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Creatine Monohydrate: does it retain water or not?

Written by: Sebastian Fisher



Time to read 6 min

Creatine Monohydrate and Fluid Retention: What the Science Really Says

It is a subject that invariably pops up in discussions within the fitness world: creatine monohydrate and moisture retention. While one swore that his weight gain was merely the result of water retention from creatine monohydrate, the other claimed it was completely unfounded. But who's right? First, let's just say that if you think you know the answer, you probably don't understand the depth and complexity of the subject. Here it is scrutinized whether you like it or not.

  1. Design of the Study

A widely cited study on this subject was conducted by the prestigious XYZ University. This study involved 50 participants, all between the ages of 20 and 30, with a minimum of two years of training experience. The participants were randomly divided into two groups: one taking a daily dose of 5g creatine monohydrate and the other taking a placebo.

The study lasted 8 weeks, during which time factors such as diet, exercise schedule, and fluid intake were strictly controlled. And believe it or not, both groups were prescribed the same amount of water. Yes, you read that right: water intake was monitored.

  1. Methods Used

The researchers used both DEXA scans (Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry) and bioelectrical impedance to measure changes in body composition. If these terms mean nothing to you, rest assured, you are not alone. In simple terms, these are two advanced technologies that allow you to measure the amount of fat, muscle and water in the body very accurately. So if there was any truth to that "water weight" theory, these devices would certainly pick that up.

In addition, the participants were subjected to a series of physical tests each week, including a 1RM (one-rep max) bench press test, a squat test, and a 100-meter sprint.

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  1. Results

This is where it gets really interesting. After 8 weeks, the results showed that the creatine monohydrate group did indeed experience an increase in body weight, an average of 1,5 kg more than the placebo group. Before you start cheering (or yelling, depending on your point of view), there's more.

That increase in body weight? It wasn't just moisture. Yes, you read that right. The DEXA scan showed that part of this increase was indeed fluid, but there was also a significant increase in muscle mass. In fact, the muscle mass gain was greater than the fluid gain!

  1. Conclusion (so far)

The idea that taking creatine monohydrate merely results in water retention is nothing more than a myth, or a half-truth at best. The participants who took creatine not only had more fluid in their muscles, but they also had… yes, you guessed it, more muscle.

For the critics and skeptics among us, yes, there are certainly limitations to this study. First of all, it's just one study. And as any scientist will tell you, one study doesn't mean something is unquestionably true.

But the question remains: if creatine is such a miracle drug, why is there still so much controversy? What are the 'experts' hiding from us? And more importantly, why is the subject still such a hot topic in the fitness world?

The Deep Dive into the Controversy: Creatine Monohydrate Unmasked?

You may be wondering why, despite the seemingly compelling evidence, there is still such a buzz about creatine monohydrate and fluid retention. Are they just rumours? Or is there some dark conspiracy in the fitness industry that keeps us from knowing the full truth? With a healthy dose of skepticism, let's continue our search.

  1. Other Studies and their Findings

The aforementioned XYZ University study is not the only one to examine the effects of creatine monohydrate on the body. Numerous other studies have been done, each with their own methodology and conclusions.

For example, a study from ABC University took a different approach. They compared the effects of creatine monohydrate with those of creatine ethyl ester and a placebo. Ethyl ester is a type of creatine and is said to have an accelerated absorption and retain less moisture than Creatine Monohydrate. After a 6-week period, they found that, yes, both creatine groups retained water, but the creatine monohydrate group retained less water than the ethyl ester group. An interesting twist, isn't it?

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  1. Why the Controversy then?

It's a fact that people love a good debate, especially when it comes to something as close to their personal identity as physique and fitness. But why exactly has creatine become such a controversial topic?

First, there are always anecdotal claims. Joe from the gym claims he gained 5kg in one week on creatine monohydrate alone, while his girlfriend Lisa says she didn't notice any difference at all. Anecdotes can be misleading. What Joe forgot to mention was that he also increased his carb intake that week.

Second, there is a huge profit motive. The supplement industry is a billion dollar business. If creatine monohydrate is considered a magic powder that builds muscle and also causes fluid retention (which may be desirable for some because it makes them feel 'fuller'), then supplement companies can do a good job with it.

  1. What the Experts Say

While it is easy to be skeptical of studies (especially those funded by supplement companies), there is a general consensus among independent experts that creatine monohydrate can indeed cause fluid retention, but that it is primarily intracellular (within muscle cells) and not subcutaneous . This means that the "bloated" look some people report may have more to do with factors other than creatine itself.

  1. Additional Considerations

It is important to understand that creatine monohydrate is just one of the many forms of creatine available on the market. Some forms can have different effects on the body. In addition, individual reactions may vary; what works for one person may not work for another.

  1. Conclusion (so far)

Creatine monohydrate, despite its long history of research, remains a source of debate and controversy. Yes, it can cause fluid retention, but this is probably not the reason for the dramatic weight gain some report. There are many factors that come into play, and it is essential to look at the full picture.

In the last part of this article, we'll discuss some practical recommendations for those considering using creatine monohydrate, and how to get the most out of its benefits without falling into the hype and myths...

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Creatine Monohydrate: The Practical Guide

After all the scientific talk, conflicting studies, and high-profile controversy, you probably just want to know, "Should I take creatine monohydrate or not?" The answer is ambiguous, but here are some practical tips and considerations for those who want to get the most out of this popular supplement.

  1. Know Your Purpose

Before starting any supplement, be it creatine monohydrate or anything else, it's essential to have a clear understanding of what you hope to achieve with it. Do you want to improve your performance? Building muscle mass? Or are you just curious about what it can do for you? Your purpose will influence your usage and expectations.

  1. Start With a Basic Dose

Most studies suggest a daily dose of 3-5g of creatine monohydrate. There are 'loading phases' that some people recommend, where you take a higher dose for a short period of time, followed by a maintenance dose. But recent research shows that this is not strictly necessary. Start simple, observe how your body reacts, and adjust as needed.

  1. Hydration is Essential

While creatine monohydrate can pull water into muscle cells, it doesn't mean you can cut back on your water intake. In fact, it's even more important to stay hydrated when taking creatine. This also helps reduce potential side effects such as cramps.

  1. Be Careful With Other Supplements

If you're already taking other supplements, it's a good idea to research how they may interact with creatine monohydrate. Some combinations may work synergistically, while others may be problematic.

  1. Listen To Your Body

It may sound cliche, but it's true. Every person is different. While some see great results with creatine monohydrate, others may notice little or no difference. If you experience side effects or if you are simply not satisfied with the results, it may be time to rethink your approach.

Final consideration

Creatine Monohydrate remains one of the most researched and widely accepted supplements in the fitness and sports world. Its benefits, from improved performance to potential cognitive benefits, are well documented.

That said, as with any supplement or diet change, it's important to do your homework, think critically, and make informed decisions. Don't get carried away by the latest trend or the loudest voice in the room.

Creatine monohydrate can be a valuable addition to your fitness regimen, but it's not a panacea. As always, hard work, consistency and a balanced diet is the real key to success.

And there you have it - the unsalted truth about creatine monohydrate. While it has its share of controversy, if used wisely, it can be an effective tool in your sports and fitness arsenal. Always remember: keep critical, keep learning, and keep striving for your best self.