In my view, creatine is an often misunderstood supplement. Some people think creatine will make them fat, whereas others think it will turn them into Arnold overnight.
The reality is that creatine is all to do with energy supply and availability within your muscles. By helping to provide extra energy, creatine can have a beneficial impact on your weight training and strength gains.
That being said, does creatine make you gain weight? The answer is this:
Creatine will not necessarily make you gain weight. It will help you get through more hard work in the gym with one or two extra reps, which in turn will help build bigger, stronger muscles over time. Creatine will also bring more water into your muscles, which may increase your overall weight.
To clear another thing up, creatine will not directly make you fat.
Keep reading here to see if:
- Creatine is good for weight gain
- What it doesn’t do for gaining weight
- Discover what happens to your water weight
- You can take creatine without gaining weight
Does creatine cause weight gain?
Let’s get to the crux of the issue for creatine and weight gain.
If you kept all other variables in your training life constant – such as your gym routine, diet, and calorie intake – then started to take creatine, would you put on weight?
The answer is probably yes. Once you start taking creatine you may gain weight during the initial phase.
Primarily, this will be due to increased water retention. As an organic compound, creatine helps to bring more fluids into muscle cells. Over time this water retention is likely to subside but you may notice an increase in water weight when you first start taking creatine.
It’s thought that creatine can cause weight gain of anything from 1.5lb to 4.5lb in the first week. This equates to 0.5kg to 2kg of gained water weight.
In about two thirds of people using creatine, they see an average weight gain of 1 to 2.9% of body weight. The important thing to remember though is that this is mainly water, rather than fat or, more crucially, muscle.
Let’s have a look at how this works and if creatine is good for gaining weight that you want to keep.
How can creatine help you increase weight?
There are two main ways in which creatine can help you increase weight:
- Water retention
- Increased muscle mass over time
If you train in the gym and are looking to gain weight, you’ll be more interested in gaining weight through fat free muscle mass. This is one of the main goals of any lifter.
The good news is that creatine can help you with this. But it’s a long term play.
Building sustainable muscle mass takes years of training and the right diet. Let’s be clear, the macros and calories you eat are going to play a huge part in any sort of weight gain. As well as any sort of weight loss. Creatine alone will not do this.
However, don’t dismiss the water retention benefits too. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Increasing water in your muscles can help you to recover more quickly in between workouts due to the greater presence of minerals and nutrients that water brings with it.
Is creatine good for weight gain?
Yes creatine is good for fat free muscle mass weight gain over the long term.
In my view, the long term weight gain with creatine aspect is crucial. This is where strength and more muscle improvements come in after the initial water retention. It’s all backed up by the science on how it functions.
Creatine’s main role is to provide you with more energy (ATP) when you’re exercising. This extra, usable energy created within your muscles can help you get through more load and intensity – it’s what helps you with those extra couple of reps and kilograms on the bar. Fantastic for those heavy deadlifts and squats for big legs.
For these reasons, many weight lifters and gym people like to take creatine immediately before and after a workout. In reality, the timing of creatine doesn’t matter too much if you are taking it consistently each day – whether this is with water as recommended or by dry scooping creatine.
As you know, it’s the extra reps and progressive overload all adds up over time. More reps and more load eventually means bigger and stronger muscles. This is lean muscle mass as opposed to fat mass.
So yes creatine is good for weight gain, but in a slightly indirect way. You need to couple creatine supplementation with consistent weight lifting and the right nutrition for it to be effective in building muscle and gaining good weight.
Does creatine increase water weight?
Yes creatine does increase water weight and fluid retention in your muscles. It’s the increased water retention that accounts for most initial weight gains.
The reason why is because creatine is an osmolyte. This means it can influence the uptake of biological fluids within cells.
In simple terms, the presence of creatine helps to shuttle water and other nutrients into your muscle cells.
Over time, this water weight will tail off, particularly as you gain muscle mass.
For example, I’ve been taking this supplement for many years, even taking creatine on rest days. I don’t particularly feel like I’m retaining much water in my muscles anymore.
What creatine doesn’t do for weight gain
It’s important to note that creatine isn’t a miracle worker. And it’s also not a number of other things.
I’ve been asked before by family members who don’t weight train, ‘Do you take creatine?’
Of course, I’ve said yes, then witnessed some shocked faces! There’s a misunderstanding that needs addressing.
