Does Creatine Make You Bloated? Yes – How To Avoid It

If you consider taking creatine you may wonder: does creatine make you bloated?

Yes, creatine can make you bloated if you are using a loading phase. Loading is a week where you are taking 20g of creatine daily, instead of 5g, to fill your muscles with creatine faster. You can avoid bloating by skipping this phase.

When you skip the loading phase by starting with the maintenance dose of 5g per day, your body can more easily process the creatine and prevent bloating.

Keep reading to learn:

  • What creatine is and how it works in your body
  • An in-depth answer to whether creatine causes bloating
  • How to avoid creatine bloating even during a loading phase
  • General safety and precautions

And how supplement companies use the bloating concern as a selling point for more expensive types of creatine (which, in reality, come at an extra price but no added benefit).

Creatine 101 - What is it and how does it work?

Chart explaining what creatine is and how it works

Creatine is an amino acid naturally produced in your body, as well as found in foods like milk, meat, eggs, and general animal products.

Most of the creatine available in your body is stored in muscle cells - around 95%.

However, unless you are eating very large amounts of meat, your muscle cells are only 60-80% full with creatine at any given time. And before you can experience the full benefits creatine has to offer, your muscle cells have to be 100% full with it - a state called muscle creatine saturation.

This is the reason why lots of athletes choose to use a creatine supplement.

So how does creatine work in your body to improve your athletic performance?

How does creatine work?

We promise we will keep this as non-geeky as we can.

Your body's preferred energy source for high intensity exercise is a system called ATP-PC, consisting of adenosine triphosphate and phosphocreatine.

Whenever you are using your muscles for intense exercise, you are using adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to fuel your activity. As you are using the ATP molecules, they lose a phosphate group, turning into adenosine diphosphate (ADP). Unfortunately, as ATP turns into ADP, it is no longer able to fuel your activity, rendering it useless from an energy standpoint.

That is when creatine - stored as phosphocreatine in your body - comes into play.

That is when creatine - stored as phosphocreatine in your body - comes into play.

And this is how creatine works to improve your athletic performance.

The more phosphocreatine your body has, the faster it can replenish the ATP system. Therefore, supplementation with creatine aids your ability to perform strength and power based activities.

With that out of the way, let's see if creatine causes bloating or not.

Does creatine make you bloated?

Woman having stomach ache from creatine bloating

As mentioned above, creatine can make you bloated if you decide to do a loading phase instead of starting with the maintenance dose. But what is a loading phase and why does it lead to bloating?

Creatine loading and bloating

When you start supplementing with creatine, there are two routes you can take:

  • Starting with a loading phase
  • Starting with the maintenance dose

The idea behind a loading phase is to help you fill your muscles with creatine faster.

If you were to start with the maintenance dose of 5g per day, it would take around 4 weeks for creatine to work. However, with a loading phase of 20g per day, split in 4 doses daily, for a period of 5-7 days, it will only take 1 week before you experience the full benefits of creatine.

After the loading phase, you drop to the maintenance dose of 5g per day to maintain saturation.

What does this have to do with bloating?

One of the characteristics of creatine is that it needs extra water in order to be absorbed into your muscles. This extra water retention - up to 2.3 lbs (1kg) of extra water within a week - can make you bloated and puffy. As seen in this study.

According to research, you should expect to gain 1-2% body mass following a creatine loading phase, most of which is going to be water weight.

An easy way to avoid this issue is to start and stick to the maintenance dose.

However, you will only reach full saturation after around 4 weeks.

The myth of creatine bloating

The truth is that very few people who do a creatine loading phase experience bloating. Even fewer, if any, experience bloating from creatine by just taking the maintenance dose.

So where did this whole idea that creatine makes you bloated come from?


Creatine monohydrate is the most researched and reliable form of creatine.

It is also the cheapest.

In the pursuit of increasing their earnings, manufacturers came up with different kinds of creatine, each one better than the other, and most of them having one selling point in common: doesn't cause bloating (unlike, conveniently, creatine monohydrate).

However, this is just marketing.

In reality, research after research shows that creatine monohydrate is the safest, most effective, and most reliable form of creatine. Not only that, but there is no characteristic other types of creatine could have to beat creatine monohydrate.

Ways to avoid bloating

Even though creatine doesn't cause bloating, you may get bloated as a result of your eating habits, then correlate that with creatine intake. In reality, it may just be correlation, not causation.

