With so many supplements on the market these days, it can get confusing, and not to mention expensive, when trying to decide which supplements to use.

Both whey protein and creatine increase muscle, but which is more effective?

This article dives into everything you need to know about both supplements. Read on to find out which one comes out top.

When comparing creatine vs whey protein and understanding the main differences, it comes down to the chemical makeup of the two supplements.

Creatine is an amino acid derivative and not a complete protein. 

Whey protein is a complete protein and contains all the amino acids the body requires to put on more muscle mass and improve exercise performance.

Let's look deeper at these two supplements that promote muscle growth.

For Fat Loss (Cutting)

Protein is an important macronutrient when trying to reduce body fat because protein supports muscle development and helps keep you fuller for longer when you need to reduce overall calorie intake.

Resistance training and consuming enough protein are important for fat loss, as our metabolism works more efficiently when we have increased lean muscle.

Casein protein has the same amino acids as whey protein powder, but it is released slower than whey, and it increases the feeling of fullness, which can help aid weight loss.

Creatine is a less important supplement if weight loss is your goal and is better linked with improvements in resistance exercise and explosive workouts.

Learn More - Should I Take Creatine While Cutting? (What To Know) 

For Muscle & Weight Gain (Bulking)

Both creatine and whey protein have been shown to increase muscle mass. While they both promote muscle gain, they work in different ways. Whey protein increases strength and muscle size by stimulating muscle protein synthesis.

Creatine helps increase muscle size through increased exercise capacity. Muscle building happens when we consume a surplus of calories to support building muscle, and supplementing protein and creatine can support this.

Scooping Transparent Labs Whey Protein Isolate

For Amino Acids

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and synthesize and breakdowns proteins in the body which maintains functional integrity and quality of skeletal muscle.[1]

Creatine is made up of three amino acids - methionine, arginine, and glycine  - and occurs naturally in our body.

Lifters and bodybuilders use creatine as a dietary supplement so their muscle cells have plenty of energy to get through high-intensity exercise. In addition, creatine supplements play a large role in muscle contractions.

Whey protein is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids, including the three branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). 

Related Article - BCAAs Vs Creatine (Should You Take Both For Muscle Growth?)

Taking whey protein powder provides the amino acids your body needs for enhancing muscle protein synthesis and promoting muscle growth.

From Food Sources

Creatine monohydrate is a molecule that already exists naturally in animal foods such as meat, eggs, and fish. But the amount required to eat to increase creatine consumption might lead to increased weight gain.

Learn More - How Much Creatine Is In Eggs? (From A Nutritionist)

Protein is easy to get through food sources, but protein supplementation will support fitness goals as it is convenient and fast acting.

Complete protein foods that contain all nine essential amino acids include red meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products, seafood, quinoa, and buckwheat.  

Whey protein supplementation enhances muscle gains due to the ease of being able to consume it directly after a training session. Due to the high concentrations of amino acids, the body can digest it very quickly.

During training, we are breaking down muscle tissue, so it is critical to be consuming protein supplements to repair and replenish the muscles to recover and build lean muscle.

Price Per Serve

When comparing creatine vs whey protein in terms of cost, creatine is more affordable than whey protein. Pricing varies from company to company, but creatine prices range from $0.10 to $3.13 per serving.

Pricing for whey protein hugely ranges from $0.82 to $4.28 per serving. There is something for all budgets, but spending a bit more means you will likely get high-quality protein.

For Men Versus Women

Creatine and protein products do not vary between men and women, even though some companies market their products as gender specific.

These two supplements will aid sports performance recovery and provide performance benefits for both men and women.

Creatine has been heavily researched; however, the effects of this supplement are still understudied in females.

Creatine characteristics vary between males and females, with females having 70-80% lower natural creatine stores. This means that creatine supplementation may be even more important for performance and health among women.[2]

Women need to prioritize protein post-workout, and the window to get this protein is shorter than for men. Women want to consume protein within 30 minutes of a hard workout.

Taking whey protein is the easiest way to get this post-training nutrition in. Women are more catabolic than men due to one of the dominant female sex hormones - progesterone which exacerbates muscle breakdown in women.[3]

Creatine Explained

Creatine monohydrate binds to a phosphate molecule to form creatine phosphate is an effective supplement for performance in the gym. It can be taken in the form of a powder or a pill. Creatine has been an essential aspect of sports nutrition since it gained popularity in the early 1990s.

