There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding creatine. When you search online, a common question that pops up is whether creatine causes constipation. Let’s try to understand what creatine is, its benefits and whether creatine constipation is really a thing?
What is Creatine?
Creatine is a naturally occurring substance in the muscle cells that provides the energy for high-intensity exercise and heavy lifting. It is popular among athletes to take creatine supplements to increase performance in the gym, and enhance muscle and strength.
Creatine levels in the body are affected by several factors such as meat intake, amount of muscle mass, exercise, and hormone levels of IGF-1 and testosterone.
Just 5 % of creatine is found in the liver, brain and kidneys while the remaining is stored in muscles in the form of phosphocreatine.
Taking creatine supplements increases the level of phosphocreatine in the body which helps produce the body’s energy currency known as ATP. Higher levels of ATP in the body lead to better performance in exercise.
Benefits of Creatine
Creatine improves athletic performance in several ways. During a high-intensity workout, it leads to increasing the stores of phosphocreatine in the muscles, which in turn produces more ATP leading to better performance in heavy lifting and other high-intensity workouts.
One of the benefits of creatine is that it helps gain muscle. Taking creatine helps athletes boost the volume in their training sessions, which is a key factor to improve muscle growth in the long run.
It increases cell signaling which aids muscle growth and muscle repair. It also helps lift the water content in the muscle cells which leads to a volumization effect. This is one of the reasons that taking creatine leads to dehydration in some people.
There are several studies citing the positive effect of creatine on short and long-term muscle growth. A 14-week study on adults over the age of 65 revealed that creatine supplementation in a weight training program led to increase in muscle mass and leg strength.
Another study conducted on weightlifters revealed that creatine led to 2-3 times more muscle fiber growth as opposed to training alone.
Creatine may also help lower blood sugar levels, improve muscle function and help treat non-alcoholic fatty liver disease however, more research is required to cement these claims.
Now, let’s find out if creatine constipation is real and what should you do if you experience it?
Does Creatine Cause Constipation?
Creatine is an osmolyte and undissolved creatine may be one of the reasons that people experience issues when supplementing creatine.
One of the ways creatine benefits muscle growth is by absorbing water in the muscle cells. When this happens in the stomach, most people complain of diarrhea, bloating, or constipation. Some people may also complain about creatine causing headaches.
Diarrhea is one of the most common side effects of creatine; however, creatine constipation can also be experienced by some people. If you are dehydrated and creatine pulls water from your lower intestines into the muscle cells then it is likely that you may experience constipation.
To avoid this you should simply stay hydrated. It is recommended to increase your daily water intake by 0.5 liters above the regular intake for every additional 3-5g of creatine that you consume.
Furthermore, since creatine pulls water into the muscle cells, you should take it with a glass of warm water as it may dissolve in cold water more slowly.