Is Creatine Monohydrate Healthy? Read This Before Taking It.

May 8, 2020

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by: Inside Bodybuilding

Is Creatine Monohydrate Healthy? Read This Before Taking It.

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Creatine monohydrate is the white chalky powder that unaware newbies think is a steroid — but actually is an amino acid.

Steroid-users might scoff at its muscle-building effects, whilst natural athletes hail it as one of the best supplements on the market.

Few people dispute creatine’s effectiveness, with it boosting ATP production inside the muscle cells, enhancing muscular strength, size and endurance. This increase in intracellular fluid shocks the muscles by enabling users to train at higher intensities, whilst overloading the muscles by lifting heavier weights and performing additional reps.

Our bodies naturally produce creatine, however with effective supplementation creatine stores can increase by roughly 20% inside the muscle cells (1). This effect may be even higher in vegetarians, with creatine being present in meat sources.

Creatine is available in food sources such as red meat, pork and fish; albeit only in small quantities hence how people opt for supplementation instead.

Is Creatine Monohydrate Healthy?

Many people only read studies when educating themselves on nutrition and supplements — which is a grave mistake.

I could cite endless studies ‘proving’ the safety of creatine in the short and long-term.

However, you’d be foolish to only pay attention to studies without looking at real life case studies. The reason being research is often backed and funded by supplement companies (making it biased).

Also ‘trusted authorities’ making statements on certain supplements may also to be taken with a pinch of salt. For example, the International Society of Sports Nutrition claims that creatine is safe and has no adverse affects (2). However, just from quickly looking at their website, you’ll see that some of their sponsors are supplement companies which sell creatine products (such as MuscleTech, Dymatize and Creapure). Thus, if they came out and said anything different to this — they may lose sponsors and funding.

sponsors

 

Therefore, the best way to find out if a supplement is safe is to test it out yourself, whilst listening to other people’s experiences and reading through the studies loosely (as a guide).

My Experience With Creatine

I have tried various creatine supplements. I have tried CEE (Creatine ethyl ester) in pill form and the classic monohydrate in powder form. I find that the standard monohydrate is the most effective version, producing noticeable gains in strength and size. In terms of brands I have tried MyProtein and Beast’s Creature, which are both solid options.

However, I’ll no longer take creatine and here’s why.

Despite countless studies repeatedly saying creatine causes no side effects — every time I take it, my body temperature increases and I experience shortness of breath. When I feel my pulse on creatine, my heart beats much harder than usual; indicating that it’s being strained.

Fitness forums are also flooded with people who have noticed the same, with some of them getting their blood work done before/after creatine supplementation.

Creatine Complaints

I Stopped Taking Creatine and Blood Pressure Went Down

“I work out and do cardio about 4 to 5 times a week. I use creatine, glutamine, protein, and asx multivitamin. My blood pressure was 158/82. I stopped taking the creatine for about 3-4 weeks and it went down to 118/78. Can creatine cause high blood pressure?” – Bodybuilding.com user


Blood Pressure Up

“I’ve been taking creatine for 7 days, noticed my blood pressure had been up, most of the time it’s about 135/85, but checked it once today and it was 145/90”. – Bodybuilding.com user


I am Through With Creatine

“I have been taking creatine on and off for about 3 years. I am through with creatine.. my blood pressure was fine around 120/65 in high school. My senior year I started creatine it jumped up to 140/90. from then on I have notice my blood pressure get as high as 160/90 while on creatine. Every time I get off of it, my bp goes down. recently on creatine it was 155/80. after eating similar foods, keeping the same weight, doing the same exercise, and on the same supplements, i got off creatine. after a week off of it my bp started to drop again down to 135/65. which usually you do not lose ALL of your stores in week. I’m sure in another week it will lower even more. maybe in general it doesn’t cause high bp, but i think some people may be sensitive to it. Seeing my bp is an obvious reason to never do it again. but,  for all that it doesn’t affect, keep it up, I have not had or seen any other problems with it”. – Bodybuilding.com user 


