Does Creatine Make You Gain Weight? (Is This Bad?)

September 25, 2023

While creatine offers a range of benefits for athletes, such as increased strength, enhanced recovery, and improved performance, some are hesitant to incorporate it into their regimen due to concerns about potential weight gain. However, does creatine make you gain weight?

Although creatine may cause a temporary increase in weight during the initial days of use due to heightened water retention and potentially contribute to long-term weight gain through muscle development, there is no substantiated evidence suggesting that creatine leads to fat gain.

You need to consider some things if you want to use creatine but are concerned about seeing the number on the scale increase.

Does Creatine Make You Gain Weight?

When discussing the impact of creatine on weight, it is essential to differentiate between fat gain and weight on the scale. Two things to consider that can cause an increase in scale weight without affecting your fat percentage in any way: Water retention and increased muscle mass.

The initial loading period for creatine supplementation, which involves taking 20 grams daily for 5-7 days, generally leads to a rise in body mass of 1-3 kilograms. This increase is primarily water retention [1, 2].

However, even though this is only a short-term response, many individuals have assumed that this response persists in the long term without sufficient scientific evidence to substantiate this belief [3].

Creatine affects how water is retained in the body. It enters muscles with the help of a transporter that uses sodium [4].

This process also brings water into the muscles to keep things balanced. However, because of other processes in the body, creatine probably doesn’t greatly change the amount of sodium inside cells [3].

Next, you might also see scale weight increase due to increases in muscle mass, which is one of the main reasons many athletes choose to take creatine [5].

There is no evidence that taking creatine will lead to fat mass gain in various populations.

In short-term studies (ranging from 1 to 8 weeks) of supplementation on older women ages 58-71 years [6], older men ages 59-72 years [7], young adult men doing resistance training between the ages of 20 – 23 [8] adult recreational male bodybuilders ages 23 – 26 [9], young men between the ages of 21 and 24 [10], exercising male and females between 21 – 23 years old [11] and rugby union players between the ages of 27 – 30 [12], creatine intake did not affect fat mass.

These results were reproduced in studies longer than 8 weeks. Healthy resistance-trained men who did the standard loading protocol (20 g/day for 7 days) followed by a maintenance protocol of 5 g/d for 11 weeks saw an increase in fat-free mass (muscle mass) but no changes in fat mass [13].

When older men (about 70 years of age) took creatine for 12 weeks while doing resistance training, no increases in fat mass could be found [14]. Similar results were seen when older females took creatine for 24 weeks [15].

A few studies found a decrease in fat mass when using creatine in various populations, namely children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia [16] and older adults [17].

How Much Weight Will You Gain Taking Creatine?

Does Creatine Make You Gain Weight If You Don’t Work Out

A meta-analysis of 96 publications (100 studies) with 1847 participants found that creatine users had a 2.2% increase in starting body weight due to lean body mass. They had gained a further 1.8% of their starting body weight due to water retention. However, participants lost 2.5% of their starting body weight in fat mass.

This means that, in total, participants only saw an average of 1.2kg of weight gain from taking creatine, and this was due to muscle gains and water retention [19].

Does Creatine Make You Gain Weight If You Don’t Work Out?

If you are in the early stages of taking creatine, you will have some water retention regardless of whether you work out. For optimum effects, creatine should be taken daily, including rest days.

However, if you do not engage in regular workouts, you won’t experience significant improvements in muscle strength or gains solely from creatine supplementation – you need to incorporate a training stimulus to fully reap the benefits of creatine.

To gain fat, you must be in a positive energy balance [18] – i.e., eating more than you burn. Creatine itself contains minimal calories and, will not lead to excessive energy intake and does not lead to storage of fat [4].

Does Creatine Make You Gain Weight In Your Face & Stomach?

As mentioned, you might see some water retention in the initial stages of using creatine [1,  2], especially if you are doing a load.

The water retention can manifest itself in the face and stomach area. However, this is temporary [3], and your body’s fluid balance will return to normal after a few days.

Summary

While there is a chance that creatine can cause fluctuations in scale weight due to initial water retention in the short term and muscle gains in the longer term, current research suggests that it does not make you gain fat mass – and in some cases, it can even lead to decreased fat mass.

