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Is Creatine Safe for Teens? (Important Facts)

Creatine is an organic substance found naturally in the body – 95% is found in skeletal muscle.

Creatine is also found in a healthy diet via animal products such as milk, seafood, and red meat.

Creatine gained popularity after the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games.

Since then, it has been used as an effective supplement to gain a physical advantage and improve athletic performance.

Unfortunately, there are virtually no scientific studies evaluating the safety or effectiveness of creatine in adolescents.

Is Creatine Safe For Teens?

No, creatine is not safe for teens. The American Academy of Pediatrics specifically recommends against the use of creatine in adolescents. Some research shows that it can harm the kidneys. Other possible side effects of this performance-enhancing supplement include dehydration, stomach pains, and muscle cramps.

In adult athletes, creatine is safe and beneficial, but experts agree that too little is known about the long-term health effects to conclude that it is safe for developing adolescents.

Supplementation of creatine in teens is extremely popular as a way to gain a competitive edge. One study found that creatine use is as high as 34.1% in children and adolescents.

Since so many teen athletes are already using this popular supplement, let’s find out more about how creatine works as well as the pros and cons of creatine use.

Is Creatine Safe for Teens

What Does Creatine Do?

Creatine is an amino acid that helps your muscles create energy during intense workouts. Creatine occurs naturally in muscle cells and helps produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the most basic form of energy in cells. ATP levels usually decrease during physical activity.

A creatine supplement increases your body’s stores of creatine (stored as phosphocreatine in your body) and replenishes ATP resulting in increased stamina and energy during workouts.

Creatine is thought to improve strength and increase lean muscle mass by helping muscles to recover more quickly during exercise.

Creatine is often used by athletes that engage in short bursts of high-intensity activity, like weightlifting, weight training, bodybuilding, athletics, or sprinting.

Find out: What Is The Average Bench Press For A 16 Year Old?

Creatine Effects on Teenagers

Creatine is an amino acid that is found in a well-balanced diet and also occurs naturally in muscle cells. Creatine supplementation in healthy adults has been shown to be creatine is safe and beneficial.

Many teenagers use creatine but very little research has been done to examine the safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation for high school athletes.

Below we highlight some of the pros and cons of supplementing creatine in teens:

Benefits Of Creatine For Teen Athletes

Teenage athletes are usually under immense pressure to perform and supplements provide an excellent way to increase exercise stamina and strength.

Below are some of the main benefits of creatine supplementation for teen athletes:

Creatine Increases Muscle Mass In Teen Athletes

Creatine is the ideal supplement to increase body weight and gain muscle.

Initially, creatine supplementation draws water into the muscles which can lead to some water retention.

However, creatine concentrations in muscles increase with continued workouts, eventually leading to increased lean muscle mass.

Creatine Leads To An Increase In Performance And Muscle Strength

Creatine optimizes physical performance by promoting endurance, strength, and overall athletic performance.

Studies have shown an increase in peak muscle output power in under 18s.

Teens often consider increased strength as the greatest benefit of creatine supplementation.

As a result, many sports organizations advocate the use of creatine supplements to support lean body mass and overall exercise performance.

Creatine Promotes Quick Post-Workout Recovery In Teens

Teen athletes usually engage in intense training routines.

So many teenagers turn to creatine to help speed up recovery after working out.

Creatine supplementation helps in injury prevention and aids in recovery from muscle soreness post-workout.

Creatine Helps Treat Specific Pediatric Disorders

Creatine has the potential to treat traumatic brain injury and muscular dystrophies.

Studies show the use of creatine amongst teenagers may go a long way in protecting brain health before a concussion.

Furthermore, the use of creatine supplements could significantly reduce symptoms associated with trauma.

Dangers Of Creatine For Teen Athletes

The American Academy of Pediatrics and American College of Sports Medicine agree that teen athletes should not use performance-enhancement supplements.

Although creatine is safe for adults as it increases physical and anaerobic performance, the long-term effects of creatine use amongst teens are unknown.

Taking too many supplements can cause the kidneys to overwork, thereby possibly causing kidney damage.

The most commonly reported side effects of creatine supplementation are weight gain and stomach upset.

Negative symptoms are likely to be exacerbated by high doses.

The possible negative effects of creatine are:

  • Water retention (temporary in early stages of supplementation)
  • Acute weight gain (due to water retention)
  • Diarrhea & muscle cramping
  • Kidney problems
  • Liver problems
  • Dehydration
  • Seizures
  • Nausea

Note that there is a lack of regulation around many supplements, including creatine.

Anyone who plans to consume creatine should always buy from reputable brands and suppliers.

Some studies have found organic contaminants and heavy metals in creatine dietary supplements.

NSF certification provides a guarantee that a creatine brand and product has been tested by a trusted independent organization and will be free from harmful contaminants and banned substances.

