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Advantages & Disadvantages of Creatine

author image Janet Renee, MS, RD
Janet Renee is a clinical dietitian with a special interest in weight management, sports dietetics, medical nutrition therapy and diet trends. She earned her Master of Science in nutrition from the University of Chicago and has contributed to health and wellness magazines, including Prevention, Self, Shape and Cooking Light.
Advantages & Disadvantages of Creatine
Creatine powder spilled on table. Photo Credit: ogichobanov/iStock/Getty Images

Creatine is a popular supplement among competitive athletes and bodybuilders, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Creatine is found in your diet in high-protein foods such as meat and fish, and your body produces creatine in the liver, kidneys and pancreas. Taking creatine supplements is a personal choice; however, you may want to know the potential advantages and disadvantages so that you can make an informed decision.

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Not everyone responds the same way to creatine, and not all human studies have shown that creatine improves athletic performance, according to UMMC. People who already have a naturally high level of creatine may not experience benefits from taking extra.

Can Cause Water Retention

Creatine increases the flow of water into your muscles, leading to the undesirable side effect of water retention. While few people actually want to retain water, it can be a particular problem for some sports. For example, bodybuilders typically stop using creatine on the run up to competition because the extra water makes their muscles look soft rather than chiseled.

May Boost Endurance and Muscle Mass

If your body responds well to creatine, it may provide a boost in endurance during short-duration, high-intensity exercise such as weight training or sprinting. Your body converts creatine to phosphocreatine and stores it in your muscles, where it serves as a source of fuel during intense, short-duration exercise. In addition, creatine may help build lean mass. Still, positive results have mainly been seen in young adults about age 20, according to the UMMC.

Dosing and Safety

Creatine side effects include muscle cramps, upset stomach, diarrhea, dizziness and elevated blood pressure, according to the UMMC. There have been rare reports of liver dysfunction and kidney damage. The typical maintenance dose is 2 grams daily. Taking creatine with fruit, fruit juices or starchy foods may boost absorption. Talk to your doctor before taking creatine, especially if you have a kidney or liver problem.

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