You have been working out hard, eating right and taking creatine powder. Looking in the mirror, the results of all your work shows. Your body has become leaner, stronger, and more muscular. You have noticed, at the gym that you have been able to lift more for longer periods of time. So, now that you feel you are at a size you want to maintain, you consider stopping the creatine powder. What will happen? Will my muscles shrink? Will I lose the strength I have now? Here are some things to consider.
If you had never started using creatine powder, and continued working out, what shape would your muscles be in now? The same shape they are in now – toned, lean and the size would have increased. Now, you take the creatine powder and add that to the equation. You work out, you have more energy and stamina, and you can lift more for longer. You stop the creatine powder and what happens. What changes? Do your muscles disappear or shrink to pre-workout size? Why would they? According to Dr. Gordon Purser, PhD, in an article for Men’s Fitness, “Once you have built the muscle, as long as you continue to lift, you will maintain it.”
You have been working those muscles and whether on or off creatine powder, you created those muscles and toned them. Creatine powder helped to give you the energy and stamina to do so, but it didn’t magically make muscles appear. You did that with hard work and training. The only difference it makes in your muscles is the water retention will decrease. You may lose some bulk that was due to water, but the muscle itself will remain.
Strength and Stamina
So knowing you will retain your lean muscles, will you still be as strong? This isn’t really a straight across the board yes or no. Browsing through forums and blogs you will get a good idea of what the experiences of others have been when removing creatine powder from their routine. Out of 50 responses on the topic, only 7 people reported not having the same amount of strength. But if you read between the lines, it was more about a change in stamina. Most felt they could not lift as long – the energy surge seemed to be what was missing. The increase in strength and stamina received by taking creatine powder provided the ability to do longer workouts with more weight. Now that it is out of your system, you are missing that extra boost. Can you still lift the weight? Yes, again, you built up those muscles. You may not be able to maintain the same level of endurance.
Once you have stopped taking creatine powder, you will not experience side effects in the ways you may be thinking. People who take supplements that are steroidal have some really debilitating reactions and side effects to going off it. Depression, mood swings, appetite changes and huge loss of muscle size. None of those are a concern with creatine powder. Creatine is produced by your liver. It is a natural substance in your body. Removing creatine powder from your system will not suddenly lower your creatine production in the liver or effect it in anyway. Your body is quite a complex system. When it needs something it can create, it does. What you may see is a drop in pounds due to the excess water buildup in your muscles. Your body will flush the excess out. Once you stop taking creatine, it will take about two months before your body clears it out 100%. After that, you’ll probably lose some of your weight and strength gains due to loss of water inside the cells. Again, everybody walking this earth is different. This serves as a reference only as your experience may be different or similar.
The big question is: why stop? You know the benefits of taking creatine powder and have witnessed firsthand how they have helped your workouts. But did you think of the other benefits creatine powder has been having on your body? Did you know that creatine powder has been helping you remember things? There is a direct link between creatine powder and the retention of facts. Physicians are using it for Alzheimer’s patients. Physicians are using it for patients who have Parkinson’s and ALS – diseases where muscle strength and stability are an issue. It is being used for hypertension and is being used to help the elderly maintain strength and stability. As you age, your muscles lose mass – this causes instability or great effort in doing simple daily tasks like going from a sitting position to standing. The improvements made with creatine powder have been phenomenal. If you are a vegan, you should remain on creatine powder if only for its supplemental creatine properties (natural creatine supply to your body comes from eating meats).
If you are concerned about taking creatine powder too long and the long term effects, well, there are nothing but positive effects reported. Creatine has been widely and thoroughly studied and taking it indefinitely is not an issue. Some people like the idea of cycling. There is no need with creatine powder. As stated before, your body will simply dispose of whatever it doesn’t need. So knowing this, why stop? Creatine has so many beneficial properties to take advantage of that stopping is unnecessary. Why slow down your workouts? Why decrease the added bulk from water retention in the muscles? Why take away the sharp focus and productivity creatine powder provides your mind? Why take away the energy supplied by creatine powder that gives you the drive to lift more for longer amounts of time?
In relation to returning to creatine powder if you quit, forums and bloggers who use creatine and have gone off have all said they waited a month to allow their body’s creatine production to normalize. Incidentally, out of all the athletes who went off it, 99% of those went back on.