Does Creatine Make You Bloat? — A Performance Dietitian Answers

Creatine is one of the most well-researched and effective supplements for training and performance. When talking about creatine to clients, a frequent question is, “Does creatine make you bloat?”

In this article, we will review what creatine is, how creatine works, the benefits of creatine, whether creatine will make you bloat if creatine will make you gain weight, and creatine supplement recommendations.

Let me introduce myself. I’m Jenn, a performance and wellness registered and licensed dietitian nutritionist based in the Twin Cities, Minnesota. I help active individuals and athletes fuel confidently by using a functional, individual-focused approach to fueling and performance that is purpose-driven and non-restrictive.

Let’s dive in!

What is Creatine

Creatine is a crucial component of energy production in the body. Creatine naturally occurs in some foods but is also made in the body. 

The body synthesizes 1-2 grams of creatine daily from the amino acids arginine, glycine, and methionine. 95% of creatine is stored in muscles, while the remaining is in organs such as the brain and kidneys. 

In quick, easy terms (we will get into the science in the next section), the body converts creatine to phosphocreatine for energy production. 

Benefits of Creatine

Enhanced Performance

Research has shown that the performance of high-intensity or repetitive exercise is increased by 10-20% depending on the amount of phosphocreatine stored in the muscle. 

Increased Strength and Power

Enhanced Recovery

Taking creatine with carbohydrates (around 95 grams)  increases creatine and carbohydrate stores in the muscle. Creatine and carbohydrate loading before exhaustive exercise promotes greater glycogen (the primary source of metabolic fuel for your muscles) retention than just carbohydrate loading alone. Replenishing glycogen storage is essential to recovery from training and preventing overtraining. 

Injury Prevention & Rehabilitation

 A study showed that creatine users experienced less cramping, heat illness/dehydration, muscle tightness, muscle strains/pulls, non-contact injuries, and total injuries/missed practices than those not taking creatine.

Evidence shows that creatine may help lessen muscle atrophy following immobilization and promote recovery during exercise-related rehabilitation. 

Neuroprotection

Concussion risk in contact sports has become a concern among sports organizations and the public. After a mild traumatic brain injury or concussion, brain creatine is reduced. Creatine supplementation is a potentially valuable strategy to reduce the severity and enhance recovery from a mild TBI or concussion by offsetting negative changes in energy status.

Does creatine make you bloat

How does Creatine Improve Performance?

I want to share a little science of how creatine improves energy during performance with you. With all of the information shared on social media about creatine, it is nice to know HOW creatine works in the body instead of just being told to “trust me, it works.” 

When taken in doses of 3 grams or more, creatine supplementation is associated with improved contractile performance and muscle hypertrophy during exercise. 

The body uses the creatine phosphate system for energy during high-intensity, short-duration exercises like weight lifting or sprinting. 

Creatine is converted to phosphocreatine by the enzyme creatine kinase. When a muscle rapidly contracts, like during exercise, the body uses adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which diminishes quickly during exercise. 

ATP is the energy source the cells use for various processes, including ion transport, muscle contraction, nerve impulse propagation, substrate phosphorylation, and chemical synthesis.  

Phosphocreatine can quickly replenish ATP.  

The fuller your creatine stores are, the quicker ATP is made for energy for your muscle cells, leading to enhanced performance. 

How much creatine and what time should you take?

Creatine supplementation increases muscle creatine and phosphocreatine stores by 10-40%, depending on the level of creatine in the muscle before supplementation. 

There are a couple of different creatine supplementation protocols that you could follow.

The first is the loading protocol. This protocol starts with a higher dose of 0.3 grams per kilogram per day of creatine monohydrate for 5 to 7 days. After the loading phase, the dose of creatine monohydrate drops to 3-5 grams per day for maintenance. 

Or you could skip the loading phase and take 3-5 grams of creatine monohydrate daily to see optimal results. This gradual protocol is more manageable for most and helps them to take creatine daily. 

The creatine timing depends on when you will be most consistent during the day. Research for pre-, intra-, and post-workout creatine intake still shows inconclusive results and needs strong evidence. Consistently taking creatine close to your workout is critical until more research emerges. 

Research shows that taking creatine with carbohydrates alone or with carbohydrates and protein increases creatine absorption. 

Does Creatine Make You Bloat?

The most common concern I hear from clients about before taking creatine is if it causes bloating. 

The bloating they hear about is typically due to water weight associated with the loading phase of the loading protocol.  

Creatine is taken into the muscle through circulation by a sodium-dependent creatine transporter. Since sodium is involved, water is also taken into the muscle to help maintain fluid balance. 

Some studies show an increase in intercellular volume over a short period during the loading phase. One study found that total body water increased by 7% and intracellular water increased by 9.2% in the creatine group. It is important to note that intracellular water is an essential cellular signal for protein synthesis, which helps increase muscle mass over time. 

However, numerous studies have shown no significant increase in total body water. 

It is important to stay hydrated while taking creatine since it may cause a temporary increase in water retention.

Does Creatine Make You Gain Weight?

Another concern about taking creatine is the myth of increased body mass, specifically fat mass. 

Numerous short and long-term studies have shown that creatine does not increase fat mass across various populations, including active males and females, older adults, and athletes. 

Creatine Supplement Recommendations

My top creatine recommendation is Thorne’s creatine. It is the one that I take daily and recommend to my clients. Its only ingredient is creatine monohydrate, and it is NSF-certified for sport. 

My following recommendation is Klean Athlete’s Creatine. It is NSF-certified for sport and only contains creatine monohydrate. 

If you would like a 20% discount on Thorne’s or Klean’s creatine, you can order through my Fullscript dispensary.

Final Thoughts

Creatine is considered safe and effective for most populations. In my opinion, the benefits of creatine outweigh the chance of minimal short-term bloating. 

As always, consult your doctor or dietitian before starting new supplements.

As a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN), I help active individuals and athletes fuel confidently by using a functional, individual-focused approach to fueling and performance that is both purpose-driven and non-restrictive. 

I have a passion for helping others achieve their goals and teaching them how to make balanced eating a part of their daily lifestyle.

My goal is to help you elevate your performance and wellness with nutrition, quality sleep, enhanced body confidence, and stress management.

Want to learn more? Schedule a free 15-minute discovery call today!

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist | Website

Jenn Schmidt is a licensed and board-certified Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in Minnesota. Her specialty is in performance nutrition and wellness, which focuses on helping individuals fuel, think, and move towards their best selves without compromising their relationship with food. Jenn is passionate about all things food-related and enjoys making complex science easy to understand for her clients and readers.

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