Does creatine damage the kidneys? Find out what science has to say

Does creatine damage the kidneys? Find out what science has to say

Does creatine damage your kidney?

You must have wondered about the adverse effects of creatine if you have ever considered taking these supplements.

Creatine is quite famous in the fitness world and having concerns about its detrimental effects is normal.

If you must know, creatine is completely safe when taken in recommended doses. Many studies, journals, papers, articles, and experts have confirmed this fact.

But does creatine affect your kidneys in particular?

Let’s see what science and research have to say!

Why do people think creatine can damage kidneys?

If you have read our introductory article, you already know how creatine works.

Here we will first discuss the relationship between kidneys and creatine. This way, you will understand why some people think creatine damages the kidneys.

This is what happens when creatine enters your body-

How our body breaks down creatine

1. The skeletal muscles, brain, and other muscles in our body store the creatine you take as supplements.

2. The muscles break down the ingested creatine into phosphocreatine and use it to replenish the ATP.

3. The process creates a byproduct called creatinine.

Now, the kidneys excrete creatinine as it is. And this is where all the misconception begins!

Our bodies produce creatinine in response to various events.

For instance, your creatinine levels may rise if you have more muscle mass. Or, you may have high creatinine levels if you consume more animal protein.

Most importantly, your kidneys also produce more creatinine if they are damaged or impaired.

So, high creatinine levels are a marker of kidney disease.

Doctors use blood and urine tests to determine creatinine levels for diagnosing liver or kidney diseases.

Taking these supplements in excess of what your muscles can store may increase your creatinine levels. Your body breaks down more phosphocreatine and produces more creatinine.

But increased levels of creatinine doesn’t always mean kidney problems. You can have high creatinine levels for different reasons and still have healthy kidneys.

So even if creatine supplements may raise your creatinine levels, it doesn’t damage the kidneys.

Does creatine damage the kidneys? Find out what science has to say

Does Creatine Increase Your Creatinine Levels?

People think creatine increases the creatinine in your body. But does this thought hold any ground?

If you go by evidence, the thought doesn’t have any validity.

According to Examine.com, a dose of 5 grams of creatine is not going to make any significant change to your creatinine levels.

However, a higher dose may increase creatinine, which people can take as a sign of kidney damage. Though, this idea too doesn’t hold much ground-

Examine.com concludes that even a dose of 20 grams/day may increase your creatinine by only a small percentage.

The Verdict: For People with Healthy Kidneys

People with healthy kidneys can take creatine supplements without any worries. We have enough studies and research to prove this fact.

Let’s take up a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

The researchers gave the participants 20 grams of creatine per day for 5 days. They followed it up with a dose of 5 gram/day for the rest of the trial. The participants ate a high-protein diet and practiced resistance training.

As expected, the study didn’t find any change in renal functions over 12-weeks of trial.

Now let’s take a look at what researchers found from the analysis of 12 articles and case reports-

Creatine supplementation is safe for healthy adults in recommended doses.

According to Healthline

  • Creatine made no effects on kidney or liver functions in a long-term study with college athletes
  • A four-year study also concluded that creatine has no adverse effects

Till now, no researchers have been able to prove that creatine damages kidneys in healthy adults.

Does creatine damage the kidneys? Find out what science has to say

What About People with Kidney Disease or Failure?

Is creatine safe for people with kidney disease?

Here too, research doesn’t find any such evidence.

Examine.com notes a study where a person with a single kidney took creatine supplements. The participant received 20 gram/day of creatine for 5 days. He then received 5 grams daily for 30 days.

The researchers concluded that creatine didn’t harm the kidneys in any way!

Another man with various stages of kidney disease received 5 grams creatine daily for 12 weeks. He also suffered from type 2 diabetes. What did the researchers find?

Creatine didn’t cause any decline in kidney function.

Though research is mostly positive about creatine, the following people should adopt caution-

  • Patients with kidney dysfunction
  • People with high blood pressure
  • Diabetes patients
  • People who have a family history of kidney disease
  • Adults over 60-years of age
  • People taking diuretics

If you have any of the above diseases, you should consult a doctor before taking creatine.

However, it is unlikely that a low dose would cause any problem.

Does Any Evidence Link Creatine with Kidney Failure?

During our research, we came up with only two cases that somehow link creatine with kidney problems.

1. A healthy 18-year-old had acute renal failure after taking creatine. He recovered 25-days after stopping the supplement. While sharing the results, the researchers added-

  • Today there is less risk of kidney damage from creatine
  • Many studies show little or no evidence of the adverse effect of oral creatine supplements on kidneys

2. Another 24-year-old weight lifter experienced renal failure after taking various supplements that included creatine. The man recovered after he stopped taking the supplements.

How much faith can you put on this case?

Let’s consider a few things-

  • The athlete took a total of 52 supplements
  • A combination of more than two supplements may have caused the harm
  • The conclusion is based on circumstantial evidence

The researchers also concluded that we need more studies to find out if creatine damages kidneys.

As you can see, the two above cases are exceptions and rely on circumstantial evidence. No other studies or trials have been able to link creatine with kidney damage.

If fact, creatine has a lot of health benefits like protecting your heart and helping recover muscle injuries. You can read our 10 evidence-backed Health Benefits of Creatine to find out more.

Creatine doesn't damage your kidneys

Recommended Creatine Dosage (Completely Safe)

Here’s a table you can refer to find out the recommended creatine dose-

 Creatine Dosage
People with healthy kidneys* 10 grams/day safe for extended use
* 3 – 5 grams/day is sufficient for most people
* A loading phase of 20 gram/day is also safe
(for 5 – 7 days)
People with high muscle mass* 10 gram/day is adequate
People with kidney problems* Consult your doctor don’t take more than 3grams/day

You can read our article How to Take Creatine for Best Results for more information on dosage and taking creatine.

Does creatine damage the kidneys? Find out what science has to say

Final Thoughts

If you have read till now, you must be sure of one thing-

Creatine doesn’t damage your kidneys!

You can safely take creatine for the long-term in recommended dosages without any fear of adverse effects. It’s truly a great supplement to build muscles, increase strength, and get more energy.

Creatine also comes with many health benefits that demand your consideration.

So if you are considering taking creatine supplements, go ahead with peace of mind!

Anit Kumar Das

I am Anit, a certified fitness trainer, nutritionist and also a passionate blogger. In the 15th year's fitness journey I have a lot of experience which I am writing down in my blog.