Supplements are a great way to boost your health. When taken in the right amount and along with the right workout, these supplements can provide incredible results and improve your health and fitness. When it comes to the most popular supplement, creatine takes the cake.
Creatine is a natural supplement for improving muscle strength and performance and a favorite among athletes and workout enthusiasts alike. But, there is a catch. While there are no recorded adverse side effects of this supplement, creatine is said to cause acne breakouts.
In this article, we will explore if there is a link between creatine and acne, the pros and cons of this supplement, and how you can use it safely to aid your fitness regimen.
In This Article
What Is Creatine?
Creatine is a naturally available chemical compound present in our bodies. Although it is typically present in the muscles, it is produced by the liver, pancreas, and kidneys.
You can also obtain creatine from foods such as red meat and seafood. However, athletes often use synthetic creatine supplements to improve their fitness and endurance. You can consume creatine in the form of creatine monohydrate or creatine HCl. Unlike popular belief, this supplement acts similar to amino acids rather than steroids.
It is a widely held belief that creatine causes acne. But, is there any truth to this belief? Find out in the next section.
Creatine And Acne: What Is The Connection?
There is no evidence or research available that directly links acne with creatine supplementation. That said, creatine can affect your body in specific ways, indirectly influencing the underlying acne problems.
As there is no evidence suggesting the direct link between this supplement and acne, it is only a probable cause of this skin condition. Here’s why creatine might cause acne breakouts.
How Do Creatine Supplements Cause Acne?
As stated before, there is no evidence for a direct link between creatine and acne problems. However, the supplement can fluctuate or increase the levels of specific hormones in our bodies.
Creatine is known to increase testosterone levels in our bodies, which can lead to acne outbreaks. It also affects the level of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) levels and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) (1), (2). These hormones are also linked to an increase in acne (3).
In other words, creatine supplements can indirectly result in acne outbreaks – but only if you are genetically susceptible to acne in the first place. Therefore, if you notice a breakout after taking creatine supplements, you should check if you’ve always been prone to acne.
You may also notice pimples if you have been taking the wrong dose of creatine.
Creatine can also cause various other side effects. Let’s explore these below.
Are There Any Other Side Effects Of Taking Creatine?
The list of potential side effects of creatine include:
- Damage to kidneys and liver
- Weight gain
- Muscle cramps
- Problems with digestion
If you notice any side effects from the use of creatine, discontinue taking the supplement immediately and contact your doctor.
However, it is one of the safest supplements available on the market. Even the International Society of Sports Nutrition swears by the safety of creatine supplements. (4)
Creatine has received a lot of negative press over the years. Some have even claimed (albeit wrongly) it is an anabolic steroid. Due to this belief, it was considered unsuitable for women and teens.
However, creatine has been cleared as a safe supplement for boosting physical performance. It offers several benefits that are listed in the next section.
What Are The Benefits Of Taking Creatine Supplements?
Creatine offers several advantages, particularly for those looking to improve their health. Let’s check out a few of its benefits below:
1. Produces Energy In The Muscles
If you feel tired when working out, creatine supplements can give you a much-needed energy boost. It aids in the formation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which acts as a source of energy for your muscles (5).
Creatine also helps you bulk up by stimulating muscle growth and minimizing damage (6). Additionally, the supplement can improve blood flow to the muscles, pumping more oxygen for your exercises. Together these effects ensure creatine supplements boost your fitness level for any high-intensity sporting activity.
2. Boosts Brain Activity
Apart from fueling your muscles, creatine can also improve mental activity. This supplement is a naturally occurring compound in the brain and can enhance short-term memory and cognitive function in healthy individuals (7).
Creatine may also help increase the levels of certain chemicals in the brain. These chemicals help in maintaining the regular functioning of the brain cells and prevents cell death. However, the cognitive benefits from using creatine supplements are still being researched.
3. Maintains Blood Sugar Level
Creatine affects the production of several hormones and enzymes in your body. One such enzyme is glucose transporter type 4 (GLUT-4). This molecule is responsible for increasing the transport of glucose from your blood to the muscles. Creatine supplements, by their action of increasing the GLUT-4 levels, can help reduce blood sugar levels.
Studies demonstrate that physical exercise is more efficient at controlling sugar levels when paired with creatine supplements (8). Although there are promising results, more scientific evidence is required to establish whether creatine can help lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.
