Could Muscle-Building Creatine Help You Lose Weight?
Health

Could Muscle-Building Creatine Help You Lose Weight?

The supplement can improve your body composition—but it’s complicated.

30-Second Takeaway

  • Creatine doesn’t directly aid in weight loss, but it helps with muscle growth, which can improve body composition.
  • Creatine pulls water into muscle cells, which can cause an initial 2 to 6-pound weight gain from water retention. 
  • Creatine monohydrate is the most effective form of the supplement for weight loss and body recomposition.

I

f you’ve considered taking creatine to build muscle, you’ve probably heard that it can make you gain weight. Yet some people who use the supplement say it’s helped them drop pounds. So which is it? Does it bulk you up or does creatine help you lose weight?

The answer is, surprisingly, both. But it’s complicated.

Creatine doesn’t directly cause you to gain or lose fat, says registered dietician Destini Moody, R.D. who specializes in sports performance and body composition. But it can contribute to both weight gain and fat loss. 

“Creatine helps you build muscle mass, which results in weight gain,” she says. And when you’re trying to lose weight by eating fewer calories, it protects muscle mass, which improves your body fat percentage. 

Below, experts break down how to take creatine if you’re trying to lose body fat or add muscle.

About the Experts:

Destini Moody, R.D., C.S.S.D., L.D., is a dietitian with Top Nutrition Consulting. She specializes in sports performance, body composition changes, and injury recovery.

Jonathan Valdez, R.D.N., C.D.N., C.C.M., C.D.C.E.S., C.P.T., is the owner and founder of Genki Nutrition. He specializes in prevention and disease management.

What is Creatine?

Creatine is a natural compound found in foods like meat and fish. Your body also produces a small amount on its own. Creatine helps replenish ATP, the primary currency that your cells use for energy.

Many gym goers (including longevity devotees like neuroscientist Andrew Huberman, Ph.D.,  and Mark Wahlberg) also take supplemental creatine—via powder, gummies, or capsules—to boost their ATP levels, which promotes muscle growth and improves their performance during high-intensity workouts. 

Does Creatine Help You Lose Weight?

Creatine doesn’t directly burn fat, but it can help you achieve a more shredded physique. 

“Supplementing with creatine may be beneficial if you are in a calorie deficit to lose weight,” Moody explains. “Creatine keeps your muscles from breaking down when there are not enough calories available, which improves your body fat percentage.”

For context: When you’re in a calorie deficit, your fat cells aren’t the only ones that bite the dust. Your muscles can too, since they need calories to maintain strength and size (1). Losing lean muscle mass can zap your strength and make it harder to workout, thwarting your fitness goals. 

To preserve muscle mass while getting fat loss results, that means you have to pair calorie restriction with increased resistance-type exercise and dietary changes to support muscle preservation. And that’s where creatine comes in. 

Supplementing with creatine has been shown to be beneficial for those engaging in resistance training while on a calorie-deficit diet aimed at fat loss. 

A 2018 study found that taking creatine and exercising three times a week for four weeks significantly improved muscle strength and recovery (2). Additional research suggests that for individuals 50 years and older, a blend of resistance exercise and creatine supplementation significantly lowers body fat percentage, while adults under 50 see slight reductions in body fat percentage without notable changes in absolute fat mass (3).

Though studies show mixed results, Moody notes that creatine can also help burn fat indirectly by improving your endurance (4). More endurance allows you to lift more weight and exercise for longer periods of time (5).

Does creatine make you gain weight?

Creatine can make you pack on a few extra pounds, but it’s not fat. 

“Creatine pulls water into the muscle cells,” Moody explains. This initial weight gain is typically around 2 to 6 pounds in the first week and can be especially noticeable at higher creatine doses. 

Many people mistake this sudden weight gain for fat, but it’s just water weight, says Moody. The more muscle mass you start with, the more your weight will go up when you start taking creatine, she explains.

Bloating is another common side effect of consuming a high dosage of creatine, specifically 20–25 grams, over a period of 5 to 7 days (6). This issue can be fixed by lowering your daily dose to 3 to 5 grams or 0.01 grams per pound of body weight daily. 

“This bloating is harmless and usually subsides as your body becomes accustomed to regular creatine supplementation,” she says. 

Over time, taking creatine to fuel your workout supports muscle growth, and increased muscle mass can make the number on the scale rise. 

Can I take creatine while cutting?

Many heavy lifters take creatine during a bulk, a process where they eat extra calories for more energy to build muscle faster. 

Some of those extra calories end up stored as fat. When the bulk is over and they cut, creatine can help get rid of the extra fat while maintaining the muscle, says registered dietitian nutritionist and certified personal trainer Jonathan Valdez, R.D., C.P.T. “Creatine enhances performance, so if you’re running, lifting weights, or playing a sport, it can help you push further and help with recovery post-workout.” 

That said, research more consistently supports creatine as a muscle and power enhancer, while its role as a fat reducer or endurance booster is not as strongly established. 

What’s the Best Creatine for Weight Loss?

If you’re adding creatine to your online shopping cart, make sure it’s creatine monohydrate, says Moody. This type is the most affordable, best absorbed, and most effective. 

For example, studies done on creatine ethyl ester—another form of creatine—show that it works about as well as a placebo, which basically means it does nothing (7).

How to Use Creatine for Weight Loss

If you eat a balanced, omnivorous diet, you only take in about one to two grams of creatine a day from food. This will get your creatine muscle stores about 60 to 80 percent full (8). To build lean muscle mass, Moody recommends taking an additional three to five grams of creatine per day to top up your tank.

Creatine loading

Some creatine users opt for a loading phase, Valdez explains, which entails taking higher doses for the first few days to build up their creatine stores faster. 

Loading phases can look different for everyone, but many people take up 20 to 25 grams of creatine, split into four to five 5-gram daily doses for about a week or less (9). Then, they transition to 3 to 5 grams daily. 

While research shows that taking creatine is generally safe (8), be on the lookout for a few common side effects during the loading phase, Valdez notes. “Large amounts of creatine can cause muscle cramps, muscle strains and pulls, diarrhea, and stomach pain,” Valdez. “It’s best to consume it in two doses and with food [to lessen stomach irritation].”

HEALTHY WEIGHT LOSS