Creatine is one of the most popular supplements among bodybuilders. Creatine is used to increase strength, size and endurance. Creatine supplementation has been shown to improve muscle mass, decrease fatigue during exercise and enhance athletic performance. However, there are some concerns with creatine use including:
Can it cause kidney stones?
Is it safe if taken in excess?
What does Creatine Do?
Creatine is a molecule made up of two amino acids – glycine and methionine. These two amino acids combine together to form the chemical compound known as creatine phosphate (PCr). PCr is a building block of all cells in the human body. When creatine is consumed, it enters the bloodstream where it acts as an energy source for muscles and other tissues.
The main function of creatine is to supply energy to working muscles. It helps maintain blood flow through the heart, lungs and kidneys. In addition, creatine increases levels of nitric oxide (NO) which improves circulation throughout the body. This helps deliver more oxygen, nutrients and energy to the muscles.
The process of creatine synthesis involves combining amino acids arginine, glycine and methionine. The liver and kidneys are primarily responsible for this process, although creatine can be obtained from food as well (from meats and fish).
There are some differences between creatine monohydrate vs creatine citrate (a buffered form of creatine). For example, creatine monohydrate is 66% creatine by weight. Creatine citrate is 60% creatine. The remaining 40% of the compound is the buffering agent potassium citrate.
Most of the studies conducted on creatine supplementation used the monohydrate form. It’s important to follow the instructions and recommendations on dosage and timing.
How Does Creatine Cause Bloating?
Some people have experienced bloating after taking creatine. Bloating is the swelling of the abdomen due to the presence of excess gas. Bloating can also be due to water retention. In either case, you can get rid of bloat by having more water as well as using an anti-gas product like activated charcoal or a product that gets binders out of the gut like e-coat.
What Does creatine Do?
Athletes use creatine as a supplement. It is highly debated whether or not it is effective in increasing performance or improving muscle mass.
However, some research has shown that creatine supplementation can increase power performance. Other studies have shown that creatine supplementation doesn’t increase strength in older adults or improve performance on aerobic exercise.
As with most supplements, there are both positive and negative effects to consider when taking creatine. There are benefits as well as side effects of creatine. It’s important to weigh out both the pros and cons before starting any type of new supplement.
The most common side effects of creatine are stomach pain, diarrhea, muscle cramps, nausea, fatigue and weight gain. While serious side effects are less likely to occur, they may include seizures, swelling of the ankles or legs, and heart arrhythmias.
Who Shouldn’t Take Creatine?
There are certain groups that should not take creatine. This includes individuals with a history of kidney or liver disorders, diabetes or heart disease.
Because creatine increases the amount of water in your body, it is vital that you stay properly hydrated when supplementing with this product. Also, you should not take creatine if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
How and Where to Take Creatine
Most creatine on the market comes in the form of a drink mix. Typically, it’s mixed with water. However, you can mix it with juice or other types of liquids. The recommended dose is usually three to five grams a day for a period of four to eight weeks. After this time period, you may choose to stop taking creatine or cycle on and off it.
Is Creatine Safe?
Most people tolerate creatine quite well. In general, side effects are rare and are limited to stomach pain and diarrhea. There have been some reports of personality changes, anxiety, and muscle cramping. However, there is not enough evidence to confirm that creatine causes these side effects.
Other concerns with creatine supplementation include an increase in the risk of dehydration as well as kidney and liver problems. In addition, a small number of people may experience an allergic reaction to creatine, which can lead to difficulty breathing or tightening of the chest.
A Word From Verywell
Sources & references used in this article:
Creatine metabolism and psychiatric disorders: Does creatine supplementation have therapeutic value? by PJ Allen – Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 2012 – Elsevier
Creatine supplementation increases total body water without altering fluid distribution by ME Powers, BL Arnold, AL Weltman… – Journal of athletic …, 2003 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Studies on the antidiuretic effect of cyclophosphamide: vasopressin release and sodium excretion by U Bode, SM Seif, AS Levine – Medical and Pediatric Oncology, 1980 – Wiley Online Library
Adverse effects of creatine supplementation by JR Poortmans, M Francaux – Sports Medicine, 2000 – Springer
Creatine supplementation during pulmonary rehabilitation in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease by JP Fuld, LP Kilduff, JA Neder, Y Pitsiladis, MEJ Lean… – Thorax, 2005 – thorax.bmj.com
Effects of creatine loading and prolonged creatine supplementation on body composition, fuel selection, sprint and endurance performance in humans by LJC LOON, AM Oosterlaar, F Hartgens… – Clinical …, 2003 – portlandpress.com
Effects of acute creatine monohydrate supplementation on leucine kinetics and mixed-muscle protein synthesis by G Parise, S Mihic, D MacLennan… – Journal of Applied …, 2001 – journals.physiology.org