Ah, yes, good ‘ol creatine … or 2-[Carbamimidoyl(methyl)amino]acetic acid if you’re feeling frisky. This compound will make you stronger than ever and raise your mom’s stress levels accordingly.
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Truth is, you can get shredded and cut while taking creatine. The idea that creatine bloats you and ruins your gains is a myth, and I’ll tell you why.
What Is Creatine?
Many mistake creatine for some unnatural or steroid-like compound, but that certainly couldn’t be further from the truth. Creatine is actually just an amino acid found in meat – including your own body.
Amino acids are essential to building muscle, hence the name of the 9 “essential” amino acids. We do know, however, that if you take a larger dose of single amino acid, we see certain effects on the human body.
For instance, arginine is known to increase blood flow when taken in larger amounts. Leucine has been known to increase muscle protein synthesis by more than 3 grams.
Thus, as a collective, amino acids build muscle, but alone (and at higher doses), they can produce certain effects.
Creatine is a compound that has quite a few impacts on the body, and they aren’t limited to the muscles either:
- Supplementing with creatine will increase levels of phosphocreatine (PCr) in the body.
- Higher levels of PCr have been linked to greater regeneration of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in muscle tissue.
- ATP is the form of energy the body uses for high-intensity activity (like lifting weights), and thus, creatine will increase endurance and strength.
- Creatine supplementation has even been linked to improved short-term memory and neural function.
The biggest myth about creatine is that you’ll somehow “hold water” or that you’ll gain fat when using creatine. To bust this, we simply need to look at thermodynamics. Creatine doesn’t really have calories, so it’s impossible to gain fat with creatine alone.
So, what about this idea that you’ll store or hold water due to creatine, making you look bloated or puffy?
Water is mostly stored in two places within the body – either intracellular or extracellular. The people that complain about feeling puffy claim that there’s water “beneath the skin” and not in the muscle, causing them to lose their definition.
A study was conducted in 2003 to look at various factors, including this water retention phenomenon. Right off the bat, this idea isn’t looking great. 95% of creatine is stored intramuscularly, meaning that only 5% would be elsewhere.
The study found a non-significant increase of intracellular water of 1.13 liters, which accounted for 55.4% of total water gain. This is in line with proportional water mass gain distribution. The kicker seems to be that they mention that this could lead to greater gains…
“Interestingly, an increase in cell volume appears to be an anabolic proliferative signal, which may be the first step in muscle protein synthesis. Because of this, increased cell volume has been suggested as a mechanism for protein synthesis stimulation and increased muscle mass under conditions of muscular overload during Cr supplementation.”
So, not only did creatine not increase bloating or fluffiness, but the mechanism of water retention could actually aid in muscle growth!
Here are a few other myths about creatine while we’re at it:
|Creatine supplementation is bad for the kidneys||Creatine supplementation is only bad for the kidneys if you have prior kidney issues|
|Creatine is a steroid||Creatine is not a steroid, but rather a naturally occurring amino acid|
|Newer versions of creatine are better||The good old creatine monohydrate is the most tested and the best version of the supplement available|
Do You Need Creatine to Get Shredded?
Now that we know a little more about creatine and the way it works, the question you should be asking yourself is, “Do I have to take it?”
First off, you don’t have to take any supplements, especially not creatine. A healthy and balanced diet should provide you with all the nutrients that you need.
That said, would you want to take creatine when trying to get shredded? Sure. Creatine has a host of benefits that could aid you in your journey.
The biggest one is obviously going to be the increase in physiological performance. This means you’ll be able to lift larger amounts of weights for a longer duration of time. This will not only allow you to expand more calories in a certain time frame, but it’ll also allow you to grow more muscle tissue.
One of the factors we often forget is that as your calories begin to lower significantly, you become weaker. There’s literally less fuel available, so you have less strength to move the weight that you did before. Creatine could help extend that period.
One other thing about creatine that’s overlooked is its effect on brain function. Again, as calories drop really low, you become foggy. Creatine could help with this and make life a whole lot better overall.
Lastly, creatine is good at cell hydration – as we’ve seen in the previously discussed studies. This is a fancy way of saying creatine will make you nice and full. We often become flat as we cut, and creatine could help you look fuller than you are without adding in a ton of carbs.
Again, it’s certainly not necessary for you to be using creatine to lose weight. However, it does seem to be good at what it does – which is helping you keep your strength.
Creatine for Long Distance Endurance?
We’ve learned that creatine will improve strength and power and will also help us when we’re trying to lose some weight – but what about those of us who prefer running or cycling long distances?
Creatine will increase the amount of ATP storage we have in the body, and since ATP is a form of energy, it would be safe to assume that more ATP means better running or cycling times.
Unfortunately, ATP isn’t the energy system we use for longer distances or endurance-like training. Once you start doing aerobic activities – such as running – your body will begin using other energy systems, and studies suggest creatine supplementation has less of a physiological benefit for those types of training.
How To Use Creatine for Fat Loss
We’ve established that you should probably be using creatine when trying to lose weight, but how should that be done?
- Step 1: Place yourself in a calorie deficit to elicit some fat loss.
- Step 2: Eat sufficient protein per day, at least 1 gram per pound of body weight.
- Step 3: Do both resistance training and a bit of cardio as well to retain muscle mass (you can get shredded without cardio, but it’s not ideal).
- Step 4 (optional): Do the loading phase with creatine monohydrate, taking 20 grams per day for the first 7 days.
- Step 5: Take 5 grams of creatine monohydrate daily at any time during the day.
It’s really as simple as that.
Once your weight loss stops, you can either decrease your food intake or increase your daily cardio. You should be aiming to lose 0.5 – 1.0% of your total body weight per week.
That said, you might want to make sure you consume enough water on a daily basis to allow for your training to remain as efficient as possible. Anecdotal evidence shows that people who don’t consume enough fluid while taking creatine don’t get the full benefit.
Can You Get Shredded and Cut-Taking Creatine?
To reiterate the original question that was asked at the beginning of this article, can you really lose weight and take creatine at the same time? The answer is absolute. The biggest thing about fat loss is that people need to eat fewer calories than they’re expending.
Even when we look at the research, there are hundreds of studies supporting the idea that creatine is not only safe but won’t lead to an increase in fat tissue.
The process of creatine causing fat gain doesn’t exist.
- Creatine can increase strength and performance, furthering your calorie expenditure.
- Creatine can help with brain function when you become foggy in a fat loss phase.
- Creatine will also help with the fullness of the muscle cells when carbohydrates are very low.
Creatine is the most researched supplement on the market because it’s simply that good. There are few adverse effects, and it has a massive impact on physiological function. You cannot go wrong with it.
You can, however, go wrong by buying some new or fancy version for a whole lot more money. Monohydrate is the most efficient version there is, and it’s also the cheapest.