What happens when you stop taking creatine?

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Creatine is the only strength sports supplement whose effect has been conclusively proven. It is therefore logical that many gym goers use the substance. But what actually happens when you stop taking creatine? Will you lose muscle mass, for example?

THE EFFECT OF CREATINE

Provided: the extent to which you notice anything when you stop using creatine depends on the extent to which creatine use has an effect on you. The effect of creatine supplementation differs greatly per individual and for some people supplementation with creatine even has no effect at all (the so-called non-responders, approximately one third of the population).

People who benefit from creatine report that they have more strength and can therefore do a few more repetitions, for example. In addition, creatine supplementation promotes recovery after strength training. For these effects, a daily dose of 3 to 5 grams is normally sufficient.

STOP TAKING CREATINE

When you stop your creatine supplementation, it takes a while for the creatine levels in your muscles to return to normal (ie to the level of homeostasis). Your last dose of creatine will work for up to 24 hours. After that, the creatine levels in your body will slowly decrease. Depending on how long you’ve been taking creatine, it can take two to four weeks for your body to be completely free of the supplemented creatine.

Stopping creatine has two possible effects.

1. YOU RETAIN LESS FLUID, WHICH LEADS TO WEIGHT LOSS

Creatine supplementation leads to fluid retention (fluid retention) within the muscle cells (intracellular) and possibly also outside of it (extracellular), although the latter is disputed. That fluid retention causes you to gain some weight. Direct weight gain as a result of creatine use is therefore not due to an increase in fat mass, nor in muscle mass.

If you stop taking creatine, that ‘extra’ fluid also disappears and your weight will probably decrease slightly.

2. YOU LOSE A LITTLE STRENGTH (BUT NO MUSCLE MASS)

If you are a convincing ‘responder’, you will notice that you have a little more strength through creatine use, so that you can squeeze just a few more repetitions from that set, for example. When the supplemented creatine disappears from your body, that little extra strength also disappears logically.

Fortunately, that does not mean that muscle mass disappears. The relationship between muscle size and strength is not one-to-one and in this case, the loss of strength is the result of lower creatine levels in your muscles, not reduced muscle mass.

If you continue to train ‘normally’ after stopping creatine and also maintain your diet and rest, you will not lose muscle mass. It may take a little while though before you can apply overload again. After all, because of the creatine stop you will drop some training weight and/or number of repetitions, which is why you will have to catch up before you can make new progress.

There are no known further side effects of stopping creatine supplementation.

CYCLING VERSUS CONTINUOUS USE

The question is why you should stop taking creatine at all. There are no known adverse effects of continuous use and natural creatine production recovers rapidly after you stop taking creatine supplements. So there is no need to cycle creatine. In addition, creatine is a relatively cheap supplement, so the cost is usually no reason to stop either.

If you do want to stop, for example because you are going on a trip, don’t worry too much about the consequences, they are only minor. 

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