One Week Off Creatine: Muscle Meltdown or Minor Hiccup?

Spread the love

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.

One Week isn’t That Long

Dr. Brad Schoenfeld: "Creatine is a naturally occurring substance that is found in muscle cells. It has been shown to be effective in increasing muscle mass, strength, and power."

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.

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 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.

Dr. Michael Joyner: "There is no scientific evidence to suggest that you need to cycle off of creatine. However, some people may choose to do so simply to give their bodies a break."

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.

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.

Arnold Schwarzenegger: "Creatine is a very safe and effective supplement. It helps you train harder, recover faster, and build more muscle."

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.

What Happens if You Stop Taking Creatine Altogether?

Deciding to halt creatine supplementation brings about a series of physiological changes, especially if your body previously responded positively to it. 

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.

Layne Norton: "The performance changes after stopping creatine are likely subtle and individual-dependent. If you were responding well to it, you might feel a slight dip in workout intensity or recovery time."

Initially, one of the most noticeable effects is the reduction in water retention within the muscle cells. 

Creatine has the property of enhancing water absorption in muscles, contributing to their fuller appearance and a slight increase in weight. 

When you cease supplementation, this effect reverses, leading to a decrease in muscle volume and possibly a minor reduction in overall weight due to water loss.

Beyond the immediate visual and weight changes, stopping creatine can influence your performance, particularly in activities that require quick bursts of energy or high-intensity effort. 

Creatine plays a crucial role in rapidly replenishing ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the primary energy carrier in cells, which is especially vital during short, intense physical activities. 

Without the extra boost from supplementation, you might find a slight decline in your ability to sustain peak performance levels, impacting your strength, power output, and recovery speed between workouts.

🚫 Stopping Creatine? What to Expect 🚫
Creatine Non-Responders Up to 30% of people see no effect from creatine, so stopping has no impact.
Time to Deplete Creatine Stores 3-6 weeks for most individuals.
Immediate Effects Loss of water weight and muscle fullness.
Long-term Effects Potential decrease in strength and power, impacting gym performance.
Brought to you by 💪

Your Body Will Eventually Adapt

However, the human body is remarkably adaptable. 

Over a period typically spanning three to six weeks, your body will adjust to the absence of supplemental creatine. 

Natural creatine synthesis within the body, coupled with dietary sources, will begin to compensate, although not to the levels achieved with supplementation. 

This adjustment phase varies among individuals but eventually leads to a stabilization of performance metrics and physical capabilities to pre-supplementation levels.

It’s also worth noting that the effects of stopping creatine supplementation are not permanent. 

Should you choose to reintroduce creatine into your regimen, the previous benefits, such as enhanced water retention in muscles, improved high-intensity performance, and quicker recovery, can be regained. 

This reversible nature underscores both the effectiveness of creatine as a supplement and the body’s capacity to adapt to dietary changes.

So, while stopping creatine supplementation is likely to lead to some noticeable changes, particularly for those who initially respond well to it, these adjustments are part of a natural process as the body returns to its baseline state. 

Understanding these shifts can help manage expectations and maintain a balanced approach to fitness and supplementation strategy.

Final Thoughts

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.

I’ve recently discussed another popular question when it comes to supplements, namely, is it okay to take creatine without protein.

Leave a Comment