Last updated on September 16th, 2022 at 10:18 am
It’s something that many lifters worry about, “What Happens if I Stop Taking Creatine For a Week?”
You generally take creatine to increase water retention and creatine saturation in the muscle cells.
Creatine supplementation also increases your strength and power output in the gym.
However, due to whatever circumstances you may have to go without creatine for a set period.
And of course this can be a cause for concern.
Allow me to explain the ins-and-outs of going without creatine for a week, and also on a more permanent basis.
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What Happens if I Stop Taking Creatine For a Week?
You won’t notice a great deal of difference if you stop taking creatine for a week. Your body and muscles will typically become saturated with creatine after around 3 weeks of supplementing approximately 5g a day. It also takes up to 3 weeks for these creatine stores to leave the body once you discontinue using it. So, realistically if you stop taking creatine for just one week, the muscles will still have ample stores. Plus, don’t forget that creatine is produced naturally in the muscle cells and found in many food sources too.
1. One Week isn’t That Long
I will categorically state that if you stop taking creatine for a week it won’t make any difference.
In fact, if you “feel” as though your energy levels or workouts are suffering during a week off this is likely to be the placebo effect.
The whole point in taking it is to flood the muscles with creatine, which in turn helps the muscles to produce energy.
This of course can lead to better strength and lean muscle gains.
However, it typically takes around 3 weeks of supplementing 5g a day to flood the muscles with creatine.
This also explains why there is a loading phase, basically it allows you to get there quicker.
So, the aim is to have your muscles flooded with creatine and then return to taking a maintenance dose of 3-5g a day.
Now, the very fact that your muscles are flooded with creatine means that they can’t be depleted of their stores overnight.
In fact, your creatine stores won’t actually start to deplete until at least 2 weeks after you stop taking it.
For most lifters who have been taking the recommended dose it will take up to 3 weeks for the creatine stores to completely leave the body.
With that being said, depending on how much you took, this could take up to 4-6 weeks.
In other words, not taking creatine for a week will make very little difference.
You should also remember that the muscles naturally produce a baseline level of 1-2g of creatine a day anyway.
Plus, many foods, especially red meat and fish, have high levels of creatine, which means that you can naturally “supplement” through nutrition.
2. Don’t Believe the Creatine Hype
You’ll often hear that if you stop taking creatine for a day or two, never mind a week, that it will have an effect on you.
Some will say that you will lose a little weight, which is mainly water weight, as the muscles become less saturated.
Then there are those who will claim that their strength has gone down in the few days since they have stopped taking creatine.
And there are even people who will tell you that they lose size and muscle in the space of a week.
As I’ve already mentioned, if your muscles are saturated through creatine supplementation it will take at least 2 weeks until any form of creatine depletion starts to occur.
So, if anyone is noticing immediate differences this is either the placebo effect once again, or simply that their muscles weren’t saturated with creatine in the first place.
With that being said, it’s utterly ridiculous to claim that you’ve lost size or strength within a couple of days.
In fact, as I’m sure you realise, your gains are actually made outside the gym while you recover.
So, your muscles are repairing themselves and growing back bigger and stronger when you’re not working out.
The Holiday Effect
This also explains why you can often return from a holiday looking in better shape than when you went away.
You knew that you were going on vacation and so your training levels went through the roof in anticipation.
In fact, you were close to overtraining.
You then spend a week or two eating, drinking, relaxing, and you perhaps hit the hotel gym no more than a couple of times a week.
And yet somehow you look fantastic.
So, anyone who says that stopping creatine for a few days or a week has severely impacted on size and strength is talking nonsense.
I will even go as far to say that the companies that manufacture and sell creatine will specifically tell you not to miss a day.
For me, this is nothing more than marketing hype just so you continue to buy and take more creatine.
Don’t believe the hype.
3. Should You Cycle Creatine?
You’ll read so much confusing and conflicting information about creatine that it’s enough to put you off taking it altogether.
And sorry if I’m adding to your woes.
Once again, there will be people who swear by cycling creatine, and those who believe there is nothing wrong with taking it permanently.
In truth, I think this comes down to a personal choice, and also how well your body reacts to creatine.
You’ll often hear that you should load creatine for a week, take it for another 7-10 weeks at maintenance, and then have a week or two off.
The reason for this is that your body will typically adapt to supplementation, so it’s a good idea to reset everything internally, and then go back to taking creatine again.
Then there are people who’ll tell you that there’s no need to cycle creatine.
Well, in reality, there’s no need to completely stop taking creatine (because you’ll still be cycling it in some way).
This would involve taking a higher dosage, say 10g, for around 4-5 days before reverting to maintenance levels once more.
In effect, your body has adapted, so you’re upping the levels to literally confuse the body.
I have always preferred to adopt a creatine cycle, but that’s just me.
4. What Happens if You Stop Taking Creatine Altogether?
If you’re thinking of stopping creatine on a more permanent basis then things may take a different turn.
However, this does very much depend on how well you responded to creatine in the first place.
It is estimated that up to 30% of people are “creatine non-responders”, i.e. creatine has no effect on them whatsoever.
So, if you’re one of the 30% of people then stopping creatine supplementation won’t make a blind bit of difference.
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However, if your body did respond well to creatine uptake then of course you’ll notice a difference once you stop taking it.
As I’ve mentioned, most people will take around 3 weeks to deplete their creatine stores, although this could be up to 4-6 weeks for some.
You’ll probably lose water weight quite quickly, as your muscles become less saturated.
Once your muscles go back to producing their standard 1-2g of creatine a day you may notice an impact on both strength and power output in the gym.
And this in turn will mean that you’re typically not training as hard as you previously were, so you can expect some reduction in size and strength.
Sean Nalewanyj does a fantastic job of explaining what happens inside the body once you stop taking creatine in the following video.
What Happens When I Stop Taking Creatine?
So, I hope you have a better idea of what happens when you stop taking creatine for a week.
In truth, very little.
It takes at least 2 weeks for your creatine stores to start depleting, and up to 3 weeks (4-6 weeks in some cases) for creatine to completely leave the body.
There is a lot of marketing hype that claims that you shouldn’t miss a single day of creatine supplementation.
However, once the muscles are saturated you have nothing to worry about for a while yet.
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.