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Creatine and mass gainers are both commonly used supplements during a bulking phase.
But, do you need both?
Neither a mass gainer nor creatine supplement is necessary while bulking because the main contributor to weight gain is a calorie surplus.
However, a mass gainer can help you achieve a calorie surplus (if you struggle with eating all of your calories), and creatine can encourage muscle growth by allowing you to train harder.
So while it is important to remember that taking these supplements will not result in increased muscle mass, if used correctly, they can definitely help.
- Creatine serves as an energy source for muscle contraction in the body, which is why supplementing with creatine can improve sports performance.
- A mass gainer that is high in calories can help you increase your calorie intake to achieve weight gain. This is especially important for “hard gainers” or those that require a lot of calories to hit a surplus.
- Creatine and mass gainer can be used together for those who want to gain muscle mass, but you can’t neglect other factors like training hard, eating high-quality food, and getting enough sleep.
What Is Creatine?
Creatine is an amino acid that resides mainly within your muscles and your brain, and functions as an energy source.
You can boost your creatine stores by eating foods rich in creatine, such as red meat, seafood, and dairy, or by supplementing with creatine.
Creatine is a limiting factor in high-intensity exercise because when you use up the creatine that you have stored, you become fatigued and unable to continue working at higher intensities.
By supplementing with creatine to fully saturate your creatine stores, you can increase the amount of energy available to put toward exercise, which is why supplementing with creatine has been shown to increase strength gains during exercise along with aid in recovery.
Benefits Of Creatine
- Improves exercise performance. Creatine helps your body to produce ATP (your body’s usable form of energy) and the more energy you have, the longer you can sustain high-intensity efforts. Research indicates creatine can improve exercise performance by up to 15%.
- Can increase the rate of muscle growth. Supplementing with creatine can increase the rate at which your body builds muscle when paired with resistance training exercises. This study suggests that those who took creatine added 4.4 pounds more muscle than those who did not take it over a 6-week period.
- Can have a positive impact on your mood. Although creatine is rumored to make you more aggressive or angry, research actually supports the opposite. Creatine supplementation in women has been shown to lower rates of depression and has also shown positive effects on those with psychiatric disorders such as PTSD.
- May improve cognitive function. Creatine is also thought to improve cognitive function, particularly in those with cognitive conditions (i.e Alzheimer’s) There is also research to suggest that creatine can improve memory.
Drawbacks of Creatine
- Can cause digestive issues. Digestive issues that are associated with creatine consumption are most common when too large of a dose is taken at one time. This appears to be the case when more than 8g of creatine is taken at one time. To avoid this, you can try reducing your daily intake, breaking up your dose into multiple servings throughout the day, or switching types of creatine.
- Can result in water retention. Creatine pulls water into your muscles, which can increase your weight on the scale. This water retention will be most noticeable when first starting a creatine supplement or during a loading phase, but will subside as your body adjusts.
- Can cause dehydration. Due to the fact that creatine pulls water into your muscles, there is less water circulating in the blood and a greater risk for dehydration. This can be easily mitigated by ensuring that you are drinking plenty of water while supplementing with creatine.
Who Should Use Creatine?
Creatine is a supplement that is very helpful for athletes who are looking to enhance their strength and muscle mass by allowing them to push hard in training.
It is also helpful for sports requiring a higher power output like sprinting or weightlifting because it is a fast-acting energy source.
Creatine isn’t just for athletes, it is a great supplement for all healthy individuals who do not suffer from kidney or liver disease.
Although creatine supplements do not create these issues in healthy individuals, they could worsen kidney and liver dysfunction in those with pre-existing conditions.
When Should You Consume Creatine?
The most ideal time to take your creatine supplement is close to the time of your training session, either shortly before or after exercise.
You could even choose to split your creatine dose and have a serving before and after you train.
While research does show that there is a benefit to taking creatine in the hours closest to your training session, there is no evidence to indicate whether before or after is best.
With that said, if you can’t take your creatine during these hours, it will still be effective if taken at other times of the day so long as you’re taking an appropriate daily dose.
What Is a Mass Gainer?
A mass gainer is a high-calorie dietary supplement that contains carbohydrates, protein, and fat, and is meant to help you increase your total calorie intake for the purpose of gaining mass.
Typically, carbohydrates are most prominent in mass gainer supplements, followed by protein and then fat.
Mass gainer supplements can range in calories, some containing 500 calories per serving while others contain 1500 calories per serving.
You can also choose mass gainers that contain dairy, or opt for a plant-based option.
Mass gainer supplements come in a variety of different flavors, or you can opt for unflavoured if you prefer.
Benefits of Mass Gainer
- A great source of “on the go” nutrition. If you have a busy schedule and find it difficult to take time throughout the day to stop and eat, then a mass gainer shake is a great way to help you meet your daily targets. Mass gainers are extremely calorie dense and contain all 3 macronutrients which makes them a convenient meal replacement option.
- Contain adequate carbs and protein for a pre or post-workout meal. Mass gainers contain a high amount of carbs along with a good amount of protein, making them the perfect meal to consume either pre or post-workout. The combination of carbs and protein will help give you energy while you train and aid in muscle recovery and growth.
- Can help you achieve a calorie surplus. If you are trying to put on muscle, but your calorie surplus is difficult to hit with whole foods alone, then a calorie-dense mass gainer is a great solution to help you reach your goals.
