It’s pretty much universally agreed that creatine works!
One concern that pops up from time to time is water retention.
Some people complain that creatine will make them look smoother i.e. they’ll lose definition on it. They believe that there is more extracellular water retained than intracellular water. Obviously we want the intracellular (inside the muscle) swelling, but not the extracellular.
So let’s take an objective look at this. Thankfully a study was designed to test this very notion.
32 trained individuals, 16 men and 16 women, were split into 2 groups:
1. The creatine group – 7 days loading then maintenance
2. The Placebo group – Sugar pill loading for 7 days then maintenance
The study lasted 4 weeks, then subjects were measured for:
- Muscle creatine concentrations
- Total Body Water
- Extracellular water
- Intracellular water
Check out the details of the study then see the bottom for the conclusion…
Creatine Supplementation Increases Total Body Water Without Altering Fluid Distribution
To examine the effects of oral creatine (Cr) monohydrate supplementation on muscle Cr concentration, body mass, and total body water (TBW), extracellular water (ECW), and intracellular water (ICW) volumes.
Design and Setting:
After an overnight fast, urinary Cr and creatinine concentrations, muscle Cr concentration, body mass, TBW, ECW, and ICW were measured, and subjects were randomly assigned to either a Cr or a placebo (P) group.
The Cr group ingested 25 g/d of Cr for 7 days (loading phase) and 5 g/d for the remaining 21 days (maintenance phase), whereas the P group ingested a sucrose P using the same protocol. All the measures were reassessed immediately after the loading and maintenance phases.
Sixteen men (age = 22.8 ± 3.01 years, height = 179.8 ± 7.1 cm, body mass = 84.8 ± 11.2 kg) and 16 women (age = 21.8 ± 2.51 years, height = 163.4 ± 5.9 cm, body mass = 63.6 ± 14.0 kg) involved in resistance training volunteered to participate in this study.
Muscle Cr concentration was determined from the vastus lateralis muscle using a percutaneous needle-biopsy technique. Total body water, ECW, and ICW volumes were assessed using deuterium oxide and sodium bromide dilution analyses.
The Cr group experienced a significant increase in muscle Cr concentration, body mass, and TBW. The P group experienced a small but significant increase in TBW only.
The Creatine supplementation protocol was effective for increasing muscle creatine concentrations, body mass, and TBW; however, fluid distribution was not changed.
study: Powers, M.; Arnold B et al. (2003). "Creatine Supplementation Increases Total Body Water Without Altering Fluid Distribution". Journal of Athletic Training (National Athletic Trainers' Association, Inc) 38 (Jan-Mar 2003): 44–50.
Total body water is indeed increased but, importantly, the fluid distribution is not affected.
Supplementing with micronized creatine monohydrate is very important to preserving and growing new muscle tissue while cutting. However, from the above data, it may be advantageous to cease creatine supplementation before a contest.
I don’t compete and never have, so this isn’t an area of speciality for me. It would seem that you may look a little more ripped when cycling off creatine, BUT also note that you would appear slightly smaller too, the choice is yours. When primarily targeting muscle growth however, creatine supplementation is a no-brainer in my opinion.
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