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25th June 2024

Can Creatine Make You Gain Weight?

Can Creatine Make You Gain Weight?

Can Creatine Make You Gain Weight?

The short answer is ‘yes’. If you are new to supplementing with creatine, you may be disconcerted to find that the scales are showing a few extra pounds, but what is causing the weight gain? Could it be down to lean muscle, water retention, or fat?

The Good News

Many studies have found that creatine can sometimes lead to increased water weight, but it does not increase body fat. It contains no calories usable by your body, and because it doesn’t interfere with your body’s fat-burning process, there is no reason not to supplement with it if you are keen to lose body fat.

What You Need to Know About Creatine and Your Body Mass

Creatine can sometimes lead to increased water weight, but it does not increase body fat.

Creatine is a natural compound produced by your body from amino acids and from dietary protein sources; it can also be taken as a dietary supplement. Creatine is stored in your muscle cells to be used when extra energy is required during strenuous bursts of exercise and because it has been found to be an effective, safe and legitimate supplement for heightened performance, creatine has become a firm favourite in the sports world.

Findings from a 2017 study into the effects of low-dose, short-term creatine supplementation showed that increased total body water does not occur with low doses of creatine.

If you are aiming to increase lean muscle mass, creatine will certainly help due to the extra energy it will give you to train, but sadly the few pounds you might suddenly have acquired are not a magical muscle boost. Any weight gains experienced when using creatine are due to extra water being stored within your cells.

Research has found that it is possible for a weight gain to occur quite quickly when you take creatine, particularly if you choose to use a loading phase where larger amounts are taken for a set period at the beginning of supplementation. A study conducted in 2003 showed that after 30 days of high-dose creatine, the participants gained an average of 3.75 pounds. In a 2016 trial it was found that after 7 days of creatine loading amongst young football players there was an average weight gain of 2.2 pounds.

The important factor arising from the results of both studies is that the weight gain came from water bloat. The reason that creatine can result in water retention is that it is osmotic, and an article published in the Journal of Athletic Training on how supplementation with creatine increases total body water without altering fluid distribution explains this in scientific detail. Basically, when your body’s creatine levels are increased, extra water can also be drawn into your cells.

How to Minimise Water Weight Gain

Although you know that the weight gain isn’t due to fat, you may still be uncomfortable with having extra water retention so there are options to help yourself overcome this issue:

  • Take a short break from taking creatine.
  • Omit the loading phase and just take maintenance doses of 3-5 grams per day.
  • Factor in some low-intensity endurance training or have regular saunas to cause sweating.

Looking at the question of whether creatine might help with general weight loss, study results are mixed. However, research published in the Journal of Nature Metabolism report that at cellular level creatine may have a bearing on adipocytes (fat cells), and on fat tissue. Trials have found it can influence triglyceride synthesis in certain cell types.

Creatine to Support Healthy Ageing

Supplementing with Creatine in combination with resistance training can support increased lean tissue mass in over 50's.

Our bodies have a greater propensity to gain fat mass as we age, particularly visceral fat which clads the main organs such as heart, liver and kidneys. Read more about visceral fat here. Research has been carried out on changes in fat mass following creatine supplementation by adults in the fifty-plus age bracket. Findings show that the metabolism process of creatine has a positive role in adipose tissue bioenergetics and energy expenditure. This means that when supplementation is combined with a resistance training regime, the likelihood of decreased fat mass is greater than when using resistance training alone.

It was also noted that within the 50-plus age group, supplementing with creatine in combination with resistance training can support increased lean tissue mass.

What Exactly is Creatine?

Creatine is a natural compound made by your own body from amino acids in your liver, kidneys, and pancreas. A small amount of creatine is also synthesised within your brain, and within the testes.

Approximately half of your creatine is made by your own body, with extra reserves coming from a diet which includes meat and fish. The highest levels are thought to be found in wild game, salmon, tuna, and herring.

How Does Creatine Work?

Creatine has the effect of altering various cellular processes which leads to increased muscle mass, strength, and faster muscle recovery following exertion. In terms of body chemistry, it works in the same way as amino acids (compounds that help build protein). Your body uses the amino acids glycine and arginine to produce creatine. Creatine is then converted by your metabolism into a chemical called phosphocreatine, otherwise known as ATP, which is stored in muscle cells ready to be used for energy.

Phosphocreatine is the main carrier of energy in the body and is known to increase muscle mass, strength and athletic performance. The initials ATP stand for adenosine triphosphate, which is made within the cell structure known as the mitochondria. Without ATP you wouldn’t have sufficient energy for even basic staying alive processes, so it really is a vital molecule.

As ATP is regarded in clinical terms as the body’s energy currency, it follows that if you have higher levels of ATP, your body can perform better during sport and exercise. This knowledge has resulted in creatine becoming the top supplement for improving performance in the gym.

Health Benefits of Creatine

Muscle Strength

Creatine can help with muscle growth.

Creatine helps to increase muscle strength due to the following factors:

  • Raised levels of creatine enable increased energy/work volume to take place within one single workout or training session due to muscle growth.
  • It can increase satellite cell signalling which supports muscle repair and growth.
  • Research has found a rise in anabolic hormones after taking creatine.
  • Increased muscle mass due to a reduction in protein breakdown.
  • Raised levels of the protein myostatin tend to inhibit new muscle growth so supplementing with creatine can reduce myostatin levels, resulting in greater muscle-growth potential.
  • Creatine enhances water content within muscle cells, resulting in increased cell hydration which is believed to help with muscle growth.

Blood Sugar Levels

There is evidence that creatine may help to lower blood glucose levels and may help with type 2 diabetes. Findings are encouraging with several small studies, but larger studies are needed to gain more robust evidence.

