Why Does Creatine Make Me Feel Sick? (4 Factors to Consider)

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Creatine is probably one of the most used supplements out there.

We know that it typically helps the muscles to recover more quickly.

And this of course can lead to improved strength and increased lean muscle mass.

However, many of us tend to feel sick whenever we take creatine.

So, what exactly is going on here?

There are various reasons why creatine may make you feel sick. Firstly, creatine draws water into the muscles’ cells, so you need to ensure that you’re drinking enough water. Secondly, many people choose to mix creatine with some type of juice, which may give you an initial spike in sugars, and the nauseous feeling you have is “coming down” from your sugar high. In reality, it’s best to take creatine monohydrate with a drink or meal that contains insulinogenic ingredients. You should also consider whether you’re ingesting too much creatine and whether you really need to front load your intake.

Are You Drinking Enough Water?

An Athletic Man Drinking a Bottle of Water While in a Sports Stadium

You’ll hear people stating that creatine causes dehydration.

And the reason you’re feeling sick and nauseous is because you are dehydrated.

Now, this isn’t strictly true.

In fact, I would go as far to say that creatine actually protects against dehydration, and even muscle cramping.

I think where the confusion lies is because of how creatine works.

Creatine actually draws water from the body into the cells, and it is this process that helps to build up muscle.

The muscles in turn will hold onto this water.

This is actually why you may feel bloated or look puffy after taking creatine.

And I’m sure many people have felt that any weight gain they have achieved is purely water weight.

You may even have noticed that your muscles almost immediately appear bigger, even though you’ve just started taking creatine.

All of this occurs because creatine is pulling in water towards the muscles.

With that being said, the main purpose of creatine is to provide the body with more energy.

And this can of course promote muscle growth and lead to weight loss.

So, if creatine is making use of water to help you achieve your body composition goals, then it makes perfect sense that you should supply the body with more water.

Creatine actually improves cell hydration, so you can’t exactly accuse it of causing dehydration.

However, you need to ensure that you’re taking on plenty of fluids, especially water, to allow creatine to do its job effectively.

And if you don’t drink enough water, you may well “feel dehydrated” and sick.

What Are You Mixing Your Creatine With?

Let’s face facts, creatine isn’t exactly the most wonderful tasting ingredient.

And depending on the variety you choose to consume, it can actually taste pretty disgusting.

So, more often than not, you may take creatine with a liquid to mask the taste.

Plus, the vast majority of creatine manufacturers will even state that you can take creatine with juice.

I know of many people who have consumed creatine with orange juice, apple juice, or even Gatorade.

This is all well-and-good in terms of taste, but it could also be what’s making you feel sick.

And it may even impact the effectiveness of your workout.

This is especially true if you choose to take creatine, mixed with juice or an isotonic drink, prior to your workout.

Basically, what is happening here is that you are literally going through a sugar rush, immediately followed by a drop in blood sugar levels.

This typically occurs mid-workout, and no doubt leaves you feeling lethargic and sick.

There has been an on-going debate about when you should take creatine, i.e. before or after your workout.

So, in reality, even if you mix creatine with juice, you probably wouldn’t feel quite as nauseous if you consumed this after your workout.

You’re no longer exerting a lot of effort and the body is at rest.

I don’t really wish to get involved in the “creatine – before or after a workout” debate.

In my mind there is no conclusive proof that one way is better than the other.

In fact, there are equally as many scientific studies supporting both corners.

For me, it always comes down to taking creatine whenever it feels best for you.

However, what I will say is that it’s best to consume creatine mixed with insulinogenic ingredients.

By this I mean either ingredients that stabilize your blood sugar levels or have no impact on it at all.

I have always taken creatine with water.

I either do this simply by mixing it with water, or adding it to my protein shake, which I once again mix with water.

Granted, it may taste awful just with water, and it may even make my protein shake taste chalky.

But, creatine is certainly one ingredient I’m not overly bothered about “tasting good”.

I am not taking it for pleasure, but simply due to the effect it has on muscle growth and recovery.

Do You Really Need to Load Creatine?

