Today, hundreds of products are advertised as the best for muscle hypertrophy and lipolysis (i.e., fat burning).

By far, creatine and whey protein remain the gold standard for athletes and regular individuals in the field of strength training.

Both substances contain crucial compounds for muscle growth and tissue repair, and they both interfere with one or more steps in the physiology of the musculoskeletal system.

However, determining the superiority of creatine vs. whey protein is still a hot topic of debate, which we will address in this article.

By the end of this piece, you will become familiar with the function of creatine and whey protein, as well as the benefits offered by each product.

We will also settle the debate of creatine vs. whey protein once and for all.

What is creatine?

Creatine is generally found in the muscle fibers as it’s involved in the processes of producing energy (i.e., ATP) and contraction cycles.

The supplementation of this substance has been synonymous with muscle growth and improved athletic performance, which explains the massive popularity of creatine.

By upregulating certain metabolic cascades, creatine boosts the production of ATP, mediating muscle contraction along with calcium.

After taking this supplement, your cellular storage of phosphocreatine will increase, which eventually allows the myocytes (i.e., muscle cells) to produce larger amounts of ATP and contract more efficiently.

According to one study, creatine activates endocrine glands to secrete anabolic hormones that jumpstart muscle hypertrophy.

Finally, creatine reduces the concentrations of myostatin, which is a protein that inhibits muscle growth.

You may have noticed that creatine interferes with muscle growth indirectly by promoting other cellular functions that lead to hypertrophy; this a crucial theme that will play a role in determining the winner in the creatine vs. whey protein battle.

Creatine and whey supplements

What is whey protein?

Whey protein results from the process of cheesemaking and is considered one of the richest sources of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs).

Leucine, which is an amino acid that’s abundantly found in whey protein, is particularly effective in promoting muscle growth and accelerating post-exertional tissue repair.

Perhaps even more than creatine, whey protein is universally known as the go-to product for muscle growth in the field of bodybuilding and resistance training.

Throughout hundreds of clinical studies and laboratory experiments, researchers repeatedly confirmed the positive action of whey protein on performance, energy production, and muscle hypertrophy.

Note that if you’re lactose intolerant, whey protein can cause an array of indigestion symptoms, which means you cannot take this supplement anymore.

Therefore, lactose intolerant individuals should automatically opt for creatine, as well as other non-dairy protein supplements.

With that being said, we still need to decipher the research that compares creatine vs. whey protein in terms of muscle growth.

Creatine Vs. whey protein muscle growth?

Now that we covered the basics of both supplements, we need to address the main question of this article:

Which product is best for muscle hypertrophy?

Man showing musclesAccording to one study, whey protein is superior to most other anabolic substances, including soy and casein protein.

In fact, the study highlights that whey protein leads to 31% more lean muscle mass compared to other supplements.

While these findings are clearly in favor of whey protein, creatine helps your muscles in a different way. You see, the primary action of creatine does not revolve around building bigger muscle fibers but rather targeting the metabolic cascades of energy production, which eventually allows you to lift heavier weights and gain more muscle tissue.

The studies that confirmed the potential anabolic action of creatine on muscle growth noted that this action is mainly indirect and involves the activation of numerous metabolic cascades. (1) (2) (3)

In other words, whey protein provides the muscles with the necessary building blocks (i.e., amino acids) to grow bigger, while creatine mediates energy production and interferes indirectly with the process of building muscles in a negligible way (e.g., inhibition of myostatin action).

Therefore, the real question should not be creatine vs. whey protein; instead, people should opt for using both supplements since the two serve completely different purposes. Moreover, the mediation of muscle growth through separate mechanisms prevents any unnecessary conflicts or side effects.

After establishing the potential synergetic effect of taking both supplements, let’s see which product you should opt for in case you’re short on cash:

The answer is: creatine.

While some of you might think that you can get creatine from several food elements, it is really difficult to get the recommended dose of muscle maintenance (5 grams per day). Additionally, the bioavailability of creatine found in food is somewhat poor, which means that even if you consume large quantities of creatine-rich foods, you’re most likely won’t reach the 5-gram threshold.

On the other end of the spectrum, most people get sufficient amounts of protein through their daily diet.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, the recommended protein dose for muscle maintenance is around 0.7-0.8 grams per kg of bodyweight per day.

For instance, an average male who weighs 70 kg (154 lb.) should consume around 50 grams of protein per day to maintain his lean muscle mass.

This number is easily attainable by adding some foods to your diet, including chicken breasts (30 grams of protein), eggs (6 grams of protein per egg), and seafood (e.g., salmon, tuna).

As you can see, getting sufficient amounts of protein through your diet is totally achievable, which is not the case for creatine.

In summary, if you are financially comfortable, you should opt for both products to boost muscle growth; however, if you can’t afford it, creatine alone should provide you with impressive results.

Takeaway message

Creatine vs. whey protein has always been a topic of debate in the fields of nutrition and strength training.

However, and the reason this debate lasted for so long is the different mechanisms of action of both supplements, which renders the comparison quite ambiguous.

Hopefully, this article managed to answer some questions you had in mind, but if you are still confused about anything, please don’t hesitate to share your concerns in the comment section below.