Creatine is one of the most popular, effective, and safe supplements for increasing lean mass, strength, and exercise potential. A more detailed summary the benefits of creatine use can be found in our article, Creatine – The Basic. However, despite its benefits, women may feel that some potential side effects, or even the benefits, of creatine may seem off putting. This article will address some of these issues, so you can decide whether or not creatine is the right supplement for you.
Creatine Benefits for Women
When it comes to the benefits of creatine for women, they are really no different to that for men. The primary function of creatine is to increase the body’s ability to rapidly regenerate energy for use during high intensity exercise. Unlike stimulants like caffeine, creatine does not stimulate the heart or central nervous system to produce adrenaline and other related hormones. Instead, it acts purely on the muscular level and is therefore safer, and usage does not result in the development of tolerance.
Simply put, having high levels of creatine in the muscle leads to better exercise performance, and faster improvements in body composition, or “muscle toning”. Some women may feel that taking creatine may make them bulky or manly, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Manly physiques are a result of the male hormone testosterone, which is completely unrelated to creatine. This issue is addressed in a little more detail in our Should Women be Scared of Gaining Muscle article.
Creatine Side Effects for Women
The worry for potential side effects is possibly the biggest off putting factor for creatine usage. The good news is that creatine has impeccable safety research to show that it is completely safe for healthy people (Groeneveld et al, 2005; Shao & Hathock, 2006).
Of the reported side effects of creatine, they are mild, transient, and non-serious. Because creatine naturally attracts water, some individuals complain about looking bloated. This is an issue some women experience, though it is temporary and does settle down with continued use. Consequently we would not recommend starting your creatine supplementation if you have an important event, competition, or photo shoot coming up soon. Some other small groups of people also complain about stomach upsets. This is more common with the creatine monohydrate variety, though it should be stressed that it is still a rare occurrence. If however you know you do suffer from stomach upsets from creatine monohydrate, more gut-friendly forms such as creatine HCl and Kre Alkalyn are possible alternatives.
In summary, creatine is a very effective way to improve your training. Whether or not women should use creatine is entirely goal specific. If you are looking for improvements to overall cardiovascular fitness, creatine may not be of that much help. However, if you are looking to improve training intensity and body composition, that is, increased muscle toning and decreased fat, then creatine could very well be one of the best things around.
Groeneveld GJ, et al. Few adverse effects of long-term creatine supplementation in a placebo-controlled trial. Int J Sports Med. (2005)
Shao A, Hathcock JN. Risk assessment for creatine monohydrate. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. (2006)