When athletes want to get bigger, faster and stronger they often turn to supplements to help enhance their performance. Creatine is one such supplement used by athletes to increase muscle mass. Creatine, as a supplement, is most often taken in powder form. Creatine, which is made naturally in the body by aerobic and anaerobic metabolism, is broken down to create creatine phosphate. Creatine phosphate then helps the body make a substance called adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which provides energy for muscle contractions. Creatine has been proven to have many benefits. However, if not managed properly, creatine can also have negative effects.
Creatine's main function is helping muscles retain water. For this reason, creatine will make users look fuller, but they can also feel bloated. The abdominal area is especially affected by this bloating sensation.
Studies have shown that using more than 5 grams of creatine per day may increase the bloating that occurs when muscles store extra water. Most athletes will "take breaks" from creatine use as to not overuse the supplement. If creatine has been used for four months or longer and then use is stopped, muscle mass often decreases due to the loss of water retention.
One side effect of supplemental creatine use is the increase of creatine levels in the urine. High creatine levels in urine is often a red flag for kindney problems. The kidneys must also work harder to rid the body of the extra creatine levels. To do so, water is expelled, often leading to kidney stones.
Nausea and Diarrhea
Creatine supplements can lead users to experience nausea and diarrhea. These effects come from the creatine powders not being fully dissolved. Nausea and diarrhea can often times be fixed by adjusting the dosage or switching to a micronized powder or capsule form.
Cramps and Dehydration
As creatine draws water into the muscles, especially during intense workouts, it draws water from other parts of the body. This absence of water from other parts of the body may cause cramping and dehydration.