Creatine + protein powder = magical gains?
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Let’s slow down here. Although it seems like more muscle-building supplementation would be better, let’s make sure there’s nothing at odds with these substances that might give you an “ick.
Is creatine mixed with protein powder a Franken supplement of epic proportions?
Or could combining these two big muscle-building supplements be a recipe for disaster?
If you’re looking to sneak a little hit of creatine into your protein shake, keep reading. This one’s for you. We’ll detail what impact these supplements have on your body. We’ll also take a look at what protein powder and creatine are made of and which processes they help to drive in your body.
Let’s learn more about creatine and protein powder and their impact.
Creatine — Overview
If you’ve ever set foot in the gym, it’s highly likely that you or someone you know is talking about creatine. This substance has been hailed as somewhat of a miracle for maxing out the impact of your resistance training.
It’s known to help you get more energy while you exercise, recover more efficiently, and maximize your lean muscle growth. Sounds like a win-win, right?
First, let’s get a little friendlier with what actually happens inside your body when you take creatine. If you’re a science hater, look away for this next part, or feel free to skip ahead.
Inside your body, you naturally produce your own stores of creatine.
This substance is an amino acid composed of three other amino acids: methionine, glycine, and arginine.
As a natural supplement for exercise, creatine is one of the most well-researched substances on the sports nutrition market.
Most clinical studies have been conducted on creatine monohydrate. But there are also other commercially available types of creatine that you can buy from sports nutrition stores like micronized or capsule creatine.
The micronized form has 20x smaller particles than the monohydrate. This makes it feel smoother to take as a supplement for some people.
In terms of performance though, most current research goes to show that there’s little tangible difference between how monohydrate vs. any other form of creatine will impact your athletic ability.
Creatine and Sports Performance
In the world of sports, creatine has been found to increase your strength, up your lean muscle stores, and improve the composition of your muscles.
This happens when you do heavy resistance training. In fact, there’s good evidence that supplementing your weightlifting routine with creatine can help you boost performance.
How does creatine work inside your body?
Your cells’ most basic form of fuel is a substance called ATP, or Adenosine Triphosphate.
Although we do produce natural creatine, our bodies only have enough stores for a small amount of exercise.
Inside your muscles, you have naturally occurring creatine stores called phosphocreatine. This substance helps to recycle ATP.
ATP then transfers energy to the cells of your body to drive cellular processes that you need to thrive, survive, and exercise, including the process of muscle contractions which happen when your muscles go to work.
Let’s say you’re doing some intense exercise. Maybe you’re going for a PB or one-rep max. Perhaps you’re feeling too lazy to work out. Chances are, you’re gonna need a little more fuel than the average person.
Creatine does occur naturally in the foods you eat. It is available mainly in animal products including:
- Red meat
- Seafood and fish
This is where a supplement like creatine comes in.
This substance gives most people the quick jolts of energy that they need to get better at explosive performance metrics. Running, jumping, and sprints may all feel easier for you if you supplement using creatine.
Protein Powder — Overview
Whey protein powders make up the market share of commercially sold protein powders.
Whey is a derivative of milk. Milk breaks down into two main protein types: casein, at 80%, and whey at 20%.
Some studies have shown that whey protein may be linked to disease prevention, including prevention of cancers.
Although this type of protein is animal-based, there are increasingly vegan protein supplementation options popping up on the market. These proteins, though, are mostly soy-based.
Whey protein was linked to improvements in body composition among overweight and obese adults. Soy protein has not been positively correlated with body composition.
The main mechanism in which protein powder impacts your body is through improvements to protein synthesis (the biological process where your cells make proteins).
Although the best way to get enough protein is always to consume it through your food, a study by Frontiers in Nutrition found that consuming protein either pre- or post-workout did benefit the protein synthesis process, athletic performance, and post-workout recovery in people that did eat enough dietary protein.
What Are the Differences Between Protein Powder and Creatine?
Protein powders and creatine aim to achieve the same goals but through different means.
Both want to make you stronger and more athletic.
But while creatine, as we saw above, actually works on your ATP stores to give you more energy and better capacity for exercise, protein powder focuses directly on muscle building.
Think of creatine as an energy booster, while protein powder focuses on building amino acids to help grow your muscles.
How Much Creatine Should I Take?
Creatine Loading Phase
When starting to supplement creatine, most people go through what’s called a creatine loading phase.
In this stage, for the first 5-7 days of supplementation, you take 20-25g of creatine per day. After your loading phase, you taper off to anywhere from 3-5g of creatine per day.
Regular Creatine Use
Following the loading phase, a maintenance dose of between 3-5g of creatine per day for most.
