In the world of sports nutrition, people use various supplements to increase their performance and enhance exercise recovery.
Creatine and whey protein are two popular examples, with a great deal of data backing their effectiveness.
While their effects are similar in some regards, they are distinctly different compounds that work in different ways.
This article reviews what creatine and whey protein powder are, their main differences, and whether you should take them together for optimal benefits.
Creatine and whey protein have unique molecular structures and work differently in your body.
Creatine is an organic compound produced naturally in your muscle cells. It aids energy production during high-intensity exercise or heavy lifting.
When taken in supplement form, creatine can help increase muscle mass, strength, and exercise performance (1).
It works by increasing phosphocreatine stores in your muscles. This molecule aids energy production for short-duration muscular contractions (2).
Creatine is also found in many foods, specifically meat products. However, the total amount you can obtain from eating meat is rather small. This is why many people who are looking to increase muscle mass and performance take creatine supplements.
Creatine in supplement form is synthetically produced in a commercial laboratory. The most common form is creatine monohydrate, though other forms exist (1).
Whey is one of the primary proteins found in dairy products. It’s often a by-product of cheese production and can be isolated to form a powder.
In terms of protein quality, whey is at the top of the list, hence why its supplements are so popular among bodybuilders and other athletes.
Getting in a good source of protein after resistance exercise is important for maximizing muscle-building. About 20–25 grams of protein is a good amount to aim for (3).
Whey protein powder can be an efficient way to meet this recommendation, considering a typical 25-gram serving provides around 20 grams of protein.
Summary Creatine is an organic compound that, when taken as a supplement, can help increase muscle mass, strength, and exercise performance. Whey protein is a dairy protein commonly consumed with resistance exercise to increase muscle mass and strength.
Creatine increases exercise capacity during high-intensity exercise. This leads to improved recovery and adaptations such as increased muscle mass (1).
Meanwhile, ingesting whey protein in combination with exercise provides your body a high-quality source of protein, enhancing muscle protein synthesis and leading to increased muscle gains over time (3).
While both creatine and whey protein promote muscle gain, they differ in the ways they work. Creatine increases strength and muscle mass by increasing exercise capacity, whereas whey protein does so by stimulating increased muscle protein synthesis.
Summary Both whey protein powder and creatine supplements have been shown to increase muscle mass, though they accomplish this in different ways.
Some people have proposed that taking whey protein and creatine together may lead to benefits beyond those associated with taking either one alone.
However, several studies have shown this is likely not the case.
One study in 42 middle-aged and older men found that participants did not experience any additional training adaptations when they took both whey protein and creatine, compared with taking either supplement alone (5).
Additionally, a study in 18 resistance-trained women found that those who took whey protein plus creatine for 8 weeks experienced no difference in muscle mass and strength than those who took whey protein alone (6).
The results seem to suggest there is no added benefit of taking whey protein and creatine together. However, some people may decide to take them together for convenience (7).
Additionally, no evidence suggests that taking creatine and whey protein at the same time causes any negative effects. It’s generally recognized as safe to take them together.
Choosing whether to take whey protein, creatine, or both comes down to your individual goals. If you are a recreational gym-goer just looking to stay in shape, whey protein may be a good option to aid muscle building and recovery.
On the other hand, if you are looking to maximize muscle mass and strength, it may be beneficial to take both whey protein and creatine.
Summary Studies have observed that taking whey protein and creatine together with exercise offers no additional muscle or strength gains than taking each individually. Taking either alone likely provides the same benefits.
Whey protein powder and creatine are two popular sports supplements that have been shown to increase muscle mass and improve exercise performance, though the ways in which they accomplish this differ.
Taking the two together does not appear to offer additional benefits for muscle and strength gains.
However, if you’d like to try both and are looking to increase muscle mass and performance in the gym or on the field, taking whey protein and creatine together is safe and effective.
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