Drawbacks of Mass Gainer
- Can cause digestive issues. Mass gainers are higher in calories, so it can be difficult for the stomach to break down all at once which can result in digestive issues such as bloating, gas, and nausea. In addition, common ingredients found in some mass gainers, like artificial sweeteners and maltodextrin, have been known to cause stomach issues for certain people.
- Could cause undesirable fat gain. Taking a mass gainer can easily result in unwanted fat gain because they are so calorie dense. If you are not paying attention to your total daily intake, then taking a mass gainer could put you in a surplus that is too aggressive. Also, if you’re achieving a calorie surplus but you’re not training consistently, then you’ll gain more fat than muscle.
Who Should Take a Mass Gainer?
A mass gainer supplement is a great tool for individuals trying to gain weight, especially those who have a hard time getting in enough calories in a day through whole foods alone.
Those who would benefit the most are young males with faster metabolisms (otherwise known as “hard gainers” who want to gain weight.
Additionally, athletes that already have plenty of muscle mass, who burn more calories than the average person, wanting to maintain or gain weight would benefit from a mass gainer.
Mass gainers aren’t just for those looking to gain weight or put on muscle, it’s also a great tool for those who simply want to maintain their weight but struggle to do so because of a busy schedule or high caloric demands.
When Should You Consume a Mass Gainer?
The optimal time to take your mass gainer supplement is during the hours closest to your workout, as either a pre or post-workout meal.
This is because the high amount of carbs and protein in a mass gainer supplement will give you energy for your training session and help with muscle building and recovery.
That said, you can really take your mass gainer at any time that works best for you because the calories and macronutrients it provides will still help you meet your daily calorie and macro targets.
2 KEY Differences Between Creatine & Mass Gainer
1. Intended Purpose
The purpose of a creatine supplement is entirely different from what you would use a mass gainer supplement for.
Creatine supplements are great for helping your muscles to produce energy during high-intensity exercise, resulting in an increase in strength and potentially more muscle growth.
On the other hand, the purpose of a mass gainer supplement is to help you hit your calorie goals during a bulking phase. They can be particularly helpful for individuals with a high metabolic rate, or for those who struggle to hit their calorie targets with only whole foods.
- Takeaway: While both of these supplements have different purposes, both can be used during a muscle-building or bulking phase.
2. Calorie and Macronutrient Content
The most notable difference between creatine and a mass gainer is their calorie and macronutrient content.
Creatine is an amino acid rather than a macronutrient, so it is not made of carbohydrates, protein, and fat and therefore contains zero calories.
Certain creatine supplements may contain a small number of calories, but this would be from other ingredients such as sweeteners and not creatine itself.
On the other hand, mass gainers contain a very high amount of calories, and contain all three macronutrients.
- Takeaway: A mass gainer can serve as a meal replacement, while a creatine supplement cannot.
Do You Need To Take Both Creatine and Mass Gainer to Gain Weight?
Supplements are not required if your goal is to gain weight, so you don’t have to take creatine or mass gainer.
All that is required for weight gain is a calorie surplus.
If you want the weight you gain to be from muscle rather than fat, then you need to pair your surplus with a consistent resistance training routine.
With that said, both creatine and mass gainer supplements can have a place in a bulking phase, especially if you’ve already dialed in other aspects of your training (workout program, nutrition, sleep).
- If you struggle with getting in enough calories in a day to hit your calorie surplus target then adding a serving of mass gainer into your diet could help you to hit your calorie target for the day.
- If you want to optimize your training sessions during your bulking phase to encourage muscle growth, then taking a creatine supplement can help to increase your strength and performance during your workout.
Is It Safe To Take Creatine and Mass Gainer Together?
It is safe to take mass gainer and creatine supplements together.
In fact, these supplements are a fantastic pairing for those who want to build muscle because they each assist in one component of growth: a calorie surplus and adequate training stimulus.
If you are using both of these supplements in your routine but would rather not purchase both, then look for a mass gainer that contains a serving of creatine.
For example, the Optimum Nutrition Mass Gainer contains 3 grams of creatine per serving.
Creatine Product Recommendation
My top recommendation for creatine is Thorne’s Creatine supplement because it is NSF certified, meaning that it has been put through testing to confirm that it is a higher-quality product.
Additionally, it only contains one ingredient, creatine monohydrate, which is the most effective type of creatine.
Thorne Creatine can be easily combined with your mass gainer, or into a protein shake or smoothie for easy consumption.
Mass Gainer Product Recommendation
The Transparent Labs mass gainer is a great option because, unlike most mass gainers, it does not rely on artificial sweeteners for its flavor, and uses natural sweeteners like stevia instead.
Additionally, Transparent Labs products are third-party tested, which means you can rest assured that the product does not contain any harmful ingredients.
As its name suggests, the company is very transparent about the ingredients that they use.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Creatine a Mass Gainer?
No, a creatine supplement is not the same as a mass gainer. Creatine contains zero calories, unlike mass gainers supplements which can contain anywhere from 500-1500 calories per serving. With that said, creatine supplements can cause weight gain by drawing water into the muscles resulting in water retention.
What To Read Next
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- Mass Gainer vs Meal Replacements
- Creatine vs Pre Workout
- Creatine vs Carnitine
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About The Author
Colby Roy is a holistic health and nutrition coach. She is certified through Precision Nutrition and has a passion for all things nutrition and healing the body. More specifically, Colby likes to work with clients who want to optimize their gut health and energy levels.
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