Is Creatine Safe? An Overview of Creatine’s Benefits and Side Effects

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Creatine is one of the most popular supplements for bodybuilders, athletes, and weight lifters. It helps build muscle, strength, and endurance.

Although it is generally safe, there are a few side effects to be aware of if you take too much creatine.

Let’s take a look at what creatine does, why it’s beneficial, how much you should take, and what potential side effects to watch out for. 

Background of Creatine 

Creatine is an organic acid that exists naturally in the human body and in some foods like red meat and fish. 

It plays an important role in providing energy to muscles during physical activities such as weightlifting or sprinting. 

In supplement form, it is typically made from either synthetic or natural sources. 

Benefits of Creatine 

The main benefit of taking creatine supplements is that they can help you gain muscle mass faster than diet alone.

Studies have shown that regular creatine use can increase muscle mass by up to 5-10%.

Additionally, taking creatine can help improve your performance during high-intensity exercise by increasing your strength and endurance.

Finally, taking creatine may also help reduce fatigue after exercise so that you can recover more quickly. 

What scientific studies have been conducted on creatine’s safety and efficacy?

There have been numerous studies conducted on the safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation.

One study, published in the journal Sports Nutrition, found that short-term use of creatine was safe and could improve physical performance. 

The authors concluded that “The available evidence indicates that creatine consumption is safe.”

Other studies have examined long-term use of creatine and found no adverse side effects or health risks associated with regular supplementation. For example, one 12-week study showed that taking up to 20 g/day of creatine did not increase risk of kidney damage or other health issues. 

Overall, research suggests that when used properly, creatine is a safe and effective way to increase muscle strength and endurance.

What Most People Experience with Creatine

My personal experience with Creatine is most likely similar to the average person’s who uses this supplement.

Years ago, I went to the gym 5 days a week. My mindset was simply to get stronger and bigger.

Of course I tried creatine! I simply put a few teaspoons in my preworkout and went to the gym.

Honestly, I think the hype around creatine is a bit over-exaggerated, but there’s no doubt that I gained muscle weight and could lift a bit more.

I continued taking creatine supplements for about 1 year, without any negative side effects.

Around this time of my life, I began to focus more on yoga, and life just got busier, and I didn’t go to the gym as much, and I discontinued creatine.

Unfortunately, I did lose a bit of muscle mass, a side effect which I believe is the least talked about effect of creatine.

The Biggest Side Effect of Creatine – Losing “Muscle Mass” When You Stop

Creatine is good, safe, and will help you.

However, the biggest side effect is not related to creatine – it’s when you stop taking creatine.

The biggest side effect of creatine is that your muscles won’t retain the extra water, so when you stop taking creatine, your muscle size will decrease.

How do water retention, muscle size, and creatine work together?

When it comes to muscles and exercise, a lot of people are unaware of the important role that water retention plays.

  • Muscles require both water and creatine in order to grow and become stronger.
  • Creatine is an amino acid responsible for helping cells produce energy, which is especially beneficial when working out.
  • When muscles utilize their energy sources, they also draw in more water than usual which promotes muscle size growth.
  • Water retention helps to provide increased oxygenation to the muscle tissue which is essential for optimal development.

The combination of water retention, muscle size, and creatine all work together synergistically to help create larger and stronger muscles when taken over time with consistent exercise and a healthy diet.

All this is great!

However, it also means that if you stop taking creatine, these benefits will go away as well.

Other Side Effects of Too Much Creatine 

Despite its many benefits, taking too much creatine can lead to some unwanted side effects such as:

  • dehydration or cramping due to increased water retention in the muscles
  • stomach discomfort
  • weight gain
  • impaired kidney function if taken over long periods of time at higher doses than recommended or without proper hydration

If any of these symptoms occur while taking creatine supplements then stop using them immediately until you consult with your doctor about proper dosage levels for your individual needs.

How Much Should I Take? 

It’s important to note that everyone’s needs are different when it comes to how much creatine they need to take for optimal results.

