Can Creatine Cause Anxiety? Exploring the Psychological Effects of Supplements - Lucid™

Can Creatine Cause Anxiety? Exploring the Psychological Effects of Supplements

Written by: Kat Austin



Time to read 7 min

Creatine is a popular supplement known for its benefits in improving athletic performance, brain health, and mood. Some people who try creatine, however, experience a different effect, leading them to wonder: can creatine cause anxiety?

Unfortunately, the answer isn't so clear cut. There are some anecdotal reports and limited studies that insinuate a connection between creatine and anxiety, especially for those with pre-existing mental health conditions. On the other hand, some evidence points to the opposite–creatine may actually decrease anxiety for some people.

To clear this up, we're going to take a deep dive into the link between creatine and anxiety, exploring scientific research and anecdotal evidence. Let's start with the basics:

Key Takeaways

  • Creatine's impact on anxiety is unclear and may vary, especially in those with mental health conditions.

  • It may offer cognitive and mood benefits that help alleviate anxiety symptoms.

  • Effects depend on dosage, individual differences, and interactions, so careful management is crucial.

What is Creatine?

Creatine is a naturally occurring compound found in small amounts in certain foods like red meat and fish. It's synthesized in the human body from amino acids, primarily in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas.

Creatine phosphate in muscles helps regenerate ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the primary energy carrier in cells, which is why it's commonly used to enhance physical performance and muscle growth.

There are several forms of creatine supplements available, with creatine monohydrate being the most studied and widely used. Athletes and bodybuilders frequently use creatine to improve strength, increase lean muscle mass, and enhance recovery times–but that's not where creatine's benefits end.

The Science Behind Creatine and Brain Function

As we mentioned, creatine boosts ATP, which is also the primary energy source for the brain.

This is why creatine may also have some benefits for boosting cognition or managing mood disorders like depression.

Some studies suggest that creatine supplementation can have positive effects on brain function. Creatine is thought to improve cognitive functions such as memory and reduce mental fatigue by enhancing energy availability in the brain.

This potential cognitive benefit is due to creatine's role in increasing phosphocreatine stores in the brain, which in turn helps maintain ATP levels during demanding mental tasks. However, the mechanisms through which creatine might affect mood and mental health are still under investigation, which is why we must take a careful, open minded approach to answering the question of whether creating causes anxiety.

What is Anxiety and What Causes It?

Anxiety is a common mental health condition characterized by excessive worry, fear, and apprehension. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and include restlessness, increased heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating, and difficulty concentrating.

Several factors contribute to the development of anxiety, including genetic predisposition, environmental stressors, lifestyle factors, and underlying medical conditions. Understanding the potential triggers and causes of anxiety is essential for managing this condition effectively.

What is the Link Between Creatine and Anxiety?

To address the question, "Can creatine cause anxiety?" it's essential to review existing scientific literature and research on the subject.

Creatine and Anxiety Research

A handful of studies have indicated that creatine may have a negative impact on anxiety. Two human trials ( 2000 , 2007 ) have indicated that creatine may worsen anxiety, but it's important to note that anxiety was not the primary focus of this research.

Furthermore, the latter study focused specifically on subjects who had been previously diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder. This highlights the need for research regarding creatine's impact on anxiety in healthy adults and in those with a pre-existing anxiety disorder.

Some evidence suggests that people suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder are more likely to have low creatine levels in their prefrontal white matter. This indicates that creatine deficiency could be either a cause or effect of anxiety, meaning that creatine supplements may be helpful. However, more research is needed to determine how creatine could be used in this manner.

Potential Indirect Effects on Anxiety

While direct evidence is lacking, some researchers suggest that creatine might have indirect effects that could influence anxiety.

For instance, increased energy and improved physical performance might lead to better overall well-being, potentially reducing anxiety. Conversely, some users report experiencing sleep disturbances due to increased energy levels, which could exacerbate anxiety symptoms.

Potential Benefits for Anxiety

As mentioned previously, there is some indication that anxiety sufferers may have lower levels of brain creatine, which indicates a potential therapeutic avenue that has not been deeply explored. Still, it's possible that creatine may help to improve symptoms of anxiety for some people.

For instance, some evidence suggests that a single dose of creatine may be helpful for enhancing cognition caused by sleep deprivation, which is common in people with anxiety.

