Updated: Oct 12
TL;DR: Supplementing with creatine may cause you gain around 2-6 lbs of weight due to water retention.
Creatine is a very useful supplement for any level or type of athlete, from beginner to advanced, from bodybuilders to cyclists.
It has very few side effects and can enhance performance dramatically. But does creatine make you gain weight?
Taking a creatine supplement has been shown in many studies to produce a significant rise in body weight over a short period of time.
Because of the increased water content in your muscles, your weight rises by about 2-6 pounds (1-3 kg) after one week of high-dose loading with creatine (around 20 grams/day). (1)
Table of Contents:
How Does Creatine Work?
Creatine's primary function in enhancing exercise performance during high-intensity activity is to increase the phosphocreatine reserves in the muscles.
These extra phosphocreatine reserves may be utilised to generate more energy in the form of ATP, which is the main energy source for high-intensity and high-resistance activities.
Creatine has multiple effects on muscle and within the body, including the following.
Improves cellular hydration
Increases anabolic hormones
Reduces protein breakdown
Enhances cell signalling
There are other effects by supplementing with creatine, such as a rise in the levels of phosphocreatine in the brain.
This has been shown to enhance brain function and may even aid in the prevention of neurological illness. (2)
In conclusion, creatine can assist muscle growth and energy by increasing the amount of energy available to the body and muscles, as well as improving energy production.
Essentially, creatine converts waste ADP created by movement and exercise back into ATP.
Further Reading: You can learn more about how creatine works by clicking here.
Does It Cause Weight Gain?
Some individuals are worried that taking creatine may cause them to gain weight.
Perhaps you've heard other people complain about their appearance becoming fat or bloated soon after taking the supplement.
Creatine may induce some weight gain.
However, it's possible that the weight increase is not due to fat accumulation.
There are a variety of different reasons why your weight has increased after taking creatine, as shown below.
Below is a more in-depth explanation about the possible reasons of the increased weight.
The most likely cause of weight gain that may occur while taking creatine is called water retention.
Creatine is a hydrating supplement that may cause a fast increase in water retention because it pulls water into the cells of your muscles.
Essentially your muscle cells will have more creatine stores and therefore more water retention within and around the muscles.
Some individuals may gain between 2 and 6 pounds of body weight during the first week of using creatine supplementation, mostly as a result of water retention. (3)
Studies have shown that it can be a useful supplement for improving endurance and strength. (4)
While taking creatine you may see an increase in the strength and size of your muscles over time.
Increased muscle mass also causes you to weigh more.
This could a second possible reason for the increase in weight seen with creatine supplementation.
You may also be worried about increases in fat during creatine supplementation.
Creatine has no direct effect on fat mass when it comes to causing you to gain weight.
Gaining fat requires you to eat more calories than you burn in a day. (You can work out your daily calorie expenditure using the TDEE calculator here)
Creatine has no calories on its own, or at least extremely few calories, so little that it wouldn't make any difference.
If you continued on the same diet while taking creatine you wouldn't notice any change in fat mass, you may look more bloated due to eater retention, though.
In fact, creatine may even help reduce fat mass, according to some studies. (5)
Creatine does cause you to put on some weight; however, it's most likely to be water retention or muscle growth over the long-term.
Increases in fat mass are likely due to your diet or another reason, creatine has no direct effect on fat, at least when it comes to increasing fat mass.
Some studies even suggest that creatine supplementation might help reduce fat mass.
Why Does Creatine Cause Weight Gain?
So as mentioned before, there are two main reasons that creatine can cause weight gain.
An Increase In Muscle Mass
Increased muscle mass will cause weight gain over time, this isn't the same as the weight gain you see within the first 1-2 weeks of creatine supplementation.
Creatine can increase the intracellular water content within the muscles, increasing the physical size of the muscle cells by a process known as cellular swelling or cellular volumization, which also enhances the muscle pump.
Further Reading: Does the muscle pump increase muscle growth?
Supplementing with creatine may also reduce muscle protein breakdown, acting as an anti-catabolic agent. (7)
Creatine can increase total workload and volume due its effect on energy, this extra workload and volume can increase long-term muscle growth. (8)
There are other possible effects of creatine, such as its ability to inhibit myostatin and up-regulate anabolic cell signalling factors such as myogenic regulatory factors. (9)
All of these effects on anabolic cell signalling factors can lead to an increase in long-term muscle growth, increasing an individuals body weight more so than someone not taking creatine supplements.
An Increase In Water Retention
Creatine can increase total body and intracellular water content.
It does this by drawing extra water into the cell as creatine stores increase.