Below is a popular NSF certified creatine supplement:

Thorne Creatine Powder

Thorne Creatine - Amino Acid Creatine Powder - Supports Muscle Performance, Cellular Energy Production & Cognitive Function - Gluten-Free - Unflavored - NSF Certified for Sport - 16 Oz - 90 Servings

Find a high-quality creatine supplement by looking for a “Certificate of Analysis” that shows the following:

  • Appearance – should be white to pale cream
  • Assay – should be at least 95% via HPLC or HPCE
  • Moisture content – should be less than or equal to 12.5%
  • Microbial/pathogenic contamination – should be negative for E coli, S aureus, and Salmonella
  • Yeasts and moulds – should be less than 50 per gram
  • Poisons/heavy metals – should be less than 10ppm for lead and mercury
  • Other contaminants – should be less than 3ppm for arsenic, 30ppm for dicyandiamide and non-detectable for dihydrotriazine.

How To Take Creatine

There are two ways to supplement with creatine.

Creatine Loading

“Creatine loading” involves taking 5 grams four times per day for 5–7 days (total of 20g per day).

The theory is that the loading phase will fill the muscle cells with creatine faster helping you to experience benefits sooner.

Low-Dose Daily Supplementation

You can take 3–5 grams per day without a loading phase.

After 3 weeks, your muscles will reach the same level of creatine saturation as the loading protocol.

Maintenance Protocol

During the maintenance phase (after loading), you can take 3–5 grams per day to maintain creatine levels in your muscle cells.

Creatine Supplementation Tips

Always drink creatine with an 8oz (240mL) glass of water (or juice).

Continue to stay well hydrated throughout the day because creatine draws water into your muscle cells (dehydration is one of the possible side effects if you don’t drink enough water.)

If you’re supplementing with creatine then you should ideally drink 4-5 liters (roughly 1 gallon) of water per day.

A good rule to remember is that if you’re thirsty, then you should drink water!

If you experience any bloating or stomach distress during the loading phase then immediately proceed to low-dose daily supplementation.

How Much Creatine Should I Take?

You can take 3-5 grams of creatine monohydrate per day. To build muscle, take 20 g of creatine per day for 5-7 days, followed by a 3-5 gram dose daily after that. Taking too much creatine at one time can result in stomach discomfort and bloating, plus it’s a waste of money.

How Much Is 5g Of Creatine?

5g of creatine in its powder form is equivalent to 1.4 of a teaspoon (or 1 heaped teaspoon).

If there isn’t a measured scoop included in your tub of creatine, then a kitchen teaspoon will be your best option.

Here is a video that shows how to measure 3 and 5 grams of creatine using a teaspoon:

As you can see getting 5 grams exactly correct with a teaspoon is not that easy.

So it’s probably best that you invest in an electronic kitchen scale to get this right every time.

Food Kitchen Scale

Etekcity Food Kitchen Scale, Digital Grams and Ounces for Weight Loss, Baking, Cooking, Keto and Meal Prep, Medium, 304 Stainless Steel

How Long Does It Take For Creatine To Work?

Creatine will work in one week or less if a loading protocol of taking 20 grams of creatine daily for 5–7 days is followed. Low dose supplementation of 3–5 grams per day will take 3-4 weeks to see the effects of increased energy and stamina.

How Long Does Creatine Last?

Once you stop using creatine, 46% of ingested creatine is excreted within 24 hours. Creatine levels in muscle tissue drop off gradually over a 4 week period, returning your body and energy production to the baseline levels.

How Long Should You Take Creatine?

Clinical studies have shown it safe to use up to 30 grams of creatine per day for five years with no harmful side effects. No studies have been conducted past a five-year window, however, creatine has been widely used by thousands of athletes with hundreds of published studies.

How Old Do You Have To Be To Buy Creatine?

You can buy creatine at any age. Anyone, including adolescent athletes, can purchase creatine without a parent’s consent or knowledge. Creatine is not regulated by the FDA because it is considered a nutritional supplement. As a result, questions can arise about ingredient purity and if they’re present in the amounts claimed on the packaging.

Do you Need An ID To Buy Creatine?

You don’t need an ID to buy creatine at most health food stores and supplement stores. Some stores, like Walmart, might require an ID for certain items like creatine. Walmart policy requires ID on several items such as creatine to avoid lawsuits.

The use of creatine is legal but controversial for high school athletes. Experts agree that too little is known about the long-term health effects of creatine to conclude that it is safe for developing teen athletes. Creatine powder is on the discouraged list of supplements for teenagers.

Whey protein might be a good and fairly safe alternative for teenage athletes.

Can Creatine Stunt Growth?

