Does Creatine Make You Thirsty? 6 Reasons

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If you’ve recently started taking creatine, you might find that you’re refilling your water bottle way more often than you used to, and you’re wondering if the creatine is the reason.

So, does creatine make you more thirsty? In the short term (1-3 weeks), creatine can make you thirsty. It draws water into muscle cells, especially if you use high doses (20g/day) in a loading phase. In the long term, creatine is not associated with dehydration, but other factors (like training harder) likely make you thirsty. 

To make sure you understand what creatine does and how it works, and to keep you from running the risk of weakness, cramps, dizziness, and headaches that can come from dehydration, I’ll cover:

  • What creatine does and how it works
  • What the science says about creatine and dehydration
  • Whether the type of creatine has an impact on hydration
  • How much water to drink when taking creatine

Want to know all the known side effects of creatine? Check out our guide on Are There Risks of Taking Creatine?

What Does Creatine Do?

As a supplement, creatine adds to the existing creatine stores in our bodies. These stores are created internally by our bodies and from our food, such as red meat and fish. About 95% of creatine is stored in our muscles, and the rest is stored in the blood, brain, liver, and other tissues.

Supplementing with creatine means we can reach higher levels of creatine stored in our muscles and brain. Specifically, supplemental creatine increases stores of phosphocreatine (PCr).  

Phosphocreatine is used in the energy system in the body that’s responsible for short, explosive efforts such as short track sprints, max lifts, and other intense, short-duration activities.

Increasing the amount of phosphocreatine (PCr) improves the entire system, with the end result being increased muscular force and power and decreased fatigue. This allows us to push harder and for longer in the gym, which leads to more adaptations to training, a.k.a. more lean muscle mass and higher performance.

Because creatine is stored in the cells, higher levels also mean slightly more water is pulled into the cells.

These impacts are most noticeable in the first several days of supplementation, especially if a high-dose (20g/day) loading phase is used. After that, the body’s creatine stores reach saturation levels, and the body fluids balance out.  

Creatine & Dehydration: What the Science Says

Creatine’s popularity and widespread use have meant that researchers have spent a lot of time evaluating its safety and efficacy, specifically whether it leads to dehydration and muscle cramping.

The latest studies on creatine and dehydration show no links between creatine supplementation and dehydration side effects such as cramping, heat illness, or injury. In fact, creatine may enhance performance in hot and/or humid conditions and delay the onset of dehydration

Older, speculative studies based on limited data suggested that because creatine draws water to itself through a process called osmosis, it would likely lead to muscle cramping, especially for someone sweating a lot or exercising in a hot environment.

Based on this information, researchers previously recommended avoiding high-dose creatine supplementation when exercising in hot, humid conditions.

But these studies have been debunked. Newer studies like this one on creatine use and dehydrated men and this one that discusses common misconceptions about creatine point out that there is no scientific evidence to support that recommendation.

If It’s Not The Creatine, Why Am I Thirsty?

Even though creatine use is not linked to dehydration, it can still make you feel more thirsty in the first several days of use because of short-term water retention.

After the first few days of creatine supplementation, other supplements and factors like harder training or changes in nutrition are likely what makes you more thirsty.

Other Supplements

Many individuals start taking creatine with (or as part of) a pre-workout supplement, which often contains stimulants like caffeine that make you pee more. The increased urination is what makes you feel thirsty versus the creatine itself.

This is because when you pee more, your body increases thirst signals to replace the excreted water.

Training Harder

As mentioned, creatine lets you push harder and for longer when training.

Your workouts will be more intense, so you’ll likely sweat more. It’s the increased water loss from sweat that is making you thirsty, not the creatine.

Changes in Nutrition

Starting a supplement like creatine can often be part of a bigger overhaul of your fitness and nutrition, including what and how much you eat.

If you’re using creatine as part of a bulking strategy to add more muscle mass, you’re likely also eating more, too. Digesting a higher volume of food requires more water.  

On the other hand, if you’re using creatine to preserve lean muscle mass during a calorie deficit to lose weight, you’d be eating less. Usually, the biggest drop in calories comes from carbohydrates.  

Carbohydrates store water (3-4g for every 1g of carbs). As your intake and stored carbohydrates in your body go down, your body releases stored water. This can make you feel more thirsty because your body is trying to make up for the lost water.

Other Factors

Many other factors could be making you thirsty that aren’t related to creatine supplementation but are happening simultaneously.

For example, if the weather is getting warmer, you might be sweating more. Or, if the weather is getting colder, you turn up the indoor heating, which tends to result in drier air and makes you thirsty, too.

Does the Type of Creatine You Take Affect Hydration?

