio of phosphocreatine:creatine increases (indicative of excess cellular energy status) that AMPK activity is then attenuated, since when a cell is in a high energy status, there is less AMP to directly activate AMPK.