There's good news, though: These temporary muscle pumps are critical to improving muscle hypertrophy, or muscle growth, according to 2014 research in the Strength and Conditioning Journal. So you can think of your weight-room pump as a preview of the muscle results that are to come. Speaking of which, here's an expert-endorsed timeline to reach your muscle-building goals.
Kornblum, C., Schroder, R., Muller, K., Vorgerd, M., Eggers, J., Bogdanow, M., Papassotiropoulos, A., Fabian, K., Klockgether, T., and Zange, J. Creatine has no beneficial effect on skeletal muscle energy metabolism in patients with single mitochondrial DNA deletions: a placebo-controlled, double-blind 31P-MRS crossover study. Eur J Neurol 2005;12:300-309. View abstract.
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.
However, caffeine does not negate the benefits of creatine loading when not coingested, but just taken before exercise in the same dosage. This result indicates that loading creatine without caffeine on a daily basis, but saving caffeine for select workouts, may be an effective strategy, as creatine does not adversely affect caffeine’s ergogenic effects and may enhance creatine’s effectiveness in anaerobic exertion if the two compounds are alternated.
Creatine has been incubated in various cell lines (HUVEC, C2C12, U937) and noted to reduce cellular death from various pro-oxidant stressors, such as H2O2 or peroxynitrate in an intracellular range between 0.1-10mM. This protective effect was only noted with preincubation and was comparable to 10-100µM of Trolox. This protective effect did not require conversion into phosphocreatine nor a buffering of ATP, and only worked during a preloading to the stressor, rather than in a rehabilitative manner.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to significantly increase levels through food alone. That’s where supplementation comes in. For instance, in one 12-week study of resistance-trained individuals, taking HMB in tandem with a high-intensity lifting routine significantly improved muscle strength and size compared to lifting alone. Plus, in the off-chance that you push yourself too hard, HMB helps prevent the effects of overtraining—including muscle loss.
That soreness you feel post-strength session may seem like a setback. Yet over time, you’ll come to acknowledge that it signifies you’re getting stronger. “You think, ‘I’ve done something worthwhile. My body is telling me I’ve had a workout.’ You look forward to the fatigue and interpret it in a positive way,” says John Spence, PhD, professor of physical education and recreation at the University of Alberta in Canada, who wrote a review on the effect of exercise on self-esteem. (Wondering how sore is too sore to work out? Here’s your answer.)
A 2011 survey of 33 supplements commercially available in Italy found that over 50% of them exceeded the European Food Safety Authority recommendations in at least one contaminant. The most prevalent of these contaminants was creatinine, a breakdown product of creatine also produced by the body. Creatinine was present in higher concentrations than the European Food Safety Authority recommendations in 44% of the samples. About 15% of the samples had detectable levels of dihydro-1,3,5-triazine or a high dicyandiamide concentration. Heavy metals contamination was not found to be a concern, with only minor levels of mercury being detectable. Two studies reviewed in 2007 found no impurities.
I know this goes against the recommendations you often see in stereotypical bodybuilding routines (i.e. the ones that involve having a single “chest day” or “arm day” or “shoulder day” once a week), but that’s just one of the many reasons why those types of routines suck for us natural, genetically-average people, and work best for steroid users with great genetics.
Research shows that starting as early as age 30, the body begins to slowly lose muscle mass, with women losing up to 15 percent of their total-body muscle per decade by age 50. Apart from declines in strength, that declining muscle mass comes with a declining metabolism, Emilia Ravski, D.O., a sports medicine specialist with Hoag Orthopedic Institute in California, tells SELF. This decline in metabolic rate is actually one driving factor of the weight that women generally tend to put on after we naturally hit our peak muscle levels in our 20s, research from Tufts University suggests.
After a tough sweat, it's important to rehydrate your body: "Drink lots of water and thank your body for what it was just able to accomplish," says Davis. A balanced post-workout snack is also a good idea. Go for one with carbs refuel your glycogen stores (one of your body's main energy sources) and about 10 to 20 grams of protein to help build and repair your muscles. "Don’t overcomplicate it," says Davis. If you're lifting and weight loss is one of your goals, though, it's still important to keep calories in mind—a post-workout snack shouldn't be more than 150 to 200 calories. Here's a guide to how many calories you should be eating for weight loss.
Energy: Energy is found in amino acids, also known as creatine, produced naturally in the body and also found in meat such as beef, chicken and pork. The problem with naturally found creatine is that the amount of protein in it is not high, which therefore, draws bodybuilders to supplement it with a powdered version. Bodybuilders use creatine to increase anaerobic energy; this allows them to lift weights for longer periods of time. Creatine also helps to give volume to the muscle cells by adding more water in them, thus making them look fuller.
Creatine, through its ability to act as an energy reserve, attenuates neuron death induced by the MPTP toxin that can produce Parkinson’s disease-like effects in research animals, reduces glutamate-induced excitotoxicity, attenuates rotenone-induced toxicity, L-DOPA induced dyskinesia, 3-nitropropinoic acid, and preserves growth rate of neurons during exposure to corticosteroids (like cortisol), which can reduce neuron growth rates. Interestingly, the energetic effect also applies to Alzheimer’s disease, during which creatine phosphate per se attenuates pathogenesis in vitro, yet creatine per se did not.
Escolar, D. M., Buyse, G., Henricson, E., Leshner, R., Florence, J., Mayhew, J., Tesi-Rocha, C., Gorni, K., Pasquali, L., Patel, K. M., McCarter, R., Huang, J., Mayhew, T., Bertorini, T., Carlo, J., Connolly, A. M., Clemens, P. R., Goemans, N., Iannaccone, S. T., Igarashi, M., Nevo, Y., Pestronk, A., Subramony, S. H., Vedanarayanan, V. V., and Wessel, H. CINRG randomized controlled trial of creatine and glutamine in Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Ann Neurol 2005;58:151-155. View abstract.
Now, if you are somebody that is more of the “do-it-yourself” type, check out our self-paced online course, the Nerd Fitness Academy. The Academy has 20+ workouts for both bodyweight or weight training, a benchmark test to determine your starting workout, HD demonstrations of every movement, boss battles so you know when you to level up your routine, meal plans, a questing system, and supportive community.
One pilot study using 150mg/kg creatine monohydrate for a five day loading phase followed by maintenance (60mg/kg) for the remainder of the five weeks noted that supplementation was associated with fewer muscle symptoms and complaints alongside improved muscular function, yet a later trial trying to replicate the obsevations using 150mg/kg daily for five weeks noted the opposite, that creatine supplementation exacerbated symptoms.