If you’re reading this article, you probably know what a great supplement creatine is, especially if you’re a lifter. However, if you’re not, what happens if you take creatine without working out?
If you take creatine without working out, your muscles will fill their creatine reserves and your body will excrete the rest. There are not normally any adverse effects of taking creatine, even if you aren’t regularly exercising.
On top of this general explanation, there are a number of things that do occur in your body when you take creatine without going to the gym. Below, I’ll go over them one by one.
Your Body Fills Its Creatine Reserves
I’ll start this off by giving a quick refresher on how creatine actually works. Within your muscles, each muscle cell has the capacity to store a certain amount of creatine. These are known as “creatine reserves”.
When you take creatine, what you’re essentially doing is trying to keep these reserves filled up. When your reserves are filled, your body has lots of it at the ready to give your muscles more energy when they need it, like during a workout.
If you want to make sure that your reserves are filled up as quickly as possible, check out this article I wrote on creatine loading phases. It could cut down the time it takes by 75%!
However, if you’re not working out, these reserves won’t be depleted as quickly. This means that excess creatine you’ll likely take the next day will pretty much go to waste.
When you work out, your body starts to use up your creatine reserves. The next day using the creatine that you take, or whatever may be in your stomach, your body refills these reserves.
The best creatine you can use to fill up your reserves is Bucked Up’s Micronized Creatine (link to Amazon). I also wrote a review about it and why it’s my favorite, so check that one too if you want to know more.
When you don’t work out, your body doesn’t need to fill up its reserves as much as it would if you were working out.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and just means that you’re probably wasting creatine, which brings me right to my next point!
Your Body Excretes More Creatine
Because you’re not working out, and your body has a lot of extra creatine, most of it is going to go unused.
As I mentioned earlier, if your creatine reserves are already filled up, and you take more creatine, it has nowhere to go. If you’re pouring a glass of water, and the glass fills up, but you keep pouring, the extra water is going to spill and “go away”.
In this scenario, your body will attempt and fail to stuff more creatine into your reserves. Don’t worry though, this isn’t harmful.
When this happens, you’ll simply excrete the extra creatine through urine. If you continue to not work out, this will happen day after day as long as you continue to take creatine, wasting the supplement and your money in the process.
To combat this, just take a little bit less creatine than a normal dose would be. I actually spent a lot of time building out a creatine dosage calculator, so you can use that!
If you do, just look at whatever dosage you get, and take a bit less. Or, if you don’t care about the waste, just take whatever number the calculator gives you.
One benefit to this is that if you do decide to start working out, or if you have a day where you’re doing physical work, your muscles will be primed and ready to deliver you extra energy!
More Energy for Simple Activities
As I just mentioned, having pre-filled creatine reserves can benefit you in the event that you start working out or have a busy day.
Decided to start working out/lifting weights? Need to help a friend move? Going for a hike? If any of these things happen, you’ll have extra energy from creatine at the ready.
This same concept can also help you day-to-day. Regardless of if you’re working out, your body does use creatine every single minute to power your muscles.
This means that your body has more energy for day-to-day tasks and activities than it would if you weren’t taking creatine.
Just walking and using your arms/hands takes up creatine that needs to be replenished somehow, whether it’s from your diet or from supplements.
Increased Water Weight
This one will happen whether or not you’re working out.
Creatine attaches to and stores water with it in your muscles. This can actually cause your muscles to look bigger, even if you’re not working out! Unfortunately, it’s superficial and you won’t actually be any stronger.
Either way, creatine may cause some bloating. You can combat it, sure, but it happens to most people that take it no matter what.
I wrote another article on how to prevent creatine bloating and lessen its effects, so check that one out too if you’re worried about it.
You May Become Thirstier
This is another one that happens whether you’re lifting or not but could be made even worse if you’re not.
As I mentioned earlier, creatine causes you to hold more water weight. When this happens, water is being pulled from other parts of your body.
Unfortunately, this can cause other parts of your body to become dehydrated. This makes it very important that you drink lots of water.
On top of it being important to drink more water, you’ll probably be thirsty and uncomfortable if you don’t.
If you really aren’t working out, and your body has lots of creatine to cycle in and out, combined with the fact that you’re drinking more water, you’ll probably find that you have to go to the bathroom a lot.
Annoying, sure, but it’s hard to get around this one. Even though it’s annoying, make sure you’re getting enough water throughout the day.
Upset Stomach From Too Much Creatine
Even if you’re regularly working out or lifting weights, creatine is known to upset people’s stomachs. If you’re not regularly exercising, this can be made even worse, because creatine has to pass through your digestive system so quickly.
Normally, after you take creatine and it goes to your reserves, it’s converted into ATP where your body then turns it into energy. On the flip side, when your reserves are already filled, your body has to get rid of the extra creatine, as I’ve already mentioned a few times.
If you’re not working out, this sends the creatine that you take on a big loop through your digestive system, through your stomach, and then your urinary system.
If you have an especially sensitive stomach, you may experience some bad digestive problems. If you’re experiencing this, the first thing I’d recommend is to start working out! This can alleviate some of your issues.
Otherwise, again, try lowering your dose. This will make it easier on your stomach and should get rid of your digestive problems.