Protein Powder vs Creatine: Comparisons and Benefits
Whether you’re a bodybuilder, fitness enthusiast, or just trying to build muscle and strength, you’ve probably heard of protein powder and creatine. Both are popular supplements used by people looking to build muscle and achieve their performance goals.
Although their effects overlap, they also have important differences in their chemical composition. The good news is that you may not need to choose between protein and creatine if you want to fuel muscle growth and boost performance.
Read on as we break down the similarities and differences between protein powder and creatine so you can tailor your routine for maximum benefits.
Protein powders are popular because they are an easy and convenient way to get the full range of amino acids your body needs to support muscle growth.
There are tons of different protein powders on the market, including whey, casein, soy, peas, and hemp. But people looking to bulk up might prefer whey protein because it contains all nine essential amino acids your body needs for healthy functioning. Because your body cannot produce these amino acids, you must get them from your diet.
Taking whey protein can help you gain momentum. Research suggests that consuming whey protein post-workout can improve recovery and increase muscle mass. Additionally, other studies have confirmed that taking whey protein isolate daily in combination with strength training can increase lean body mass, strength, and gains.
Protein provides the amino acids your body needs for muscle protein synthesis, and you should aim for around 25 grams to maximize your efforts.
Protein powder has other health benefits as well. For example, an early study from 2010 showed that whey protein supplements could significantly reduce blood cholesterol, blood pressure, and inflammatory markers.
It’s super easy and convenient to use protein powder. Simply mix with water, milk of your choice or juice and drink. Or, if you prefer, you can add it to baked goods, pancakes, waffles, or oatmeal.
Creatine is a compound made up of three amino acids that muscle cells produce naturally. This is why foods like red meat and fish are rich sources.
When you consume creatine, your blood transports it to skeletal muscle, where it is stored as a high-energy molecule called phosphocreatine. During intense exercise like sprinting or weightlifting, your cells convert phosphocreatine into ATP for an immediate burst of energy. If you lack creatine, you will experience muscle fatigue.
Usually, creatine supplements come in the form of creatine monohydrate. Research shows that combining these supplements with an appropriate training regimen can improve physical performance, including sprinting abilities, weightlifting ability, and vertical jumps.
Previous research from 2003 found that when athletes added creatine to their training, their strength increased by 8%. Additionally, their bench press performance increased by up to 43% compared to training alone.
These improvements are because creatine helps your body produce ATP. Normally you have a few seconds of high intensity activity before your cells are depleted of ATP, but creatine keeps you going harder for longer.
Finally, creatine can increase cell volumization, or the water content of your muscles. The higher the water, the more puffy and pumped they appear.
As with protein powder, creatine supplements are easy to take. You can dissolve the powder in water, juice or tea or buy it in capsules or chewable tablets.
So, to sum up, creatine and protein supplements are both designed to help you achieve your fitness goals, but they do so in different ways.
Creatine occurs naturally in your body and is made up of three amino acids: methionine, arginine and glycine. Conversely, whey protein contains nine essential amino acids that your body cannot manufacture.
Both products can increase muscle mass alongside resistance exercises. Creatine increases capacity during high intensity exercise, leading to better recovery and muscle growth. While consuming whey protein in combination with exercise stimulates and improves muscle protein synthesis, over time you should notice increased muscle gains.
The two differ when it comes to timing. It’s best to take creatine about 30 minutes before hitting the gym to fuel your exercise. On the other hand, save your protein shake for post-workout recovery to boost muscle repair and growth.
Some people may take their supplements together because they believe the benefits may be synergistic. However, studies show that this is probably not true.
In a 2013 study, all 42 male participants found no additional benefit from taking the supplements together compared to taking them separately.
While there doesn’t seem to be a traceable benefit to taking the supplements together, there probably aren’t any negative effects either.
There is no right or wrong answer here. Because protein powder and creatine have unique health benefits, the best option for you will depend on your goals.
Creatine helps your muscles retain water, which makes them look bigger. It also provides them with more energy for longer and more intense workouts.
On the other hand, protein is packed with essential amino acids that muscles need for growth and recovery.
If you’re looking for a convenient way to get all the essential amino acids your body needs, protein powder is the answer. If your focus is on increasing energy levels and physical performance, creatine may give you the edge.
Generally, you will get the most results and benefits from taking whey protein and creatine together. So the real winner here is you!
Protein powder and creatine work differently, but together to promote muscle growth.
Creatine improves physical performance by giving your muscles more energy. It also retains water in your muscles, making them look bigger.
In contrast, protein provides the essential amino acids your muscles need to build muscle and recover after a workout.
Overall, you’ll get the best results using both supplements in tandem, so you’ll have all the tools at your disposal to build strong, healthy muscle.