Today, more and more people (not only bodybuilders) are supplementing with creatine, not only for its vast advantages in the fitness space but for its cognitive and neurological benefits, among other health-related benefits.
Creatine is an extremely safe supplement to consume, both for the short-term and long-term, with little to no side effects yet to be determined via research. In short, creatine works; It’s extremely effective if you’re looking to build muscle and gain strength, however, as mentioned, recent studies have shown it to be much more than a bodybuilder’s magic pill…
So, what happens when one suddenly stops supplementing with creatine? Are there any harmful side effects?
In what follows, we’ll be discussing all things creatine, from what it is, what it does, what the advantages are to supplementing with it, and what happens when you suddenly stop taking it.
While there are a lot of common myths floating around when it comes to creatine, several are false and need to be debunked. With that said, like anything, some myths happen to hold some validity, and in this article, we’ll be discussing them!
Without further ado, let’s jump right in.
What is Creatine?
Scientifically speaking, creatine is a chemical compound responsible for facilitating the energy-transferring molecule primarily in the tissue of the muscles and brain. It too is an amino acid stored in the skeletal muscles of the body.
More broadly speaking, creatine is a natural compound produced in the body, found in foods such as seafood and animal meat, and is most commonly supplemented for health and fitness-related purposes.
There are several types of creatine, the most common being creatine monohydrate. Other types of creatine include ethyl ester, hydrochloride (HCL), liquid creatine, and magnesium chalet, among others.
Finally, creatine is the most studied and researched supplement on the planet, boasting an incredible long-term safety score and incredible benefits both for one’s health and fitness performance goals.
Benefits of Supplementing with Creatine
If you’re just joining the party, the benefits of supplementing with creatine (or getting it from whole natural food sources) are vast. And unlike the rest of the supplement industry with their false promises and extreme claims, creatine backs it up with real results.
Not only is it the most researched supplement on the planet, but it also happens to be among the safest and most effective. While creatine is most known for its physical performance advantages, recent research has suggested it to be much much more than that.
Below are the most common and reported benefits of taking creatine:
- Production of Cellular Energy (via enhanced ATP production)
- Speeds up Muscle Growth
- Promotes Muscle Building, Strength, & Power
- Improves Physical Performance & Anaerobic Capacity
- Reduces Fatigue
- Has Been Shown to Improve Cognitive Function
- Shown to Improve Health Biomarkers (i.e. blood pressure, etc.)
- Early Research Has Shown Beneficial Association for Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Diabetes, Depression, and more
- Most Researched Supplement; Largely Safe; No Sign of Long-term Side Effects
So, if you’re looking to boost performance, improve your physical appearance, improve your general health, and/or boost your cognitive capacity, creatine is for you. While some of the claims are yet to be conclusive, the findings thus far are promising. With that said, the majority of claims have been studied in length, and have since been verified by science.
What Happens When You Stop Taking Creatine
Before diving in, it’s important to note that it’s completely safe to halt the consumption of creatine. Whether you no longer desire its benefits, can’t seem to remain consistent with supplementation, or aren’t seeing the results you’d hoped for, stopping its consumption is totally valid.
With that said, there are some “side effects” or consequences of suddenly eliminating creatine from your regimen.
Below are the most common consequences of halting creatine use:
- Loss of Water Retention
- Rapid Weight Loss
- Loss of Strength
- Decrease in Muscle Fullness/Muscle Mass
- Increased Rate of Fatigue During Exercise
- Reduction of Muscular Energy
- Lower Natural Creatine Production
While the myth of shrivelling up to nothingness when stopping the use of creatine is a tad overstated and exaggerated, there is some validity to it to some degree. In other words, you can’t expect to retain all of the gains you’ve been able to experience whilst supplementing with creatine.
With that said, it’s not nearly as extreme as some may have you believe. Nevertheless, let’s now dive a little deeper into each potential consequence of the stoppage of taking creatine.
Note that just as results may vary for those who do take creatine, results too may vary for those who have suddenly stopped its use…
Loss of Water Retention
One of creatine’s primary functions is retaining water within the muscles of the body. This is otherwise known as ‘water weight’, or water retention. It’s what’s partially responsible for the appearance of muscle fullness in those that regularly supplement with creatine.
