Creatine supplementation is becoming more and more popular with teen athletes today, and for good reason. Creatine has over 1000 scientific studies showing its safety and efficacy.
But many are understandably unsure about whether taking creatine at such a young age is safe and find themselves asking the question; is creatine safe for teens?
Whether you’re a concerned parent or a young athlete unsure of creatine’s safety, we’ll be looking at all of the science to give you a clearer picture on this topic.
In our evidence-based guide, you’ll find out the effect of creatine on young athletes, its benefits, and its risks, so you can make a better informed choice.
BRIEF REVIEW & KEY TAKEAWAYS
- Creatine has a fantastic safety record and is generally considered safe for teens
- The International Society of Sports Nutrition conclude that sport organizations and government legislatures that discourage creatine use could actually be placing teen athletes at GREATER risk of injury
- A recommended daily dose for teens is 3-5g daily
- Go for creatine monohydrate; the most studied form of the supplement
- There are some scenarios in teens where you may want to exercise caution with taking creatine
Is Creatine Safe for Teens?
Based on all existing scientific literature, supplementing with creatine is safe for teens. 
No study has ever reported any adverse effects of short-term or longer-term (5 years) for teens (except one very small study, which we’ll discuss later), while many studies have found performance and health benefits of taking a creatine supplement for high school athletes and adult athletes alike.
Creatine is not on the banned substances list and is a naturally occurring nutritional supplement. We also consume it through the various foods in our diet like fish and red meat.
There are no legal restrictions on selling creatine and you can find it at most online retailers or health food stores.
There’s no minimum age requirement, nor does the packaging usually prohibit young adults from taking the supplement.
Products that do label against use for those under 18 are often doing so to protect themselves against legal liability.
While most of the data comes from studies and research on adults, there is enough evidence supporting the safety of creatine monohydrate for infants and teen athletes.
Why do Some Institutes Advise Against the Use of Creatine For Teens?
The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Academy of Pediatrics are two bodies that recommend against the use of creatine for teens and teen athletes. 
Based on the large amount of sports nutrition evidence on creatine supplements for teen athletes, this recommendation has no scientific merit.
We can only assume that these organizations are erring on the side of extreme caution, since the safety record of creatine is very good in healthy young athletes.
In fact, the International Society of Sports Nutrition, concluded that sport organizations and government legislatures that discourage creatine use could be placing teen athletes at GREATER risk of injury. 
How Much Creatine Can Teens Take?
It is recommended that teens take a daily dose of 3 to 5 grams of creatine.
A loading period of 20-25 grams daily for 7 days is often advised to see results more quickly (results can be seen within 1 week vs 4 weeks) before reverting to the long-term maintenance dose of 3-5 grams, but isn’t necessary (but also isn’t unsafe).
All available studies, both short and long-term, in healthy and diseased populations, from infants to teens to the elderly, at doses ranging from 0.3 – 0.8 g/kg daily for up to 5 years, have consistently shown that taking a creatine supplement does not pose negative health risks.
The upper range of that dose is 48 grams daily for a 60kg/132lb athlete! This is almost 10x the effective dose and is certainly not recommended, but is a good example of the safety of creatine.
Which Type of Creatine is Safest For Teens?
Creatine monohydrate powder is by far the most studied safe and effective form of creatine for teens.
When shopping for creatine, you may see a whole range of different types like HCL, KreAlkalyn and more.
In terms of effectiveness, most fall well short of plain monohydrate powder and don’t have anywhere near the amount of safety data.
Benefits of Creatine Supplementation
The International Society of Sports Nutrition, in an analysis that references over 250 studies, showed that using supplemental creatine improves sports performance and health.
The benefits of creatine monohydrate supplementation include:
- aiding muscle growth
- aiding muscle recovery
- aiding to improve body composition
- aiding sports performance and recovery
This makes it one of the go-to natural, performance-enhancing supplements.
1) Increased Energy Production
Keeping up with high-intensity exercise is often a challenge. Many athletes are left out of breath in sports with shorter recovery periods in between intense work periods.
With the help of creatine, engaging in a short-burst intense activity can be improved by up to 18%. 
There’s a notable improvement in the exercise performance of a teen athlete, as well as their exercise capacity and training adaptations in anaerobic activities.
However, there was no improvement in aerobic activities, such as long-distance running.
2) Improve Muscular Performance
One of the main reasons many choose to take extra creatine supplementation is to improve performance and the contracting ability of the muscles.
Whether it’s an intense game of soccer, or a high intensity lifting session at the gym, you’ll see a noticeable improvement in muscular performance.
This is because creatine supplementation helps to increase stores of creatine in the muscles which helps generate more ATP; the muscle’s currency for energy production.
Overall, this translates to more energy, muscle power, and stamina.
And for budding youth athletes, who wouldn’t want these improvements?
3) Increase Muscle Strength
Research on adults shows that supplemental creatine helps improve and increase muscle strength and lean body mass.
This is very important for teens who want an increase in body weight, muscle mass, and muscle energy.
4) Treat Children with GAMT or AGAT Deficiency
Creatine users aren’t always high school athletes. Some are children that suffer from GAMT or AGAT deficiency.
GAMT deficiency is a condition affecting the body’s creatine production, affecting both the brain and muscles.
If left untreated, GAMT deficiency can lead to severe neurological problems.
AGAT deficiency also affects the brain. It can lead to some intellectual disabilities when left untreated and a delay in developing motor skills.
Creatine plays an important role in increasing the brain’s creatine levels in GAMT and AGAT-deficient children.
