Creatine supplementation may cause bloating in some individuals, but not everyone. Understanding the factors that contribute to bloating and how to manage it is crucial for optimizing your creatine supplementation regimen.
This article aims to shed light on the topic of creatine bloating, helping you understand what it is, how to avoid it, and the overall benefits of creatine supplementation.
Key Takeaways On Creatine and Bloating
- Creatine may lead to bloating in some individuals as a result of water retention in muscles.
- Not everyone will experience bloating from creatine, and everyone’s experience with creatine and bloating will be different.
- Avoiding the loading phase and choosing the right form of creatine can help reduce bloating.
- The benefits of creatine, such as improved athletic performance and muscle growth, make it a popular supplement despite the potential for bloating.
What is Creatine Bloating?
Before understanding what creatine bloating is, it’s important to ensure a basic understanding about creatine.
Creatine is a natural compound made in the body from amino acids, and we also get it from food sources like meat and fish. People who follow a plant-based diet or those who don’t consume many meat or fish products are more likely to have lower levels of creatine. But this doesn’t mean they cannot increase their creatine status. Many people, regardless of their dietary preferences, take creatine supplements to enhance their fitness and health.
Creatine supplements are one of the most popular and widely utilized supplements on the market. Most people tolerate creatine very well with few reported side effects. However, some people can experience some mild bloating or digestive discomfort, often referred to as creatine bloating.
Creatine bloating refers to the water retention that happens to some people when they supplement with creatine. The muscles hold onto creatine and water, which can lead to a temporary increase in water weight and bloating (1).
Creatine bloating is more likely to occur during the creatine loading phase. Creatine loading is when someone takes a high dose of creatine, such as 20-25 grams of creatine, for 5-7 days. This causes a more dramatic increase in water retention and muscle mass, which may lead to bloating.
How Does Creatine Bloating Feel?
Creatine bloating feels like an uncomfortable fullness in the abdomen, and many people report feeling puffy in the abdominal area. Bloating caused by creatine can also cause excess gas, which can be uncomfortable. However, symptoms of creatine bloating are typically mild.
Water retention may temporarily cause an increase in weight, however, it’s important to understand that this is not true weight gain. Rather, the increase in fluid retention may cause the scale to go up. Once creatine bloating subsides, your weight should return to normal.
Because bloating from creatine can feel similar to bloating from other reasons, it’s important to understand the source of your discomfort.
Sometimes people can experience bloating from other factors such as diet, food intolerances, medications, or certain medical conditions. Before automatically assuming your bloat is from creatine, it can be helpful to consult with your doctor to understand the source of your bloating.
How to Avoid Creatine Bloating?
Skip the Creatine Loading Phase
Creatine loading involves consuming a larger than normal amount of creatine for a few days with the goal of quickly saturating the muscles with creatine. People who engage in creatine loading may take up to 25 grams of creatine per day for several days. This high dose of creatine can more dramatically pull water into muscles, more likely causing bloating and puffiness. However, this is totally avoidable if you are concerned about bloating, or if you are more sensitive to fluid shifts (2).
While some research suggests that creatine loading may be beneficial, the evidence is not conclusive. Plus, creatine loading can contribute to water retention, bloating, and discomfort.
Rather, it might be best to take a lower dose, at about 3 to 5 grams per day on a consistent basis to reap the benefits of creatine. While it may take a few more days to fully saturate your muscles with creatine, you will ultimately experience the same results – and without discomfort. Even without the loading phase, creatine is beneficial for many people.
The Best Creatine Supplement Form to Avoid Bloating
It’s also important to choose the best and easiest form of creatine to digest and absorb. Creatine monohydrate is the most widely researched form of creatine and in fact has an absorption rate of 100%. Plus, few people report symptoms related to bloating when using this form of creatine.
Creatine monohydrate is sold in powder form as its own supplement or combined with other pre workout products. Sometimes you might find creatine mixed with protein, caffeine, or other stimulant compounds. You can also commonly find pure creatine monohydrate on its own.
Many people blend creatine with milk, water, juice, or even into a smoothie or shake. If you are experiencing bloating it can also be helpful to take a look at the ingredients you are choosing to blend with your creatine.
