Let me get right to the point on the topic of “cell Volumization.” Muscle growth is mostly attributable to ‘cell hypertrophy’ – an increase in muscle cell size. This route to muscle growth is often contrasted with that of ‘cell hyperplasia’ – an increase in the number of muscle cells. The theory behind ‘cell volumization’ is that the rate of hypertrophy can be stimulated with the increased intake of creatine, water, and carbohydrates. These items will, purportedly, force the muscle cells to temporarily expand. This will (by way of some as-yet unexplained mechanism) result in faster protein synthesis inside the cell and… “Voila” – more hypertrophy… more growth. Right on!
Personally, I like the idea of ‘cell volumization.’ I’d damned-well like to know for certain that it’s an effective way to discernibly increase inter-workout recuperation rates by way of faster protein synthesis. Why wouldn’t I? The sooner muscles recuperate and build compensatory tissue between workouts – the faster they’ll grow.
But liking the idea of cell volumization and it being an actual anabolic phenomenon are two different things. However, they could be two things with an inextricably intertwining relationship in the world of outcomes, and that’s what I want to ultimately address in this article. I’ll explain.
But first… what’s the theory behind cell volumization?
‘Cell Volumization’: Anything but a superficial muscle pump?
In explaining cell volumization, Bill Phillips likened the muscle cell to a balloon. Fill the balloon with water and you increase its capacity (volumize it). If you could increase the material composition of the balloon, you’d allow it to become bigger which could result in more “volumization.” The plasma of a muscle cell wall is, of course, what’s represented by the latex content of the balloon.
But in translating this analogy over to improved muscle cell hypertrophy, we’d need to imagine the filling of the balloon as being a catalyst that helps create more material composition (latex) for the balloon. That’s a more difficult stretch (pardon the pun) than imagining how a bigger (more materialized) balloon could expand to hold more water. Moreover, it’s not been proven that “volumizing the cell” (filling the balloon with water) speeds up protein synthesis (adds content size to the balloon).
We can recall from our biology classes that protein synthesis is no simple process. It works like a sort of assembly line with multiple tools amassing components that fit together as a coded puzzle. It involves the complex process of using RNA to replicate the DNA within the cell nucleus in order for the cell ribosome to then use the RNA in arranging amino acids into new proteins. Can this cell-endogenous process be sped up by more water and glycogen being forced into the cell? As I’ve said, I’d love to believe so. But believing it without it being a real phenomenon might spur muscle building progress in the short run at the expense of long-term muscle building gains.
‘Cell Volumization’: A placebo effect?
Anyone who’s thoroughly read my material knows I’m a fan of creatine. When this supplement is used synergistically with an effective workout/recuperation regimen, it can deliver tangible benefits. But I value creatine for its workout performance-enhancing effect – not because I believe it accelerates protein synthesis by way of ‘cell volumization.’
The ability of creatine to boost anaerobic workout performance is well documented. But I believe it comes with a caveat that many bodybuilders never consider. To maximize the benefits of creatine, recognition of the possibility of longer rest requirements between muscle building workouts is of paramount importance. Think about it: if creatine coaxes muscles to perform better during workouts, it stands to reason that muscle tissue could sustain more damage during the workouts. Hence, more tissue damage might necessitate more recuperation time in order that muscle and strength gains are continuous.
Those who consider creatine to also be a recuperation enhancer (via ‘cell volumization’) might go the other direction. Better strength and volume performance during workouts inspires more frequent workouts. The creatine, along with increased water and glycogen, can create a muscle pump that mimics the sensation of actual muscle growth. This, in turn, motivates even more “push” during workouts that can lead to a workout/recuperation ratio imbalance resulting in overtraining. Whatever merits ‘cell volumization’ might hold – if it doesn’t accelerate recuperation enough to compensate for a workout/recuperation imbalance – muscle building gains can screech to a halt; creatine or no creatine.
And what about the placebo effect triggered by even a superficial sensation of cell volumization? The belief that we’re making better gains can also enhance workout performance. There’s nothing wrong with that; my regular readers also know how much I value better workouts through enhanced beliefs. I even provide a product that helps bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts get the most out of their workouts by maximizing their workout mental mindset. However, physiology will ultimately surpass psychology. Better workout performance needs to be coupled with an optimal workout/recuperation ratio or muscle and strength gains will be hampered. This holds true whether that performance comes from a peak performance mindset or the belief that muscle cells have been “volumized.”
‘Cell Volumization’: Creatine, Glycogen, and Water
Occasionally, I’ll eat some pizza on the weekend. If one of my workouts falls on Monday morning, I might strategically eat this carbs-packed meal on Sunday evening. I’ll then chase all that blood glucose with well-timed consumption of creatine. And who’d forget the water; pizza typically has enough sodium to make grabbing multiple glasses of water quite perfunctory.
In downing such a pre-workout meal, am I experiencing cell volumization? Most of those with a hand in marketing creatine would say so. They’d make the claim that the glycogen and water being forced into the muscle cells makes the growth potential of those cells greater. It’s purported to do this by augmenting the muscle cell walls. Thus, what once passed as simple “bloating” is now sold as an “anabolic strategy.”
Of course, such glycogen, creatine, and water loading can help to fuel a terrific workout. But whatever anabolic effect that’s worth, it can’t surpass the importance of not missing the major ingredient of successful workouts: adequate inter-workout recuperation. By first making sure that’s been accomplished, this triplet-fuel concoction that sidelines (maybe) as a “cell volumizer” has a chance to maximize workout performance.
As I’ve reiterated in much of my writing: No amount of supplementation or strict eating will compensate for a haphazard training/recovery regimen. Don’t get me wrong; diet is important. But the widespread belief that it’s of most importance has been perpetuated via books and magazines by those who the belief would serve most – the supplement companies.
Train intelligently and eat with some discipline. And… use some well-chosen supplements, wisely. But be sure to take the notion that ‘cell volumization’ speeds tissue recuperation with a grain of salt… and a close eye on resistance volume performance.