If you have a limited budget and you can only choose one supplement you might be trying to decide between creatine vs whey protein.
To tell you the truth, although both creatine and whey protein help build muscle these supplements are very different.
I do believe one is better than the other, or, rather, a better bang for your buck.
I plan to share which I believe is best as a supplement, explain really briefly how each works, the pros and cons of each, discuss if they can be taken together, and which is better, creatine or whey protein for building muscle.
- Short and Sweet: Let Me Explain the Difference Between Creatine vs Whey Protein
- Pros and Cons of Creatine and Whey Protein
- Can You Take Creatine and Whey Protein at the Same Time?
- If You Can Only Take One Supplement, Which Should You Choose Creatine or Whey Protein?
- Which Option is Better for Building Muscle?
- The Final Word: If You Have to Choose One
Short and Sweet: Let Me Explain the Difference Between Creatine vs Whey Protein
What is Creatine?
Creatine is a tripeptide containing methionine, arginine and glycine, found naturally in food like steak and chicken, and creatine is also found in your body.
Creatine helps your body repair damaged muscle faster.
Creatine also helps your body gain energy because it assists in recycling ATP. ATP is what your cells use for energy. Because it helps repair muscle, it helps build muscle. Because it recycles ATP it provides more power, allowing you to lift heavier, which also helps build muscle.
I explain creatine in depth in this complete creatine guide. Check it out!
Some people like to take creatine separate from other supplements, and that is fine. Creatine does not need to be taken before or after a workout as our bodies store it and use as needed.
Looking for a supplement without creatine. Check out the list I created here.
What is Whey Protein?
Whey protein is a protein found and extracted from milk. Like all dietary protein, it assists in the muscle repair process. Because when helps rebuild muscle, it is helpful for building muscle.
Protein shakes made with whey protein are a fast, easy and portable way to get a quick 20 to 25 grams of protein in your diet.
If you are looking for a reputable and effective protein powder check out these brands.
Pros and Cons of Creatine and Whey Protein
Let’s break it down another way.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of Whey Protein vs Creatine side by side.
Pros of Creatine
- Creatine accelerates muscle repair, building muscle faster.
- Creatine fast-tracks the recycling process of ATP, your cells energy source.
- Creatine allows your muscles to store more glycogen = more muscle fuel.
- Creatine increases lean body mass.
- Creatine is very inexpensive, even with daily supplementation.
Cons of Creatine
- Creatine pulls water into the muscle which causes limited weight gain (about 5 lbs).
- Creatine can upset your stomach at high doses (typically, a maintenance dose is fine).
- It is difficult to get 5 grams of creatine from diet alone.
Pros of Whey Protein
- When protein as a shake, is an easy way to replenish protein stores.
- Whey, like all protein, assists in muscle repair.
- Whey is absorbed by the body faster than other forms of protein like food sources and casein.
- Whey, like other dietary proteins, can increase lean muscle gain and fat loss.
Cons of Whey Protein
- Daily supplementation can be expensive.
- Low-quality sources of whey powder may give you bad gas.
Can You Take Creatine and Whey Protein at the Same Time?
Many people take both supplements at the same time and many supplements contain both creatine and whey protein.
Since creatine and whey protein are two completely different compounds that function very differently on a molecular level, it’s safe and even beneficial to take both together.
Think of it this way:
Creatine facilitates the muscle building and energy giving process, like a backhoe or crane on a construction site.
Whey protein supplies the necessary building materials like the concrete and rebar used to construct a building.
You need both creatine and whey protein to build muscle.
If You Can Only Take One Supplement, Which Should You Choose Creatine or Whey Protein?
Truthfully, it is an easy choice for me.
Creatine is the one you should choose to use as a supplement.
It is much easier to get all the protein you need from diet alone.
It is hard to get a 3 to 5 gram maintenance dose of creatine from food. You would need to eat one of the following every day to get your daily 5 gram maintenance dose of creatine:
- 2 pounds of steak
- 3 pounds of chicken
- 1 pound of tuna
Creatine is cheap! Only Pennies per serving.
If you want to see my recommended dose, when to take creatine, how much and the brands I recommend check out Creatine 101: the complete Creatine Guide for more answers.
What about Whey?
Most protein shakes made with whey protein have about 20 to 30 grams of protein depending on other ingredients and serving size.
Let’s say your post workout protein goal is 25 grams. You could take a protein shake. The cost is about a 50 cents per shake, often more. Creatine is just pennies per serving if you find a good deal.
You can eat one of the following for example:
- 3.5 oz. of Tilapia
- 1 cup of lentils and a Greek yogurt
- 3.5 oz. of chicken or turkey breast
- ½ cup cottage cheese and two eggs
- 3.5 oz. of steak
You can see it’s pretty easy to get 25 grams of protein. Its way easier, and more affordable, to eat 3.5 oz. of steak, vs 2 lbs of steak.
Which Option is Better for Building Muscle?
Neither are “better” necessarily. Both are needed to build muscle.
If you lack either, or do not have optimal levels of each, muscle growth will be slowed down, or worse, your body may break down muscle to get the building blocks it needs, in a process called catabolism, if you are severely deficient.
Catabolism is not some new religion. Catabolism happens when you are in a catabolic state, which is the opposite of the anabolic muscle building state.
When your body is in catabolism it is breaking down muscle to use as energy.
Catabolism is a complicated subject and while it does not happen only because of a protein or creatine deficiency, those nutrients are a part of the picture.
The Final Word: If You Have to Choose One
If it seems like I am biased, well…
In the debate of creatine vs whey protein, I am biased.
Both creatine and whey protein are worthy supplements, I just believe in my heart of hearts, based on the research I have done, that creatine is more helpful and more necessary as a supplement than whey protein.
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