Creatine is not bad for your kidneys

Posted by Dayne Hudson in Wellness

Estimated reading time: 5mins

Is creatine bad for our kidneys?
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Creatine is NOT bad for your kidneys

The same misinformation is also spread about protein – after more than 20 years of research into creatine, the rumour persists despite no evidence.

So where does the myth come from? 

Let’s start at the beginning:in our muscles, creatine is turned into creatinine and then exported to the blood and excreted via urine.

Healthy kidneys filter this creatinine, which otherwise would pile up in the blood. Therefore, blood creatine levels are used as an indication of kidney function.

So, the amount of blood and urinary creatinine is increased when we supplement with creatine or eat foods like meat that contain it.

Now, creatine isn’t normally in our urine, but it can show up if we take more than 10 grams per day; some do this when they’re loading.

This causes some people to say: “Well, if the kidneys are forced to deal with higher than normal levels of creatine of creatinine, then you’re overworking them and it’s bad.

Sure, it sounds like it might be a good theory, but it isn’t supported by the decades of research we have.

The truth is that momentary increases of creatine in our blood or urine due to creatine intake are unlikely to reflect poor kidney health and performance.

But there’s another way this rumour might have begun.

In 1998, a young male who had kidney disease for 8 years was admitted to a hospital.

He had just started taking creatine – 15 grams per day for 7 days, followed by 2 grams per day for 7 weeks – and was found to have increased blood levels of creatinine.

He had also been on medication for five years that affects kidney function.

The estimate for his creatinine clearance was rather long, and it was clear his kidney health was failing.

And the researchers knew what I’m telling you now – creatine supplements (even creatine from food products) cause creatine to increase in the blood and urine. Moreover, the dosage of creatine in the man’s maintenance phase (also ignored), is the same amount a typical omnivore gets in their daily diet anyway.

However, the researchers still wrote a paper where these facts omitted.They also left out other studies whereby creatine was found NOT to interfere with kidney function.

So, we may also have this incident to blame.

Decades of research shows creatine is safe for healthy kidneys
Decades of research shows creatine is safe for healthy kidneys.

The direct studies into creatine and kidney health

This review of creatine studies found:

  • No increase in serum creatinine in 12 studies
  • An increase within the normal range in 8 studies
  • An increase above normal limits in two studies (but no different to the control group in one of them).

And since we got served with this poor science into our male kidney patient, multiple other studies were then conducted.

And what did they find?

Not surprisingly, healthy individuals have no kidney issues consuming recommended levels of creatine.

Another study reported that in the cases where creatine WAS bad for their kidneys, it was a similar story to our male kidney patient – it wasn’t the creatine that was doing it.

The research found that poor kidney health was due to:

  • Medications
  • Pre-existing kidney disease
  • 100 times the recommended dose of creatine
  • Anabolic steroid use

So, there we go.

Healthy individuals don’t need to worry about creatine.
Healthy individuals don’t need to worry about creatine.

What is the recommended dosage of creatine?

If you want to reap the muscle-building benefits of creatine as quickly as possible, do the following:

  • Load up creatine for 7 days, taking 25 grams per day
  • After 7 days, take just 5 grams of creatine per day

Contrary to popular belief, you don't need to load creatine; 5 grams per day is enough.

However, loading just helps you to saturate muscles faster.

Creatine Monohydrate contains 3 grams per serve to ensure you get enough regardless of what stage you're at.

Creatine is a proven supplement for more energy and potentially more muscle growth.
Creatine is a proven supplement for more energy and potentially more muscle growth.

The bottom line on creatine myths

Myths surrounding creatine will continue to prosper. Bad science, gym rats, and armchair analyses of how the body works mean we’ll always be fighting these battles.

However, decades of experimental and controlled research show that creatine supplementation, when ingested at recommended dosages, does not result in kidney damage and/or renal dysfunction in healthy individuals.

You can load creatine for 7 days, taking 25 grams per day. Then after 7 days, take just 5 grams of creatine per day. Contrary to popular belief, you don't need to load creatine. 5 grams per day is enough.

References:

  1. Antonio, J., Candow, D.G., Forbes, S.C. et al. Common questions and misconceptions about creatine supplementation: what does the scientific evidence really show?. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 18, 13 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-021-00412-w
  2. Cooper R, Naclerio F, Allgrove J, Jimenez A. Creatine supplementation with specific view to exercise/sports performance: an update. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012;9(1):33. Published 2012 Jul 20. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-9-33
  3. Gualano B, de Salles Painelli V, Roschel H, Lugaresi R, Dorea E, Artioli GG, Lima FR, da Silva ME, Cunha MR, Seguro AC, Shimizu MH, Otaduy MC, Sapienza MT, da Costa Leite C, Bonfa E, Lancha Junior AH. Creatine supplementation does not impair kidney function in type 2 diabetic patients: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical trial. Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. 2011;111:749–56.
  4. Gualano B, Roschel H, Lancha AH, Brightbill CE, Rawson ES. In sickness and in health: the widespread application of creatine supplementation. Amino Acids. 2012;43:519–29.
  5. Persky AM, Rawson ES. Safety of creatine supplementation. Subcell. Biochem. 2007;46:275–89.
  6. Poortmans JR, Auquier H, Renaut V, Durussel A, Saugy M, Brisson GR. Effect of short-term creatine supplementation on renal responses in men. Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. Occup. Physiol. 1997;76:566–7.
  7. Pritchard NR, Kalra PA. Renal dysfunction accompanying oral creatine supplements. Lancet. 1998;351:1252–3.
  8. Rawson ES, Clarkson PM, Price TB, Miles MP. Differential response of muscle phosphocreatine to creatine supplementation in young and old subjects. Acta Physiol. Scand. 2002;174:57–65.
  9. Rawson ES. The safety and efficacy of creatine monohydrate supplementation: What we have learned from the past 25 years of research. Gatorade Sports Science Exchange. 2018;29:1–6.
  10. Wyss M, Kaddurah-Daouk R. Creatine and creatinine metabolism. Physiol. Rev. 2000;80:1107–213.

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