Many athletes and fitness enthusiasts swear by creatine, claiming that it has helped them reach multiple exercise goals. While it undoubtedly has many benefits, including building muscle mass, is creatine good for weight loss?
This article will discuss everything you need to know about creatine, cover its advantages and drawbacks, and examine whether it’s an effective weight-loss supplement.
Read on to learn more.
- What Is Creatine?
- The Benefits of Taking Creatine
- Creatine and Weight Loss
- The Side Effects of Taking Creatine
- Creatine and Weight Gain
- Creatine and Weight Gain: What to Do
- Build Muscles and Lose Fat
What Is Creatine?
Creatine is a compound the body naturally produces from the amino acids arginine, glycine, and methionine. It’s one of the primary energy sources for muscle cells, helping with muscle contractions. We get half of our creatine supply directly from red meat and seafood, while the kidneys, pancreas, and liver synthetize the rest.
The body stores around 95% of the compound in skeletal muscle and delivers it to other tissue during physical activity.
Moreover, creatine is a popular supplement that helps professional and amateur athletes improve their training plans and workout recovery. It’s particularly effective for weight cutting when athletes want to reduce body fat while preserving muscle mass. Those who engage in high-intensity exercises rely on creatine to refuel their muscles and maintain their performance.
Creatine is vital in cutting cycles because it brings water to muscle cells. It protects the cells, preventing catabolism when the body is in a calorie deficit. The water reserves around the muscle accelerate recovery, allowing you to continue with intense workouts.
There are different types of creatine supplements, but studies suggest that creatine monohydrate is the most effective for increasing muscle power and size.
The Benefits of Taking Creatine
Although creatine supplementation bolsters strength levels on calorie deficit diets, it has many other advantages, which we’ll discuss below.
Increased energy production
Creatine boosts the muscles’ phosphocreatine supply. Phosphocreatine helps the formation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). This molecule is responsible for supplying the cells with energy.
During physical activity, the cells break down ATP. The less ATP is available, the more challenging it is for the body to maintain peak performance during exercising.
Creatine quickens ATP resynthesis, and the new supply allows athletes to train harder for extended periods.
Support for other muscle functions
The supplement modifies cellular pathways, leading to muscle growth. It promotes increased protein production, which results in more muscle fibers.
Also, creatine causes spikes in the body’s insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) reserves, a hormone that helps build lean muscle mass.
Taking creatine typically elevates the muscles’ water content. This process is called cell volumization and can increase muscle size relatively quickly.
Furthermore, some research suggests that creatine lowers myostatin levels, preventing stunted muscle growth.
Improved athletic performance
Creatine improves multiple aspects of exercise performance, including sprint ability, post-workout recovery, muscle endurance, strength, fatigue resistance, and ballistic power.
Although some supplements only benefit professional athletes, creatine is safe and effective for people of all fitness levels.
Rapid muscle growth
Creatine is arguably the best supplement for building lean muscle mass. It usually only takes five to seven days to notice changes in muscle size. Initially, the growth is a result of increased water retention. Long-term usage modifies biological pathways and produces new muscle fiber.
Improved cognitive function
Creatine is known to improve brain health. Research has found that the brain pulls large amounts of ATP when performing challenging tasks.
Supplements like creatine replenish the brain’s phosphocreatine supply, resulting in increased ATP production.
What’s more, creatine might positively impact recall ability and memory and lower the risk of neurological diseases.
Creatine and Weight Loss
If you’re wondering, “Is creatine good for weight loss?” the short answer is no.
In fact, one of the major side effects of creatine supplementation is weight gain. This is primarily due to water retention in the muscles.
Still, some people take creatine while working on dropping weight. If you increase the intensity of your exercises, taking creatine shouldn’t prevent you from shedding weight. It could maximize your workout performance and help you reach weight loss milestones quickly. However, remember that creatine supplements aren’t weight-loss products and will yield little results without a healthy diet and an exercise regimen.
While creatine isn’t the best weight loss option, it can help you reduce body fat while preserving muscle fiber. This process is called cutting and is difficult to achieve through exercise alone. Exercising while reducing your caloric intake can degrade muscle fiber and stunt recovery. But creatine refuels the cells, improves endurance, and stimulates muscle growth.
Note that creatine should be taken in small doses. For best results, 3-5 grams per day should be enough.
The Side Effects of Taking Creatine
Creatine may have negative side effects, usually due to rapid fat loss. They include:
Before cutting, some athletes go through a loading phase which involves taking high doses of creatine. The body can negatively react to creatine overload; the most common issues are stomach irritation and diarrhea. Taking divided doses of 3-5 grams can help prevent these issues.
Professional athletes who significantly reduce their caloric intake before a competition can gain weight during the recovery stage. Aggressive cutting can also negatively affect hormone levels, muscle mass, energy levels, blood pressure, heart rate, and more.
Creatine and Weight Gain
Although creatine can lead to slight weight gain, it’s not necessarily due to fat. You might have put on weight while taking creatine for three reasons.
Water weight commonly occurs with creatine usage. It’s known as water or fluid retention because creatine brings water into the muscle cells.
The muscles may appear larger and store water, leading to puffiness or bloating around the legs, arms, or stomach.
Most people notice water retention within the first week of taking the supplement and put on between 2-4.5 pounds.
Although it causes fluid retention, creatine can significantly increase strength and endurance. The supplement can enhance muscle size and strength when paired with a rigorous training regimen.
Increased muscle mass often manifests as weight gain and affects the number on the scale. However, as your muscles grow, they’ll become leaner, and you won’t look as bloated or swollen.
Since the answer to “Is creatine good for weight loss?” is negative, you may fear taking the supplement can negatively impact your body’s fat storage.
While rapid weight gain is a common side effect of creatine usage, the supplement won’t increase your body fat.
Consuming more calories than your body can burn causes fat gain. A small dose of creatine (3-5 grams) is virtually calorie-free. Those who notice they’re gaining weight without building muscle should consider tweaking their diet to modify their calorie intake.
Creatine and Weight Gain: What to Do
If you gain weight after taking creatine, don’t worry. It could be temporary. After your muscles become bigger, the water weight will be less noticeable. In the meantime, there are a few ways you can reduce fluid retention.
Urination removes excess water, so stay hydrated and drink lots of water even when you’re not thirsty.
Cut Down on Sodium
Elevated sodium levels maximize fluid retention. Instead of processed foods, eat more fruits and vegetables. Ideally, your daily sodium intake should be under 2,300 milligrams.
Limit Your Carb Intake
Carbs supply the body with energy but can also help it store water. Consider limiting your daily carb intake to roughly 300 grams to minimize fluid retention.
Arm Yourself With Patience
Exercising is a foolproof way to combat water retention. Results take time and effort but don’t give up. As your strength, endurance, and performance improve, you’ll be able to work out more, and your body will retain less water.
Build Muscles and Lose Fat
If you’re trying to lose weight, the answer to “Is creatine good for weight loss” might discourage you. Although it won’t help you lose weight directly, that doesn’t mean it can’t aid you in reaching other health and fitness milestones.
In addition to helping you gain muscle mass, this supplement is excellent for reducing body fat. Remember that you may experience some side effects, so it’s best to consult your care provider to determine whether the supplement fits your needs.