Can Creatine Cause Headaches?

If you are reading this article, you are probably already taking creatine supplements and experiencing side effects such as headaches, or maybe you are planning to add it to your daily supplement list but worried if you could end up having a headache that could affect your productivity.  

Over the years, Creatine has become one of the top-selling sports supplements across the world. (1) Various studies have proved that it is highly beneficial for improving athletic performance and building muscle mass. (2

Creatine is one of the major ingredients in almost all sports supplements.

Plus, it is also readily available as an overall health supplement, the sale of which is regulated by the USFDA. (3) The International Olympic Committee and National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) too allow the use of creatine by athletes. (4)

The International Society of Sports Nutrition supports the use of creatine for enhancing athletic performance and claims that when used in regulated amounts, it is one of the safest sports supplements sold so far. (5)

However, just like any sports/health supplement, creatine supplements may cause minor side effects such as dehydration, muscle cramps, bloating, and digestive problems.

When used in more than the recommended quality, you might suffer from kidney damage, kidney stones, liver damage, weight gain, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, etc. 

As mentioned, these harsh effects are seen only in people who consume creatine in an excessive quantity for a prolonged period. 

Wondering if creatine headaches are also a common side effect of this supplement? 

That’s what this article intends to answer. Read on to find out if creatine can actually cause headaches, as claimed by thousands of users and how you can prevent it. 

Please note: Creatine is not recommended for people suffering from kidney or liver problems and diabetes. It is also not recommended for pregnant women and children below 18 years. 

Creatine headaches: myth or fact 

Headaches are not a direct side effect of creatine. 

Rather, a few studies have indicated that this organic compound can alleviate the symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) most of which are headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. (6)

Yet, thousands of people have complained that they suddenly started experiencing mild to severe headaches after starting creatine supplements. The symptoms subside within a few days of creatine withdrawal. 

The studies contradict the experiences of the users. But, don’t worry; both of them are right. People do get creatine headaches but this natural chemical is not directly responsible for it, just the way it is responsible for bloating or dehydration. 

Researchers are yet to clinically figure out the exact reason behind creatine headaches but here are a few things that pretty well explains it. 

Dehydration is probably the most common factor that triggers creatine headache 

signs of dehydration that could trigger creatine headaches

Image Source: Thibudaux Regional Fitness Center

Dehydration is the most common side effect of creatine supplements. All other side effects are correlated to it. For example; if you are severely dehydrated, you are most likely going to suffer from muscle cramps, dizziness, digestive problems, etc. 

Please note that not everyone suffers from creatine headaches. 

Wondering why creatine makes you feel dehydrated?

Well, there are quite a few reasons. The major one is that creatine creates a kind-of osmosis effect which makes water pass into the muscle tissues. This is exactly the reason why you tend to gain some weight when you start taking creatine supplements. The osmosis effect also makes you feel bloated all the time. Since most of the water you consume gets drawn into your muscle tissues, you tend to get dehydrated. 

Since creatine helps you improve your athletic performance, you are more likely going to do more reps than usual. This means you'll be sweating out more than usual. That's another reason why you may get dehydrated after consuming this organic compound. 

Even though there is very little scientific evidence, almost all of us are familiar with dehydration headaches. (7) That hangover headache you get in the morning is due to dehydration. So yes, creatine may cause dehydration, which may eventually lead to creatine headaches

Creatine headache may get triggered due to overexertion 

Overexertion headaches that could be confused with creatine headaches

Image Source: Open Fit

When you are trying to build muscles, you obviously make almost every possible effort that can help you lose excess weight and build more lean muscles. You may be using fat burner supplements to help suppress your appetite, while still keeping your energy levels high. You may also be opting for organic compounds like creatine that boost your performance enough so that you can take up hardcore fitness challenges like Insanity cardio, power, and resistance training

When you work so hard, you will obviously end up overexerting yourself at some point in time. We all have experienced exertion headaches, especially when we had tried hard to push ourselves beyond our limit. Such creatine headaches do not last long though but in some cases, they may last for a few hours or the whole day

Read this article to learn more about fat burner supplements and their safe use.

