Does Creatine Make You Gain Weight?

If you are looking into taking creatine, more specifically creatine monohydrate, you are likely looking to increase your strength, not the numbers on the scale. 

For years, creatine has been considered the secret weapon for athletes and bodybuilders to help break through strength training plateaus, increase lean muscle mass, boost endurance and reduce muscle breakdown.  

Creatine is also used medically to aid in improving cognitive brain function. With all of these benefits, creatine still has stigmas attached to it. Increased weight gain is one of the claims that often deter people from trying it.  

To better understand the chatter circulating creatine, let's look at how it works, affects the body, and if there are any potential pitfalls.  

What Is Creatine?

Creatine is a naturally produced amino acid in the muscles and the brain that provides a continuous supply of energy to the body. 

It's a non-essential amino acid, meaning the body naturally creates it in the kidneys and liver. 

Creatine converts adenosine diphosphate (ADP) into adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a source of energy and storage. Muscles can work harder for more extended periods without exhaustion. 

Creatine is in meats like steak, ground beef, and fish. The production of creatine increases the essential amino acid leucine, which stimulates muscle protein synthesis in the body.

Creatine can increase dopamine levels, which affects cognitive mental, and motor function. Studies have reported the benefits of using creatine to help manage symptoms of Parkinson's disease

These, amongst other benefits, are why creatine is one of the most researched supplements on the market.

 Next, let's take a look a creatine supplementation and why it's considered a staple in many athletes' nutrition plans.

 Why Do Athletes Take Creatine? 

People use creatine for its ability to improve athletic performance. Creatine monohydrate, used as a sports performance enhancer increased in popularity after the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. Bodybuilders and runners later began using creatine for its strength and endurance benefits. 

 Other creatine benefits include: 

  • Reduced muscle cramping - Increased creatine levels in the body can maintain water in the muscles for energy production.
  • Decreased muscle fatigue - Creatine increases the production of ATP in the body, which is used as energy to improve muscle recovery.
  • Increased lean muscle mass - Enhances muscle fiber development and helps improve protein synthesis (i.e., muscle size and strength).

The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) and others have agreed that creatine monohydrate supplementation is one of the most effective supplements available for athletes and non-athletes alike for increasing high-intensity exercise and building muscle mass during training. 

Not just for professional strength and endurance sports, today, creatine is one of the most widely used supplements among recreational, college, and professional athletes. 

How Does Creatine Work to Increase Endurance?

Creatine is quick-acting energy that can improve strength and endurance performance and enhance muscle recovery. Phosphate enzymes (electrolytes) bond to ADP to help make ATP and convert it into phosphate energy.

Muscles can contract faster and for more extended periods with less fatigue. For endurance athletes, this means extra energy boosts released during high-intensity activities like sprinting, HIIT training, and rowing.

A 2021 nutrition study on creatine use for sports performance, reported that the ergogenic benefits of creatine monohydrate include: enhanced force output, increased anaerobic threshold, work capacity, and recovery. 

So if creatine is a "super supplement" that your body naturally produces and can be obtained from food, why is it so popular as a nutrition supplement?  

According to the Mayo Clinic, the human body makes about 1 gram of creatine per day in the liver, pancreas, and kidneys. It needs to replenish about 1–3 grams of creatine per day to maintain regular (unsupplemented)creatine stores, depending on muscle mass.  

Let’s say, if you're rolling multiple rounds in BJJ class, creatine stored in the body will quickly be depleted. Having a creatine supplement on deck, like in a water bottle or a protein shake, comes in handy. You'll be able to replenish muscles and begin to recover faster.  

So, Does Creatine Make You Gain Weight?

When discussing increasing muscle mass, increased body fat levels are associated with it. 

There are misconceptions that creatine causes weight gain because of weight fluctuations on the scale, primarily from water weight. The temporary swelling of muscles can make you look like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters.

But contrary to what some believe, you don’t get bloated from water retention when taking a high-quality creatine monohydrate supplement.  

Does Creatine Help Increase Lean Muscle Weight?

Creatine enhances muscle fiber development and helps improve protein synthesis (i.e., muscle size and strength). ATP moves into the muscles, which helps create energy quickly and boost protein synthesis (muscle growth).


