7 side effects of creatine you should be aware of

The human body naturally produces creatine in the liver, kidneys and pancreas.

In the muscles, creatine phosphate or phosphocreatine is converted to energy. As a source of ATP, which is the primary carrier of energy within the human body, phosphocreatine is used during high-intensity, short-duration exercise, such as lifting weights or sprinting.

What are creatine supplements?

The use of creatine supplements is popular among bodybuilders and competitive athletes. Approximately $14 million is spent on creatine supplements each year by Americans. 

High-intensity, short-duration sports (such as high jumping and weight lifting) may benefit from creatine because it increases lean muscle mass. It is important to note, however, that not every human study shows creatine improves athletic performance, and not every person responds to creatine supplements in the same way. 

People with naturally high creatine levels in their muscles, for instance, do not get the same energy boost from extra creatine. Several clinical studies suggest that creatine may help prevent muscle weakness caused by heart failure and muscular dystrophy [1].

How does creatine affect the body in the short term?

It is almost certain that you will gain weight if you take creatine. Adding muscle with creatine is a quick way to gain weight, but you’ll also gain water weight, according to Carolyn Brown, RD, Indigo Wellness Group nutrition counsellor [2]. Most people gain “two to four pounds of water retention in the first week.”

However, it is good to have water weight. Adding creatine to your diet will increase the size and fullness of your muscles. And if you’re not adding weight on creatine in the short term, you may not drink enough water [3]. Taking creatine supplements requires you to stay hydrated.

How does creatine affect the body in the short term?

How does creatine affect the body over time?

According to Paul Greenhaff, PhD, professor of muscle metabolism at the University of Nottingham in England, subsequent gains result from increasing your capacity to handle workloads. If you keep pushing harder and harder in the gym, creatine will fuel you to make more significant gains.

Some people think that if they take creatine and don’t work out, they’ll gain fat, but apparently it isn’t true. This is because creatine contains no calories and has no impact on your fat metabolism. 

Taking creatine and not working out will lead to nothing. You can’t take creatine, not work out, and expect to gain muscle. It just doesn’t work that way.

Possible side effects of creatine

Creatine side effects vary depending on who you ask but here are some that have been reportedly experienced by some users [4]:

  • Kidney damage: Although an older study suggested creatine might worsen kidney dysfunction in people with kidney disorders, creatine does not appear to affect kidney function in healthy individuals [5].
  • Liver damage: Creatine has been linked to this condition [6]. Its administration is known to decrease the consumption of Sadenosyl methionine and also reduce the homocysteine production in liver, diminishing fat accumulation and resulting in beneficial effects in fatty liver and non-alcoholic liver disease [7]. 
  • Kidney stones: While creatine users with a history of kidney stones are advised to monitor their condition with the guidance of a professional specialist, there has been no evidence to date to believe that creatine can cause kidney stones [8].
  • Weight gain: Water weight is a type of weight gain that can occur with creatine. As a result of the supplement drawing water into your muscles’ cells, creatine can cause rapid water weight gain. You’ll feel bloated or puffy around your arms, legs, or stomach when your muscles hold onto this water. You may even see a bigger appearance of your muscles after just a few weeks of training. It is common for people to gain about 2 to 4.5 pounds in the first week of taking oral creatine [9].
  • Bloating: Also known as fluid retention, creatine can cause rapid water weight because the supplement draws water into your muscles’ cells. This water will cause your muscles to hold onto it, causing bloating or puffiness. Even if you have just started training, your muscles may appear larger [10].
  • Digestive concerns: It is possible to experience stomach discomfort if you take too much creatine at once. A study found that athletes who consumed 10 grams of creatine in a one-time dose experienced diarrhea, stomach upset, and belching. When supplementing with a 2 to 5-gram dose, side effects were not reported [11].
  • Compartment syndrome: The “5 ‘s” are oftentimes associated with compartment syndrome: pain, pallor (pale skin tone), paraesthesia (numbness feeling), pulselessness (faint pulse) and paralysis (weakness with movements). Numbness, tingling, or pain may be present in the entire lower leg and foot [ 12]. theoretically, the risk of compartment syndrome is increased during creatine monohydrate (CrM) supplementation because of fluid retention in muscle cells and the overall increased size of the muscle tissue [13].

Can creatine be considered a steroid?

Many people incorrectly claim creatine is an anabolic steroid, that it should only be used by bodybuilders and professional athletes [14]. In spite of this negative press, the International Society of Sports Nutrition deems creatine to be one of the most beneficial sports supplements on the market [15].

After taking creatine supplements for 21 months, 69 health markers were measured. It found no adverse effects [16]. In addition to treating neuromuscular disorders, concussions, diabetes, and muscle loss, creatine has been used to treat a number of other health concerns [17, 18, 19, 20].

Can creatine be considered a steroid?

How safe is it to take creatine every day?

Consuming creatine supplements daily, even over a long period of time, has been shown to be safe. People who take high doses of creatine (30 grams/day) for up to five years do not appear to experience any significant side effects. Studies show positive health benefits in athletes who take daily supplements of creatine for long periods.

Last words from an expert

According to Jim King, MD, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, he doesn’t recommend anything with minimal improvement and potential risks. It would be better to Weigh the negatives and the benefits before you try it.

King recommends avoiding creatine for children under 18. Children are still in the process of growing, and we do not know what effect creatine may have on their muscles and bones. “I strongly feel that middle and even high schoolers shouldn’t use it.” 

Creatine has its known benefits and possible side effects. Remember to consult your doctor before taking any supplements, especially if currently on medication for other conditions.

[1] https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/supplement/creatine
[2] https://www.indigowellnessgroup.com/
[3] https://www.menshealth.com/health/a27822478/how-much-water-should-i-drink-a-day/
[4] http://bit.ly/3DbqfNp
[5] http://bit.ly/3H4aYPB
[6] https://bit.ly/400rOaz
[7] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26202197/
[8] https://bit.ly/3JgaVTs
[9] https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1550-2783-4-6
[10] https://www.healthline.com/health/diet-and-weight-loss/does-creatine-make-you-fat#weight-gain
[11] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27306768/
[12] https://bit.ly/3D7A3I3
[13] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1421498/
[14] https://www.menshealth.com/nutrition/a19515624/creatine-side-effects-what-it-is-what-it-does/
[15] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5469049/
[16] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12701816
[17] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17908288
[18] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7910963/
[19] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34931982/
[20] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34199420/

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