Josh Chandler | July 19, 2022

Is Creatine a Performance-Enhancing Drug?

What Is Creatine?

You may be surprised to learn that your body naturally creates creatine. It’s an amino acid that is primarily stored in your muscles. When a person is focused on their exercise performance, they may turn toward finding a dietary supplement to boost the amount of creatine that is in their body. However, is creatine really a performance-enhancing drug? The answer is not necessarily straightforward. Yes, creatine can help to improve your overall sports performance. However, it’s not an overtly banned substance.

Creatine supplements have been used for years to enhance sports performance. Soccer players and other professional athletes, including athletes in the Olympic games, have used oral creatine supplementation to improve their gym performance and get themselves in the best possible shape.


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How Much Does Creatine Improve Performance?

Creatine supplementation isn’t something that is generally banned in sports. In fact, several people use a creatine supplement to increase their strength and power as they are training for a particular event as it has been shown to enhance athletes’ performance. Creatine boosts have been shown to aid in injury prevention and help an athlete recognize more significant muscle gains, which can result in better weight management in terms of muscle mass and general body mass regulation. However, there are also several downsides of creatine use in sports. For example, if you’re looking to lose weight, you want to be conscious of how many grams of creatine you’re using because scientific evidence has shown that creatine can lead to weight gain. Additionally, there is some scientific evidence that shows that using creatine can be detrimental for a person that has kidney issues.

Is Creatine Considered a PED (Performance-Enhancing Drug)?

If you plan to use creatine as a sports nutrition supplement, you must understand its ups and downs. It’s possible that the effect of creatine supplementation on you could be very different from that of another person. While an athlete who is training for the Olympic games could benefit from using creatine, a person who is just interested in general health and well-being may not. Although Creatine use in sports and weight training is generally used, it may not mean that it’s right for you. It’s important to speak at length with your doctor regarding general sports nutrition and do your own research regarding the reports from the drug administration and the impact that this substance has had on professional athletes.

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What does Creatine do for Your Body?

Creatine is a substance that naturally occurs in muscle cells and helps your muscles produce energy during high-intensity exercise or heavy lifting. Taking creatine as a supplement is very popular among athletes and bodybuilders in order to gain muscle, enhance strength, and improve exercise performance. Chemically speaking, it shares many similarities with amino acids. Your body can produce it from the amino acids glycine and arginine. About 95% of your body’s creatine is stored in muscles in the form of phosphocreatine. The remaining 5% is found in your brain, kidneys, and liver. When you supplement, you increase your stores of phosphocreatine. This is a form of stored energy in the cells, as it helps your body produce more of a high-energy molecule called ATP.


is creatine a performance enhancing drug

Is Creatine Legal for Athletes?

Currently, creatine is perfectly legal for soccer players, gymnasts, and other professional athletes to use. It’s not a banned substance by Olympic standards and is also not prohibited by the World Antidoping agency. Therefore, an athlete is allowed to use creatine supplements. However, it’s always encouraged that they ever do so under the guidance and supervision of their health care professional.

Does Creatine Have Side Effects?

Creatine is one of the most well-researched sports supplements and is generally considered safe to use. However, as with any supplement, there can be side effects, especially if taken in excess. Some people may experience digestive issues, muscle cramping, dehydration, and nausea when consuming creatine. It may also cause water retention, leading to temporary weight gain. Although these side effects are not common for everyone, it’s always best to start with a smaller dose to assess your body’s tolerance.

Should I Take Creatine Every Day?

Many athletes and bodybuilders take creatine daily to maintain high levels of phosphocreatine in their muscles. The typical recommendation is to start with a loading phase of 20 grams per day for 5–7 days, divided into 4 servings, and then switch to a maintenance dose of 3–5 grams per day. Regular daily intake is critical for maintaining elevated creatine levels in the muscle. However, some people opt for a different regimen without a loading phase, and it can still be effective, although it might take longer to see results.


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How Much Creatine is Safe for Kidneys?

Concerns about kidney health are common when it comes to creatine supplementation, but research has shown that creatine is safe for the kidneys in healthy individuals. The key is to consume it within recommended amounts. Chronic consumption of very high doses of creatine might pose a risk to kidney function, particularly in individuals with preexisting kidney conditions. It’s always best to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen, especially if you have existing health conditions or concerns. Generally, sticking to the recommended dose of 3–5 grams per day after a loading phase is considered safe for individuals with healthy kidneys.


performance enhancing drugs and creatine


Downsides of Taking Creatine

Of course, there is always the possibility that taking too much of a growth hormone or committing to intense exercise too often could lead to serious consequences. Some studies indicate that using creatine supplements could negatively impact a person with kidney disease, so it’s important to monitor your intake closely.

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Josh Chandler
Josh Chandler
After growing up in Chicago and North Carolina, Josh chose to get help with substance use disorder and mental health in California because of the state's reputation for top-tier treatment. There, he found the treatment he needed to achieve more than five years of recovery. He's been in the drug and alcohol addiction rehab industry for four years and now serves as the Director of Admissions for Resurgence Behavioral Health. Josh remains passionate about the field because he understands that one phone call can alter the course of a person's life.

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