Different types of creatine are more or less soluble in water, which could impact how much water you drink when you take your creatine. Since this impacts your total water intake, it can also affect your thirst levels.

It is also possible that the format (powder vs. capsule) of creatine affects hydration. However, this hasn’t been specifically studied, so you’d have to experiment to find what works best for you.

Anecdotally, some users find that they need to drink more water when trying to dissolve powdered creatine compared to using capsules. Creatine doesn’t dissolve well, especially in cold liquids, so they may add more liquid to make the creatine easier to consume.

When your creatine dissolves readily, you’re less likely to feel like you need to drink more water to get rid of the gritty feeling.

If you suspect that solubility (how well your creatine does or doesn’t dissolve in water) impacts hydration, try creatine pyruvate and creatine citrate, which both have better solubility than creatine monohydrate.

Another way to improve solubility is to mix your creatine with hot liquids. Coffee is a common choice because you also get the benefit of a caffeine energy boost.  

But, the tradeoff is that the caffeine might also make you pee more, and you’ll be thirsty to replace the liquids you lose when you pee.  

It’s worth experimenting with different liquids for mixing your creatine to find the sweet spot for your thirst and hydration levels. You don’t want to have to mix your creatine with a gallon of water to wash it down, and you also don’t want to chug a coffee and have to pee three times between working sets.

My best tip is to use ~¼ cup of warm water to dissolve your creatine first, then mix that solution with your preferred liquid.

How Much Water Should You Drink When Taking Creatine?

As a nutrition coach, my general recommendation for daily water intake is to take your body weight in pounds and divide it by two to get the number of ounces of water. Then, adjust as needed based on your thirst and the color of your urine.

For a 180 lb person, this would mean drinking 90 ounces of water each day.

This study recommends 200-250ml of water per 2.5g of creatine. Assuming a daily dose of 5g of creatine, this is only 500ml (16 ounces) of water, which is not enough for the whole day. So, this recommendation is just for the amount of water to take with the supplement.

Try the amount of water you get from the calculation above for at least 3 days. The goal is to get pale urine with little to no odor. You’ll probably need to pee every 1-2 hours during the day.

If you need to urinate more than once per hour and your urine is completely clear with no smell, you might be drinking too much water. On the other hand, if you rarely need to pee and your urine is bright or dark in color and/or strong-smelling, you need to drink more water.

I’d love to give a perfect formula for everyone in every situation, but the truth is that hydration needs change from person to person and from day to day. Pay attention to the cues above, your thirst signals, and how you feel, and adjust as you go.

Additional Tips for Preventing Dehydration When Taking Creatine

additional tips for preventing dehydration when taking creatine

Whether you take creatine in a powder or capsule form, stay mindful of risks and signs of dehydration, such as excessive sweating and/or thirst, frequent urination, headaches, nausea, or dizziness. Promptly discuss concerns with your healthcare provider.

Here are a few tips to prevent dehydration when taking creatine:

  • Set reminders to drink water throughout the day. In general, it’s a good idea to consume water regularly throughout the day and especially before, during, and after intense exercise. You can set reminders or alarms on your smartphone or invest in a Smart Water Bottle that will monitor your water intake and prompt you to drink as needed.
  • Add electrolytes to your water. Electrolytes are dissolved salts (like potassium) that help to draw water into your bloodstream rather than just passing through your digestive system. I like electrolyte tablets like LMNT.
  • Eat more juicy fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables with high water content (like grapes, melons, and tomatoes) contribute to your daily water intake.
  • Avoid diuretics. Certain medications and beverages (such as those that contain caffeine) increase urination, which can cause you to excrete water more quickly than you replace it, leading to dehydration. Coffee is only a weak diuretic, but if your total caffeine content across coffee, food and energy drinks, and pre-workout supplements is high, the effect can be high.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Creatine Dehydrate You?

No, there are no current studies or scientific evidence to support any connections between creatine and an increased risk of dehydration. In fact, supplementing with creatine may delay the onset of dehydration when exercising in hot and/or humid conditions.

Can Creatine Increase Thirst?

Yes, creatine can increase thirst, especially in the short term if you are following a high-dose (20g/day) loading phase. This temporary increase in thirst comes from short-term water retention and is not likely to continue after the first 1-3 weeks.

Other Possible Side Effects of Creatine

To learn more about other possible side effects of creatine, check out our other articles:

About The Author

Lauren Graham

Lauren Graham is a Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified nutrition coach. She focuses on helping busy professionals balance healthy eating and purposeful movement.  Lauren has a background in competitive swimming and is currently competing as a CrossFit athlete.  She has a passion for training, teaching, and writing.