Creatine and protein powder are perfectly safe to mix. But beyond convenience and efficiency, mixing creatine with protein powders doesn't provide any additional benefits when compared to taking them separately.
If you are currently taking creatine or protein powder to increase muscle mass and have wondered about combining them, this article is for you.
Read on to learn more about the benefits of both and how you can use them together to get the most out of your workout.
Creatine supplementation has many benefits, most notably increasing muscle mass, to improve exercise performance, and boosting strength.
Creatine monohydrate is the most well-studied form of creatine while creatine HCL has become popular due to its higher solubility; however, there are not as many research studies on this type of creatine.
There is currently no research to support the benefit of mixing creatine into a protein shake compared to taking them separately.
If you do wish to mix creatine with protein powder, consider a whey which contains a good source of the branched-chain amino acids leucine, which can help to stimulate muscle protein synthesis.
Whether you take creatine in a protein shake together or separately comes down to your personal fitness goals.
What is Creatine?
Creatine is a naturally occurring compound in the body that can be found in highest concentrations in the muscle cells tissue. It is responsible for helping to provide energy for muscle contraction during high-intensity exercise.
Our body makes creatine on its own but we can also obtain it from foods, such as meat and seafood, and supplements. Research has found that supplemental creatine may help to boost muscle mass and strength through better muscle creatine uptake [1, 2].
How Does Creatine Work in the Body?
Roughly half of your body’s creatine stores, about 1-2 grams a day, is naturally produced in the liver and kidneys by the amino acids arginine, glycine, and methionine. This is stored as phosphocreatine in the muscle tissue.
The other half comes from the foods we eat, specifically animal proteins. Most can get adequate creatine from diet alone however, supplemental creatine has been associated with more significant improvements in muscle strength and performance [3, 4].
Creatine helps to provide energy to our muscles during intense exercise. It provides this energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the sole fuel source for muscle contraction.
High-intensity exercise can rapidly deplete ATP in the muscle tissue therefore higher concentrations of creatine may help to increase ATP production for better performance during short-duration exercise .
What are the Benefits of Creatine Supplementation?
Creatine supplementation has many benefits, most notably increasing muscle mass, improving exercise performance, gaining muscle mass, and boosting strength.
Creatine supplementation may help signal muscle protein synthesis (MPS), the process of building muscle tissue. According to one study, participants who took creatine for 6 weeks gained over 4 additional pounds of muscle mass compared to the control group .
Additionally, creatine plays a role in producing ATP in the muscle tissue.
This extra ATP can help improve energy production during exercise which greatly benefits performance. In fact, one review found that creatine supplementation could potentially boost exercise performance by up to 15% , which then helps you increase muscle mass.
An improvement in exercise performance could also yield faster strength gains. If you have more energy to work harder during your workouts from creatine supplements, you can progress faster and build strength more effectively.
Creatine HCL vs Monohydrate: Which is Better?
If you are considering taking a creatine supplement, you may have noticed there are different kinds. The most popular forms of creatine are creatine monohydrate and creatine HCL.
There are small molecular differences between the two however, their impact may be larger than you think.
Simply put, creatine monohydrate is the most well-studied form of creatine and is considered the gold-standard for creatine supplementation, when it comes to things like sports performance and increased muscle mass.
Creatine HCL is bound to hydrochloric acid and has become popular due to its higher solubility compared to creatine monohydrate.
This form may also help you avoid water retention while taking creatine; however, there are not as many research studies on this type of creatine.
When it comes to creatine supplements, one form is not better than the other however, if you are new to creatine and are unsure you might want to just stick with creatine monohydrate since it has the most research available on its safety and efficacy in supplements.
Can You Mix Creatine With Protein Powder?
Because both creatine and protein, such as whey protein powder, provide benefits for lean muscle mass when combined with resistance training, it’s plausible to assume there are benefits to combining creatine in a protein shake.
However, there is currently no research to support the benefit of mixing creatine into a protein shake compared to taking them separately.
With that said, it won’t hurt either. Whether you take both creatine and a protein powder together, separately, or choose to use just one or the other really depends on your preference.
The main benefit to mixing the two is that you are able to get the benefits from both in one fell swoop.
Recommended Protein Powders to Mix With Creatine
If you did wish to add creatine with a protein powder, consider a whey protein such as our Naked Whey (or a whey protein isolate). Whey protein contains a good source of branched-chain amino acids, specifically leucine, which can help to stimulate MPS .
If you are following a vegan or vegetarian diet, you could also add creatine into a pea protein powder, which is a dietary protein that provides similar benefits to whey protein without the use of animal or soy products.
Whatever protein powder you choose, be sure to look at the nutrition labels and avoid products that contain a lot of artificial flavors, additives, and added sugars as these can negatively impact your health goals.
What if I Don't Want to Mix the Supplements?
If you don’t wish to mix creatine with a protein powder, the good news is you don’t have to. If you still wish to take both products, you can simply plan to time them differently.
For example, consider taking your creatine right before a workout and then recover post-workout with a whey protein shake.
Mixing protein powder and creatine doesn't provide any special benefits other than the fact its convenient.
How Much Creatine Should I Add to a Protein Shake?
If you are considering adding creatine to your protein shake, there’s no need to adjust the amount of creatine you would normally take if you weren’t adding it.
For example, the typical recommended dose for creatine during maintenance (if you are not doing a loading phase) is 3-5g per day. Simply add this to your usual protein shake and you are good to go .
FAQs About Mixing Creatine With Protein Powder
Can You Mix Creatine With Protein Powder and Pre Workout?
Many pre-workout supplements contain creatine already because of its performance-enhancing benefits. However, if yours doesn’t it may be beneficial to mix some in as they can both help to maximize performance when consumed prior to exercise.
Although this is not a requirement, it is typically safe to add creatine into pre-workout supplements as long as the creatine is on its own and not combined with other ingredients, such as caffeine as this is a common pre-workout ingredient as well and high levels of caffeine may cause uncomfortable side effects in some.
When Should I Take Creatine and Protein?
If you plan to mix creatine and protein powder together, it’s best to take it either right before or right after exercise.
Although many believe that creatine works best before a workout as it provides energy to the muscle tissue for increased muscle mass, research has found little difference between taking it right before and right after [10, 11].
Additionally, research has found little difference between consuming protein right before or right after a workout. As long as adequate protein was consumed somewhere close to working out, it provided the same benefits so you can decide what works best for you .
Can I Mix 5g of Unflavored Creatine With a Whey Protein?
If you do want to mix your creatine into a protein powder, whey protein is a great option as it contains a good source of the branched-chain amino acid leucine, which can help to stimulate MPS.
Although mixing creatine with whey protein powders in a protein shake won’t necessarily provide any difference than consuming them separately would, it makes it easier to get the benefits from both in one sitting.
Remember that the most important thing is to stay consistently on track with your creatine and protein supplementation plans, and if mixing protein shakes with creatine helps you do that, then even better.
If you're interested in supplementing with creatine, then be sure to read our guide about whether creatine might make you gain weight, and whether its something you should worry about.