For example, if you are sensitive to dairy and you choose to blend creatine with milk, you may experience bloating from difficulty with digestive lactose. Or maybe you’re blending creatine into a high-fiber smoothie, in which case there might be fibrous ingredients that can contribute to bloating as well.
Regardless of how you choose to consume creatine, always ensure your creatine supplement is from a reputable brand that produces high-quality products to reduce your risk of bloating.
What are the Benefits of Creatine?
Creatine offers various benefits for athletes and fitness enthusiasts. The following sections will list and explain several benefits of taking creatine.
Improved Athletic Performance
Many athletes and those looking to improve their fitness turn to creatine to increase their strength and endurance. Particularly with high-intensity exercises such as weight lifting and sprinting, creatine supplementation can be quite beneficial.
Creatine helps provide the muscles with a continuous fuel source of ATP, which is the energy muscles need to perform high-intensity tasks, both for men and women. Plus, creatine can speed up recovery time which enables athletes to continue training at a high level.
Muscle Growth and Strength
Creatine helps facilitate muscle protein synthesis and therefore contributes to increased muscle mass and strength. By stimulating two major muscle proteins – actin and myosin – muscle fibers can grow and strengthen.
Muscle growth happens from repetition of resistance exercises, and creatine is helpful to provide the muscles with energy in the form of ATP to perform these exercises. However, the body does not store much ATP, so supplementation can boost ATP levels and allow muscles to continue working.
Muscle protein synthesis is most active right after exercise, so taking creatine at the time of your workout is beneficial. Fitness and nutrition experts recommend taking creatine within 60 minutes of exercise, whether that’s before or after your workout. Whether you take creatine before or after exercise essentially comes down to personal preference and what makes you feel and perform your best.
Although more research is needed, creatine may also improve cognitive function and brain health. Some studies show that those who take creatine perform better on cognitive tasks, have better memory, and sharper focus.
One study had suggested that short-term memory may be improved by consuming just 5 grams of creatine daily for six weeks. However, the results of this study were not statistically significant and more research is needed to better understand the relationship between creatine supplementation and cognitive benefit (3).
TL;DR; Does Creatine Make You Bloated?
While bloating can be a side effect of taking creatine, it’s usually pretty avoidable.
Because creatine draws water into muscle cells, water retention and bloating may occur from taking it.
However, if you avoid the loading phase and stick to a lower daily maintenance dose, you can reduce your chances of experiencing uncomfortable bloating.
Plus, be sure to choose a high-quality creatine supplement in the form of creatine monohydrate for the best results.
FAQs on Creatine and Bloating
The following section will list some common questions and answers regarding creatine and bloating.
Does Creatine Bloating Go Away?
Even if you do experience some bloating after taking creatine, you can be rest assured that this bloating will go away once your body digests and absorbs the creatine. You may also notice bloating subsides when you reduce your dosage. If your bloating does not subsite, it’s important to consult with your doctor or another medical professional to rule out anything else that might be going on.
What are the Negative Effects of Creatine?
Creatine is a very safe supplement when consumed in the recommended amounts. Some people may experience bloating, mild digestive upset, or muscle cramps, although this is not necessarily the case for most people.
If individuals do not take care to properly hydrate themselves, creatine can contribute to dehydration, potentially leading to fatigue, headaches, and nausea. However, this is not common and is totally avoidable if you ensure proper hydration.
Certain people should avoid taking creatine, such as those with kidney disease, as extra amino acids from creatine can take a toll on weak kidneys. Always check with your doctor if you are curious if creatine is right for you.
Is Creatine OK to Take Every Day?
Not only is it okay to take creatine every day, but it’s actually advisable to take it daily. In order to notice the benefits from creatine it’s helpful to stay consistent with your intake. Taking a maintenance dose of 3-5 grams per day is safe and effective for the majority of people. Plus, a low dose like this is unlikely to cause side effects.
Does Creatine Make Your Stomach Bloated?
Creatine may cause some mild bloating in some people due to water retention. Rather than actually impacting the stomach itself, bloating may be the result of the abdominal muscles holding onto more fluid.
How Much Water Should I Drink With Creatine?
Hydration is always important, however, ensuring proper hydration is even more important when taking creatine. Not only does optimal hydration support the benefits of creatine, but it can help minimize potential side effects. Aim to drink at least 60 ounces of water daily, and perhaps more than this on days when you exercise.