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Fact checked by Andrew Lenau ISSA CPT & Sports NutritionistFACT CHECKED
August 23, 2023
Regardless of age or experience level, protein and creatine are the two most important supplements to help increase muscle mass and improve exercise performance.
Protein powders help users increase protein synthesis, while creatine increases muscle energy. These two supplements have been proven safe and effective, but can you mix protein powder with creatine? In this article, we will examine both supplements and determine if you can mix creatine with protein.
Table Of Contents
Creatine is a type of amino acid that provides energy to the muscles and brain. While we get half of our creatine needs from food, the body produces the other half in the kidneys, liver, and pancreas.
Inside the body, creatine phosphate (CP) is crucial to create adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the fuel that allows muscles to contract. By donating its phosphate group to adenosine diphosphate, readily-available CP is a quick solution for ATP generation. Since all living cells rely on ATP for energy, creatine helps create a constant energy source for muscles, which is especially important during exercise (1).
It's this ability to increase energy in the muscle that makes creatine supplementation popular and effective. By increasing the amount of phosphocreatine in muscle cells, creatine monohydrate supplements can provide a burst of energy and delay fatigue, both vital for muscle growth and performance.
A meta-analysis of creatine use in sports showed a significant increase in lean muscle mass due to creatine supplementation in 64% of studies (2). They also noted a significant increase in strength, showing an average increase of 5.3% on the bench press after just four weeks of creatine supplementation.
While people use creatine supplements to boost strength, improve exercise performance, assist muscle recovery, and enhance brain function, maintaining a healthy diet and consistent workout schedule is vital to optimize gains.
Proteins are molecules made of amino acids joined by peptide bonds to form one of the building blocks of all life.
Twenty amino acids form all proteins, of which the body can produce all but nine, known as essential amino acids. Instead, we obtain the nine essential amino acids through food and protein supplementation.
Protein plays a significant role in numerous body processes, including cell structure, enzyme catalysis, DNA replication, and several other metabolic reactions and responses. Simply put, protein is responsible for cell growth, repair, and function.
As such, it's typically the centerpiece of athletes' and bodybuilders' diets, and it's one of the three macronutrients along with carbohydrates and fats. Many supplement with whey protein, a protein made as a cheese byproduct, to meet their dietary protein needs. People usually consume protein immediately post-workout as a shake to help increase protein synthesis and lean muscle growth.
Studies have shown that consuming 25 grams of protein before or after resistance training maximizes protein synthesis (3). It is very common to have multiple shakes throughout the day as a meal replacement or to boost protein intake to help reach macro goals.
Yes, you can mix your protein powder with creatine, but it all comes down to preference. We will explore the benefits and downsides of mixing a protein shake with creatine.
Based on the research, there are no added benefits of mixing creatine with protein.
One study had men perform resistance training and split them into four groups: placebo, creatine, protein, and creatine with protein. After 14 weeks, each group significantly increased strength and lean body mass, but there was no notable difference between groups. They concluded there are no additional benefits of combining protein and creatine compared to taking them separately (4).
However, other studies show that adding 93 grams of carbohydrates to a 5 mg dose of creatine monohydrate increased total muscle creatine by 60%. This triggered new studies, which found that adding 47 grams of carbohydrates plus 50 grams of protein was as effective as 96 grams of carbs (5). Research suggests that adding protein and carbohydrates can increase the benefits of creatine.
While they both promote muscle growth, creatine and whey protein do not need to be mixed. Despite the research, users can benefit from convenience, at the very least, by mixing creatine with protein. Creatine powder is tasteless and easily mixed with liquids, so many people prefer to take them simultaneously.
Luckily there are no health or safety-related downsides to mixing creatine and protein. However, there are some downsides to consider:
More expensive to buy two products
Have to carry and remember to take two supplements
Possible water retention related to creatine
Possible stomach discomfort
Need to take with carbohydrates to maximize benefits
With that in mind, the decision to mix them or not depends on personal preference and the user's desired goals.
When it comes to protein intake, your daily amount will depend on your fitness goals.
A systematic review of studies on protein intake determined a minimum daily protein intake of 0.7 grams (1.6 g/kg) of protein per pound of body weight to build muscle mass with resistance training (6). Still, if you're training hard and trying to gain muscle, you'll need more than that.
Most trainers or coaches suggest at least one gram per pound of body weight or more for increased muscle mass, with the most high-intensity trained athletes consuming up to two grams per pound. People looking to burn fat or lose weight should stay in the 0.7-1 gram per pound range.
For creatine, start with a loading phase, consuming 20 to 25 grams daily for the first five to seven days. After the loading phase, users can cruise at five grams a day. To maximize cell energy, growth, and protein synthesis, both protein powder and creatine should be used together.
Regardless if your goals, if you're going to take a supplement, you might as well choose the best.
Our best overall protein powder is Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein Powder. Each serving contains 24 grams of a high-quality whey protein blend with 5.5 grams of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and 11 grams of essential amino acids. To learn more about the top protein supplements, check out our extensive list of The 14 Best Protein Powders.
For a creatine supplement, you'll want to stick with Optimum Nutrition as they're the top supplement manufacturer on the market. Along with exceptional quality standards, each serving of Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine Monohydrate Powder contains five grams of 100% pure micronized creatine monohydrate. To learn more about this and other top products, check out our article on the 8 Best Creatine Supplements.
These are some of the most commonly asked questions about creatine and protein.
No, creatine is an amino acid that helps increase energy in muscle cells.
Although mixing them has no added benefits, you can put creatine in your protein shake. To learn some of the tastiest shakes, check out our article on The 3 Best Protein Shake Recipes.
Yes, you can take your creatine with protein powder and pre-workout, but it is not the most efficient way of taking them. Ideally, you should take your protein powder post-workout to maximize protein synthesis and increase muscle mass.
Yes, when taking creatine, it is important to take it every day, even on rest days. It can help your muscles recover quicker.
Nothing will happen if you miss your creatine dose for a day or two! Just continue your regular dose the following day.
Yes, you can take creatine before sleep because creatine itself is not a stimulant. However, if your creatine product contains a stimulant or other pre-workout ingredient, it may not be wise to take it before sleep. If you want to learn more about the difference between the two, check out our article on creatine vs pre-workout.
Creatine and whey protein are the best and most essential supplements to increase muscle mass, improve exercise performance, and recover from exercise. It's perfectly safe to mix creatine in protein shakes, although there aren't any added benefits.
Protein powders help increase protein synthesis, while creatine increases energy in muscle cells, so they help in different ways. Both supplements are proven safe and effective for long-term use, so how you use them depends on personal preference, budget, and fitness goals.
If you want to learn more about creatine, check out our article: What Are The Types Of Creatine? To learn about some of the different types of proteins, read Plant Protein vs Whey Protein: Which Is Better?
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