taking creatine while cutting
Nutrition

Taking Creatine While Cutting: What You Should Know

Yes, you can and should take creatine while cutting. Doing so will help you to preserve your hard-earned lean muscle mass while you are stripping off body fat to get ripped. 

Impacts of Creatine

Creatine is the most studied gym supplement that exists. All of that research has made it abundantly clear that this natural compound can help to increase muscle power and size in conjunction with weight training

Creatine is naturally produced in the human body. It is used in the ATP energy production cycle which forms the body’s main energy system. When you perform short anaerobic exercises such as strength training with weights, you use up ATP, which stands for adenosine triphosphate. There are three phosphate molecules in each ‘packet’ of ATP.

However, that phosphate quickly gets used up. After a few reps of doing a barbell curl, the ATP will become ADP, or adenosine diphosphate (two phosphate molecules). When you take in creatine in the form of a supplement, you have stored creatine levels that can be called upon to replace the missing phosphate molecule and restore ATP.

The result of all of this is that you will be able to get out an extra one or two reps at the end of your set that you would otherwise not be able to do. 

Creatine and Cutting

A key reason that creatine is beneficial during cutting phases is that it draws water into the muscle cell. This is hugely beneficial to the muscle, helping to prevent catabolism during your cutting cycle while you have a reduced calorie intake. 

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When you are on a calorie deficit diet in order to strip off body fat, you need to get the right balance so that you don’t start to lose your lean muscle mass. Creatine supplements help you to get that balance right. 

When you’re doing your cutting phases, your strength levels are likely to dip slightly. Creatine supplements will help to restore your strength level, while also boosting your training energy and protecting your existing muscle mass. 

There have been some impressive studies to confirm the benefits of taking creating during reduced calorie intake cutting phases. In one study, bodybuilders who supplemented with creatine while also training heavy on compound exercises were able to achieve significantly better results in terms of fat reduction, strength gains, and muscle mass increase than those who trained the same way but did not take supplements.

How Much Creatine During A Cutting Phase?

During your cutting phase, your goal should be to saturate your muscle cells with creatine. Studies show that that can be achieved by taking between 3 and 5 grams of creatine each day. The most commonly recommended daily dose is 5 grams each day.

Many people like to begin their creatine supplementation program with a loading phase. This involves taking 20 grams of creatine every day for 5 days before leveling off to a maintenance dose of 5 grams of creatine per day.

There is conflicting research on whether a loading phase has any real benefit. However, it has been shown that taking in large amounts of creatine may result in bloating and other digestive problems. 

Because creatine draws water into your muscle cells, you should drink plenty of water while supplementing with this compound.

Risks of Creatine Supplementation

The huge amount of research on creatine supplementation tells us that there are no serious or long-term negative side effects associated with this compound. However, the following minor negative effects may be experienced, especially if you exceed to recommended creatine dosage of 5 grams per day:

  • Upset stomach
  • Water retention
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
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Can Creatine Make You Gain Fat?

Some people are concerned about taking creatine during cutting in the belief that it will actually make them fat. That is due to the ability of creatine to retain water in the muscle cell. It should be noted, however, that any weight that is gained through creatine supplementation will not be fat; it will either be water or muscle. 

As we have already seen, the water weight gain in your muscle cells will help you to preserve your hard-earned muscle tissue. But it may also cause the muscle to look a little puffy. As a result, you should taper off from creatine about a week before stepping on stage if you are cutting for a bodybuilding competition. 

Cardio Tips to Follow While Cutting

To achieve the maximum fat burning potential, you need to perform a combination of steady-state and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) cardio. You should be doing Steady State cardio 3X per week on alternate days on an empty stomach (ideally first thing in the morning). 

Steady State

The best exercise choice is the Stair Climber. Set the goal of achieving an average pace of 90 steps per minute for a total of 40 minutes of exercise duration. If you do not have access to a Stair Climber, go for a 40-minute power walk around your neighborhood, again aiming for 90 steps every minute. 

HIIT

HIIT consists of sprint training followed by short rest periods. During your sprint time, you MUST push to the absolute limit (imagine you are being chased by a very hungry dog!). 

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You will perform 3 HIIT sessions per week on a 30 / 10 Protocol. This means that you will sprint for 30 seconds, then recover for 10 seconds. 

You can either run outdoors or on a treadmill, in which case your sprint speed should be between 18-20 km per hour. After a 2-minute warm-up (4.5 kph), start sprinting and continue for 30 seconds. Now stop for a 10-second recovery (on the treadmill throw your legs out to the sides of the running belt). 

Repeat for 8 rounds of this high-intensity exercise. Add an extra round every 2 weeks.

Final Thoughts

Overall, supplementing with creatine during a cutting phase makes sense. While you may increase your cellular water levels by taking creatine, that is actually a good thing. It will help you to preserve muscle mass as you continue to reduce calories. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What creatine is best for cutting?

Of all the types of creatine, the best for cutting is standard creatine monohydrate. This is the most researched, the least likely to cause side effects, and the cheapest.

Is creatine better than protein?

Creatine is not better than protein; it is different. They have different functions in the body and should both be used. Creatine will give you more training energy, while protein will provide the amino acids to rebuild your stressed muscle tissue.

Does creatine make you gain weight?

You may gain a little bit of weight when you take creatine. However, this will be a combination of water and muscle. You will not gain fat when you supplement with creatine. 

Steve Theunissen

Steve Theunissen is a former gym owner and personal trainer based in Tauranga, New Zealand. He is the author of six hardcopy books and more than a hundred ebooks on the topics of bodybuilding, fitness, and fat loss.

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