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If you do gain weight when taking creatine, it may be due to water retention or muscle growth rather than additional fat. Here’s what research shows.

Creatine is an amino acid that provides energy to your cells and helps build muscle mass. For this reason, some people take oral creatine to enhance their athletic performance and transform their body.

Along with increasing muscle size, however, creatine can also cause unwanted weight gain, which some people mistake as fat.

Before taking creatine supplements, it’s important understand the type of weight gain you may experience, as well as what you can do to reverse unwanted weight.

Some people are concerned that oral creatine will make them fat. Maybe you’ve heard others complain of looking plump or swollen shortly after starting the supplement.

It’s true that creatine can cause some weight gain, but the weight gain may not be due to fat. There are other reason the number on the scale may have gone up.

1. Water weight

Water weight is a type of weight gain that can occur with creatine. Also known as fluid retention, creatine can cause rapid water weight because the supplement draws water into your muscles’ cells.

Your muscles will hold onto this water, resulting in bloating or puffiness around your arms, legs, or stomach. Your muscles may even appear bigger, even if you’ve just begun your training.

In the first week of taking oral creatine, some people gain about 2 to 4.5 pounds, mainly due to water retention.

2. Muscle mass

Despite causing some water weight gain, research has found that creatine can be an effective supplement for increasing endurance and strength. Over time, you may see an increase in your muscle strength and size.

Increased muscle mass will also tip the scale upward. As your muscles become bigger, water weight becomes less noticeable, and you’ll appear less swollen.

3. Non-muscle weight gain

You may also be concerned about non-muscle weight gain, namely fat. But despite a seemingly rapid increase in weight, creatine will not make you fat.

You have to consume more calories than you expend to gain fat. One scoop of creatine per day (about 5 grams) doesn’t have any calories, or at the very least, only a few calories. If you stay active and eat a healthy diet, you’re not likely to put on fat while using oral creatine.

Water weight gain with creatine may be temporary. Even so, here are a few tips to reduce fluid retention:

  • Increase your water intake. Drinking water stimulates urination, which helps remove excess water from your body.
  • Reduce your sodium intake. Too much sodium causes your body to retain fluid. Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, and limit processed foods and fast food. Keep your sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams per day.
  • Reduce your carbohydrate intake. You need carbs for energy, yet carbs also cause your body to hold onto water, so don’t overdo it. Limit your carbohydrate intake to between 225 and 325 grams per day.
  • Be patient. Exercise can reduce water retention. The more you work out and train your body, the less water you’ll retain.

Creatine helps your muscles use energy. It’s naturally produced by the liver, kidneys, and pancreas, but you can also get creatine from seafood and red meat.

If you take oral creatine, it binds with a phosphate molecule to form creatine phosphate (phosphocreatine), which provides your body with rapid energy for high-intensity performances.

Creatine phosphate helps you produce more adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a neurotransmitter that is your body’s primary source of energy.

Weight training and exercise require a lot of energy. Although your body produces creatine naturally, you may have a low reserve of natural creatine in your muscles.

Supplementation, however, helps increase the availability of ATP, providing your body with extra energy, strength, and endurance.

Many people take creatine to build strength, increase endurance, enhance their athletic performance, and build lean muscle mass. But it can be taken for other reasons, too.

Oral creatine may help improve brain disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and epilepsy. More studies are needed, as most research has been on animal models.

Additionally, it can help improve some muscular disorders. In a 2013 review of studies, researchers found that people living with muscular dystrophy had increased muscle strength after taking creatine supplements.

A 2012 study suggested that creatine may improve symptoms of major depression in women, too. Fifty-two women received 5 grams of creatine a day over an 8-week period.

Researchers found that the women who received creatine had improvements in their symptoms in as little as two weeks, with symptoms continuing to improve eight weeks later.

For the most part, creatine is safe and causes few adverse side effects. There are, however, concerns over the possibility of creatine causing liver, kidney, or heart damage in high doses.

If you have liver, kidney, or heart problems, consult your doctor to see if creatine is right for you.

Some minor side effects of creatine include muscle cramps, nausea, diarrhea, heat intolerance, and dizziness. Stop taking oral creatine if adverse side effects worsen or don’t improve.

Also, talk to your doctor if you have bipolar disorder. It is believed that creatine may increase mania in people with this condition. You should also consult a doctor if you take medications to avoid possible drug interactions.

Creatine can boost your energy stores and increase your athletic performance, but it may cause some water weight gain.

Fluid retention might be temporary, or it might continue for as long as you use creatine. However, it may become less noticeable as you build lean muscle mass.

Shop for creatine supplements online.