Does Creatine Break a Fast During Intermittent Fasting?

Does Creatine Break a Fast During Intermittent Fasting?

Nov 17, 2023

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Does Creatine Break a Fast During Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting has become an incredibly popular way to lose weight, gain muscle, and improve health.

But can you still take supplements like creatine while fasting? Will creatine break your fast?

Creatine is one of the most widely used supplements by fitness enthusiasts and athletes. It has been shown to help increase muscle mass and strength by enhancing the effects of high-intensity exercise.

However, there has been some debate on whether taking creatine during intermittent fasting negatively impacts the benefits of fasting.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at creatine and intermittent fasting to see if combining the two is beneficial or if creatine would break your fast.

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What is Creatine?

Creatine is a naturally occurring substance found in your body that helps supply energy to your cells and muscles. It is produced in the liver and kidneys and is also found in foods like fish and red meat.

When creatine enters your muscle cells, it is converted into phosphocreatine and stored for later use. Phosphocreatine plays an essential role in providing your muscles with the quick bursts of energy required for weight lifting and high-intensity exercise.

During short, intense exercise, your muscles rapidly use up ATP for energy. Creatine helps regenerate ATP stores by donating a phosphate group to ADP to re-form ATP. This ATP recycling process allows you to continue performing at maximum effort for a bit longer before fatigue sets in.

Creatine supplements are popular because research has consistently shown that creatine supplementation can significantly raise the levels of creatine in your muscles. This, in turn, improves your muscles’ ability to generate energy during high-intensity anaerobic exercise, leading to increases in lean muscle mass and strength.

Some of the key benefits of creatine include:

  • Increased muscle mass and strength gains from weight training
  • Improved high-intensity sprint performance
  • Enhanced muscle recovery and reduced muscle breakdown
  • Possible cognitive benefits like improved memory and intelligence

While your body produces some creatine on its own, taking pure creatine monohydrate as a supplement has been shown to raise creatine levels in the body by 10-40%. This can further amplify the performance and muscle-building benefits of creatine.

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What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting has surged in popularity over the last few years due to its various health and fitness benefits.

Intermittent fasting involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting. It doesn’t dictate what foods you should eat, just when you should eat them.

There are several different types of intermittent fasting methods, including:

  • 16/8 method: Skip breakfast and restrict your daily eating window to 8 hours, such as 11am to 7pm. Then you fast for 16 hours in between.

  • Eat-stop-eat: Fast for 24 hours once or twice a week, for example by not eating from dinner one day until dinner the next day.

  • 5:2 diet: Eat normally for 5 days a week while restricting calories to 500–600 per day for the other 2 days.

  • Alternate day fasting: Fast every other day. On fasting days eat 500–600 calories.

No matter the protocol, intermittent fasting helps control overall calorie intake while allowing your body periods of time when it’s not digesting food.

This fasting provides many potential health and fitness benefits:

  • Weight and fat loss - Intermittent fasting can help you lose weight and body fat without having to consciously restrict calories. Fasting promotes fat burning while helping build muscle.

  • Cellular repair - Periods of fasting activate pathways that enhance autophagy, your cells’ innate self-cleaning process. This removes waste material and damaged cells.

  • Insulin sensitivity - Fasting causes blood sugar to fall, leading to lower insulin levels. This increased insulin sensitivity may reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes.

  • Longevity - Intermittent fasting activates genes involved in protection and repair of the body which may extend lifespan and slow aging.

  • Mental clarity - During the fasted state, many people report improvements in mood, focus and concentration.

Now let’s look at whether you can combine intermittent fasting with creatine supplementation or if creatine may negatively impact your fast.

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Does Creatine Break a Fast?

Creatine is a popular supplement choice for intermittent fasters looking to continue building muscle during their fasted state.

But the question is, will taking creatine break your fast?

There has been some debate on this. To determine if creatine will break a fast, we first need to understand what constitutes “breaking” your fast.

Technically, anything other than plain water will break a strict fast. However, most intermittent fasting protocols still allow black coffee, plain tea, calorie-free beverages or supplements while fasting.

The main things that are agreed to break a fast are:

  • Consuming calories - Any source of calories starts the digestion process and releases insulin, signaling your body to exit the fasted state.

  • Raising insulin - Eating protein and carbohydrates stimulates insulin secretion, so these are avoided during fasts.

  • Halting autophagy - Autophagy peaks during the fasted state around the 16-20 hour mark. Eating protein in particular has been shown to inhibit autophagy.

So will taking creatine supplements during your fast negatively impact insulin levels or autophagy? Let’s take a closer look.

