It’s an extremely commonly-asked question, “Should I Take a Break From Creatine?”
I’m sure you’re aware of the many benefits to supplementing with creatine.
However, you’re probably equally worried about the potential side-effects of taking creatine for too long.
In fact, you’ve probably heard that it’s best to cycle off creatine every once in a while.
But, is this actually true?
Allow me to explain all you need to know about taking creatine, creatine cycling, and the impact this will potentially have on your body.
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Should I Take a Break From Creatine?
There is no need to take a break from Creatine, and whether you should is down to a matter of personal preference. Creatine supplementation has been researched and studied for up to 5 years on a daily basis with absolutely no ill-effects. It is a myth that if you take creatine for too long, your body will no longer be able to naturally produce it. The body can only store so much creatine at one time, so if you do decide to stop supplementing then your body will eventually start producing its usual levels of creatine once more.
1. You Don’t Have to Cycle Creatine
I’ll come right out and say that there really is no need to take a break from creatine.
If you do decide to take a break then this is simply down to personal preference.
Supplementing with creatine will cause no ill-effects in the long term.
There have been various scientific studies into creatine supplementation, and they all agree that creatine is one of the safest supplements you can take.
In fact, taking creatine for up to 5 years on a daily basis has been proven to be completely safe.
With that being said, although no studies have gone past the 5-year mark, there is no evidence to suggest that it may cause issues if taken for longer.
You’ll often hear various reasons why you should cycle creatine.
In other words, you supplement with creatine for a set number of weeks, you then take a break for a few weeks, before you start taking creatine once more.
However, in truth, this is nothing more than a myth.
In fact, I’ll state that this is potentially advice given by creatine manufacturers, who are probably looking at this from a monetary perspective.
The aim is that you load creatine for up to a week, and then change to maintenance levels.
After a while, you then take a break from creatine, before you start another loading phase and return to maintenance levels more.
In truth, this is a fantastic way for manufacturers to ensure that you are consistently taking more creatine than you probably need to.
By this I mean that most loading phases recommend 20mg of creatine for a specific period, before cutting back to a maintenance dose of 5-10mg a day.
However, in reality, there really isn’t any need for a loading phase, plus your regular “maintenance” dose can be between 3-5mg per day.
The whole point in supplementing is to flood your muscles with creatine.
But, whether you choose to have a loading phase or not, the muscles will eventually become flooded with creatine.
So, in effect, there is no need to take excessive amounts of creatine, as your body will “catch up” eventually.
This also means that it’s absolutely fine for you to continue taking a smaller maintenance dose on a more permanent basis.
The only reason I would ever recommend taking a break from creatine is if you personally experience any side-effects.
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2. What Will Happen if I Take a Break From Creatine?
One of the main reasons that many people believe that they should take a break from creatine is because their body will adapt to it.
In essence, the longer you take creatine, the less effect it will have on your body and your workouts.
Now, while there may be some truth to this, it does very much depend on you as an individual.
By this I mean that we don’t all react to creatine supplementation in exactly the same way.
In fact, it is estimated that up to 30% of people are creatine non-responders.
In other words, 3 out of every 10 people state that creatine has absolutely no effect on them whatsoever.
So, someone could take creatine and find that it doesn’t “work” from day one.
Therefore, the way that your body reacts to taking a break from creatine will depend on what it did for you in the first place.
I know many lifters will immediately lose a lot of water weight as soon as they come off creatine.
But, then again, there are those who find that they have never retained water or put on water weight when supplementing with creatine.
There are people who will say that they lack energy and fatigue far quicker when they take a break from creatine.
And once more, there are those who feel absolutely no different.
I have even heard of regular gym-goers stating that they’ve immediately lost muscle mass and feel far weaker when they cycle off creatine.
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It’s true to say that many of these things can occur if you take a break from creatine.
It’s also true to say that many people will never experience any of these issues.
As I’ve said, what happens to you when you take a break from creatine will largely depend on how you responded to it in the first place.
So, there really is no “one size fits all” when it comes to creatine supplementation.
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3. Will My Body Stop Producing Creatine?
Something else that you may be worried about is that your body will stop producing creatine naturally if you supplement with creatine for too long.
Firstly, it’s important to realise that your body can only store so much creatine at any one time.
This is also why creatine supplementation is more geared towards short, intense bursts of energy.
In effect, creatine gives you that extra 2 reps, or that extra 10 seconds, etc.
Creatine is then broken down in the muscles, which in turn forms creatinine, and eventually this is excreted from the body during urination.
So, it is true to say that your body’s natural production of creatine will slow down when you’re supplementing.
Then again, depending on your creatine intake, the natural process of producing creatine inside the body could stop altogether.
However, once you stop supplementing with creatine, your body will always start naturally producing creatine again.
This could take a few weeks to occur, which will depend on how much and how long you took creatine.
But, you can rest safe in the knowledge that your body will eventually start to produce it’s very own natural stores of creatine.
So, in reality, you don’t have to worry about taking creatine supplements on a daily basis over the long term.
It will have no impact on the future production of your natural resources of creatine and it won’t cause you any issues by supplementing without taking a break.
So, as you can see, there’s no need to take a break from creatine.
Realistically, this is simply down to a matter of personal preference.
There have been various scientific studies which prove that daily consumption of creatine has caused no ill-effects for up to 5 years.
There are no studies longer than 5 years, but there is no evidence that supplementing further without taking a break would cause you any issues.
Personally, I think it’s important to realise that we all react differently to creatine supplementation.
So, what may occur to one person could be completely different for you.
However, there is no need to take a break from creatine, as long as you supplement sensibly, and keep your daily dose to 3-5mg.
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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.