Creatine - Benefits and Dosage

You’ll generally be told that you need to go through a loading phase when you first start taking creatine.

This is usually to acclimatize your muscles to the effects of creatine.

However, in truth, you don’t really need to load creatine at all.

Many people are convinced that they get an immediate benefit from taking creatine.

However, I believe this is simply the placebo effect.

It takes a while for creatine to filter through to the muscles, which is typically why you’re told to front load it.

With that being said, I see nothing wrong with just sticking to the standard dose of 5g a day from the very start.

Okay, it may take longer for creatine to “take effect” without the loading phase, but this could also ensure that you don’t have to go through the “feeling sick” stage either.

So, just take steady doses from the very beginning for an extended period and the muscles will eventually become “saturated”.

Are You Taking Too Much Creatine?

A Tub of Creatine Powder

This leads on nicely from what I’ve just mentioned.

Many of us are of the thinking “more is better”.

In fact, some people apply this rule to everything in life.

However, this isn’t always true.

I would actually say that even when it comes to working out, more often than not, less is better.

Your body has adequate time to recover.

You’re not increasing your levels of cortisol by constantly stressing the body.

Plus, your muscles will probably react better to this.

And the same can be said for creatine.

Realistically, you probably don’t even need to be consuming 5g of creatine per day either.

I’m sure that 2-3g will suffice for most of us.

Basically, once creatine has started to do it’s thing, your muscles will react in the way they should.

So, if you are overdoing it on the creatine consumption this could well be why it makes you feel sick.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Know if Creatine is Right For You?

A Muscular Man Looking at His Drink's Container

There have been various studies around creatine and the vast majority agree that there are no significant side effects from creatine supplementation.

However, most of these studies are based around taking the recommended dose per day, and participants have only been researched for up to a period of 6 months.

But, it’s safe to say that creatine is a safe supplement for most individuals.

Furthermore, as I’ve already mentioned, many of the issues with creatine are due to excessive doses, not consuming enough water, or even what you’re mixing creatine with.

So, side effects  such as feeling sick, nauseous, water weight gain, and even headaches, stomach upset, or diarrhoea can typically be attributed to these factors.

If the truth be told the side effects can become even more serious from excessive consumption of creatine in otherwise healthy individuals.

These can include rashes, fever, anxiety, breathing difficulties, and kidney problems.

So, once more I’ll repeat, you need to be wary of how much creatine you are consuming.

For me, I don’t believe you require a loading phase, as your muscles will eventually become saturated with creatine through supplementation anyway.

Plus, for the vast majority of individuals 2-5g of creatine daily will suffice.

So, if you train regularly and you want that little more “oomph” to your workouts, creatine is “right for you”

That being said, there are those who should avoid taking creatine.

These include anyone with liver or kidney disease, diabetics, expectant or nursing mothers, children under 18, and if you’re taking any medication that may affect your blood sugar levels.

What Will I Notice When I Start Taking Creatine?

I appreciate that this article has mainly been focused on the potential negative side effects of creatine, but there are definitely a lot of great things about creatine supplementation.

So, what exactly should you expect to notice when you start taking creatine?

Realistically, I should say, what should you expect to see once full creatine saturation has been achieved?

This also means that you won’t notice the effects of creatine until saturation has taken place (1-2 weeks with a loading phase, 3-4 weeks with regular daily doses).

Firstly, you should notice an increase in strength across pretty much every exercise and movement you do.

That being said, increases in strength will differ for beginners and novices when compared to intermediate and advanced lifters.

The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research found that trained lifters can expect an 8% increase in strength and a 14% increase in reps performed.

However, the same study performed with untrained individuals saw an average increase in strength of 30%.

We all know about “newbie gains”, but it appears that through creatine supplementation the increases in strength are phenomenal.

Next, you should notice that you recover from your workouts much quicker.

Obviously, recovery also comes down to the intensity of your training, training volume, nutrition, water intake, and sleep.

So, don’t expect creatine to perform miracles if you’re not adhering to good practices with the above.

But still keep an eye on how quickly you recover between workouts and see if you notice a difference.

