It has been known for quite some time that cell swelling provokes a biosynthetic response. That is, giving cells an agent that makes them take up water from their surroundings (to the point where they actually inflate with water) also causes them to increase their production of new proteins as well as to retard the degradation of existing proteins - an overall anabolic response.
Most importantly for the purposes of this blog, creatine monohydrate is one of the most effective swelling agents that stimulates cell anabolism. In fact, the most widely accepted side effect attributed to creatine supplementation is a process known as muscle volumizing; muscles increasing in volume (size) because of creatine ingestion.
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Muscle volumizing is nothing more than individual muscle cells swelling with water that when translated to our entire muscle mass make us look larger and more pumped. Downstream, muscle volumization will contribute to a global anabolic response. In brief, muscle volumizing increases muscle size (volume) and provokes a broad anabolic response.
Off hand, I can image a few mechanisms that will enable a cell to respond in an anabolic fashion to an increase in cell volume:
First, cell inflation might directly serve as a mechanical cue that stimulates cellular anabolism. No one would disagree with the notion that mechanical stimulation promotes muscle growth; after all, what is exercise? Explicitly how mechanical stimuli are translated into a biosynthetic response, however, will be the subject of a subsequent post.
Alternatively, the cell might interpret an increase in cell volume as a natural form of growth. It might then respond by increasing its production of new proteins as well as slowing the destruction of old proteins to accommodate the expansion of its physical boundaries .
In reality, it is very difficult to get into the “psyche” of a cell and understand what it was really “thinking” at any point in time. It is likely that a combination of several processes all contribute to the cellular anabolic response to cell swelling.
Increased cell hydration, however, cannot account for all of creatine’s anabolic attributes, since other agents that also induce cell swelling (to a comparable extent) do not exert such a strong protein-accumulating effect. Certainly, creatine is doing other things within the muscle cell that adds to its registered anabolic effect. These will be the topic of subsequent posts.
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