Anyone who has tried creatine supplementation like creatine monohydrate or creatine phosphate knows there are near-immediate effects. Use these supplements long-term and you’ll really see a change in your physique as it helps build muscle mass.
So, if creatine has such a profound effect when used properly, what happens if you stop using it altogether? Will all of the positive changes evaporate if you stop supplementing and are there side effects associated with no longer using grams of creatine? Would you have less muscle strength during a workout, see weight gain, see more lean muscle mass or reduce or improve your athletic performance? It’s important to know what to expect if you are considering halting your creatine use.
The most important thing to realize with creatine and any type of supplement you use is that everyone reacts differently. What happens for one person when they begin creatine use might not be what another user experiences. And even if 100 users experience a particular effect that doesn’t mean the same will occur for you.
All bodies are different and all bodies respond differently. There’s even a chance what happened for you at one time won’t be the same to happen if you try a supplement at a later date. Just as everyone reacts differently to creatine use, everyone also responds differently when they stop taking the supplement. For instance, you might experience side effects or withdraw when you stop using the supplement.
Or, if you’re one of the 30% of people who are considered “creatine non-responders” you might not notice any difference at all if you stop creatine use. What do you need to remember? What you experience when you stop using creatine or any other supplement is largely dependent on how you reacted when you began using it in the first place.
There are two main benefits of using creatine:
1) It increases intra-cellular water retention.
2) Helps you increase your strength in the gym.
So, should you be concerned you’ll lose both these benefits once you stop using creatine? In order for creatine to be stored in your muscles there needs to be more water.
Once the muscles are saturated with creatine, which usually occurs about three to four weeks into your supplementation, your muscles begin to have a fuller, bulkier appearance. This is due, in part, to the increased water. If you stop using creatine, the additional water retention isn’t necessary and will flush from your body.
Just as it takes a few weeks to build up, it also takes a few weeks to flush. Some people experience a quick drop in water weight, but others don’t even notice the loss of the water weight. They might feel slightly leaner, but the change is not significant. A good rule of thumb: If you experienced a significant bulk of water weight, your drop will also be significant once you stop the use of creatine.
As far as strength goes, the changes also vary from person to person when creatine use is stopped. Using creatine helps you increase the efficiency with which your body uses ATP. This makes your gym performance better through power and strength. Once you are no longer supplementing with creatine, you’ll experience a reduction in the phosphate groups that were boosting your strength.
Most people who experience a noticeable response to creatine use also experience a small reduction in strength once they stop. For most, the change is not significant, as long as there are no simultaneous changes to their training program.
Likewise, it’s rare that a decrease in muscle gains will occur because you were training and eating right all along and you’ll continue to do so after creatine. Basically, the effects of stopping the use of creatine don’t reduce the benefits you achieved while using it.
It might seem as if stopping creatine use is no big deal, especially if you’ve been vigilant with your eating and training while you were using the supplement. However, you do need to be aware of any potential side effects unrelated to strength and power.
When you cycle off of creatine, your body will adjust on its own. It will begin naturally producing creatine again, and within a short period of time, it will return your body to its proper range. There’s a chance you’ll feel “different” for a few days, but this all depends on the sensitivity of your system. And there might also be a placebo effect: If you anticipate feeling differently, you might imagine you feel differently.
Finally, it’s important to consider your reason for stopping the use of creatine. If you’re part of the approximately one-third of users who experience limited effects from its use, there’s really no sense in continuing. Your dollars could be invested elsewhere into your training program.
Other people choose to stop using creatine because they are tired of dealing with it day in and day out. They get busy, forget to use it occasionally, or just get worn out from dealing with the regimen. In other cases, they were choking down creatine supplements not really liking the taste of texture of it. After reaching their goals, they realize they’d rather not deal with it, or at least not deal with it every day for the rest of their lives.
Whether or not to continue creatine use is a personal decision, but there is no evidence that continued use is harmful. If you aren’t bothered by the habit of supplementing and you believe you are experiencing positive benefits from creatine, there’s really no reason to stop using it—especially since it’s one of the least expensive supplements on the market.
If you’ve considered stopping but you aren’t sure you’ll be happy with the effects, it’s possible to not use the supplement for two to three weeks and then return to it if you find you are happier using it. Unlike some supplements, you don’t need to worry too much about cycling on and off and how your body will react.
A break from creatine will let you see how your body will react and you’ll be able to begin using it again without waiting out any changes or needing to follow any type of schedule. So, how do you find out what happens when you stop taking creatine? Try it and see. You might learn that using it was one of the smartest choices you ever made!