Creatine Headaches: Causes, Prevention, Research & More (2024)

Creatine Headaches: Causes, Prevention, Research & More (1)Share on Pinterest

From energy boosters to performance enhancers, the world of sports and fitness is no stranger to supplements. For many athletes and gym-goers, creatine is one of the more popular supplements on the market for improving performance.

Although side effects from creatine are relatively uncommon, some people have reported experiencing headaches from creatine supplements.

In this article, we’ll explore what creatine does, some potential side effects of creatine supplementation, and what the research says about creatine causing headaches.

Creatine is a naturally occurring substance made of amino acids. It supplies the body with cellular energy. Red meat and seafood are the primary sources of dietary creatine, while endogenous creatine is synthesized in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas.

Most creatine is stored in and used by the muscles, which makes it a popular supplement for fitness-related activities. As with almost all supplements, there have been reported side effects associated with taking larger amounts of creatine.

While these side effects are generally gastrointestinal in nature, some people have also reported experiencing creatine headaches.

Fortunately, as far as supplements are concerned, research has shown that creatine is one of the safest supplements that the average person can take. Outside of anecdotal reports, there’s virtually no research that suggests headaches are a direct side effect of creatine use.

In fact, the research on the reported side effects demonstrates quite the opposite, as we’ll discuss later in the article.

Here are a few possible explanations for headaches that might accompany creatine use, especially in active individuals.

Dehydration

Dehydration is one of the most common causes of headaches. People who supplement with creatine are more likely to be involved with sports or fitness. These types of physical activities can lead to dehydration, especially if you’re not drinking enough water during your training sessions.

Tension

Tension is another common cause of headaches. Certain physical activities, such as those that focus on building endurance, may cause an increase in muscle tension. When this muscle tension is in the neck or shoulders, it can cause a specific type of headache called a tension headache.

Overexertion

Overexertion is another potential cause of headaches. Whether you’re just getting back into fitness or have been training for years, overexertion can occur when you push your body too hard during physical activity.

This risk may be higher during endurance or weight training activities, where overexertion is more common.

Overheating

Overheating can cause a handful of unpleasant symptoms, including headaches. Athletes are most at risk for overheating when they train or play sports in high temperatures, but anyone who engages in activities in the heat is at risk for overheating.

Symptoms of overheating can also be compounded by both dehydration and overexertion.

The good news is that most of the headache triggers listed above can be prevented with a few lifestyle changes. Here are some best practices for how to avoid headaches before they happen:

  • Drink plenty of water. Make sure that you’re keeping up on your water intake throughout the day, especially if you plan to work out or play sports. This can help you avoid the dreaded dehydration headache.
  • Stretch before and after a workout. Stretching before a workout can help you avoid injuries, while stretching after a workout can help loosen any tight muscles. If you notice that your muscles are frequently tense after working out, consider booking yourself a massage.
  • Don’t push yourself too hard. Anyone, at any fitness level, can overexert their body. It’s important to always be mindful of how you feel during an activity. If you notice that you’re having symptoms of overexertion, stop immediately and give your body some rest.
  • Keep cool during training sessions. Working out or playing sports in the heat means that your body will require some extra attention to keep hydrated. Drinking cool water, using a chilled towel, and staying in the shade or air conditioning can help avoid headaches from an overheated body.
  • Make a log of any suspected triggers. If you’re someone who has frequent headaches, keep a log of any potential or known headache triggers. This can help you avoid these triggers and in turn, reduce how often you get headaches.

People who have frequent, unexplained headaches that don’t seem to get better with lifestyle changes, medications, or other interventions should see a doctor.

As one of the most widely used supplements in the fitness world, creatine boasts a wide range of performance enhancing benefits, such as:

  • increasing available energy for muscle cells
  • improving muscle cell growth and regeneration
  • improving performance and endurance during sessions
  • increasing recovery and reducing fatigue

Research has suggested that creatine also has neuroprotective benefits that can be important for neurological conditions, such as:

  • traumatic brain injury (TMI)
  • Huntington’s disease (HD)
  • Parkinson’s disease (PD)
  • amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)

Researchers believe these neuroprotective benefits may be due to creatine’s ability to prevent premature cell death by stabilizing cellular energy levels.

One area of research for creatine’s neuroprotective benefits involves supplementing with creatine for traumatic brain injuries (TMI).

In one small study, 39 adolescent subjects with TMI were randomized into two study groups. One group was given an oral solution of creatine for a period of 6 months, while the other group was not.

The results of the study indicated an improvement in TMI-related symptoms, such as headache, dizziness, and fatigue, in the creatine group.

Although there were a variety of study parameters, the researchers specifically noted the benefits of creatine supplementation for headaches.

This research is directly contradictory to anecdotal reports that suggest creatine use can cause headaches. It suggests that creatine may actually alleviate this common symptom.

Creatine is a widely researched supplement with little evidence of serious side effects in healthy individuals. However, the potential side effects of creatine supplementation may include:

  • bloating
  • dehydration
  • muscle cramping
  • digestive symptoms
  • weight gain

At higher dosages and in people with certain underlying health conditions, more serious side effects of creatine supplementation may include:

  • liver damage
  • kidney damage
  • kidney stones
  • compartment syndrome
  • rhabdomyolysis

If you’re experiencing new or concerning side effects after starting creatine supplementation, you should schedule an appointment with a doctor.

In most cases, headaches that you suspect are related to creatine use are more likely to be the result of other factors, such as dehydration or overexertion. However, the following symptoms that accompany a headache are cause for concern:

  • a headache that does not go away
  • a headache that gets worse
  • sudden, intense head pain or pressure
  • stiff neck
  • fever
  • nausea and vomiting
  • dizziness or lightheadedness
  • fainting
  • vision changes
  • confusion
  • difficulty speaking
  • weakness or droopiness on one side

If you’ve been experiencing any of these symptoms in addition to your headaches, you should see a doctor immediately as it may indicate a more serious medical condition.

Creatine is one of the safest, most widely researched health and fitness supplements on the market. Although there are some mild side effects associated with creatine use, there’s no research that suggests creatine supplementation directly causes headaches.

Headaches that occur after supplementing with creatine are more likely due to other factors, such as dehydration, tension, or even overexertion.

If you’re experiencing frequent, unexplained headaches, meet with your doctor to explore other potential causes and treatments.

Creatine Headaches: Causes, Prevention, Research & More (2024)
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