Blood Pressure Through the Roof, Then Drops After Coming Off

“I agree to a point, I think it depends on the person. I had normal BP then took creatine for a while, went in for a check up and my BP was through the roof! I was like WTF. So I laid off the creatine but still took my normal vitamins and protein shakes, after a couple of weeks got my PB taken again and it was back to normal levels. I am thinking that is is the creatine however I have no proof other than research and that I get mixed info by different doctors”. – Bodybuilding.com user


Blood Pressure Increase After Taking Creatine

“So I was getting my blood work results at the doctors office and he told me that my blood pressure had gone up since my last blood draw which was 6 months prior. Then he asked me if I had been taking any supplements and I told him the two of which I had just started on mega whey and creatine monohydrate. After working out for the past 2 years regularly and seeing better improvement after taking whey and creatine for just 2 months with my workout, it kind of pisses me off that I might have to stop taking this.. Anyone have any similar problems with your supplements?”. – Sherdog forum 


Doctor Says Creatine Might be the Culprit

I’m a highly active vegetarian (less creatine in diet) 20-something year old female who has never had problems with high blood pressure. Three years ago I started taking creatine for both its fitness and mental performance enhancement abilities. A month after starting supplementation, I visited the doctor to get a prescription for birth control pills. My blood pressure was measured to be 155/95 – pretty damn high. The doctor essentially refused to prescribe the birth control unless I could get my blood pressure down and she indicated that creatine might be the culprit. Hormonal birth control can cause high blood pressure, blood clots, stroke, etc so she was being cautious in not wanting to exacerbate my high blood pressure.

I stopped taking creatine, went in two weeks later and had a blood pressure reading of 110/70. And have lived happily baby-free the past few years. – Reddit user


Blood Pressure a lot Higher

Interesting. I just started taking creatine and went to the doc a few days ago and had my bp taken. I forget the exact reading (121/70 I think) but it was a lot higher than I normally am, and I used one of those pharmacy machines earlier in the month and got a much lower reading. – Reddit user


High blood pressure/heavy heartbeat from creatine?

I recently started creatine (hcl, small dose of 2.25g/day) and my blood pressure’s gone up to ~140/100 (usually 110/70) and my heart seems to working harder. It’s not pounding like some one might get from a panic attack, but it’s a bit disconcerting feeling my heart beat while I’m sitting down typing. Does anybody have experience with this? – Reddit user


Kidney Dysfunction and Blood Pressure Skyrockets

I was taking Creatine in tablet form (about 3-4 per day as recommended on bottle) for about 3-4 months. I definitely noticed an improvement in mental clarity and sharpness (I’m a vegetarian btw) which is why I kept taking it (originally started taking it for weightlifting, got busy stopped working out). Long story short, it caused kidney dysfunction. Fortunately a couple weeks after stopping use my kidney function returned to normal. I just wanted to post as a warning to be careful with Creatine. There is a chance, however, that my problems was due to it being in tablet form (and perhaps some of the other inactive ingredients caused my problem); maybe pure Creatine powder is not a problem.

I found out about the kidney dysfunction because my blood pressure skyrocketed. I’m usually around 110/65, and it launched up to around 140/90 (it was high enough to where I could feel my heart beating in my chest, and feel my head pounding; probably because I’m very skinny I can feel it) and I started getting rapid heartbeats and irregular heartbeats. My dad has hypertension so I thought maybe I’m starting to get hypertension. – Reddit User


Unfortunately, I’m sure there’s many more people who have experienced negative reactions that haven’t posted on forums. I have not measured my blood pressure before/after to see the difference when I’m on creatine, however I have symptoms of high blood pressure each time I supplement with it.