Clinical and preclinical research suggests that creatine may impact neurotransmitters and mood in a positive way. Most of the research looks at the impact of creatine on depression. This is relevant because anxiety and depression fall under the same umbrella of mood disorders and often coincide.

Evidence suggests that creatine could help remedy depression, likely by restoring brain homeostasis and improving brain energy levels. For instance, research has found that creatine may:

  • enhance the effects of SSRIs ( 2012 )

  • increase dopamine production ( 2012 )

  • activate 5HT1A receptors implicated in depression ( 2013 )

Furthermore, creatine has recently been highlighted for its potential nootropic effects, which may help to improve memory and eliminate brain fog. Both poor memory and brain fog are common in those with anxiety, so this indicates another way that creatine may help.

Factors Influencing Creatine’s Effects on Anxiety

Several factors can influence whether creatine supplementation might affect anxiety levels:

Dosage and Individual Differences

The amount of creatine consumed and individual differences such as body weight, metabolism, and sensitivity to supplements can impact how creatine affects a person. Higher doses might increase the likelihood of side effects, including anxiety.

Interaction with Other Substances

Creatine might interact with other supplements or medications, potentially influencing its effects on the body and mind. For example, combining creatine with caffeine, a known stimulant, could increase anxiety in sensitive individuals.

Pre-existing Mental Health Conditions

Individuals with pre-existing mental health conditions, such as anxiety disorders, might be more susceptible to experiencing changes in anxiety levels when taking creatine. It's crucial for these individuals to consult healthcare professionals before starting any new supplement regimen.

How to Take Creatine Without Worsening Anxiety

For those considering creatine supplements, it's essential to take a proactive approach to managing both supplement intake and mental health:

  • Monitor and Adjust Dosage: Start with a low dose of creatine and gradually increase it while monitoring for any adverse effects. If anxiety or other symptoms arise, reduce the dosage or discontinue use. Many people who take creatine for nootropic benefits take around 2-3 grams per day, while 5 gram doses are more common in those using creatine for athletic purposes.

  • Consult Your Doctor: Before starting creatine or any new supplement, consult with healthcare providers, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions or are taking other medications. Professional guidance can help mitigate potential risks.

  • Implement Anti-Anxiety Lifestyle Strategies: Incorporate lifestyle changes and coping strategies to manage anxiety effectively. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, adequate sleep, and mindfulness practices such as meditation or yoga can help reduce anxiety symptoms. A therapist or lifestyle coach can help you identify and make these changes at a pace that's approachable for you.

  • Avoid Alcohol : Alcohol can exacerbate anxiety and interfere with the body's ability to process creatine. Limiting or avoiding alcohol consumption can help maintain a stable mental state and enhance the effectiveness of creatine.

  • Stay Hydrated: Proper hydration is crucial when taking creatine, as dehydration can contribute to anxiety and other health issues. Aim to drink plenty of water throughout the day to support overall health and the effectiveness of creatine.

  • Prioritize Rest (and Creatine Timing): Ensure you're getting adequate rest, as sleep is vital for mental health and muscle recovery. Consider taking creatine at a time of day that doesn't interfere with your sleep patterns, such as in the morning or after a workout, to avoid any potential sleep disturbances.

Conclusion: Does Creatine Cause Anxiety?

In conclusion, the question "Can creatine cause anxiety?" remains complex and multifaceted. While only limited scientific studies support a direct link between creatine supplementation and increased anxiety, individual experiences vary, and certain factors such as dosage, interactions with other substances, and pre-existing mental health conditions can influence outcomes.

As with any supplement, it's crucial to approach creatine use thoughtfully and under the guidance of your doctor.

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  1. “No effect of heavy resistance training and creatine supplementation on blood lipids”

  2. “Creatine monohydrate in resistant depression: a preliminary study”

  3. “Decreased choline and creatine concentrations in centrum semiovale in patients with generalized anxiety disorder: relationship to IQ and early trauma”

  4. “Single dose creatine improves cognitive performance and induces changes in cerebral high energy phosphates during sleep deprivation”

  5. “A randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial of oral creatine monohydrate augmentation for enhanced response to a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor in women with major depressive disorder”

  6. “Antidepressant-like effect of creatine in mice involves dopaminergic activation”

  7. “Evidence for the involvement of 5-HT1A receptor in the acute antidepressant-like effect of creatine in mice”