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September 18, 2023
Few gym-related supplements have attracted as much attention and praise as creatine. It has a well-deserved reputation as a potent tool for accelerating strength and muscular growth. But can a creatine supplement help you lose weight?
Let's dive into the science and research to arrive at a conclusive answer.
Table Of Contents
Creatine is a substance the human body produces to make adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the primary energy source for cells. When energy is needed for brief bursts of high-intensity activities like weightlifting, sprinting, and jumping, our bodies pull creatine from stores within our muscles. From there, it replenishes ATP, which provides quick energy for muscular contractions.
When taken as a supplement, creatine typically comes in the form of creatine monohydrate. It's one of the most thoroughly studied and commonly used supplements in the sports and fitness sector. Creatine supplements have been demonstrated to boost performance in activities that call for brief bursts of solid effort. With the correct type of training, this can lead to increases in muscle size, strength, power, and endurance.
Creatine supplementation promotes protein synthesis and cell volumization, both of which help make your muscles bigger. There is also some evidence that it may have cognitive benefits, even being able to treat some neurodegenerative diseases .
Finally, exhaustive research has demonstrated its safety when taken according to the recommended dosage of 3-5 grams daily.
As we've seen, the primary purpose of taking creatine is to replenish short-term energy reserves, not to directly burn body fat. However, some indirect evidence and ongoing research suggest it may positively impact fat loss.
For starters, creatine can help you boost your exercise performance to train more intensely. This will result in more significant calorie burn during the workout and may promote the enhanced post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) effect, which increases metabolism for several hours post-exercise.
In a 2018 study, 30 athletes were assigned to either a creatine or placebo group. The creatine group was given 20 grams of creatine per day for the first six days and 2 grams per day for the remainder of the four-week study. Both groups undertook complex training during the study period. The results showed increased strength, a higher rate of muscle gain, and a similar weight loss rate .
Creatine can also help increase muscle mass. More muscle may boost your resting metabolic rate, which means you burn more calories even when you're not exercising since muscle tissue burns more calories at rest than fat tissue.
Creatine may improve workout recovery by minimizing muscle damage and inflammation. People may be able to exercise more frequently and vigorously as a result, which might eventually help people lose fat.
Some users say taking creatine supplements can affect a person's appetite and eating pattern. Better dietary decisions and adherence to a diet low in calories mean creatine indirectly boosts efforts to lose fat.
From the above, we see that creatine's effect on fat loss is secondary rather than direct. So, it should not be seen as a stand-alone weight loss supplement. You'll only benefit from it if your supplementation is coupled with a reduced-calorie diet and resistance training.
Creatine replenishes adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the primary energy source for cells in the body. ATP powers many biological functions, including the contraction of muscles during exercise.
Unfortunately, muscles only contain a small amount of ATP available for immediate usage, usually just enough for a few seconds of intense activity. Your body has to make more ATP to continue the exercise once this initial supply is used up. That's where creatine comes in. Stored in your muscles as creatine phosphate, your body quickly breaks creatine stores down to restore ATP during bouts of intensive exertion, such as weightlifting or sprinting.
By enabling the speedy regeneration of ATP, muscle contractions can be fueled quickly and easily. Therefore, creatine slows the onset of muscular fatigue, allowing you to do max effort, high-intensity activities for longer before becoming worn out.
Supplementing with creatine will boost your muscles' overall creatine stores, improving your capacity for intense workouts. This may result in increased muscle strength and growth and better exercise performance.
"Cutting" refers to a period, usually lasting 8-12 weeks, where people try to lose extra body fat while retaining their well-earned lean muscle mass. Often done leading up to a bodybuilding competition or other event, it involves calorie restriction to use body fat reserves as fuel.
While losing those extra pounds is the main goal during a cutting phase, maintaining muscle mass is also very important. As initially it can increase water retention, creatine may not seem like the logical choice for individuals on a reducing diet as you may actually gain weight at the start. But it's a substance well renowned for its capacity to improve performance, strength, and muscle gains.
In this section, we explore the potential advantages, subtleties of timing and dose, and interactions between creatine and fat reduction. For more on this read: Should You Take Creatine While Cutting?
To get you started, though, here are four ways creatine can help during your cutting phase:
Losing body fat while preserving your lean muscle mass is essential for a cutting phase to be successful. Lean muscle is necessary for a well-defined physique because it burns calories even when you are not moving. Creatine comes into play here because preserving this lean tissue is a top priority for folks in the cutting phase.
A 2007 study that formed the basis for a position statement on creatine by the ISSA showed that those who took creatine while resistance training experienced more significant gains in lean body mass than a control group who exercised without creatine supplementation . This shows that creatine's ability to preserve muscle can be a vital advantage during a cutting phase, preventing your hard-earned muscle from disappearing along with the fat.
It's not just because creatine can boost muscle protein synthesis that it helps keep lean tissue mass during cutting. It's also able to raise the intracellular water level of muscle cells .
