Does Creatine Make You Bloated?

  • By Rebecca Kesner
  • 6 minute read
Man in gym gear holding his stomach after taking a creatine supplement. Asks the question, does creatine make you bloated

Creatine is hands down one of the most popular ergogenic aids on the market and has been used by athletes, bodybuilders, and powerlifters for decades because of its stellar muscle-building, power-generating properties.

And while creatine has a lot to offer for anyone looking to up their performance gains, it sometimes comes at a cost—that is, bloating. Creatine bloating is a typical side effect accompanying creatine supplementation and is caused by increased water retention in skeletal muscles. This water retention can also lead to weight gain, which is a common concern among users.

While it isn’t a sure-fire side effect for everyone that uses creatine, for those that get the short end of the stick, there are ways to prevent it from happening.

As such, we’re discussing the basics of creatine—what it is, why it causes bloating, and how you can avoid it.

What Is Creatine And Why Should I Take It?

dumbbells, protein and amino acids on a gray background. Showing both capsule and powder 'form of creatine'. A 'fitness enthusiasts' gym set up

Typically, we see creatine in the form of a pure white powder stocked on fitness supplement store shelves. But it’s actually much more than that; creatine is a natural non-proteogenic amino acid produced by the liver and kidneys from three precursor amino acids. While creatine is beneficial for muscle building, it can also cause weight gain due to water retention. (1)

Do We Produce Creatine Naturally?

Our body naturally produces creatine, and it’s also found in many animal proteins. Despite this natural occurrence, supplementation serves as a more concentrated source of phosphocreatine. This is particularly appealing for those aiming to enhance their performance and build lean muscle mass. Why? Because for all of the above - you need energy. However, it's important to note that creatine supplementation can lead to weight gain due to increased water retention in muscle cells.

The Role of ATP in Energy Production

Close up image of mitochondria

Adenosine triphosphate, more commonly known as ATP, is the body's primary energy source. And it's responsible for driving almost every physiological process in humans.

The reason for supplementing with creatine ties back to its fundamental role in energy production—its ability to combine with a phosphoryl group (Pi) to form phosphocreatine.

Creatine and ATP Resynthesis

The process starts with the degradation of ATP into ADP (adenosine diphosphate) and an inorganic phosphate molecule (Pi), which then provides energy for metabolic activities. The free energy released from the hydrolysis of phosphocreatine to creatine + Pi is crucial as a buffer in the resynthesis of ATP. Essentially, ADP must be converted back into ATP for the body to use it effectively, and creatine facilitates this by donating a phosphate group to ADP, thus regenerating ATP. This action allows for extended and more intense training periods.

Creatine to Enhance Athletic Performance

Woman sat on gym floor surrounded by 'creatine supplements'

Supplementing with creatine can enhance ATP production for increased workout intensity, which is especially beneficial for short, fast, explosive movements.

Additionally, while creatine enhances athletic performance, it can also cause weight gain due to water retention.

Creatine as a Primary Energy Source

Beyond enhancing ATP production, creatine serves as a primary source of fuel during anaerobic activities, such as weightlifting. In these scenarios, creatine phosphate stores become the body's first choice of energy, underscoring the supplement's importance in high-intensity exercise.

The Hydrating Effect of Creatine on Muscle Cells

One of creatine’s significant but less-discussed benefits is its ability to hydrate muscle cells.(2) When muscle cells are properly hydrated, it not only increases protein synthesis but can also cause them to retain water. This retention can make muscles appear larger and more plumped, leading to the phenomenon known as “creatine bloat.” This water retention can lead to weight gain, which is often temporary and primarily due to

What Is Creatine Bloating?

Man measuring out his pre workout creatine supplement: 'creatine monohydrate'

While widely accepted as a safe supplement, one of the big concerns that might make people hesitant about taking creatine supplements is what we commonly refer to as creatine bloating. It’s a common side effect of creatine supplementation that happens due to water retention. This water retention causing bloating can also lead to temporary weight gain.

The Science Behind Creatine Bloating

The chemical properties of creatine, once mixed with water, prompt it to form what’s known as a hydration shell. This process leads to an increase in the volume of water within the muscles, resulting in a temporary boost in body weight and muscle size.

However, before creatine can be fully processed and excreted from the body, it may cause water retention and bloating. Which can leave you feeling slightly puffy and spongy. Which is where the question, ‘ does creatine make you bloated?’ comes into play. The increase in water volume within the muscles can result in temporary weight gain.

The Impact of Creatine on Body Weight and Health

While short-term creatine bloating is mainly cosmetic and rarely a problem, consistent water retention from due to taking creatine supplements can place additional stress on the heart, blood vessels, and kidneys, so it’s best to opt for a supplemental form of creatine that is pH balanced, which may help mitigate water retention and reduce the likelihood of bloating. Additionally, this consistent water retention can lead to weight gain, which is primarily due to increased water in the muscle cells rather than fat accumulation.

While bloating and GI discomfort are among the most common symptoms of creatine supplementation, not everyone experiences it. So, how do you beat the bloat and avoid common side effects?

How To Beat The Bloat

Body pump class members in a plank position working out whilst unaffected by 'creatine bloating'

So, how do you manage or prevent bloating and avoid the common side effects associated with creatine supplements? Managing dosage and choosing the right form of creatine can help mitigate weight gain caused by water retention.

The Impact of Dosage

There are several recommendations for avoiding the typical bloating that comes with higher doses of creatine, but not all of them will work for everyone.

Dose is often one of the biggest factors involved in the extent of bloating experienced and is usually due to the creatine loading phase. This is the initial period when creatine is taken in a significantly higher dose than the maintenance dose required to keep muscles saturated.

Typically this loading phase requires about 20g per day, taken for 5-7 days to speed up the process of muscle saturation. After the loading phase, the dose is dropped to a maintenance phase of about 3-5g daily.

Some people choose to skip the loading phase and follow a maintenance phase for longer to achieve the same effects, which may help to mitigate bloating. Adjusting the dosage can also help manage weight gain caused by water retention during the loading phase.

Choosing the Best Creatine Supplement Form

Different forms of creatine. Choosing the Best Creatine Supplement Form

The form of creatine you choose plays a crucial role in how your body reacts to it, including the likelihood of bloating. Some experts suggest that taking a buffered form of creatine monohydrate like Creapure® pH10 which is recognized as one of the best creatine supplement forms for reducing side effects. Choosing a buffered form of creatine can help reduce side effects like weight gain due to water retention.

This variant is simply creatine mixed with an alkaline agent like soda ash, magnesium glycerol phosphate, or bicarbonate to increase the pH to become more alkaline than acidic, which may help to reduce bloating, cramping, and other side effects associated with traditional creatine supplementation.

Final Thoughts

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Plus, the 99.5% pure Creapure® pH10 used in Maintain is perfect for those who want to avoid bloating and distress caused by too much creatine in their body, while still getting all of its benefits!

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  1. RB Kreider, DS Kalman, J Antonio, et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017 Jun; 14(18).

  2. ME Powers, BL Arnold, AL Weltman, et al. Creatine Supplementation Increases Total Body Water Without Altering Fluid Distribution.J Athl Train. 2003;38(1):44-50.