4. Combats Signs of Aging
Despite being regarded as the inciting factor of acne, creatine can act as a useful remedy for skin aging. The topical application of creatine can reduce wrinkles and boost collagen in the skin, making it firmer (9). However, more studies are needed to confirm whether the oral consumption of creatine supplements has the same effects on human skin.
To understand the correct way to add creatine to your daily regimen, continue reading the next section.
How To Use Creatine Safely
Every supplement has its own dosage. Too much of anything can result in hazardous side effects.
The dosage for creatine varies according to your health factors and body weight. Men usually require a higher dose compared to women. Also, the reason why you are taking the supplements plays a role when determining the correct dosage.
The best way to safely introduce creatine supplement into your daily regimen is to consult a healthcare provider.
Let’s understand the proper doses of creatine as per its specific use:
- For Improving Athletic Performance
Typically the supplement regimen follows a short-term high dose (or loading dose) followed by a long-term small dose for maintenance. Loading dose involves consuming about 20 grams regularly for 4-7 days and then maintain the levels by taking 2-10 grams every day.
- For Muscle Strength
The dosage for creatine supplements to improve muscle strength is similar to that for boosting performance. In this regimen, the loading dose is typically about 20 grams per day for a week. The maintenance dose is 1-27 grams per day.
- For Sarcopenia
With aging, the muscles tend to lose their strength. Creatine supplements are good for maintaining muscle strength and size when taken along with weight training. The dosage for preventing sarcopenia involves the same loading dose of 20 grams per day for about a week. You can also stick to a maintenance dose of 2-10 grams per day. Note that the supplement is only effective when combined with resistance training.
The benefits of creatine supplements do not necessarily improve with higher doses. At times these supplements may not necessarily suit your body. In such a case, experimenting with the doses can allow you to find what is suitable for you. Thus, you can adjust your creatine doses within the recommended values and check for yourself.
Acne has many other causes apart from supplements. Thus, you may get acne breakouts when you work out even after getting your creatine dosage right. Follow these tips to keep the breakouts to a minimum.
How To Avoid Acne When Working Out
- Always shower after working out. The intense sweating caused by working out is a common cause of acne. The dust and dirt accumulate on your sticky skin, turning it into a breeding ground for acne-causing bacteria.
- Another way to reduce the risk of breakouts is to restrict sugar in your diet. Sugary drinks like sports drinks and soft drinks are a leading cause of acne.
- Increasing your water intake is important if you have started taking creatine. This supplement can be quite dehydrating and cause the skin to chafe, making it prone to bacterial infections and acne. Hydrating yourself facilitates creatine metabolism and also reduces the risk of bloating and weight gain.
- Keep a tab on your alcohol and caffeine intake to prevent further dehydration when taking creatine.
- Red meat or dairy products in the diet can also leave you susceptible to acne. Thus, it’s best to avoid or minimize these foods when taking creatine.
- A great way to avoid acne is by paying more attention to your health and habits. Overworking yourself or too much stress without adequate sleep can drain your body.
- You should check your skin status after taking creatine to identify if it is the root cause of your acne.
Creatine can cause acne breakouts, but only if you are otherwise prone to it. In most people, creatine supplements are safe and have fewer side effects. Due to its benefits of improving muscle growth and strength gains, it has gained a lot of popularity.
An important takeaway is to choose your supplements wisely. The right dosage with a healthy diet, exercise, and sleep can help you avoid not only acne but also several other side effects of creatine supplements.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
Why does creatine make you break out?
Creatine messes with the hormonal balance in your body by increasing testosterone levels. For someone prone to acne, creatine supplements can increase the intensity and frequency of breakouts.
What does creatine do for your skin?
Creatine can improve your skin if you are not genetically prone to acne. In fact, it can reduce wrinkles and saggy skin and may even combat sun damage.
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- Three weeks of creatine monohydrate supplementation affects dihydrotestosterone to testosterone ratio in college-aged rugby players
- Effect of creatine supplementation and resistance-exercise training on muscle insulin-like growth factor in young adults
- Correlation between serum levels of insulin-like growth factor 1
- International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: creatine supplementation and exercise
- Creatine supplementation enhances anaerobic ATP synthesis during a single 10 sec maximal handgrip exercise
- Effects of 4-Week Creatine Supplementation Combined with Complex Training on Muscle Damage and Sport Performance
- Effects of creatine supplementation on cognitive function of healthy individuals: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials
- Effects of creatine supplementation on glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity in sedentary healthy males undergoing aerobic training
- Topical application of creatine is multibeneficial for human skin