Does Creatine Make You Gain Weight?

Does Creatine Cause Weight Gain

Creatine is one of the oldest bodybuilding supplements on the market. And you’ve probably considered taking it for muscle and strength gains.

But despite its popularity, there are many myths and misconceptions about creatine benefits and side effects. Like, does creatine make you gain weight and cause bloating?

These questions make it hard to decide if creatine is worth taking. So I will shed some factual light on these creatine concerns and help decide if it’s right for you.

What Is Creatine?

Creatine is a performance-boosting supplement used by athletes in many sports. And for good reason. There are dozens of studies proving creatine’s effectiveness for increasing strength and gaining lean muscle1.

Yet creatine is still widely misunderstood by the general population. So what is it anyway?

Creatine is a molecule produced by your liver but it’s also found in many foods like red meat. And this compound is used inside your cells as a source of energy for intense activities like sprints or weightlifting.

Creatine Supplement

What Does Creatine Do?

Creatine works through an energy pathway called glycolysis. This phosphagen-based system breaks down glucose from carbohydrates to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP) for energy.

After use, ATP gives up a phosphate to become adenosine diphosphate (ADP), and it can no longer provide energy. But creatine supplies phosphate to turn ADP back into ATP so your body can use it for energy again.

Supplementing creatine increases the amount of phosphate available and enables faster regeneration of ADP into ATP. So it’s like having more cellular energy.

With this energy comes greater power output and strength. And that, in turn, boosts performance to increase muscle and strength gains from your workouts.

Creatine Phosphagen System

Figure 1. An illustration of the phosphagen system and how creatine contributes to the ATP energy pathway.

Now that you know the basics of what creatine is, we can talk more about what effects it has on your body. Specifically, whether creatine makes you gain weight.

Does Creatine Make You Gain Weight?

The short answer is yes; taking creatine supplements generally increases your overall body weight. And weight gain may be more pronounced if you use a “loading phase” or a high dosage.

Most of the weight you gain is from water retained in your muscle cells. But you should also gain muscle mass if you follow a consistent resistance training routine.

Does gaining water weight mean you shouldn’t take creatine? Absolutely not! To explain, it helps to look at creatine weight gain by the numbers.

Creatine Total Body Weight Gain

According to studies, you can expect to gain a pound or two in the first week of creatine supplementation. But if you choose to do a high-dose loading phase, you could gain as much as 10 pounds in a week2.

After that, the weight gain should slow down or even reverse over the course of a month. And most people end up a few pounds heavier after four weeks of creatine use.

Surprisingly, the placebo group also gained 1.5 pounds during the first week, suggesting that the diet and workout regimen had more to do with weight gain than creatine. Regardless, the placebo group did not continue to gain weight after the first week.

How Much Weight Does Creatine Add

Figure 2. Total body weight gain 1 week and 1 month after creatine supplement. Subjects did a 7-day loading period with 25 g/day, then 21 days with 5 g/day. Adapted from Powers et. al.

Creatine Water Weight Gain

As you probably know, it’s not possible to gain multiple pounds of muscle mass in one week. So the rapid weight gain with creatine is primarily the result of water retention.

In the previous study, participants gained 3 lbs of water weight during a seven-day loading period. And they gained 4.5 lbs of water after three more weeks of a maintenance dose2.

Interestingly, the water weight gain exceeded the total increase in body weight, potentially indicating a change in body composition.

Does Creatine Make You Gain Water Weight

Figure 3. Water weight gain 1 week and 1 month after creatine supplement. Adapted from Powers et. al.

Does Creatine Make You Bloated?

Most of the water gained with creatine is intracellular or within the muscle cells, making them look bigger and fuller. But this does not cause bloating or swelling like extracellular water stored outside cells.

Multiple studies show that creatine supplementation increases intracellular water equally or more than extracellular water2,3. Therefore, water retention from creatine primarily increases muscle volume and is not the same as bloating.

In two different studies, creatine changed total body water about the same as the placebo. And creatine may have even created a more favorable distribution of water in Figure 5 below.

Does Creatine Make You Gain Weight Bloating

Figure 4. Change in body water distribution with creatine and a placebo. Both resulted in water increase primarily within the muscle cells. Adapted from Spillane et. al.

