Does Creatine Damage the Kidneys?

2nd March 2019
Creatine is one of the most recommended products for people who go to the gym, however, it's not free from contraindications. Is it true that creatine damages the kidneys?

Many athletes use different substances for faster results in their workouts. Some of these products can have harmful effects on their health. In the next article, we’ll tell you if creatine damages the kidneys.

What is creatine and what is it used for?

First of all, it’s interesting to learn a little about this substance, which people in the fitness world use regularly. Creatine is a nitrogenous organic acid naturally produced in the liver that allows the body to distribute energy between all of the cells quickly.

This substance consists of three amino acids: glycine, L-methionine, and L-arginine, which the liver synthesizes naturally. Then, they transform into adenosine triphosphate (ATP), allowing us to make different movements or efforts.

Creatine is produced in the liver.

All human beings produce a certain amount of creatine naturally and we can also acquire it by consuming fish and red meat.

Moreover, when artificial creatine is consumed, we expect that our muscles will have more energy. This way, we can lift more weight and thus, cause more atrophy to the biceps, triceps, abdominals, etc.

When exercising, cells require strength or fuel to complete all of the repetitions. Therefore, we can perform better with this substance. The amount of creatine that’s not used is eliminated through urine, but it can also accumulate in the kidneys.

Side effects of creatine

Before answering the question about whether or not creatine damages the kidneys, it’s good to know the possible side effects of this substance. Among them, we can highlight:

1. Intestinal problems

Some people experience problems in the intestine and stomach after ingesting creatine. The main symptom is cramping and to avoid it, we advise not to consume this substance before eating.

2. Swelling or weight gain

The goal of those who choose creatine is to perform better and build bigger muscles. However, this brings with it an increase in weight and inflammation due to fluid buildup. In some cases, ankle edema or hand swelling may occur.

3. Dehydration

In relation to the above, when there’s fluid retention, it doesn’t mean that we are overhydrated. Instead, the water has gone to specific areas in the body while the rest of the body shows signs of dehydration. For example, the skin and mucous membranes may be dry.

Creatine can cause dehydration.

So, does creatine damage the kidneys?

Taking into consideration all of the information above, we can infer that creatine does, in fact, damage the kidneys. It’s not that the substance itself is harmful, but because it doesn’t allow the elimination of toxins and fluids. This can cause kidney problems in the long run.

Furthermore, people who have kidney pathologies, such as stones or insufficiency, are prohibited from using creatine. In healthy and athletic people, the damage is seen over time and thus, many others believe that there aren’t adverse effects. 

If we decide to use this product, we can help our bodies by excreting more urine. We can do this by drinking lots of water—three liters per day if it’s hot or if we’re training—and by eating fruits and vegetables that have a high water content such as apples, pears, and tomatoes.

Additionally, we recommend that you increase the intake of foods that naturally contain creatine. Among them, we can highlight herring, pork, salmon, rabbit, tuna, chicken, and cod. We can also find creatine in eggs and milk but in smaller quantities.

Finally, we advise you to consult a doctor who specializes in nutrition and sports. Doctors will indicate if it’s appropriate or not to consume substances for exercise and if it’s true—according to their criteria—that creatine damages the kidneys.