Weight loss isn’t easy, it requires being dedicated to your training and nutrition over many months to notice any real changes.
There’s no wonder why people are turning to supplements for weight loss, every little helps, right?
There’s no magical supplement that’s going to make you lose weight, but there are some supplements that can help. Note the reminder is in the name, ‘Supplement’. They should do just that; supplement a healthy weight loss diet.
Caffeine, green tea, protein powder, L-Carnitine, and BCAA’s are all popular supplements that help with weight loss.
But what about Creatine, I mean it’s one of the best supplements for muscle building, but what about for weight loss? Is it something that can help? If so, how?
These are the questions we’ll be looking at today. Sit tight to learn whether creatine is something you need to add to your arsenal in a bid to lose those unwanted pounds.
|Table of Contents|
|What is creatine|
|Can creatine help with weight loss|
|Is creatine safe to take|
|Things to consider|
|How to use creatine|
Creatine is a chemical that can be naturally found in muscle cells. The primary purpose of creatine is to help you create more energy for intense exercise such as lifting weights. 95% of the body’s creatine stores can be found in skeletal muscle (1).
Roughly 50% of the creatine stored in our body comes from the foods we eat (2), such as red meat and seafood. The other half is made in the liver and kidneys from the important amino acids glycine, arginine, and methionine (3)
A molecule called ATP is the body’s go-to energy source for quick, high intensity bouts of exercise (ie. lifting weights) (4). When ATP is broken down, it releases energy, the energy we require for lifting. Once ATP is broken down we are left with a molecule called ADP.
It is creatine that is responsible for re-synthesising the ADP back to the ATP ready so that we can create more energy.
So essentially the role of creatine is to sustain energy levels and help improve performance in the gym.
Supplementing on creatine can increase your creatine stores. These increased stores will then help create energy throughout our workouts allowing us to workout intensely for longer.
So now we know what creatine does, the question remains – can it help us lose weight?
Well, the answer would be yes and no.
In itself, consuming creatine every day and going about with your life won’t help you lose weight.
But it can help, in a roundabout way, let us explain.
First, we need to understand how weight loss occurs in the first place.
To lose weight, we need to be in a calorie deficit. If you’re not familiar with the term, it just means we need to be eating less than we consume on a daily basis. A deficit of 300-500 calories is normally advisable for a successful weight loss campaign, so if we burn 2500 calories each day – eating between 2000-2200 calories each day would be good for weight loss.
The best way to create a calorie deficit is a combination of a sound nutrition plan coupled with a decent workout plan.
A sound nutrition plan will help with reducing calorie intake.
And a solid workout program will help with the other side of the equation by increasing the calories we burn. On top of that, a well-structured workout program will help maintain our muscles so that when we strip away the fat, we’re left with a well-toned, athletic physique. Without working out we are likely to simply look like a shrunken version of our previous self, with no real muscle definition.
So how can creatine help with weight loss?
Well, as we know, creatine is essentially an energy source. This energy source will help us perform intense exercises for longer, and as a result, we’ll burn more calories. Burning calories will aid in creating the all-important calorie deficit required for weight loss!
Creatine is responsible for providing us with energy during our workouts. This in turn helps us to workout harder and increase lean body mass (5).
When in a calorie restricted diet, the likelihood of building muscle is slim (unless we’re a beginner!). That being said, it’s considered likely that a supplement that can help us build muscle in a calorie surplus, will help us maintain muscle in a calorie deficit.
Maximising muscle during a calorie restricted diet is exactly what we’re after. Firstly, we’ll look great once we’ve stripped away the fat, and secondly, muscle burns calories at a quicker rate compared to any other tissue (6), even when you’re not doing anything.
Essentially, maximising muscle retention will make our fat loss endeavour that little bit easier as throughout the day we can burn calories at an elevated rate. This will help in creating the negative energy balance (calorie deficit) required for fat loss.
Creatine has also been found to help with post workout recovery. During a training session your body will use muscle glycogen stores for energy. As a result, these energy stores will become depleted. Studies (7,8) have shown that supplementing with creatine help to replenish glycogen stores which is a vital part of the post workout recovery process.
Efficiently replenishing our glycogen stores will ensure that we recover well and that we have enough energy for our next workout, whether that’s the following day or the day after.
