Is creatine safe or should you cycle it?

February 5th, 2015
creatine monohydrate cycle

Talk to any bodybuilder or weightlifter about supplements and they will tell you about their schedule of loading and cycling and all the other things they do to keep their supplement working to their advantage.  Most supplements require a cycling period (a period of time on and then time off) and recommend them for the benefits they provide the body.  Creatine is one supplement where that is not required.

Creatine is not like most supplements.  It is a naturally occurring supplement in your body.  Your body adjusts when the level is high and adjusts when it is low.  It has a set amount that it releases for your body.  Because of this, there is no concern as to whether or not the naturally occurring creatine levels will be adversely effected.  They will not.

Joe Cannon, supplement expert, has researched creatine and found that, “Periodically going off creatine supplements, they say, is safer because it gives your body a chance to recover and start making creatine naturally again. But, I don’t see any proof of this. Creatine supplements have not been shown to be harmful to adults who take creatine responsibly and for long periods of time. We have never seen a study that found creatine supplements caused kidney damage or liver damage – or cause any damage for that matter, in healthy adults.“

He isn’t alone in his assessment. In fact, from our own research, the idea of cycling off of creatine due to health concerns is completely unnecessary and useless.  The whole safety issue has been put to rest after 30+ years of research and over 1300 tests done on creatine.  No adverse effects have been found.  It will not destroy or inhibit your vital organs (such as kidneys, liver, pancreas) in any way.  There is just no evidence to support that claim.  Mayo Clinic, Harvard Medical, University of Southern California and countless others have studied creatine and have found no adverse effects in healthy adults.

There is a lot of back and forth by those who use creatine powder as to whether or not it is important to cycle.  A lot of this thinking stems from pure habit. Back in the days of rampant steroid use, weightlifters had to cycle off due to the damage to their bodies.  Because of this, a lot of bodybuilders are used to having to cycle on and off supplements.  It is something they feel they need to do with creatine, even though they don’t.  Some like the idea of giving their bodies a rest from it.  That is perfectly fine, but totally unnecessary.  Because the body adjusts, there is no “down time” needed.  There is no scientific evidence to support cycling creatine powder.

Other supplements out there recommend a cycle period for their products and some have amazing benefits to doing so.  Not so with creatine.  Several weightlifters attest that it is like” two steps forward and two steps back “when you cycle creatine.  You lose the benefits for an unnecessary cycle off period.

According to StayFitCentral, author and weightlifter Curtis said, of his personal experience, “While I maintained some of the muscle and strength I gained, they did both decrease pretty significantly. My workout endurance also went back to my pre-creatine levels after about a month. Going back on creatine only took me back to where I was after taking it the first time so no extra gains were made.”

Expert after expert, site after site, user after user, reserach after research, have all come to the same conclusion:  Cycling creatine is unnecessary.  One thing they do all agree on, though, is that taking the correct amount and taking it daily is a must.  Creatine powder users all agree that a loading phase is important and that a continuous amount of creatine after that is essential.  So, the focus with creatine comes not from the cycling idea but from a steady flow of creatine.  When you begin using creatine, the most commonly suggested loading amount is 20 grams a day.  After the loading phase, which is 5 to 7 days, it is recommended that you drop down to max of 5 grams a day.  Some people have found they don’t even need that much – some use as little as 3 a day.  Another suggestion made by physicist and body builder, John Kiefer, suggests using this formula:  Bodyweight * 0.15 = grams of creatine monohydrate to ingest.  The best formula is the one that works for you.

Begin with the loading dose for the week and then adjust the daily dose over time.  You will know what your body responds to best.  That is one of the biggest flaws of supplements – assuming your body will respond the same or is the same as someone else.  Not so.  As an individual, you will need to pay close attention to what your body’s response is and adjust to what works for you.  After the first week, the recommended doses are just guidelines.  Taking too much will not increase results either.  And remember, exceeding the recommended doses will not help either – it is not a steroid and your body will not respond with more muscle mass if you exceed the doses.  The idea of creatine is not to magically make muscles appear – they don’t blow up like balloons.  You have to work as a team. Creatine will help your strength, energy and muscle size but only with the hard work you add to the mix.   You have to work out and train hard – you have to take advantage of the boost creatine gives to get the results you are looking for.

Cycling creatine is not necessary.  Can you cycle it?  Yes, but you may be stagnating your progress by doing so.  In the world of supplements, this is the easiest to use, by far.  No cycling, no health concerns, no need to make it complicated.  Do your loading week and then keep a steady dose for the remainder of time you are taking creatine.  If you search for answers online, please be aware that a lot of sites are spewing out their advice without medical backing and without research – a lot of this is because they are being sponsored or making a spiff off a certain product.  Stay with pure creatine, stay steady and you will stay strong.