When Creatine Supplementation May be a Risk For Teens
Now that you know of the benefits of creatine, it’s time for us to discuss the risks for teen athletes.
While we know the safety profile of creatine supplements is excellent in active adolescents (and across all age groups), there are some scenarios where we would exercise caution or advise against creatine altogether.
Here are the things you should be wary of if your teen has any of the following conditions:
1) Liver and Kidney Problems
Most studies confirm that creatine doesn’t have adverse effects on the kidneys and liver in both short and long-term studies.
But what if you have impaired kidney function or liver damage already?
Well, one study on a single male with one kidney showed no negative effects after a loading phase and a month of maintenance dose (the loading dose was 20g daily for 7 days, followed by 5g daily for 30 days). 
There was another controlled trial in Type 2 diabetics with kidney disease that showed no harm to their kidneys after 5g daily of creatine for 12 weeks. 
As you’ll notice, there are a few issues with these studies. Firstly, they are short-term and secondly, they aren’t studies conducted on teens.
For that reason, we’d recommend exercising caution or even skipping creatine altogether if your teen has any form of kidney damage until more data is released.
It doesn’t seem to have any harmful effects on an already-diseased liver either , but again, studies are few and far between.
We can’t confidently recommend creatine for people experiencing high blood pressure and other kidney and liver diseases. See your health professional for advice on your specific case.
2) Airway Allergies or Pulmonary Disease
There was one study in teen soccer players that showed mild, unfavorable effects on airway inflammation and airway responsiveness. 
The effect was much greater when they only considered the players with pulmonary allergies (lungs/airways).
The authors did mention that this was just a small sample size (19 players), but it’s still worth exercising caution if your teen has impaired lung function or disease.
3) Body Weight Gain
Weight gain on creatine is often seen as benefit and one of the most popular reasons for its use in youth athletes. The weight gained is functional weight that often improves athletic performance and the look of physique.
This increase in weight is because of the intramuscular water retention caused by creatine. If you were unaware that this occurs or you’re trying to make a specific weight for your sport, it’s worth pointing out.
This being the case, taking creatine is not advisable for individuals trying to manage their weight for a sporting competition with strict weight classes.
Common Myths About the Risks of Creatine
You may have heard some myths around the risks of supplementing creatine, in both teens and adults. Here are the most prevalent:
Research shows that creatine use does not lead to dehydration. 
Either way, to avoid dehydration, you should be drinking a lot of water with creatine and other supplements, especially if you engage in intense workouts.
If you want to know how much water you should drink on creatine <— we cover this in our ultimate guide
Creatine does not cause muscle cramps in neither teens or adults, contrary to popular belief.
The same study referenced above debunks this myth.
Bloating, Gas and Stomach Pains
Creatine does not cause bloating, gas or stomach pains in teens or adults.
We discuss this in greater detail in our ultimate guide which answers the question; does creatine make you fart?
Creatine may cause diarrhea if taken in doses of more than 10 grams at a time, but this is less to do with the ingredient and more to do with the dose.
This is easily fixed by splitting your dosage throughout the day.
We discuss this in great detail in our article about whether creatine makes you poop.
Frequently Asked Questions
We always get many questions about creatine intake, especially for young athletes and high school boys.
We’ve answered two important questions below, which should help you decide whether this supplement is good for your teen.
Will Creatine Stunt the Growth of Teens?
No, it does not cause stunted growth. Parents don’t have to worry about this.
Research shows that creatine actually has the opposite effect. It helps to build muscle optimally, as well as promotes height in growing children.
A study found that kids and young adults who had a balanced diet which included a higher daily intake of creatine (found in animal products), were taller (by 0.3 to 0.6 cm for every additional daily 0.1g of creatine) than their peers who consumed less. 
So compared to the normal growth of a teen not taking supplemental creatine versus one that does, the latter is better.
At What Age Should You Start Taking Creatine?
The answer to this question is simply when your teen would stand to benefit from it i.e. when they’ve taken up a sport that requires short bursts of high intensity work where taking creatine would be of benefit.
But ultimately, it is up to the teenager or his/her parents to decide if or when they are comfortable to do so.
In studies, creatine has been shown to be safe for infants and toddlers, all the way through to older adults.
Very young children should always be under the supervision of a pediatrician when supplementing and only usually for a justifiable reason, such as for children who experience creatine deficiency.
For a young child with no obvious health problems, taking dietary supplements at a young age without your doctor’s consent isn’t advisable.
There is no doubt about the positive effect of creatine supplementation on sports performance in both teens and adults.
It’s been one of the go-to supplements for sports nutrition enthusiasts and any registered sports nutritionist worth their salt would recommend it.
There is enough evidence and information on the safety and efficacy of creatine on young adult populations that you should feel comfortable supplementing with it.
If you’re a teen reading this, do exercise caution and tell someone you’re on creatine, so you can be observed and be under supervision.
Also, if your sport is more aerobic endurance based i.e. steady-paced long distance running, then you won’t benefit much from creatine.
If you’re a worried parent wondering if there’s enough reliable health information on the supplement; worry not. You couldn’t have picked a more studied safe supplement in sports medicine and nutrition.
We hope you enjoyed this guide and had your questions answered in an evidence-based manner.
Let us know in the comments below if you’re a teen athlete or the parent of one who has taken creatine and what your experience was, or if you have any more questions.
NOTE: Always check the labels of any medications you’re taking and if the active ingredient contains any contraindications against creatine or your other workout supplements.
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