You can’t exist in the fitness world without knowing about creatine. It’s the most popular supplement for performance improvements other than protein powders – and is both well-studied and inexpensive. But does creatine make you gain weight?
Today we’re going to shine some light on what creatine is and how it works. We’ll discuss creatine and weight gain – as well as its effects on performance, muscle mass function (lean muscle mass), and fat mass.
What is Creatine?
Creatine is a raw material that your body uses to produce energy. It’s a key component in the phosphagen energy system. This is basically a building block of a high-energy compound your body uses to fuel high-intensity exercise like sprinting and jumping.
Creatine supplements exists to boost your pool of available creatine, and thus energy stores. It does this in muscles, particularly, which is why it’s become so popular among athletes and bodybuilders alike.
Creatine for weight gain is centered around a few factors that are independently important:
- Strength- and endurance-boosting
- Water and fluid retention (water weight gain)
- Interaction with weight loss and gain
Before you get into weight gain supplements, remember that weight gain is the result of proper dieting and training. You can’t out-supplement a terrible diet or training regimen.
Calories will always rule your weight gain or loss, while the macronutrients your diet is made up of determine what that body weight is.
Benefits of Creatine Supplements?
Creatine improves your strength and endurance by producing creatine monophosphate in the body (1). This is used to turn Adenosine diphosphate into triphosphate – or ATP (adenosine triphosphate) – the energy source muscles use to produce work.
When you consume more creatine – either through food or supplementation – you’re able to increase both your stores of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) and your ability to produce more.
This helps with all kinds of exercise, improving energy availability, and even reducing your vulnerability to fatigue. It’s an energy system that is deeply important to how you perform and recover.
Power Output and Strength-Endurance
This is visible in areas where the ability to produce peak force repeatedly is required. Areas like sprint intervals and high-intensity weight training require ATP stores and synthesis, especially for strength-endurance and repeated high-intensity bouts.
This is the key: Creatine should be used to support hard workouts, more effort, and increasing your training volume. That drives muscle mass growth (and lean muscle mass) and thus weight gain – the pairing is essential to get the most from your creatine supplementation.
Endurance and Other Exercise
Creatine also has positive effects on all kinds of exercise – even showing better performance during aerobic exercise (2). These benefits span the range of different exercise types and training styles – which is why creatine has become so popular with a wide range of athletes and fitness enthusiasts.
Recovery and Growth Benefits
Post-exercise recovery and growth are predicated on the way that you fuel your body and provide a pro-growth environment. This comes down to the protein and energy levels you are providing, through things like diet and sleep.
Creatine’s role on muscle energetics have also been tied to more effective muscle mass growth, where the additional energy availability and cell hydration improve muscle protein synthesis. This is the main process that is required for building bigger muscles and lean muscle mass.
When your muscles have plenty of energy, cells are hydrated, and you’ve got appropriate amino acid levels (especially Leucine) your body produces more proteins to replace and build on the ones found in muscles.
This produces bigger, stronger muscles – the daily loading of creatine supplements is one way to boost this energy availability without eating more calories.
Research on the role of creatine monohydrate in recovery and muscle mass growth is less consistent than other areas, but it’s definitely good to cover your bases (3). It’s an effective factor in better workouts – and potentially in boosting muscle growth afterwards – and all without major health risks and available at a low price.
Health and Wellbeing
Cell energetics don’t just improve the way that your muscles perform, but their health and wellbeing. High-energy cells stay alive longer, have improved recovery prospects, and are less at-risk of oxidative damage and other internal risks.
Elsewhere, using creatine supplements is a great way to reduce the processing of other compounds. Things like SAMe are reduced by getting creatine from diet instead of having to manufacture it internally, which can be a really helpful way to improve heart health and wellbeing.
This is something we rarely talk about, but it is how creatine supplements improve your heart and nervous system health.
Does Creatine Make You Gain Weight?
Creatine will make you gain weight – even if your diet doesn’t change in any other way.
However, creatine does not make you fat. It’s important to remember that weight and fat are not the same thing, and you can gain weight without gaining fat. Transient weight is a huge factor and creatine’s effects on weight have nothing to do with gaining fat.
Instead, creatine monohydrate increases your total weight by increasing your absorption and retention of water (water weight gain). This is because creatine is an osmolyte – a compound that draws more water into cells, specifically muscles. The weight gain seen is from water retention (water weight) in the muscles specifically, and not typically in the fat cells.
So, not only does creatine monohydrate produce transient weight gain, it’s also in the muscles – where you want it. This is how it improves things like force and endurance capacity, by providing a more replete muscle environment with water, carbs, and essential nutrients for energy systems.
What to Avoid While Taking Creatine
Creatine is usually taken in supplementary doses. These are typically either hydrochloride or monohydrate formats, which can cause different levels of water retention (water weight gain). Some people complain of bloating on monohydrate, while HCLs are typically more stomach-comfortable.