Overheating during workouts may also trigger creatine headaches 

Summer headaches

Image Source: Runner’s World 

Doing high-performance activities during hot weather can cause headaches, whether you are taking creatine supplements or not. That's why you should take up lighter but challenging workouts during summer. 

What we meant here is that instead of box squats, you should try sissy squats. And, instead of weight training, you may want to try resistance training. Here is an information guide on how you can build a full-fledged home gym using only resistance bands

To prevent overheating, you should try to workout in a cool and well-ventilated space. If you have a garage gym, you can use Commercial Electric 16 Inch Turbo Floor Fan or Black and Decker 14000 BTU portable AC, if that suits your budget. For non-humid areas, desert coolers such as the Hessaire Portable Evaporative Cooler are a good option. 

If possible, do not start creatine supplements during peak summer. Wait until the weather becomes a bit favorable. Plus, during winter, make sure you wear light and breathable clothes to prevent overheating. 

PS: Here is an informational article on ‘What Temperature is Too Cold to Workout in Your Garage or Outside Gym’.

How to prevent/treat creatine headaches?

We have already told you the reasons why you could suffer from creatine headaches. You just need to address them. Here is how you can do that. 

Drink more water than you usually do

things you need to do if you are suffering from creatine headaches

Image Source: Dr Jockers

The American Heart Association (AHA) suggests that if you are taking any medicine or supplement that tends to dehydrate the body, you must drink more water than you normally do. (8

If you have been experiencing creatine headaches, all you need to do is to drink more water or any fluid you like (except the ones that cause dehydration). An extra liter of water should be enough but feel free to drink as much as you can throughout the day

Do not wait until you feel thirsty because thirst isn’t really an indicator of dehydration, as often assumed. Keep drinking water as and when you can, especially during and right after your workouts. Also make sure you eat foods that have a high water content such as watermelon, oranges, cucumber, etc. Have them as snacks as well as add them to your meals. 

Reduce your caffeine and alcohol intake 

Sounds obvious but we thought we should mention it here. 

Caffeine and alcohol are known for causing dehydration. When you are taking creatine, the last thing you want to have is something that can make you even more dehydrated. So, trade off your morning and afternoon coffees and sodas with herbal teas and hydrating juices. 

You can try a 100% organic whey-based protein supplement such as Naked Nutrition protein powder

If you are trying to increase the intensity of your workouts, go slow

This will help prevent overexertion. 

Start increasing your reps and intensity gradually and be mindful of how you feel when you try to do so. At any point in time, you feel overexerted or if you get a creatine headache, treat this as a warning and try something softer the next day. Ensure that you are well-rested before your workouts and do not forget to give yourself a day off.  

Keep yourself cool while exercising and otherwise 

Overheating headaches are pretty common during summer or when you are exercising outdoors. But, if you have suddenly started a rigorous workout routine, you could feel dizzy even during winter, which happens mostly due to overheating. 

It has nothing to do with creatine but if you are taking this organic compound, you could get dehydrated quickly even during freezing winter. That's why you should always exercise in a cool place and drink plenty of water, irrespective of the weather. Also, make sure you don’t overdress yourself during workouts. 

Wrap up 

As obvious from the above information, creatine headaches are nothing but dehydration headaches. By keeping yourself hydrated and well-rested, you should be able to avoid or treat them. 

But, do not hesitate to see a doctor if the headache becomes persistent or if it starts to get worse no matter what you do. Also, if the headache is accompanied by fever, nausea, vomiting, lightheadedness, fainting, etc. seek medical help immediately. Such incidents are rare but you should know when to seek medical help. 

We hope this article helps you know what creatine headaches are and why you get them. For more such helpful information, please keep reading our website. 

References and citations: 

  1. Effects of creatine supplementation on performance and training adaptations– Pubmed.gov
  2. 10 Health and Performance Benefits of Creatine– Healthline
  3. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: creatine supplementation and exercise- National Library of Medicine 
  4. Creatine – Uses, Side Effects, and More– Webmd
  5. Long-term creatine supplementation does not significantly affect clinical markers of health in athletes– National Library of Medicine 
  6. Prevention of traumatic headache, dizziness and fatigue with creatine administration. A pilot study– National Library of Medicine 
  7. Dehydration– American Academy of Family Physicians
  8. Staying Hydrated – Staying Healthy– American Heart Association