Creatine is one of the safest, most effective, and trusted supplements on the market.
Known for increasing muscle size, building strength, and preserving muscle during cuts, it’s no wonder why athletes choose to supplement creatine in their quests to reach their performance goals.
This supplement is not just for athletes, however. Anyone with fitness goals will certainly benefit from the use of creatine—especially those trying to lose fat.
Creatine is a must-have supplement among physique competitors because it helps retain muscle mass, strength, and endurance while cutting. (Cutting is the process of shedding fat and getting extra lean in preparation for a competition).
This is important because to lose weight—more aptly, burn fat—you must cut calories (this is how cutting got its name). When cutting calories, or dieting, your body is operating on a caloric deficit for many weeks or months and as a result, you will experience several challenges.
Chief among these challenges, as far as athletes are concerned, is retaining muscle mass, size, and strength; this is where creatine comes into play.
If you are trying to lose weight, creatine will not help the number on the scale, but it will prevent some muscle loss and help you power through your workouts.
One side effect of creatine supplementation that needs clarification is water retention. It is common to gain 3-5 pounds while using creatine due to water retention.
This insight makes creatine sound counterproductive to weight loss goals, but that weight gain is entirely from water retention in the muscles, which is necessary for creatine to work as intended. In short, don’t be alarmed by this weight gain, as it is not fat gain.
Will creatine make you fat if you don’t workout?
No, creatine will not make you fat if you don’t workout, but if you’re not working out there is no reason for creatine supplementation.
The only way to gain fat is to be in a caloric surplus (take in more calories than the body can use) and creatine has very little to no calories per scoop.
Creatine does not influence fat gain or loss whatsoever. Although, there are a few reasons why someone who supplements with creatine and does not workout may believe that they are gaining fat.
- As previously mentioned, creatine will add weight in the form of water retention inside the muscles—not fat. Someone who does not workout might see the number on the scale climb 3-5 pounds due to this water retention and assume they are gaining fat.
- The water retention inside the muscles can cause the muscles to look “swollen.” That is to say, the muscles appear soft and rounded. (Not to a dire extent, but a noticeable amount for people who monitor their body composition and image). Someone who has begun supplementing with creatine is likely conscious of their body, and the appearance of soft, rounded muscles can lend to the idea of fat gain.
- Starting a new supplement can cause someone to become hyperconscious of their body and psych themselves out. Usually, a supplement routine is started to improve body composition. When someone is taking creatine and not working out, they may believe that the would-be muscle gains are instead becoming fat gains. This line of thought becomes increasingly probable if the person notices bloating in the muscles and weight gain due to water retention as mentioned in points 1 and 2.
What is creatine?
Unlike many supplements that can be potentially dangerous, creatine is an amino acid that is naturally produced in the body. It is stored throughout the body, primarily in skeletal muscles (the ones you train in the weight room).
The body only produces so much though, and vigorous workouts can burn through creatine supplies, which is why many fitness enthusiasts notice results soon after beginning creatine supplementation.
Using creatine is not just intended to resupply the body’s natural stores; muscles can absorb the extra creatine, and this is what leads to improved muscle size and strength.
Creatine is extremely safe, highly researched, and trusted, but it is not without its side effects.
Side effects of creatine supplementation
Fortunately, all of creatine’s side effects are mild. Side effects are usually most noticeable in the early stages of supplementation and trail off as the body learns how to make use of the excess creatine.
The unpleasant symptoms often occur in those who “load” creatine, or take excess amounts in attempts to saturate muscles, and can be alleviated by reducing consumption.
- Weight gain as a result of water retention. At most, you can expect to gain 3-5 pounds of water weight. The amount of weight gained depends directly on how much muscle mass you have: more muscle mass = more water retention.
- Bloating. The water retention in muscles sometimes causes them to look swollen as they adjust to the newly introduced “creatine saturation.”
- Upset stomach and stomach cramps. This is the most unpleasant of all creatine side effects. Early on in your creatine supplementation, you might encounter these symptoms as your body adjusts to having all the extra creatine to work with. Decreasing the amount of creatine you are taking will ease these issues.
- General muscle cramping. When using creatine, you need to be drinking a lot of water, as creatine causes muscles to store much more water than usual. As such, it’s easier to become dehydrated while using creatine and thus, easier to cramp.
- Diarrhea. This side effect is not so much a result of taking creatine as it is drinking too much water. After taking creatine for a couple of weeks, you will almost certainly know how much water you should be drinking to keep your muscles properly hydrated, and how much constitutes overhydration, leading to diarrhea.
Does creatine bloating go away?
Yes, bloating usually rectifies after the initial 2-3 weeks of supplementation.
Will creatine make me stronger?
Yes, research is conclusive. Creatine increases muscle size and strength.
Can creatine be taken with other supplements?
Absolutely. Creatine is a safe organic compound that is naturally produced in the body. There are no known interactions between creatine and any other supplements or medications.