When it comes to supplements, especially creatine, many people wonder about how long you can safely take them. I was wondering that myself, so I did some research. How long can you take creatine without any harmful side effects?
You can take creatine safely for up to 5 years. Creatine usage past 5 years hasn’t been studied, so it can’t be known if it’s safe. If you’re taking creatine at a normal dose, it’s known to be safe for up to 5 years.
While you can safely take creatine for a while, there are some caveats and side effects you should know about if you’re going to be supplementing creatine in the long term. Below, I’ll explain all of these in-depth.
How Long Can I Take Creatine?
According to the Mayo Clinic and other scientific journals, creatine is known to be safe to take for about 5 years. Supplementing creatine any longer than this hasn’t been studied yet, so you can’t be sure that it’s safe. This being said, creatine is probably the most studied fitness supplement that exists, so you can rest assured that normal use of it is safe.
While you can take creatine for up to five years, doctors do have some concerns about its long term use. If you take creatine in high doses for a long period of time, you could incur damage to your liver, kidneys, and heart. With that said, if you take creatine in a normal, 5 grams/day dose, you’re much less likely to be impacted by these side effects.
Other side effects include:
- Gaining weight
- Water weight
- Feeling dizzy
- Stomach pain
- Heat intolerance
- Muscle cramps
- Upset stomach
While these are some possible side effects of creatine, they’re not experienced by all users or even a lot of creatine users. Personally, I’ve taken creatine for years and haven’t experienced any negative side effects.
Creatine is great, and you can take it for a long time without side effects if you get the right brand. I wrote about my favorite brand of creatine, so check that out if you’re interested!
At the end of the day, creatine is safe for up to 5 years if you take a normal, healthy dosage. Doses of creatine more than 5 grams per day, or usage longer than 5 years have the potential for harmful side effects and haven’t been studied thoroughly enough yet to know if it’s safe.
If you’re taking the recommended amount of creatine, you’re most likely not going to experience any harmful side effects, assuming you’re healthy otherwise. Creatine is found naturally in the human body, it’s the most studied supplement out there, and it’s one of the safest supplements available to buy, even in the long term.
Why You Should Use a Creatine Loading Phase
If you don’t know, here’s what creatine loading is. When you take creatine, your muscles keep stores of it to use as energy when it needs it. If you take creatine and start with a 5 grams/day dose, it will take a few weeks for these stores to become saturated.
This means that it will take a few weeks for the creatine to start making an effect on your muscles. Here’s where creatine loading comes into play. Loading creatine is where you take up to 20 grams of creatine per day instead of 5, for about a week.
While I do think you should do a loading phase, you don’t need to. I have another article all about that (linked right above), so check that one out next!
When you do this, your muscles are saturated with creatine much faster, meaning that creatine takes its effect on your body and muscles much faster. Loading can be great if you want results quickly, but it also uses a lot of creatine in the process.
If you’re short on money, I’d recommend not doing a loading phase. Otherwise, creatine loading is great, but you should only do it for about a week, before going to a lower dose of 5 grams per day.
Many people associate creatine loading phases with creatine cycles, where you stop taking it for a period of time, before doing a loading phase again. I’ll go over this more in-depth below, but to put it shortly, cycling creatine isn’t necessary. If you want to learn more about creatine cycling, keep reading this article.
While loading creatine is very beneficial, it’s not necessary to see results. If you choose not to do a creatine loading phase the only benefit you’ll be losing out on is faster results.
You Don’t Need to Cycle on and off Creatine
Before, I mentioned that some people cycle creatine. A creatine cycle is where you do a loading phase, where you take about 20 grams/day of creatine, and a maintenance phase, where you take about 5 grams/day for a few months. After these two phases, you stop taking creatine for a few weeks, before starting over at the loading phase.
The idea behind creatine cycling is that it gives your body a break from supplementation, you stop being as dependent on creatine, and taking it as a supplement becomes more effective. Along with those reasons, it’s common to think that taking a break from creatine will lower your chances of harmful side effects.
All this being said, there’s 0 proven evidence that creatine cycling has any positive impact on its results and 0 evidence that it lowers your risk of side effects or harm to your body. In reality, creatine cycles mean more loading phases, which means you’re using more creatine. Companies that make/sell creatine push the myth of creatine cycling in order to sell more of their supplements and make more money.
If you want to read all the other reasons why I don’t like creatine cycles, check out the article I wrote on why you don’t need to cycle creatine.
Creatine is safe for use for years at a time without cycling it. This is one of the things that bothers me about the fitness industry. Myths are spread by companies in order to make more money, even if they have no basis in truth. The reason I started this website was to combat myths like this and provide information that will save you money, and make more progress with your lifting and fitness goals.
As you learned before, creatine can be used safely for up to 5 years, without a creatine cycle. Choosing to cycle creatine has no proven benefits, and will only waste your supplements and make you spend more money.
What Are Some Common Side Effects of Creatine?
While creatine has many possible side effects that I listed above, there are some that are much more common than others. Below, I’ll go over the most common ones.
Any supplement, creatine included, can cause stomach pain. This can happen for a variety of reasons but can happen when taking any supplement your body isn’t used to. Stomach pain usually goes away after your body gets used to creatine, but if it’s too uncomfortable for you, stop taking creatine right away.
Creatine causes muscle cells to intake water. This means that the cells draw water from other parts of your body. If you aren’t getting enough water intake, this can cause the rest of your body to become dehydrated. You can fix this simply by drinking more water or reducing your creatine intake.
Gaining Water Weight:
As I just mentioned, creatine causes your muscle cells to retain water. this means that all of your muscle cells have more water and therefore more weight. This causes you to be heavier, and for your muscles to look bigger, even if you aren’t actually any stronger. There’s not much you can do to combat this, aside from stopping creatine use altogether.
When taking creatine, you can also experience muscle cramps. This can happen for a variety of reasons, mainly the fact that your muscle cells are physically larger due to the increased water. Again, your body might adjust to the increased levels of creatine, but if it’s too much to handle, stop taking creatine.
While these are relatively minor side effects, there’s always the potential for more serious side effects from creatine. Before taking creatine, or any other supplement, talk to your doctor and make sure you’re in a good enough of a condition.
Most brands of creatine will claim that their brand has fewer side effects than other types. While this sounds great, almost every type of creatine has the potential to cause the same side effects. If you want to learn more, check out my article on every type of creatine and what their differences are!
How Long Should You Take Creatine Before Cycling Off? There is no data showing that you need to cycle creatine, even when you’re taking it long term. If you want more info, here’s an article I wrote on whether or not you need to cycle creatine.
How Do You Take Creatine? For normal use, you should take around 5 grams per day of creatine. You have the option of doing a loading phase, where you take more starting off, which makes creatine effective a lot more quickly but isn’t necessary.
Does Creatine Affect You Sexually? While there are rumors of creatine increasing testosterone, or even lowering your libido, there is no evidence proving that creatine affects you sexually in any way.