Creatine monohydrate is not a steroid. It is an organic compound made up of amino acids, but it is not considered a protein because it metabolizes differently.

Your body already produces creatine. Creatine is produced naturally by the body, primarily the liver. It is also found in food sources such as red meat and fish.

Creatine replenishes your ATP (adenosine triphosphate) stores, meaning your muscles can work harder for longer because they have extra fuel. With limited ATP stores, your muscles have to work harder to recover after any stress.

Because your muscles have a limited supply of ATP, the muscles will fatigue quickly, but creatine can help top up the energy required for your muscles to move. And they will move more weight, for longer.

Related Article - Creatine Vs Carnitine (Which Supplement Is Better?)

Benefits For Users

Creatine is one of the most heavily researched supplements and one that is proven to work. It is also one of the most popular supplements there is. People who regularly take creatine will see the following benefits:

  • It helps you train harder
  • Increased total work capacity
  • Improves performance in the gym
  • Enhances strength
  • Increases maximal power
  • Increases muscle mass

The benefits of creatine go further than just strength and muscle mass. Creatine is effective in improving brain function.

Learn More - Creatine Brain Benefits (Does It Help Brain Function?)

Creatine supplementation research is suggesting that creatine may be beneficial for brain health showing improvements in cognitive processing, brain function, and recovery from trauma.

The optimal creatine protocol able to increase brain creatine levels is still to be determined, and future research is required, but the current research looks promising.[4]

Side Effects For Users

Creatine supplements are one of the most heavily researched workout supplements. Research shows that there are no adverse side effects to health, but some could experience some negative side effects.

When using creatine, there is increased work required by the liver and kidneys when high levels of creatine supplementation are digested. This can cause muscle cramps and gut issues.

Creatine draws water into the muscle tissue, which means that muscles may hold onto water. This can result in water retention creating bloating or puffiness around certain areas of the body, such as arms, legs, and abdomen.

Learn More - Does Creatine Make You Bloated? (Expert Tips To Avoid It)

Recommended Dosage

Creatine can be taken in a loading phase which means taking a large amount for 5-7 days and then moving onto smaller daily amounts, or you can go straight into a smaller daily amount without loading.

The latter means that it could take longer to see the benefits of creatine from a loading phase. A loading phase is not strictly necessary for it to take effect long-term.

The recommended amount is 3-5g of creatine a day. When first taking creatine, give it time to work, and if you do not see any changes, then you can increase the dose.

Learn More - How Much Creatine Should I Take? | Garage Gym Pro

How & When To Take Creatine

Creatine is best taken daily. Taking it around training, before or after, will be beneficial from a training standpoint. However, creatine supplementation must be taken daily to see overall results.

Take quick digesting simple carbs like fruit, juice, or yogurt when you take it. You don't necessarily need to take it right before you hit the gym, but it is suggested that it will have more of an effect on training performance.

See More - What To Mix Creatine With (Guide For Liquids & Supplements)

Whey Protein Explained

Whey Protein Powder On Neutral Background

Protein is an essential macronutrient that plays a vital role in muscle strength and increased muscle mass. Protein is consumed through various amount of food sources. Using a whey protein supplement makes it easier to get in more protein. It is quick and easy and ideal for straight after a workout.

Protein is compromised of essential amino acids. Some amino acids are produced by the body, but some we need to consume in our diet.

Amino acids are responsible for creating new proteins and initiating muscle protein synthesis, which starts the muscle building process.

Whey protein originates from dairy and is a byproduct of cheese manufacturing. Like creatine, whey protein contains amino acids.

Whey protein contains nine essential amino acids, including the three branched-chain amino acids (BCAA).

Studies have shown that whey protein is the best to support muscle growth, assist muscle repair, improve athletic performance, and optimize body composition by promoting lean body mass.

Benefits For Users

Using whey protein is a very convenient way to boost protein intake. The benefits of whey protein are:

  • Increased lean muscle mass and strength
  • Improves exercise performance
  • Supports recovery
  • Assists improved body composition

Research has confirmed that taking quick-digesting leucine-rich protein optimizes the production of proteins in the muscle. Leucine is an essential amino acid that provides increased muscle protein synthesis.

