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What Happens When You Stop Taking Creatine? (7 Side Effects)

If you’re wondering what happens when you stop taking creatine, then you’ve come to the right place!

In this article, we look at the side effects of stopping creatine and other popular questions around stopping creatine.

Side Effects When You Stop Taking Creatine

In short, there are many things that happen when you stop taking creatine, such as:

  • Increase in Fatigue
  • Loss in Water Weight
  • Decline in Strength
  • Lower Natural Creatine Production
  • Less Energy in Muscles
  • Loss of Muscle Mass
  • Creatine Withdrawal Symptoms

Let’s explore these in a bit more detail.

1. Increase in Fatigue

A topless man lying down in the gym while resting his arm on his head

Creatine works by increasing the amount of available ATP (i.e. energy) in your muscle cells. So when you stop taking creatine, your muscle cells will start losing ATP.

Having less available ATP means that your muscles will start to fatigue and tire much sooner than when you were taking creatine.

(This partly explains why you lose muscle mass and strength when you stop using creatine. Because if your muscles aren’t being pushed as hard, they’ll naturally start to atrophy.)

2. Loss in Water Weight

Creatine increases water retention in your muscles. So while you’re taking it, your muscles look swole because of all this extra water weight.

But when you stop taking creatine, there’s less creatine in your muscle cells to retain the water.

As a result, you’ll start to lose this water weight, and to some extent, the “full” appearance of your muscles.

Some people associated this with muscle loss, but that’s not the case.

While you do lose some muscle when stopping creatine (which we’ll cover in more detail shortly), it isn’t caused by this loss of water weight.

3. Decline in Strength

As I said, creatine works by fuelling your muscles with extra ATP.

(ATP is what our cells use for energy.)

So when you stop taking creatine, it’s true that your muscles will have less ATP available, and therefore less energy.

This means that when you train, you’ll fatigue faster, which can stop you from making gains at the same rate as before.

And since your cells have less energy, you’ll start losing strength that you gained while taking creatine.

This should encourage you to push yourself even harder in the gym to get back to where you were when taking creatine.

4. Lower Natural Creatine Production

Creatine is naturally produced in your body, so even if you don’t take creatine, you’ll still have a bit of creatine in your muscles.

When you take creatine though, this natural creatine production is lowered so that your body can use its resources elsewhere.

(The body is super efficient – if it has an external source of creatine, it’s not going to waste it’s valuable energy producing creatine internally.)

However, when you stop using creatine, your body will take some time to adapt as it will still be expecting this external source of creatine. As a result, you’ll have naturally lower levels of creatine.

After a few weeks though, your body’s natural creatine production will return to regular levels.

5. Less Energy in Muscles

Creatine’s number one function is to increase the amount of available ATP for your muscles.

When you stop taking creatine, your muscles will have even less available ATP than before you even started taking creatine.

(Since your body’s natural creatine production is yet to recover.)

And the less ATP your muscles have, the less energy they have.

With less energy levels, your muscles will fatigue faster which can reduce your progress in the gym.

6. Loss of Muscle Mass

Another side effect of stopping creatine is the loss of muscle mass.

Now before you panic, it’s not as if you’ll lose your gains suddenly overnight.

But when you stop taking creatine, you’ll slowly start to lose some strength as your muscles’ ATP stores are depleted.

And when you lose strength, you’re forced to lift a lighter weight which puts less stress on your muscles.

Since your muscles are working under less stress, they’ll have no reason to grow and may start to atrophy.

If you want to minimize muscle loss from stopping creatine, you should eat lots of protein, consume sufficient calories, and challenge your muscles regularly.

7. Creatine Withdrawal Symptoms

When you stop taking creatine, you may experience withdrawal symptoms, such as general fatigue.

This is because your body’s natural creatine levels will be lower and you body won’t be getting creatine from an external source, which can leave you low on energy.

While the severity of creatine withdrawals vary*, they’re usually mild since creatine isn’t technically a drug.

(*There are many factors which can affect the severity of creatine withdrawals, such as how much creatine you were taking before you stopped, how long you took creatine for, and how long it takes your body’s natural creatine levels to recover.)

If you do suffer from creatine withdrawals, then don’t panic as they’ll soon go away once your body’s natural creatine levels have restored to baseline.

FAQs

How Long Does Creatine Withdrawal Last?

When you stop taking creatine, it can take 2 to 4 weeks for your body’s natural creatine production to return to normal.

Since creatine withdrawal symptoms are associated with low natural creatine production, you can expect your creatine withdrawals to last this period.