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Insulin Response to Creatine

Research suggests that creatine supplementation increases insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake into muscle cells. However, there is little evidence that creatine alone will significantly spike insulin levels or blood sugar.

One study in healthy men showed taking 5 grams of creatine monohydrate just before exercise did not alter their insulin response. Other research confirms creatine alone does not increase insulin secretion.

This means that consuming creatine supplements on their own while fasting is unlikely to trigger insulin release and take you out of the fasted state.

Autophagy and Creatine

Animal research indicates that adding protein or amino acids during a fast can suppress the rise in autophagy. However, studies have not looked specifically at creatine’s effects on autophagy in humans.

Creatine supplements are a pure form of creatine, not a protein or amino acid. Evidence suggests that creatine alone likely does not inhibit autophagy to a meaningful degree during fasting.

Therefore, current research shows that taking creatine monohydrate powder while fasting should not significantly impact insulin levels or autophagy, meaning it is unlikely to technically “break” your fast.

Benefits of Combining Creatine and Intermittent Fasting

Not only is creatine unlikely to break your fast, but combining creatine supplementation with intermittent fasting may offer additional performance and muscle-building benefits:

  • Increased exercise performance - Creatine directly improves your muscles’ ability to produce energy, leading to increases in high-intensity exercise performance, even in a fasted state when your glycogen stores are depleted.

  • Greater muscle growth - Intermittent fasting and creatine may work synergistically to optimize anabolic (muscle-building) hormonal responses. Fasting increases growth hormone release while creatine enhances muscle-building effects of high-intensity training.

  • Improved strength gains - Creatine supplementation during intermittent fasting can amplify strength gains from your workouts and help offset any potential loss of muscle mass during fasting periods.

  • More fat loss - By improving high-intensity interval training performance, creatine may also boost fat burning when combined with fasting’s innate fat loss effects.

While research specific to combining creatine and intermittent fasting is still limited, the potential benefits definitely look promising.

How to Take Creatine While Fasting

To incorporate creatine into an intermittent fasting protocol, here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Take 5 grams of pure creatine monohydrate powder only during your eating window, not during the fasted state.

  • Mix your creatine into a shake with water or unsweetened almond milk. Avoid added sugars or fruit juices.

  • Time creatine intake 60-90 minutes pre-workout. If you don’t train fasted, take it post-workout along with protein and carbs.

  • Take a creatine supplement on both workout and non-workout days for maximum benefits.

  • Try taking creatine before bed if training in a fasted state. This ensures your creatine levels are saturated for the following morning’s workout.

  • For loading phases: Take 20 grams per day (4 doses of 5 grams) for 5-7 days, followed by 3-5 grams per day maintenance dose.

Following these simple strategies allows you to continue supplementing with creatine for building muscle and improving training performance while intermittent fasting.

Common Concerns About Creatine and Fasting

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions people have about combining creatine and intermittent fasting:

Does creatine spike insulin levels?

Creatine alone has not been found to significantly increase insulin secretion.

One study showed no difference in insulin response to consuming 5 grams of creatine.

Will creatine break my fast?

It’s unlikely that creatine supplements will technically break your fast or kick you out of the fasted state due to minimal effects on insulin and autophagy.

When’s the best time to take creatine while fasting?

Take creatine during your eating window.

Many find taking it at night ensures saturated creatine levels for early morning workouts.

Can I load creatine while intermittent fasting?

Yes, you can still complete a creatine loading phase by consuming 20 grams per day split into 4 doses taken only during eating periods.

Does creatine affect autophagy?

While some protein can inhibit autophagy, creatine as a solo supplement does not appear to have significant anti-autophagy effects during fasting.

How much creatine should I take per day?

After the loading phase, take 3-5 grams per day.

Split this into 1 dose on non-workout days or 2 smaller doses before and after workouts.

The Bottom Line:

Creatine and Intermittent Fasting Research indicates that consuming pure creatine monohydrate while intermittent fasting is unlikely to break your fasted state.

Creatine does not spike insulin or suppress autophagy to a significant degree when taken alone without food or other macronutrients.

Therefore, creatine supplementation can be an effective strategy to maintain and build muscle mass when combined with intermittent fasting’s fat burning effects.

Furthermore, creatine directly enhances your muscles’ ability to perform high-intensity exercise.

This means it can provide additional performance and muscle-building benefits when coupled with intermittent fasting, especially around workouts.

Simply be sure to take creatine during your eating window, not while fasting. The future looks bright for integrating creatine and intermittent fasting to take your fitness progress to the next level.

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