Just like any supplement to improve muscle mass, there’s a small risk of some negative symptoms from high creatine levels.
Although research has deemed it completely safe, it’s worth noting that the most common side effect is constipation.
So, does creatine cause constipation? And if the answer is yes, is it possible to combat the potential gut problems with healthy habits? Let's find out in this complete guide with tips from an expert nutritionist.
How Creatine Supplementation Works
Creatine is a naturally-occurring substance that’s found in our muscles and produced in small amounts by the liver and kidneys.
Most people get their creatine intake by eating seafood and red meats, but for those who are trying to improve muscle mass and boost energy levels, it’s normal to take creatine supplements.
Creatine supplements are often used by athletes and bodybuilders looking to build lean muscle mass and improve workout performance.
Just like other amino acids, creatine works by delivering a continuous supply of energy to working muscles. It does so by replenishing adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a molecule that carries energy in your body’s cells.
There are several confirmed benefits to creatine supplementation, like:
In addition to the fitness-related benefits, supplementing creatine is even thought to reduce the risk of Diabetes, fend off neurological disorders, and improve brain function.
Can Creatine Cause Bad Constipation?
Now that you know the potential “good” effects of taking creatine supplements for fitness goals, let’s talk about the possible risks.
For some athletes, creatine in high doses can be hard on the digestive system. Even though it’s a natural substance that your body needs, it can impact how water is stored by increasing water retention in the muscles.
In other words, creatine absorbs water and supplies it to the muscles by pulling it from the surrounding cells. A lot of this water is drawn from the lower intestines and bowels, which explains the creatine-constipation phenomenon.
The primary reason for constipation is often explained by a lack of water in the stomach, so there’s your answer… Yes, creatine can cause constipation, especially for those who don’t have enough water in their diet.
How Taking Creatine Affects Your Bowels (Bloat & Gas)
Constipation isn’t the only not-so-positive effect of taking a creatine supplement. Most of the symptoms are linked to digestion and are caused by fluid retention, which includes possible weight gain, bloating, and gas.
Bloating is typically a symptom of the creatine loading phase, which is when someone first starts taking creatine in high doses.
The recommendation is to take 20 to 25 grams of creatine per day (depending on weight) for 5 to 7 consecutive days.
About The Loading Phase
This high initial dose is necessary to “load” on the creatine, allowing it to take effect quickly for a rapid gain of the muscle cells.
Unfortunately, it can cause weight gain because of increased muscle mass and water weight, and it can ultimately lead to what’s known as the creatine bloat.
“Loading and bloating” is very common, and the good news is that the bloating should subside after the initial load is finished.
After the first 5 to 7 days, you can reduce the creatine daily dose to 3 to 5 grams, which is when the bloating passes for most athletes.
Related Article - How Long Does Creatine Take To Kick In And Work?
How To Stop Constipation When Taking Creatine
You may be tempted to stop taking creatine if you experience constipation, but that’s not your only option. There are several ways to reduce the risk of constipation while continuing the supplement for muscle growth.
Add Fiber To Your Diet
Eating a fiber-rich diet can definitely keep you from feeling constipated. Fiber plays a major role in digestion, so whether you’re experiencing diarrhea or can’t poop at all, it should do the trick to alleviate digestive issues.
Pay Attention To Timing
The time of day you take your supplement matters. Most athletes agree that it’s best to take it shortly before or after you exercise to improve athletic performance as much as possible.
Some people prefer to take their fitness medications on an empty stomach to enhance absorption. For others, this will be too harsh on the tummy, in which case it’s completely fine to eat something along with your supplements.
Learn More - Can You Take Creatine On An Empty Stomach Or Not?
Too much creatine can cause severe cramping in addition to constipation. This is especially the case with higher-than-average doses during the loading period.
If you’re noticing any negative side effects, don’t be afraid to decrease the dosage to a low 3 to 5 grams per day.
The general rule of thumb for constipation sufferers is to take half the recommended dose. If the constipation subsides after a few days, stick to this amount.
Learn More - How Much Creatine Should I Take? | Garage Gym Pro
Increase Your Daily Water Intake
Creatine pulls water from the body and directs it to the muscles. For that reason, one of the best things you can do is increase your water intake throughout the day; simply stay hydrated and drink more water.
You'll also want to try and avoid warm water intake. It's much better to drink cold water to avoid getting dehydrated. In terms of how much water to drink, aim for an extra 20 ounces than you're typically accustomed to.
Frequently Asked Creatine & Constipation Questions
While you may not experience any negative side effects from taking creatine on an empty stomach, some people complain of muscle cramps, stomach pain, or nausea. For that reason, it’s best to consume food alongside your creatine supplements. To maximize the benefits as much as possible, try to eat carbs and/or proteins with creatine. Both carbs and protein can help the body to absorb creatine more effectively.
Stomach pain is a very rare side effect of taking creatine supplements, and only 5-7% of people report this symptom. If you’re unlucky enough to experience cramps or pain, there are a few things you can do to combat it. One option is to lower the dosage to avoid the loading phase, or you can opt for the supplement in its purest form, which is called micronized creatine.
Here’s what WebMD has to say about creatine dosage recommendations:
“Doses up to 25 grams daily for up to 14 days have been safely used. Lower doses up to 4-5 grams daily for up to 18 months have also been safely used. Creatine is possibly safe when taken long-term. Doses up to 10 grams daily for up to 5 years have been safely used.”
As you start browsing through creatine products for training, you’ll start to notice a lot of fancy terms, like creatine monohydrate, creatine ethyl ester, undissolved creatine, and creatine serum. These terms are, in fact, meaningful, and you'll want to pay close attention to what you buy depending on your fitness goals. Most people opt for creatine monohydrate, which has been used in bodybuilding for decades, because it's extremely effective and affordable.
Taking creatine is a great way to achieve sustained muscle growth. Whether you’re new to heavy lifting or a seasoned bodybuilder, this supplement can work wonders when it comes to muscle mass.
Just know that you should use caution when taking any substance to build muscle, and that includes creatine as well as other supplements. Creatine pulls water and directs it to the muscle cells, so always be sure to drink enough water alongside the supplement to prevent dehydration.
There are a few more factors involved in avoiding creatine constipation, like eating a fiber-rich diet, choosing a high-quality supplement, and closely following dosage recommendations.