Anything as popular as caffeine has, by default, its avid fans and its avid detractors, who, let’s be honest, are likely secretly avid fans themselves. Being a staple of many peoples’ lives and diets, caffeine is simply a fun topic to discuss and argue over.
Especially caffeine delivered by way of coffee, the go-to caffeine source for many.
But are the arguments surrounding caffeine, most notably coffee, simply a result of the organic compound’s popularity, or are there genuinely concerning side effects associated with the drug worth greater discussion and consideration?
Of course, the answer is both—however, one area of health and fitness that perhaps deserves greater scrutiny with regards to coffee’s effects on the body involves caffeine’s relationship to kidney health.
As a diuretic, is caffeine healthy or harmful to kidney health? Is there a concrete way to measure caffeine’s effects on the kidneys, or are we shooting in the dark on this one?
While the link between caffeine intake and kidney health is somewhat fuzzy, some research suggests that “creatinine” may play a role here.
No, not creatine, the popular workout supplement, but creatinine, a “waste” byproduct of creatine metabolism. However, let’s not entirely dismiss creatine supplementation in this discussion.
Supplemental creatine's combined role with caffeine may impact the kidney health of your average consumer of both (bodybuilder, athlete, exerciser, etc., etc.)—not to mention overall health.
With that in mind, let’s see what the research has to say about the link between coffee consumption, creatinine metabolism, and kidney health—as well as what you can do to appreciate the bodybuilding advantages of caffeine and creatine while minimizing any risk of adverse effects.
Coffee, Creatinine, and Kidney Health: What’s the Link?
Virtually everyone enjoys coffee, and they enjoy drinking it every day. So, if anyone is going to come along and recommend cutting back on your coffee intake, they better have a damn good reason for it.
One potential concern that health enthusiasts, specifically kidney health enthusiasts (yes, they do exist), have is that excess coffee consumption may negatively impact kidney function.
This concern seems to primarily focus on the diuretic effect of caffeine, the primary bioactive constituent of coffee—as well as green tea, guarana, kola nuts, etc.
In one review on the effects of caffeine on kidney health, the question of whether caffeine is beneficial or harmful to the kidneys remains clinically inconclusive. The review’s researchers attributed the incongruencies in caffeine research to several factors, including “dosage, prior chronic exposure, genetic-enzymatic axes, and concomitant drug consumption.”1
All of which is to say that there’s too much variability in caffeine use to determine outright if our collective caffeine habits are all-around good for us, let alone for our kidneys.
However, this isn’t to say that there have been zero findings that suggest caffeine may have a beneficial effect on kidney health.
In a genome-wide association study (GWAS) and Mendelian randomization study, a group of researchers compiled a sample size of 227,666 participants to determine the effects of coffee consumption on kidney health.
The researcher’s conclusion: “This study provides evidence of a beneficial effect of coffee on kidney function. Given widespread coffee consumption and limited interventions to prevent CKD [chronic kidney disease] incidence and progression, this could have significant implications for global public health in view of the increasing burden of CKD worldwide.”2
Okay, so What Does Creatinine Have to Do with Kidney Health?
Interestingly, caffeine seems to have a protective effect on kidney health independent of such factors as age, gender, and creatinine levels, which are a marker of kidney issues.
As a byproduct of muscle energy metabolism, the kidneys filter creatinine before excreting it through the urine. This makes blood creatinine levels a useful measure of kidney health — impaired kidneys often fail to efficiently filter and clear creatinine levels, resulting in a higher concentration of uncleared creatinine in the bloodstream.3
Again, much of the research on caffeine’s relationship to kidney health is all over the place, producing conflicting results. Whereas some human research suggests coffee protects kidney health, even in serious categories such as chronic kidney disease, some animal research reports a negative effect on creatinine clearance with chronic caffeine consumption.
These latter results support the hypothesis that “prolonged consumption of caffeine has adverse effects on renal function,” at least among “spontaneously hypertensive heart failure prone” rats.4
At the least, coffee consumption among healthy humans seems to be generally safe, and even beneficial for kidney health, with some potential to influence creatinine clearance via kidney filtration.
Creatine vs. Creatinine: What’s the Difference?
No, you’re not reading a typo when you read “creatinine,” which sounds like “creatine” but is a different compound.