Generally speaking though, it is best to start with small doses (2–5 grams) per day for two weeks before gradually increasing the dose up to 20–30 grams per day depending on your specific goals.

For best results, make sure that you cycle off creatine to give your body a break every few months. 

Different Types of Creatine

  1. Creatine monohydrate: Creatine monohydrate is the most popular and most researched form of creatine. It is typically consumed in powder form and mixed with water or juice
  2. Creatine ethyl ester: Creatine ethyl ester is a newer form of creatine that is said to be more easily absorbed by the body. It is typically consumed in capsule form.
  3. Creatine hydrochloride: Creatine hydrochloride is a highly concentrated form of creatine that is said to be more easily absorbed by the body. It is typically consumed in powder form and mixed with water or juice.
  4. Micronized creatine: Micronized creatine is a form of creatine that has been processed to be smaller in particle size. This allows it to dissolve more easily in water, which may improve absorption. It is typically consumed in powder form and mixed with water or juice.
  5. Creatine malate: Creatine malate is a combination of creatine and malic acid, which is said to improve absorption and increase energy production. It is typically consumed in powder form and mixed with water or juice.
  6. Liquid creatine: Liquid creatine is a pre-mixed solution of creatine and water that is said to be more easily absorbed by the body. It is typically consumed in small doses throughout the day.
  7. Creatine pills: Creatine pills are capsules that contain powdered creatine monohydrate. They are typically taken once or twice per day with meals

Creatine – Frequently Asked Questions

Who should take creatine and who should avoid it?

Creatine is generally safe for healthy adults to consume, but it should be avoided by people with kidney or liver disease. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should also avoid taking creatine supplements.

You should always consult your doctor before taking any supplements, including creatine.

How quickly will I see results?

The effects of creatine can vary from person to person, but most people will start to notice a difference in their performance after two weeks of regular use.

It may take several weeks for the full effects to become apparent.

However, please keep in mind creatine is mostly for muscle gain. 

If you are looking to gain weight (both fat and muscle), there are better supplements for weight gain than creatine. 

What foods contain creatine?

Creatine is found naturally in some foods such as red meat and fish. It can also be found in small amounts in dairy products and other protein-rich foods. 

However, it is difficult to get enough creatine from diet alone and supplementation may be necessary if you are looking for the full benefits.

Should I cycle off creatine?

Yes, it’s generally recommended that you cycle off creatine every few months in order to give your body a break. 

This can help avoid any unwanted side effects and maintain optimal performance. 

Taking breaks from taking creatine will also allow your body time to build up its own natural stores of the substance, which can further improve results when taking it again.

Are there any long-term side effects?

There have been no reported long-term side effects of taking creatine supplements as long as they are taken in moderation and with proper hydration.

Is creatine safe for teens?

Yes, creatine is generally considered safe for teens as long as they are following the recommended dosage guidelines and not taking more than 30 grams per day. Make sure to consult with your doctor before taking any supplements to ensure that they are right for you or a loved one.

Is creatine a steroid?

No, creatine is not a steroid. 

It is an amino acid that is found naturally in the human body and can also be taken in supplement form to increase muscle strength and endurance.

Any creatine side effects on women?

Yes, women can take creatine in the same way that men.  

However, it is important to note that women may experience more side effects than men due to their naturally lower levels of creatine in their bodies. 

Women should also be aware of the potential risks of dehydration or cramping due to increased water retention in the muscles when taking higher doses of creatine.   

Where can you buy creatine supplements and how much do they cost?


In conclusion, creatine has many benefits when taken correctly. It’s very safe as well.

However, consider the side effect of losing muscle mass when you stop taking creatine.

With these tips in mind, you should have no problem getting all the benefits from this popular supplement while avoiding any unforeseen consequences!

About the Author

Jared Levenson is a former binge eating wrestler turned Zen Buddhist Monk, Internal Family Systems counselor and nutrition wellness coach. He's helped hundreds of people through universal meal principles and internal family systems to make peace with food, stop binge eating, and find true health and wholeness.


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