WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I STOP TAKING CREATINE?
If you?ve been supplementing with creatine for any real length of time now, you might be wondering what will happen if you stop using it for a set period, or even altogether.
Will you lose all of the positive benefits you achieved during supplementation? Are there any possible side effects associated with suddenly discontinuing creatine usage?
Let?s go over it?
What Happens When I Stop Taking Creatine?
The first thing to keep in mind is that everyone responds to creatine supplementation differently. Some lifters see significant gains from it, while others (up to as high as 30% of the population) are known as 'creatine non-responders' and don't see any noticeable results whatsoever.
The effects that you personally experience once you discontinue creatine supplementation will largely depend on how well you responded to it in the first place. The more significantly you responded, the more noticeable the change will be once you stop, and vice versa.
Creatine benefits your muscle building program in two main ways: by increasing intra-cellular water retention, and by increasing your strength/power in the gym.
Let?s have a look at these two factors?
#1 - Changes In Intra-Cellular Water Retention
Creatine requires additional water in order to be stored inside of your muscle tissue. After your muscles have become completely saturated with creatine (this usually occurs after about 3 weeks of supplementing with 5 grams daily) your muscles should take on a slightly fuller appearance as a result of the increased fluid.
Once you discontinue supplementation and the extra creatine stores have left your body after a few weeks, this additional water retention will no longer be necessary and will be cleared out as well.
For some lifters, this may mean a fairly quick drop of several pounds of water weight once the creatine leaves their system, and for others the effects may hardly even be noticeable. Again, it all depends on how well you responded at the start.
One thing is for sure though, and that is that whatever additional water weight you gained from creatine supplementation when you began will mostly be lost once you discontinue.
#2 - Changes In Strength/Power
This effect is much harder to accurately pinpoint, and again, will vary from person to person.
By increasing the efficiency of your body?s use of ATP (the usable energy molecule within your muscles), creatine improves gym performance and increases your overall strength and power output.
When you stop using creatine, the additional phosphate groups it was previously providing to your muscle cells for enhanced strength will also be diminished.
So, assuming you are someone who does respond well to creatine supplementation, you may notice a small reduction in your overall strength after a few weeks of stopping. However, it likely won?t be to a significant degree as long as you continue with your regular training program.
As far as your actual lean muscle gains are concerned, it's highly unlikely that you?ll notice any decrease there, again, assuming that you continue training and eating in the same way as you were previously.
Are There Any Side Effects To Stopping Creatine Use?
Creatine is the most widely researched sports supplement in the world and has never been shown to be harmful in any way when used within the recommended dosage of about 5 grams daily. This includes periods of cycling on and off.
Your body does adjust its own natural production of creatine in response to external supplementation, but this system is extremely sensitive and adapts virtually instantly. Once you stop taking creatine, your natural production will fall back into the proper range.
The Real Question: Why Stop At All?
Sure, if you didn't see any real results from using creatine in the first place, then obviously there?s no need for you to continue.
Or perhaps you?re just tired of having to worry about taking it every day? you really dislike the taste/texture (pill form is an option here, though)? or you?re travelling and don?t want to take it with you? in those cases, the choice is yours.
But assuming you've been using creatine consistently and have seen positive benefits, why stop taking it at all?
First off, as I covered in detail in a previous article, there is no benefit at all to cycling on and off of creatine. For optimal results you should simply continue with a 5 gram dosage once per day on an ongoing basis.
Secondly, there is no evidence to suggest that continual creatine supplementation over the long term is dangerous to your health in any way.
And thirdly, creatine is very inexpensive, and if you purchase it in bulk it will cost you as low as about 2 cents per gram. On a monthly basis this is equal to about 3 bucks. If the cost really is an issue, keep in mind that most people can probably get away with as little as 3 grams of creatine daily, in which case it drops to just $1.80 per month.
What Happens When I Stop Taking Creatine - Wrap Up
So, if you've been supplementing with creatine to the point of full saturation, and then discontinue, this is what will happen after a few weeks?
1) You will lose the additional water retention your body was using to store the creatine.
2) You may notice a slight reduction in overall strength, but likely not to a significant degree.
3) You will likely retain all of your gains in actual lean muscle.
4) You will not experience any unfavorable side effects.
Once again though, this all depends on the individual and on how well they responded to the creatine in the first place.
If you?re considering stopping but are unsure, your best bet is to simply discontinue for 2-3 weeks and see what happens.
If you do experience a drop in muscle fullness and strength that you aren?t happy with, you can always go right back on. Or, if you don?t notice any real changes at all, you can simply stop altogether.