It’s a question I see asked time-and-time again, “Should I Come Off Creatine When Cutting?”
One of the biggest worries for most lifters when they’re cutting is that they’re going to lose some of their hard-earned lean muscle mass.
However, the number one goal during a cutting phase is to lose body fat.
Now, creatine has probably been a life-saver for you during your bulking phase.
But, you definitely seem to look fuller and rounder when taking creatine.
This begs the question whether you should completely cut out creatine when trying to lose body fat.
Allow me to explain the ins-and-outs of creatine while cutting.
Should I Come Off Creatine When Cutting?
There is no reason to come off creatine when cutting. Your aim during a cut is to lower your body fat while maintaining muscle mass. Firstly, if you are retaining water through creatine consumption you could end up putting on weight. However, this doesn’t mean that you’re not losing body fat. Secondly, cutting requires you to eat at a calorie deficit, so you will typically feel weaker in the gym. However, creatine supplementation will increase ATP. This provides you with more energy, strength and power output when you train.
1. Fat Loss vs. Weight Loss
I guess the main issue you have is that creatine typically gives you a fuller, rounder appearance.
In fact, some people complain that creatine simply makes them look fat, and pretty much all over.
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Basically, creatine will draw water from various parts of the body and flood the muscles.
Therefore, in some individuals this can lead to water retention and water weight gain.
In other words, you may end up looking a little fatter.
With that being said, this isn’t the case for everyone.
I would actually say that a far higher percentage of creatine-takers experience no water weight gain or water retention.
Whereas for others, any water retention is minimal and hardly noticeable.
The only real physical difference they notice from creatine supplementation is increased muscle mass.
The main reason to take creatine is to increase ATP (adenosine triphosphate).
This is the organic compound that is the primary carrier of energy in the body’s cells.
So, the more ATP you have, the more energy your muscles have.
Therefore, you can generally lift more weight for longer, while also recovering faster.
Perfect, if you’re looking to build muscle.
Realistically, if you are retaining water from creatine consumption then coming off it will help you lose water weight.
However, losing weight is definitely not the same as losing fat.
Remember, the whole point of cutting in the first place is to reduce your body fat percentage.
Obviously, if you’re still taking creatine (and retaining water) during a cut you may not like what greets you in the mirror.
But keep in mind that this isn’t an accurate representation of your body fat levels.
So, as long as you’re eating at a calorie deficit, losing body fat, and maintaining most of your muscle mass, you’re good to go.
2. You Will Lose Strength While Cutting
Another common problem during a cutting phase is your strength in the gym, or lack of it.
When you’re cutting you’ll be eating at a calorie deficit.
Basically, you will be consuming fewer calories on a daily basis than you are burning.
So, it’s not unheard-of to feel quite hungry when you’re on a cut.
Hopefully, you’re getting the vast majority of your nutrition from unprocessed and whole foods, and plenty of protein.
Therefore, in reality you should feel well satiated even if you are eating fewer calories than previously.
But still, fewer calories will often mean slightly less energy.
The biggest impact of having less energy will be your work output in the gym.
You want to lose body fat on a cut, but you also want to maintain your lean muscle gains.
However, because you have less fuel for your workouts you may find that you struggle to push the same weights as before.
Additionally, you probably won’t be able to workout for as long.
This is precisely why it could be a mistake to come off creatine when cutting.
Basically, you need all the energy you can get.
I’ve already mentioned how creatine increases ATP production.
And, in reality, you need this now more than ever as you’re consuming fewer calories.
If your workouts start to suffer, you may not be able to hold onto that heard-earned muscle mass.
In effect, less muscle mass will mean a slower metabolism, and a slower metabolism will mean less fat burning potential.
The solution – keep taking creatine.
Losing Strength While Cutting – 5 Quick Fixes
3. Why Are You Cutting?
I guess that we may not all be cutting for the same reasons.
For most of us Average Joe lifters our aim is to add as much muscle mass as possible during a bulking phase and then strip away body fat while cutting.
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So, water retention or water weight gain from creatine consumption should make absolutely no difference to our goals.
However, if you’re cutting for purely aesthetic reasons then we have a slightly different predicament.
In fact, this would be the only time that I would suggest that you come off creatine when cutting.
If you’re training for a competition, or you simply want to look as ripped as possible on the beach, then coming off creatine can make all the difference.
I’m obviously not saying that you can’t look chiselled and ripped if you continue taking creatine.
As I’ve already mentioned, water retention and water weight gain doesn’t affect everyone.
However, if you are someone who ends up looking fuller, puffy, or rounded from creatine then you may need to come off it to achieve your aesthetic goals.
In fact, if you can lower your body fat percentage while cutting and also lose a few pounds in water weight, the likelihood is that you’ll look fantastic.
With that being said, there is also a downside.
I’ve spoken about having less energy when being on a calorie deficit, and this can be affected to a greater extent without creatine.
So, whereas you may lose water weight, you also need to be wary that you may lose muscle mass due to decreased energy levels.
Most competitive bodybuilders will drop creatine and even water prior to a meet.
Their aim is to drain the body of as much water as possible (to the point of dehydration) so that their skin looks tighter.
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This will accentuate their muscles.
So, once again, it all comes down to your reasons for cutting.
However, for most of us, I will repeat, there is no reason to come off creatine.
4. Some People Respond Differently to Creatine
I’ve touched on this a number of times already.
However, not all of us respond to creatine in exactly the same manner.
In fact, there is a large percentage of “non-responders”.
For as many people who feel creatine is potentially the best supplement ever, there are just as many who say it makes absolutely no difference to them.
Additionally, there are those who get all the energy and recovery benefits without ever retaining any water, and there are those who look fat and puffy when they take creatine.
Pretty much the same as with most things in life, we are all different.
Therefore, we react differently to training and nutrition.
What works for one may not work for another.
So, whether you should come off creatine while you’re cutting will also have a lot to do with how you responded to it initially.
I will still say that the vast majority of lifters should continue taking creatine.
However, you’ll have to decide what works best for you and your body composition goals.
How to Know if You’re a Creatine Non-Responder
So, as you can see, there’s no need to come off creatine when cutting.
The main issue for many lifters is water retention and water weight gain from taking creatine.
However, it’s important to remember that you can still lose body fat while maintaining or even increasing weight.
Furthermore, you’ll also want to retain lean muscle mass while cutting, which means that you still need to be lifting weights with a certain intensity.
If you come off creatine, in conjunction with a lower calorie intake, you may struggle for energy in the gym.
Unfortunately, this could also mean that you start to lose muscle mass as well.
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Hi, I’m Partha, the founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I’m someone who’s been passionate about exercise and nutrition for more years than I care to remember. I’ve studied, researched, and honed my skills for a number of decades now. So, I’ve created this website to hopefully share my knowledge with you. Whether your goal is to lose weight, burn fat, get fitter, or build muscle and strength, I’ve got you covered.