Does Creatine Help with Weight Loss? [Science Based Facts]

Creatine has been the go-to supplement for to help gain weight, building muscle and increasing strength for decades. Many other supplements have been discussed and debated, but it has become almost universally accepted that when it comes to increasing lean muscle mass and getting stronger, creatine supplementation can't be beat.

However, the conversation changes when it comes to weight loss and getting leaner. Can creatine monohydrate help you lose body fat? Is there such a thing as weight loss creatine? Will my body composition change in the way I want if I start using a creatine supplement?

It's time for this debate to end, and that's what we're here to do. We're going to cover what creatine is, what it does, if you can use creatine for weight loss, and back it up with science. We will then offer some insight on how to apply it to your own fat loss plan.

What is Creatine?

Before we dive into how creatine works, we need to cover how muscles work. Your muscles need energy to perform, and they get that from adenosine triphosphate (ATP). There is also a reserve that serves as backup when the muscle cells need extra ATP, and that comes from creatine phosphate.

Creatine can be found in several food sources such as beef and fish, but it's also available in dietary supplements, either on its own or as a part of another supplement. Supplementing with creatine helps provide even more creatine stores so your muscles can continue to perform at a higher level.

Taking oral creatine supplements can also have a big impact on your recovery in a positive way. This is why it has been an optimal choice for post-workout supplementation for so long. Studies have shown that supplementing with creatine can lead to increases in skeletal muscle (1). This combined with more calories and regular resistance training has resulted in many "hardgainers" crediting creatine for them achieving weight gain goals.

It's worth noting that alongside the change in skeletal muscle, creatine supplementation can also lead to water retention, especially if the user performs a "loading phase" by taking extra amounts for five to seven days before shifting to a lower maintenance phase. This water retention and extra weight gain could be one reason why people feel it won't help them lose weight. They are afraid the water gain may convert to fat gain.

Creatine Can Indirectly Support Weight Loss Through Lean Muscle Mass

Let's cut right to the meat of the matter when it comes to weight loss. Creatine is great to increase muscle mass, but can you consume it to directly burn belly fat? The short answer to that question is no. However, can it be a backup player in the process to help you lose weight? Possibly.

As you build lean muscle mass, your body's resting metabolic rate can improve. To put it another way, the more muscle you have, the more calories you can burn, even when your body is at rest. Consuming creatine combined with a healthy diet and weight training can help you improve exercise performance, which could lead to the possibility of increasing lean tissue mass. That extra lean muscle mass could help your body burn excess calories so they don't convert into fat tissue.

Beyond that, creatine supplements can also positively impact muscular endurance. A study from 1998 validated that "creatine supplementation at doses of 6 g daily has positive effects on short-term exercise included into aerobic endurance exercise." (2)

When you train for endurance, your body is going to burn more calories, which can directly affect weight loss. So, while creatine is not directly attacking stubborn belly fat, it is supporting the processes that can help you decrease fat mass. Thus, creatine may not be getting the credit for helping users that are losing weight that it deserves.

Scientific Evidence for All Ages

This isn't just an article for the kids, either. Even seniors should consider creatine supplementation combined with a consistent and healthy food plan and regular exercise. Research in 2019 concluded that aside from muscle gain, there was "direct evidence that creatine influences certain aspects of adipocyte and fat tissue metabolism as well as triglyceride synthesis in multiple cell types" in people 50 years of age and older. (3)

So, even grandparents can reap the rewards (both fat loss and muscle hypertrophy) of taking creatine supplements. Clearly, supplementing with creatine would be smart as you get older to help delay the process of losing muscle as you age.

Considerations and How to Use Creatine for Weight Loss

We've covered what creatine is, what it does, showed that while it may not directly burn body fat, it can indirectly help you meet your weight loss goals, and even discussed how it can directly serve older trainees well. We didn't even get into how it could potentially help reduce muscle soreness or impact high intensity exercise performance. This would be a great time to dive into the "how" so you can start putting this education into actual practice for yourself.

But first, some advice. You've likely heard that you can't out train a bad diet. Well, you can't out supplement one, either. If you're not eating healthy in a calorie deficit, following a regular resistance training routine, engaging in regular aerobic activity, and paying attention to muscle recovery, then none of this will help you in the long run. No weight loss supplement would help you as much, either.

You can eat a lot of beef, salmon, and pork if you really want to stick to food, but creatine supplements does make it a lot easier on the digestive system. Supplementing with creatine monohydrate doesn't have to be very complicated. While going through a loading phase of higher amounts for five to seven days is not harmful, it has also been determined to not be essential, either. (4)

Simply taking three to five grams of an oral creatine supplement every day either after intense training or whenever you like on a day off would help you check it off and go on with your day. There may be some unwanted weight gain and initial water retention as a side effect, but that won't last forever and will also help avoid muscle cramps.

What About Creatine Ethyl Ester?

Over the last decade, creatine ethyl ester has been a popular sports nutrition product. The claim is that it can be taken in smaller doses, muscle cells can absorb it faster, and it can result in even greater results than the creatine monohydrate. The jury may still be out on this, but one study from 2009 concluded that not to be the case. (5)

If you want to make sure you are in the best position to succeed, then the best bet is to invest in creatine monohydrate. It's proven, it's widely available, and it's easy to add to any supplementation plan.

Conclusion

Taking creatine monohydrate is legendary for weight gain, helping users gain muscle mass, and getting stronger. It may not have been considered the ultimate solution to reduce body fat, but it can definitely be an ally on one's weight loss journey if they are also focusing on improved athletic performance, muscle strength, and are okay with increased muscle mass as well. Overall, the fitness and health benefits serve users well. Don't sleep on creatine if you want to lose weight, burn fat, and get into better shape. It could be the secret weapon you never knew you needed.

References

1) Creatine Supplementation and Skeletal Muscle Metabolism for Building Muscle Mass- Review of the Potential Mechanisms of Action. Author(s):Farnaz Farshidfar,Mark A. PinderandSemone B. Myrie* Volume 18, Issue 12, 2017

2) Creatine supplementation in endurance sports. Engelhardt M 1, Neumann G , Berbalk A , Reuter I. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 01 Jul 1998, 30(7):1123-1129

3) Changes in Fat Mass Following Creatine Supplementation and Resistance Training in Adults ≥50 Years of Age: A Meta-Analysis. Scott C. Forbes,1,* Darren G. Candow,2 Joel R. Krentz,1 Michael D. Roberts,3,4 and Kaelin C. Young3,4

4) Creatine Supplementation Hall, Matthew DO; Trojian, Thomas H. MD, FACSM. Current Sports Medicine Reports 12(4):p 240-244, July/August 2013.

5) Spillane, M., Schoch, R., Cooke, M. et al. The effects of creatine ethyl ester supplementation combined with heavy resistance training on body composition, muscle performance, and serum and muscle creatine levels. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 6, 6 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-6-6

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