Side Effects For Users

The most common side effect whey protein supplements can cause is a reverse reaction to the lactose in whey protein powder.

People with lactose intolerance will find that consuming protein powder will cause digestive distress and deem it not worthwhile.

Whey protein isolate is ideal for people with lactose sensitivity as all, or almost all lactose is removed in the filtering process.

It's worth noting that the FDA leaves it up to manufacturers to evaluate their products' safety and labeling, which means it's impossible to know if the protein powder contains what it claims.

Some supplemental protein powders are high in sugar, and therefore calories, and can cause fat gain and spikes in blood sugar.

If you are going to supplement using whey proteins, then make sure you research which is lowest in sugar content.

There is mixed research about high protein intake and kidney damage/disease. A high-protein diet may cause your kidneys to work more to filter your blood.

Even with conflicting results in the research, it is suggested that those who do not have any other health conditions may not increase the risk of kidney damage through supplementing protein.[5]

Recommended Dosage

How much protein an individual needs depends on factors such as age, gender, goals, and activity levels.

The recommended daily allowance of protein is 0.36 to 0.45 grams per pound of body weight which is the minimum requirement for an individual who doesn’t train.

Depending on your gender and training schedule, the daily protein intake should be increased to at least 1 gram per pound.

Whey protein powders come in various types and flavors, and generally, 1 scoop of protein contains around 25g of protein.

You should aim to consume 1 scoop a day, and if you are on a particularly challenging training day, you can consume 2 scoops of protein.

How & When To Take Whey Protein

Whey protein can be consumed at any time of the day in to increase the overall intake of protein. Still, it is imperative to take it after exercise to start the repair process of the muscle damage undertaken during exercise.

You should aim to take 20-25g of protein post-exercise to improve muscle protein synthesis and start the muscle repair process.

Most protein powders contain this concentrate of protein in a scoop and help dramatically bump up your daily protein goals.

Mixing BPN Whey Protein With Water

Common Questions About Creatine and Whey Protein

Can you mix whey protein and creatine?

Yes, there is no reason why you cannot take creatine and protein at the same time; it does not create any adverse effects. Taking creatine around training will enhance the results of the supplement and increase muscle mass. Mixing both creatine and whey protein doesn't offer additional muscle or strength gains than taking each individually.  

Is creatine or whey protein better to take after workout?

In a perfect world, it is better to take creatine before your workout and whey protein afterward. This is due to the effects each of the supplements has, and optimizing the results of muscle growth requires taking the supplements in that order. Prioritizing a protein shake post-workout is the most important way to support exercise recovery, and by doing so, you will see increased muscle gains.

Can beginners take creatine?

Yes, people starting in the gym can take creatine, too, as it also has health benefits in terms of brain function. Taking creatine is important for both recreational gym goers and athletes. In terms of dosage, beginners need to take a smaller dose; as they improve, the dosage can be increased. 

Do most bodybuilders take creatine?

If bodybuilders are serious about their training, then creatine is part of their daily routine. Creatine is one of the most researched and popular supplements due to the amount of research provided on athletic performance. Bodybuilders may cycle creatine due to water retention from increased cell volume. If a bodybuilder has a show and wants to get as lean as possible, then they would cut anything that can make them retain water.

Does whey protein contain creatine?

No, whey protein should not contain creatine. It should contain whey or isolate protein that contains all amino acids to see the optimal benefits of muscle building. Always check the ingredients of a protein powder before you buy it.

Conclusion

If you’re dizzy trying to work out the best workout supplement to build muscle, the answer depends on what your specific goals are.

If you do regular resistance training and are looking for increased muscle mass, prioritizing a high-quality whey protein is important to support muscle growth and maintain muscle mass as you age.

If you want to enhance exercise performance, then creatine is the way to go.

References: 

  1. https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/10.1146/annurev.nutr.17.1.457
  2. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/13/3/877
  3. https://www.drstacysims.com/blog/nail-your-golden-recovery-window-for-optimum-health-and-performance
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10999421/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK224623/pdf/Bookshelf_NBK224623.pdf
Miloš Lepotic

Miloš Lepotic

Meet Miloš, a certified sports nutritionist and self-taught supplement expert whose pharmacological background and nearly a decade of gym experience make him the perfect guide for optimizing your health and athletic performance through supplement reviews and practical advice rooted in factual, science-backed information.