When you stop taking creatine, however, the water retention goes away. In other words, there isn’t a substantial amount of creatine in the muscles to hold on to water. The result, though the appearance may vary, is typically a reduction in weight, both body and water, and a reduction in muscle mass, or at the very least, muscle appearance.
Rapid Weight Loss
A large amount of weight loss after the stoppage of creatine supplementation is due to the elimination of water weight. When supplementing with creatine, one increases water retention within the muscles. This is what creates a bulkier look in some, and a more bloated look in others.
When you stop creatine supplementation, however, all of that water retention is lost, thus resulting in a leaner look and a lighter bodyweight.
In contrast, however, some may actually experience rapid weight gain when stopping the use of creatine. Why? Because creatine does have the ability to suppress one’s appetite. As such, you may become hungrier and as a result, eat more when you don’t take creatine anymore.
If you’re not careful, this can ultimately result in some unwelcoming weight gain.
Loss of Strength
Through the production of ATP (what muscular cells need for energy), the body has a greater capability of transferring that energy into strength and power. By halting the use of creatine, the body has less ATP production to play with and thus, less energy to transfer.
This may result in a slight reduction in strength and power.
With that said, exercise is just as much a mental game as it is a physical one. As such, though your body may be producing less ATP, one can still perform at their best mentally without it, thus still having the capability to transfer the same amount of weight in the gym.
As mentioned, results may vary on this side effect.
Decrease in Muscle Fullness
Largely because of the loss of water retention, but also because of the inherent loss of strength, the appearance of muscle fullness is likely to dissipate amidst stopping the use of creatine. Just as you’re likely to lose muscle strength and water weight, you too are likely to lose some muscle mass along the way.
The good news is that this is typically a short-lived consequence. Once your body adjusts and as long as you continue with the same effort, intensity, and consistency in your exercise regimen, the strength and muscle fullness lost will likely find their way back in due time.
Increase Rate of Fatigue
Relating back to ATP production, when you stop taking creatine, your body stops producing as much ATP in the cells. Because ATP is largely responsible for muscular/cellular energy production, you’re likely to experience less fatigue when supplementing with creatine.
The opposite is true when you stop taking creatine. As such, you may experience one of two things: an increased rate of fatigue or a greater sense of fatigue. In other words, you may become fatigued faster, or you may feel more fatigued in general.
As all things go, however, once you make it through the adjustment period, you’ll likely restore your energy levels to normal, hopefully eliminating the short-lived side effect of fatigue.
Reduction of Muscular Cellular Energy
Similarly, you’ll inevitably experience a reduction in muscular/cellular energy because of the lack of ATP production from creatine supplementation. Because we’ve already discussed this in length, there’s no need to repeat its side effects.
Nevertheless, while ATP production is a natural occurrence in the body, it isn’t produced nearly at the rate at which its produced when supplementing with creatine. As such, you’re likely to have less muscular energy in the early phases of creatine withdrawal.
Lower Natural Creatine Production
Creatine is a naturally occurring compound within the human body. It too can be found and consumed through foods like seafood and animal meats among other things. With that said, the reason for supplementing with creatine in the first place is to, obviously stated, get more of it…
As a result, by increasing the creatine in your body through supplementation, followed by the elimination of manual creatine consumption, the natural bodily reaction is to create less of it.
When you stop taking creatine, your stores are depleted, both within the brain and the muscle tissue. As such, it will take some time for it to be restored. Sooner than later, however, your body will return to homeostasis and this side-effect will no longer be present.
Creatine is an extremely effective, highly studied supplement, and the research continues to be released and new findings with regards to the positive benefits to one’s health.
Whether your goal is athletic performance, muscle gain, strength improvements, cognitive function, or general health, creatine is a great tool to implement into your daily diet and supplementation regimen.
With that said, while creatine is an extremely beneficial supplement to consume, halting its use, at least in supplement form, can have some negative short-term consequences.
While the claims of negative side effects from stopping its use can be quite alerting, however, take them with a grain of salt…Sure, you’ll likely experience some changes in mood, performance, and physical appearance, however, the majority are them are short-lived.
Moreover, seldom is it a consequence to your overall health and well-being. In summary, things can and will occur when you stop taking creatine, however, it shouldn’t be of concern if you’re worried about it affecting your long-term health.
Both taking creatine and stopping its use are both worthy and valid decisions, both with their own host of benefits and potential side effects.