Creatine is the only strength sports supplement whose effect has been conclusively proven. So it’s not strange that natural bodybuilders embrace it. Yet many stop taking creatine as soon as they start cutting. In the cut you want to get as lean as possible and creatine would get in the way. But is that really so?
1. The effect of creatine as a strength sports supplement has been scientifically proven. Creatine supplements are also cheap.
2. Creatine is an excellent supplement to use during a cutting phase. Creatine supplementation helps you to maintain your training performance and recovery, which is important for maintaining your muscle mass. In addition, it may help to prevent muscle breakdown due to endurance efforts, which is useful if you do a lot of cardio during your cut.
3. There are no valid reasons to stop using creatine when you start cutting. The fact that your body retains moisture as a result of the supplementation does not have to be an obstacle either: it’s water, not fat.
WHAT CREATINE DOES
Creatine is a natural substance that is involved in the energy supply of your muscles. Besides the fact that your body produces creatine itself (one to two grams per day), you also get creatine from your diet, especially from meat and fish.
Supplementing with creatine helps bodybuilders in various ways in their quest to build muscle mass as quickly as possible, namely as follows:
- It increases neuromuscular activation, which means an increase in strength (you can train more intensively );
- It increases the high-energy phosphate metabolism, making you a higher training volume handle (you can do more training);
- It probably reduces the breakdown of proteins, so that you recover better (you can train more often if desired) [ i ] .
Creatine may offer bodybuilders even more benefits, such as an increase in growth hormone and testosterone levels, and an improvement in nutrient partioning. However, convincing scientific evidence for these claims is still lacking.
It seems unlikely that creatine supplementation directly contributes to fat loss [ x ] .
The best form of creatine supplementation is creatine monohydrate. You should take about 5 grams per day.
THE UTILITY IN THE CUT
In our opinion, these properties also make creatine an ideal supplement for the cut.
After all, during cutting you will have an energy deficit for a long time, so that you risk losing muscle mass, even with an adequate protein intake. You can minimize that loss by maintaining your training performance as much as possible, so by maintaining the intensity and volumes that you normally use.
However, a long-term energy deficit will eventually come at the expense of your training performance and recovery, which can mean loss of muscle mass. Creatine supplementation cannot completely prevent this, but it can certainly contribute to the quality of your training and recovery from it. It would be a shame to ignore such a simple (and cheap) tool.
Also, keep in mind that on a strict calorie-restricted diet, your creatine levels may be lower than normal because you eat less meat and/or fish.
So you understand that we just keep taking creatine while cutting. But why don’t many do that?
(SUPPOSED) DISADVANTAGES OF CREATINE IN THE CUT
“In the cut you want to be lean, but with creatine you retain moisture.”
CREATINE AND FAT GAIN
Provided: yes, if you take creatine supplements, your body usually retains more water. This may increase your body weight [ ii ] . But creatine supplementation will not make you fatter. An increase in fat mass as a result of creatine supplementation is a completely unfounded fear [ iii ] [ iv ] [ v ] , and no, the handful of calories in a scoop of creatine won’t make you fat either.
CREATINE AND FLUID RETENTION
Okay, so no extra fat, but you don’t want extra moisture if you want to look lean, do you? That’s right, in the sense that ‘lean’ for bodybuilders means: as much muscle mass as possible against as little fat mass as possible and as little extracellular fluid as possible. After all, a lot of ectacellular fluid means that you look less ‘sharp’, because there is still a layer of fluid over your muscles and veins.
However, the fluid retention resulting from creatine supplementation is mainly intracellular: the fluid is retained in the muscle. That means your muscles swell a little and you look fuller in principle, but “fuller” as in more muscular! You may have noticed this when you have just started taking creatine. That is why many coaches insist that water retention as a result of creatine supplementation does not affect how ‘tight’ you look, perhaps on the contrary [ viii ] .
