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What Happens When You Stop Taking Creatine? The Unexpected Side Effects

Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: April 30, 2021

Consuming creatine is a daily occurrence, and I found myself wondering about the long-term effects of taking it.

What would happen if I stopped consuming it? Would I lose muscle and waste my time taking it in the first place?

I put myself to work and did some research on what happens when you decide to stop taking creatine.

What Are The Side Effects Of Stopping Creatine Use?

Some people don’t realize that your body may have adverse reactions to not taking creatine supplement anymore.

Here are some commonly reported side effects when you stop using creatine.

1. Fatigue

Tired Man

Let’s start with feeling tired.

Creatine creates ATP energy for your muscles. It seems understandable that you will start feeling tired when you stop taking it.

The dosage is usually about 5 grams per day, while your body only naturally creates 1 or 2 grams every day.

The drop in creatine, and therefore ATP energy, will lead you to feel fatigued. You might even struggle to do strength training or other types of fitness and exercise.

It will probably take a few weeks to feel normal again.


2. Muscle Weakness

Along with fatigue, you will notice that you may struggle with your exercise, especially strength training. It may be harder to lift a heavier weight or do as many reps.

Because your body is creating less ATP energy, then your body responds by becoming more tired faster. Your muscles may not be able to keep up with what you were doing while taking creatine.


3. Water Weight Loss

Weight Machine

I know a few people who tend to freak out when they lose weight after stopping taking creatine. They fear that it’s hard-earned muscle mass going away.

It’s not muscle weight they are losing, but water weight. (Although later I’ll discuss how you could end up losing muscle).

Creatine is known for retaining water in your muscles. If you’re looking to make your muscles look bigger, then the water retention can help with that goal. This is why you should increase your water intake when taking creatine.

So it makes sense that you will lose water weight when you stop taking creatine supplementation. Your muscles only look smaller because they aren’t retaining water.


4. Decreased Creatine Production

Your body naturally creates 1 or 2 grams creatine every day to develop ATP energy for your muscle cells.

If you’re a long-term user of creatine, your body is used to having a creatine monohydrate supplement do the work for them.

When you stop taking a creatine monohydrate supplement, your body won’t go back to producing natural levels of creatine. It’s become dependent on supplementation to get creatine.

Your body will eventually make it’s own creatine again, and there’s no current evidence that this causes long-term damage.


5. Loss Of Muscle Mass

Skinny guy showing his muscles

Creatine doesn’t directly give you muscles, but it does provide ATP energy to exercise harder, which can give you more muscle mass.

When you stop taking it, you’ll notice a drop in energy levels. It could lead to not putting in as much effort in your strength training.

The lack of proper strength training is what causes muscle loss, and not necessarily the absence of creatine itself.

If you’re disciplined enough, then you can easily avoid losing your muscle.


6. Creatine Withdrawal

The word “withdrawal” makes creatine sound like a harmful drug, but hear me out.

Most creatine is stored in your muscle, but some of it is stored in your brain. Research suggests that creatine could help with short-term memory and reasoning abilities [1].

Just like with muscle, the brain also gets used to relying on a supplement. It may take some time to get used to not having that much creatine.

You may experience some mental fatigue while your body readjusts. It should be temporary and should resolve in a couple of weeks.

Know more what will happen by watching this video.

youtube

Should You Stop Taking Creatine?

Creatine is one of the safest supplements on the market. It’s proven to be safe for short and long-term use [2].

You may consider stopping if you are no longer looking for the benefits of creatine like bigger-looking muscles or more power for your workouts.

You can consider taking pre-workouts without creatine in case you do decide to stop.

Here are some of the best alternatives to creatine.

Related articles:


Do I Need To Cycle Creatine?

Some people recommend taking a break from creatine occasionally. One popular recommendation is to take creatine for 12 weeks and then stop for a month.

The idea is that it will help your body not be dependant on a supplement and create its own creatine. It’s not an entirely necessary practice. Your body will adjust to the creatine levels, no matter how long you were taking a supplement.

Another common idea I hear is that you need to introduce creatine in a loading phase. It doesn’t increase your chances of building muscle, but it also doesn’t hurt them either.

Read our main article on whether you should cycle creatine or not.


FAQ

white powder on spoon

Is Creatine Bad For You?

Creatine is not bad for you. It is one of the most researched supplements and is generally considered a safe product.

It has well-known benefits like improving gym performance and increasing muscle mass.

Some people may experience temporary side effects, but I’ll discuss what they are later.

How Long Can You Take Creatine?

You can take creatine for as long as you like. There are virtually no adverse reports of long-term use.

One study suggested that long-term use (up to 5 years) had no negative effects on the liver or kidney [3].

You may want to consult with a health professional to determine if creatine is an excellent long-term supplementation option for you.

What Are The Side Effects Of Taking Creatine?

The side effects of taking creatine include:

  • Weight gain
  • Bloating

Weight gain and bloating occur because creatine causes water retention in the muscle cells. It works to make the muscles look more prominent. It’s not always the desired effect for a user, so you should consider the water retention before consuming creatine.

Kidney or liver damage is another common concern. Research shows that creatine doesn’t have an impact on kidney or liver damage [3].

There are reports that creatine causes dehydration and cramps, but studies show the exact opposite. Creatine can actually help reduce dehydration and cramps [4].

It would be safe if taken within the recommended doses. There haven’t been any studies that have shown problems in a healthy person who is taking it within the recommended doses
- Dr. Jon Finnoff Sports Medicine Doctor

Should Women Take Creatine?

It's completely fine for women to take creatine. You can read our full article here: Should Women Take Creatine?

When Is The Best Time to Take Creatine?

At least 30 minutes before your workout. You can read our full article here: When Is The Best Time to Take Creatine?

Final Thoughts

Creatine is one of the most popular and well-researched sports performance supplements. It works to increase your training and support muscle growth.

When you stop taking creatine, you might lose some weight and get extra tired. It is only temporary while your system regulates itself again.

It’s safe to take long-term, and as long as it matches your fitness goals, I see no reason to stop consuming it.

Here are some of our recommended creatine supplements. If you're vegan, you may want to read our best creatine for vegans article.

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29704637
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11224803
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10999421
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12701814

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