Some energy sources within the body increase the amount of water retained, creatine can increase this.
This increase in retained water is mostly within cells, but it can be outside the cell too.
Increased weight and bloat can be caused from taking creatine.
How to Avoid Weight Gain
It is possible that creatine may cause a quick and possibly temporary water retention and weight increase.
Creatine is a safe supplement, unless you have pre-existing kidney or liver issues, you should be fine supplementing with creatine. (10)
Nonetheless, the following are some suggestions for reducing fluid retention.
Over time the water retention should start to level off and slowly decrease.
Increase your daily water consumption
Urination is increased by drinking water and therefore helps to eliminate excess water from the body.
By drinking more fluids such as water you help your body eliminate excess water more effectively.
Further Reading: How much water should you drink on creatine?
Reduce your daily carbohydrate consumption
Carbohydrates are necessary for energy, but they also cause your body to retain water, so don't consume too much.
Keep your carbohydrate consumption around 225-325 grams per day, around 45-50% of your daily calories should be from carbohydrates. (11)
Too many carbohydrates and you'll be further increasing water retention.
Lower your daily sodium consumption
When you consume too much salt, your body retains water as a result.
Increase your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables while decreasing your intake of processed meals and fast food.
Make sure that your salt consumption does not exceed 2,300 milligrammes per day. (11)
Lower your dosage
Lowering your dosage of creatine can also be an easy way to reduce any water retention and bloat gained from creatine.
Though you will some of the advantages you get from creatine.
Exercising may help you lose weight and lose water weight.
It is true that the more you exercise and train your body, the less water you will hold on to.
Ironically, drinking more water will help reduce water retention, to a point.
Though, drinking too much water can worsen water retention, the key is to stay well-hydrated.
Health professionals typically suggest eight, 8-ounce glasses of water each day, which is equivalent to approximately 2 litres or half a gallon.
Lowering your sodium (salt) and carbohydrate intake can help reduce water retention and bloat.
Being patient and lowering your dosage of creatine are the alternative options.
Risks of Weight Gain From Creatine
Creatine is generally considered to be safe, with very few serious side effects reported. (12)
However, creatine may cause some side-effects, water retention being the most common.
Symptoms of water retention are as follows.
Swollen legs, ankles, and feet
Puffiness of the abdomen, face, and hips
Indentations in the skin
Risks of Water Retention
There can be extra strain on the heart, liver or kidneys as a result of water retention.
Though, the water retention seen with supplementation of typical dosages of creatine is minimal.
High dosages of creatine, on the other hand, have raised concerns about the potential of liver, renal, and possibly even heart damage in some people.
If you have liver, kidney, or heart issues, talk to your doctor about whether or not creatine is a good choice for your situation, the safest option is to avoid creatine supplementation.
Muscle cramps, nausea, diarrhoea, heat intolerance, and dizziness are just a few of the mild adverse effects that may occur while taking creatine.
Other side-effects can be seen in those with bipolar disorder. (13)
Further Reading: Side effects of creatine
Creatine can cause weight gain, but it is not as a result of fat gain; in fact, creatine may actually help reduce fat mass.
Water retention within and around the muscle is usually the cause of weight gain seen with creatine supplementation.
Providing you are not at risk of kidney, liver and heart issues you should be fine to take creatine.
So creatine does in fact cause weight gain, but not due to fat gain.
Written by Billy White
Billy White is a qualified Kinesiologist and Personal Trainer. He is an aspiring bodybuilder, fitness enthusiast, and health and fitness researcher.
He has multiple years of experience within the fitness, bodybuilding and health space. He is committed to providing the highest-quality information.
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This evidence-based analysis of creatine and weight gain features 13 references, listed below.
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8. Schoenfeld BJ. The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. J Strength Cond Res. (2010, Oct) (Review) ✔
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11. Mayoclinic. Nutrition and healthy eating. Healthy Lifestyle. (2020, Apr) ✔
12. Kreider RB, Kalman DS, Antonio J, Ziegenfuss TN, Wildman R, Collins R, Candow DG, Kleiner SM, Almada AL, Lopez HL. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. (2017, Jun) ✔
13. Feier G, Valvassori SS, Rezin GT, Búrigo M, Streck EL, Kapczinski F, Quevedo J. Creatine kinase levels in patients with bipolar disorder: depressive, manic, and euthymic phases. Braz J Psychiatry. (2011, Jun) (Comparative Study) ✔
✔ Citations with a tick indicate the information is from a trusted source.
The information provided in this article is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the guidance of a physician or other competent professional before following advice or taking any supplement. See our terms and conditions.