Taking 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 supplementation.
Here’s a Quick Summary of Our Key Findings:
- There are several side effects which you can experience when you stop supplementing with creatine.
- It’s alright to stop supplementing with creatine if you don’t need its benefits anymore, such as increased muscle mass.
- You can cycle supplementing with creatine to avoid becoming dependent on it to lose weight.
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 after stopping creatine supplementation.
Let’s start with feeling tired.
Creatine supplementation 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 supplementing with 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 after stopping creatine.
It will probably take a few weeks to feel normal again.
2. Muscle Weakness
Along with fatigue, you will notice that decreased creatine production causes you to 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 supplementation.
3. Water Weight Loss
I know a few people who tend to freak out when they lose water weight after stopping taking creatine supplementation. They fear that it’s their hard-earned muscle gain going away.
It’s not muscle weight they are losing, but water weight. (Although later I’ll discuss how you could end up with loss of muscle mass when you stop taking creatine).
Creatine is known for retaining water in your muscles. If you’re looking to make your muscles look bigger, then water weight 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 after stopping creatine supplementation. Your muscles only look smaller because they aren’t retaining water weight.
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, thus resulting in decreased creatine production.
Your body will eventually resume normal creatine production, and there’s no current evidence that this causes long-term damage, such as creatine withdrawal.
5. Loss Of Muscle Mass
Creatine supplementation doesn't directly give you muscles but provides ATP energy to exercise harder, giving you more muscle growth.
You'll notice a drop in energy levels and muscle weakness when you're stopping creatine intake. 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 levels itself.
If you’re disciplined enough, then you can easily avoid losing your muscle.
6. Creatine Withdrawal
The words “creatine withdrawal” make 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 optimal creatine levels could help with short-term memory and reasoning abilities .
Just like with muscle, the brain also gets used to relying on a supplement. It may take some time to get used to after stopping creatine intake.
You may experience some mental fatigue while your body readjusts with natural creatine production. It should be temporary and should resolve in a couple of weeks, returning to normal creatine levels.
Know more what will happen by watching this video.
Should You Stop Taking Creatine?
Creatine is one of the safest supplements on the market despite the side effects like muscle weakness. It’s proven to be safe for short and long-term use .
You may consider stopping creatine 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 and stabilize your creatine levels.
Here are some of the best alternatives to creatine.
- Does Creatine Expire? How to know when it goes bad
- Should You Take Creatine Before Bed?
- Creatine vs Beta-Alanine: What's the Difference?
- Does Creatine Affect Drug Test Results?
Do I Need To Cycle Creatine?
Some people recommend stopping creatine intake occasionally. One popular recommendation is to take creatine for 12 weeks and then stop for a month to normalize creatine levels.
The idea is that it will help your body not be dependant on a supplement and restore natural creatine production. 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.
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, healthy weight gain, 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, even with the decreased water weight.
One study suggested that long-term use (up to 5 years) had no negative effects on the liver or kidney .
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 supplementation include:
- Weight gain
Weight gain and bloating occur because creatine causes water weight 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 and increasing your creatine levels.
Kidney or liver damage is another common concern. Research shows that creatine doesn’t have an impact on kidney or liver damage .
There are reports that creatine causes dehydration and cramps, but studies show the exact opposite. Creatine can actually help reduce dehydration and cramps .
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 supplements. You can read our full article here: Should Women Take Creatine?
When Is The Best Time to Take Creatine?
Take creatine supplementation at least 30 minutes before your workout. You can read our full article here: When Is The Best Time to Take Creatine?
What Happens When You Stop Taking 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 without the creatine supplementation.
We also have trusted creatine supplements that are safe for long-term use. As long as it matches your fitness goals, I see no reason to stop consuming it.
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