Creatine monohydrate is one of the most effective and popular supplements on the market, and one of the biggest concerns its users have is creatine bloating.
Because of the impressive safety and performance track record creatine has had with amateur, and professional bodybuilders, athletes and everyday people you’ll find a lot of myths and false facts or “opinions” from people.
This article will talk about some of these untruths, explain the steps you can take to avoid bloating and what to do if it happens.
What Is Creatine
Creatine is an amino acid that is produced by your kidneys, liver and pancreas usually about 1 to 2 grams a day and it is mainly stored in your skeletal muscles.
It’s made from the amino acids Arginine, Glycine, and Methionine. Amino acids are responsible for your body’s cellular growth, break down of food, repairs body tissue, and allows protein synthesis to help build muscle.
Simply put, creatine helps supply your muscles with energy in order to enhance your performance and strength.
Is Creatine Safe
Creatine is the most popular and highest studied fitness supplement on the market, and yet people still claim that it causes…
- weight gain
- kidney damage
- kidney stones
- muscle cramps
- digestive issues
Despite all of these rumors the international society of sports nutrition deems creatine as safe and beneficial to its users.
If you still are hesitant read the study above and come to your own opinion.
How It Works And Why To Take It
When you perform a physical exercise your muscles need energy to perform these tasks, that comes in the form of ATP ( Adenosine Triphosphate ). The problem is that your body has limited amounts of ATP and it quickly runs out.
After about 10 seconds of intense exercise you run out of ATP and your body needs to start producing more. This is why creatine supplementation is so helpful, it would be almost impossible to receive enough creatine through your food in order to make a difference.
When you take a daily dose of creatine, your body will increase its phosphocreatine storage which is used to create ATP (do you see what’s happening here), creatine will allow your body to make more ATP which will give you more energy allowing you to workout at a higher intensity for longer periods of time.
Bloating During The Loading Phase
If you’re going to experience bloating it is normally at the beginning during the loading phase. When you first start to take creatine you want to saturate your muscles in order to receive the quickest results.
For the first week you’ll take four 5 gram doses per day. One when you wake up, at lunch, at dinner, and before bed. After the loading phase you’ll do what is called maintenance dosing which is one dose per day between 3 and 5 grams.
When you’re loading you’ll have an increase in muscle mass due to water retention in your muscles, this is what will cause any type of creatine bloating.
If you’ve experienced bloating during the loading phase in the past or don’t want to take the chance of having it, you can skip the loading phase entirely. The only negative to this is that it will take 3 to 4 weeks for you to start seeing the benefits rather than a week.
Does It Matter When You Take Creatine
It doesn’t matter at all when you take creatine when it comes to increasing your performance, once your muscles are saturated it only matters that you take a daily dose to keep them full, but doesn’t matter when you take it.
I have had some clients tell me that taking it in the morning before they eat breakfast gives them the least chance of experiencing any negative issues. Everyone is different and the best habit would be for you to see what works best for you.
The Best Type Of Creatine To Avoid Bloating
There are many different types of creatine and ways to take it, the type that has the most research and studies behind it is creatine monohydrate.
There are other brands that try to boast that their products is easier to digest and a larger absorption rate, but once you do some research into them there isn’t any studies to back them up.
That is why creatine monohydrate stands out from the rest, there are studies showing how monohydrate has a higher absorption rate then all the others.
You can buy pre, and post workout supplements with creatine in it, but the best way to use it is to buy a creatine powder that way you know exactly how much you’re taking.
This will help you limit the bloating especially during the loading phase, you also don’t want to experience any side effects while taking a mix because you’ll have a harder time knowing which ingredient is causing it.
How To Avoid Creatine Bloating
There are some steps you can take and things to avoid to help you diminish or not experience creatine bloating all together.
Drinks lots of water
Since creatine pulls water into your muscles cells it will also cause you to become dehydrated if you’re not drinking the right amount of water. Dehydration will cause bloating, make sure you’re staying properly hydrated in order to not feel like a balloon.
Avoid High amounts of carbohydrates to keep from bloating
A high carb diet will cause your body to retain water, especially if you’re eating foods like breads, and pasta. You definitely want to avoid processed foods high in carbs that will also contain lots of sodium which will also cause bloating.
Stay away from foods that contain high amounts of sodium
Everyone needs salt in their diet,(2,300 mg per day) but too much salt will cause you to retain water. Sodium is a critical electrolyte, along with potassium and chloride, these three chemicals are needed to help your body deliver water to its cells. So not enough salt will cause your body to pull water from different areas.
