If you’re tired of hearing people talk about how creatine makes you look fat and aren’t sure what the real story is, then you’ve come to the right place.
The answer is simple! Creatine will make you LOOK bigger, but it doesn’t make you fat! If anything, it is likely to make your muscle look bigger and stronger!
So, if you’re in the cutting phase in your fitness journey and you’ve been taking the creatine supplement, don’t feel demotivated if you see an increase on the weight scale.
On the other hand, if you’re on a bulking diet and you see instant increase in weight after taking creatine, I’m sorry to break it to you, but don’t get too excited.
In this article, we will look at what creatine is, why it will make you look bigger, what to do if you gain weight using this supplement, and it’s benefits and side effects.
What is Creatine?
Throughout your fitness journey, you might have heard of creatine. But what exactly is it?
Creatine is a molecule produced in our body from amino acids that helps supply energy to the working muscles.
Let’s take a deeper look into this! Creatine essentially stores high energy phosphate groups in the form of phosphocreatine. This helps increase the adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production which in return improves performance especially in high intensity activities.
Now, what is ATP? To put it simple, it is an energy molecule found in our body’s cells and the demand for this is increased during high intensity activities. In fact, these high intensity exercises can result in a “1,000-fold increase in the rate of ATP demand” (Nutrition and Metabolism). However, our body can only store ATP that will last about 8 – 10 seconds of high intense activities. After this, the body needs to produce more ATP for the high intense activity.
That’s where creatine comes in and increases the ATP production to enhance performance throughout high intense workouts.
It also helps increase lean muscle mass, improve strength, and perform that one last rep that you didn’t think you could do!
Although creatine is mostly associated with positive effects, some people worry about potential side effects, including weight gain. So, does creatine make you look fat?
Does Creatine Make You Look Fat?
You might have noticed a sudden increase on the weight scale after taking creatine, but let me assure you, it is NOT fat. However, it is true that creatine can cause weight gain in the form of water weight.
What do I mean by this? To put it simple, creatine draws water towards to the muscle cells to make them look bigger and fuller. This is called water or fluid retention.
That’s why your arms, stomach and legs seem bloated, and your muscles look bigger just shortly after taking creatine.
So, to answer the question, does creatine make you look fat? Well, it makes you LOOK bigger but won’t actually make you fat. If anything, it will make your muscles look bigger and stronger. We all know that to gain weight or fat, we must eat more calories than our daily requirements and creatine contains zero calories.
However, you do gain weight mainly due to water retention.
Correlation Between Creatine & Weight Gain
The increase in weight after taking creatine can catch you off guard, especially if you’re on a weight loss diet.
In fact, the average weight gain with creatine is about 1.5 – 3.5 pounds. The good news is that majority of this weight gain is simply from water retention. So, if you’re bulking, it can be demotivating figuring out that this extra weight is just from water.
However, in addition to water weight, research has also found that creatine can increase muscle mass. Essentially, creatine provides increased energy allowing you to perform better and harder throughout high intensity activities and workouts. This, over time, will result in increased muscle gain and strength. We will talk more about this below in the benefits section.
Benefits of Creatine
So, we have discussed what creatine is and if it makes you look fat or not, but we haven’t really talked about the actual benefits of taking creatine and why people take it.
Increased Muscle Mass
As we mentioned earlier, creatine actually helps increase muscle mass in the long run. How? It all goes back to the ATP concept we talked about earlier. You see, ATP is a form of energy in our body’s cells and is used during high intensity training. The problem is that only about 8 -10 seconds worth of ATP can be stored.
Think about a 100-meter sprint. You can only sprint or perform that explosive movement for a few seconds. Then your ATP runs out and your body needs to produce more.
Now what does all of this have to do with increase muscle mass? Well, because creatine increases the ATP production, it benefits your performance in high intense activities like deadlifts, squats or bench press that require explosive movements.
This means you will be able to lift more, perform extra reps and progressively overload more efficiently.
In fact, according to research, including creatine into your diet can actually increase high intensity exercise performance by 10 – 20%.
All this combined will help you increase muscle mass and increase strength.
Improve Recovery Process
Lot of studies and research also suggests that creatine helps with post workout recovery. Research also suggests that it helps avoid severe muscle damage.
Lower Blood Sugar Levels
The main benefit of creatine is the increased performance in high intensity activities however, research has also proven that creatine supplements, along with proper exercise, can lower blood sugar levels.
