Creatine is a chemical that is found to occur in the body- especially in the muscles and also in the brain. It is also found in certain foods such as seafood and red meat. It can also be synthesised in the laboratory. This article explores the side effects and possible risks of consuming creatine.
Creatine is an extremely popular sports performance supplement that is used for increasing muscle mass and enhancing exercise performance. There is some evidence that supports the beneficial changes that creatine offers and therefore a majority of nutrition supplements in the US contain creatine in them.
The use of creatine is approved by many professional sports associations such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the International Olympic Committee.
Besides improving muscle strength and exercise performance, creatine is also consumed if the person is suffering from creatine deficiency. Creatine deficiency can prove to be quite dangerous as it can cause heart diseases, brain damage, Huntington’s disease and many other fatal illnesses. Also, creatine is also used as an anti-ageing cream that is used on the skin.
It does appear like creatine is a magical solution to many health problems and also for health enhancement. So, what could possibly be the drawbacks of Creatine?
Gastrointestinal and other effects
Consuming creatine can cause gastrointestinal disturbances such as nausea, stomach pain, muscle cramping and diarrhoea. It can cause fatigue, headache and fever. It can even lead to mental troubles such as anxiety and breathing difficulty. Additionally, people who are allergic to creatine can develop rashes.
Can creatine cause weight gain?
Consumption of creatine supplements leads to an immediate increase in body weight. It is found that there is an increase of about 1-3 kgs in the body weight after consuming about 20 grams of creatine every day for a week. However, please note that this increase is due to increased water in the muscles and not due to body fat.
Since athletes and bodybuilders consume creatine in hopes of increasing body muscle, this is not really a side effect. Moreover, muscle gain is also beneficial to the elderly and obese. Nonetheless, be informed and expect to put on a few more kilograms when you begin consuming creatine.
Does creatine cause dehydration?
Creatine draws water from the rest of the body and directs them to the muscles. There is an alteration in the distribution of stored water content of the body. Thus, make sure to drink loads of water than you normally would and avoid working out in direct heat.
However, several studies have conclusively proven that creatine does not directly cause dehydration. Hence, this is another side effect that is debunked by studies.
Can creatine damage your liver and kidneys?
Creatine raises the creatinine level in the blood slightly. Creatinine measure is commonly used to diagnose liver or kidndely problems. However, the rise in creatinine is so slight that it is not a true danger for healthy individuals.
While this is true, the rise in creatinine cannot be ignored. Individuals suffering from kidney or liver problems can suffer further with the use of creatine. Therefore, do not use creatine if you are suffering from kidney disease or even diabetes as that raises the chance of developing kidney disease.
Is creatine safe for pregnant women and children?
Creatine is regarded as possible safe for most children when it is carefully administered in recommended dosages. However, some doctors believe that children under 18 must avoid consuming creatine as we are still unsure about how it affects the children in their adult years.
Likewise, there is no reliable and clear information on the effect of creatine on pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding. It is safe to avoid consuming creatine to prevent any possible problems.
Can creatine lead to mental disorders?
There has been some evidence that supports that creatine aggravates the manic episodes in bipolar disorder. It is wise for people suffering from bipolar disorder to check with their doctor before consuming creatine supplements.
Similarly, creatine is also shown to be dangerous for Parkinson’s disease. Creatine consumed in combination with caffeine can aggravate the symptoms of Parkinson’s disorder. It would be best to avoid caffeine if you wish to consume creatine supplements and have Parkinson’s disease.
How does creatine interact with other drugs?
Creatine is found to interact with other medication that has the potential to damage the kidneys and liver. This interaction can further heighten the chances of kidney damage.
Some of the medication that interacts with creatine are ibuprofen, tobramycin, aminoglycosides, gentamicin and many other drugs. Creatine also interacts with medication that alters the blood sugar level.
It would be best to consult with your doctor if you are suffering from a serious illness such as cancer or heart disease.
Its all about the dosage when it comes to nutrient supplements. Finding the right amount that is suitable for your body is crucial. Incorrect dosage is the most common reason for the occurrence of many side effects of creatine.
Dosages are assigned differently for different purposes. For older adults who are looking to prevent muscle loss a short term dosage of 20 grams is given for about 4-7 days followed by 2-10 grams daily.
In the case of muscle strengthening, an initial dose of 20 grams for about 5-7 days in followed by 1-27 grams daily. For athletic performance, an initial dosage of 20 grams for a week is followed by 2-10 grams daily.
This dosage pattern is one of the common ones and different people follow different dosage regimens.
A word of caution
As it is true for any medication, diet plan or nutrient supplement, it is always wise and necessary to discuss it with your doctor or a medical professional. So, definitely discuss your creatine plans with your doctor.
Adding an exogenous susbtance such as creatine that is an amino group to your body regularly in large amounts does increase the load on your kidneys and liver however small.
Such an overload has every possibility for the arising of unique and idiosyncratic side effects. Therefore, in addition to medical professional consultation before beginning creatine supplement intake, you must also regularly monitor its effects to avoid any abnormal and harmful side effects.
When you decide to take creatine supplements, make sure it is creatine monohydrate. There are many supplements that come with unnecessary added ingredients and it is best to avoid them.
Also, it is best to take creatine in powdered form rather than in liquid or as creatine ethyl ester as they do not process well in the body. Consume powdered creatine with fresh fruit juice. The sugar in the juice increases the insulin level which in turn raises the creatine intake into the muscles.
Another interesting yet worrying fact is we do not have clear information on the quality of creatine supplements that are in the market.
Hence one of the major health risks is regarding the purity of creatine that is commercially available.
Things to remember
Creatine is a naturally occurring chemical in the body, 95% of which is stored in the muscles. It is also found in some food products such as seafood and red meat. Creatine supplements are consumed for its athletic benefits such as muscle strengthening.
There are a few side effects to consuming creatine supplements which must be kept in mind before consuming them.
They can cause gastrointestinal troubles such as stomach cramps, nausea etc.
Creatine can be harmful to individuals suffering from diabetes, kidney and liver diseases.
They have the potential to aggravate bipolar disorder and Parkinson’s disease.
Creatine supplements can interact with other drugs in harmful ways.
Thus, consult your doctor and make informed decisions.
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