You’ll typically always hear a vast array of do’s and don’t about creatine.
But, one thing is for sure, you know you should definitely be drinking plenty of water.
However, it’s difficult to know whether you’re drinking enough water, and what can potentially happen if you don’t.
So, allow me to explain everything you need to know about creatine and water intake.
If you don’t adjust your water intake in line with your creatine supplementation it can lead to an increased risk of dehydration. Creatine draws water from your body and directs this into the muscle cells. This will increase the ATP energy in your muscles. However, this also means there is less water for the vital organs, the heart, brain, liver and kidneys, to function. So, in effect, if you are taking creatine you should increase your daily water intake accordingly.
Creatine and Dehydration
Creatine is one of the most commonly taken supplements.
But, it is also the one supplement that has a vast array of conflicting views when it comes to consumption.
This can stem from when you should take it, how much you should take, and of course how much water you should drink with creatine.
You’ll also likely hear about the effects of dehydration from creatine and the impact it can have on your kidneys (more on this in a moment).
You’ll hear so many horror stories that it’s a wonder that anyone ever takes creatine.
Okay, firstly I should state that creatine does not cause dehydration.
In fact, it almost does the opposite inside the body.
Creatine will draw water from the blood and literally flood the muscles.
This will increase ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which in turn releases energy into the muscle cells.
And it is this process that provides you with more energy, strength and power output in the gym.
However, as creatine is drawing water from within the body it makes sense that you should replace this “lost” water.
In effect, you still have plenty of water inside the body, but much of it is now being directed towards the muscles.
This means that water is being drawn away from other parts of the body.
And it is this that can cause an increased risk of dehydration.
So, it’s not the fact that you have less water in the body, it’s more that the water is being used for other purposes.
This can cause issues with the vital organs, i.e. heart, brain, liver, kidneys, which all require water to function.
Creatine and the Kidneys
There’s been a lot said over the years about creatine use and its effect on the kidneys.
However, just to set the record straight, creatine does not cause kidney damage.
With that being said, if you don’t take the necessary steps when supplementing with creatine then you may be at a higher risk of renal problems.
There are various studies that state that creatine use can worsen kidney dysfunction in people with kidney disorders.
But, this has more to do with the kidneys not functioning at optimum levels in order to rid the body (through urination) of the waste product of creatine, namely creatinine.
However, if you are healthy and your kidneys function perfectly normally, there is absolutely no evidence that creatine will cause any issues.
Nevertheless, this is yet another reason that you should increase your water intake when supplementing with creatine.
So, creatine is pulling water from the body to the muscles.
This ensures that your muscles are flooded with both water and creatine.
However, this will also create the waste product creatinine.
Creatinine will then travel to the kidneys and then needs to be excreted from the body through urination.
However, if you’re not taking on enough water, you will less likely need to pee.
This creates an excess of the waste product creatinine in the body, which is usually an indication that the kidneys aren’t doing their job properly.
So, once again, to help this overall process along it makes sense to consume more water than you were before you started supplementing with creatine.
Creatine and Caffeine
There has been a lot said and written about the effects of creatine and caffeine together.
Individually, they can both help to enhance athletic performance, typically because of their energy-boosting effects.
However, you’ll often hear that it’s a terrible idea to mix them.
So, in other words, no putting creatine in your pre-workout, coffee, or tea.
In truth, there is very little evidence to suggest that mixing creatine and caffeine will affect your athletic performance.
It is simply the fact that caffeine has a mild diuretic effect, but only if taken in excessive volumes.
Basically, if you drink a lot of caffeine you’ll have a greater need to pee.
If we take coffee as an example, you would need to drink 5 or more cups of coffee at once to have any type of significant dehydrating effect.
So, something like pre-workout has the caffeine equivalent of around 3 cups of coffee at most.
Therefore, you’re going to have to severely overdo the coffee, or pre-workout, before it starts having a dehydrating impact when mixed with creatine.
With that being said, yet again, it makes a great deal of sense to increase your water intake if you’re regularly consuming creatine and caffeine separately or together.
How Much Water Should You Drink With Creatine?
Clearly if you’re taking creatine you need to increase your water intake.
So, how much water is enough?
As it turns out, how much water you should drink a day with or without creatine supplementation is very easy to calculate.
I’ll use an example of a 180lb person to explain.
Firstly, take your weight in pounds and then half this.
So, this gives us 90.
If you multiply this figure by 3 you’ll get the amount of centilitres required.
Therefore, 90 x 3 = 270.
Then to convert centilitres into litres simply divide by 100.
So, 270/100 = 2.7 litres.
This means that a 180lb person should consume 2.7 litres of water a day.
However, once you add creatine into the mix you will need to increase your water intake by 0.5 litres per 5g of creatine.
So, as the normal creatine maintenance supplementation is 5g a day, our 180lb person will need to consume an extra 0.5 litres of water, i.e. 3.2 litres in total.
Obviously, if you are taking less creatine or more creatine, i.e. less required for maintenance, more required during a loading phase, then readjust your water intake accordingly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Mix Creatine With Protein?
