Is Creatine Good for Weight Loss?

Craig Primack, MD, FACP, FAAP, MFOMA

Reviewed by Craig Primack, MD, FACP, FAAP, FOMA

Written by Lauren Panoff

Published 04/13/2024

You might be familiar with creatine as a bulking supplement, given its reputation for boosting muscle mass and strength. But what about creatine for weight loss?

Besides being a popular gym companion, creatine is also used in the hopes of weight loss. With all the talk about weight loss medications like Ozempic® and metformin, you might wonder, Does creatine help you lose weight?

Probably not. There’s little evidence that creatine will help you lose weight — at least, not directly.

Let’s look at what the available research says about creatine for weight loss. We’ll also go over how to get the most benefit from creatine supplements and some of its better uses.

Creatine is a naturally occurring compound found primarily in muscle cells. It plays a crucial role in producing adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the primary energy source for your cells. Your body relies on ATP for fuel, including during short bursts of intense physical activity like weightlifting or sprinting.

Creatine is made in your liver, kidneys and pancreas from amino acids (aka “the building blocks of protein”), such as arginine, glycine and methionine. You can also get creatine from certain foods, like red meat and fish.

Creatine supplements are widely available and commonly used by athletes and bodybuilders to enhance athletic performance, increase muscle mass and speed up recovery.

Your body needs to replenish one to three grams of creatine daily to maintain normal levels — about half of which you can get from your food.

Creatine monohydrate is the most common type of creatine in supplement form. It works by increasing your body’s creatine stores. Around 95 percent of the creatine in your body is stored in your muscles as phosphocreatine.

Phosphocreatine can be quickly turned into ATP during high-intensity exercise. This can help with strength, power and muscle endurance while getting your sweat on.

Can creatine help you lose weight? Maybe, but the evidence is inconclusive — and creatine isn’t typically associated with weight loss directly.

It might be good for weight loss in the sense that it helps power you through intense workouts — and exercise, as you know, is vital for weight loss.

Yes, it appears so. Creatine can support increased lean muscle mass and strength, boosting metabolic rate and energy expenditure. This may indirectly help you reach your weight loss goals.

As for creatine and fat loss, it might help — but maybe not directly.

Some studies suggest that creatine supplementation may lead to a slight increase in body weight due to water retention within muscles — but holding onto water weight isn’t the same thing as gaining body fat.

One study did find a possible link between the presence of creatine in fat cells and lower body mass index (BMI) as well as increased insulin sensitivity. More research is needed, though.

Still, while creatine might indirectly help your weight management efforts by giving exercise performance a boost, it’s not a one-stop-shop for weight loss.

You’re better off working out regularly, eating more nutrient-dense foods and focusing on other healthy lifestyle habits that support overall wellness.

The main uses of creatine are for muscle building, strength training and improving athletic performance. It’s also used as a muscle-recovery aid for athletes.

However, there are other potential uses and health benefits of creatine:

  • Mental health. Some evidence suggests that creatine supplementation might help people manage depression and anxiety.

  • Muscular disorders. Creatine could be good for muscle-related disorders like muscular dystrophy. How so? It can help with muscle strength and power, reduce fatigue and potentially protect muscle tissue by slowing down wasting (which happens with muscular dystrophy).

  • Neurodegenerative diseases. Creatine may help protect the brain and nervous system. This could be especially beneficial for those with Parkinson’s disease or Huntington’s disease by minimizing certain symptoms.

  • Traumatic brain injury. Creatine might help with recovery from traumatic brain injuries because of its protective properties. For instance, it could reduce damage to neurons (nerve cells that send messages and instructions all over your body).

  • Immune health. Creatine is a critical source of energy for immune cells, so it could support healthy immune function.

This is all promising, but it’s important to note that most of the studies on creatine have been done in animals.

Creatine is a commonly used supplement. But you’ll still want to weigh its potential pros and cons before adding it to your routine.

Benefits of creatine:

  • Creatine enhances muscle strength and athletic performance.

  • It increases muscle mass when combined with resistance training.

  • The compound supports faster recovery between workouts by replenishing ATP stores in your muscles.

  • It reduces fatigue during high-intensity exercise, so you can do longer, more intense workouts.

  • It aids in muscle gain, repair and muscle growth.

Potential downsides of creatine:

  • Creatine may cause digestive discomfort, like bloating or cramping.

  • Supplementation can lead to fluid-related weight gain due to water retention within muscles.

  • The long-term effects of creatine supplementation aren’t fully understood.

Research has shown that creatine supplementation can be safe and effective for improving athletic performance, particularly with workouts involving short bursts of intense effort.

However, as with any supplement, it’s essential to use creatine responsibly, follow the directions and not take more than the recommended dose. Excessive creatine intake can cause side effects like upset stomach or dehydration.

To be safe, people with pre-existing medical conditions should talk to a healthcare professional before taking creatine supplements.

Besides that, here’s what we recommend to get the most out of creatine.

1. Use the Optimal Creatine Dosage

How much creatine should you take? There’s no specific recommended intake for creatine because it’s considered a non-essential amino acid. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t benefits to supplementing.

