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Side Effects of Stopping Creatine

by  JOE KING, M.S.
author image Joe King, M.S.
Joe King began writing fitness and nutrition articles in 2001 for the "Journal of Hyperplasia Research" and Champion Nutrition. As a personal trainer, he has been helping clients reach their fitness goals for more than a decade. King holds a Bachelor of Science in kinesiology from California State University, Hayward, and a Master of Science in exercise physiology from California State University, East Bay.
Side Effects of Stopping Creatine
A woman is using a strength training machine at the gym. Photo Credit: Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Creatine is a nutritional supplement used by many athletes in an effort to increase exercise performance and muscle growth. It also is synthesized by your body in various organs, including your pancreas and kidneys. While you are supplementing with creatine, your total serum creatine levels and the amount of creatine stored in your muscles increase. When you stop taking creatine, these levels drop, which might cause some side effects including fatigue, muscle weakness, weight loss and decreased natural creatine production.

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Stopping creatine supplementation might cause fatigue, and if you suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome, or CFS, stopping creatine might make your symptoms worse. About 5 percent of the creatine in your body is stored in your brain to assist with the energy producing process involved in the production of brain hormones and neurotransmitters. When total body creatine levels are reduced after you stop creatine supplementation, your brain might have a temporary lapse in the production of these compounds, leaving you fatigued.

Muscle Weakness

Most of the creatine in your body is stored in your skeletal muscles and used in the energy-producing metabolic pathways involved in movement and muscle contraction. Creatine increases your muscles' ability to produce large amounts of energy rapidly, which can increase your muscle strength and workout intensity. When creatine levels in your muscles drop, so does your ability to produce energy, especially during exercise. This might leave your muscles feeling weak and might decrease muscle strength and exercise intensity.

Weight Loss

With every molecule of creatine that is stored in your skeletal muscles, several molecules of water are stored with it, a process known as muscle hydration. Muscle hydration results in your muscles feeling and looking more full and also can make you gain weight. The water weight gain you might experience while supplementing with creatine is sometimes falsely attributed to muscle gain. When you stop supplementing with creatine, your muscles will not hold as much water, making you lose weight, sometimes up to 5 to 7 pounds, in the first several days to a week after stopping creatine.

Decreased Creatine Production

One of the possible effects of creatine supplementation is the overdependence on external sources of creatine. When your body detects large amounts of creatine in your system, it might signal your organs to slow or stop production because your body is tricked into thinking it is overproducing creatine. Once you stop creatine supplementation, your body might not be able to begin synthesizing creatine immediately. Although there is no evidence that suggests creatine supplementation will cause permanent damage to the organs that synthesize creatine, a short-term decrease in production following creatine supplementation has been observed.

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  • Journal of Hyperplasia Research: Creatine: A Meta-analysis
  • Anabolic Primer; Phil Embleton and Gerard Thorne; 1998
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