What Happens When You Stop Taking Creatine? (Should You Stop?)

December 20, 2023

Beyond its impact on athletic performance, studies suggest that creatine supplementation boosts post-exercise recovery, prevents injuries, helps with thermoregulation and rehabilitation, and provides neuroprotection in cases of concussion or spinal cord injuries [1]. But what happens when you stop taking creatine?

It typically takes 4 – 6 weeks for the creatine concentration in your muscles to revert to its pre-supplementation levels after discontinuation. Although you may not experience the same level of gains without creatine, stopping its use doesn’t result in a loss of muscle or strength gains.

Let’s look closely at the research behind stopping creatine and what you should consider before stopping.

What Happens When You Stop Taking Creatine?

After discontinuing creatine supplementation, it requires a period for your muscle creatine stores to revert to their pre-supplementation levels.

The duration of this process varies from person to person [2], typically falling within the range of 4 to 6 weeks [3. 4, 5, 6]. Let’s look closely at studies on what happens when you stop taking creatine.

In a study involving 31 male participants [4] who were administered varying quantities of creatine over different durations, it was found that muscle total creatine concentration increased by approximately 20% after a 6-day supplementation period with 20 g/day of creatine.

This heightened concentration was sustained by continuing supplementation at a lower rate of 2 g/day for an additional 30 days.

However, upon discontinuing the 2 g/day supplementation, the total creatine concentration gradually declined, reaching a level indistinguishable from the initial value before supplementation after 30 days.

A similar, albeit more gradual, 20% increase in muscle total creatine concentration occurred over a 28-day period when creatine supplementation was carried out at a rate of 3 g/day.

The conclusion was that taking a low dose of 3g per day is more effective over the long term than it is to stop taking creatine.

In another study on 18 active males [5], participants were split into three equal groups and given different treatments for a loading protocol, as seen in Table 1:

Creatine intakes for each group during the loading phase [5]

 Group 1Group 2 Group 3
Creatine intake for 5 daysCreatine: 20g (4 x 5g)Creatine: 20g (4 x 5g) Glucose: 1g/kg twice dailyCreatine: 20g (4 x 5g) Exercise: 60min of daily repeated sprint exercises

After the initial 5-day loading phase, participants were reassigned to three maintenance groups and consumed either 0 g per day, 2 g per day, or 5 g per day of creatine for 6 weeks, as shown in Table 2:

Table 2: Creatine intakes during the maintenance phase after participants were re-assigned [5]

 Group 1Group 2 Group 3
Creatine intake for 6 weeksNo creatine2g creatine per day5g creatine per day

The researchers found that, although not significantly different from pre-loading concentrations, the muscle total creatine levels for the group receiving no creatine had not fully returned to baseline levels six weeks after the loading period.

This study suggests combining glucose and creatine (with a much smaller glucose intake than typically recommended) may be an effective method to increase muscle creatine.

Additionally, when a 5-day creatine loading phase is followed, you can keep your muscle creatine levels optimal by consuming small daily creatine doses (2-5 g).

This study also indicated that creatine concentrations may take longer than currently accepted to return to baseline values after doing a creatine load.

Do You Lose Water Weight When You Stop Using Creatine?

Do You Lose Water Weight When You Stop Using Creatine

Contrary to popular belief, water retention only occurs during the loading phase of using creatine [7], so you will likely lose water weight whether or not you stop using creatine or go down to a maintenance dose. Check out this article to read more about creatine and weight gain.

Are Creatine Gains Permanent?

When you use creatine, you might see gains in performance, endurance, and recovery, which depend on optimizing the muscles’ creatine [1].

While you might not have the same rates of improvements you had when using creatine, you will not lose the strength and muscle gains you made when using creatine.

In a 12-week study [8] on older, resistance-trained men, researchers compared 8 men (73 years old) who stopped using creatine and reduced their training volume with 33% and 5 men (69 years) who did not use creatine. The study found no effect on the rate of strength, endurance, or loss of muscle mass.

Should You Take A Break From Creatine?

Overall, there is no research on creatine cycling as often proposed in popular media. No research also states that creatine loses its effectiveness after using it for prolonged periods. Creatine is safe to use long-term and does not pose significant side effects if used in the suggested maintenance dosages [1, 7].


Even though it is more beneficial to keep using creatine over the long term, even in low doses from 2 – 5g, you will not suddenly lose your gains when you stop taking creatine. There aren’t negative side effects to stopping creatine.

When you stop, you might see a decrease in your performance and recovery after 4 – 6 weeks of not using it.

However, if you miss a few days of taking creatine, you will probably not see a lot of differences in how you feel in training because your muscle creatine stores will not become depleted in such a short period.


  1. Kreider, R. B., et al. (2017). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. *Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 14*, 18.
  2. Rawson, E. S., et al. (2004). Effects of repeated creatine supplementation on muscle, plasma, and urine creatine levels. *Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 18*(1), 162-167.
  3. Febbraio, M. A., et al. (1995). Effect of creatine supplementation on intramuscular TCr, metabolism and performance during intermittent, supramaximal exercise in humans. *Acta Physiologica Scandinavica, 155*(4), 387-395.
  4. Hultman, E., et al. (1996). Muscle creatine loading in men. *Journal of Applied Physiology (1985), 81*(1), 232-237.
  5. Preen, D., et al. (2003). Creatine supplementation: a comparison of loading and maintenance protocols on creatine uptake by human skeletal muscle. *International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 13*(1), 97-111.
  6. Vandenberghe, K., et al. (1997). Long-term creatine intake is beneficial to muscle performance during resistance training. *Journal of Applied Physiology (1985), 83*(6), 2055-2063.
  7. Antonio, J., et al. (2021). Common questions and misconceptions about creatine supplementation: what does the scientific evidence really show? *Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 18*(1), 13.
  8. Candow, D. G., et al. (2004). Effect of ceasing creatine supplementation while maintaining resistance training in older men. *Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 12*(3), 219-231.
About the Author

Hanli is a Registered Dietitian with a special interest in sports nutrition. She has a Master's degree and is currently a PhD candidate focusing on adolescent athlete nutrition. She has published research in the Obesity Reviews journal and is a research coordinator at the Sport Science Institute of South Africa.

Want More Great Content?

Check Out These Articles