This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my affiliate disclaimer for more information.
I’ve been taking creatine monohydrate consistently for a number of years now. Fortunately I’ve never encountered any side effects – BUT I know many have reported the dreaded creatine FAT FACE! Here’s the full story on causes… AND cures!
At a glance…
- Creatine helps your body produce ATP which is used to carry energy in your muscles – it enables you to squeeze a BIT more performance out!
- BUT some users report a fat face when supplementing with creatine
- This is due to water retention – creatine draws water in to the muscle belly and this can make you look puffy or bloated
- Avoid bloating by reducing dosage, or skipping the loading phase
- Some have managed to mitigate their face fat by swapping from MONOHYDRATE to a hydrochloride powder supplement
How to NOT get a fat face on creatine…
If you want to avoid getting a bloated, fat face when supplementing with creatine then seriously consider lowering your overall creatine dosage (can you skip the loading phase?) and drink MORE water (yep – drink MORE, not less!)
While it may seem counter intuitive, drinking more water regularly will let your body know it’s got a regular supply coming its way and it won’t hold on to as much as a result.
What does creatine do?
Creatine helps your body retain water within your muscles. This gives them a larger, more ‘pumped’ appearance as it increases the overall size of the muscle, and can lead to weight gain for some individuals.
The role it plays for us as strength trainees is that it enables our body to produce “ATP” which helps us transmit energy through our muscles. By supplementing with creatine we can be sure we are maximising the ATP production in our cells and therefore maximising the energy we have at our disposal when lifting.
In the real world (or gym) this translates to a BIT more peak power, a BIT more energy for another rep, and so on. Marginal gains.
Where does creatine come from?
Your body makes and stores creatine naturally and gets a boost from certain foods such as red meat and fish.
It’s also one of the most widely researched and widely consumed dietary supplements out there – so as well as food sources such as red meat you can also find it in powdered form from places such as MyProtein!
Why does it cause bloating?
A byproduct of creatine consumption is that it draws water in to the body of your muscles. While this can give you a bit more of a ‘pumped’ look it can also give a bloated appearance.
Pumped vs bloated
In my experience the difference between looking pumped and looking bloated when supplementing with creatine comes down to BODYFAT. The leaner you are the more your muscle vascularity and definition will pop – lending itself to more of a ‘pumped’ look when on creatine.
On the other hand if you carry a thicker layer of bodyfat then the muscles growing underneath that can give the appearance of bloating as the definition is hidden by the bodyfat.
Does creatine make your face fat?
Following on from the above creatine will draw water in to your muscles… All you muscles! So those in your face will also pump themselves up a little thanks to your spoon of creatine monohydrate!
The same logic therefore applies around bloating – as your muscles grow a little in size they can make it look like you have a fat face depending on your face shape, bone structure and body fat percentage.
The puffy face may subside… For some!
Not everyone reacts the same way to supplements and there are a myriad of other factors at play.
Your general hydration and regular water intake will play a role – those who consume MORE water tend to retain LESS naturally for example. This is because your body is not immediately concerned with the scarcity of water!
Another factor is DOSAGE of creatine – those who do loading phases and cycles tend to experience more puffiness and water retention than those who take lower doses. If you load creating you may experience up to 2% bodyweight gain – mainly from the water retention.
Overall diet also plays a role – things such as salt intake can encourage your body to retain (or drop) water weight.
Creatine Monohydrate vs Hydrochloride
Creatine monohydrate is cheap and abundant – you can even pick up a bag in the supermarket!
Creatine hydrochloride is marketed as a more advanced formula with quicker and better absorption – and with that comes a heftier price tag.
For most people monohydrate will be the best creating to go for as it’s cheap (and usually has 100% absorption anyway) – however if it is causing you to bloat up or giving you a fat face then trying HCL may be worth a shot.
Several users online have reported bloating issues with monohydrate that simply disappeared when they switched to HCL – so it may be worth a shot if you’re feeling self conscious about it.
Bloating from creatine supplementation is widely reported online – the simplest way to mitigate it is to reduce dosage and skip the loading phase all together. If it’s a persistent issue try an alternative product to monohydrate – such as creatine hydrochloride – which seems to trigger less issues (BUT costs a bit more!)
- Can I take pre workout TWICE a day? YES, but…
- Creatine does NOT cause smelly farts: Here’s WHY!
- WHY does PROTEIN powder make porridge WATERY?!
- No BS: The BEST tasting protein powders with WATER
- Does protein powder taste good with water?
- Is chocolate or vanilla protein powder better?
- Barbell Medicine nutrition coaching: 7 month review
- The Starting Strength diet: A review in 2020