Can Creatine Cause You to Fail a Drug Test? (The Answer)

Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD
Published by Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD | Medical Doctor
Last updated: January 19, 2024
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I’ve been working with patients who taking creatine supplements for many years, and it’s one ingredient I always recommend that my patients and readers look for when choosing a pre-workout supplement.

Will a pre-workout supplement affect a drug test? So, a patient contacted me a while back, all concerned about a mandatory drug test.

He had read somewhere that a typical drug test continuously checks for creatine, and he was worried that he might fail the test.

So, our team at TotalShape researched to find out whether there was any truth to it. We also talked to a lab technician at one of the drug testing facilities nearby. Let’s see if a natural supplement that enhances muscle mass can trigger a failed drug urine test.

Quick Summary

  • Consuming creatine supplements does not lead to a failed drug test, as it is not considered a drug and does not affect test results.
  • Creatine is broken down into creatinine in the body, but elevated levels are not toxic and do not indicate health issues or affect drug test outcomes.
  • A daily intake of up to 10 grams of creatine is considered safe, with most supplements containing less than this amount, as per WebMD.
  • In my opinion, athletes and fitness enthusiasts can confidently use creatine supplements without worrying about drug tests, focusing instead on the substantial benefits creatine offers for muscle growth and workout performance.

Can Creatine Cause You to Fail a Drug Test?

A creatine powder with supplement pills

No, creatine supplements don’t affect a drug test in a negative way. Creatine is an amino acid that the human body needs to function normally, and it’s predominantly used by muscles and the brain [1].

I can attest to this personally, having many patients who used creatine for years and undergone numerous drug tests with no issues.

Certain foods like herring and red meat will give you a completely natural boost, but supplements are a better way to get a creatine boost just before you hit the gym.

Having more creatine in your body when you submit a urine sample is not going to show up on the drug test results.

It's fascinating to note that creatine isn't just found in supplements; it's naturally present in several foods we consume. Foods like red meat and fish are rich in creatine. So, when you think about it, if creatine were to cause failed drug tests, wouldn't individuals consuming these foods regularly be at risk too? This natural occurrence further emphasizes the safety of creatine in the context of drug testing.

How Does It Impact Your Urine?

Research published in PubMed consistently shows that creatine has minimal impact on urine and kidneys, even with long-term use in athletes, dispelling concerns about potential organ damage [2].

What people commonly mistake here is that the body breaks down creatine into creatinine. But those elevated creatinine levels are not necessarily toxic or an indication of a health problem.

Higher creatinine levels also won’t lead to a failed drug test. If undergoing medical urine tests, inform your doctor about your creatine supplementation to avoid misinterpretation of results.

And here’s why that’s important.

Difference Between Creatine And Creatinine

Creatin powder on a scoop

Creatine fuels muscle energy, while creatinine, its by-product, is naturally present in urine. Despite their similar names, they serve distinct roles in the body. The reason a urine drug test checks for it is to make sure that you haven’t submitted diluted urine [3].

This can also happen after drinking lots of water just before a test and thereby lowering the concentration of creatinine in your urine.

Drug testing checks whether there are average levels of creatinine to ensure that people aren’t trying to cheat and water down the traces of drugs in their system as well.

However, if someone has naturally low creatinine levels, then this can be an indication of kidney problems. Because the body naturally produces creatinine in muscles, the kidneys should always excrete a certain normal amount. Otherwise, there could be a problem with kidney function.

Related Article: Creatine vs Creatinine

Is Creatine Considered A Drug?

Creatine is not considered a drug, and typical drug urine tests won’t check for it. It’s also not something that a blood test will pick up as it’s not banned by any of the major sporting committees [4].

In all my years of medical practice, not once has creatine been a concern in drug tests. It’s a staple in my patients pre-workout regimen, and they have always passed tests, echoing the fact that major sporting committees don’t consider creatine a drug.

Creatine supplementation does have a positive impact on muscle size and performance, but it’s not a large enough enhancement for it to make a difference in sporting events.

However, studies "International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine" published in Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition have shown consistent results during training, which is why it’s one of the ingredients that you’ll most often find in pre-workout supplements [5].

From a legal perspective, it's noteworthy to mention that global sports regulatory bodies have clear guidelines about substance use. Creatine, given its natural occurrence and benefits, isn't flagged in these regulations. Athletes worldwide can confidently consume creatine without the fear of legal repercussions during drug tests.

Related Article: Is Creatine A Steroid?

“Creatine stores high-energy phosphate groups in the form of phosphocreatine. These phosphate groups are donated to ADP to regenerate it to ATP, the primary energy carrier in the body.”

- Antonis Damianou, Personal Trainer, Online Coach, & Fitness Writer at Examine.com

Do You Have To Be Careful With The Dose?

Spilled white powder outside a container

Yes, you have to be careful with the creatine dose, but not in order to pass a drug test. Studies published in PubMed have shown that creatine loading can lead to bloating and water retention in muscles [6].

Having worked with patients who experienced bloating from high doses of creatine, I can vouch for the importance of dosage control. It’s not about passing a drug test but avoiding discomfort. My recommendation has always been well below the 10 grams per day mark, aligning with studies on safe creatine consumption.

But even this is not something that happens when you take so much creatine in one dose. It’s a lot more dependent on how much creatine you take every day for several weeks that you have to be careful about.

Taking up to 10 grams per day is generally classed as safe, and you’ll find that most supplements have considerably less creatine, according to the WebMD [7]. This can also happen after drinking lots of water just before a test and thereby lowering the concentration of creatinine in your urine.

Drug tests check whether there are average levels of creatinine to ensure that people aren’t trying to cheat and water down the traces of drugs in their system as well.

However, if someone has naturally low creatinine levels, then this can be an indication of kidney problems. Because the body naturally produces creatinine in muscles, the kidneys should always excrete a certain normal amount. Otherwise, there could be a problem with kidney function.

Related Articles:

FAQs

What Happens If You Don’t Drink Enough Water with Creatine?

When you don’t drink enough water while taking creatine, you can increase your risk of dehydration. Creatine can affect how much water your muscles retain, which can lead to a lack of water in other parts of your body.

Why Is Creatinine Tested in a Drug Test?

Creatinine levels are tested for a drug test because it indicates if a urine sample has been diluted or not. When creatinine is too low, then you won’t pass a drug test, as the sample might also have diluted any traces of illegal drugs.


References:

  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-creatine/art-20347591
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12500988/
  3. https://www.testing.com/tests/creatinine/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5753968
  5. https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC155510/
  7. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-873/creatine
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