Does Creatine Cause Bloating

Figure 5. In this study, creatine increased intracellular water about the same as extracellular water, indicating a fluid balance where bloating should not occur. While the placebo decreased intracellular and increased extracellular water, possibly causing bloating. Adapted from Powers et. al.

Does Creatine Make You Gain Muscle?

Yes, creatine with resistance training increases muscle gain compared to training without it. Studies suggest that taking creatine results in up to twice as much muscle gain compared to a placebo4,5.

Moreover, the muscle gain benefits appear similar for both men and women. But keep in mind that some of the apparent muscle gain is due to water stored within the muscle cells. So the true effect may be somewhat less.

Does Creatine Make You Gain Weight Muscle

Figure 6. Average weekly increase in lean mass with and without creatine supplementation. Adapted from Amirsasan et. al. (men) and Lim et. al. (women).

Does Creatine Make You Gain Fat?

No, taking creatine will not make you gain fat. While creatine supplements do tend to cause overall weight gain, that weight is in the form of water and muscle.

In fact, studies show that creatine combined with resistance training can help you lose fat4,5. So even though the scale might go up, your body composition changes for the better.

Does Creatine Make You Gain Fat

Figure 7. Change in male body composition after 8 weeks of creatine supplementation compared to placebo. Adapted from Amirsasan et. al.

Does Creatine Make You Gain Weight Body Composition

Figure 8. Change in female body composition after 10 weeks of creatine supplementation compared to placebo. Adapted from Lim et. al.

Creatine Weight FAQ

So far, I’ve answered the primary question, “does creatine make you gain weight?” But I know there are more questions surrounding creatine and body weight. So here are some quick answers to other common questions.

Does creatine help you lose weight?

At first, taking a creatine supplement usually makes your scale weight go up. But it also increases lean mass, which helps you burn more calories and makes it easier to lose weight in the long run.

So while creatine might increase your weight initially, it can help you burn fat and look better, which is likely why you want to lose weight in the first place

Also, you can still lose weight even while taking creatine if you have an appropriate calorie deficit. And the performance boost in the gym should help you maintain lean mass while losing fat.

Does creatine weight gain go away?

If you stop taking creatine, you will gradually lose some water weight as your muscle saturation depletes. But if you stick to your nutrition and training plan, you should not lose a significant amount of muscle.

Also, if you continue taking creatine, the water weight gain will plateau and stop once you reach full muscle saturation. So you likely won’t continue to gain water weight after about the first month of starting creatine supplementation.

How to get rid of creatine water weight?

First, not all creatine water weight gain is bad. The intracellular water can make your muscles look fuller, and you don’t need to get rid of it.

However, if you notice an increase in extracellular water weight or bloating, there are several ways to flush out the excess water. For example, you can sweat it out through exercise or a sauna.

8 Natural Ways to Get Rid of Water Retention

Does creatine HCl reduce water weight gain?

Creatine HCl is a variant that claims to absorb faster and reduce water retention. However, one study showed that creatine variants like these result in similar water weight gain to creatine monohydrate3.

In addition, this study suggests that creatine HCl and other “fast-absorbing” variants may result in more extracellular water gain, which is associated with bloating.

Creatine Water Weight

Figure 9. Creatine ethyl ester increased extracellular water (bloating) more than creatine monohydrate. Adapted from Spillane et. al.

Is creatine HCl better than monohydrate?

Supplement manufacturers claim that creatine HCl has less water retention than creatine monohydrate, which is false.

In addition, they suggest that creatine HCl is faster absorbing and more bioavailable so that you can use less. Is there truth to these claims, or are they just advertising hype?

Click the link below to find out if creatine HCl is worth taking.

Creatine HCL vs Monohydrate: What the Data Says About Which is Better

Creatine HCL vs Monohydrate
HCl vs Monohydrate

Creatine & Weight Gain Summary

Here is a bullet point summary in case all those graphs and numbers have your head spinning!

  • Creatine results in a few pounds of weight gain after your muscles are fully saturated

  • Any rapid weight gain from creatine is due to water retention, mostly within your muscles

  • Intracellular water weight gain from creatine is not the same as bloating

  • Creatine does help you gain more muscle than you would without it

  • Creatine does not increase body fat, and can actually help you lose fat

Now you know that creatine generally does increase your body weight. But you also learned that much of that weight gain is lean muscle and that creatine can help you burn fat.

To learn more about supplements and all things fitness, check out some of my other informative content below!

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