Bodybuilding

What Are the Potential Risks and Side Effects of Taking Creatine Monohydrate?

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Creatine monohydrate is a white, powdery substance that some newcomers to fitness erroneously believe to be a performance-enhancing steroid. In reality, it is an amino acid derivative. While some steroid users may belittle its capacity for muscle growth, those who train naturally often celebrate it as a top-notch supplement choice.

Its status as an effective enhancer of muscle performance is largely uncontested, having gained a reputation since the late 1980s for boosting ATP production in muscle cells, as well as for enhancing muscular strength, bulk, and stamina.

The supplement works by increasing the amount of fluid within cells, which surprises the muscles and allows practitioners to work out with greater intensity. This means they can handle heavier weights and complete more repetitions.

Our bodies inherently generate creatine, but effective supplementation can raise creatine stores in muscle cells by approximately 20%. This effect may be even more pronounced in vegetarians, as they don’t obtain creatine from meat, a common dietary source.

Creatine monohydrate - exists in powder or caps form.

Since the amount of creatine found in foods like red meat, pork, and fish is minimal, many choose to supplement instead.

Is Creatine Monohydrate Healthy?

Often, individuals solely reference scientific studies to make informed choices regarding nutrition and supplements, which can be misguiding.

Scholarly articles may present abundant evidence supporting the short and long-term safety of creatine usage.

Nevertheless, relying solely on research reports, potentially funded and influenced by supplement manufacturers, would be imprudent. Considering organizations like the International Society of Sports Nutrition endorse creatine’s safety without adverse effects, skepticism can arise when noting that supplement companies, including MuscleTech, Dymatize, and Creapure, sponsor these entities.

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The most reliable approach to gauge a supplement’s safety is personal trial coupled with the evaluation of the experiences of others and a cursory review of scientific literature.

My Experience With Creatine

I have experimented with different forms of creatine, such as Creatine ethyl ester in pills and the conventional monohydrate in powder. From my experience, standard monohydrate seems to be the most impactful, providing discernible enhancements in strength and size.

But here’s why I have discontinued using creatine:

Despite numerous studies asserting the absence of side effects from creatine use, my own experiences contradict these findings. Each time I have used it, I’ve noticed an increase in body temperature and difficulty breathing. Monitoring my pulse revealed a significantly stronger heartbeat, suggesting cardiovascular strain.

Health and fitness forums echo these observations, with reports of altered blood work after using creatine.

Creatine Complaints

Taken creatine for 2 years daily.

“Taken creatine for 2 years daily. From being a newbie it can help in the gym or whatever you train. Its one of the most researched supplements to take and its perfectly safe and hair loss isnt strongly associated with taking it. Genetics is much more of a hair loss risk and thats something we cant control.

1 pointer i have though, if you decide to take it make sure anytime you get your bloods checked for any reason tell your doctor you take creatine. They test for creatinine and if you take creatine itll be elevated in your blood which can show kidney issues. But if you take creatine and they account for that theyll grt an accurate result.”

Reddit user

Creatine is among the safest and best studies supplements on the planet

“Creatine is among the safest and best studies supplements on the planet. Just about everyone should be taking it, strength training or not.

Check out the human effect matrix at examine.com page on creatine.”

Reddit user

All I noticed with creatine is it bumped my weight about 5 lbs

“All I noticed with creatine is it bumped my weight about 5 lbs, anytime I worked out a body part the next day it swelled up, and I was extremely thirsty all the time. It definitely increases your athletic performance too. I’m taking a break on it because I am already really heavy and adding more weight was hurting my performance despite the increase in “power”. If I was thin it would be a no brainer daily supplement”

Reddit user

Definitely increased my strength and muscular endurance

“Just one anecdote but: Definitely increased my strength and muscular endurance, by somewhere between 10 to 15%. No hair loss, but I’m already almost bald. I did experience some significant cardio reduction though. That could have been partially from the additional muscle, but my muscles didn’t grow much in size – just density. Maybe 8-10lbs increase over 4 months. So idk. But after about 4 months of shit cardio, I quit taking the creatine. Saw my strength slowly drop back down to my pre levels, but my cardio also came back up to my old level. My non-lifting hobbies demand cardio, so I prioritized that. I would give it a try for a few months and see if you like what it does for you. Take that for whatever that’s worth to you, from a stranger on the internet.”

Reddit user

While others have shared their experiences online, it’s likely there are more cases where creatine has caused an increase in blood pressure that have gone unreported. Though I haven’t measured my own blood pressure to see the impact of creatine, symptoms of elevated blood pressure emerge each time I include it in my supplementation.

Individuals have reported that with the usage of a certain supplement, they experience negative reactions such as elevated blood pressure, which consistently occur each time they consume it. These effects tend to subside after they stop taking the product. Given that creatine promotes significant water retention—a trait shared with sodium—it’s plausible that it could lead to marked increases in blood pressure. Studies have indicated that additional body weight due to water absorption from creatine can be as much as 6 pounds, equivalent to about 3 liters of water (3).

