Long-term side effects of creatine, myth or truth?

Long-term side effects of creatine, myth or truth?

Creatine, a supplement that helps to improve the performance and that has become increasingly popular since the 90s. It is not surprise that this supplement is currently in the spotlight regarding its safety. After all, it seems that some are still wary of everything that is “gym-related”. In the end, this ergogenic product is not going to be an exception. Luckily there are many studies that will help us answer any questions about creatine and its side effects.

Creatine Brainstorm

What are its possible side effects

Some say that the key may be in its aspect. Maybe because this white powder reminds us of other powders that are harmful for our health.

Let’s leave aside the polemics about the possible side effects of creatine in men and women. Like any other supplement, this product can have side effects if you do not use it as you should.

Then, learn how to take this supplement that will increase your muscle mass apart from many other benefits! Click here to find out

In HSN, we always encourage a responsible consumption when it comes to supplementation. In other words, you should always follow the advice from a specialist.

But, what can happen if I do not use creatine correctly? You could compromise your health and physical integrity without reason, triggering the following side effects:

  • Muscle cramps. An inadequate intake of creatine can destabilize the potassium and electrolyte levels in the body.
  • Weight gain. Have you ever heard that “creatine makes you gain weight”? Let me clarify: an excessive intake of this substance triggers a disproportionate liquid retention that can result in weight gain.
  • Stomach discomfort. If you do not take the optimal dose, you may experience stomach discomfort.

Stretching

Are there reliable studies about the safety of creatine?

Yes, there are and we are going to talk about a few of them in more detail.

1st Study. It was conducted on American football players that took 16g of creatine for 5 days during loading phase. Then, they took 5-10g during 21 months.

Well, the researchers did not report any negative effects even though 5g is the adequate dose of creatine.

2nd Study. This one was conducted on soccer players, who followed a loading protocol of 15g a day + 3g a day during the maintenance phase. In the end, they gained weight without experiencing any adverse side effect in clinical and analytical parameters.

3rd Study. A group of basketball players took 5g a day for 36 months (3 full seasons). Like the other studies, creatine did not cause notorious effects on the health markers.

After the last study, we can say that there is NO evidence that creatine supplementation causes skeletal-muscle injuries, digestive discomfort, dehydration, or liver damage. Therefore, we can claim that taking creatine supplements in the long term (up to 3 years) does not trigger side effects in young athletes.

Unarguably, the evidence available supports creatine. In other words, there is nothing to worry about!

But, what happens with the long-term studies?

Currently, we can quote another series of studies conducted on healthy people and those who suffer a disease. They can last up to 5 years and the doses go from 0.3g to 0.8g/kg/day.

The studies that we have mentioned have NOT proven the existence of risk for the health of people. The only frequent “side effect” would be the weight gain. Above all, this is mainly due to the intracellular water and muscle glycogen in the short term. Moreover, it increases the muscle mass in the long term. Said intracellular water is what gives the muscles that “bulky” aspect, quite coveted in the world of bodybuilding.

Approved by a doctor

Creatine is safe!

We cannot say it enough. In fact, it is one of the safest supplements in the market and probably one of the most studied ones.

However, this statement is not enough to bust all the myths that seem to surround creatine without any reason. There are studies from reputed researchers such as Wallimann, who suggests taking 3g of creatine daily, either if you do exercise or not. Above all, this is due to the fact that it will improve and preserve your health.

Nevertheless, you should still be cautious and avoid incorrect labels and the adulteration of products. These are common practices by some brands and you should be aware of that.

Always choose supplements from reliable brands that perform quality controls regularly. In this sense:

HSN has no rival!

The International Society of Sports Nutrition

An important organization such as the International Society of Sports Nutrition states that:

  • Nowadays, creatine monohydrate is the most effective ergogenic supplement available in the market. It increases the work capacity at a high intensity and improves the physical composition
  • Creatine monohydrate is safe! In fact, it has many therapeutic benefits for healthy people but also for those who suffer a health problem. Moreover, it is the best type to improve the physical performance whole increasing the muscle creatine levels
  • Is it good for underage athletes? It is, as long as: its use is supervised, following a diet according to individual needs and taking creatine responsibly according to the recommended dose
  • Carbohydrates (or carbohydrates + protein) and creatine seems to improve its absorption in the muscle. Although it may not improve the performance more than if we took just creatine
  • How can I increase the creatine deposits quickly and effectively? You just have to take around 0.3g/kg/day during loading phase, which lasts 5-7 days. Then, take 3-5g/day to keep the deposits full
  • WE still need more studies to asses the potential of creatine for the field of Medicine, as well as the benefits from its precursors. For example, guanidinoacetic acid.

Final conclusions

Deeply studied, safe, effective and affordable! Do you still think that it lacks something to become the most popular supplement? In addition, it is one of the supplements with clinical benefits that go beyond its ergogenic properties.

Before we forget, a final piece of advice: trust only those opinions that rely on the latest scientific evidence. Particularly, you should not believe “gurus” or “experts” that spread misleading information.

Even though we still need more research about the side effects of creatine, so far it seems that this supplement is on the good path. Use it as you should and benefit from all its properties.

Bibliography

  1. Kreider RB, Ferreira M, Wilson M, Grindstaff P, Plisk S, Reinardy J, et al. Effects of creatine supplementation on body composition, strength, and sprint performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1998;
  2. Earnest CP, Almada AL, Mitchell TL. High-Performance Capillary Electrophoresis-Pure Creatine Monohydrate Reduces Blood Lipids in Men and Women. Clin Sci. 1996;
  3. Deminice R, de Castro GSF, Francisco LV, da Silva LECM, Cardoso JFR, Frajacomo FTT, et al. Creatine supplementation prevents fatty liver in rats fed choline-deficient diet: A burden of one-carbon and fatty acid metabolism. J Nutr Biochem. 2015;
  4. Deminice R, de Castro GS, Brosnan ME, Brosnan JT. Creatine supplementation as a possible new therapeutic approach for fatty liver disease: early findings. Amino Acids. 2016.
  5. Deminice R, Cella PS, Padilha CS, Borges FH, da Silva LECM, Campos-Ferraz PL, et al. Creatine supplementation prevents hyperhomocysteinemia, oxidative stress and cancer-induced cachexia progression in Walker-256 tumor-bearing rats. Amino Acids. 2016;

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About Borja Bandera
Borja Bandera
Borja Bandera is a young doctor who focuses on nutrition, exercise and metabolism, he combines his professional activity with his vocational dissemination and research.
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