If you want to start a cutting phase, you have to plan your training, diet, and supplementation in advance. In this article, we will tackle the question: should you take creatine while cutting?
Yes, you should take creatine while cutting. During cutting, creatine protects your muscle fibers from damage by bringing water into your muscles. Furthermore, with lower energy levels due to a reduction in carbohydrates, creatine helps your training by getting you through the reps you’d be too spent for otherwise.
In this article, we will go more in-depth about this topic, talking about:
And in general, a more extensive breakdown of this topic. Let's get started.
How does creatine work?
If you understand how creatine works, you will have a better understanding of why you don't have to stop taking creatine during a cutting phase, quite the opposite!
Don't worry, we will keep it as non-nerdy and easy to understand as possible.
Creatine is naturally produced by the human body from three amino acids.
Aside from that, you are also getting creatine from your diet, provided you eat animal products.
Most of the creatine in your body - 95% to be more precise - is located in the muscles and acts as an energy source. Unfortunately, your muscle cells are only 60-80% filled with creatine at any given time, so that is why supplementation is recommended for athletes.
Your body's main source of energy is a system called adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
During intense exercise, your body breaks down ATP into adenosine diphosphate (ADP), which can no longer be used as an energy source. Creatine donates its phosphate group to ADP to transform it back into ATP, so that it can be used for energy.
In simple terms: creatine gives you extra energy during intense exercise.
What are the benefits of creatine?
Creatine giving you extra energy during intense exercise is not the only benefit. In fact, creatine is the best supplement (arguably) for a reason: it comes with a myriad of benefits.
And these are only the benefits pertaining to training performance.
Now, that sounds pretty good but…
These don't apply to you wanting to do a cutting phase and getting lean. For this reason, I want us to have a look at the benefits of taking creatine in the context of cutting.
How does creatine help during a cutting phase
A cutting phase is characterized by a reduction in calories and usually an increase in cardio training, with the goal of losing fat, while maintaining as much of your muscle mass.
Chances are you already know this. Let's zero in on the reduction in calories.
This reduction in calories is done through the manipulation of macronutrients - mainly carbs.
As you go through the cutting process, you will decrease the amount of carbohydrates you eat. As you eat less carbohydrates, there will be less glycogen stores in your muscles, and your energy levels will have to suffer - especially in the gym.
Creatine can partly offset this issue, since it gives you a boost in energy.
If you come to think about it, your main goal during a cut is to drop as much fat while maintaining as much of your muscle mass as possible. It then only makes sense to use every advantage you have - in this case creatine - to fight the loss of strength and muscle mass.
Will creatine hinder fat loss?
On the contrary, creatine can indirectly help you lose more weight.
Since creatine gives you extra energy to push yourself harder during training, you can burn more calories when training and taking creatine, than when training without supplementation.
However, that is entirely up to you and how hard you push yourself.
Why do people think creatine can hinder fat loss?
Most people gain a few pounds of water weight once they start creatine supplementation. Which may be the reason why they think stopping creatine will benefit their cut. If you gain weight when you start taking creatine, then the reverse should be true - i.e. weight loss when you stop taking it.
That is true, but the weight gain is entirely comprised of additional liquid.
Before you start taking creatine, your muscle cells are constantly 60-80% full with creatine.
Once you start supplementation to bump that number to 100%, creatine can only enter your muscles with additional liquid. Which in turn, makes your muscles appear fuller and your scale show you gained weight.
However, that is not fat.
And if you stop taking creatine while cutting, your "scale weight" may drop but your body fat percentage will be the same. If anything, you will look just a bit fatter because with the loss of additional liquid, your muscles will look smaller but under the same body fat percentage.
Should you take creatine while cutting?
Taking into account everything we have said so far, the answer is yes. Creatine can only help you during your cut, because it preserves muscle mass and strength and keeps your muscles hydrated, preventing potential injuries.
That said, there are two instances when you should stop taking creatine while cutting:
If you are in any of these situations, then stopping creatine could be beneficial.
However, knowing that creatine takes 2 to 4 weeks to leave your body entirely, we recommend you to cycle off creatine close to your event date. This way, you can experience all the benefits of creatine during a portion of your cutting phase, and still lose the water weight in due time for the event.
How much creatine should you take during your cut?
Whether you are bulking, maintaining, or cutting, the amount of creatine you should be taking will remain the same - 3-5g per day, on an ongoing basis.
This applies if you have been taking creatine for some time.
If you haven't taken creatine yet and want to add it as part of your cutting phase, here is how to do it. You first need to reach muscle creatine saturation, which is another way of saying that you need to fill your muscle cells with creatine.
There are two ways to achieve this:
Once you start taking creatine, your weight might increase as a result of the increased water retention.
If you are in the middle of a cutting phase, the change in weight may throw you off.
Remember that you are not putting on fat, though. The extra water will go inside your muscles, not under your skin, so it won't give you the appearance of getting fat.
Considerations and side effects of creatine
Creatine is the most thoroughly researched supplement there is. Several studies have also been conducted aiming to find any potential short term and long term side effects.
The data is clear and consistent: creatine is safe for both short and long term use.
With that being said, there are two minor side effects you will notice:
All in all, creatine is a safe supplement with little to no confirmed side effects, as long as you don't exceed the recommended dose of up to 10g per serving.
Factors that can influence your cutting results
There are different factors that can influence the results of your cutting phase. Most of these factors are in your control, while a few are a product of nature.
If you want to get exotically lean, you will need to dive deeper into topics like workout, diet, and supplementation timing and strategy. This is a level not many people can achieve and, frankly, it is not worth it for the majority of the population.
It all depends on the extent to which you want to lose weight.
Getting to 10% body fat from 13% is going to be way easier than getting to 4% from 7%.
Tips for cutting
With or without creatine, a cutting phase is going to get rough at times. And even with the best low calorie high protein recipes it can get tough.
Here are our best tips for cutting that should make your life easier:
These are a couple of our tips to make your cutting phase with or without creatine easier.
Can creatine make you gain fat?
No, creatine can't make you gain fat because it has zero calories. Creatine is just an amino acid which helps our adenosine triphosphate (ATP) system replenish faster after intense exercise.
If anything, creatine can help you lose weight because it gives you more energy which can lead to more calories burnt.
What creatine is best for cutting?
The best creatine is creatine monohydrate, whether for bulking, cutting, or maintaining.
This variety of creatine is the most tested, reliable, and predictable form of creatine. All other types of creatine pale in comparison. However, manufacturers will come up with "new and revolutionary" types of creatine, just because they can charge more for those.
Is creatine for bulking or cutting?
Creatine is both for bulking and cutting.
During a bulking phase, creatine can give you the energy necessary to lift weight you couldn't have otherwise. In turn, with proper nutrition and rest, you get the increased potential to grow bigger.
During a cutting phase, creatine can help you avoid injury by keeping the muscles hydrated, as well as maximize how much muscle mass and strength you can maintain while losing weight.
How to avoid bloating when taking creatine?
Creatine bloating is common during a loading phase. The best way to avoid bloating when taking creatine is to avoid the loading phase and stick to the recommended 3-5g per day, on an ongoing basis.
When all is said and done, should you take creatine while cutting?
Yes, you should. During a cutting phase, you are inevitably losing some muscle mass alongside the actual fat loss. Creatine helps preserve both your strength and muscle mass, as well as aiding you in avoiding injuries like muscle strains by keeping your muscles hydrated.
During a fat loss phase you want every edge possible against muscle and strength loss, and creatine offers you that edge.
Over to you.