Creatine is great, but many people wonder what happens to your body when you stop taking it. What happens when you stop using creatine?
Put very simply, there are multiple things that happen when you stop taking creatine. These include:
- Less energy in your muscles
- Lower natural creatine production
- Losing your water weight
- Decline in strength
- Loss of muscle mass
- Creatine withdrawal
- Faster fatiguing while lifting
While there are definitely things that happen to your body, there are some caveats and ways to limit the side effects. Below, I’ll start with the basics.
If you use a good brand of creatine, you won’t need to stop taking it. You can read about my favorite creatine here! It works, has a great price, and you can get it quickly on Amazon.
Less Energy in Your Muscles
If you didn’t know, creatine works by giving your muscles more ATP, which is what our cells use for muscle. The normal dose of creatine is 5 grams per day, while our bodies naturally produce about 1 or two. When you stop taking the creatine, your levels drop back down to what they were before, or potentially even lower.
Stopping creatine might make you lose some strength. What can help boost your strength, however, is properly tracking your lifts. That’s why I created Gym Notes, a notebook specially made for lifters to track everything they need. Check it out!
This means that your muscle cells will not only be fatigued but physically have less energy in them. When this happens, it just means that your muscles will get tired more easily in the gym, and you might not be able to lift as much or lift for as long as you could as while you were taking creatine.
Don’t worry though, it takes a few weeks for your creatine levels to drop back down. That means that if you miss a day of creatine, you aren’t going to lose all of your gains and progress. Even if you go a few weeks without creatine, if you start taking it again, your endurance will return to what they were before.
Creatine is a great supplement, in fact, it’s one of my favorites. This being said, it’s very important that you pick the right type of creatine. I spent a few years trying different ones and figuring out the right brand, and wrote a whole article on which creatine is the best. If you don’t want to stop taking creatine, read that one next and make sure that you get a good, safe brand of creatine.
Lower Natural Creatine Production
When you take something like steroids for a long time and then stop, it can be a lot harder for your body to produce testosterone naturally. The same happens when you stop taking creatine but to a much lesser extent.
With steroids, it burns out the receptors in your body responsible for producing testosterone, so you produce less naturally. While taking creatine doesn’t burn anything out in your body, if it’s used to you having 5 grams every day, once you stop, it’ll still be expecting all that creatine.
While creatine might have some similarities to steroids, despite a shockingly popular belief, it’s not a steroid. In fact, I wrote a whole other article about how creatine and steroids are different, so check that one out next!
When it’s not there, but your body is still expecting it, it won’t produce the same levels naturally as it was before. However, if you stop taking creatine for long enough, your body will stop expecting it, and start producing regular levels once again.
Losing Your Water Weight
If you didn’t know, when you take creatine, it retains water in your muscles. This means that while you’re taking it, your muscles look bigger than they truly are because of all this extra water in your muscle cells.
When you stop taking it, there’s no creatine in your muscle cells to retain the water. This means that over the course of a few weeks you’ll lose that water, the extra weight, and the bigger size of your muscles too. Although you will lose strength eventually once you go off creatine, this isn’t why.
Water weight may make your muscles look bigger, but it actually has no effect on your strength or athletic ability. Some people get scared that they’re losing their water weight because they think they’re losing muscle.
The opposite of this is one of the major ways that you can see if creatine is working for you. If you want to find out how you can tell that creatine has started working, another article I wrote.
In reality, you have the same amount of muscle, and the individual muscle cells are just smaller. As I mentioned, while not because of losing water weight, you will lose some strength when you stop taking creatine. I’ll go over that next, so keep reading.
Decline in Strength
As I said, you will lose some of your strength when you stop taking creatine. I mentioned this before, but creatine works by giving your muscle cells more ATP, which they use as energy.
When you aren’t taking it, your muscles have less ATP, and in turn, less energy. This means that while you’re working out, you’ll get fatigued faster, which means that you’ll stop making gains at the same rate as before.
Taking pure, high-quality creatine prior to stopping should minimize some of the effects of this by helping build even more muscle while you are taking it. If you want to learn more about what goes into making high-quality creatine, check out my article on how creatine is made!
On top of all that, because your cells have less energy and you aren’t able to lift as much as you could with creatine, you’ll start to lose a lot of the strength that you built while you were one creatine.
Don’t worry though, you can build back this strength as soon as you start taking creatine again. It may take a little while, but if you give it some time, you’ll be back to your same lifting abilities.
Loss of Muscle Mass
On top of losing strength and water weight, you’ll lose some of your muscle mass as well. I mentioned this before, but when you stop taking creatine, you lose a lot of water weight in your muscles.
This already means that you look less big and that your muscles are physically smaller. A side effect of losing strength is that you lose muscle mass itself, and end up looking smaller than before.
A combination of losing muscle mass and water weight can make the effects of stopping creatine intake pretty noticeable, in a matter of a few weeks.
This is why it’s important that if you start taking creatine, stay with it. If you start forgetting to take it, your physique can change pretty quickly, and it can become annoying just as fast. If you’re going to take creatine, stick with it.
While creatine definitely doesn’t have the same withdrawal effects as most drugs, it can still have a small withdrawal effect. Most creatine in your body is stored in your muscle cells, but some of it is actually stored in your brain.
When you stop taking creatine, the stores of it in your brain are depleted, and it can take a while for your body to recognize that the creatine is gone. During this period, while there isn’t any in your brain, you can feel general fatigue.
This isn’t the same as being fatigued while you’re working out, but feeling tired in general, even when you’re not doing anything. Don’t worry though, this will stop soon enough, and you may not even recognize the effects. Eventually, your body will start producing its own creatine again, and you’ll be back to normal, just a little weaker.
Faster Fatiguing While Lifting
While stopping creating intake can leave you fatigued in general, it can also make you feel fatigued faster in the gym. This is because you have less ATP in your muscle cells, which means that you run out of energy more quickly.
As I mentioned before, since you lose energy faster, you won’t be making as much progress in the gym as you were while you were taking creatine. Since you won’t be able to lift as much weight, it’s also another reason that you’ll start to lose your strength.
This being said, you aren’t going to lose all of your strength. When you stop taking creatine, you’ll lose some of your strength, yes, but you’ll still be stronger than when you started taking creatine in the first place.
Is Creatine Bad for You? Creatine is by far the most studied supplement on the market. While there are no proven harmful effects, it can have different effects on everybody. Before taking any supplement, talk to your doctor.
Do You Need to Cycle Creatine? Really, you do not need to cycle creatine. Manufacturing companies may claim a benefit from cycling creatine, but all they’re trying to do is get you to buy more of their supplements.
Should You Stop Taking Creatine While You’re Cutting? While there are no studies that prove this, either way, there are two schools of thought. One is that creatine helps you retain muscle while cutting. The other one thinks that creatine will hinder your cut, and leave you with water weight. In the end, it’s up to you and what works for your body.