When you’re trying to bulk up, it can be difficult to find the right supplements to help you get there faster.
There are plenty of options of course, but many either don’t work well or have nasty side effects.
One of the most popular workout supplements is creatine. Creatine has gained a large following among athletes, weight lifters, and gym rats alike because it gets results. But there’s one part of creatine that any experienced lifter has at least heard of once: creatine bloating. It echoes through gyms and locker rooms, but is it a myth? Or reality?
What is Creatine?
Creatine is a popular pre and post-workout supplement that improves performance in the gym, as well as supporting muscle growth. It can also protect against neurological diseases. It occurs naturally in the body, and your muscles use it as energy to power through short, high-intensity exercise.
Taking a creatine supplement provides more creatine to the cells in your muscles, which process it into phosphocreatine. Phosphocreatine is used to create ATP, or Adenosine TriPhosphate, which is a high-energy molecule that acts as the primary fuel for our cells. Creatine leads to an increased amount of stored energy, allowing you to perform better in the gym, on the track, or in the pool. It also has a range of complementary benefits that foster enhanced muscle regeneration and encourage faster growth of new muscle.
Will Creatine Bloat Me?
Another benefit of creatine is that it draws more water into the muscles. A large amount of water can bind to creatine when it’s in the body, and this extra water helps your muscles regenerate both during your workout and after. However, it’s this build-up of water that causes the infamous creatine bloat.
Creatine bloating is different from allergic or digestive bloating, in that it actually causes little discomfort and it is very easy to rectify.
It’s also different in that it typically doesn’t happen in one single place on the body. This bloating occurs in your muscles, and can even temporarily increase the size of your muscles based on the added water content alone. The primary reason why most people raise concerns over creatine bloating is that many people don’t like how they look when they experience it.
Whether or not creatine will leave you bloated depends on a couple different factors. Your diet, water intake, exercise regimen, genetics, and dosage can all have an effect on whether or not you experience bloating. Some people who use creatine never even experience bloating. So let’s talk about what causes bloating, and we’ll look at what you can do to prevent it.
What Causes Creatine Bloating
- Water Retention
The primary cause of creatine bloating is water retention. Essentially, because such a large amount of water binds to creatine when it’s in the body, if your muscles don’t absorb all of the extra creatine in your system, all of that water remains in your muscles. The only way that creatine can leave your body, besides muscle absorption, is through your kidneys removing extra creatine and expelling it in your urine.
- Bulking On Creatine
Another common cause of creatine bloat is a high calorie diet. Many people eat far above their daily requirement of calories when they’re bulking, and often this level of caloric intake requires either a dedicated diet plan or a so-called “dirty bulk”. A dirty bulk involves eating any type of foods, healthy or unhealthy, in order to reach these calorie goals. Often this results in a mass intake of carbohydrates much higher than normal.
This elevated intake of calories and carbohydrates naturally causes the body to increase subcutaneous water retention or water stored beneath the skin. This can cause you to appear flabbier, smoother, and softer than you’re used to. Creatine is often used during a bulking phase, and creatine bloat has been associated with these same symptoms. This causes many to mistake bloating from their diet as bloating from creatine.
- Intestinal Bloat
With the most popular form, creatine monohydrate, some users report intestinal bloating. This is caused by improper absorption of the creatine in the stomach and intestines. It is different from the official “creatine bloat”, which occurs in the muscles. This type of bloating can be treated by either lowering the dose, increasing your water intake, or switching to other forms of creatine which are easier on your digestive system.
When Does Creatine Bloat Go Away
Depending on what the cause of your bloating is, it could go away in anywhere from one day to two weeks. The best way to deal with creatine bloating is first to determine the cause.
- Are you drinking enough water? If you’re not drinking at least 7-8 glasses of water a day that can cause bloating.
- Have you tried lowering your dosage? 5 grams is the typical dose, anything over may cause bloating.
- Does your diet consist of high quantities of carbohydrates or a large calorie count? Changing your diet might fix the feelings of bloating.
- Are you exercising enough? If your muscles aren’t absorbing the creatine already present in your system, it may certainly cause bloating. You should be exercising every day that you take creatine, and it’s best if you take creatine either directly before or after your workout.
How to Prevent Creatine Bloating
There are a couple different steps to take to prevent creatine bloating.
- Before you start taking creatine, make sure that you have an established workout regimen. If you’re not working out, creatine can actually be detrimental to your health and comfort where it would usually act as a beneficial supplement.
- Experiment with your dosage. Many people mistakenly “load” creatine, meaning they take a quadruple dose for the first week under the mistaken notion that this helps your body build up its creatine reserves. This is not only unnecessary but can even be harmful to your body. Start with a dose of 5 grams per workout. If you’re feeling uncomfortable, consider lowering the dose. If you feel great and want to experiment with a higher dose, bump up your dose by one or two grams a week to your new desired dosage.
- Drink a LOT of water. Creatine is a very water-hungry substance, and if it doesn’t get enough it can even cause cramps. Drink 7-8 glasses of water a day to keep your body properly hydrated.
- Eat a healthy diet. Ideally, you should be monitoring your macros like fats, carbs, and proteins. If you’re ingesting too many carbs, it can cause bloating which is often mistaken for creatine bloating.
- If you have a sensitive stomach, consider switching to a different type of creatine which is easier to digest.
Which Creatine won’t Cause Bloating
Most people, if properly hydrated, should never experience creatine bloating. However, intestinal bloating as a result of improper absorption of creatine is a different matter. If your digestive system isn’t quite agreeing with the standard creatine monohydrate, it’s extremely simple to switch to a different kind which is easier on your stomach and intestines. The other types of creatine, besides Creatine Monohydrate, are Ethyl Ester, Tri-Creatine Malate, Buffered Creatine, Micronized Creatine, Liquid Creatine, and Conjugated Creatine.
Creatine is an excellent supplement, and it is currently one of the most widely used pre-workouts in the world. Creatine can help you gain muscle quickly, and also supplies your muscles with the energy they need to push harder in short bursts. Many users worry about bloating, but relieving this possible symptom is very simple, and it’s even easier to avoid it ahead of time. Drink water, eat right, and exercise at least 3-5 times a week to avoid any uncomfortable bloating on your path to success.