With all the benefits creatine is known for, some people have experienced tiredness associated with its supplementation.
So, can creatine make you tired? For most people using creatine, it is unlikely to directly cause feelings of tiredness. Creatine supplementation works by increasing your body’s natural creatine stores in the muscles, kidneys, and brain, which should give you more energy, not less. But, this is only the case if you’re taking creatine properly.
If you’re using creatine, it is important to understand (1) how your body could respond when creatine stores are altered, particularly, in the brain; and (2) the indirect impacts of creatine use. Both are factors that could cause tiredness, and are what I will discuss further below.
- Not drinking enough water, not sleeping enough, and not eating enough calories are common causes of feeling tired after creatine use.
- Because creatine can help you work out more intensely and for longer, you may be tired due to increased activity levels and training output.
- Reviewing all the supplements you take when using creatine is important. Stimulants like caffeine, which are often found in nutrition supplements that also contain creatine, can cause a crash that leaves you feeling more tired.
Creatine Makes Me Sleepy: 7 Reasons Why You Feel Tired When Taking Creatine
Creatine is a widely researched supplement that’s considered safe for most of the population. As exercise physiologist, psychologist, and registered dietitian Dr. David Creel says:
“There really doesn’t appear to be any major hazards to it, which is kind of unique for a supplement.”
That said, creatine can cause side effects such as diarrhea. However, fatigue is not a direct side effect of creatine. There could be a number of other factors contributing to you feeling tired when taking creatine. These might include:
- Dehydration: Are You Drinking Enough Water?
- Sleep: Is Creatine Altering Your Sleep Pattern?
- Type Of Creatine: What Is In Your Creatine Supplement?
- Other Supplements: What Other Supplements Are You Using?
- Nutrition: Are You Eating In A Calorie Deficit?
- Training: Has Your Training Output Increased?
- Dosage: How Much Creatine Are You Taking?
Dehydration: Are You Drinking Enough Water?
Creatine is a water loving supplement, so when you’re using it, water will be drawn into your muscles. By introducing creatine, you are increasing the amount of water that is directed to your muscles and away from other systems.
So, if you aren’t drinking enough water to support your creatine use and maintain your bodily functions, you could be suffering from dehydration. This could cause fatigue and tiredness because your body is not getting the fluid it needs to regulate temperature and function properly.
- Related Article: Does Creatine Make You Thirsty? 6 Reasons
Sleep: Is Creatine Altering Your Sleep Pattern?
Introducing creatine to your diet could see an increase in energy to the brain, resulting in you feeling more awake for longer and taking longer for your brain to register its time to wind down and prepare for sleep.
If your sleep system is altered when you’re using creatine, you might be left feeling tired and fatigued as a result.
There is limited available research around creatine’s impact on sleep, however, one notable study conducted on rats attempted to explore this connection by monitoring the sleep, wake cycle of rats who had creatine added to their food.
The study found that sleep time was reduced and sleep structure was altered. While the study was not undertaken on humans and it doesn’t specifically address a connection between creatine and tiredness, it does provide some relevant considerations:
- ATP is used as an energy source for your brain cells throughout the time you are awake. It slowly degrades the longer you are awake and as it does this contributes to the process that occurs in our brain to get us ready for rest and sleep.
- With creatine supplementation, increasing ATP energy stores in the brain, this potentially extends the time we are awake because there is more energy working through the brain taking longer to degrade. The increased ATP may also lower our sleep intensity because there are higher levels of energy in the brain.
If creatine is in fact causing you to be awake longer, and impact your sleeping rhythm and routines, you may experience some tiredness and carry over fatigue.
- Learn more about creatine in the article Most Common Types of Creatine.
Type Of Creatine: What Is In Your Creatine Supplement?
When you are taking creatine as part of a hybrid supplement or mixing your creatine in with another supplement, like pre-workout, some of the other ingredients in that may be causing you to feel tired.
Pre-workout typically includes stimulants like caffeine, at around 400-500mg per serving. For comparison, a typical cup of coffee has around 100mg of caffeine. After experiencing the high of pre-workout where you’re feeling revved up, firing and ready to smash your training, you can experience a caffeine crash.
A caffeine crash will leave your feeling tired and fatigued and is the result of too much caffeine consumption.
- Related Article: Should Beginners Take Creatine? Who SHOULD & Should NOT Use
Other Supplements: What Other Supplements Are You Using?
Pre-workout is one of the more obvious supplements that contain stimulants like caffeine, which when taken in high doses frequently can cause fatigue.
Have a think about other supplements you’re taking as well:
- If you are drinking coffee, energy drinks or taking caffeine tablets in addition to your pre-workout, this can also leave you feeling tired, again because of that increased caffeine consumption and subsequent crash.
- If you’re using steroids this can affect energy levels as hormones in your body adjust.
- If you’re taking an L Carnitine supplement, check to see what else is in the ingredient panel, these may also have a caffeine component to them.
- If you’re trying to increase vascularity and taking a supplement to assist, many of these may contain stimulant ingredients which may contribute to feeling tired.