References

  1. Kraemer, W. J., & Volek, J. S. (1999). Creatine supplementation: Its role in human performance. Clinical Sports Medicine, 18, 651–666.
  2. Deminice, R., Rosa, F. T., Pfrimer, K., Ferrioli, E., Jordao, A. A., & Freitas, E. (2016). Creatine Supplementation Increases Total Body Water in Soccer Players: a Deuterium Oxide Dilution Study. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 37, 149–153.
  3. Francaux, M., & Poortmans, J. R. (2006). Side effects of creatine supplementation in athletes. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 1, 311–323. doi: 10.1123/ijspp.1.4.311.
  4. Wyss, M., & Kaddurah-Daouk, R. (2000). Creatine and creatinine metabolism. Physiological Reviews, 80, 1107–1213. doi: 10.1152/physrev.2000.80.3.1107.
  5. Kreider, R. B., Kalman, D. S., Antonio, J., Ziegenfuss, T. N., Wildman, R., Collins, R., Candow, D. G., Kleiner, S. M., Almada, A. L., & Lopez, H. L. (2017). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 14, 18. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z
  6. Gotshalk, L. A., Kraemer, W. J., Mendonca, M. A., Vingren, J. L., Kenny, A. M., Spiering, B. A., Hatfield, D. L., Fragala, M. S., & Volek, J. S. (2008). Creatine supplementation improves muscular performance in older women. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 102, 223–231. doi: 10.1007/s00421-007-0580-y.
  7. Gotshalk, L. A., Volek, J. S., Staron, R. S., Denegar, C. R., Hagerman, F. C., & Kraemer, W. J. (2002). Creatine supplementation improves muscular performance in older men. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 34, 537–543. doi: 10.1097/00005768-200203000-00023.
  8. Volek, J. S., Ratamess, N. A., Rubin, M. R., Gomez, A. L., French, D. N., McGuigan, M. M., Scheett, T. P., Sharman, M. J., Hakkinen, K., & Kraemer, W. J. (2004). The effects of creatine supplementation on muscular performance and body composition responses to short-term resistance training overreaching. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 91, 628–637. doi: 10.1007/s00421-003-1031-z.
  9. Antonio, J., & Ciccone, V. (2013). The effects of pre versus post workout supplementation of creatine monohydrate on body composition and strength. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 10, 36–6 eCollection 2013.
  10. Becque, M. D., Lochmann, J. D., & Melrose, D. R. (2000). Effects of oral creatine supplementation on muscular strength and body composition. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 32, 654–658. doi: 10.1097/00005768-200003000-00016.
  11. Rawson, E. S., Stec, M. J., Frederickson, S. J., & Miles, M. P. (2011). Low-dose creatine supplementation enhances fatigue resistance in the absence of weight gain. Nutrition, 27(4), 451-455.
  12. Chilibeck, P. D., Magnus, C., & Anderson, M. (2007). Effect of in-season creatine supplementation on body composition and performance in rugby union football players. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 32, 1052–1057. doi: 10.1139/H07-072.
  13. Volek, J. S., Duncan, N. D., Mazzetti, S. A., Staron, R. S., Putukian, M., Gomez, A. L., Pearson, D. R., Fink, W. J., & Kraemer, W. J. (1999). Performance and muscle fiber adaptations to creatine supplementation and heavy resistance training. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 31, 1147–1156. doi: 10.1097/00005768-199908000-00011.
  14. Chrusch, M. J., Chilibeck, P. D., Chad, K. E., Davison, K. S., & Burke, D. G. (2001). Creatine supplementation combined with resistance training in older men. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 33, 2111–2117. doi: 10.1097/00005768-200112000-00021.
  15. Gualano, B., Macedo, A. R., Alves, C. R., Roschel, H., Benatti, F. B., Takayama, L., de Sa Pinto, A. L., Lima, F. R., & Pereira, R. M. (2014). Creatine supplementation and resistance training in vulnerable older women: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Experimental Gerontology, 53, 7–15. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2014.02.003.
  16. Bourgeois, J. M., Nagel, K., Pearce, E., Wright, M., Barr, R. D., & Tarnopolsky, M. A. (2008). Creatine monohydrate attenuates body fat accumulation in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia during maintenance chemotherapy. Pediatric Blood & Cancer, 51, 183–187. doi: 10.1002/pbc.21571.
  17. Forbes, S., Candow, D., Krentz, J., Roberts, M., & Young, K. (2019). Body fat changes following creatine supplementation and resistance training in adults > 50 years of age: A meta-analysis. Journal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology, 4, 62. doi: 10.3390/jfmk4030062.
  18. Aragon, A. A., Schoenfeld, B. J., Wildman, R., Kleiner, S., VanDusseldorp, T., Taylor, L., Earnest, C. P., Arciero, P. J., Wilborn, C., Kalman, D. S., Stout, J. R., Willoughby, D. S., Campbell, B., Arent, S. M., Bannock, L., Smith-Ryan, A. E., & Antonio, J. (2017). International society of sports nutrition position stand: diets and body composition. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition14, 16. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017-0174-y
  19. Branch J. D. (2003). Effect of creatine supplementation on body composition and performance: a meta-analysis. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism, 13(2), 198–226. https://doi.org/10.1123/ijsnem.13.2.198
About the Author

Hanli is a Registered Dietitian with a special interest in sports nutrition. She has a Master's degree and is currently a PhD candidate focusing on adolescent athlete nutrition. She has published research in the Obesity Reviews journal and is a research coordinator at the Sport Science Institute of South Africa.

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