Does Creatine Make You Bloated?

January 2, 2024

One side effect of creatine is short-term water retention. Despite the numerous benefits it offers, some athletes shy away from using creatine due to concerns about potential weight gain and the belief that creatine can make you bloated. However, does this mean that you can’t enjoy the advantages that creatine has to offer?

While creatine can cause water retention, it is short-term and only occurs during the loading phase. You can minimize water retention by opting for a more conservative dosing protocol of 3 – 5 grams per day for 28 days (4 weeks).

Let’s dissect some of the studies on the side effects of creatine to discover why creatine may cause water retention and what this can mean for you when you are using creatine.

Does Creatine Make You Bloated?

The initial loading period for creatine supplementation, characterized by a daily intake of 20 grams in doses of 4 x 5g over 5-7 days, typically results in a body mass increase of 1-3 kilograms primarily due to water retention [1, 2].

One study found a 0.6L decline in urinary output after consuming 20g of creatine for 6 days [3]. Water retention is one of the most common side effects in the loading period of creatine use [4].

Why does this happen? Creatine influences water retention in the body by entering muscles through a transporter that utilizes sodium.

Simultaneously, this mechanism introduces water into the muscles to maintain equilibrium.

Nevertheless, due to other physiological processes, creatine likely has minimal impact on altering the sodium levels in your cells [5].

This water retention only persists in the short term and is usually only present during the loading phase [5]. For some, but not all, this can manifest in feeling bloated around the stomach and face.

Does Bloating Make You Fat?

Creatine and Bloating

Bloating can be described in various ways, such as feeling like your abdomen is swollen or tight or experiencing excessive gas.

Bloating can be defined as the sensation of increased pressure in your stomach [6]. Many people are scared to use creatine because they fear gaining weight.

In using creatine, you might experience some water retention around the abdominal area and increased scale weight for the first week of loading.

But this does not translate to fat loss. In fact, research shows that creatine does not lead to fat gain and can lead to an improved body composition.

There is no evidence suggesting that taking creatine leads to an increase in fat mass across various populations.

In short-term studies (lasting 1 to 8 weeks) involving older women [7], older men [8], young adults engaging in resistance training [9], recreational male bodybuilders [10], exercising males and females [11], and rugby union players [12], creatine intake did not impact fat mass.

In longer-term studies, healthy resistance-trained men on a standard loading protocol (20 g/d for 7 days) followed by a 5 g/d maintenance dose for 11 weeks had increased muscle mass but no changes in fat mass [13].

Similarly, older men taking creatine for 12 weeks while doing resistance training had no fat mass increase [14]. This was also seen in older females taking creatine for 24 weeks [15].

How To Prevent Bloating From Creatine

As mentioned, water retention and bloating should only last for the week of loading [16].

If you do not want to experience these side effects, doing a more conservative protocol using the standard maintenance dosages of 3 – 5 grams per day can be effective.

But it will take approximately 28 days (4 weeks) to fully saturate your muscle creatine levels [4, 17].

Even if you do not avoid the loading period, you will not have water retention after the loading stage. Several exercise training studies, ranging from 5 to 10 weeks and involving creatine supplementation, have shown that there was no water retention by the end of the study period [4].

For instance, males doing resistance training who took creatine using a standard loading protocol (approximately 20 g/day) followed by 4 weeks of maintenance for 28 days (approximately 5 g/day) did not undergo any significant alterations in intracellular water, extracellular water, or total body water [18].

Additionally, studies show that the risk of GI issues increases when taking 10g of creatine or more at once [19], so avoid taking high doses of creatine, but instead spread them in 5g doses throughout the day when you are doing a load.

Best Form Of Creatine For No Bloating

Creatine forms like creatine HCl are often marketed for “minimizing bloating,” but there is not enough research to show that it is actually effective.

There is limited research on the safety and side effects of other forms of creatine, like creatine HCl, and the available evidence is insufficient to draw conclusions about its short- and long-term effects.

Additionally, research is lacking to recommend optimal or safe dosages for creatine HCl [4].

Your best bet will be to take creatine monohydrate, which is widely researched for effectiveness and safety, at the recommended doses: during the loading phase, take 4 doses of 5 g each day for 3–7 days, followed by a maintenance phase of 3–5 g per day.


Although water retention can occur in the first week of creatine loading, this subsides with time. Creatine does not make you bloated long-term or bloated at all if you take the more conservative route of taking it with smaller dosages (3 – 5 g per day) for 28 days.

Do not fall for marketing messages of creatine types other than creatine monohydrate that claim that they “reduce bloating,” as there is not enough evidence to back these claims up.


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About the Author

Hanli is a Registered Dietitian with a special interest in sports nutrition. She has a Master's degree and is currently a PhD candidate focusing on adolescent athlete nutrition. She has published research in the Obesity Reviews journal and is a research coordinator at the Sport Science Institute of South Africa.

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