Creatine is not:
- A steroid
- A drug or PED
- It doesn’t have anabolic properties
- It’s not illegal
Creatine is also not a carbohydrate or a protein. It has no calorific value.
Creatine is an organic compound made up of three amino acids: arginine, glycine and methionine.
It’s also completely natural – a bit like vitamin D, your body produces a small amount of creatine. It can also be ingested naturally through your diet (primarily through meat and fish).
The great news is that supplementing with creatine is easy. It’s a relatively inexpensive product (especially as far as supplements go), it will last you ages and it’s safe – you can even take out of date creatine without side effects.
Does creatine make you look fatter?
This depends on your definition of fatter.
Water retention outside of your muscle cells (i.e. extracellular) may make you look a little fluffier and potentially plumper.
However, I wouldn’t be scared or worried about this.
During your initial phase of taking creatine, you may put on a couple of pounds (a kilogram or two) in the first week. As mentioned this is only water and is likely to decrease anyway. If this does happen, you know that creatine is working!
Any extra water inside your muscles (intracellular) will have the appearance of making your muscles look bigger and fuller.
A bigger question is…
Will creatine make you fat?
No, creatine will not make you fat. The reason is simple.
Creatine is not a macronutrient and has no calories.
Creatine has no impact on fat metabolism and is not stored in fat cells, and therefore taking creatine won’t directly make you fat.
In your body, 95% of creatine is stored in your muscles. The rest is in your brain and kidneys. If your stores are full up, any excess creatine gets excreted in your urine.
The myth of creatine and fat gain is likely to have been caused by people retaining more water and looking a little puffier. Remember increased water weight is not the same as gaining fat.
Studies have shown that regular weight training and creatine supplementation can reduce your body fat through the addition of muscle mass.
Will creatine make your face fat?
Reading around on the internet, you may see comments about creatine making your face fat.
Is this true? Does creatine bloat your face?
Some people have said that creatine may cause your face to bloat and look a little puffy. I say ‘may’ to sit on the fence.
In my experience, I’ve never noticed any face bloating from creatine. But others have linked the two together.
If I was to put money on it, I’d say the face bloat might be linked to other factors, such as too much salt or eating too much and bulking up a bit. If someone is prone to bloating,
However, if your face does bloat with creatine it’s likely to be caused by excess water retention throughout your body, which some people may be more susceptible to than others. As everyone’s body is different, it’s always worth trying these things safely for yourself to see how your body reacts.
If you notice the creatine makes your face fatter, it will only be temporary and will eventually settle down.
For most people, any face bloating with creatine will be barely noticeable and is not something to worry about too much in my opinion.
Can you take creatine without gaining weight?
Ok, so you know that creatine can help you put weight on through water retention and through the building of long term muscle, but can you take creatine without gaining weight?
Yes you can take creatine and not put on weight.
Not everyone will add pounds or even kilograms of water weight. And even if you do, it won’t necessarily last forever.
Furthermore, unless you’re a professional athlete training to make weight, does it matter too much if you add a couple of pounds of water. It’s only water after all and not fat mass. This is a critical difference.
For the mulitple, multiple benefits that creatine brings to your body and health, it’s not even worth the debate in my opinion.
What weight gain (or loss) is all about
Ultimately, your true body weight is all down to the exercise you do and the food you eat. Primarily at least.
Whether you gain or lose weight can be worked out through the simple formula of calories in (food) vs calories out (basal metabolic rate and exercise).
If the calories in is greater than calories out, you’ll be in a calorie surplus and gain weight. If your calories out is greater than calories in, you’ll be in a calorie deficit and lose weight. If calories in vs calories out is roughly equal, you’ll be at maintenance and stay the same weight. Simple.
Remember, all this happens over the course of time and not just one day. There may be a couple of extra factors, but that is basically all you need to know.
Creatine may influence aspects such as calories out by helping you train harder and for longer, but it won’t have a direct impact on weight.
This means it’s perfectly possible to take creatine and maintain the same weight over time.
Wrap up on creatine for weight gain
There are two main ways that creatine can cause weight gain:
- Through more water retention
- Through the building of lean muscle mass
Creatine can cause your body to retain more water on its own. However, creatine won’t help you build lean muscle mass unless you have a good weight lifting programme. When you have this, creatine will help you with your power and performance, which can influence muscle gain over time.
In my opinion, creatine is a good accessory supplement for gaining weight. As it’s an accessory, it can also help you lose weight, depending on how you’re training and what you’re eating.
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