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Can Creatine Cause Constipation? (From A Dietitian)

Anthony Diaz
Published by Anthony Diaz
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: June 1, 2022

Any of my clients will tell you that one of the dietary supplements I recommend the most for building muscle mass is creatine supplements. It’s a completely safe and legal way to achieve faster muscle growth, but there are some minor side effects.

One thing that I have noticed in my years as a personal fitness coach is that some people report they encountered creatine constipation.

It’s not something that’s happened to me, so I got together with my dietitian to figure out why it seems to happen to some people.

So, how does creatine cause constipation?

Let’s find out.

Quick Summary

  • Creatine supplements are among the most popular for effective bodybuilding and muscle building in athletes.
  • It’s a naturally occurring substance that your body needs, but it can have an impact on where water is stored.
  • There are ways to avoid this uncomfortable constipation and bloating effect that you should plan from the start.

Does Creatine Cause Constipation And Bloating?

Having a stomach ache

Yes, creatine can cause constipation and bloating.

As mostly weight-lifters and bodybuilders take it, it’s often found in quite high doses in pre-workout supplements. And the higher the dose, the higher the chances of experiencing creatine constipation.

This is most commonly the case during a creatine loading phase, where athletes take large doses of more than 10 grams per day.

This can cause more fluid retention in the muscles, and scientists believe this water can be drawn away from other parts of the body [1].

Basically, creatine pulls water from the stomach and bowels, causing constipation and bloating.

Does The Type Matter?

The type of creatine seems to not matter in the context of constipation as I couldn’t find clear scientific evidence that different forms of creatine cause more or less severe cramping and constipation.

My dietitian did check with other colleagues in her industry, and she confirmed that, most likely, people are taking creatine monohydrate.

The medical industry also highlights this form of supplementing creatine as having stomach upset as a dose-dependent side effect [2].

Why Do You Have To Drink A Lot Of Water With Creatine?

Holding a glass of water

You have to drink a lot of water with creatine because it can drain fluid from other parts of your body to bring it to muscle cells.

This makes muscle cells swell up more and is a natural response, especially during a creatine supplementation loading phase [3].

This can lead to minor dehydration in other parts of the body and is the main reason I would advise you to mix creatine monohydrate powder with 10 ounces of water rather than six ounces for many other supplements.

Are There Ways To Avoid This Constipation?

Inside a toilet room, man holding a glass of water

Yes, there are ways to avoid creatine constipation that will allow you to achieve great muscle growth without this uncomfortable downside. Here are just a few:

Increased Fiber

Aim to add more fiber-rich food to your diet, especially in the meal closest to your workout sessions. Fiber is a substance that turns into a gel in the stomach and lubricates your bowels for more efficient digestion [4].

Better Timing

While some athletes like taking creatine on an empty stomach, this could be the kind of timing that results in constipation. Creatine pulls water from all possible sources, so aim to take it with a meal or light snack.

Decreased Dosage

If you’ve encountered constipation while taking creatine, then consider reducing the dosage for a few days. Take half the amount you have been and see if this reduces the symptoms.

Daily Water Intake

And finally, start drinking a lot more cold water every day. I would suggest adding an extra 20 ounces throughout the day, but especially around the time you start your strength training. This also gives you more benefits from an overall hydration level for exercise [5].

“A good guideline to use when preparing for an outdoor workout, whether it's walking, running, biking, or tennis, is to drink about two cups of fluid two hours before the activity. That helps make sure you are well-hydrated before you ever go outdoors.” - Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD

WebMD.com.

FAQs

Can You Take Creatine on an Empty Stomach?

Yes, you can take creatine on an empty stomach. This can help with faster absorption before a training session, but you should increase your water intake at the same time.

Does Creatine Help Digestion?

No, creatine doesn’t help digestion. Its main purpose is tied to how muscles process raw energy, making it a bit easier to train harder, improve athletic performance, and speed up muscle growth.

Make Sure You Don’t Run Into Stomach Issues

Taking regular creatine supplements is one of the best ways to achieve sustained muscle growth. But along with those benefits comes the fact that your muscle cells will contain more water.

The trick is to take enough creatine to impact the growth of muscle cells with enough water to keep your stomach and lower intestines working efficiently.

And if you want to find the ideal creatine supplements for the maximum positive effect on your workouts, then check out our guide, where we tested dozens of products to find the best one.


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC155510/
  2. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-873/creatine
  3. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/17674-creatine-and-creatine-supplements
  4. https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/fiber-digestion
  5. https://familydoctor.org/athletes-the-importance-of-good-hydration

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