Use A quality trusted brand of creatine
There are a lot of supplement companies that use faulty manufacturing, and marketing strategies to make you think that you’re receiving a high quality product when in fact you’re not.
You want to look for a company that uses third party testing to show that the product actually has and does what the label is stating.
One of the most trusted brands on the market is Optimum nutrition creatine monohydrate, Optimum nutrition has been around for a long time, is reputable, is used by professionals worldwide, and uses third party testing to assure their product matches up with what you respect.
Stick with small doses
The first week during the loading phase you’re going to take 20 grams a day split into 4 doses, but after that you’re only going to take a daily dose of 3 to 5 grams after that to maintain your levels.
There is absolutely nothing to gain taking more than 5 grams a day after the loading phase. Your muscles are completely saturated and the only thing that will happen is your liver, and kidneys will absorb more and you will increase the chances of becoming bloated.
A bad diet will cause bloating
One of the worst habits I see as a trainer is when people who are bulking think that the only thing they need to worry about is the amount of calories they eat, but ignore the quality of food they receive the calories from.
Eating fast food, processed foods, and other horrible choices that common sense should tell you to avoid will make you retain water and cause bloating.
Unhealthy foods are hard to digest, and produce bad bacteria in your gut causing that uncomfortable feeling of being bloated. People all too often blame the creatine but are actually doing it to themselves.
Avoid foods high in sugar
Foods high in sugar are harder to digest and tend to sit in your gut for longer where the bacteria feeds on the sugar and causes a build up of gas, this results in your stomach being blown up like a balloon.
If you want the best results from your fitness program you need to eat the correct foods that will give your body the optimal fuel to do what you’re asking of it.
How Much Water Weight Do You Gain From Creatine
The average person will gain 1.5 to 3.5 pounds of water weight during the loading phase from water retention. This number will start to diminish as you start taking a maintenance dose of 5 grams a day after you have loaded.
Does Creatine Make You Fat
The answer to this is a definitive NO.
This is where misconceptions and bad advice comes into play, you will gain weight while on creatine, but it is not from extra body fat.
It’s either from your muscles pulling in and holding onto water or it’s from you building muscle, which is exactly what you want.
Both of these scenarios will increase the number you see on the scale.
I can’t tell you how many times I hear someone say creatine is making them fat, and once I start to probe and figure out what their daily habits are, it comes clear that they have a horrible diet, but feel better blaming creatine.
If you follow a healthy nutrition and fitness plan, you will not see any extra fat on your body from creatine supplementation.
Can You Lose weight While Taking Creatine
If you’re trying to lose weight either to reduce your body fat percentages or because you just got done doing a bulking cycle and now you want more definition, creatine is your go to supplement to help with both.
You never want to lose lean muscle mass, and no matter why you’re trying to lose weight it can only be done by putting yourself on a calorie deficit which will threaten your lean muscle because your body will be looking for ways to make up for the loss of energy.
Creatine in this situation will help prevent muscle loss and will also give you more energy so that you can lift and workout longer burning more calories and in the end losing a higher percentage of fat.
What To Do If You Gain weight After Taking Creatine
You have to first figure out why you’re gaining weight.
If you’re gaining weight through water retention during the loading phase, be patient and wait for it to diminish.
If you’re gaining weight due to building muscle then be happy, and stop questioning good things.
Also make sure to evaluate your fitness and nutrition programs. Are you eating healthy and working out on a regular basis.
If you’re bulking and on a calorie surplus make sure you’re not eating too many calories.
What Happens When You stop Taking Creatine
Here are a few untruths about what happens when you stop taking creatine
- Will you lose muscle – Once you build muscle it will always be there as long as you continue to eat the correct amount of calories and workout on a regular basis. The only difference you will see in your muscles is that once they lose the water weight they won’t seem as swollen.
- How long does it take for the creatine to leave your system – The levels in your body will start to diminish 10 to 14 days after you stop using and will be completely gone 4 to 6 weeks after you stop. Your body will go back to producing its normal 1 to 2 grams per day naturally.
- What happens if you stop taking creatine but continue to workout – I’ll repeat that you won’t lose any muscle, but you will notice a decrease in energy and the amount of reps you can do.
Like a lot of things in the fitness world, there aren’t many situations that are a one size fits all answer for everyone. I have clients that take creatine and never experience creatine bloating, and others that have it so bad they can’t continue usage.
I normally experience it during the loading phase and that’s it, unless I become a little dehydrated. Follow a healthy nutrition and fitness regimen and you’ll most likely be fine.