Creatine Side Effects

by on June 21, 2011


The issue of whether or not creatine produces side effects is hotly contested, with some physicians and nutritionists claiming that there are no adverse effects at all. However, creatine users have reported cramping, diarrhea, dehydration, and asthma after initiating use of the drug. Whether or not these side effects are a direct result of the creatine itself has yet to be concretely proven.

Common Creatine Side Effects

The side effects of creatine are rare, and both users and researchers claim that the drug exhibits no serious side effects at all. However, reports have indicated creatine may cause the following:

  • Dehydration
  • Skin Bloating
  • Gastrointestinal Disorder (cramping, diarrhea, etc.)
  • Asthmatic symptoms
  • Kidney or liver damage (typically after excessive use, or in those with previous conditions)
  • Formaldehyde poisoning (after long term, excessive use)

Is Creatine Safe?

Creatine Side Effects

Some of the aforementioned side effects are heavily contested, as many dieticians and physicians argue that these reactions cannot be attributed to creatine. For example, some studies suggest that there is no proven relationship between creatine use and dehydration, and that in fact the dehydration results from increased exercise in the wake of a creatine-induced boost in energy, and an individual failure to then adjust intake of liquids accordingly.

Additionally, others argue that the possibility of increased formaldehyde production in the body is still largely a theoretical concern.

Side Effects in Men and Women

Men have reported cases of the above side effects, in addition to a few select instances of heart problems that may have been related to the creatine use. Again, though, the relationship between these adverse effects and the drug itself are unproven. Dr. Tod Cooperman has noted that the culprit for many side effects arising in men may often lie with another supplement they are taking. For instance, he points out that an overdose of Vitamin C can lead to dehydration and intestinal problems.

Women taking creatine supplements are more likely to report side effects than men, and these often include stomach and muscle cramps, diarrhea, and nausea. This may be due to the fact that women already have a higher level of natural creatine in the body than men; thus, it is easier for them to take too much, leading to adverse effects. This may also be the reason why female creatine users report higher levels of urination, caused by the flushing of this excess creatine from the body.

Side Effects in Children

Becuase creatine has been proven to affect metabolic rates, it may cause unwanted cellular damage in children. This in turn can have negative effects on their still developing metabolism. Most doctors and health specialists agree that children under 18 should avoid creatine, as not enough research has been conducted to indicate the possible side effects and risk factors.

Weight Gain

Creatine is directly linked to rapid weight gain; in fact, this is the reason most individuals choose to take it as a supplement. Initially, this gain will just be water weight, and will average about 2-3 pounds within the first week of taking creatine. After this time period, the weight gain will be a result of increased muscle mass, and will rise in proportion to the amount of weight training conducted. If a creatine user neglects to exercise and lift weights while on the supplement, though, the weight gain will simply be water.

Doctors advise against pregnant women taking creatine because, as with many drugs and supplements, the side effects of the drug during the gestational stage are largely unknown. It should also not be used by individuals with a history of kidney or liver disease. Aside from these cases, creatine is a safe supplement for healthy individuals to use regularly and in moderation (approximately 5-20 grams per day being the recommended dose).