Creatine is one of the best supplements for improving athletic performance and strength. Yet it’s also one of the most controversial in the world of sports nutrition. Despite countless studies supporting its safety and efficacy, many gym-goers and athletes remain skeptical of creatine powder.
One of the most common misconceptions we hear about creatine is that it will make you gain weight.
So, does creatine make you gain weight?
The answer is complex. Although taking creatine may lead to weight gain, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Before beginning a creatine supplement, it’s important to understand why you may experience a sudden increase in the scale.
In this article, we’ll break down the science behind creatine causing weight gain and debunk common misconceptions.
- Creatine monohydrate is one of the most vastly studied supplements to enhance athletic performance.
- Creatine can boost your energy stores and increase lean muscle mass and strength when taken consistently.
- Any weight gain associated with creatine use is likely water weight gain from fluid retention. As long as you follow a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle, creatine will not cause fat gain.
WHY TAKE CREATINE?
Many athletes take creatine to build lean muscle mass, promote recovery, gain strength, and enhance overall performance.
Creatine is an organic compound derived from amino acids. Around 95% of creatine is stored in muscle cells, where it supplies your body with continuous energy during periods of physical activity. It also helps build muscle mass. Your body makes its own creatine, and you can get dietary creatine from:
- Red meat
- Dietary supplements
Under normal circumstances, in a diet that usually includes around 1–2 grams per day of creatine, muscle creatine stores are only about 60–80% saturated.
In order to increase muscle creatine stores and boost performance, dietary supplementation of creatine monohydrate is a must.
Creatine supplements bind with a phosphate molecule and transform into phosphocreatine, which produces adenosine triphosphate, or ATP.
During periods of intense exercise, adenosine triphosphate is broken down faster than your body can reproduce it. This can limit your ability to continuously perform at maximum intensity.
Because creatine supplements increase your creatine phosphate (phosphocreatine) stores, your body can produce more ATP to fuel your muscles during high-intensity workouts.
CREATINE WEIGHT GAIN - GOOD OR BAD?
Some people avoid using creatine supplements because they’re fearful that it will make them gain body fat.
Although creatine can cause weight gain, it’s very unlikely to contribute to fat gain. Creatine is an amino acid, or protein, with little to no calories. To gain fat, you need to consistently eat at a calorie surplus.
The weight gain associated with taking creatine supplements is usually temporary due to increased water content in your muscles.
If anything, a slight increase in weight from creatine is a good sign because it means your muscle creatine stores are increasing.
Here are a few reasons why you may notice a slight increase in the scale after using creatine.
INCREASED MUSCLE MASS
Studies suggest that long-term supplementation of creatine can improve training sessions, which can result in up to 15% greater gains in strength and performance.
Additionally, creatine can enhance the formation of proteins that create new muscle fibers. This can result in new muscle growth and help users gain muscle mass.
Because creatine can promote muscle growth, it may result in muscle weight gain over time.
The initial weight gain most users experience when starting a creatine supplement is likely water retention. Creatine is osmotic, meaning it attracts and holds small amounts of water.
An increase in the muscle’s creatine content can result in a rapid weight gain because it draws more water into your muscle cells.
To sum it up, the body’s water content will increase as creatine intake increases, resulting in fluid retention and water weight gain. However, the water retention will be in the muscles only, which can be beneficial because it makes your muscles appear larger.
According to a review published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, people can expect an average weight gain between 2.2 and 4.4 pounds during the first week of creatine use. This is primarily due to water retention and is more noticeable during a loading phase.
Although fluid retention is often thought of as a negative, it may actually help boost your workout performance.
For example, one older study found that an increase in muscle cell volume causes swelling, which can stimulate protein synthesis.
Additionally, the International Society of Sports Nutrition suggests that creatine can help hyper-hydrate an athlete and improve exercise tolerance during prolonged exercise in hot and humid environments. This can help reduce the risk of heat-related illness.
THE BENEFITS OF CREATINE SUPPLEMENTATION
Creatine has numerous benefits for athletic performance. In fact, according to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, creatine monohydrate is considered the most effective nutritional supplement for athletes and non-athletes to support lean body mass and increase exercise performance while training.
One 2018 study published in Nutrients found that creatine combined with complex weight training resulted in muscular strength and reduced muscle damage while training.
Another study found that, following a loading phase, supplementation of creatine can increase high-intensity exercise capacity by 10-20%.
Additionally, some studies suggest that creatine decreases myostatin levels, which may help you build muscle faster.
Creatine may also help improve muscular disorders. According to a 2013 review of studies, creatine can help increase muscle strength and functional performance in people with muscular dystrophy.
Moreover, due to its favorable safety profile, it is considered to be a good alternative to potentially harmful anabolic steroids.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Here are the most frequently asked questions regarding creatine supplements.
WHAT IS CREATINE?
Creatine is an amino acid found in the muscles as well as the brain. It’s the most widely researched supplement on the market and has been shown to enhance athletic performance, increase muscle mass, and boost strength.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO TAKE CREATINE?
Research has shown creatine supplementation to be effective before workouts, during workouts, as well as right after your workout. The key to creatine intake is to keep your creatine stores saturated in order to reap the benefits.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE FOR CREATINE TO WORK?
For beginners who are just starting out and opt to go with a lower dose, it can take several weeks before you see results.
However, if you choose to go the quicker route and begin with a loading phase, you will see results much quicker.
Studies have found that creatine loading can maximize your stores in less than one week! This will allow you to reap benefits such as increased muscular strength, muscle gain, and improved performance much sooner.
Creatine monohydrate is one of the most effective, safest supplements on the market that you can take to build lean mass, enhance performance, and increase strength.
Although creatine can cause an increase in body weight from fluid retention, it’s very unlikely that it will cause unwanted fat gain as long as your diet is on point.