Aside from protein, creatine is one of the most researched supplements in sports nutrition.
It can increase your performance, making you stronger and more powerful. Yet, even seasoned gym goers avoid taking creatine supplements.
One of the main reasons is the fear of gaining weight.
While creatine can make you gain some weight, it’s not that straightforward; there’s more than meets the eye.
This article will reveal everything you need to know about creatine and weight gain.
- Can Creatine Make You Gain Weight? (3 Key Considerations)
- What Is Creatine? (How It Works & Why People Take It)
- What To Do If You Gain Weight On Creatine
- How To Minimize Water Retention & Bloat From Creatine
- Common FAQs About Creatine
Can Creatine Make You Gain Weight? (3 Key Considerations)
1. Water Weight & Bloat
When you use creatine supplements, you might see unwanted weight gain (on the scales, at least). This is largely due to an increase in water retention.
While your body is holding onto more water, you might be inclined to think this is a bad thing and will leave you looking bloated. Luckily, this isn’t the case.
Creatine supplementation causes your muscle cells to pull additional water into them.
Research has shown that you can gain up to 4.5 lbs during the first week of oral creatine supplementation.
Before you panic and start worrying about creatine bloating, the key phrase is "into your muscle" rather than around.
As the water enters the muscle cells, your muscles will appear larger and more volumized rather than bloated.
From experience, my stomach feels a little bloated during the first week, but this tapers off after a full week.
Learn More - Does Creatine Actually Make You Bloated?
2. Muscle Mass Gains
Even though creatine does cause some water weight gain, it has been shown to increase your muscle strength and endurance.
The increases in strength allow you to lift heavier weights and therefore lets you add lean muscle mass.
From my experience training clients, I’ve found taking creatine monohydrate to be extremely beneficial. Many clients see athletic performance increase and a reasonable amount of muscle growth over a 12-week period.
See Related - 1 Month Creatine Results (What You Can Expect)
3. Non-Muscle (Fat) Weight Gain
You’ll be pleased to know that creatine doesn’t cause you to gain fat. As I’ve mentioned above, the body weight you’ll gain is both water weight gain and muscle mass.
If you're still unsure, creatine is calorie-free, so unless you're in a caloric surplus, you won't gain fat. If you did gain fat, creatine wouldn't be the reason why.
What Is Creatine? (How It Works & Why People Take It)
Creatine is a naturally occurring compound that you can find in seafood and red meat (such as beef). Your body also produces small amounts of creatine in your kidneys, liver, and pancreas.
Your body can use creatine to create ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate). ATP is a type of stored energy that your body uses for various functions throughout the day.
It's unlikely your body can make enough creatine to fuel your workouts, even with a healthy diet.
By supplementing creatine, your body fills up your muscle creatine stores, filling them with ATP ready for your workouts.
During your workout, your body will periodically release the stored energy in your muscle stores, giving you improved strength, power, and endurance.
All of which can help you build lean muscle mass.
Most people who take creatine use creatine monohydrate (sometimes called micronized creatine).
You can take creatine in powder form, which you mix with water/juice, or you can take creatine pills.
Learn The Differences - Creatine Powder Vs Pill Form
Now you might be wondering why people take creatine.
Firstly, some people naturally have low levels of creatine in their body and can’t produce as much ATP, resulting in them running out of energy quicker.
This can hinder your workouts, and you might experience low endurance and strength.
By supplementing your creatine, you can increase muscle creatine stores allowing you to lift those extra few reps and build more muscle in the process. As a result, you'll feel stronger for longer.
Here’s a summary of the reasons why people take creatine:
What To Do If You Gain Weight On Creatine
If you happen to gain weight on creatine, don’t panic; at least you know it’s working as it should.
Besides minor changes in your body’s appearance and some fluid retention, these should begin to wear off after a few weeks.
I’ve found that my body tends to shed the water weight once the loading phase of creatine supplementation is over (5 days or so).
Once I begin taking the maintenance dose, the creatine levels are replenished, and my body starts to get rid of any excess water.
However, if you’re really bothered by the fact that creatine can make you gain weight, or you have a beach holiday coming up and don’t want to be carrying water weight, I have a simple solution; take a break from creatine.