Many athletes, bodybuilders, exercisers, etc. are already familiar with creatine, one of the most effective and reliable natural performance enhancers available.
As an organic compound naturally stored in the body, namely in muscle tissue, creatine plays a vital role in the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the basic energy-carrying unit required to fuel muscle contractions and other energy-demanding bio-processes.5
During intense activity and exercise, the body burns through your natural creatine reserves to produce muscle-firing ATP. While not exercising, however, any excess creatine breaks down into creatinine, metabolized by your liver before being filtered by your kidneys for urinary excretion.
With that in mind, whereas creatine is largely viewed as a necessary, useful compound for fueling exercise activity, creatinine is largely viewed as a “waste product”—a toxic byproduct of creatine metabolism needing to be removed from the body.
However, due to creatinine’s association with liver and kidney problems,6 many people are reasonably concerned that supplementing creatine may provoke creatinine-related liver and kidney issues.
Do Creatine Supplements Increase Creatinine Levels?
Naturally, if excess creatine converts to creatinine, a marker of kidney injury, it’d make sense to fear that creatine supplementation is contributing to the excess accumulation of creatinine.
While research has long demonstrated the safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation, even for liver and kidney health, there have been reports of creatine-related renal failure, such as the case of a 20-year-old man who was taking an excessive amount of creatine upwards of 20g creatine daily for four weeks.7
For anyone with pre-existing kidney issues, either taking a low-dose creatine serving or avoiding creatine altogether seems to be the best approach.
Yet for most healthy creatine users., taking a reasonable amount of 3-5g creatine daily, while also burning off all your excess creatine in the gym (as opposed to supplementing creatine and doing nothing, which is not recommended) is largely viewed as safe.
Is It Safe to Stack Caffeine and Creatine?
If caffeine potentially benefits kidney health and creatine potentially increases creatinine levels, a marker of kidney health impairment, the combination of caffeine + creatine only makes intuitive sense, right? Theoretically, caffeine should help protect the kidneys against any potential creatine-related damages …right??
If we’re looking specifically at creatinine, it’s hard to say what the combined effects of caffeine and creatine are. Similar to caffeine research, the research on the caffeine + creatine combination tends to also widely vary.
Even so, stacking caffeine and creatine is widely considered safe.
While some sports nutrition enthusiasts are still hung up on a poorly designed study from 1996 that, using a sample size of 9 men, claimed that the ergogenic effect of creatine is “completely eliminated by caffeine intake,” the combination of caffeine and creatine seems to be generally favored among bodybuilders, athletes, exercisers, etc., etc.8
Ultimate Caffeine + Creatine Stack: Performance Lab®
If you’re still concerned over whether or not combining caffeine with creatine is safe for your overall health, including kidney health, here are some things you can do to ensure safe caffeine + creatine supplementation:
- Drink Plenty of Water – due to both caffeine’s diuretic effect and creatine’s promotion of muscular water retention, it’s important to drink plenty of water while taking both—and, in general, it’s important to stay hydrated for kidney health.9
- Take Moderate Doses – as with anything, excessive caffeine and/or creatine intake is not recommended and may result in both health and fitness impairments; so, it’s best to stick with minimally effective doses of both caffeine and creatine.
- Seek High-Quality Forms – not all caffeine is equal and, likewise, not all creatine supplements are equal; which is why it’s important to seek high-quality, easy-to-absorb supplement forms of both for maximum safety and effectiveness.
With all that in mind, the best way to ensure the highest quality, compatible, and effectively-dosed caffeine and creatine is to stack Performance Lab® Caffeine+, a healthy “Caffeine 2.0” stack, with Performance Lab® Pre, an ultramodern pre-workout formula powered by clean, pure Creapure® pH10 creatine.
Here’s a brief breakdown of both formulas:
Performance Lab® Caffeine+
For those who like to enjoy the metabolic benefits of caffeine without its cognitive “jittery” downsides, there’s Performance Lab® Caffeine+, a nootropic-enhanced caffeine pill formula that combined naturally sourced caffeine with caffeine-balancing aminos (L-theanine + L-tyrosine) and B-vitamins (B2, B6, B9, B12).
The result? A smoother “crash-free” stim rush that elevates cognitive performance and thermogenic calorie-burning without the usual side effects associated with excess caffeine.