Yes, there is no issue with mixing creatine with protein powder.
In fact, this is exactly how I took both supplements.
Creatine supplementation is more about saturating your muscles over a period of time.
This has an effect on ATP production, the body’s main source of energy.
Therefore, creatine doesn’t have an immediate impact, but rather the effects are felt once you have built up creatine in your system.
Furthermore, protein powders are simply that, protein.
So, protein powders are there to increase your consumption of protein, which over time can lead to increased muscle mass (in conjunction with your workouts).
The only adverse effects depend on the individual.
Some trainees say that too much protein leaves them feeling bloated and lethargic, whereas some talk about water retention, feeling sick, or bloated through taking creatine.
But these are definitely side-effects that only pertain to a small percentage of users.
Of course, you will need to test this yourself, but it’s safe to say that many individuals, myself included, mix creatine and protein.
Can You Take Creatine Before Bed?
Once more, it’s absolutely fine to take creatine before bed.
And creatine won’t affect your sleep.
You must remember that creatine isn’t a stimulant.
So, it certainly won’t have the same impact as taking a pre-workout or drinking a cup of coffee, as both of these contain caffeine.
The thing is with stimulants is that they affect your central nervous system, so taking substances which contain caffeine are likely to disturb your sleep patterns.
This goes back to what I mentioned earlier, in that, creatine doesn’t have an immediate effect on your body, but the impact it has is from building up creatine in the body over time.
That being said, I would urge caution if you’re someone who experiences certain side effects from creatine supplementation during the day.
As I’ve mentioned, the vast majority of people have absolutely no ill-effects from creatine.
However, there are plenty of individuals who speak of feeling sick, bloated, gassy, etc.
So, if creatine is doing this to you during the day, it’s unlikely it will change if you take it at night.
This being the case, creatine is best avoided before bed for those of you who suffer from these side-effects.
Is Creatine or BCAAs Better?
This is kind of like comparing oranges and apples.
Basically, creatine and BCAAs have two completely different roles.
BCAAs are more specifically focused on building muscle and helping you to recover from your workouts.
Suffice to say, the better you recover from your workouts the more intensity you’ll have to hit your next workout, which is what helps with muscle growth.
However, creatine is all about creating additional energy in the body, thus meaning that you can train harder and longer.
So realistically, if you’re struggling with fatigue during your workouts, creatine is the better option.
Then again, if you’re struggling with recovery and building muscle, BCAAs is the way forward.
That being said, creatine and BCAAs won’t “conflict” with each other, so you can of course take both.
What Happens if You Take Creatine and Don’t Workout?
I would hazard a guess that this is something that people wonder about on their rest days.
But, hopefully you’re starting to get the picture now about creatine supplements.
I’ll repeat, creatine supplementation isn’t taken for an immediate impact, but rather to saturate the muscles with creatine over time.
The creatine is stored in the muscles as creatine phosphate, although each muscle cell can only store a certain amount of creatine.
Any excess is converted into creatinine, which is then excreted from the body, almost exclusively through urination.
Essentially, if you’re worried about any potential side-effects of taking creatine on a rest day, you can rest-assured that any excess will naturally pass through the body.
There is also a case for individuals who don’t workout taking creatine.
Once creatine stores are built-up this can provide energy for daily movement and creatine can also improve brain function too.
So, there is very little to worry about when it comes to taking creatine.
Is Drinking 4.5 Litres of Water Okay?
I completely understand the question about 4.5 litres, which is approximately one gallon of water.
And I’m sure you’ve seen these hulking bodybuilders in your gym carrying gallon bottles of water with them.
I would even say that “drinking a gallon of water a day” became a fad for a while too.
However, how much water you should drink largely depends on the individual, their activity levels, their build, any health conditions, and of course, the environment they live in.
Clearly, someone living in an all-year-round hot climate will need to keep their fluid levels topped up..
Furthermore, if supplementing with creatine you should definitely increase your water intake.
That being said, drinking 4.5 litres of water a day definitely isn’t for everyone.
Even for myself, and my high activity levels, I have never drank this amount of water on a regular basis.
I guess it’s also a personal thing, but I typically drink between 3-4 litres of water per day, and this largely depends on my activities for the day.
So, how much water you should drink will also depend on the factors that I’ve mentioned.
It’s also important to realise that there is such a thing as water intoxication and overhydration, which can have certain side effects, some of which can be severe.
Therefore, it makes sense to calculate for yourself how much water you should be drinking yourself.
I hope you have a better idea of what happens if you don’t drink enough water with creatine.
In the main, there is an increased chance of dehydration.
This is caused by creatine taking water from the blood and directing it towards the muscles.
Therefore, you should increase your water intake in line with your creatine supplementation.
This will involve drinking an extra 0.5 litres of water for every 5g of creatine you take.
If you don’t take on extra water this means that there is less water available for your vital organs to function.
So, not only can this impact on your athletic performance, but it can also affect your overall health.
In other words, don’t take any chances, and make sure you increase your water intake if you are supplementing with creatine.
Next, check out what I have to say about whether creatine is required to build muscle.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.