Even if you are fitness newbie, chances are you have heard of a dietary supplement called creatine. There are many rumors surrounding this supplement, some of which are true and others with no scientific basis. Before you take this supplement, you should be familiar with what creatine is and the potential side effects that can occur. Consult your health care provider before you purchase any dietary supplements that have creatine in them.
Creatine is neither "good" nor "bad" for you: It is an amino acid found in meat and fish and also naturally made by your liver, kidneys and pancreas, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Creatine is converted into ATP, which your body uses as the major energy source for high-intensity, short-duration exercise such as sprinting or strength training. The McKinley Health Center at the University of Illinois reports that creatine is considered safe when used at the directed or recommended dosages.
Potential Side Effects
Creatine is not likely to harm your body if taken as directed, but there are several side effects that still can occur. Creatine supplementation can put stress on your kidneys. According to Rice University, when you supplement with the recommended doses of creatine, your creatine levels can be 90 times greater than normal. Dehydration is a common side effect of creatine usage. Creatine supplementation causes your muscle to retain water and your body's demand for water increases. It is especially important for athletes using creatine who train or play in hot climates to be adequately hydrated because the potential for dehydration increases. Creatine usage can cause diarrhea, muscle cramping and water retention. Creatine is generally well-tolerated, but some people are most prone to side effects than others.
Long-Term Side Effects
According to Vanderbilt University, there are no long-term controlled studies examining the safety of creatine supplementation. The University of Maryland Medical Center notes, however, that most studies found no significant side effects when creatine was used for six months. There is some concern that creatine supplementation might deplete your body of and prevent your body from making its own natural creatine stores, but this has neither been verified or disproved.
Even if you take creatine as directed, there still is a possibility that creatine supplementation can adversely interact with other medications. Combining creatine with NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain relief drugs, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can increase the potential for kidney or liver damage. You should never take diuretics when you are supplementing with creatine because of the increased potential for kidney damage and dehydration. Tell your health care provider of any over-the-counter or prescription medications you are on before using a creatine dietary supplement.
- University of Illinois; McKinley Health Center: Creatine and Whey Protein Supplements
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Creatine
- Rice University: Creatine Supplementation in Athletes: Review
- Vanderbilt University: Wrestling Practices and Creatine Monohydrate: A Deadly Combination?
- Vanderbilt University: Does Creatine Supplementation Really Enhance Athletic Performance?