What Happens If You Stop Taking Creatine But Still Work Out?

It’s perfectly safe to keep working out after you’ve stopped using creatine.

You may notice that you have less energy and strength in the gym as well slower progress, but it’s something most bodybuilders do at some point in their life.

How Much Weight Will You Lose If You Stop Taking Creatine?

This is very much a how long is a piece of string type of question.

The answer depends on multiple factors, such as your calorie intake, how much exercise you’re doing, etc.

As always, the number one factor that determines weight loss (regardless of if you’re taking creatine) is a calorie deficit.

In other words, you burn more calories than you consume.

That being said, since creatine increases water weight, you’ll typically lose a lot of this water weight when you stop taking creatine.

The amount of water weight lost will vary on a person-to-person basis.

What Should You Do If You Forget To Take Creatine?

Skip the gym.

Because if you stop taking it, your muscles will freak out the next time you lift weights.

Just kidding!

But seriously, if you forget to take creatine, you should just work out normally with the peace of mind that it takes a few weeks for your body to deplete its creatine stores.

Also, there’s no point ‘double dosing’ the next time you take creatine, as your muscles’ creatine stores will still be pretty saturated.

Do You Look More Cut When You Stop Taking Creatine?

Some people get bloated after taking creatine.

Why?

Well, creatine increases water retention in your muscles which can make you look “puffy”.

If you do experience bloating after taking creatine, then yes, you may look more cut when you stop taking it.

This is because you lose the extra water your muscles were holding onto, which can make you look leaner.

(While I wouldn’t recommend it, many bodybuilders dehydrate themselves before competitions to look extra shredded.)

Do You Get Fat When You Stop Taking Creatine?

No – stopping creatine won’t directly make you fat although there are few things to consider.

First, for some people, creatine can suppress your appetite. So when you stop taking it, it’s possible that you start eating more food which could lead to weight gain.

(This also explains why pre workout suppresses your appetite, since many pre workouts contain creatine.)

Second, you may not be able to squeeze out as many reps when you stop taking creatine, which would lead to less calories being burned.

So while stopping creatine doesn’t make you fat, it may result in you gaining weight if you eat more and train less.

Do You Need To Load Again When You Stop Taking Creatine?

The answer to this depends on how long you stop taking creatine for.

When you stop taking creatine, your muscles slowly deplete their creatine stores. After a few weeks, your creatine stores will return to a baseline level.

So if you stop taking creatine for only a week, your muscle creatine stores will still be fairly saturated so there’ll be no need to load again.

Whereas if you stop taking creatine for more than a month or so, your creatine stores will be fully depleted, so it would make sense to load again to help replenish them quicker.

Can You Stop Taking Creatine Anytime?

Yes – you can stop taking creatine anytime you want.

If you’ve been taking it for just 2 weeks and you’re experiencing side effects, then there’s no issue stopping it there and then.

Likewise, if you’ve been taking it every day for a year and you’ve finally ran out of your 5kg supply, then there’s no problem stopping then.

Can You Skip A Day Of Taking Creatine?

In short, yes.

If you forget to take it, or can’t take it that day for whatever reason, there’s nothing to worry about.

Remember…

It takes a few weeks for your muscles’ creatine stores to deplete to baseline, so missing a day’s worth of creatine will have minimal effects on your work out and physique.

Should You Stop Taking Creatine?

In my opinion, there are only 4 instances in which you should stop taking creatine:

You can no longer afford it

This shouldn’t be a problem for most people as creatine is one of the cheapest supplements on the planet.

You experience side effects

Again, this shouldn’t affect most people as creatine is one of the safest supplements out there.

You want to become leaner

This mainly applies to bodybuilders who want to look super shredded, or to pro fighters who need to lose weight to be able to fight in their weight division.

You want to cycle creatine

Personally, I like to cycle creatine as I think it’s best to give your body a break from supplements every now and then. It isn’t necessary however.

How Often Should You Stop Taking Creatine?

Well, this depends on your circumstances.

If you’re only stopping creatine to give your body a break (i.e., you want to cycle it), then I’d recommend taking creatine for 12 weeks and then taking a 6-week break.

This has been super effective for me and many others.

Sources

Creatine Cycle

Creatine Water Retention

Creatine Increases ATP

Jacquelyn Joy Miletic

Thursday 19th of August 2021

did you experience hair loss while taking creatine?

Robb

Thursday 19th of August 2021

Hi Jacquelyn,

No, I did not.

Robb