Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED

I asked the team here the other week how many of them regularly use creatine supplementation for their own goals as well as with clients.

The result was not surprising, really, as creatine is possibly one of the more important proteins available when it comes to building muscle mass.

But what we’ve seen quite often with clients is that they don’t tend to use it the right way for their workout programs.

Some take it with the wrong timing, while others simply take too much of it.

So, today we want to guide you through the recommended way to get the most out of your creatine supplementation.

What Is Creatine Cycling?

man holding white container

Creating cycling is a process where you change the amount of creatine you take on a daily basis.

The risk of just taking the same amount every day, or before every workout routine, is that your body could get used to it and not respond as effectively.

It’s not so much a health issue or problem with side effects. But you could just end up spending money on products that won’t get the ideal results [1].

So, let’s take a look at what this cycle actually looks like.

The process of cycling creatine would be the same whether you’re taking creatine monohydrate or creatine phosphate.

How Long Should A Creatine Cycle Last?

man with watch

A full creatine cycle should last about ten weeks in total.

And this is how to best break it down.

The Loading Phase (1 - 2 weeks): During the loading phase, you plan for your most intense workout sessions and take between 10 and 20 grams of creatine supplement.

A full creatine cycle should last about ten weeks in total. And this is how to best break it down.

The Loading Phase (1 - 2 weeks): During the loading phase, you plan for your most intense workout sessions and take between 10 and 20 grams of creatine supplement.

The Maintenance Phase (5 to 6 weeks): Your workout routine is still intense, but you’re not constantly pushing to the limits. Aim to take 5 grams of creatine per day.

The Off-Cycle (1 - 2 weeks): This should line up with a slight resting phase where you completely pause using creatine.

What Happens When You Cycle Off Creatine?

Clock Image

When you cycle off creatine, then your body will gradually flush out the surplus amounts over about ten days.

And this is where you could prepare yourself for longer term benefits of these products.

Your body will go back to producing creatine levels of about 2 grams daily so that your muscles still get some of the benefits.

But when you start to take creatine supplements again, then the nutrition boost should trigger better responses in your muscles.

Based on results from many studies [2], this is the way performance and professional athletes would generally approach creatine supplementation.

Dosage Should Depend on Your Goal

In most sports and fitness situations, there are two focus points when it comes to physical fitness. The main difference should really come down to how much creatine supplement you take.

Here’s what I mean.

1 - For Endurance

person running on tracking field

Some nutrition experts think that the creatine cycle is not needed for building endurance in sports like long-distance running and cycling.

However, we have worked with competitive athletes who had quite positive results from loading.

What you should do, though, is reduce the time spent in each phase and half the amounts of supplement intake as well.

2 - For Strength

man with barbel

If you’re trying to bulk up, then I would suggest working with the above-recommended phases and amounts to get the full nutrition benefits.

It’s important to note that people should get the timing right and take their creatine supplements within half an hour of training for maximum effects.

More on this next.

Creatine supplementation should be considered complementary to consuming protein, not a replacement for. That's because creatine and protein work in different ways. In short, creatine leads to more strength during your workout, while protein leads to more muscle repair after your workout.

 

- Brittany Risher, health and lifestyle editor at MensHealth.com

Where Should You Buy?

As for sources, you could aim to eat more meat to get more creatine, but that’s not ideal for your body shortly before a gym session or training for other sports.

That’s why taking creatine as a supplement is what we always recommend.

We have a dedicated guide to supplementing creatine that you can check out here. We’ve done a lot of research over the years to find the most effective ones for muscle growth and weight management as well.

It’s definitely worth taking advantage of that information.

FAQ

powder in glass jar with wooden spoon

How Quickly Does Creatine Work?

Creatine can take up to three days to work. This is because storage needs to gradually increase in muscles. However, once the concentration has increased enough, each new boost should increase energy supply within about 30 minutes.

Should You Take Creatine Every Day?

No, you shouldn’t take creatine every day for an indefinite period of time. First of all, you might be better off changing the dosage throughout each cycle. And secondly, you would need to pause your intake for a while as people’s bodies could react less to each new dose.

Creatine Cycle: Planning You Intake

At this stage, you should be in a position to better understand why it’s important not to take large doses of creatine on a constant basis.

It’s not so much a health issue, but studies have shown that your body will hit a point where it’s saturated, and it won’t improve your energy levels and muscle growth.

To avoid saturation from creatine supplementation, plan out your exercise routine, and then go through the recommended phases above.

And let us know on social media how it worked out for you.

References:

  1. https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12546637/

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