Does Creatine Cause Headache?

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

    • Creatine is a naturally occurring compound found in small amounts in certain foods like red meat and fish, and is also produced by our bodies. It’s stored in the muscles and is used as a source of energy during high-intensity exercise.
    • Creatine supplementation is commonly associated with increased strength, muscle mass, and endurance during high-intensity exercise.
    • The link between creatine and headaches is not entirely clear, but it’s possible that creatine’s osmotic properties and potential for causing dehydration could be to blame.
    • There is no conclusive evidence that creatine causes stomach upset or bloating.
    • Creatine also plays a crucial role in the functioning of the brain as it acts as a precursor to neurotransmitters Methionine and Cysteine and support the synthesis of ATP, a source of energy for the brain
    • Studies have shown that creatine may improve short-term memory and cognitive function, and research is ongoing on the correlation between creatine and age-related diseases.
    • The main ingredients of creatine supplements are sarcosine, which is derived from meat and cyanamide, a citrated form of Calcium.
    • Some creatine supplements are designed to be more soluble, easier on the stomach and to improve absorption in the body.
    • As with any supplement, it’s important to talk to your doctor before starting any new supplement regimen and be aware of the possible side effects.
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Introduction

We’ve all been there – you’re in the middle of a workout and suddenly you feel a dull ache creeping up on the back of your head.

Or maybe you’re sitting at your desk and all of a sudden, bam! A headache hits.

It’s no secret that headaches can be a real pain (literally and figuratively), but have you ever wondered if your pre-workout supplement could be to blame?

In this blog post, we’re going to explore the potential link between creatine and headaches.

a sign saying "headache"

What is Creatine?

Before we dive into the topic of creatine headaches, let’s first define what creatine is.

Creatine is a naturally occurring substance that is found in small amounts in certain foods like meat and fish, and is also produced by our bodies.

It’s stored in the muscles and is used as a source of energy during high-intensity exercise. When it comes to exercise performance, creatine is most commonly associated with significant improvement in strength and building muscle mass. These benefits of course only come in combination with serious resistance training.

It’s also used as a dietary supplement by many athletes and bodybuilders as a way to increase their performance and muscle mass. Creatine supplements come in powder or pill form, and typically you take a loading dose of 20-25 grams per day for the first 5-7 days, then after that take a maintenance dose of 3-5 grams per day.

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Where Creatine is found

Creatine is naturally found in small amounts in some foods, such as meat and fish. It’s also commonly found in dietary supplements. These supplements come in powder and pill forms. Ready-to-drink liquid solutions are also available.

The primary ingredients of any creatine supplement are sarcosine and cyanamide.

Sarcosine is a derivative of the amino acid found naturally in meat and other body tissues, and is chemically similar to salt. As we know, creatine is produced by our bodies and similar processes occur in animal metabolism.

So, in simple terms, sarcosine is obtained from meat not intended for food production. Cyanamide, on the other hand, is a citrated form of Calcium and is widely used in pharmaceuticals and agricultural products.

These two ingredients are mixed together, heated, and pressurized, resulting in the formation of crystals, which are then milled and cleaned. Some manufacturers may add additional amino acids or chemicals to create unique formulations for their products.

a spoon with a portion of creatine

Types of Creatine

As already mentioned, there are various forms of creatine supplements available on the market, including powder, pills, and ready-to-drink liquid solutions.

Some types of creatine are considered more soluble than others, and some are specifically designed to be easier on the digestive system and to improve absorption in the body.

One common concern about creatine supplementation is that it can cause stomach upset and bloating, but this claim is not supported by scientific evidence.

While some individuals may experience stomach discomfort during the loading phase, there are no studies that indicate this is a widespread side effect.

This is just another “urban myth” about creatine supplementation.

Available types of creatine – the most common ones

    • creatine monohydrate
    • creatine ethyl ester
    • creatine hydrochloride
    • buffered creatine
    • liquid creatine
    • creatine magnesium chelate

Of all the different available types, creatine monohydrate is the most common one.

You might get confused by the number of variations and to make it simple: stick to creatine monohydrate and you are golden!

Keep in mind that the sports nutrition industry has to come up once in a while with another new product and name to attract new customers and keep their present customers interested!

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Where headaches usually come from

Headaches can come from a variety of causes, including:

Dehydration

When you’re dehydrated, your body’s fluids are out of balance. This can cause the blood vessels in your head to constrict, leading to a headache.

Stress

Stress can cause muscle tension in the head, neck, and shoulders, which can lead to a headache.

Muscle tension

When the muscles in your head, neck, and shoulders are tense, it can cause a headache.

Overexertion

Pushing yourself too hard during a workout can cause muscle tension and lead to a headache.

Lack of sleep

Not getting enough sleep can lead to fatigue, which can cause a headache.

