Creatine is one of the most extensively studied dietary supplements in the history of health and fitness, and it’s one of the few substances other than anabolic steroids that has been proven to enhance muscular size and strength. Creatine is not perfect, though, and comes with several potential side effects that you need to consider before starting your regimen.
Here is a quick rundown of the problems you might encounter if you use creatine supplements.
For some people, creatine can cause stomach discomfort, nausea, and diarrhea, especially when consumed in high dosages. If you’re going to take creatine, it’s usually best to start small and work your way up to your target daily intake.
Because creatine helps to hydrate muscles by pulling water into muscle cells, its usage can lead to overall dehydration if you do not increase your water intake. A good rule of thumb is to drink enough water throughout the day that your urine remains clear or maintains a pale yellow tinge.
If you have any kidney problems, or a family history of kidney ailments, then creatine may not be a wise choice for you. A fairly small percentage of the creatine that you consume actually makes it into muscle cells, and the rest is cleared from the blood by your kidneys.
While there has not been conclusive evidence that large amounts of creatine passing through the urinary tract can cause problems, kidneys that are already compromised don’t need the burden of a heavier workload.
Combining creatine with caffeine and other herbal stimulants like ephedra has been anecdotally linked to stroke and heart attack. Since caffeine is a natural diuretic, it might also exacerbate the dehydrating effects of creatine.
Anyone who is susceptible to muscle cramps may want to avoid creatine, as there is some concern that it can make the condition worse. Though no direct evidence exists linking creatine supplementation to cramping, there are enough in-the-gym tales to warrant discretion if you’re already having a problem with muscle cramps.
There have been some reports of heart palpitations or irregular heartbeats for athletes using creatine. While a direct cause-and-effect has not been conclusively established, you should proceed with care, and may want to avoid creatine altogether, if you have a history of heart rhythm problems.
Creatine use can cause allergic reactions for some users, with symptoms including shortness of breath and itchy skin. If you have any breathing problems, such as asthma, then you may want to steer clear of creatine.
For many hard-training athletes, creatine will cause muscular weight gain. While this is great for your strength and appearance, it can be a problem if you compete in a sport that uses weight classes. If you’re a wrestler struggling to make weight, for instance, creatine probably won’t help your cause but might still be useful during your offseason.
The Good News
While this list may seem like doom and gloom, the good news is that most of the potential problems involved with creatine supplementation have been discounted at least to some degree by various research studies.
Some side effects, like weight gain, are actually desirable for most athletes, and others (like dehydration) can be avoided altogether with the proper precautions.
The best form of creatine that I have found is Kre-Alkalyn Creatine it is safer and more effective than the old creatine monohydrate powder.
Of course, the best advice when contemplating the use of creatine or any other supplement is to ask your doctor about it before you begin, especially if you have any concerns about the items on this list.
For most lifters, though, creatine is a safe and effective amino acid that can lead to real gains in strength and lean muscle.