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Because I am in a weight-training program, I take a scoop (5 gms) of it every morning along with a 20-gm. protein shake. There is no reason for either of those things unless you are trying to move heavy weights and pushing your limits to 5-9 reps.
I don't think it causes noticeable water retention. Your body makes about 2 gms of it per day, and you get a little bit from eating meat. The idea behind supplemental creatine is that, by giving your muscles a little extra ATP, you can theoretically stress your muscles harder, thus resulting in more good muscle microfiber damage, resulting in strength increase during the recovery process. Creatine doesn't build muscle; it is supposed to help you damage muscle.
Does it work? Experts say it does. It's difficult for me to say whether it has helped me in my program because I have no basis for comparison. At the least, a placebo effect.
Can women who lift use it? Sure. Many women these days do weight-training programs for general fitness for life, for osteopenia, and for sports. The same reasons the average guy does it. We have an 80 year-old gal in our gym lifting every morning a 6 am. And yes, Mrs. BD does 2 hrs of weights each week along with her other exercise. She loves those deadlifts. I hate it all, but I give it my best anyway. Delayed gratification.
It DOES cause cellular water accumulation in myocytes. That's part of how it works (by definition, the intracellular water accumulation must be significant enough for it to work). It's not a bad thing.
Once again, I must comment that your "muscle fiber damage" explanation for muscle hypertrophy/strength gain is just ONE factor and the use of creatine is tangential at best in that regard. Muscle damage is best accomplished by emphasizing eccentric loading (negatives).
Can you get some "damage" from concentric phase work? Sure, but eccentric phase much more damage. In fact, some trainers use concentric ONLY work to allow additional workouts without overtraining (envision pulling a sled towards you with rope, then walking backwards a few steps and repeating, etc. as a concentric only rowing movement).
Now, other theories/factors of hypertrophy/strength include tension (loading), time under tension, metabolic, etc. It is possible for creatine to play a larger role here as it allows a few more reps using a given weight.
But I'm always eager to learn something new. Can you provide a reference - not a BroScience article - that demonstrates that creatine helps you damage muscle. If not, at least an article by a "respected authority" (defined as someone I respect ;-/)
If you're after strength (and not hypertrophy), I'm not sure why you're doing so much high rep work and placing so much emphasis on "muscle damage" vs tension- not that hypertrophy won't offer contributions to strength.
It's important to recognize that hypertrophy ≠ strength. Ever see how powerlifters and olympic lifters train versus how bodybuilders train and how many guys doing bodybuilder programs "look like Tarzan and play like Jane"?
There's a difference between sarcoplasmic hypertrophy (largely increases in number of mitochondria) and sarcomere hypertrophy (increase in the contractile machinery - actin/myosin) and the stimuli that favor each.
In addition to the morphological changes in the muscle in response to different training stimuli, training can also induce neurological changes (ability of the nervous system to make muscle cells fire) thereby affecting strength - this often plays a larger role in strength gains in populations where morphological changes are "limited" due to age, sex, hormonal differences, etc.
As an aside, I DON'T think it's wrong for an "older" guy to emphasize hypertrophy. As we get older, sarcopenia often becomes a significant problem, one that can adversely affect our well being and even our survival. Older people may also benefit from routines that incorporate getting down on the floor and back up and well as tumbling (a.k.a. "protective" falling).
I'm going round and round on this topic myself. My weight has dropped from my starting point of around 290 last May to 253 this week so my overall program is working. I'm getting stronger and my month to month single rep tests for squat, bench press, and overhead press are going up. I am able to perform more strenuous functional routines and my endurance is building.
I'm actively considering/researching a number of things:
1. Pre-Workout supplements
2. Creatine supplements
The pre-workout stuff seems like a real crap shoot. My trainer is ambivalent about them because the do work, but they also make workouts without them suck. I'm not sure I want to get in that honey trap.
The Creatine is starting to look doable. I'm thinking of getting the capsules to start since I don't reliably drink protein shakes all the time yet to incorporate the powder.
BCAA's are something I think I'll wait for until I get close to my 170 lbs goal and then really look to start building lots of muscle mass for appearances sake.
I get joint discomfort from many of the properly executed movements I do, especially the elbows and wrists. I was hoping Glucosamine might be a partial answer to that, but I'm not finding a lot of hope there when I try to review the reliable studies.