How to Use Creatine While Cutting

How to Use Creatine When Cutting
Some experienced weightlifters operate under two modes of operation:

  1. Bulking
  2. Then cutting

The idea is that you maximize muscle mass growth by putting on weight.

This comes with some excess fat, which is why bulking is followed by cutting.

Cutting is when you focus on burning fat while minimizing muscle loss.

You’ll typically lose some muscle while losing weight, but a good cut sees little strength loss as those numbers on the scale drop away.

Eventually, you’ll end up with great abs, well-defined biceps, and a tush which makes your favorite gender swoon.

Creatine is a supplement often used to help you put on muscle fast.

Can you use creatine while cutting, too?

And if so, how do you use it properly?

I’ll start with a science lesson but you can skip ahead if you want to know the why, not the how, of using creatine to improve your cuts.

Should You Use Creatine While Cutting?

Can you use creatine while cutting pros cons how why

It’s a white powder that helps fuel your muscles. But is it good for when you want to keep muscles while burning fat?

Yes.

Next question?

Oh, fine. I’ll explain this answer.

Creatine is an almost perfect weight loss supplement.

Most weight-loss supplements, such as Hydroxycut Platinum, are thermogenic.

This means they increase your metabolic rate and help you burn more calories.

Creatine is different, though.

Instead, it helps you work out harder.

There’s another beneficial effect, too.

The Physiological Effects of Creatine on Your Muscles

Creatine is a substance produced by your body to help store glycogen in your muscles and to convert ADH into ATP.

But there’s also something called leucine oxidation, which I’ll get to in a minute.

Glycogen

Your muscles use stored glycogen to fuel themselves so they have to rely less on your blood’s nutrition transport abilities.

Glycolysis is the process in which your body converts stored glucose (glycogen) into ATP.

This means that having extra amounts of creatine in your body, say, from supplementing with it, allows your body to store up extra energy for your next anaerobic workout.

Note, however, that this benefit doesn’t apply as much during prolonged exercises.

So, creatine doesn’t have as much effect when you go running, swimming, or practice other forms of cardio exercise.

The Phosphocreatine Cycle (ATP – ADP – ATP)

Phosphocreatine cycle diagram ATP ADP recycling muscle energy

Diagram by Samuel Tiukuvaara (CC BY 3.0)

Sure, increasing your glycogen stores is nice, but what about after those stores are used?

Your muscles rely on adenosine triphosphate (ATP) for energy.

The ATP cycle is a complex process, but the tl;dr is:

Pop off one of those phosphate groups for the energy to make a muscle fiber move!

The result is adenosine diphosphate, ADP, which cannot be used by your muscles.

Creatine, however, recycles that ADP back into ATP through the phosphocreatine system[1].

Your muscles only store enough ATP for several seconds of work.

Creatine turns the used-up ADP back into ATP so you can keep those muscles workin’ for quite a bit longer!

Leucine Oxidation

You can think of “oxidation” as “a very slow burn” and you’d only be wrong in ways that don’t matter.

Fire is a form of very fast oxidation.

Creatine while cutting inhibits leucine oxidation branched chain amino acid

Sure, you can supplement leucine by taking BCAAs, but you may not have to if you protect leucine with creatine!

Your body oxidizes some stuff as part of normal metabolism.

Generally, however, oxidation is not a good thing (hence why anti-oxidants have been the rage for over a decade) because your body has to repair oxidized cells.

Exercise does involve oxidizing some of the amino acids which make up your muscles.

Specifically leucine, a branched-chain amino acid that both makes up muscular protein and is important for protein synthesis.

Good news!

Creatine inhibits leucine oxidation[2].

This means that, while creatine doesn’t directly increase protein synthesis, it does prevent damage to your muscles.

How Creatine Helps You Burn Fat

All this science means that creatine helps you maintain muscle mass as you burn fat in two ways:

  1. Your workouts are more efficient
  2. Muscle damage is minimized

Let’s look at those two effects in more detail, starting with the latter. Because I’ve already explained it.

Creatine Minimizes Muscle Loss

The whole thing about preventing leucine oxidation means you lose less muscle mass from each workout on a cut than you would without creatine oxidation.

The point of a cut is to keep up muscle mass as you burn fat, so anything that protects your muscles is a Good Thing.

Creatine Increases Your Workout Efficiency

Creatine while cutting keeps muscles fueled despite calorie deficit

Taking creatine while cutting helps keep your muscles fueled even when you’re eating at a caloric deficit

The hardest part about cutting is how you never seem to be intaking enough calories to feel like you’re appropriately fueling your body.

Well, if you were taking in enough calories, you wouldn’t be cutting and losing weight!

This has the side effect of making it hard for your muscles to store enough glycogen for a good workout session.

Creatine comes into play here by boosting those glycogen stores, allowing you to exercise harder than you would otherwise be able to while on a cut.

Being able to go harder while lifting that bar increases the effect of each gym session.

This means you’ll be able to achieve your fitness goals faster.

In other words, you can end the cut faster!

How to Take Creatine While Cutting

Honestly, there’s not much difference between taking creatine while building muscle mass and taking creatine during a cut.

Depending on your body, you want to consume at least 1-3 grams of creatine per day to maintain your muscle mass[3], more if you’re exercising.

This is not too difficult to achieve if you’re a carnivore, but vegetarians and vegans will need to supplement for this.

Elite athletes may need up to 20 grams of creatine per day!

Most people, however, will do well with 5-10 grams of creatine every day.Best form of creatine while cutting monohydrate fuel muscle lean mass

This isn’t too difficult to achieve so long as you consume enough protein and take some creatine.

It’s one of the cheapest supplements, after all.

By the way, you don’t need to worry about which form of creatine you’re taking.

I’ve talked in-depth about all the various forms people use to sell you creatine.

Basically, though, stick with creatine monohydrate.

If that causes your stomach to protest then try micronized creatine.

Anything else leads to bank account loss, not muscle gain!

Conclusion

Creatine is a wonderful supplement.

You can take it with pre-workouts, protein powder, and any other supplement you may want to take.

It’s safe and effective for almost everybody.

The benefits aren’t enormous but they add up over time.

Oh, and those benefits are doubly effective during a cut because creatine helps you maintain precious muscle size and mass!

Big muscles are sweet, but they’re even sweeter when not covered in a thick layer of fat.

Using creatine while cutting will help you keep those muscles as you burn off that fat.

FAQs

What About Creatine and Bloating/Water Retention?

Creatine increases your glycogen stores.

Your body stores water with that glycogen.

Because of this, creatine increases your water retention. Some people feel bloated because of this.

There’s a difference between normal bloating and creatine-induced water retention:

Creatine causes water to be retained inside your muscles.

This helps keep your muscles looking large and well defined, which aids in self-confidence.

And really, aren’t we all looking to get fit so we look better and feel better about ourselves?

Creatine’s water-retention properties only help with this!

Resources

  1. https://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/huston10.htm
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11509496
  3. https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z