This, according to research, is because of the “enhanced glucose transport into muscle cells” by glucose transporter type 4.
So, if you’re only concerned that creatine might make you look fat or bigger, understand the other key benefits. Having said that, is creatine safe? Are there any side effects?
Side Effects of Creatine
Although creatine is one of the most popular supplements on the market, there are a few potential side effects that users should be aware of. These include weight gain and digestion. There are also some theories about creatine that people believe is true, however there is no evidence supporting these. Let’s explore all of this in more detail.
We talked about this earlier when we answered the question if creatine makes you look fat. And it does make you look bigger however it’s not fat! The extra weight is caused by water retention. Then again, it’s still a side effect, especially if you’re on a weight loss program and you notice some sudden increase in weight.
We will talk about what to do if you did gain some weight because of creatine later in this article.
You may have heard the saying “too much of anything is bad”. Well let me tell you. Too much of creatine is definitely bad.
In fact, if you did take a lot of creatine at once, it will cause stomach discomfort and diarrhea.
The recommended amount of creatine that you should take in a day is 3-5 grams.
If you are on a creating loading phase, then would be taking 20 – 25 grams of creatine however you don’t take this in on go. You split the doses throughout the day. Take 4 doses of 5 grams throughout the day.
Insufficient Evidence Theories About Creatine
Kidney and Liver problems. I am sure you’ve heard about creatine causing these issues. The reason why people believe that it causes these issues is because creatine can raise creatinine levels. This raise in creatinine levels is thought to cause kidney and liver problems.
However, let me make this crystal clear, there is INSUFFICENT evidence of creatine causing these issues.
Apart from kidney and liver problems, there have been theories that creatine causes dehydration and cramps. Again, there is NOT enough evidence to support these claims. The main way creatine can be an issue is if you have too much in one go. However, if you do have an existing health condition like kidney problems, I would STRONGLY SUGGEST you talk to a health professional before taking creatine supplement, just to be safe.
What to do if creatine makes you look fat?
So, you’re on a weight loss diet, and creatine makes you look fat or bigger. What do you do?
No doubt at all that creatine will cause weight gain, even though this is just water weight. So, what do you do about it?
If you’re concerned about that significant weight gain, just keep exercising. In fact, you will be able to train harder and better after taking creatine which will lead to muscle growth. The more creatine you have in your muscles, the more energy to perform high intense activities.
Also, the more you work out, the more you will sweat. So, you will lose the water weight in the form of sweat.
Maybe consider a sauna after a gym session as well to increase sweat levels and decrease water weight.
Drink More Water
Now this might seem weird right? You’re trying to get rid of water weight and I am telling you to increase your water intake!
Surprisingly, its actually a great way to reduce your water weight. You see, if you stay dehydrated, then your body will keep that excess water to maintain water levels and prevent them from decreasing.
In fact, drinking more water will improve kidney function. This, in return will, will help get rid of that excess water through urination.
Hence, stay hydrated. Of course, drinking too much may in fact increase your water weight. So, if you feel thirsty, drink up! If it’s a hot day or you’ve been hitting the gym and exercising, increase you water intake.
Stop Your Creatine Consumption
If you’re really concerned about the weight gain caused by creatine, simple stop taking it for a while. This will reduce the amount of water being stored in your muscles which will result in loss of water weight.
If You’re in a Cutting Phase, Should You Take Creatine?
Creatine may make you look bigger but, as we mentioned before, it is only water weight and not fat. Then again, it’s still causing weight gain. So, it’s a valid question. Should you have creatine while your cutting?
The answer is yes!
Primarily because you are improving your performance in the gym, and this will result in more lean muscle mass.
Creatine should be sourced through your diet as well. Foods such as fish and meat will help provide you with what your body needs with the high intense exercises. The only thing is if you’re cutting then its likely that you aren’t getting sufficient creatine. This is why using a creatine supplement is a good idea.
Especially if you’re vegan or vegetarian in which getting creatine from food source becomes extremely hard.
Now am I saying you need creatine to build muscle? Absolutely NOT. With a good training program and a good diet that includes natural sources of creatine to help in high intense exercises is good enough.
So, creatine may make you look a little bigger but it’s not fat! Simply water weight. In fact, it might actually make your muscles look bigger and stronger.
Creatine also has lot of benefits (if taken with correct amounts), and it certainly helps in high intensity exercises. Do I take it? Absolutely!
We hope this article helped you get a better understanding of creatine and its effects. Stay tuned for our upcoming articles!