However, some nuance is in order: it is not completely excluded that creatine supplementation also leads to some extracellular water retention, as one study suggests [ vi ] . However , this contradicts two other studies [ vii ] . It is therefore not yet entirely clear whether you may also retain some fluid outside the muscle cells through creatine supplementation. Some users think so: you sometimes hear that people say they look a bit puffy because of their eyes. We don’t have that experience anyway.
But even if creatine supplementation also causes some extracellular water retention, that is no reason to discontinue supplementation during the cut. It is not during the cut that you want to look your best, but afterwards. In fact, during a heavy, prolonged cutting phase, your body is anything but in top shape: the ongoing calorie restriction will cause your muscles to contain less and less glycogen, making them look less full. You may even look a bit ‘skinnyfat’ because of this.
Only when your body has recovered from dietary fatigue, the metabolic adaptation has been reversed and you can eat and train normally again, you will really see the results of your cut. The glycogen stores in your muscles are then fully restored, making them look full again. In combination with the reduced fat mass, you will hopefully see the desired muscle definition.
Remember: during the cut, your body is ‘under construction’.
Are you working towards an important goal in your cut, such as a competition or photo shoot, and do you suspect that creatine supplementation is causing you some extracellular water retention? Or do you just want to rule out any risk? Then stop taking creatine supplements a few weeks before your deadline. Preferably not in the last weeks of your cut (when your training performance will be tested the most), but in a transition period from cut to bulk (or maintenance), in which you slowly increase your calorie intake to your actual maintenance level ( the principle of reverse dieting).
FYI: if you have taken creatine for at least six to eight weeks and you stop the supplementation, the creatine levels in your body will remain elevated for about 28 days. So after 28 days they are back to the original level.
CREATINE AND BODY WEIGHT
The only downside we can think of about using creatine in the cut is that you can rely less on the scale as an indicator of fat loss. After all, we saw that by using creatine you retain more fluid and your body weight will probably increase. But that increase is only there if you have just started taking creatine. After about a week of supplementation, you will reach your maximum creatine levels and your weight will no longer increase (at least not as a result of creatine supplementation).
That is why it is wise not to start with a creatine course at the beginning of your cut.
There are good reasons to use creatine during the cut. It mainly helps you to maintain your training performance and recovery, which is important for maintaining your muscle mass. In addition, it may help to prevent muscle breakdown as a result of endurance efforts, which is useful if you do a lot of cardio during your cut.
There are no valid reasons to stop your creatine use when you start cutting. Creatine supplementation does allow you to retain more fluid, but this mainly occurs in the muscle (intracellular) and probably not or hardly outside it (extracellular). The fluid retention as a result of creatine supplementation therefore has little or no influence on muscle definition and if it does, that is no reason not to use creatine in the cut. During a prolonged cut phase, your body is ‘under construction’ anyway; you will only see the result some time after the cut, when you eat normally again and the glycogen stores in your muscles have been restored.
Creatine supplementation also does not increase fat mass. However, your body weight may increase somewhat if you have just started taking creatine, as a result of fluid retention. But if you were also taking creatine before the cut, the supplementation will not affect the evolution of your body weight during the cut and you can therefore use the scale as a reliable indicator of fat loss.
The effect of creatine has been scientifically proven, creatine supplements are cheap and they have no negative influence on fat burning. That is why creatine is also (or especially) a useful tool for natural bodybuilders during a cutting phase.
- [ i ] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11509496/
- [ ii ] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14636103/
- [ iii ] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC155510/
- [ iv ] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14636103
- [ v ] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26509366
- [ vi ] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC155510/
- [ vii ] https://peterbond.org/post/creatine-and-water-retention
- [ viii ] https://youtu.be/I_NenHs6S3o?t=171
- [ ix ] https://examine.com/rubric/effects/view/e5b1982aceddbdc18407270d37a52046/112241ea4f86148ef6f64b21241805bb/all/
- [ x ] https://youtu.be/Lv76PhGnCRE?t=59