Taken before exercise or simply on an as-needed basis, Performance Lab® Caffeine Plus' minimally effective 50mg caffeine dose per serving allows you to stack servings to meet your personal caffeine tolerance/requirement. And this caffeine stack works as the perfect optional complement to Performance Lab® Pre’s stim-free, creatine-containing pre-workout formula.
Supplement Facts: Natural Caffeine (from Coffea robusta seeds), Suntheanine® L-Theanine, Ajipure® L-Tyrosine; NutriGenesis® Caffeine Balance B-Complex: Riboflavin+ (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B6+, Folate+ (Vitamin B9), Vitamin B12+
Performance Lab® Pre
Not every pre-workout supplement needs to come overstuffed with caffeine, which is somewhat of a crutch used by many inferior workout formulas.
Performance Lab® Pre removes all stimulants from its formula altogether, relying instead on the natural energy enhancement of creatine and muscle-priming benefits of L-citrulline, beta-alanine, and more, for a cleaner, healthier performance boost.
Containing zero caffeine or other stimulants, Pre works well with a clean caffeine source, such as Performance Lab® Caffeine+, in a pre-workout context.
On the creatine side of things, Performance Lab® Pre also substitutes the usual low-quality creatine forms with the premium Creapure® pH10, a pure, pH-balanced creatine supplement that absorbs more efficiently and readily than standard creatine monohydrate.
By restoring depleted creatine levels in muscle tissue without overdoing it on the dosage, Pre’s Creapure® pH10 pairs well with Caffeine Plus' minimally effective caffeine dosage for both short- and long-term performance enhancement.
Supplement Facts: Setria® Performance Blend [L-Citrulline (Kyowa Quality®), L-Glutathione (Setria®)], Creapure® pH10 (contains 94% Creatine Monohydrate [83% Creatine]), CarnoSyn® Beta-Alanine, Maritime Pine Bark Extract (Pinus pinaster) (95% proanthocyanidins), Himalayan Pink Salt
Even if coffee was associated with complete kidney failure, many people would have a difficult time cutting the stuff from their daily diet. The rush simply feels too good, and it’s so easily enjoyed, as compared to other “feel good” substances.
Fortunately, drinking coffee may not only be safe for your kidneys and overall health but may even be beneficial for your kidney health.
Of course, this doesn’t necessarily include those with pre-existing kidney or cardiometabolic issues—in which case it’s advisable to speak with a physician before adding caffeine, as well as creatine, to your daily diet.
In any case, one of the best caffeine + creatine combos for safe and effective performance enhancement is Performance Lab® Caffeine Plus + Performance Lab® Pre, a nootropic-enhanced caffeine pill and ultramodern creatine-carrying pre-workout formula, respectively.
To safely elevate your muscle and strength gains, as well as your cognitive and thermogenic performance, add Caffeine Plus + Pre to your pre-workout supplement regimen.
- Bolignano D et al. Caffeine and the kidney: what evidence right now? J Ren Nutr. 2007 Jul; 17(4): 225-34.
- Kennedy et al. Coffee consumption and kidney function: a mendelian randomization study. Am J. 2019 Dec
- Gowda S et al. Markers of renal function tests. N Am J Med Sci. 2010 Apr; 2(4): 170-173.
- Tofovic SP, Jackson EK. Effects of long-term caffeine consumption on renal function in spontaneously hypertensive heart failure prone rats. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 1999 Mar; 33(3): 360-6.
- Feldman EB. Creatine: a dietary supplement and ergogenic aid. Nutr Rev. 1999 Feb; 57(2): 45-50.
- Waikar SS, Bonventre JV. Creatinine Kinetics and the Definition of Acute Kidney Injury. J Am Soc Nephrol. 2009 Mar; 20(3): 672-679.
- Yoshizumi WM, Tsourounis C. Effects of creatine supplementation on renal function. J Herb Pharmacother. 2004; 4(1): 1-7.
- Vandenberghe K et al. Caffeine counteracts the ergogenic action of muscle creatine loading. J Appl Physiol (1985). 1996 Feb; 80(2): 452-7.
- Clark WF et al. Hydration and Chronic Kidney Disease Progression: A Critical Review of the Evidence. Am J Nephrol. 2016; 43(4): 281-92.