Protein Powder vs. Creatine: What do the Facts Suggest?

If you are a fitness enthusiast, bodybuilder, weightlifter, or you just want to increase your muscle mass and strength, you’ve probably heard people talk about both creatine and protein powder. Both of these are highly popular fitness supplements and are used to support fitness goals and to help build muscle mass.

While it’s true that some of their effects are intertwined, they are quite different in their chemical makeup. The good news is, that you don’t have to choose one or the other to increase muscle mass and improve athletic performance.

In this article, we’ll discuss the areas where protein powder and creatine are similar and where they are different. This will allow you to customize your routine to get the most from your workout and supplementation.

Facts about Protein Powder

The primary reason that protein powders are popular is because they are an effortless and useful way to get the amino acids your body requires to facilitate muscle growth. You will find a wide variety of protein powders on the market. Some of the most popular options include whey, casein, hemp, soy, and pea.

That being said, if your goal is to bulk, whey protein is best because it contains the 9 essential amino acids your body requires to function properly. While it’s true that your body does produce some amino acids, it does not produce these 9- which is why you need to get them through your diet.

Why Do You Need Protein?

Protein is a nutrient that your body needs to help you get ripped. When you push through intense workouts and increased weight loads, you are putting your muscles under a lot of stress. Following your workout, your body needs protein to help your muscles recover and grow.

Additionally, it’s important to know that if you are not getting enough protein in your diet, your body may break down your muscles for energy. This is known as catabolism and, if you’re trying to bulk, this is the last thing you want to happen.

Research shows that whey protein can help with gains. Studies suggest that by consuming whey protein following an intense workout session will increase muscle mass and enhance recovery. Additionally, some research indicates that taking whey protein isolate on a daily basis along with engaging in a strength training regimen will increase gains, strength, and lean body mass. Protein gives your body the amino acids that are necessary for protein synthesis. In order to maximize your efforts, it’s best if you can get approximately 25 grams of protein per day.

There are some other benefits associated with protein powder as well. For example, the results from one study in 2010 indicated that whey protein supplementation may reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, and inflammatory markers.

Protein powder is easy and convenient to use. Simply combine with the beverage of your choice (milk, water, or juice) and drink it before and/or after your workout. On the other hand, if you prefer, you can simply add it to your oatmeal, baked goods, waffles, or pancakes.

Facts about Creatine

Creatine is a naturally occurring compound that is found in your body. It can also be obtained through diet in foods such as red meat and seafood. It is made up of three amino acids: glycine, methionine, and arginine.

When you consume creatine, it is transported to your skeletal muscles through your blood, where it will be stored as a high energy molecule known as phosphocreatine. During an intense workout session, such as lifting or sprinting, the phosphocreatine is converted into adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, to provide you with a burst of energy. If your body runs out of creatine, you will have muscle fatigue.

You will find that most of the creatine supplements on the market are creatine monohydrate. Research indicates that combining creatine supplementation with an appropriate workout routine will improve your overall performance, including weightlifting capacity, vertical jumps, and sprinting abilities.

An early 2003 research study revealed that when adding creatine to their training programs, athletes experienced an 8% increase in strength. In addition, performance on bench press increased by 43% when compared to the training program alone.

The reason for these improvements are that creatine facilitates the production of ATP. In most cases, you only get a few seconds of intense activity before your ATP is depleted– but creatine increases ATP, which means you can increase the intensity and length of your exercises.

Why Do You Need Creatine?

In addition to improving athletic performance, creatine opens specific cellular pathways, which increases the development of lean muscle mass and muscle strength. It enriches satellite cell signaling, which helps with muscle repair and growth, and may reduce myostatin levels. Myostatin is a protein that can have a negative effect on the growth of new muscle.

Finally, creatine increases cell volumization in your muscles. This is the water content in the muscle and the higher this is, the bigger your muscles look. Just like protein powder, creatine is easy to take. Simply dissolve the powder in your favorite beverage or you can get it in chewable tablets or capsules.

Side-by-Side Comparison of Protein and Creatine

What is it?

Protein – Organic compound made of amino acids found throughout your body

Creatine – Tripeptide made of three amino acids, produced in the pancreas, liver, and kidney

Why do you need it?

Protein – Stimulates muscle protein synthesis and increases gains

Creatine – Provide energy for your muscles to increase workout capacity and improve recovery and muscle growth

How much should you take?

Protein – Generally, 1 to 2 scoops (25 to 50 grams) daily. Check label for specific instructions

Creatine – Start with 20 to 25 grams, spread out over 4 to 5 doses for the first 5 to 7 days. After, take 3 to 5 grams daily

When should you take it?

Protein – Following a workout

Creatine – Anytime during the day

As you can see, both creatine and protein are formulated to help you reach your personal fitness goals- but in different ways.

As mentioned, creatine is a chemical that is created naturally in your body. It is a tripeptide made of three amino acids: glycine, methionine, and arginine. Whey protein contains the 9 essential amino acids that your body is not capable of producing.

Both can increase muscle mass when used along with a consistent resistance training program. Creatine increases your capacity in HIIT training, which leads to increased muscle growth and improved recovery. Whey protein along with a workout routine stimulates and increases muscle protein synthesis and you will notice increased gains over time.

Where the two of them differ is timing. Ideally, creatine should be taken approximately 30 minutes prior to hitting the gym. This will give you the energy to power through your most intense workout sessions. On the other hand, you’ll want to save that protein shake for after your workout session to facilitate post-workout recovery and stimulate muscle growth and repair.

There are some people who take them together because they believe that effects can be synergistic. However, there is no scientific evidence to back up this belief.

One study in 2013 involved 42 male participants. Some took creatine and protein together, while others took creatine before and protein after working out. It was revealed that there are no benefits in taking them together versus taking them separately. Of course, even though there are no real benefits to taking them together, there doesn’t seem to be any negative effects either.

Is One of these Supplements Superior to the Other?

There really is no right or wrong answer to this question. Both of these fitness supplements have their own health benefits that they bring to the table. The best choice for you depends on your goals.

Creatine helps muscles hold water, making them appear bigger. In addition, it provides them with increased energy for longer, intense workout sessions. On the other hand, protein is packed with essential amino acids that your muscles require for increased growth and improved recovery.

If you’re looking for an easy way to get the essential amino acids your body requires, you will want protein powder. On the other hand, if your primary focus is increasing energy levels and improving athletic performance, you may want to go with creatine.

Typically, you will get the most results by taking both of them, but no matter which decision you make, it’s a win for you!


Protein powder and creatine are very important fitness supplements. They work in different ways, but ultimately work together to promote muscle growth. Creatine gives your muscles more energy, which improves athletic performance and also makes your muscles retain water, which makes them look huge. On the other hand, protein powder gives your body the 9 essential amino acids required to increase muscle mass and improve recovery following your workout.

Ultimately, you will get the best results by using both of them together. This will give you everything you need to increase muscle size and strength- eventually improving your physique.

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