It is important to dose any supplements you are taking in the context of other supplements to ensure you are minimising potential side effects and maximising benefits.
Registered Dieticians and nutrition coaches are able to assist with any questions you may have around this, specific to your needs (make sure to contact us to discuss further).
Nutrition: Are You Eating In A Calorie Deficit?
When you take creatine you are providing your muscles with an increased source of energy to support increased muscle performance during your workouts.
This means you’re likely working harder and expending more energy than you were prior to taking creatine. If you aren’t consuming enough calories to support this, you could be left feeling tired.
With the ability to work harder during your workouts, you will be placing increased energy demands on your body.
So, if you’re using creatine and in an intentional calorie deficit to drop body fat at the same time, you may be creating too much of a calorie deficit and not getting in enough food and energy, leaving you feeling lethargic and tired.
Training: Has Your Training Output Increased?
So, you’re creatine supplementation is supporting changes in your muscles enabling you to push yourself harder during workouts and achieve:
- Greater performance output; and
- Increased muscle mass.
This growth requires you to consume enough calories to recover from your workouts and repair your muscles so they’re able to grow. If you’re not supporting your training efforts on creatine with appropriate nutrition, you could find yourself with low energy and feeling tired.
Dosage: How Much Creatine Are You Taking?
For some people, taking creatine can cause them to feel mild gastrointestinal side effects, like stomach pains, causing you to poop more. This is typically attributed to the amount of creatine that is being consumed.
In instances where you are consuming creatine in higher doses and its having an impact on your guts, your body could be losing nutrients through aggressive poop sessions and fighting to repair itself. If this is happening regularly, then it could also be affecting your energy levels.
Should You Stop Taking Creatine If You’re Getting Tired?
If you’re feeling tired using creatine, before deciding whether you should stop taking it try some of these tips:
- Check your water intake to ensure you are adequately hydrating. You want to make sure you are getting in enough water to support your creatine use and your usual body functions. Try incorporating a glass of water on waking, before and after meals and snacks and sipping on it consistently when working out.
- Review your supplement regime. If your creatine comes from a hybrid supplement or is being mixed with another supplement containing ingredients like caffeine, you can either try taking creatine in isolation or you could cycle your pre workout to give your body a break from the stimulants.
- Look at your supplement regime in its entirety, because there could be a cumulative effect of certain ingredients across many supplements affecting your energy levels.
- Look at your nutrition plan to ensure it aligns with your performance goals, activity level and body composition goals for sustained results. Reach out to a nutrition coach if you need targeted assistance with this.
- Some studies have shown citric acid to be beneficial in improving physical fatigue during workouts. Perhaps have a conversation with a professional to see if this would benefit you and any tiredness you’re experiencing.
- Pay attention to how much creatine you’re consuming and how your body is feeling. Research has shown daily servings of 3-5g of creatine will deliver sustained results. There isn’t any benefit to smashing down tonnes of creatine daily, because whatever you don’t need you excrete. Don’t be wasteful and don’t put any pressure on your body to process something unnecessarily.
While your body is adaptable, it can be sensitive to changes, so be mindful of the big picture and think about how everything you’re doing, or not doing, is connected.
If you’re feeling confused or still without answers, particularly around sustained tiredness or fatigue, consult with a health professional.
Does The Brand of Creatine Matter When It Comes To Feeling Tired?
Generally speaking, the brand of creatine you’re using isn’t likely to matter when trying to understand why you’re feeling tired taking it.
What you should focus on instead is the ingredients of your creatine supplement. It is important the ingredients in your supplements are good quality and have been studied for their safety and efficacy.
Creatine monohydrate is the most common and extensively studied type of creatine. It has an excellent safety profile and while it doesn’t guarantee you won’t experience any side effects, it does minimise the probability. Given its proven record, it is best to ensure this is the creatine ingredient contained in the supplements you’re taking.
For creatine only supplements:
- The ingredient panel should only include creatine monohydrate
- The ingredient panel may also cite, ‘Creapure’, this is the main brand of creatine monohydrate used in the majority of reputable creatine supplements.
For hybrid creatine supplements, like pre-workout with creatine:
- The creatine ingredient should be ‘creatine monohydrate’
- For the other ingredients in your pre-workout, be mindful that stimulants can cause you to feel tired.
Other Creatine Resources
- Creatine Makes Me Feel Dizzy: Why & How To Fix
- Does Creatine Make You More Hungry? (What The Science Says)
About The Author
Steph Catalucci | Nutrition Coach
@macronutritionau | macro-nutrition.com.au
Steph Catalucci is an online nutrition coach from Australia, working with clients all over the world. Her passion for nutrition was born through wanting to treat her body better, for health and performance. She is a strong advocate for understanding nutrition to develop informed nutritional habits that go beyond just food. Steph leverages a decade of her own nutritional experience to help people make sense of the noise and carve a path forward with their nutrition, supporting clients with whatever body composition goal they have. When not coaching or writing, you’ll find her training for her next powerlifting competition.