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What Happens If You Don't Drink Enough Water While Taking Creatine?

author image Joe King, M.S.
Joe King began writing fitness and nutrition articles in 2001 for the "Journal of Hyperplasia Research" and Champion Nutrition. As a personal trainer, he has been helping clients reach their fitness goals for more than a decade. King holds a Bachelor of Science in kinesiology from California State University, Hayward, and a Master of Science in exercise physiology from California State University, East Bay.
What Happens If You Don't Drink Enough Water While Taking Creatine?
Increased water intake may help reduce the risk of dehydration while using creatine. Photo Credit matthewennisphotography/iStock/Getty Images

Creatine is a compound that is naturally produced by your body and is synthesized from the three amino acids, L-arginine, L-glycine, and L-methionine in your pancreas and stored primarily in your skeletal muscles. Creatine is also manufactured and sold as a nutritional supplement and performance enhancer because of its potential to increase muscle strength and promote muscle growth with exercise. One of the main side effects of creatine use is an increased risk of dehydration, especially if you are not drinking adequate amounts of water. Dehydration can affect your performance, organs, and even your mental state. Consult your physician before using a supplement containing creatine.

Method of Dehydration

Creatine has the ability to pull water from the plasma in your blood stream into your skeletal muscles in a process called myofibril hydration, or muscle hydration. Although this benefits your skeletal muscles, it leaves less water available for other tissues to perform their normal duties because most chemical and physiological cellular reactions in your body require water. MedlinePlus defines dehydration as when your body does not have enough water and other fluids to carry out its normal functions.

Kidney Stress

One of the effects of dehydration resulting from creatine supplementation is an increase in kidney and renal system stress. Commercially manufactured creatine usually contains metabolites, such as esters, which are attached to the creatine molecule to enhance its absorption. These metabolites must be filtered out of the body through your kidneys. A decrease in blood viscosity, combined with an increase in metabolites, causes creatine to place your kidneys under potentially significant stress. The National Library of Medicine states that when taken in high doses, creatine is possibly unsafe for your kidneys, although a clear connection to creatine and kidney damage has not been established.

Mental Effects

When water levels are low in your body, some of your brain chemicals, such as neurotransmitters and hormones, may be adversely affected. Dehydration resulting from a lack of water intake combined with creatine supplementation may cause decreases in the production of the compounds, dopamine and serotonin, by your brain. Decreased levels of dopamine and serotonin may lead to an increase in the symptoms of psychosis, depression, anxiety, nervousness, and mental confusion. If you are taking medication for mental illness should consult your physician prior to using a creatine supplement.

Other Considerations

Creatine is sometimes taken with other supplements and compounds that may have a diuretic effect on your body, such as caffeine. Caffeine draws water away from your body by increasing core body temperature and urination which, when combined with creatine, may further increase your risk of becoming dehydrated. Therefore, the National Library of Medicine recommends that diuretic compounds should not be taken with creatine supplements. Drinking adequate amounts of water while supplementing with creatine will reduce the risk of developing symptoms of dehydration.

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