This will explain the actual use of creatine supplements and debunk the myths and misconceptions that are associated with its use.
Creatine is a naturally occurring organic acid that supplies energy to cells in the body. It becomes phosphorylated via creatine kinase, an enzyme that produces phosphocreatine (CP). Phosphocreatine is the necessary compound that is utilized for energy during muscular contraction. The question is how is it utilized? The main functional molecule for energy is known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP). This molecule is broken down into adenosine diphospate (ADP), which releases one of the phosphate molecules off the chained ATP to create energy. You begin with 3 phosphates and break off 1 phosphate to release energy for muscular contractions. Now that the ATP has become ADP the need for replenishment of the phosphate becomes essential to continue energy production and muscular contracion. This is where phosphocreatine (CP) comes into play. CP donates its phosphate molecule to the ADP to synthesize into ATP, which essentially restores the potential energy and regenerates your ability to continue with a muscular contraction. This process is repeated until CP stores are diminished. Hence why the use of creatine supplementation will increase your phosphocreatine concentration in the blood and therefore create a longer lasting energy storage for the exercise you are subjecting yourself to. This leads to longer time under tension due to increased muscular endurance. When stating that creatine will increase strength it does not mean that it will actually make you stronger from consuming it rather it permits you to contract your muscles for longer periods of time and create more mechanical stress on a specific muscle group. The result of this will lead to strength increases as your body adapts to the new more intense stimulus you have created.
The perception that creatine will increase strength solely depends on your ability to push yourself once the supplement has begun to increase your creatine storage and utilize it for muscular energy. A huge topic on creatine is the concept of weight gain and water weight. This is spun so many ways by basic gym goers and explained with really no rationale 99% of the time. I will attempt to make this simple. Creatine enters the muscle cell and creates an increase concentration or higher concentration of substrate (solids) compared to the solution (liquids) within the cell. This increase causes a rise in pressure and forms a new pressure gradient between the semi-permeable membrane of the cell wall of the muscle cell and bloodstream. In order to even the pressure, water from the bloodstream is forced inside the muscle cell increasing the intracellular water. Now there is an even amount of pressure both inside and outside the cell. This is referred to as osmotic pressure. Balance is a key component of cell integrity and without it the body would not be able to adapt and respond properly to stimuli. So we know the increase in water occurs within the cell not outside of it. The myth that creatine creates a bloated look is wrong due to that simple fact. The water is not subcutaneous or underneath the skin, it is within the cell. Thus it actually makes you look fuller and more muscular than usual. However, due to the water being pulled into the cell you become prone to dehydration as your blood becomes less viscous from the loss of water. This explains the notion of consuming a lot of water when on creatine supplements. You need more water than usual to faciliate the uptake of water into the cell. Also note that due to the increase in cell volume you will experience a greater pump when using creatine supplements.
All of this information is dependent on an individuals personal ability to uptake creatine and store it effectively. Certain people have incredible storage capacity and will see great results on creatine others with lower capacity will see lesser results. I urge anyone who is curious about creatine supplementation to give it a go. It is a safe naturally occurring substance that can greatly enhance your performance and accelerate your goals. Ok so now lets go over using it... You need to give your body time to assimilate the increase of creatine within the bloodstream. This is why most products suggest a loading phase. Basically if you load product, take a high dose for the first week or two, you will see a quicker response than progressive usage. If you do not want to load the product than it will take an extra week or two to start getting the benefits. Again you need to be consistent with the usage and properly hydrate or you will begin to cramp and feel discomfort from the lack of water you are permitting your body to use. I have researched the product throughout my years of training and that is my take on it currently.
If research changes I will update with a new post, but for now that summarizes the use of creatine as a supplement. One more thing...the weight gain people see from creatine initially will be water weight most likely due to the water retention you find within the cell. So that idea is true, but not in the sense that most people portray it as, which is that you look bloated and soft. However, as I stated earlier the ability to increase muscular endurance and time under tenson will lead to new stimulus and ignite hypertrophy (muscle gain) which leads to increases in lean mass or weight. Initially weight gain is water, but ultimately with a new intensity threshold for training it comes from lean muscle gain. Hope that helps you understand creatine and all the garbage that is passed around within the fitness world.