So here are our best tips to avoid getting bloated:

  • Drink enough water. Drinking adequate amounts of water (at least 8 cups or 2L per day) supports regular bowel movements and alleviates constipation.
  • Eat enough fiber. Eat around 18-30g of fiber per day to support good digestion. A balanced diet of grains, fruits and vegetables, and nuts will help you fall right between the target amounts.
  • Cut dairy for a while. Lots of people have some sort of intolerance to lactose. Experiment with cutting dairy products from your diet (or at least changing them with lactose-free options) and see how your body reacts to the change.
  • Avoid swallowing too much air. Another cause of bloating is swallowing too much air. Avoid doing it by eating with your mouth shut, talking less while eating, eating slowly, and limiting carbonated drinks and chewing gum.

In the context of fitness and, to be more specific, putting on muscle mass, digestion should be taken seriously. If you constantly get bloated and can't eat enough to be in a caloric surplus, you're going to have a hard time packing on muscle mass.

Even though creatine bloating is a myth, bloating in itself is not.

And if you want to maximize your results in the gym, you have to fix your nutrition and, with that, your digestion.

Creatine safety and precautions

Picture of a man exhausted after a hard workout

Now that we've debunked the myth that creatine causes bloating, let's see some actual safety considerations as far as this supplement is concerned.

There are two main concerns related to creatine:

  • Creatine harms your kidneys
  • Creatine leads to dehydration

Well, the scientific evidence so far - and bear in mind that creatine has been very extensively studied - suggests both of these claims are not true. Or, at least for the time being, they lack evidence.

For instance…

Different studies concluded that creatine is safe for your kidneys in doses of up to 20g per day - as seen here, here, and here. Considering the maintenance dose is 5g per day, you can argue that creatine will not harm your kidneys unless you have a preexisting condition.

What about dehydration?

Different studies have been conducted trying to determine whether that is true or not. The results seem to suggest that the effects are opposing the claims - creatine can prevent dehydration and muscle cramping, even when training in the heat.

Therefore, these claims, just like the claim that creatine causes bloating, lack evidence.

Do different types of creatine prevent bloating?

Creatine monohydrate is the best type of creatine to date: countless studies proved it is effective, has no long or short term side-effects, and is also very affordable.

However, in a pursuit to increase their revenue, manufacturers promote and suggest different types of creatine (which, conveniently, are more expensive than monohydrate), claiming that this and that creatine doesn't cause bloating, has better absorption rates, and so on and so forth.

Let's have a look at some of the most popular types of creatine available:

  • Creatine monohydrate. Again, this is the type of creatine which is proved and tested. Offers great results at (with the available data) no side-effects whatsoever.
  • Creatine ethyl ester. This type of creatine is bound to ester salts which are thought to make the supplement more bioavailable. Manufacturers claim that it also offers better results in terms of strength, when compared to creatine monohydrate, yet studies have shown that it doesn't produce any additional benefits.
  • Creatine hydrochloride. Also known as creatine HCL, it is made by binding creatine to parts of hydrochloride molecules, making the product more acidic. The claim goes that this type of creatine is more efficiently absorbed than monohydrate but there is no conclusive evidence of this claim.
  • Buffered creatine. The claim goes that this type of creatine is more effective than creatine monohydrate. However, one large study comparing the two found no difference in performance or muscle creatine content after supplementation with either of them.
  • Liquid creatine. This one is a ready-to-drink formula, promoted as more convenient than creatine monohydrate (to which I agree), and better absorbed in the body. However, the limited research available suggests that liquid creatine is actually less effective than creatine monohydrate.
  • Creatine magnesium chelate. This is a type of creatine bound with magnesium. Just like all the varieties on this list, the claim goes that this one gets absorbed more efficiently. However, the studies comparing this type of creatine with its monohydrate counterpart are not in favor of the magnesium chelate.

There are lots of options in terms of creatine, each one promising something novel. However, as it's been proven time and again, monohydrate is the most reliable variety at least for the time being.

The bottom line

Does creatine make you bloated?

If you do a loading phase where you take a large quantity of creatine for about a week, then yes, you may get bloated. However, the likelihood of that happening is pretty small, and you can easily avoid it by taking the maintenance dose instead of doing the loading phase.

Some companies may claim that different types of creatine don't lead to bloating and are overall more effective than monohydrate, however studies have shown that these claims don't hold true.

All in all, as long as you take the recommended amount of 5g per day and stick to the true and tested monohydrate, you will be fine.

Over to you.