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Different types of creatine

Can you use creatine for weight gain?

01 Nov 2021 • 3 min read

Rate it or hate it, there’s no denying that creatine is a major player in the sports supplement field.

But does it actually make you gain weight?

Does creatine make you gain weight?

The short answer: maybe. But not in the same way as eating pizza every day could maybe make you gain weight.

Creatine can make you weigh more due to water retention, and it can also support lean muscle building, both of which can make you gain weight.

However, creatine is very unlikely to contribute to fat gain - woohoo! Find out more below about weight and muscle gain from taking creatine.

What is creatine?

Creatine is an organic compound of amino acids made by our own bodies that can also be found in meat, fish, and supplements.1

Amino acids are essential for multiple functions in the body, including building and maintaining muscle mass.

Our liver, pancreas and kidneys make 1-2g of creatine a day on average.2

Around 95% of the total amount of creatine is stored as creatine phosphate in our skeletal muscle.

It binds to adenosine di-phosphate (ADP) and becomes adenosine triphosphate, which serves as energy fuel for our bodies, including our brains.3

Creatine nutrition

Creatine is a pretty simple compound really. It’s made up of 3 amino acids:

  • Methionine
  • Arginine
  • Glycine

One scoop of creatine (around 5g) will only have a few calories or even none at all and no fat – it is a pure protein source, after all!

Does creatine make you fat?

This is unlikely – in fact, it is almost impossible that creatine could cause your body to make more fat and then store it as body fat. If anything, creatine can help contribute to fat loss, by taking it as part of the creatine cycle

As mentioned above, creatine is a protein with a minimal calorie count.

In order to gain fat, we need to consume more calories than our bodies need consistently. For example, e.g. if your body burns 2400kcal a day, you will eventually gain weight if you eat 3000kcal every day.

However, if you also strength train / exercise in a way that requires your muscles to get stronger, your body will choose to take those surplus calories and turn them into muscle instead (and probably a little fat).

Whereas if you don’t exercise, your body will likely turn any excess calories into fat, as it is much easier to store and use when we need it – the caveman way!

Does creatine make you bloated?

Creatine holds water inside your muscle cells, causing them to swell up – which we like!

However, this ‘‘creatine pump’’ will only make some people look more muscular, namely those with an already low level of body fat.

When you have normal or higher body fat levels of body fat, you won’t likely see this effect as your muscles are covered by fat and not as visible.

Research suggests that you may gain 1-2% of body mass during a creatine loading stage, which will partially increase water weight.

However, this is usually short-term and should resolve after a few weeks.7

It’s not all about how you look, though, right?

If your main goal is to get stronger, it shouldn’t really matter if those muscles swell up after creatine.

But if you’re looking for fuller, harder, and rounder muscles to flex about, – creatine could be well worth a try!

Please note: just because you weigh more or less on the scales than you did last week, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve gained fat or muscle.

You definitely could have!

But water retention is a real thing, especially if you’re training, as the body sometimes like to cling to water when it’s growing and repairing muscle tissue and then get rid of it.

If you want a more accuratea comparison to see how your new regime is working, try taking photos or measuring your body with a tape measure instead of relying too heavily on the scales.

Can creatine help you gain muscle weight?

Yes – whether you’re a man or woman taking creatine, research has shown it helps to build muscle weight and sustain energy levels.

However, it’s not as simple as sipping your creatine drink and waiting for those muscles to pump up out of nowhere magically.

If you take creatine as well as up your calories and hit the gym, however, it could help you gain muscle weight. Here’s why:

  1. Creatine transforms into ATP in the body, which is used to create energy in the body.
  2. ATP is usually broken down quickly in the muscles when performing a high-intensity activity that requires an explosive energy ‘‘burst’,’ e.g., standing back up after performing a weighted squat.
  3. Over time, this increased energy could help to increase your performance and muscle growth. For example, if you hit more reps in your gym sessions, your performance should improve – especially if you keep adding more weight (aka progressive loading) when an exercise gets ‘‘easy’’.

It’s also worth noting that, although the benefits and side effects of creatine are very similar for both men and women, it has been shown that creatine for women who have passed through the menopause can have different effects.

Research shows that those who take high doses of creatine after the menopause may experience an increase in skeletal muscle size, too

How about creatine loading?

Creatine loading, sometimes also known as pre-loading, is the process some athletes and weightlifters use to ensure their creatine levels are at their best pre-workout.

This is often done before a special event, e.g. a competition.

The general recommendation is to take 20-25g of creatine supplements for 5-7 days in a row during this loading phase.4

Athletes may also wonder whether mixing protein powder with creatine into a protein shake provides enhanced benefits.

As both supplements help to increase muscle mass and improve performance during exercise, it’s appropriate they’d be consumed simultaneously. However, a protein shake with creatine may not necessarily enhance your overall performance.

Find out more about when to take creatine from our detailed guide, including insight into taking creatine pre-workout,  tips and more.

How much creatine should I take?

If you’re taking creatine for weight gain, ensure you follow your diet guidelines as part of your supplementation routine:

Omnivores

For people following an omnivorous diet that contains 1-2g a day of creatine from meat and fish, the most effective way to increase muscle creatine stores up to their full potential is to take 5g of creatine 4 times a day for 5-7 days.8

This is also known as ‘‘creatine loading’’, which we discussed above.

Once your muscles have been ‘‘refilled’’ and have reached their saturation points after this period of time, you should maintain your replenished creatine store by ingesting 3-5g of creatine a day.9

Vegetarians and vegans

As dietary creatine is only found in animal products, it is recommended that vegans and vegetarians may have to supplement more to reach their muscle creatine saturation point initially. For example, taking an additional 1-2g of creatine on top of the recommended 5g of creatine 4 times a day (6-7g 4 times a day).10

Then, when they have reached healthy levels of creatine in their muscles, they can apply the same logic to their maintenance creatine intake by adding 1-2g of creatine to the recommended 3-5g of creatine every day, e.g., 4-7g a day.11

Find the best vegan and vegetarian creatine supplements from our helpful guide.

Larger athletes

As larger athletes have more muscle mass, they may need to ingest as much as 5-10g per day to maintain the creatine stores in their muscles.12

https://www.hollandandbarrett.com/the-health-hub/sports-nutrition/creatine/best-vegan-creatine-supplements/

The final say

  • Creatine can also support lean muscle building, which weighs more than fat, so it could help you gain weight via muscle
  • However, creatine is very, very unlikely to contribute to fat gain, so it should not make you gain weight in the ‘‘traditional sense.’’
The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.

Last updated: 1 November 2021

bhupesh-panchal

Bhupesh Panchal

Author

Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate

Joined Holland & Barrett: April 2019

Masters Degree in Toxicology and BSc Hons in Medical Biochemistry

Bhupesh started his career as a Clinical Toxicologist for Public Health England, advising healthcare professionals all around the country on how to manage clinical cases of adverse exposure to supplements, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, industrial chemicals and agricultural products.

After 7 years in this role and a further year working as a drug safety officer in the pharmaceutical industry, Bhupesh joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.
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