A complete newcomer to the world of fitness, or a regular gym rat, you undeniably would have heard about creatine.
Bearing in mind that it is one of the most researched about supplement since its discovery in the 70’s (and its extensive usage by sportspersons to enhance their performance), a few of your friends would have recommended including creatine in your diet (1).
This wouldn’t necessarily have emboldened you into consuming it, as a few others would have voiced their concerns and shared their experiences, resulting in some undesirable reactions, such as weight gain or issues pertaining to the kidneys.
Take into account that almost every single case you might encounter regarding creatine ill effects are either due to taking a dose higher than that was needed, or lack of research done by the user.
What is Creatine?
Creatine is an organic nitrogenous amino acid that is synthesised in the liver and kidneys. It is stored as creatine phosphate in the body and facilitates the production of ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) by giving up its phosphate to ADP (Adenosine Diphosphate). To make it simpler, creatine converts ADP (which cannot be used for energy) into ATP (which does provide energy). If you would like to read more on creatine, check out the links below.
Well, that was a fascinating science class, but it doesn’t answer the question that would be running through your head right now – how does it help you?
- Creatine enhances the body’s ability to produce energy rapidly – which gets you to push yourself that extra mile (2).
- It makes your body more capable of performing high-intensity exercises, be it in sports such as sprinting, wrestling, etc., as well as your workouts (3).
- The other advantage that creatine supplement provides its users is enhanced muscle power and size (making you look more bulked up), (4)
- It speeds up the recovery of the muscle tissues (5)
- Helps in the healthy working of the brain (6).
Related Article: How Creatine Works in your Body?
Apart from it being produced in our bodies, creatine is also found in protein rich food such as seafood and meat (one of the reasons why muscle creatine is typically lower in quantity in a vegetarian). It is also synthesised in labs and obtained in a variety of forms, the most common being creatine monohydrate.
Related Article: 7 Types of Creatine and Which of them is Best?
However, you are most likely still apprehensive, and with good reason. There is a lot of data provided online, and it doesn’t exactly paint a rosy picture of creatine usage. And that is where the problem lies – it is either circumstantial, or based on personal experience, or a general lack of awareness regarding the supplement. Let’s go through the negative side effects of creatine, and assess whether it is true or false.
What are the Side Effects of Creatine (Are There Any)?
Let us take one myth at a time, and prove it wrong.
1) You Might Gain Weight
Cause: Creatine draws water from the rest of your body into your muscle tissue – which is an advantage, as it increases protein synthesis as well as muscles growth (7).
Precaution/Prevention: There is a two-pronged approach:
- To convert your water weight in muscle gain, you have to hit the gym – and work out.
- Always ensure that you consume enough water to counteract the dehydration you might experience.
Conversely, if you are looking to lose weight, creatine can help you out by providing you with energy even if you are on a low carb diet. For more details on both, check out the links provided below:
2) You Might Have an Increased Blood Pressure
Cause: You have a history of high blood pressure and/or taking medication for the same (8).
Precaution: Consult with your healthcare provider regarding this. If you do have high blood pressure, you would have to exercise caution, or even leave it altogether.
3) It Could Affect Your Kidneys and Liver
Reason: There is an increase of creatinine (which is the by-product of creatine) in the urine samples collected for research, but it usually doesn’t culminate into critical ailments for healthy individuals.
Precaution: In you are already diagnosed with the above diseases, the doctor would ask you to avoid creatine supplements altogether.
Bottom line: If you have no problems with your liver and kidneys, and are not diabetic, you should be good to go.
4) Creatine May Cause Dehydration
Cause: Creatine pulls water from the blood and pumps up the muscles. This is great for your muscle tissues but leaves the rest of the cells (that are also dependent on the water brought to it by the blood) with a lower quantity of water. This, unfortunately, disturbs the smooth and normal functioning of the tissues (11).
Prevention: If you would have read the packaging, you would have noted that they usually mention that you have to drink 8 – 12 glasses per day, and this information is not to be treated lightly.
5) Creatine Could Interfere with Your Medication
If you are using certain types of drugs, it would be best to ask your physician regarding taking creatine. Some medicines, if taken along with creatine may harm the kidneys, and this is a risk best avoided (12).
Bear in mind the following precautions while consuming creatine:
- Drink lots of water – this is to be followed under normal circumstances, but particularly so when ingesting creatine.
- Discuss with your doctor about being able to consume creatine safely if you suffer from any ailments and are prescribed drugs for the same.
- Don’t overdose
- Do not consume it with caffeine – it increases the likelihood of a stroke or other serious medical ailments. It may also lead to dehydration (13, 14).
If you were to ask us whether the powder or the liquid form of creatine would be better, we would endorse the powder form. Creatine in liquid form is unstable and doesn’t show as good results as the powdered one. If you want more details regarding the dosage, and how to consume it, check the link provided below.
Related Article: Why to Use and How to Use Creatine Monohydrate Powder
We hope your doubts have been cleared with regards to this supplement, and have guided you to make an educated choice. Are there any misconceptions that we have missed? If you have anything to share, please do so in the comment section below.