Dr. Susie Gronski


What's the Deal With Creatine?


A male athlete patient of mine asked if creatine powder was bad for his bladder.  I'll admit, I had to think back to my physiology days when I was in grad school to dig up the answer. 

What is Creatine?

Creatine is a molecule formed in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas that supplies energy to your brain and muscle cells. Creatine breaks down into creatine which is a chemical waste product produced by your body and filtered by the kidneys. When you guzzle down that protein shake, you're ingesting extra AMPs of energy to pump you up during your workout. Naturally, creatine pulls water out of your body which makes your muscles look tight, enhancing the rate of muscle building and strength. You can get creatine naturally from fish and meats like herring and beef, but some of you guys out there like to enhance your workout performance by gulping down those pre-workout protein shakes. I don't blame you, it's fast, convenient, and gets the job done. 

Are there any long term side effects of creatine supplements?

Currently, there's no supporting research to prove that oral ingestion of creatine has any bad side effects. There're a few anecdotal reports of GI upset, abdominal cramping, and kidney failure but none that have been accurately proven. If you're not 100% sure if you have a kidney or heart disorder, please check in with your healthcare provider before taking any supplements, including creatine. 

So what does this have to do with your kidneys and bladder?

Since creatine pulls water out of the body and creates a waste product, your body will want to get rid of it faster so you might find yourself having to use the little boys room more often than you'd like. Urinary urgency-frequency is a common problem that I hear about from my male patients with pelvic pain.  Unfortunately, this problem won't go away on its own. If you suffer from pelvic pain or have the frequent need to urinate, you might want to take a closer look at your diet. Anything that's going to increase the production of urine or potentially irritate your bladder will cause you to pee more often. 

Bladder irritants include:

  • Any product with caffeine: coffee, tea, soda, cocoa

  • Tomatoes / tomato products

  • Spicy foods

  • Chocolate

  • Citrus fruits & juices

  • Alcoholic beverages

  • Carbonated beverages

  • Milk / dairy products (for those with lactose intolerance)

  • Artificial sweeteners

  • Sugar, honey, high fructose corn syrup

  • Tobacco products

  • Over-the-counter stimulants (e.g. 5-hour ENERGY® Shots, Red Bull )

  • Remember, decaffeinated products contain some caffeine

Sometimes all it takes is making some diet and behavioral changes to improve symptoms of urinary urgency-frequency.

I'll admit, anything that is synthetic or unnaturally enhances your body's performance freaks me out. If you want to fuel your body before and after a workout, try eating real foods that already have the necessary building blocks for muscle regeneration and recovery. 

Foods naturally high in creatine:

  • Beef

  • Tuna

  • Salmon

  • Sushi

  • Sashimi

  • Wild game: venison, elk, duck, bison, buffalo, ostrich, rabbit

Sources say that you only need about 3-5 grams of creatine per day for optimal muscle recovery and function. If you're a professional athlete you're probably already working with a team of healthcare and wellness providers monitoring your dietary intake. If not, get one! Recovery is the most important aspect of performance. 

So even though creatine has been shown to increase muscle mass and strength, I wouldn't be so quick to take it. Always do your research to out weigh the risk to benefit ratio. And it's no magical supplement that will miraculously give you bigger muscles by just sitting on the couch. You have to combine it with high intensity, explosive workouts otherwise you're just going to gain water weight. 

The blog content on this website is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding treatment, medications/supplements, or any medical diagnoses. This information is intended for educational purposes only and is in no way to substitute the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.