Updated: Aug 24
Creatine is an incredible sports supplement that has taken the world by storm. It’s used by athletes worldwide for its incredible positive effects, including boosting to athletic performance, greater muscle gains and improved recovery. But are there any negative side effects to creatine? We’re all about transparency, so this article will break down the negative effects that can be experienced by some people who take creatine. We support our arguments with scholarly articles and research, and so you're welcome to explore the topic if you desire!
The basics — what is creatine?
Creatine’s a compound that occurs naturally in your body, and has a key role in creating ATP. ATP is the main source of energy for muscle contractions, which is why so many athletes looking to build muscle have an interest in creatine. When you take part in high-intensity exercise like weightlifting or sprinting, the demand for ATP goes up.
When there’s not enough ATP to keep going, that’s where fatigue kicks in. Ever tried to go for that final rep and found you just couldn’t do it? That’s what happens when you run out of ATP — you have to rest until its levels are restored in your body.
But there’s a shortcut — by supplementing with creatine, ATP is replenished faster and you can keep going for longer. This results in better performance, greater gains, and even improved recovery. It's as simple as that.
Does creatine have negative side effects?
Let’s get into it. While creatine is safe for most people when used as directed, there are some unwanted side effects that can be experienced by some people who take it. We’re all individuals and our bodies are unique. So the side effects experienced, if any, will vary from person to person. Below, we outline some potential creatine negative side effects, so that you're fully in the know before you start taking your preferred creatine supplement.
Before you read on, you might like to know that CreGAAtine is a a unique Creatine proprietary blend that contains the Creatine precursor, GAA – Guanidinoacetic acid. It offers all the creatine benefits without the side effects. Learn more about CreGAAtine here.
Possible creatine negative side effects:
It’s true that you may gain weight whilst using creatine. But we'd like to remind you that isn't due to an increase in body fat. Largely, this will be due to increased muscle growth (as muscle weighs more than fat) and this will likely increase your body weight.
Athletes seeking to build muscle often opt for creatine. But the truth is that any muscle-building strength program can therefore result in weight gain, with or without creatine. In fact, weight gain is a very typical result of muscle-building, regardless of the method used. However, another way that creatine can lead to weight gain is through water retention (read below).
It is also true that creatine can cause your muscles to retain more water than they usually would. This can result in a slightly unnatural, balloon-like appearance to your muscles and therefore a perceived “deflating” of muscles if and when you stop taking creatine. You should also take into account that water retention adds to your total body weight.
But there’s good news! An optimised formula in CreGAAtine (a new and improved form of creatine) is designed to help you build lean muscle, without the excess water retention. You can learn more about CreGAAtine and the science behind it, here.
Finally, it is true that when taking very high doses, supplementing with creatine can lead to digestive discomfort and issues like diarrhoea. However, there’s no evidence at all that it causes these issues when taken at recommended levels. Just like anything you take as a supplement, it's therefore important that you stick to the recommended measure.
You might also like to know that additives, ingredients or contaminants included in the production of some creatine products could cause digestive issues. We highly recommend doing your research and investing in a trusted, high quality product, rather than simply choosing the cheapest or most available option. When it comes to the side effects of creatine, every body is different, and so taking the time to see what works for you is highly recommended!
Creatine negative side effects: myth busting
The world of exercise science is a funny place. Everyone’s an “expert” and there’s a vast amount of misinformation. Here’s a list of purported side effects of creatine that are thrown around in gyms and internet forums, but are not actually backed by science.
Dehydration, muscle cramps and injuries
There’s no research to support the theory that creatine causes dehydration. Because creatine drives more water into muscle cells, some people worry that this could cause dehydration. However, this cellular shift in water content is so minor that there is no risk of dehydration. In fact, a study that followed college athletes over three years found that those who took creatine had fewer cases of dehydration, muscle cramps or muscle injuries than those not taking it. No need to panic!
Another study actually showed that creatine reduced muscle cramps when it was tested on people undergoing hemodialysis, a medical treatment that can cause cramps. People who took creatine had a 60% reduction in cramping!
There’s also no evidence to support the theory that creatine causes acne. Some research even shows that applying creatine topically to the skin can improve wrinkles and skin damage! While working out harder and longer can lead to increased sweat, which is linked with acne, creatine itself is not.
Liver and kidney damage
No study to date has shown any evidence of creatine causing liver or kidney damage to healthy individuals. However, caution is recommended for people who have existing liver or kidney conditions.
Please note that this information is not intended as medical advice, and it’s recommended that anyone looking to start a new supplement regime should consult a healthcare professional first.
CreGAAtine: incredible benefits and fewer side effects
If you’re looking for a high quality product that’s specially formulated to combat negative side effects, you’ve come to the right place.
CreGAAtine is best known for its incredible benefits which come without the side effects that other products can cause. If you're worried about side effects, CreGAAtine is a great place for you to start.
Chang, C.-T. . (2002). Creatine monohydrate treatment alleviates muscle cramps associated with haemodialysis. Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation, 17(11), pp.1978–1981. doi:https://doi.org/10.1093/ndt/17.11.1978.
Greenwood, M., Kreider, R.B., Melton, C., Rasmussen, C., Lancaster, S., Cantler, E., Milnor, P. and Almada, A. (2003). Creatine supplementation during college football training does not increase the incidence of cramping or injury. Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, [online] 244(1-2), pp.83–88. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12701814/.
Groeneveld, G.J., Beijer, C., Veldink, J.H., Kalmijn, S., Wokke, J.H.J. and van den Berg, L.H. (2005). Few Adverse Effects of Long-Term Creatine Supplementation in a Placebo-Controlled Trial. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 26(4), pp.307–313. doi:https://doi.org/10.1055/s-2004-817917.
Kreider, R.B., Kalman, D.S., Antonio, J., Ziegenfuss, T.N., Wildman, R., Collins, R., Candow, D.G., Kleiner, S.M., Almada, A.L. and Lopez, H.L. (2017). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 14(1). doi:https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z.
Kreider, R.B. and Stout, J.R. (2021). Creatine in Health and Disease. Nutrients, 13(2), p.447. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13020447.