You can always start again later in the year when your holiday has passed. Many of my clients like taking creatine during winter, so they don’t notice the weight gain as much.
Related Article - When Should You Cycle Creatine?
How To Minimize Water Retention & Bloat From Creatine
While the water weight you gain from creatine might be temporary, there are a couple of different ways you can reduce this side effect.
Eat Less Sodium
One of the first things you can do is reduce your sodium intake. Sodium is an electrolyte that helps your body hold onto water in a bid to keep you hydrated.
However, if you consume too much sodium while you’re taking creatine, it might increase your water retention.
The easiest way to reduce your sodium intake is to cut down on the amount of fast food and processed foods you eat.
Doing so will also help you if weight loss is one of your main goals, as fast food often has a high amount of calories too.
When I’ve cut processed foods from my diet and focused on eating unprepared/fresh ingredients, I’ve found my lean mass increases and fat gain is minimal.
Now I’m not saying to cut fast food completely, but reducing your intake will help with water retention.
Drink More Water
“Drink more water?!” I can hear you shout in confusion… Yeah, it might sound counterintuitive, but one of the most overlooked methods of reducing water retention is to drink more water.
As you drink more water, your body will flush out excess sodium from your system (usually from increased urination). In turn, it results in less excess water in your body.
Note: Always be careful with this one; your body needs sodium, and flushing it out can have adverse effects.
Learn About - How Much Water You Should Drink When On Creatine
Continue To Exercise
Another common way to lower your body’s water retention is to continue exercising.
When you move your body, you sweat. This reduces your water retention while aiding your fitness and body mass goals.
While I take creatine, I always ensure I’m hitting my workouts consistently and like to add a few walks throughout the week as a form of additional low-impact exercise.
Find Out About - Can You Supplement Creatine Without Working Out?
Skip The Loading Phase
Skipping the loading phase of your creatine supplementation can also reduce the amount of water your body holds onto and could help if creatine gives you an upset stomach.
Loading is generally advised to help maximize creatine storage during your first week of taking the supplement.
However, it's been shown that taking a smaller amount (maintenance) over a longer period of time yields the same results.
Personally, I skip the loading phase and recommend my clients do too. We all have busy lives, and remembering to take creatine several times a day for the first 5-6 days can be challenging.
Common FAQs About Creatine
In my opinion, most gym-goers participating in weight training would benefit from using creatine to help gain lean muscle mass and improve exercise performance. If you’re lifting weights and want to add muscle mass to your frame, creatine is one of the best supplements for the job. I’ve often given creatine to my clients on the skinnier side, resulting in increased muscle mass and weight gain.
Creatine is one of the most researched sports supplements around and is perfectly safe for healthy individuals to take. However, if you suffer from liver, heart, or kidney function issues, you should always consult your doctor before adding a supplement to your diet (even creatine). There are some minor side effects that can occur while you take creatine, such as muscle cramps, nausea, diarrhea, and dizziness. I've found there are a few ways to limit these side effects:
Yes and no… it depends on what you mean by “weight.” If you need to make weight for a competition or sporting event, you should avoid creatine for the time being as it can increase your scale weight. However, if you’re looking to lose body fat, creatine supplementation leads to increased muscle mass which in turn causes your body to burn more calories. A study found that creatine supplementation can help decrease body fat mass.
If you've started taking creatine, you should start seeing some benefits about a week in. You might notice an increase in training volume and see rapid weight gain. However, if you’re taking creatine for a long period and don’t have any noticeable results, you could be a “non-responder,” and taking the supplement might not be for you. One thing I’d like to note is taking creatine monohydrate is your best bet. It’s the most researched type of creatine and yields the best results.
Yes, creatine is a derivative of amino acids. It’s stored in your body as a phosphate molecule. The creatine phosphate is used to create ATP, which your body uses for energy during your workouts.
If you've been asking yourself, "does creatine make you gain weight?" the answer is yes, but it's not all doom and gloom.
Creatine’s weight gain is mainly water weight and is fairly harmless. It usually disperses within a few weeks.
Check out the above article for all the details and discover why creatine could be the supplement you’ve been missing out on.