No, creatine does not stunt growth. In fact, creatine supports growth by helping to strengthen and repair muscles. Creatine can increase both short- and long-term muscle growth and muscle size. Creatine occurs naturally in food sources like red meat, fish, and poultry.

Does Creatine Cause Acne?

Creatine does not directly cause acne. Teenagers prone to hormone-driven acne may see breakouts more often when taking creatine. People who take creatine supplements typically work out harder and longer, and the increased sweat and oil levels can result in an acne breakout.

The majority of studies show that creatine has no effect on DHT and testosterone levels that can lead to increased oil production, clogged pores, and acne.

One study of male college-aged rugby players found that creatine can increase DHT (dihydrotestosterone) levels by up to 56%. High DHT leads to high levels of androgens, which can increase oil production and clog pores that cause acne in men.

It is important to note that creatine is also commonly found in lotions and facial creams to assist with skin cell repair. As a result, wrinkles and fine lines are reduced, thereby fighting the effects of aging.

Can Creatine Make You Angry?

Creatine does not make you angry. There is no direct causal link that shows creatine causes mood swings, anger problems, or increased aggression.

The majority of studies show that creatine has no effect on testosterone levels that can lead to anger issues and aggression.

However, one study noted that two subjects reported feeling more aggressive and nervous after 1 week of creatine supplementation (25 g/day).

Does Creatine Cause Anxiety?

Two studies showed negative changes in mood or anxiety following supplementation with creatine. Another study suggests that daily creatine intake may positively influence mood. As a result, creatine supplementation is actively being explored for the treatment of depression in combination with antidepressant therapy. Creatine supplements have been beneficial in treating resistant PTSD patients by improving sleep quality and relieving symptoms.

Does Creatine Change Your Face?

Creatine supplements can lead to water retention that may cause the face to become puffy and bloated. This side effect is typically seen in people who regularly take high doses of creatine or do not drink enough water while taking creatine supplements on a daily basis.

The more water you drink, the less water weight your body will hold and the less bloated you’ll appear.

Another, less common reason that creatine can change your face is through Anaphylaxis.

So what is anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that causes your mouth, lips, tongue, and face to swell after consuming creatine supplements. Common symptoms of an anaphylaxis reaction include:

  • Skin rash
  • Palpitations
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Anxiety
  • Abdominal pains
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Increased heart rate

Severe swelling may cause an increase in pressure around your heart and closing of your throat.

How to Treat Anaphylaxis

In case of an anaphylaxis reaction, call 911 immediately. If necessary, insert a breathing tube to help you breathe. Receiving a shot of epinephrine will reduce the adverse effects rapidly. Medics can also administer corticosteroids and antihistamines to prevent further allergic reactions.

Can Creatine Cause Brain Damage?

No, creatine cannot cause brain damage. Rather than cause damage, creatine reduces structural damage to brain cells.

Experimental studies have shown that creatine protects the brain from ischemic injury (lack of oxygen) by preventing ATP (energy) depletion.

A study showed that creatine supplementation had a significant positive effect on both working memory, intelligence, and cognitive performance.

Another study showed that creatine supplementation shows promise for increasing resilience to and treating traumatic brain injury.

Why Do I Feel Weird After Taking Creatine?

There are several reasons why you may be feeling weird after taking creatine. These include:

Excessive Consumption of Creatine

Excessive creatine consumption affects the gastrointestinal tract which can lead to stomach upset.

If you’re feeling sick during a loading phase of 20g of creatine per day then you can:

  • Split the dose into 2-4 servings per day
  • Move directly to a maintenance dose of 3-5g per day
  • Stop completely, allow your body to recover, then test a maintenance dose

Mixing Creatine With Sugars

Mixing creatine with energy drinks will cause an insulin spike that can make you feel sick.

Research has shown that consuming carbohydrates with creatine can lead to increased creatine retention.

However, you don’t need sugar to increase creatine absorption, consuming creatine with a slow-release carb and some fat (brown bread & peanut butter) will work just as well.

Not Drinking Enough Water

When you use creatine supplements you’ll be able to push your body harder during high-intensity exercise sessions.

Increased intensity will lead to more sweating and water loss, possibly resulting in dehydration.

Dehydration can make you feel sick or lightheaded, so make sure you drink enough water throughout the day and during workout sessions.

Other Medications Could Be An Issue

Although creatine is deemed safe for healthy adults to use, it may put added pressure on your kidneys or liver.

If you are already taking any other medication that may be placing added pressure on your kidneys or liver, then it’s best that you consult your doctor before opting to use creatine.

Experiencing Electrolyte Imbalance

If you experience a decline in kidney function due to creatine intake then this may result in electrolyte imbalance, leaving you feeling sick.

If you have an underlying medical condition that affects your renal system you may be at risk of harming yourself.

Remember to consult your doctor before deciding if creatine is safe for you to use.