Creatine supplements are fantastic for increasing lean muscle mass and giving you more muscular strength.
On the flip side, what happens when you stop taking creatine? It’s a question I get asked often, and it’s undoubtedly why you’re reading this.
To help you out, this guide will discuss precisely what happens when you no longer take creatine and its effects on your body.
- What Are The Effects On Your Body When You Stop Creatine?
- Should You Stop Taking Creatine? (Expert Advice)
- How To Minimize Losses When You Stop Taking Creatine
- Stopping Creatine Use Related Questions
What Are The Effects On Your Body When You Stop Creatine?
Creatine Withdrawal Symptoms
Creatine withdrawal symptoms do exist, but they aren’t anything to worry about. It’s not like the withdrawal from anabolic steroids, which can create some serious (and long-lasting) problems in your body.
As you’ll no longer be taking creatine daily, your body’s creatine levels will begin to return back to normal levels. There are some temporary side effects that occur during this time, such as brain fog, lethargy, and loss of concentration.
Using creatine has been shown to improve brain function, so when you stop taking creatine, you might notice a temporary drop-off in cognitive function.
I’ve taken creatine for many years now and have only had a handful of breaks in between taking a creatine supplement.
I can honestly say I’ve only experienced mild “withdrawal” symptoms, such as the loss of concentration, but the side effects quickly disperse after a few days.
Overall, I wouldn’t worry too much about these effects when you stop taking creatine supplements.
Fatigue & Lower Energy While Training
Taking creatine supplementation creates ATP in your muscles, which your body uses as energy. This gives you the explosive power and focus you get from taking creatine.
So when it comes to stopping creatine supplementation, it’s no wonder you feel a little sluggish.
Your body naturally uses 1-3 grams of creatine per day, so when your creatine levels drop, you’ll notice some fatigue that can cause lower energy while training.
Once you stop creatine supplementation, it’ll take your body’s creatine stores a few weeks to return back to normal.
This is one of the most common side effects of stopping creatine.
Loss Of Muscle Mass Gains And Muscle Weakness
Along with feeling some levels of fatigue when you stop taking your creatine supplement, you might notice what seems to be a loss of muscle mass and weakness.
However, stopping creatine doesn’t cause you to lose muscle mass. But, it will cause your muscles to hold less water inside the muscle cells, which could cause them to appear smaller. I’ll cover this in more detail in a moment.
Another aspect to consider when it comes to stopping creatine and losing muscle mass is that you won’t feel as strong in the gym or have as much energy.
These two factors can cause you to lose a small amount of muscle because you can no longer work out as hard.
From my experience, I've always managed to maintain any muscle gains during creatine cessation by remaining strict with my training.
Still, I accept that a small amount of muscle is lost, and a temporary bout of mental fatigue occurs.
Another possible side effect of ceasing creatine supplementation is muscle weakness. When you stop taking creatine, you might notice you can’t lift as much weight in the gym.
I’ve noticed a minor decrease in muscle strength. My deadlift and squat PBs drop by a few pounds, but it makes sense as I’ve stopped consuming creatine.
Water Weight Loss
The creatine monohydrate supplement causes some water weight gain in your body. This is because creatine draws water into the skeletal muscle cells, giving you the "muscle fullness" you often hear about when you take creatine.
When you stop taking creatine, the water weight gain begins to reverse, and your muscle cells will begin to release the additional water held in the skeletal muscles and depletes your creatine stores.
Depending on how long you’ve been using creatine, you can lose up to 7 lbs of water retention.
While this weight loss might seem significant, I’ve never found it to make my muscles look any worse. Sure, they look less complete, but they also gain a “harder” look to them once I stop using creatine.
I must state that when the levels of creatine stored in your muscles drop, don't become worried about losing a ton of muscle.
You'll mostly lose water weight and not muscle tissue. When I first began lifting weights, I thought I was losing muscle, but this isn't the case.
Decreased Natural Production of Creatine
When you begin supplementing with creatine, your body might reduce natural creatine production to prevent your body from overproducing creatine.