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The scientific community acknowledges that the accumulation of water in the body can result in heightened blood pressure, whereas diuretics have the opposite effect. Blood pressure rises with water retention because the blood thickens, making it harder to circulate and obliging the heart to work harder to move blood through the body.

Anecdotal reports from individuals who use creatine include symptoms typically associated with high blood pressure, such as headaches, jaw tightness, and a sensation of blood surging to the head.

Insufficient Hydration?

There is a perspective suggesting that creatine could raise blood pressure due to dehydration, particularly in those who do not consume adequate water. Dehydration, according to research, can lead to an increase in blood viscosity and thus higher blood pressure (4).

By increasing water intake, one might facilitate the expulsion of surplus water from the body, potentially aiding in blood pressure management. Nevertheless, significant water consumption can compromise strength and muscle growth, as water retention is beneficial for the effectiveness of creatine.

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However, overconsumption of water while on creatine, especially if one’s blood pressure is already elevated, could potentially lead to worsening conditions. This arises from water’s capacity to activate the central nervous system and cause blood vessels to narrow (5), which, while usually a subtle effect, can become more pronounced with high water intake, placing additional stress on the cardiovascular system.

Therefore, simply drinking more water may not rectify blood pressure issues related to taking creatine and could even intensify cardiovascular symptoms.

What the Studies Say

Creatine, which emerged in the 1990s, has become one of the most extensively researched supplements in the world.

Research over the past three decades consistently suggests that creatine is devoid of harmful effects.

This is despite the initial wave of claims deeming it hazardous upon its introduction to the market.

Here are several studies that indicate creatine as safe, and potentially beneficial to health:

  • A study by Brazilian scientists found a minor decrease in blood pressure amongst participants who ingested 20 grams of creatine for one week, with participants averaging 28 years of age (6).
  • Research suggests that creatine can reduce blood sugar levels (7).
  • A 4-year study involving 26 athletes showed no negative side effects (8).

Even with these studies, over 30 complaints have been filed with the FDA regarding creatine, citing issues such as seizures, erratic heart rhythms, and fatalities. The FDA has not recognized creatine as the cause of these complaints (9). Reports also include muscle cramping, diarrhea, and gastrointestinal distress. While a direct link to creatine is not definitively proven, experts have advocated for further long-term research.

Is Creatine Worth It?

While studies generally suggest the safety of creatine, individual experiences with side effects vary considerably.

Despite clinical research endorsing its safety—at least for now—this doesn’t guarantee it is free of risks for every individual.

It raises questions when a significant number of users report adverse effects from creatine, yet studies do not reflect these same outcomes.

It’s worthwhile to note that studies may not always be fully reliable or accurate, considering the potential financial incentives for companies sponsoring these studies.

Evidence suggests that creatine sensitivity varies among individuals, and may lead to disparate reactions. Factors like insulin sensitivity can influence creatine’s uptake, meaning two individuals consuming the same amount could have different concentrations in their bloodstream after it’s processed by the liver.

The hypothesis exists that those who absorb a considerable amount of creatine, possibly due to elevated insulin, may be more prone to experiencing side effects. Absorption may also be affected by consuming creatine with sugary beverages like grape juice, as well as genetic factors.

If you choose to supplement with creatine, it’s important to keep a close watch on your blood pressure and pay attention to your body. Should any adverse reactions occur, promptly consult your physician or cease the use of the supplement.

For those with a history of high blood pressure, cardiac conditions, or renal issues, it might be prudent to steer clear of creatine supplementation. Compromising your well-being for added muscle mass is not advisable.

REFERENCES

(1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8828669

(2) https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1550-2783-4-6

(3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9475647

(4) https://www.meridianvalleylab.com/dehydration-shown-to-increase-blood-viscosity/

(5) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15683582

(6) https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1475-2891-13-115

(7) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2048496/

(8) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11224803

(9) https://apnews.com/article/91c2bb4deed8d521064dd075bbac71c7

General Practitioner at | Website | + posts

Dr. Grant Fourie, a specialist in male hormones, is based in Cape Town, South Africa. He provides comprehensive treatments for conditions related to low testosterone, such as erectile dysfunction, fatigue, and mood changes. His methods include hormone replacement therapy and other modern treatment options.
Contact me via email or phone to book personal appointment in my clinic: The Village Square, Cape Town - South Africa

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About Dr. Grant Fourie

Dr. Grant Fourie, a specialist in male hormones, is based in Cape Town, South Africa. He provides comprehensive treatments for conditions related to low testosterone, such as erectile dysfunction, fatigue, and mood changes. His methods include hormone replacement therapy and other modern treatment options. Contact me via email or phone to book personal appointment in my clinic: The Village Square, Cape Town - South Africa

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