Side Effects of Creatine – What Should You Be Looking Out For?

“…the evidence is not definitive and/or it is incomplete to indict the practice of creatine supplementation as a health risk; at the same time, our lack of information cannot be taken as an assurance the Cr supplementation is free from health risks. Ignorance provides little comfort of untoward effects yet to be discovered.” – American College of Sports Medicine Roundtable; Physiological and Health Effects of Oral Creatine Supplementation, 2000

Creatine side effects?!  Should you be worried?

You should know how does creatine work and does creatine work for everyone.  If not, re-read those posts before you learn about the possible bad effects of creatine that you may experience when taking this particular sports supplement.

First medical advice… creatine can be produced by your body.  It is a combination of 3 amino acids.  ATP is energy and creatine is critical in energy production.

Second …the majority of creatine’s accepted negative effects can be avoided if you follow the recommendations set forth in this blog or the supplement reference guide.

But with all supplements, there are possible negative effects of creatine.

Possible Side Effects of Creatine

  • stomach pain
  • nausea
  • diarrhea
  • muscle cramping
  • harm to kidney, liver, or heart functions
  • stroke risk when combing with caffeine or herb ephedra (also called Ma Huang)
  • a skin condition called pigmented purpuric dermatosis
  • dehydration
  • water weight gain
  • increase the production of formaldehyde

Why would anybody in their right mind want to take a sports supplement with a list like the one above?

Take a deep breath because none of the negative effects of creatine listed above have been linked to anything conclusive that makes a direct correlation.   You can gain some water weight while taking creatine.  That’s because the cells retain more water (volumization) during their use.  If you take too much creatine (dosages beyond 20 grams per day) you can experience some stomach discomfort.  5 to 7 percent of people experience either stomach aches, diarrhea, or both. It’s much better to follow the recommended guidelines.  Taking more product beyond the muscle’s ability to store it will not help.

What Happens When You Stop Creatine?

When we use creatine, we cause changes in our creatine levels (especially in muscle mass), which leads to the well-known increase in creatine in your blood (and therefore, creatine storage in your muscles) and resistance to L-citrulline in your muscles. So, the decrease in L-citrulline observed in strength athletes on creatine supplementation may be the result of a decrease in creatine stores in your muscles. In strength athletes, creatine is converted to L-citrulline. So, if you exercise too hard, you may cause a depletion of creatine monohydrate stores and a reduction in L-citrulline in your muscles, which results in decreased strength. We can test for this with an amino acid absorption assay.

What is Creatine in the Body?

Creatine is a water-soluble essential salt that works by increasing the energy levels of the muscles. In more scientific terms, creatine aids muscle power by increasing the amount of energy in the muscles. Your body does not manufacture creatine; however, it is ingested as a supplement. Creatine supplements are very useful for people who need to improve the speed of their body, such as sprinters, distance runners, weightlifters, and the army. It is also useful for people who have been on a strict weight-loss regimen and lack stamina, such as endurance athletes with high-intensity workouts in the long term.

Below are the guidelines of how much creatine you should take to get the benefits you are looking for: Injuries to the muscles can be prevented by increasing the energy levels in your muscles against muscle dystrophy. By increasing the energy levels in your muscle dystrophy, you are ensuring that you have the ability to exercise performance more.

Should I Stop Creatine?

Creatine was created for a very specific purpose: to give the body a supplement that gives it a “boost” without causing a spike in blood sugar, which it was once believed to cause. As creatine becomes more widely known, more users are asking about whether they should stop taking creatine in the short-term. You should start with creatine and slowly taper off because creatine can increase your blood pressure and slow down your metabolism.

Is Death a Side Effects of Creatine?

There have been some rare cases where creatine supplementation has resulted in death.  Those 2 cases are the rarest of exceptions.

Case #1:  Individual took much more than a normal dose for an extended period of time.  Well beyond 20 grams per day.

Case #2: The individual had a pre-existing renal (kidney) problem.

How to Avoid the Negative Effects of Creatine

This leads me to the following super simple safety guidelines.

  • Do not use creatine if you have pre-existing kidney problems
  • Do not use creatine if you cannot or will not stay properly hydrated.  This is a supplement that requires hydration
  • Do not use creatine if you are unwilling to calculate a proper creatine dosage
  • Do not use cheap, low-quality products

Creatine is one of the most well-researched and arguably significant in terms of overall health benefits next to protein and water.  Even though 20-30% of the population is not responsive to creatine supplementation, the proven benefits far outweigh the nonconclusive negative effects of creatine.

In fact, many have been disproved but are still listed as negative effects of creatine on thousands of websites.  Ge the facts on creatine and hundreds of other supplements by using the supplement goals reference guide.

Additional Resource:

WebMD – Uses and Side Effects of Creatine