As your body will have a lower natural creatine production, stopping your creatine intake might take some time for your creatine levels to return to normal.
While your body is in a phase of decreased creatine production, you might see a drop in performance, such as being unable to do as many reps, slower muscle growth, lack of focus, and more. These symptoms will last a few weeks and subside once your creatine production restarts.
Even though this can happen, not everybody will notice it. I’ve found the longer you’ve been taking creatine, the more you’ll see the drop-off.
It’s one of the many reasons I no longer cycle creatine; instead, I take a consistent amount each day without a break (if I can help).
I've always found that constantly supplementing with creatine is better than cycling creatine (e.g., no loading phase or "break").
This is also supported by studies that looked into creatine ingestion and whether the loading phase is needed.
Should You Stop Taking Creatine? (Expert Advice)
You might be wondering whether or not to stop taking creatine and whether it’ll affect your overall exercise performance and strength training.
From my experience, there are only a handful of situations where you should stop taking creatine:
Other than those reasons, there’s been studies that show there are no short or long-term negative side effects to using creatine with healthy individuals.
Still, if you’re concerned about taking creatine as a supplement, you should always seek advice from a dietician or medical expert.
Personally, I love creatine and will always use it unless I can’t due to medical reasons. However, deciding on whether or not to stop taking a creatine supplement is down to personal preference. If you want to stop, then you should, and vice-versa.
The two main takeaways for you to remember are:
- Even though natural creatine levels can be slowed down due to taking creatine supplements, your own creatine levels will return back to normal within a few weeks of stopping. (So it's nothing to worry about.)
- There are no clinically proven adverse side effects of short or long-term creatine use.
How To Minimize Losses When You Stop Taking Creatine
Firstly, you should know that you won't lose any muscle growth that occurred while you were taking creatine. What you will lose is water weight, and this is entirely natural.
By losing water weight, you might see a reduction in muscle "fullness," but don't confuse this with muscle loss.
However, if you’re planning on stopping creatine, there are some steps you should take to limit any possible side effects.
Don’t Stop Training
Yeah, it might seem counterproductive, but you’d be surprised how many gym-goers skip workouts because they’re not taking creatine.
You want to maintain as much strength and muscle mass as possible, so don’t start slacking in the gym; stopping creatine won’t make you lose your muscle gain, but under-training will.
Consider reducing your creatine supplementation gradually rather than stopping outright. Doing so could limit some of the negative side effects of stopping creatine, such as brain fog.
I’ve tested this in the past and found it helped considerably, but I understand that gradually stopping isn’t always possible for some people.
Sounds obvious, but if you’re losing water weight from your muscles, you need to keep yourself hydrated.
Hydration is one of the keys to having a fully functioning body that works as it should. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you the benefits of staying hydrated.
Following these three points will limit any losses you might experience when you stop taking creatine. Again though, I must state that the effects of stopping creatine aren't bad, so don't overthink it too much.
Creatine is a natural substance that is found in the human body and in some foods, mainly in meat and fish. It’s made up of three amino acids (glycine, methionine, and arginine). Creatine is stored and used by the body to produce energy (Adenosine Triphosphate).
You can expect to feel minor withdrawal symptoms for 1-2 weeks after you stop taking creatine.
Anabolic steroids are artificial hormones you can take to enhance your body’s natural abilities. Creatine, on the other hand, isn’t a hormone and is one of the safest and most researched sports supplements you can take.
If you’re going on a trip and will miss a few days of creatine, just restart your usual dosage when you return home. The average adult needs around 1-3 grams of creatine daily for normal bodily functions.
You need to make numerous considerations when you start taking creatine and stop taking the supplement, especially if you want to continue to perform optimally.
Some gym goers will experience temporary side effects such as decreased strength, some loss of muscle mass, and fatigue. However, these side effects should subside after a few weeks, but will vary between individuals.
Overall, stopping creatine supplementation won’t result in long-term negative effects and your body will return to its usual state.