If you’re new to taking creatine, you might be wondering how to take it to the next level. Maybe you’ve heard about combining creatine with protein powder for greater gains.
Both whey and creatine are safe, effective supplements for boosting performance at the gym. In this article, we’ll take a look at whether or not combining creatine and whey is a smart idea for your routine.
The Benefits of Creatine
Creatine reigns as one of the most tested and proven supplements out there. The International Journal of Sports Nutrition calls it “the most effective nutritional supplement currently available to athletes in terms of increasing high-intensity exercise capacity and lean body mass during training.” Need we say more?
Check out creatine’s specific benefits, which have been proven in scientific studies:
- Better performance in sprinting, strength, and lifting
- Increased muscle mass and glycogen synthesis
- Increased anaerobic threshold
- Faster recovery
- Injury prevention
Creatine is a nitrogen-based molecule that is technically not a protein. Creatine works by helping your body transform energy in your muscles into a usable form.
In addition to being effective, creatine is also quite safe. No adverse effects have been found with short- or long-term use of creatine.
The Benefits of Grass-Fed Whey Protein
Like creatine, whey protein is a champion in the supplement world. Whey is one of the primary proteins in cow’s milk, along with casein. Both proteins offer high quality nutrition, but whey protein digests more quickly. Grass-fed whey protein is free of hormones like rBGH or rBST.
Whey is considered one of the highest-quality proteins because it offers an ideal balance of amino acids. Of the 20 total amino acids that serve as the building blocks of protein, 9 of these are essential to get from diets or supplements. Whey protein’s essential amino acid profile gives it the highest score on an amino acid bioavailability ranking system used by scientists and researchers.
Leucine is a particularly important amino acid for muscle protein synthesis. And good news: whey protein has more leucine than any other protein supplement on the market.
Studies have found all of these benefits among those who used whey protein:
- Increased muscle protein synthesis
- Enhanced muscle repair and glycogen synthesis
- Improved immune system response
Whey protein is also a fan favorite because of its palatability - it’s got a mild taste and mixes easily with liquids to make shakes, smoothies, protein balls, and whatever fits your taste buds.
Should You Mix Creatine and Whey to Improve Performance?
Combining creatine and whey may help you get even more bang for your buck with these supplements. Some studies have shown taking these two powders together was beneficial.
Let’s take a closer look:
- A study of 12 men found that those who took 50 grams of protein and 47 grams of carbohydrates along with creatine were able to better retain creatine in their muscle tissue than those who took just creatine with only a small amount of carbs. The explanation for this is probably that adequate amounts of nutrients like protein and carbs make the body release a hormone called insulin, which helps creatine stick around in muscle tissue for longer.
- Another study of 51 men tested a drink containing creatine and protein compared to a carbohydrate-only drink. While they did not see differences in muscle mass or strength after 10 weeks of resistance training, they did find that the creatine and protein test group improved their anaerobic power.
The International Society of Sports Nutrition suggests that taking creatine and protein together is probably beneficial, but more studies are needed to firm up the data.
Is it Safe to Mix Creatine and Whey?
It is safe to mix these two supplements. Both ingredients are considered quite safe in general, so long as you purchase well-made products from a trustworthy source. Plus, studies have concluded that there are no adverse effects of combining creatine with whey.
What Protein Should You Choose if You’re Vegan?
For plant-based people, whey protein is off the table - but fortunately, there are plenty of other high-quality protein options at your fingertips.
Vegans can use pea protein and rice protein. Both options pack in plenty of protein per serving - in fact, just as much as whey protein does.
Is taking creatine and vegan protein powder together still helpful? Probably! Like whey protein, vegan protein also stimulates the insulin release that might explain the improved muscle creatine retention levels.
How to Mix Creatine with Protein
The timing for both protein and creatine is a hot topic for debate.
With protein, you can maximize muscle synthesis by evenly distributing protein intake throughout the day (about every 3-4 hours), including before bed.
Taking protein both before or after workouts is beneficial. The International Society for Sports Nutrition’s stance is that you can choose whatever timing you tolerate best: pre- or post-workout.
With creatine, the jury is still out on what timing is ideal. While some sources suggest before and some suggest after, the main consensus is that any time is good, so long as you’re getting it in.
Amidst conflicting evidence, the best approach is probably to take creatine and whey whenever you tolerate it best.
If you’re someone who prefers an emptier stomach during high-intensity exercise, then post-workout supplementation is a better fit.
Alternatively, you might prefer to fuel up beforehand. Taking both at the same time can streamline the process, as creatine and whey can easily be added to the same beverage.
The Bottom Line
If you’re a skimmer and want the quick version, here it is: taking both creatine and protein can help high-intensity athletes up their strength, performance, and recovery.
Based on current research, there’s good reason to think that taking them together is helpful, but we need more studies to know for sure. Taking whey and creatine together may also help you streamline your routine from a logistical standpoint.