Heat exhaustion

When your body overheats, it can cause blood vessels in the head to constrict, leading to a headache.

Headaches caused by heat exhaustion are usually described as a dull, throbbing pain and may be accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea or dizziness.

People who are more susceptible to heat exhaustion include older adults, young children, people who are overweight, and those who are taking certain medications that affect their ability to regulate their body temperature.

70 percent water in human body

How to prevent headaches

If you’re prone to headaches, there are a few things you can do to prevent them:

    • Water intake: Make sure you drink plenty of water throughout the day.
    • Manage stress: Find ways to relax and manage stress, such as through exercise, yoga, or meditation.
    • Get enough sleep: Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
    • Take breaks during exercise: If you’re pushing yourself too hard during a workout, take a break and rest.
    • Wear a hat: If you’re out in the sun for long periods of time, wear a hat to protect your head from the sun.

Does creatine cause headaches?

Now that we’ve covered what creatine is and some of the most common causes of headaches, let’s explore the potential link between the two and how to prevent creatine headaches.

One possible explanation for this link is that creatine has osmotic properties. This osmosis effect can pull more water into the muscles. As your muscles retain water, this can leave you feeling dehydrated.

Dehydration is one of the most common causes of headaches, so it’s possible that creatine could be the culprit.

Another possible explanation is that taking creatine supplements can result in high blood pressure, which can also lead to headaches.

But, this has been shown to be a rare occurrence and generally only happens if high doses of creatine are consumed.

Are Creatine Headaches Common?

The short answer is: it’s not clear. While some people report experiencing headaches as a side effect of starting creatine supplementation, there hasn’t been a lot of research on the topic.

One study from 2007 looked at the incidence of headaches in people taking creatine supplements and found that 3% of participants experienced headaches.

However, it’s worth noting that the sample size of this study was small and more research is needed to better understand the potential link between creatine administration and a possible creatine headache.

Benefits of taking Creatine

Despite the potential for headaches, there are many benefits of taking creatine as a dietary supplement. Some of the most well-established benefits include:

    • Increased strength: Creatine has been shown to increase muscle strength, which can lead to improved athletic performance.
    • Increased muscle mass: Creatine can also lead to an increase in muscle growth, which can be beneficial for athletes and bodybuilders.
    • Improved endurance: Some studies have found that creatine supplementation can lead to improved endurance during high-intensity exercise.
infographic showing effect of creatine on ATP and ADP

What Creatine does in our brains

Creatine is not only important for muscle energy metabolism, but it also plays a crucial role in the functioning of the brain.

It acts as a precursor to two important neurotransmitters, Methionine and Cysteine.

Methionine is responsible for the production of S-Adenosylmethionine (SAM), which plays an essential role in epigenetics by methylating our DNA.

Cysteine, on the other hand, is a key building block of the powerful antioxidant Glutathione, which plays a significant role in detoxification, reducing inflammation, and supporting mitochondria.

Furthermore, creatine supports the synthesis of ATP, which is also a source of energy for the brain.

Studies have shown that creatine may improve short-term memory and cognitive function.

Additionally, recent research is focusing on the correlation between creatine and aging. As creatine levels decrease with age, scientists are investigating if creatine supplementation could help combat age-related diseases such as Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, ALS, Alzheimer’s, and memory loss.

While more research is needed, the initial findings are very promising.

illustrated human brain

Side effects of taking Creatine

While creatine has been shown to be safe for most people when taken in recommended doses, there are some potential side effects to be aware of. These include:

    • Increase in body weight: as the osmotic properties of creatine increase the storage of water in muscle tissues, users may experience a quick increase of body weight.
    • Muscle Cramps: creatine may cause muscle cramps by increasing the levels of lactic acid in the muscles. Lactic acid is a byproduct of muscle metabolism that can accumulate during intense exercise, leading to muscle fatigue and cramping. Creatine has been shown to increase the rate of muscle metabolism, which in turn could lead to higher levels of lactic acid and increased muscle cramping.
    • High blood pressure: In rare cases, high doses of creatine can lead to an increase in blood pressure.

Conclusion

While the link between creatine and headaches is still not entirely clear, it’s possible that creatine’s osmotic properties and potential for causing dehydration could be to blame.

If you’re experiencing headaches and are taking creatine supplements, it’s worth talking to your doctor or a sports medicine professional to see if it could be the cause.

It’s always a good idea to be aware of the possible side effects of any supplement you’re taking, and to talk to your doctor before starting any new supplement regimen.

That being said, the benefits of creatine supplements outweigh the potential side effects when taken in recommended dosages.

Just make sure to stay drink enough water, manage stress, get enough sleep and consult with your doctor to ensure it’s safe for you. Remember, anything taken in excess can be harmful. Be cautious and consume supplements with care!

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Learn how to take Creatine correctly in this article here.

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