Finally, not specifically training-related, but still a wonderful benefit, increased creatine levels can lead to increased brain function.

It’s amazing to think that our brain’s use up approximately 20% of our metabolic energy, even while we’re at rest.

Therefore, you could say that if you’re low on energy and feeling fatigued this will impact your cognitive functions.

So, simply due to the fact that creatine provides your body with additional energy you should notice that you’re far more alert and clear thinking.

Does Creatine Give You a Buzz?

Creatine won’t give you a buzz or a head rush that you may experience with a supplement such as pre-workout.

As an example, most pre-workout supplements contain caffeine, which in turn can give you a high, a buzz, and leave you feeling extremely alert.

However, creatine isn’t a stimulant so you shouldn’t be feeling anything in particular after taking it.

As I’ve mentioned, creatine is mainly aimed at increasing energy during your workout (once your muscles are fully saturated with creatine over a period of time) and improving recovery.

Additionally, whenever I’ve seen this question about a “creatine buzz” it’s typically in a positive light.

Therefore, this isn’t focused on some of the negative side-effects I’ve spoken about.

That being said, I believe the “creatine buzz” is related to something I’ve just mentioned above, namely improved brain/cognitive function.

The fact that the brain uses a vast amount of energy to function means that using your brain requires a constant source of energy.

And of course, creatine supplementation can greatly help with this.

So, if you’re feeling a “buzz” it’s more than likely that creatine is doing its job, and not only helping to improve your body, but your mind as well.

What to Eat While Taking Creatine?

A Muscular Man's Torso, Who is Eating a Salad, While Loooking at His Phone

If you’re taking creatine to improve your workouts and therefore increasing muscle and strength, nutrition is obviously going to be very important.

Having additional energy for your workouts and better recovery is only one part of the puzzle.

So, it makes sense to eat in line with your body composition goals.

Therefore, consuming protein can aid with muscle building and will also keep you full.

Carbohydrates will fuel your workouts and fibre will ensure that you once again remain full.

That being said, there is evidence that causing an insulin spike will lead to better absorption of creatine.

And this of course is ideal for getting to that creatine saturated state.

However, rather than sticking to pure carbs (which many people advise) it’s actually better to eat a combination of protein and carbohydrates to achieve that insulin spike.

In fact, one of the best meals to achieve this is the bodybuilding staple of chicken, rice, and broccoli.

But, any combination of protein and carbs, which are whole foods, can help to achieve the best results.

Can Creatine Affect Your Mood?

So far, when it comes to creatine and the brain, I’ve only spoken about the positive effects.

Essentially, as creatine can improve cognitive function, this should have a positive impact on your overall mood.

However, there is also scientific research into potential negative effects of creatine and mood.

Firstly, the following study speaks of negative changes in mood and anxiety, namely hypomania or mania in two individuals following daily 3-5g creatine supplementation.

However, it’s important to note that both these individuals had bipolar disorder.

Therefore, I would advise that you seek professional medical advice if this is the case for you.

That being said, according to a Physiology of Sport and Exercise Study there are some potential side effects in cognitive behaviour that everyone should be aware of.

Firstly, the production of dopamine can be affected by higher levels of creatine phosphate.

Dopamine is the brain neurotransmitter that is responsible for pleasure and motivation.

Lower levels of dopamine production may lead to depression, Parkinson’s disease, psychosis, restless leg syndrome, and schizophrenia.

Secondly, creatine may also impact serotonin production, the brain compound responsible for regulating your appetite, learning function, memory, mood, and sleep.

Lower levels of serotonin are associated with depressions, difficulties with learning, lower levels of insulin secretion, and weight gain.

It’s important to realise that these are potential issues with mood from creatine supplementation, apart from the two individuals mentioned above, are pretty much unheard-of.

Final Thoughts

The most common reason that creatine makes you feel sick is because you’re not drinking enough water. Creatine draws water into the muscles, so once you start taking it you should increase your water intake to help the process along. Furthermore, you should be wary of what you’re mixing creatine with, and indeed how much of it you are consuming.

I’ve recently written about something that many of us never consider, namely why do you have to be 18 to buy creatine.

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