Fitness FAQs: Does Creatine Break a Fast?

Creatine is a commonly used supplement among athletes and fitness enthusiasts due to its potential for enhancing exercise performance. As a dietary supplement, creatine may affect blood glucose and insulin levels, which may endanger fasting. Read more to learn how creatine affects fasting.

What is creatine?

Creatine is a compound naturally found in animal foods like beef, poultry, fish, and dairy products. Our body also synthesizes sufficient creatine from three amino acids: arginine, glycine, and methionine. About half of the daily creatine intake is obtained through diet, with the remaining amount synthesized in the liver and kidneys. Creatine can also be obtained as dietary supplements in the form of powders, tablets, capsules, gummies, liquids, and chewables.

About 95% of creatine is found in skeletal muscle. It is required to produce phosphocreatine, which replenishes ATP (energy) stores during intense exercise. That’s precisely why creatine supplementation is popular among athletes. It has been shown to increase exercise performance, training adaptations, and muscle mass.

How much creatine should I take a day?

Timing and how an individual should take creatine supplements can vary. Generally, the protocols revolve around consuming 3–5 grams of creatine daily for up to 32 weeks; however, the amount can increase to 10 grams daily based on an athlete's weight and body composition. Creatine can be consumed both as pre-workout or post-workout supplements. Additionally, the consumption of creatine with carbohydrates and protein can enhance muscle creatine deposition.

Does creatine break a fast?

Fasting is intentionally abstaining from consuming foods and drinks with calories for certain periods of time. There are many fasting methods, with the most common being the 16:8 intermittent fasting plan.

Although there is no evidence showing the direct effects of creatine supplementation on fasting, studies showing the effects on blood glucose levels indicate that creatine is not likely to increase blood glucose levels.

In a study, participants were given either 5 grams of creatine monohydrate or 5 grams of maltodextrin (control group) daily for 42 days. Then, participants underwent an oral glucose test to evaluate changes in glucose levels before and after the intervention. Although the results showed an increase in blood glucose levels, the difference was not significant.

Since current evidence suggests that creatine supplementation is not likely to increase blood glucose levels, that also suggests it is not likely to break a fast.

Does creatine stimulate insulin?

Creatine may stimulate insulin secretion; however, the evidence is limited, mostly stemming from animal studies.

An animal study showed that creatine supplementation significantly increased fasting insulin levels and insulin response to glucose challenge after 8 weeks of supplementation. Conversely, evidence from human studies indicates that creatine is unlikely to disrupt fasting, as limited research suggests that creatine supplementation does not trigger an insulin response.

In a double-blind randomized controlled study, males with a sedentary lifestyle were given either 10 grams of creatine daily or a placebo for 3 months alongside aerobic training. The results from the glucose tolerance test showed that there was no significant difference in fasting insulin over time. The study also showed that creatine supplementation with aerobic training improved glucose tolerance without affecting insulin sensitivity.

Even though more studies are needed in this field, current data indicates that creatine supplementation is not likely to be responsible for insulin stimulation.

What are the benefits of creatine?

Creatine is one of the most popular sports supplements due to its potential for increasing exercise performance, training adaptation, muscle mass, and cognitive performance.

1. Enhanced exercise performance

Creatine supplementation can enhance sports performance by improving high-intensity exercise performance and post-exercise recovery. Research indicates that creatine supplementation has been shown to increase single and repetitive sprint performance, anaerobic threshold, work capacity, and training tolerance.

2. Muscle growth

Muscle hypertrophy (muscle growth) occurs due to the repair of damage caused by resistance training. If adequate nutrition is combined with training, it is essential for the repair of muscle damage.

A systematic review of randomized clinical trials from 2012 to 2021 concluded that creatine supplementation can promote muscle growth in young healthy individuals alongside adequate training. Additionally, a meta-analysis from 2023 involving 10 studies concluded that creatine supplementation combined with resistance training increased muscle hypertrophy in both the upper and lower body, although the effects were small.

3. Better memory and cognitive performance

Most studies focused on the effects of creatine on sports performance; however, evidence supports that creatine may be beneficial for brain health, including improving cognitive function, and is currently under research in neurodegenerative diseases.

A systematic review of the effects of creatine supplementation on cognitive function concluded that it may improve short-term memory in individuals with good health. Additionally, the benefits of creatine on other cognitive functions such as long-term memory, attention, and reaction time were reported, but the results of studies were conflicting, indicating a need for further research.

Nonetheless, some athletes taking creatine supplementation have reported improvements in cognitive performance, memory, mental fatigue, and sleep.

Keep in mind that the effects of creatine supplementation can change based on individualistic characteristics such as age, gender, general health status, training intensity, and more.

Final word

Ultimately, dietary supplements can break your fast either by providing calories or by spiking glucose levels. In other words, if the body has enough glucose, it won't be in a fasting state.

Therefore, it's important to acknowledge the effects of dietary supplements you use during the fasting period. Always consult your doctor before practicing fasting and using dietary supplements to be informed about potential benefits and any risks associated with their use.

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