A study found that for young male athletes, taking 5g of creatine post-workout had a positive effect on gaining lean muscle and losing fat. In older adult populations, though, the results on the impact of creatine were inconclusive, although there seemed to be some positive correlation to greater lean muscle mass.
That said, everyone’s supplement journey is different. You’re probably facing a unique set of nutritional needs, so always talk to your doctor or a sports nutritionist if you’re thinking about taking on a new supplement routine.
How Much Protein Powder Should I Take?
Per scoop, most commercial protein supplements contain around 10-30g of protein.
Protein supplements that are designed to help you build muscle, in general, contain more protein per scoop than the ones that are designed to help you lose weight or burn fat.
Although protein powders can be beneficial in helping you achieve adequate daily protein consumption, keep in mind that many on the market do come with additives that may cause them to do more harm than good.
Some commercial proteins are chock full of sugars, synthetic sweeteners, colorants, or other commercial additives.
On top of giving you a protein boost, these protein powders can add a lot of calories to your diet.
Be aware and always read the nutrition labels to make sure the protein you’re taking in the dose at which you supplement it is conductive to helping you put on muscle, lose weight, burn fat, or whatever else you aim to achieve.
What Happens When You Mix Creatine and Protein Powder?
Protein and creatine to build the 🍑 😂 . . . . . . . . #protein #girldinner #gymgirldinner #gymmemes #gymreels #creatine #creatinemonohydrate #gymgirl #gymrat #gymratgirl #gym #gymlife #fitness #fitnesslife #fitnessgirl #gymjoke #joke #gymtok
@helavulptex chows down on a #girldinner of protein powder and creatine.
Dun dun dun, drumroll please…
Probably not a whole heck of a lot. Sorry to disappoint.
It makes very little real-world difference whether you mix creatine and protein, choose one to supplement with over the other, or consume them on alternating days.
Currently, there is no scientific evidence that mixing the two is unsafe. So if you want to get all your supplements in at the same time if it’s more convenient, you can go right ahead.
As long as you’re taking both at an appropriate dosage for your fitness, muscle-building, or recovery goals, you should be able to reap the benefits.
While it is medically safe to mix creatine and protein powder, from a muscle-building perspective, there’s not a lot of extra benefit to combining these two powerful concoctions.
At the root of it, both protein and creatine are packaged into supplements to help you “increase performance.”
But better performance in athletics looks different for everyone and the two supplements operate via different mechanisms to make your workouts better.
Protein powders help you build up the amino acids that your body needs for the process of protein synthesis. This can help you build up your lean muscle mass. Creatine helps you get the energy that you need to actually power your muscles up for a workout.
Although phosphocreatine (the creatine that is naturally produced by your body) helps you to gain an energy boost for athletic performance, sometimes you need a little something extra.
Supplementing with creatine monohydrate or micronized powder can help you feel more energetic during strenuous workouts.
That being said, it’s a good idea to always speak to a doctor or sports medicine professional prior to taking nutritional supplements.
Baer, D. J., Stote, K. S., Paul, D. R., Harris, G. K., Rumpler, W. V., & Clevidence, B. A. (2011). Whey protein but not soy protein supplementation alters body weight and composition in free-living overweight and obese adults. The Journal of Nutrition, 141(8), 1489–1494. https://doi.org/10.3945/jn.111.139840
Cintineo, H. P., Arent, M. A., Antonio, J., & Arent, S. M. (2018). Effects of Protein Supplementation on Performance and Recovery in Resistance and Endurance Training. Frontiers in nutrition, 5, 83. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2018.00083
Cooper, R., Naclerio, F., Allgrove, J., & Jimenez, A. (2012). Creatine supplementation with specific view to exercise/sports performance: an update. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 9(1), 33. https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-9-33
Davoodi, S. H., Shahbazi, R., Esmaeili, S., Sohrabvandi, S., Mortazavian, A., Jazayeri, S., & Taslimi, A. (2016). Health-Related Aspects of Milk Proteins. Iranian journal of pharmaceutical research: IJPR, 15(3), 573–591.
Hoerter JE, Ellis SR. Biochemistry, Protein Synthesis. [Updated 2023 Jul 17]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK545161/
Naderi, A., de Oliveira, E. P., Ziegenfuss, T. N., & Willems, M. T. (2016). Timing, Optimal Dose and Intake Duration of Dietary Supplements with Evidence-Based Use in Sports Nutrition. Journal of exercise nutrition & biochemistry, 20(4), 1–12. https://doi.org/10.20463/jenb.2016.0031
The hidden dangers of protein powders – Harvard Health. (2018, September 1). Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-hidden-dangers-of-protein-powders