Sports nutrition and diet supplements are a massive industry, accounting for 19.6 billion dollars in sales as of 2009. Among the most popular types of supplements are weight gainers like creatine and protein powder. While both types of supplements can promote muscle gain, they do this through different metabolic mechanisms. If you feel you would benefit from a weight gain supplement, speak to your doctor or a sports nutrition expert about the type of supplementation is best for you.
Whey protein powder is one of the most popular types of weight-training supplements because it contains all nine essential amino acids in a high concentration. Protein powder is useful because it provides the building blocks your muscles need to repair and grow after strength training. Supplementation with protein powder is particularly useful if your diet is already lacking sufficient protein.
Creatine does not increase muscle size and strength as directly as protein powder, but does have a positive effect on muscle strength and size when used properly. Creatine supplementation increases the amount of creatine and phosphocreatine you store in your muscles. When you lift weights, your body converts these stores into the energy source ATP, which can improve your weight lifting performance.
Creatine supplementation tends to require a high dosing pattern initially to build up stores in your body, followed by a daily maintenance dose. American Council on Exercise physiologist, Fabio Comana, recommends a loading dose between 15 and 25 g for the first seven to 10 days, followed by 2 g to 5 g daily after that.
The normal recommended daily intake for protein is 0.8 g/kg bodyweight, however athletes seeking muscle growth may need anywhere from 1.2 to 1.7 g/kg bodyweight, registered dietitian Douglas Kalman states. Speak to your physician about your dietary intake and needs before increasing protein intake with supplemental powder. (Reference 3)
Because protein powder is quickly absorbed into your bloodstream, nutrition specialist Jay R. Hoffman, Ph.D. recommends that you take it immediately before you begin exercising. He states that this will deliver the most amino acids to your muscles and thus prevent tissue breakdown during resistance training. Conversely, the American College of Sports Medicine advises that you only take creatine after your workout because it may cause dehydration or other negative side effects that inhibit your performance.
Creatine and protein powders have similar negative effects on your body when you consume them to excess. Both types of supplements can create extra work for your kidneys when they are present in high concentrations in the body. Additionally, creatine can be hazardous to your health with certain kinds of medication, such as diuretics. People who are lactose intolerant may have a negative reaction to some whey protein powder products because they are made from milk.
- "Strength and Conditioning Journal"; Protein Intake--Effect of Timing; Jay R. Hoffman, Ph.D., F.A.C.S.M., F.N.S.C.A.; December 2007
- American Council on Exercise: The Latest Scoop--Current Supplement Research Overview; Fabio Comana, M.A., M.S., ACE-C.P.T.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Creatine; Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD