Even though creatine has impressive health and performance benefits, some athletes report that they experience side effects like feeling thirsty and having a dry mouth. If you’ve ever wondered if creatine does lead to thirst or if it’s just a misconception, you’re not alone.
Creatine, on its own, does not induce thirst or lead to dehydration. However, an uptick in training duration or intensity stemming from creatine supplementation (and subsequently a higher sweat rate) or psychological factors, such as the belief that creatine should induce thirst, can contribute to experiencing these symptoms.
Let’s explore the intricacies of what triggers thirst to clarify why creatine itself is not the direct cause of feelings of thirst.
Table of Contents
Does Creatine Make You Thirsty?
Before we examine whether or not creatine makes you thirsty, it’s good to take a step back and see what thirst is, why we get thirsty, and how it is measured in science.
Two main physiological signals cause thirst. Firstly, the concentration of substances in your blood (like salt, glucose, and other electrolytes) due to dehydration, and secondly, low fluid volume in your body . The primary signal for thirst is the concentration of substances in your body .
In addition to these signals, thirst can also be psychological – for example, you may feel sensations of thirst during hot temperatures even if you have not been in the sun for long enough to dehydrate in a physiological sense.
In science, thirst is measured subjectively using scales that ask people how thirsty they are, making it difficult to measure and quantify because it has both a physiological and psychological cause .
Figure 1: Scales used in research to measure thirst 
This is important to be aware of because when evaluating whether or not you will become thirsty when consuming creatine, we need to look at both the psychological and physiological sides of the story.
However, from a psychological perspective, many athletes believe that creatine causes water retention. As a result, dehydration leads them to experience thirst.
Does Creatine Dehydrate You or Cause a Dry Mouth?
Dry mouth is often associated with dehydration . Many people assume that creatine leads to dehydration due to water retention.
This idea was spurred by a paper published in 2000 by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) cautioning individuals exercising in hot conditions against its use .
This notion stemmed from the idea that creatine intake led to an initial increase in body weight of 1 to 3 kilograms due to water retention within cells during a loading phase (20g/day for 5 to 7 days) [8, 9].
Theoretically, this suggested that more water would be held within muscle cells, with less available externally, potentially resulting in electrolyte imbalances, muscle cramps, and other heat-related issues.
However, the ACSM’s statement was premature, as the evidence linking creatine to dehydration was lacking .
Numerous subsequent studies have been published demonstrating no dehydrating effects of creatine when used in recommended dosages, as summarized in a systematic review of 10 articles .
On the contrary, some studies have suggested that creatine may be beneficial in preventing dehydration .
Why You Are Thirsty When Taking Creatine & What You Can Do About It
In addition, the belief that creatine leads to thirst, a dry mouth, and dehydration can cause these symptoms to occur due to a phenomenon called the placebo effect ,
The placebo effect is a psychological and physiological occurrence where a person experiences real and noticeable effects after consuming a supplement product or completing an intervention based on the belief that they should have that experience.
To prevent thirst during training, ensure you go into training sessions well-hydrated by drinking adequate fluids and electrolytes daily.
There is no strict rule for the precise amount of fluid you must consume daily. One handy tool to gauge your hydration level is to monitor your urine color.
You should aim to have a urine color that is light yellow  – see the top three colors in the color chart below.
Figure 2: Urine color chart: How hydrated are you? 
If you’re feeling thirsty and experiencing a dry mouth while using creatine, it likely does not mean creatine itself is causing the thirst.
Other drivers of thirst, such as increased exercise intensity, prolonged activity leading to sweating, or the psychological effect of believing that creatine causes dehydration, can make you feel thirsty.
Knowledge is power, and ensuring proper hydration before sessions and knowing that creatine doesn’t lead to thirst or dry mouth can effectively alleviate these symptoms.
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