Failure to recover completely may negatively impact our next workout, which could result in less work being done, which in turn would result in fewer calories being burned. Not the ideal situation when fat loss is our goal.
Finally, a study (9) was conducted to compare the effects of creatine supplementation over 4 weeks. The results found those that supplemented with creatine were able to maintain power in key compound exercises such as the squat and bench press. They also found that creatine supplementation helped retain lean body mass.
Being able to maintain power and lean body mass is great news for any fat loss campaign. When stripping away the fat, we’ll reveal our muscles, giving that athletic toned look we’re striving for.
Studies have shown that supplementing with creatine can reduce the chances of injury and muscle cramping (10).
Losing fat doesn’t happen overnight. It’s the result of months of training and eating healthy. During this time, it’s important we stay injury free. If we pick up an injury, not only will we not be able to train; but we may fall off the wagon completely.
It’s not uncommon for individuals to pick up an injury, and then throw the diet out the window as they don’t see the reason to eat healthy if they’re not able to workout.
This is the wrong approach but try telling that to someone who’s unable to hit the gym.
So if there’s anything we could do to prevent injuries, we should probably grab it with both hands.
I don’t know why it is, but people are always hesitant when it comes to creatine. But I suppose that’s a good thing, it’s always important to do your due diligence so you know exactly what you’re consuming.
Maybe it’s the look, a small dose of white powder does look slightly suspicious.
Or maybe it’s the reputation. Many people believe it to be an anabolic steroid – which it’s NOT!
As we mentioned, half of the body’s stores come from eating foods such as red meat and seafood. The other half is created by amino acids in the body – it’s a natural chemical.
Athletes and fitness enthusiasts have been supplementing with creatine for years. It is one of the most researched supplements there is with over 500 research studies on PubMed.
Studies show that short, and long term creatine supplementation is safe and well tolerated in healthy individuals (5). If you have a kidney disorder, it’s recommended that you consult with your healthcare professional before using the supplement. But, research shows that supplementing with creatine in the correct dosages does not result in kidney damage or renal dysfunction in healthy individuals (11)
When opting to take creatine during a weight loss phase it’s important to remember the following:
When supplementing creatine, it’s common for your muscles to hold more water (12). Within the first couple of weeks of taking creatine, it’s not uncommon for your body to hold 1-2kg of water weight.
It’s important to know this because the last thing we want when we begin a new fat loss program is to see the number on the scales go up, we’d lose motivation and feel like we were heading in the wrong direction. Just know that this is just water, not fat – and the fact the number on the scales may increase; that’s not a problem.
I mean at the end of the day the reason why we want to lose weight is that we either want to look better or for health reasons. We should therefore not solely use scales to measure our progress. There are other ways to measure our progress including photos, skin calipers, and body measurements which may give a better indication of overall fat loss.
Depending on our starting point, using creatine, and working out may result in some muscle gain. Admittedly this is more likely for beginners but it’s still something we should be aware of.
Muscle weighs more than fat. In theory we could lose fat and build muscle at the same time. Similarly to above, if we’re using scales as our method to measure our progress we may be disheartened when we don’t see the drop in weight we may be hoping for – but this may be because we have dropped fat and built muscle at the same time which is skewing the results shown on the scales.
Contrary to popular belief, you do not need a ‘loading phase’ with creatine (11). (A loading phase is where for the first week you increase the dosages to ‘load’ the muscles, after this initial loading you would drop back down to a maintenance dosage).
A daily intake of between 3-5grams is advisable. This is enough to increase creatine stores in the muscles to aid with muscle performance and recovery.
Simply add 3-5 grams to your post workout shake. If you don’t have a post workout shake, simply ingest it either before or after your workout (it’s not that important when you take it).
So, what’s the verdict? Is creatine a magic potion that we can drink daily to help us lose weight? Sadly not. But it’s not all doom and gloom. While creatine doesn’t directly increase our fat burning capabilities, it does help with weight loss in several unexpected ways.
If you were to ask us whether it’s worth the investment to aid with your fat loss journey, our answer would be yes. We would recommend using creatine when in a muscle building phase and during a fat loss phase – it’s an awesome supplement that helps to increase performance in the gym – plus it’s relatively cheap which is a bonus!