Does creatine increase fat?

October 1, 2001


1- Featured Article:
Does creatine increase fat?

Welcome to the October 2001 issue of the Creatine Newsletter. One of the best-understood side effects of creatine monohydrate powder is that it increases body mass. This month we discuss the origin and repercussions of this effect.

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This Month’s Featured Article:

Does creatine increase fat?


It is common knowledge that creatine causes weight gain. The reason for this gain in weight seems to involve several distinct processes. Early phases of body mass increase involve the retention of water into skeletal muscle. Later phase of mass increase may involve the accretion of new muscle proteins.

Early Stages of Muscle Growth: Water Weight

Creatine monohydrate causes water to be retained in the body compartments where it is located. For this reason our muscles swell (with water) following creatine use. This process has been termed muscle “volumizing” in the scientific literature. This is a relatively fast process and can account for as much as 1-3 kilograms (~2-7 pounds) of added water weight after just a few days of loading. This increase in weight is much too fast to be attributed to the addition of new muscle proteins. Finally, since the faster we pack in creatine, the faster we’ll gain water weight, muscle volumizing will be most pronounced during the loading phase.

After about a month of stopping creatine our muscle creatine stores return to normal and so should our body weight. In other words, we’ll lose muscle water as our creatine levels return to their previously low values.

We’ll also notice a drop in our energy levels. This is because creatine enhances our physical performance by increasing the amount of energy available to our muscles.

Later Stages of Muscle Growth: New Protein Production

There is some indication that the acquisition of new muscle proteins also increases following creatine supplementation. This effect might be related to the greater work capacity afforded by creatine. In other words, we’ll build more muscle since we’ll be able to train harder.

Alternatively, muscle volumizing itself might stimulate the production of new muscle proteins. In this instance muscle swelling might falsely signal to the cell that it is growing. The muscle cell might then respond by increasing the production of new muscle proteins. The likelihood of this later possibility is currently being debated in the scientific press.

Any increase in muscle proteins as a result of prolonged creatine use should persist after stopping supplementation. These gains, however, will be relatively small in comparison to the initial rise in body weight attributed to water retention.

Lean Muscle Mass

The combined effects of increased muscle hydration and stimulated protein synthesis will increase our amount of lean muscle. In other words, the amount of protein and water contained within our muscles will increase relative to fat. You might have heard this fact being boosted in the popular press.

Fat is Fat and Muscle is Muscle and Never the Twain Shall Meet

It has often been rumored that a person’s muscle turns to fat after stopping creatine. There is no more truth in this happening than there is in an apple turning into a banana? They are simply two different entities. Nevertheless, muscle can be replaced by fat given the wrong set of circumstances.

As mentioned above, after stopping creatine you’ll lose some size due to loss of muscle water. You’ll also experience a drop in energy level because of the slow degradation of surplus creatine stored within our muscles; remember that creatine is an energy source.

There’s only one way you’ll gain fat. That is if you reduce your energy expenditure dramatically, or stop working our altogether, while not adjusting your caloric intake. Under these circumstances the excess amounts of calories (food) you consume will be stored as fat.

Take Home

You will lose some size and strength after stopping creatine. This is unavoidable. The lost size, however, results from loss of water and not muscle tissue. The decrease in energy results from less creatine in our muscles. The only way that you will gain fat is if you consume more calories than you burn after stopping creatine.

Therefore, after stopping creatine for a prolonged period, be sure to maintain your exercise intensity, or alternatively, reduce caloric intake.

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