Creatine and protein both occur naturally and can be effective in promoting muscle growth when combined with strength training. Creatine and protein affect muscles in different ways, and can be even more beneficial for your muscles when you take them together. They are available in a variety of foods and supplements. However, it would be a good idea to consult a doctor before taking dietary supplements.
Benefits of Protein
Protein supports the growth and repair of body tissues, and is important in rebuilding muscles and making them stronger. According to the Whey Protein Institute, whey protein--a type of protein popular among bodybuilders--can enhance athletic performance by providing the body with branched chain amino acids, which are metabolized directly into muscle tissue. These amino acids are the first used during exercise and strength training. Leucine, which is also provided by whey protein, helps promote protein synthesis and muscle growth.
Benefits of Creatine
While the benefits of protein for muscle building are well known, studies regarding the benefits of creatine have had mixed results, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Regardless, the Mayo Clinic states that most evidence points toward creatine having the ability to increase lean body mass, strength and endurance. The body converts creatine in creatine phosphate, which is stored in the muscles and used as energy. During weight lifting and exercise, creatine phosphate is converted into ATP, a major energy source for your body. Creatine may be able to increase muscle mass within two weeks when combined with exercise.
Combining Creatine and Protein
While creatine and protein can both promote muscle growth independently, they can affect your muscle growth even more when you combine the two. When you consume creatine with protein and carbohydrates--such as fruit juice--you increase the amount of creatine your muscles absorb when compared to taking creatine alone. Carbohydrates are very important to helping you absorb creatine, but when you add protein to the mix, you only need about half the amount of sugar in order to absorb the creatine.
Both creatine and protein are available through red meat and fish, but creatine is also prodcued by amino acids in the liver, kidneys and pancreas. Protein has more dietary sources than creatine, including dairy products, nuts and legumes.
Creatine and protein are also available in a variety of supplements, including powders, bars, liquids and pre-made drinks.
The University of Maryland Medical Center states that Americans already consume well more protein than they need, but many bodybuilders suggest consuming as much as 1 to 2g of protein per pound of body weight per day in order to build muscle.
There are multiple methods for consuming creatine. Some people prefer to start by taking a "loading" dose of 5g four times per day for five to seven days before switching to a "maintenance" dose, during which you take 2 to 5g daily. Others prefer simply to start with a maintenance dose.