Can Creatine Make You Gain Fat?

There is no evidence that creatine can make you gain weight. The body increases lean muscle mass, but creatine is not a cause of rises in body fat. The supplement is an element that can help with fat reduction by increasing energy used during exercise. 

A 2021 study reported that after administering creatine to a group of 50+ older adults and pairing it with resistance training, there was a significant reduction in body fat and an increase in lean muscle. 

If anything, the weight that's temporarily gained is due to water retention. 


Does Creatine Cause Water Retention to Make You Bloated?

Due to creatine's osmotic properties, small amounts of water are retained in the muscles. Lean muscle growth is attributed to this water retention, and temporary swelling can occur due to osmotic pressure. Small amounts of water are held but can hyper-hydrate muscles and be used as energy. 

The retained water can cause an increase in water weight, but this does subside. The swelling typically lasts only a few days during the first 1-2 weeks of the creatine loading. If creatine isn't fully absorbed, access is stored in the kidneys and liver until excretion.

 creatine monohydrate 

How Can You Minimize Water Retention From Creatine?

During the loading phase, swelling and bloating can order as a side effect. This is when the body initially adapts to the rising creatine levels, particularly the skeletal muscles. 

If you want to learn more, be sure to check out our in-depth article on creatine cycles, and whether you should do a loading phase or stick to maintenance. 

Creatine bloating doesn't occur for everyone. You can take precautions to combat having a temporary puffy bro-dough appearance. 

Manage Sodium Intake 

Too much sodium in the body can cause dehydration by pulling water from the muscles. Drinking more water can help neutralize the effects of high sodium and rehydrate the body.

When using creatine, reduce salt in cooking and avoid buying foods with high sodium from the grocery store. Stay within the outside perimeters and avoid the frozen food, chips, and freeze-dried foods sections. And yes, Top Ramen can have as much as 910.1 milligrams of sodium—Don't shoot the messenger. 

Speak with your doctor or a licensed dietitian if you are still trying to figure out how to reduce sodium.

Increase Hydration

It's recommended to consume 3-4 liters of water per day, post-loading phase, to prevent dehydration while using the recommended dosage of 3-5 grams of creatine. 

Use Creatine for Intense Exercise Sessions

Taking creatine close to training times and frequently drinking water can help reduce feelings of swelling and bloating. The stored water is energy that can help you pump out extra reps or keep the jets burning while running suicide sprints during practice.

Is Creatine Safe?

No adverse or side effects are reported from taking creatine when dosing correctly. 

Creatine is safe for long-term use in adults for up to 5 years. In the past, there have been some concerns about creatine's potential effects on renal function. However, excess creatine that doesn't absorb into the muscles is stored and excreted from the kidneys.  

If there were severe concerns, it would be during the loading phase when taking a higher dose (20–25g daily for 5–7 days per week). There is no significant research that proves the validity of those concerns. People with poor kidney function should use caution and consult a doctor first.  

When to Take Creatine for Maximum Endurance?

We mentioned earlier that taking creatine before workouts can help yield the best results. The energy helps prolong explosive power and buffers lactic acid buildup during running, rowing, and cycling. 

One study tested 16 men running 10 treadmill sprints with 2-3 minutes of rest. During the first five days, the men were given a creatine placebo. After the initial phase, one group continued using the placebo, and the other a creatine supplement. 

The group that used creatine experienced an increase in lean body mass, VO2 max capacity, and blood lactate levels. Their speed and power output increased more than the placebo group during the last 5 sets of the sprints.

A 2019 double-blind study examined creatine supplementation in the performance of soccer players. It found that there was an increase in anaerobic performance. 

Players experienced increases in work capacity and power output improvements, even during the loading phase. 

The Bottom Line on Creatine and Weight Gain

To summarize, creatine, specifically creatine monohydrate, is one of the most extensively studied athletic performance supplements. Strong evidence shows that creatine can help improve muscle strength and power by increasing muscle storage forms.  

Creatine is safe when used as directed and can be helpful for athletes and non-athletes alike to improve their performance. If you plan to begin using creatine, continue researching the proper protocols for incorporating it into your regimen.