You might wonder why water retention is good during a cutting phase when most people strive to lose water weight. The difference is that the osmotic impact of creatine draws water specifically into muscle cells, boosting intracellular hydration. Your muscles need enough water to function properly as you undertake resistance training and other physical activity.
Thanks to creatine, your muscles' ability to retain water can have several advantages. First, even as body fat decreases, more intracellular water can contribute to the muscles' fuller, "pumped" appearance, making them appear more defined.
Increased water content also protects your muscles. You might slip into a catabolic or muscle-wasting state when you're on a calorie-restricted diet. Creatine acts as an insurance policy for lean muscle mass, ensuring that your body uses its fat reserves for energy rather than eating away at your hard-earned muscle.
During training, discipline, reliability, and commitment to an organized training schedule are necessary for a successful cutting phase. This can be particularly difficult if you're trying to burn more calories than you're consuming because doing so can make you feel exhausted and run down.
Creatine can potentially change the game in this situation. It can boost your performance and offset training fatigue so you can train harder for longer. Even when you're in a calorie deficit, you can maintain your strength levels with creatine on your side.
Since you're frequently taking fewer calories than your body is accustomed to, controlling hunger and food cravings is one of the reducing difficulties. Some users of creatine have noted a decrease in appetite and food cravings. The impact of creatine on brain function and neurotransmitters may be a factor, although the precise mechanism causing this effect is yet unclear.
The standard daily dose for creatine monohydrate is 3 to 5 grams daily. Both men and women can safely and effectively use this dosage.
To quickly saturate muscle creatine storage, some people choose to use a loading phase, which entails taking a more significant dose (usually 20 grams per day for 5-7 days). They switch to the usual daily dose after the loading phase. The majority of people, however, can get the same outcomes by consistently taking the recommended daily amount; a loading phase is not required.
Creatine supplementation is considered safe when taken in approved dosages. Some people, however, may encounter one or more of the following adverse effects:
Dehydration: Creatine makes your muscles retain water, which could put you at risk for dehydration. To reduce the danger of dehydration when using creatine, it's crucial to maintain adequate water.
Gastrointestinal Distress: When taking creatine in large amounts or on an empty stomach, some people may feel stomach pain, cramps, or diarrhea.
Muscle Cramps: Some people who take creatine supplements have complained of experiencing muscle cramps. Keep up your water intake to reduce this danger.
Weight Gain: Some creatine users may notice a modest weight gain due to the possibility of increased muscle mass and water retention. This is primarily due to larger muscles rather than weight gain. For more detail, check out our article: Does Creatine Make You Gain Weight?
Let's take a look at some more questions you might have regarding creatine and fat loss.
No, creatine will not directly help you get rid of belly fat. However, it may indirectly help you lose fat from all over your body, including your belly, as a result of:
Yes, creatine supplementation is a good idea when trying to lose weight. It will help you to retain muscle mass as you strip off body fat. Creatine can also help you with training energy and endurance to push harder during your workouts.
Creatine may also help reduce your appetite so that you can better manage hunger pangs while on a calorie-reduced diet.
Creatine will not make you fat. Instead, so long as you combine it with resistance training and high protein nutrition, it can help you gain muscle mass. Supplementing with creatine may cause water retention in the muscle cells, which may cause a slight unwanted weight gain when you step on the scale. People may mistake this as fat gain.
Creatine does not directly burn fat. Instead, it promotes greater training energy and endurance that can help you burn more calories and build more muscle. The speed of fat loss that results depends on the intensity and consistency of your workouts, your ability to maintain a daily caloric deficit, and the quality and quantity of your rest and recovery.
A popular substance in the world of fitness, creatine has a variety of effects on the body that may help with fat loss indirectly.
Creatine does not directly promote weight loss. But, combined with a reduced-calorie diet and workout routine, it can indirectly contribute to fat loss. It does this by enhancing exerciser performance and providing more energy for workouts, helping to preserve muscle mass during a cutting phase, and promoting lean muscle growth, leading to an increased metabolic rate.
Creatine supplementation should be a part of a comprehensive fat-loss plan that includes a healthy diet and exercise regimen customized to your goals.
For more on creatine supplements, read our article: 8 Best Creatine Supplements For Lifters In 2023.
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Wang CC, Fang CC, Lee YH, Yang MT, Chan KH. Effects of 4-Week Creatine Supplementation Combined with Complex Training on Muscle Damage and Sport Performance. Nutrients. 2018 Nov 2;10(11):1640. doi: 10.3390/nu10111640. PMID: 30400221; PMCID: PMC6265971.
Buford TW, Kreider RB, Stout JR, Greenwood M, Campbell B, Spano M, Ziegenfuss T, Lopez H, Landis J, Antonio J. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: creatine supplementation and exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2007 Aug 30;4:6. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-4-6. PMID: 17908288; PMCID: PMC2048496.
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