Can creatine help you shed fat without compromising muscle strength? Let’s see what science has to say about taking the edge off cutting.
For exercise enthusiasts, the cutting phase is a tightrope walk. A fat-shedding diet and workout routine inevitably means sacrificing muscle performance… right? Maybe not.
More and more fitness fans are reaching for creatine to help them cut without compromise. But can this popular supplement really give you the best of both worlds? Read on to find out.
Yes! Your body naturally produces creatine in your muscle cells and your liver, brain, kidneys, and pancreas. It protects your muscles by drawing water into them, giving them more energy for physical activity.
When you’re cutting, you commonly lose muscle due to changes in your diet and workout routine. Creatine might help mitigate this effect by helping your muscles retain what they need to metabolize efficiently.
In other words, you keep enjoying the fat-loss goodness of your cutting phase while losing less muscle mass than you normally would. Well, that’s the idea, anyway. We def need more research to show the full effects of creatine’s ability to help you retain muscle mass while shedding fat.
How does creatine work in your body?
Creatine comes from a combination of three amino acids: arginine, glycine, and methionine. When it combines with phosphate in your muscles, it becomes phosphocreatine, fuel for cellular metabolism.
As well as protecting muscle while you cut fat, creatine has been linked to a bunch of other health benefits like:
P.S. Older people can also benefit from more creatine alongside their regular workout routine.
Your body normally burns about 1 to 3 grams (g) of creatine daily, depending on your current muscle mass. When you exercise, you use more than you’re likely to get from your diet alone. That means supplements are needed if you want to feel the benefit.
Many athletes start with a ‘loading phase’ of 0.3g of creatine per kg of body mass (about 20 to 25 g per day). This loading phase lasts 5 to 7 days before they drop their daily dose down to about 3 to 5 g.
Loading creatine might not be strictly necessary. Many people swear by it, but some evidence suggests skipping to the smaller daily dose is equally effective.
Your exact dose will depend on how swole you are and how intense your exercise gets. If you’re into some serious bodybuilding, creatine may help you hit your goals
It’s better to get creatine from your diet than supplements. Foods rich in creatine include:
But… if you can’t get enough creatine from your diet, supplements can still do the trick.
The most common form of creatine supplement is creatine monohydrate. That’s what the overwhelming majority of research has been carried out on. Research shows this method is generally considered safe, cheap, and trustworthy.
PSA: Be mindful of the brands you buy from. The market is full of creatine spin-off products that claim to have all sorts of added effects. Not all of them have the research to back those claims up.
If you’re unsure how to work creatine into your exercise routine, talk to a healthcare specialist or a personal trainer. In general, you want to be following a few general tips:
- You can take creatine either before or after you work out, there’s no ‘right’ time to take it.
- Avoid taking your whole daily dose of creatine at once. This might trigger a tummy ache, so try to spread it throughout the day.
- Plan how fast you want to be losing weight, and make sure it’s healthy and sustainable.
- Stay hydrated! Creatine pulls water into your muscle cells, so drink more to replace it.
- Get plenty of sleep. This is critical when you’re making significant changes to your body.
- Don’t neglect nutrition. Protein, in particular, helps preserve lean muscle.
There’s a widely held belief that creatine can cause you to gain fat during the loading phase. This is a myth. The added water that creatine retains is held in the muscles, not the fat cells. Studies suggest that creatine monohydrate is a perfectly safe supplement when used responsibly.
That being said, taking more than your recommended dose of creatine in one sitting could result in mild side effects like:
- Stomach pain and discomfort
- Diarrhea or constipation
- High blood pressure (rarely)
You can mostly avoid these side effects by splitting your creating dose up throughout the day.
Of course, there can be adverse effects if you cut too much weight too quickly. These include:
- Nutritional deficiency
- Damaged metabolism
- Muscle loss
- Impulsive food binging
- Damaged mental health
Maintaining a steady, sustainable weight loss throughout your cutting phase should be a major focus when you’re developing your exercise plan.
Creatine, particularly creatine monohydrate, is helpful for athletes trying to cut. By protecting your muscles while exercising, you can keep sculpting when you’d otherwise be fighting to retain mass.
But whatever your fitness goals, be sure to chase them safely and sustainably. Don’t cut too much too fast, and be sure to stay hydrated while you’re busy crafting your ideal body.