Creatine is a substance found naturally in your body that supports muscle strength. This substance can be taken as a supplement to enhance muscle growth.
It’s thought to improve strength and weight, help muscles to recover more quickly during exercise and increase lean muscle mass. That’s why creatine is considered one of the best supplements for improving your workout performance. Learn more about what creatine does to the body from our helpful guide.
Although creatine is known for its performance and strength-related benefits, can taking creatine cause any side effects? Our guide explores all.
- Creatine safety
- Dangers of taking too much creatine
- Creatine side effects: FAQs
- Creatine water retention & dehydration
- Creation effects on liver & kidneys
- Can creatine cause hair loss?
- Stomach discomfort & creatine
- Creatine for men & women
Is creatine safe to take?
As creatine is one of the most widely researched supplements, multiple long-term studies suggest there are no negative effects associated.1
Research has shown that it’s safe to consume creatine daily, even over long periods of time. Learn when to take creatine for the best results.
However, despite this, some claim that creatine can have side effects, such as causing people to gain weight, experience cramping or have kidney and liver problems.
What are the dangers of taking too much creatine?
Like any other supplement or medication, taking the correct dosage for individual requirements is vital.
The amount of creatine you should take will depend on a variety of factors, including:
- How often you work out
- The nature of the exercise (for example, weight training or high-intensity performance endurance)
- If you’re creatine loading as part of a creatine cycle
However, the standard dosage recommendation for creatine is around 3-5g per day. This is because you also typically produce around 1-2g per day in your body.
If you take too much creatine or larger doses than is recommended, some of the suggested side effects could include bloating, stomach discomfort, dehydration, dry mouth, muscle cramps, hair loss, and damage to the liver and kidneys.
However, there is little evidence to suggest this is the case, with most studies suggesting that creatine exhibits no harmful side effects.
It’s also worth noting that taking too much creatine is pointless. Once your muscles are saturated with creatine, consuming more would only cause you to excrete excess creatine through urine, as your body can only hold so much.2
So not only would this be ineffective, but it would be a waste of money, too!
Creatine side effects: FAQs
How does creatine affect water retention?
Taking creatine supplements has been shown to increase the intracellular fluid in your body. This gives your muscles a fuller appearance and can often be associated with water retention.
Higher levels of water retention and, in turn, ‘bloating’ can occur when using creatine for the first time or during the loading phase of the creatine cycle. This consists of taking around 20-25g of creatine for 5-7 days consecutively.3
This can lead to an increase in body weight which occurs through an increase in muscle mass and water intake into your muscles. This can, therefore, lead to bloating.4
Studies have found that the loading phase can result in a significant gain in total body water5. But, this is usually short-term and should resolve itself after a few weeks.6
It should also be noted that water retention within the muscle cell is not actually a bad thing – it means you are more anabolic, so you are able to build muscle with more hydrated muscle cells.
Not everybody gets ‘bloated’ from taking creatine – however, if you want to reduce the ‘bloated feeling’, one of the best ways to do this is to lower your daily dosage or take the maintenance dose of 3-5g per day.
Can creatine cause dehydration?
As it alters your body’s stored water content, a popular misconception is that creatine can cause dehydration.
However, this is untrue.
The shift in cellular water is minimal, and there is no evidence to suggest taking creatine can cause dehydration.
It may allow you to have more energy during your workouts, though, so ensure to drink enough water when you exercise to compensate for this.
Can creatine affect your kidneys or liver?
There’s no evidence to suggest that creatine harms your liver or kidneys if you’re a healthy person and you take the correct dosage.7
But, if you have a pre-existing condition affecting your liver or kidneys, make sure to contact your GP before introducing creatine into your routine.
Can creatine cause hair loss?
There is mixed research surrounding creatine and hair loss, and the current body of evidence does not indicate that creatine supplementation increases or causes hair loss or baldness.8
One study found that a group of college-aged male rugby players who took a creatine supplement for 3 weeks had an increase in a hormone called DHT. This hormone has been linked to some (but not all) hair loss or baldness occurrences.9
This is where the common myth originated, but these findings have not been replicated since.
Can creatine cause stomach discomfort/digestion problems?
If you’re taking too much creatine at one time, yes – this can result in stomach discomfort.
A study of athletes who supplemented with 10g of creatine in one single serving experienced several side effects, including stomach upset, diarrhoea and burping.10
However, if you are taking creatine in the loading phase of the cycle, splitting your intake of creatine into 4–5 equal doses throughout the day should avoid these side effects.
How do creatine side effects vary between men and women?
There is a misconception that creatine supplementation is only suitable for male athletes. But, no evidence suggests that women or older adults cannot take creatine safely.11
However, the side effects of taking too much creatine would be similar in both men and women.
Creatine has a wealth of evidence supporting its safety as a daily supplement.
Taking too much creatine could result in some side effects, which is why you should speak with your GP before introducing creatine if you have any pre-existing medical conditions.
During the loading phase of a creatine cycle, this could result in water retention and ‘bloating’ – but this should resolve itself within a few weeks.
Browse our range of creatine supplements online to find the best choice for you.
Need help deciding? From powder and tablets to vegan creatine, our guide on the best creatine supplements has you covered.