Some people might say — it may be something else giving you these side effects/increase in blood pressure, however this happens every time I take the supplement. Then when I discontinue the side effects go away. Scientifically it would make sense that creatine may cause a significant increase blood pressure, because it causes significant amounts of water retention (like salt). Research has shown that creatine can increase water weight by up to 6 pounds (3). That’s roughly an extra 3 liters of water held by your body.

It’s well-known that water retention increases blood pressure, whilst diuretics decrease it. This is because your blood contains water and thus when you retain more H2O — the blood becomes more viscous. This makes it increasingly difficult to flow to and from the heart, causing your heart to pump harder to improve circulation.

Interestingly, many creatine-users report symptoms of high blood pressure such as headaches, clenched teeth and rushing of blood to the head.

Not Drinking Enough Water?

creatine dehydration

Some people say creatine may spike blood pressure in those who don’t drink enough water, via dehydration. Research suggests dehydration can result in high blood pressure (4).

By drinking more water, you will flush excess water out of the body. Thus, by reducing water retention you may improve your blood pressure — however if you do this in excess, your strength and muscle gains will also decrease; as water retention is needed for creatine’s benefits.

However, there is a problem with drinking large amounts of water on creatine. Although we recommend everyone drinks enough water on creatine to stay hydrated, if a person’s blood pressure is already spiked, then they consume large amounts of water — blood pressure may worsen. This is because water is known to stimulate the central nervous system and constrict blood vessels (5). This effect is minor and barely noticeable, however when consuming water in large quantities it can be enough to place extra strain on the heart.

Thus, drinking water may not be the solution to correcting your blood pressure, if it’s spiked from taking creatine; and it may even exacerbate cardiovascular symptoms.

What the Studies Say

Since the 1990’s when creatine first came on the scene, it’s become one of the worlds most tested supplements.

3 decades later, all research on the supplement points to the same conclusion — that it poses no adverse effects.

This is despite many people initially saying it was ‘dangerous’ when it first came onto the market.

Here are numerous studies suggesting that a) creatine is safe and b) it may even improve some aspects of your health

  • Brazilian researchers saw a slight decrease in blood pressure in participants taking 20 grams of creatine for a week. The average age of the men was 28 (6)
  • Evidence that creatine lowers blood sugar levels (7).
  • 4 year study on 26 athletes showing no adverse effects (8).

Despite these studies, the FDA’s received more than 30 complaints regarding creatine; with people reporting seizures, unstable heartbeats and even death. People have also reported cramping, diarrhea, and stomach issues. It cannot be proven that creatine was the cause of all these problems, however experts have called for more long-term studies to be conducted.

Is Creatine Worth It?

The studies suggest creatine is safe to take — and it’s true that SOME people notice little in regards to side effects, however others (like myself) notice plenty.

Although clinical research claims it is generally safe (at the moment); there’s no guarantee that it is safe for YOU to take.

It seems dubious that a notable amount of people are complaining about creatine’s side effects, yet you’d struggle to find a single study that mimics such negative reactions.

It’s important to note that studies are not always trustworthy or 100% accurate, with potential financial gains to be made for companies funding the studies.

There’s ample evidence that certain people are more sensitive to creatine and may respond badly to it. Insulin sensitivity can affect its absorption, thus 2 people may take 10 grams, but one may end up with less in their blood stream than the other person once it bypasses the liver.

One theory is that if a person absorbs a large amount of the creatine (due to increased insulin levels) they may be more susceptible to side effects. Taking creatine with a sugary drink such as grape juice, plus genetics can also affect absorption.

Thus, If you do take creatine make sure you regularly monitor your blood pressure and if you experience any unpleasant side effects, be sure to visit your doctor or discontinue supplementation.

If you have existing blood pressure, previous heart disease or kidney problems, it may be wise to avoid creatine altogether. It’s not worth jeopardizing your health for a few extra pounds of muscle mass.

Have you tried creatine before? Leave a comment below if you experienced any side effects (or not). 

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