So, you want to know, “Does Creatine Stop Working After a While?”
A perfectly reasonable question, and perhaps you’ve even noticed your own performance in the gym decline in recent weeks.
You know that your nutrition, rest, and recovery is on-point, so it’s difficult to determine why your workouts are suffering.
In fact, the only practical solution must be that creatine stops working after a while.
In this article, I’d like to discuss the continued effectiveness of creatine supplementation, and what could be affecting your training.
Does Creatine Stop Working After a While?
Creatine does NOT stop working after a while. Some users may notice a spike in energy levels when they first start taking creatine. However, creatine’s main role is to saturate the muscles, thus providing you with muscular endurance and the potential for greater training volume. It’s usually a case that you may no longer register the “boost” that creatine provides, but this doesn’t mean that it isn’t working. As long as the muscles are saturated with creatine, then it’s doing its job.
1. How Can I Tell if Creatine is Working?
I think one of the biggest issues with creatine is that some people feel it’s some type of magic elixir.
By this I mean that you may expect creatine to suddenly take your training to a whole new level.
In fact, I was quite surprised to read about a Reddit user who actually asked, “Does it Stop Working After Using it For a While?”
The person went on to say that they no longer feel the oomph or tingles that they first experienced.
Firstly, this is not how creatine is supposed to work.
In fact, it even sounds as though this Reddit user is talking about pre-workout.
I for one can tell you that you won’t suddenly feel creatine coursing through your veins and providing you with an almighty burst of energy.
That being said, you may feel something when you first start taking creatine.
This is mainly because it is something new to your body, so you may notice a few changes.
The main reason that you are told to have a loading phase with creatine is that you want to saturate the muscles with creatine and water.
Therefore, the aim is to do this as quickly as possible, although you can still achieve the same results by taking a standard dose, it will just take longer to achieve muscle saturation.
What Creatine Actually Does
Creatine is meant to increase muscular endurance and training volume.
However, this could be as simple as achieving a couple of extra reps, or one additional set, or even finishing your workout in less time.
So, it’s not as though you’ll see a dramatic difference in your workouts.
That being said, you may notice those extra reps, sets, etc. in the first few weeks of taking creatine.
But, after a while you may not notice such a difference.
This doesn’t mean that creatine is no longer working, but rather that you’re used to its effects.
In fact, I would go as far to say that if you’re no longer making progress, it makes more sense to look at your workout routine, as opposed to your creatine supplementation.
In effect, you may have adapted to your current workout, so it’s time to change things up.
I will go as far to say that the best way to tell whether creatine is working for you is to stop taking it.
If within a few weeks you notice a difference in energy and muscular endurance levels, you’ll have your answer.
2. Can You Build a Tolerance to Creatine?
I would hazard a guess that the main reason you want to know whether creatine stops working after a while is that you feel you’ve built a tolerance towards it.
This initially does make a lot of sense.
Much the same as many things we put into our body, we often build a tolerance towards them.
The most obvious of these is probably alcohol.
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The first time you ever have a drink, you’re pretty much hammered within an hour.
But, over time, your tolerance levels build and you can enjoy drinking the same amount as your first time with little to no effect.
The exact same could even be said for your workouts themselves.
You start a new workout program, it’s tough but offers the right amount of intensity.
However, within a few short weeks you find the same workout pretty easy.
In effect, your body has adapted to the training stimulus, so you have built a tolerance towards that workout.
The solution is to obviously progress by either adding more reps, sets, or weights.
Just looking at these two examples it may well stand to reason that you can build a tolerance to creatine.
Therefore, you may even feel that it’s time to increase the amount of creatine that you take.
That being said, I’d like to take you back to what I mentioned a moment ago.
Just because you can’t “feel” creatine working, doesn’t mean that it isn’t.
In reality, you’re no longer registering that “boost” that creatine used to give you.
But, you are likely receiving exactly the same benefits and therefore you’re working out effectively and efficiently with each training session.
Once more, I’ll repeat, it may be time to change up your workouts, as opposed to feeling as though creatine is no longer working for you.
It’s also important to realise the creatine supplementation is about saturating the muscles.
Once that has been achieved, usually within a week or two, you can rest-assured that creatine is doing its job.
Yes, I’ll admit that a high percentage of people are creatine non-responders.
However, you’ll probably be aware of this within your first few weeks of taking it.
How to Know if You’re a Creatine Non-Responder
3. Can You Take Creatine For a Long Time?
Okay, so we’ve established that it is highly unlikely that creatine will stop working after a while, or that you’ve built up a tolerance to it.
So, I’m sure the next question on your mind is whether you can take creatine for a long time.
In truth, you’ll typically hear that creatine is one of the most well-researched supplements.
Plus, creatine is completely safe to take, and any side-effects will usually be down to the individual rather than the actual creatine.
That being said, the longest scientific research into creatine supplementation lasted for 5 years.
So, when talking about whether creatine is safe to take for a long time, unfortunately I’ll have to answer, “possibly”.
As I say, there are no scientific studies beyond 5 years, but doses of up to 10g a day have been safely used over a five-year period.
In fact, you can guarantee that there are many trainees who have far exceeded this period of time with their creatine supplementation.
As I’ve mentioned, any side effects are often down to the individual.
So, as an example, excessive water retention could be down to excessive doses.
Then again, feeling sick after taking creatine could even be down to what you mix it with.
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So, as far as we are aware, creatine is perfectly safe, it won’t cause you any harm, and it can be taken for the long-term.
So, I hope you understand that creatine DOES NOT stop working after a while.
You may not always feel that creatine is doing its job, although this is usually because the “boost” is no longer registering with you.
Furthermore, if you feel that your training has plateaued, it’s probably time to change up your workout routine, rather than blaming the creatine.
Admittedly, many people may be non-responders, although you’ll usually be acutely aware of this within your first couple of weeks of trying creatine.
Basically, for those of us who aren’t non-responders, creatine works, and will continue to work in the long-term.
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Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.