The optimal dosage for creatine usually starts with what’s called a loading phase, followed by a maintenance phase. This means you’ll pack it in up front, then switch to a consistent, lower dose over the long term.

This might look like 20 grams of creatine a day, divided into four doses, for a week-long loading phase. The idea is to essentially saturate your muscles with creatine quickly.

After the creatine loading phase, you’ll switch to a maintenance dose of around three to five grams a day. This should be enough to keep the creatine in your muscles elevated.

As with any other supplement, folks can respond to creatine differently. Some might feel better or see benefits with a lower dose. The best way to know the optimal creatine dosage is to consult a health or fitness professional knowledgeable in using creatine for your goals.

2. Combine Creatine With Resistance Training

Make creatine work for you — and your muscles — by pairing it with resistance training. Regular movement is key for body composition goals, whether you’re looking to lose weight, build more skeletal muscle or both.

Here’s why.

As noted, taking a creatine supplement increases phosphocreatine in your muscles. This can boost ATP during resistance exercises, allowing you to lift heavier weights or do more reps.

The increased stress on your muscles helps them grow. Plus, resistance training boosts your muscle cells’ sensitivity to creatine, meaning more of it can be absorbed and used.

One review of trials involving more than 600 participants found that adults over 50 who used creatine supplements during resistance training lost over a pound more of fat mass compared to those who took a placebo.

3. Eat a Nutrient-Dense Diet

When your goal is healthy weight loss, good nutrition is essential — whether you’re taking creatine or not.

A nutrient-dense meal plan is the best way to make sure your body gets a variety of vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, healthy fats and antioxidants. This includes a balance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and lean proteins.

Eating these types of minimally processed foods also helps keep you fuller between meals and prevent overeating.

On the other hand, eating lots of ultra-processed foods can work against your weight loss goals. These foods are often high in saturated fat, sodium or added sugar — think soda, candy, pastries and packaged foods made from refined white flour.

They also tend to be high in “empty” calories, meaning they don’t offer many (or any) beneficial nutrients. Highly processed foods are quickly digested, spiking blood sugar levels and leaving you dissatisfied and reaching for more shortly after.

So while eating nutrient-dense meals may not directly make creatine work better, it will absolutely support your weight management goals.

4. Choose Safer Supplements

If you decide to add creatine — or any dietary supplement — to your routine, it’s important to prioritize safety. Supplements like creatine aren’t regulated like pharmaceuticals by the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration).

This means the FDA doesn’t review the safety, dosages or potential health benefits of supplements, and they don’t have to be third-party tested for quality and purity.

In other words, it’s not always a guarantee what you’ll get in a supplement bottle. Is it creatine or mostly just ground flour? Yikes.

One of the best things you can do is look for creatine supplements with a third-party testing seal. This tells you it contains what it says it contains, in the amount it claims, and is unlikely to pose any major health risks.

Examples of independent testing organizations for supplements include NSF International, USP and Consumer Lab.

Many people wonder, Should I take creatine while trying to lose weight? And the honest answer is…we don’t really know.

Creatine can help build muscle, but it doesn’t directly promote weight loss — and the evidence for its role in weight management isn’t strong one way or another. (Weight loss medication is a more evidence-based option for people with obesity.)

Still, creatine can be used to support your body composition goals. If you’re thinking about giving it a try, keep these things in mind:

  • It should be combined with other lifestyle habits. The bottom line is that creatine on its own isn’t a weight loss solution. But it can be paired with things like good nutrition and exercise to maximize its benefits for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.

  • There are potential downsides. The long-term effects of oral creatine supplementation aren’t well understood, and some people experience side effects like upset stomach or water retention. Stick to the directed doses of creatine, and talk to your healthcare before getting started.

  • Choose third-party tested supplements. Supplements can be like the Wild West. Look for a creatine supplement with an independent certification seal that signals it’s been tested for purity, quality and safety.

Want to explore other approaches to weight loss? Start by taking our free assessment.

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Craig Primack, MD, FACP, FAAP, FOMA

Dr. Craig Primack MD, FACP, FAAP, FOMA is a physician specializing in obesity medicine.

He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Illinois and subsequently attended medical school at Loyola University — The Stritch School of Medicine. 

He completed a combined residency in Internal Medicine and in Pediatrics at Banner University- Phoenix, and Phoenix Children's Hospital. He received post-residency training in Obesity Medicine and is one of about 7,000 physicians in the U.S. certified by the American Board of Obesity Medicine.

In 2006, Dr. Primack co-founded Scottdale Weight Loss Center in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he began practicing full-time obesity medicine. Scottsdale Weight Loss Center has grown since then to six obesity medicine clinicians in four locations around the greater Phoenix Metropolitan area.

From 2019–2021, he served as president of the Obesity Medicine Association (OMA), a society of over 5,000 clinicians dedicated to clinical obesity medicine. He has been on the OMA board since 2010, currently serving as ex-officio trustee.

Dr. Primack routinely does media interviews regarding weight loss and regularly speaks around the country educating medical professionals about weight loss and obesity care. He is co-author of the book, “Chasing Diets.”

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