Brain Health

There is some evidence that increased phosphocreatine stores in the brain may improve symptoms of neurological disease. A 2018 systematic review of randomised controlled trials, published by the National Library of Medicine, examined the effect of creatine supplementation on cognitive function of healthy individuals. Six studies amongst 281 individuals met the desired criteria and showed that short term memory and intelligence/reasoning may be improved by supplementing with creatine. It was noted that performance on cognitive tasks stayed unchanged in young participants and interestingly, that vegetarians responded better than meat-eaters in memory tasks.

Age-Related Issues

Older adults may experience a condition called sarcopenia where muscle quantity and strength are reduced. Creatine supplementation, combined with resistance training, has been suggested to relieve the symptoms of this age-related muscle condition.

Research indicates that creatine may potentially help to treat non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, support heart health, and support stroke-related issues. Further research into these areas is needed.

Busting the Creatine Myths

In the world of sports science and nutrition, creatine is a hot topic. Recognised for its role in boosting athletic performance, creatine’s fame as a natural substance for enhancing muscle mass, increasing strength, and speeding recovery has made it a go-to supplement for sports enthusiasts, bodybuilders, and athletes as well as those wishing to improve their health and physical fitness levels.

Fame often comes at a price, and various myths have grown around creatine which, despite scientific evidence, may still exist. Unjustified and inaccurate fears about its safety and misunderstandings about its effects can cause a void between perception and reality, making it difficult to be sure of creatine’s potential benefits as well as its limitations. Here are some science-backed myth busters which should dispel any questions hanging over the efficacy and safety of creatine.

Creatine and Kidney Health

One of the most persistent questions asked about creatine supplementation is its possible impact on kidney health. This concern stems mainly from misunderstandings about how the body processes creatine and its by-product, creatinine, which is filtered by the kidneys. The myth arose due to a case study in 1998 which highlighted a person with a pre-existing kidney problem whose condition had deteriorated after taking creatine supplements. The case failed to account for the person’s existing health condition. Further investigation showed that this problem had not in any case been caused by creatine supplementation, but by then the myth had established.

Extensive research on renal function in healthy individuals has since been carried out, showing that creatine, when used at recommended doses, does not adversely affect renal function.

Does Creatine Cause Dehydration and Muscle Cramps?

The notion that creatine may cause dehydration and muscle cramps has been consistently refuted by scientific research. A study conducted by Greenwood et al. in 2003 with college soccer players over the course of an entire season showed that creatine users experienced significantly fewer incidents of cramps and muscle strains than those taking a placebo.

In a clinical setting, creatine has shown benefits in reducing muscle cramps, including a study involving haemodialysis patients, who frequently suffer from muscle cramps. The study showed a 60% reduction in symptoms with supplementation of 12g of creatine five minutes before haemodialysis.

These results conclude that instead of causing dehydration and cramps, creatine offers protection against these problems.

Does Creatine Cause Hair Loss?

The concern that creatine may potentially cause hair loss or baldness stems from a study that suggested that creatine may cause an increase in levels of a hormone known as dihydrotestosterone (DHT) which is associated with hair loss.

The study that started the misconception was conducted by van der Merwe et al (2009) which cited an increase in DHT levels in university rugby players following creatine supplementation. The study did not directly measure hair loss, and the levels of DHT were found to be within normal clinical limits. Further research has investigated the possible link between creatine and testosterone and the current body of evidence does not support the idea that creatine supplementation leads to hair loss.

Is Supplementing with Creatine the Same as Using Steroids?

It’s a misconception that creatine is an anabolic steroid, and it is important to distinguish between the two.

Anabolic steroids are a synthetic form of testosterone and when used in conjunction with resistance training, steroids simulate protein synthesis. Testosterone can penetrate the muscle cell, bind to the intracellular androgen receptor and increase the function of various genes. The muscle mass gains achieved with anabolic steroids are far greater than those which are naturally possible.

Creatine on the other hand, helps hypertrophy but the gains are only slightly greater than those achievable without supplementation. (Burke et al 2023). Creatine doesn’t have the negative health outcomes of anabolic steroids. It improves energy production, enables faster recovery after exercise and helps to increase muscle mass over time without the hormonal effects produced by anabolic steroids.

Boosting Your Creatine Levels

Creatine is available in different forms, but creatine monohydrate is the most widely studied and most effective.

Much of your extra daily required amount of creatine will come from meat and fish in your diet, unless you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet.

Alternatively, or in addition, creatine can be obtained in supplement form. It is well documented within biomedical and life sciences literature that there are over 500 peer-refereed publications involving various aspects of creatine supplementation.

The International Society of Sports Nutrition published an updated statement in 2017 on the safety and effectiveness of creatine supplementation in exercise sport, and medicine. This paper provided an evidence-based review of the literature examining the effects of creatine supplementation on performance, recovery, injury prevention, exercise tolerance, neuroprotection, ageing, and pregnancy. The safety profile of creatine was also reviewed.

The most well researched and most popular form of creatine for supplement purposes is creatine monohydrate. The usual recommended dose is typically between 3-5 grams per day, and this means they reach saturation levels of creatine after about four weeks.

Supplements come in various forms, but creatine monohydrate is the most widely studied, most effective, and most widely used. Other forms, such as creatine salts and creatine ethyl ester are marketed as alternative choices, but scientific evidence continues to support creatine monohydrate.

Our Creatine Monohydrate Powder is easily added to water, protein shakes, sports drinks or smoothies. It is also suitable if you follow a vegan diet.


Supplementation with creatine has been the subject of many debates and despite misconceptions is now a well-documented supplement for athletes and fitness enthusiasts. Scientific evidence conclusively supports creatine monohydrate as a safe, effective choice for anyone wishing to improve physical performance, help with age-related muscle loss, or to maintain muscular fitness and health.

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