If you are using creatine for weight gain, it is advised not to consume alcohol. Not only will alcohol reduce your hormonal health and testosterone levels, but it will also increase the risk of creatine side-effects and reduce the potential benefits.
You should also avoid caffeine and creatine in the same sitting, since these 2 compounds are great individually but seem to antagonise each other. You should take your creatine with water or a carb-rich drink, but not in your coffee (if the taste wasn’t enough to put you off).
You should also follow some basic rules of thumb to keep yourself safe, healthy, and performing at your best during your creatine supplementation:
- Do not try to over dose creatine. Once the ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is full all the excess creatine will be flushed out from the body. You won’t see significant benefits above a single, standard 5g dose – you’ll just pee it out.
- Drink plenty of water. This is key to healthy creatine supplementation for body weight gain. Creatine draws water into muscle cells (water weight), you need water to actually gain these benefits. Creatine loading is a water-intensive process and you need to support your hydration status by drinking plenty of water. This also directly improves your muscle glycogen levels and reduces the risk of stomach cramping.
- Before taking creatine, consult a certified doctor. It may not be safe for everyone to take creatine as everybody would react to it differently – especially if you have any existing medical conditions or are taking prescription medicines.
- Creatine may cause stomach pain, diarrhea, muscle cramps or nausea. If any such problem arises, discontinue immediately and consult a doctor – especially if they persist for more than a few hours.
- Do not consume alcohol or excess caffeine while supplementing with creatine. This should go without saying – moderate your caffeine and alcohol.
More on Side Effects: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10999421
How to Use Creatine for Weight Gain
If you’re looking for an answer to how to gain weight with creatine supplementation, there are 2 ways to take creatine that both work – the only difference is the speed of effect.
First, you can take creatine in a sustainable single daily dose. This is typically 2.5-5 grams per day and is effective, typically ‘kicking in’ after a week or so, driving changes to performance and muscle volume (and muscle mass).
This is the simplest way to improve your creatine status and has a consistent, sustainable approach. It’s effective but takes a little time to ‘wash in’.
Alternatively, you can frontload creatine – where you take a much larger dose for a few days beforehand so that you can kickstart the benefits sooner. This is how you make significant weight gain with creatine loading.
This has 2 phases:
- Loading Phase: during the first 4-5 days, consume 20g of creatine per day in 4 separate servings. This is done so as to fully saturate creatine levels in the body and ensure immediate sufficiency.
Take 5g of creatine with breakfast, 5g before a workout, 5g after workout (ideally with a carbohydrate source) and last 5g before bed. Include plenty of water with each serving.
- Maintenance Phase: once you’ve loaded to saturation levels, you want to return to a normal 5g per day dose. This is because you’re already saturated and future doses are there to maintain these ‘complete’ creatine levels.
These are standard doses and should work for everyone (except creatine non-responders). However, these are based on the rough weight-ranges for the average man and woman (around 70-80kg) and you can adjust them up or down accordingly.
Creatine can be taken in water or juices. I personally recommend taking creatine supplements in Grape Juice because using a High-Carbohydrate drink leads to insulin spike thus increasing the creatine absorption and improving my immediate muscle-protein signaling.
You can use this for the pre- and post-workout creatine doses in particular. You can combine creatine with water, tea, juices, or any other fluid for other timings (like breakfast or evening creatine intake).
If you are wondering what type of creatine to use, we recommend Creatine Monohydrate as it is the most basic, effective and affordable option.
Where to Buy Creatine for Weight Gain?
If you select the right kinds of products – like taking creatine supplements – you’re off to a good start. The things we focus on in sports nutrition are quality of ingredients, the reputation and manufacturing practices of brands, and the way that products are designed.
First, make sure that you’re 100% sure about the authenticity of the store that you’re buying from.
You can do this by either checking the reviews of previous customers, or by making sure that the store offers free returns if there are issues with products.
Next, make sure you always check the authenticity of the product by emailing the product code of the particular supplement to the brand’s official website. Whenever I receive a sports nutrition product, the first thing I do is check the product code with the company’s website to see if it is genuine.
Bottom Line: Rethinking Creatine Weight Gain!
Here’s the important part when talking about creatine for weight gain :creatine supplementation is a nutrient and a pseudo-vitamin. It is not just for bodybuilders, but all of us.
Creatine is a compound that we all need and it’s arguable that these bodybuilders, athletes, and strength enthusiasts are the only ones getting enough.
The body needs creatine supplementation and providing it with plenty – either from food or supplements – is the key to improving your performance, wellbeing, and the quality of your weight-gain.
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Rohan Arora is a Certified Personal Trainer and Sports Nutritionist and has been actively involved in sports and fitness for over 8 years. He now leads the team of fitness specialists and personal trainers who help people around the world with personalized workout and nutrition plans, along with providing the right information on sports supplements.