Creatine is one of the few most thoroughly researched supplements, but I noticed many times my clients fear the side effects.
Does creatine supplementation make you thirsty? Can it cause kidney problems or severe bloating? Those are just some of the questions most people ask.
Although side effects are negligible in 99% of cases, it is a popular topic for gym debates.
There is no reason to worry, and I will explain the science behind creatine and hydration.
Can Creatine Make You Thirsty?
Yes, creatine can make you thirsty. Creatine dry mouth is a well-known phenomenon. That's not the whole story, though.
Dry mouth and increased thirst caused by creatine usually last only the first few days. It is the period during which the body gets used to the increased amount of this amino acid in your body. After that period, you should not experience excessive thirst levels.
So does creatine dehydrate your body or cause heat-related illnesses such as heat stroke that require emergency medical attention?
Fortunately, it has been proven that creatine does not cause muscle cramps and dehydration.
Since thirst is the brain's reaction to potential dehydration, if thirst lasts longer, consult your healthcare provider to find out the cause.
Why Does Creatine Make You Thirsty?
To better understand why creatine supplements make us thirsty and why we take this supplement in the first place, it is necessary to know the function of creatine in our body.
When I first took creatine many years ago, I noticed that I was waking up at night to drink water. I was not a personal trainer at the time and only knew the basics of supplementation.
I remembered hearing other exercisers talk about creatine night thirst in the gym, so I decided to investigate the topic in more detail.
First, I had to remember what exactly osmosis is. I know that term was mentioned in biology class, but apparently, I skipped a few key lessons.
Osmosis is the movement of water molecules. Creatine is osmotic, which means it draws water to itself, causing fluid retention.
Older studies that spoke against the use of creatine when training in a hot and humid environment were mainly based on this feature of creatine. Today, those studies have been debunked.
Although it will not cause muscle cramping and similar problems, the osmosis that creatine initiates can lead to thirst when you start taking this supplement.
Once the muscles become saturated with creatine and the absorption of additional water is completed, thirst as a symptom should disappear.
Since creatine improves hydration at the cellular level, today many experts believe it actually enhances hydration instead of causing dehydration.
This leads us to the conclusion that - get this - creatine helps you to train longer and more vigorously at high temperatures because there is more water in your muscle tissue.
The study failed to prove changes in fluid distribution (extracellular and intracellular water volumes).
Still, it is undoubtedly a topic that deserves additional research because it can be a breakthrough in the hydration strategy for athletes.
Does The Type Of Creatine You Take Affect Hydration?
Many different types of creatine supplements are available on the market. Does the type you use affect thirst? Or maybe we shouldn't blame the type, but the form...let's find out!
When we say creatine, we are most often talking about creatine monohydrate. It is the most tested and effective, so creatine monohydrate should be taken as a benchmark.
Today, there are other types on the market, some of which are:
Each type has certain features that should make it a superior option, but little has been proven concerning bioavailability. What now interests us is whether they are more or less soluble in water.
That directly affects thirst because you will drink more water if it is soluble and thus be less thirsty. Creatine HCL is superior in that department, so it should cause less bloating and thirst.
However, I don't think you will notice a significant difference between, for example, monohydrate and HCL.
The two forms in which creatine is available are powder and capsules. Certain energy shots contain creatine as well, but I do not recommend them, especially if your primary goal is creatine intake.
Using creatine powder or capsules does not make a difference in water retention at the cellular level, nor does it affect your safety.
However, I have often noticed that I need significantly more water to drink the powder than the capsule.
Since most types of creatine are not perfectly soluble in water, you will need several glasses of water to get rid of the powdery aftertaste.
For the capsules, only a few sips of water will be enough, making you thirsty after taking the pills.
Other Factors That Can Make You Thirsty
Diabetes, schizophrenia, and anemia are just some of the numerous serious conditions that can make you always thirsty. Assuming you are healthy, the following three are the most common causes other than creatine.
It is much more likely that some other supplement, above all pre-workout, is responsible for thirst in athletes and those who are training.
Caffeine is one of the three main ingredients in almost every pre-workout supplement. Caffeine will help you finish every exercise, but it is also a diuretic, which means it increases the production of urine.
It is improbable that you will take a dose of caffeine that will make you dehydrated, but increased urine output will certainly reduce the large amounts of water in your body. Thus, your brain will demand additional fluids.
Why did you decide to take creatine? To gain more lean muscle mass and improve the intensity, endurance, and duration of your workouts, right?
As long as you aren't a creatine non-responder, you will notice a boost in athletic performance.
This will directly lead to you sweating more during training.
Since sweating and urination are the primary ways the body expels fluids, you will surely be thirstier during and after the workout.
Drinking enough water is crucial not only to combat dehydration but to help with energy through your workouts.
Changes in Nutrition
Consider whether taking creatine coincided with tweaks in your diet. You may have decided to change your life completely, so you paid for the gym membership, bought supplements, and threw away all the junk food simultaneously.
Additionally, the change doesn't even have to be that major. For example, you may have been eating more salt in the last few meals or having a meal full of carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates store water, and then the body releases water, which can drag you into a cycle of increased urination and feeling thirst.
Tips For Preventing Dehydration When Taking Creatine
If you neglect fluid intake, you risk dehydration, regardless of creatine supplementation. You only need to take a few simple steps to prevent it:
Creatine Making You Thirsty FAQs
Theoretically, creatine may make your lips dry due to dehydration. However, it is a rare side effect that I have never encountered. Dry lips will instead be the result of something other than creatine, the same as muscle cramping.
Since one dose of creatine is usually 5g, you need to drink an extra half of a liter of water throughout the day -- 100ml per 1g is recommended dosage. This calculation does not apply to the loading phase (high doses) because you would have to drink too much water. Drinking an extra liter during the loading phase is desirable to draw water but avoid burdening your kidneys over the limit.
You can expect 2 to 5 lbs of water retention weight gain once you saturate your muscle cells when taking creatine. This is because the skeletal muscles act as creatine storage. So, as you gain more muscle mass due to creatine use and lifting weights, you can store more of it, and water weight gain might increase further.
In my experience, almost every exerciser uses creatine or has at least tried it at one stage.
If you have just started taking creatine supplements and notice a significant jump in water intake, remember that this is normal. Even desirable, and it won't harm your health.
Hydrate yourself more in order to take advantage of all the benefits of creatine. Be careful not to drink too much water because water intoxication is possible when you disturb the body's electrolyte balance.