Building muscle takes a lot of hard work at the gym, rest, recovery time, and—possibly most important of all—proper nutrition. Specifically, eating more of the protein-rich foods that deliver the essential amino acids required to produce new muscle fibers and repair the damage done to your muscles by your workout.
Most of us are familiar with whey protein as the ideal post-workout supplement to help you get that extra protein. But what about creatine? If you’ve never heard of it or never tried it you’ll find you might be missing out on a potent supplement frequently used for gaining muscle mass and strength. Creatine can deliver real visible results in terms of muscle growth.
Below, you’ll find out everything you need to know about both whey protein and creatine. Including a comparison to help you learn which the better choice is for muscle growth. (The answer might surprise you…)
What is Whey Protein?
Whey protein is produced from whey, one of the two proteins found in cow’s milk. It is the clear liquid that separates from milk solids during processing. Whey is a highly concentrated source of protein. It contains all nine of the essential amino acids required to build muscle, therefore it is considered a complete protein. It’s one of the best, most absorbable forms of protein on the planet. Which explains why it has become a popular supplement among bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts alike.
Whey protein powder offers a lot of benefits:
- Fast-acting. Whey protein is easy for your body to break down, absorb, and utilize. It’s the perfect post-workout option because it will quickly deliver the infusion of nutrients your muscles need to recover from an intense workout.
- Complete protein. With all nine essential amino acids contained in whey protein, you have everything your body needs to produce new muscle tissue. The amino acids also encourage the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the primary energy source for your skeletal muscle fibers.
- Faster recovery. Thanks to the fast-acting nature of the protein, it will give your body everything it needs to make repairs to damaged muscle tissue. The result is less risk of soreness and shorter recovery times after intense workouts allowing you to get back to the gym faster.
- Concentrated nutrients. Unlike the protein you get from meat, eggs, or cheese, whey protein doesn’t have a lot of other nutrients. It’s not a complete food (with all the vitamins and minerals you need), but it’s a supplement that ensures your body has the protein needed to keep up with an active, muscle-building lifestyle.
- Helps with weight loss. Whey protein can help you lose weight by increasing satiety and supporting a healthy metabolism. Adding whey to your day can help you eat less so you can reach your weight loss goals easier.
- Supports immune function. Whey contains bioactive peptides that can help support optimal immune function. It is also a source of the amino acid cysteine, a precursor to the body’s most important antioxidant glutathione.
As you can see, whey protein definitely has earned its place among the top-rated bodybuilding supplements on the market today!
What is Creatine?
Creatine serves a similar purpose to whey protein, but not quite the same. Whey protein gives your body the amino acids required for muscle repair, but creatine delivers the nutrients required to produce ATP. Creatine does not contain amino acids, but both help increase energy from ATP needed for optimal performance during your workout.
Note: ATP is the primary fuel source for your muscles during exercise.
Creatine, a nitrogenous organic acid, supplies energy to all of your body’s cells. It helps increase the levels of phosphocreatine in your muscle cells. Basically, it increases your body’s ability to produce ATP which boosts short-duration muscle contractions, improving exercise performance.
Thereby enabling your body to transport chemical energy through all of your muscle cells. Raising your ATP levels boosts your overall physical output, but it will specifically increase muscle energy. What this means is that your muscles will be able to contract more efficiently, bear heavier loads, and work for longer periods of time without fatiguing.
Creatine is found in many foods, but particularly meat. It is hard to get enough creatine in food to make an impact on your physical performance, therefore many people opt for supplements. The most common supplement is synthetic creatine monohydrate. Due to its ability to improve physical output, creatine is a popular pre-workout supplement in the fitness world.
Whey Protein vs. Creatine
When it comes to function alone, you can see how when you compare creatine vs whey, whey protein is the far more effective supplement of the two. While creatine provides the ATP your body needs in order to work hard during exercise, whey protein fuels the production of new muscle tissue. Think of creatine as the gasoline filling up a car’s tank, while whey protein is the money that helps you to buy a new car. You can imagine which of the two is more important.
For bodybuilders, whey protein is a critical supplement to take to replenish and refuel tired muscles. It will help your body to have more of the amino acids required for muscle-building. And it will also help to raise your ATP energy levels (protein is needed for the production of ATP). It can speed up post-workout recovery, reduce your risk of muscle soreness, and lead to muscular growth. Creatine, on the other hand, does not have all those amazing benefits.
Whey Protein + Creatine
Many bodybuilders choose to take whey protein with creatine supplements, as they believe that’s when the magic really starts happening! Let’s talk about why combining these supplements may be beneficial and why we don’t do it in our products at Well Wisdom.
Creatine is often best as a pre-workout supplement. The fact that it helps your body to produce more ATP energy means there will be more of this critical energy available during your workout. Thanks to the creatine you’ll be able to push harder, lift heavier, and last longer.
Whey protein, on the other hand, is better off as a post-workout supplement. It delivers a hefty dose of amino acids, which your body needs in order to make repairs to muscle fibers damaged by the workout (a good thing, which leads to muscle growth as your body compensates for the heavy load). The fact that it’s fast-acting means the whey protein will flood your body with protein quickly, ensuring the repairs are made before there is time for serious inflammation and soreness to set in.
Creatine is a much lighter supplement than whey protein. Whey protein is derived from milk, and it still has some of the fatty acids found in cow’s milk, cheese, and other dairy products. Those fatty acids are great for energy, but they take a long time for your body to digest. If you took whey protein as a pre-workout supplement, there would be a serious risk of indigestion. Your body just can’t digest food while you’re working out!
Both whey protein and creatine serve similar functions in terms of muscle-building and energy generation when paired with resistance exercise, yet work in different ways. Some believe that they may complement each other, meaning you get far more effective results if you take whey protein and creatine together. Many also choose to pair these two together for convenience.
Research has not found that whey protein with creatine has additional benefits when taken together. A 2010 study of 42 subjects found that there were not any additional benefits of taking whey protein with creatine, compared with taking each supplement on its own. Another smaller study, with only 18 subjects, found similar results with no additional muscle adaptations when the supplements were combined.
At Well Wisdom, we believe that creatine paired with whey can destroy the delicate proteins that give our whey protein concentrate, VItal Whey, its immune-boosting properties. Although it isn’t dangerous to take them together, we do not recommend taking whey protein with creatine at the same time. We do not mix creatine into our supplements for this reason.
Creatine or Whey Protein: Which Should You Choose?
When deciding which supplement to choose, creatine or protein for before or after your workout, it is really up to you and what your goals are. At a minimum, you need to refuel your muscles post-workout, so we always recommend starting with whey protein as a base supplement.
The combination of whey protein and creatine may lead to better results overall—both during your workout and in the recovery phase once your training is done. You need to experiment with what works best for you and make you feel your best during your workout.
If you choose to take whey protein and creatine both, and you may see far faster muscle growth and better workout performance. We just recommend not combining the two so you can get the immune benefits that come from whey protein. But instead, consider taking creatine before your workout and whey protein after to support muscle repair. Together, they may be far more powerful than either of them on their own!