As a fitness enthusiast or gym-goer, you’ve likely come across creatine.
It’s a widely used supplement known to amplify athletic performance and muscle growth.
As a certified personal trainer, I’ll help you to understand how creatine interact with your body. I’ll specifically address the common question: “How long does creatine stay in your system?”
Here’s what’s coming up.
How Long Does Creatine
Stay In Your System?
The short answer is, one dose of creatine will peak at 1-2 hours and stay in your blood 3-4 hours. If you’re cycling off of creatine, it will stay in your muscles 2 weeks and in your body up to 6 weeks.
If you take one dose of 3 to 5mg of creatine, it peaks in your system about 1-2 hours after. The amount of creatine in your blood plasma stays elevated for 3-4 hours.
One dose of creatine is not enough to feel the effects of creatine.
To feel the proper effects, you need to do a loading phase.
Creatine works best if you take it regularly on a cycle. I talk about this in the next section. For a full breakdown on the loading phase, check out my creatine supplement overview.
Let’s say you’ve done a loading phase and stop taking creatine. How long does creatine stay in your system then?
It can stay as stores in your muscles up to two weeks after you stop supplementing, but can last in your system for around six weeks.
Important Knowledge About Creatine
Creatine is beneficial for enhancing performance during high intensity, short duration activities.
It’s important to understand that creatine doesn’t reveal its effects the moment you take it.
Creatine has mechanisms based on saturating the muscle cells in your body before it presents its full effects.
It’s A Saturation-Based Supplement
Creatine works by increasing the availability of phosphocreatine in the muscles.
Phosphocreatine helps to regenerate adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy source of the body.
- Natural creatine lasts only a few seconds during bursts of intense physical activity.
- Unlike other supplements like pre workout that deliver almost immediate felt effects, creatine has a more cumulative effect.
- It needs to stored up in the muscles and the effects are noticeable after a certain period of time.
Consistent Supplementation Is Key
Consistency is the key when it comes to taking full advantage of what creatine has to offer. It’s recommended that individuals take 20 grams creatine consistently over a week in what’s known as a loading phase.
Then a maintenance dose of 3 to 5 grams is taken for however long the individual wants. Creatine requires time to saturate the muscles and exert its performance enhancing effects.
There Are Factors
That Affect Creatine Retention
Different individuals respond differently to creatine. Some people will naturally retain more in their muscles, while other may need higher doses for longer to get to the same level of muscle saturation.
Whatever the case is for your creatine supplementation journey, the emphasis is on using it consistently rather than trying to make gains in the short-term.
Here’s factors that can affect how your body retains creatine.
The amount of creatine you take is ultimately up to you. There are, however, recommended amounts that have been researched and reported for best use.
Creatine loading phase is 20 to 25 grams for 5 to 7 days. Then a dose of 3 to 5 grams per day is taken to maintain the creatine stores.
You can opt to skip the loading phase if that’s too much creatine for you, but it will take longer for the muscle stores to increase.
For a more detailed look at the creatine time table, check out my article: How Long Does Creatine Take To Work?
Another way to approach creatine dosage is by bodyweight in kilograms. Loading phase can be 0.3 g/kg per day for 5-7 days followed by about 0.03 g/kg per day, according to this study.
Body Mass Index (BMI)
To be clear, BMI can be highly inaccurate and is referred by many as b.s. But it can be a quick way to classify someone using height and body weight.
Individuals can be classified as underweight, healthy weight, overweight, or obese.
Again, this can be really inaccurate.
For example, if a shorter male has muscle mass, his height to weight ratio may classify as being overweight, when in fact he is healthy.
What does this have to do with creatine? Well, creatine leaves the body at a higher rate in those individuals that have a higher BMI. So someone with a higher BMI may need higher doses to retain more creatine.
A Grace Period for Missed Doses
After the loading phase, the muscles become fully saturated with creatine.
If you miss a maintenance dose here or there, it won’t be as harmful to your creatine stores.
The reason is because it takes up to 6 weeks for creatine levels to return to normal after you stop taking it. So you do have a grace period of a couple missed doses.
It Has Long Term Benefits
Taking creatine has a range of benefits that go beyond performance. They include:
Increased Strength and Power
Creatine enhances the production of ATP, the primary energy currency in cells. This leads to improved strength and power during high intensity, short duration activities like weightlifting and sprinting.
Improved Exercise Performance
By helping to regenerate ATP quickly, creatine helps delay fatigue. This can allow users to perform more reps, lift heavier weights, or sustain high-intensity efforts for longer.
Enhanced Muscle Recovery
Creatine has been shown to reduce muscle cell damage and inflammation, contributing to quicker recovery after intense exercise.
Increased Muscle Mass
Creatine is not a direct muscle building supplement. But it may contribute to an increase in muscle mass over time. This is because of improved training performance and the potential for more water in the muscles.
Brain Health and Cognitive Function
Emerging research suggests that creatine may have neuroprotective properties and could positively impact cognitive function. It has shown potential benefits for conditions involving cognitive decline.
Versatility Across Sports
Creatine is not limited to specific sports or activities. Its benefits extend to many disciplines, making it a versatile supplement suitable for athletes involved in strength training, team sports, sprinting, and more.
3 FAQs About Stopping Creatine
Can You Flush Creatine
From Your System?
No, you can not do anything extra to flush creatine from your system. It will take 6 to 8 weeks for the creatine supplement to be eliminated.
The body has a natural filtering system through the liver and kidneys. Creatine leaves the body as creatinine through urine.
Animal based proteins do contain creatine, but it’s not enough to make a big difference in creatine stores.
How Long Does It Take
To Get Rid Of Creatine?
Levels will noticeably drop after two weeks of stopping creatine supplementation.
Creatine will take about 6 to 8 weeks to be completely eliminated from the body. This is after you’ve done a loading phase so there are stores in the muscles.
What Are The Side Effects
Of Stopping Creatine?
Four common side effects of stopping creatine supplementation includes:
- Feelings of Fatigue. Creatine helps with the regeneration of ATP. Without the ATP provided by creatine, the muscles may fatigue more quickly. The body will return back to normal baseline levels, similar to when not having creatine.
- Muscle Weakness or Loss. Creatine is associated with improvements in strength and power, and discontinuing its use may result in a temporary decline in muscle performance.
This may be more noticeable in activities that rely heavily on short bursts of maximal effort, like weightlifting or sprinting.
- Water Weight Loss. Creatine draws water into muscle cells, giving them a larger appearance. When creatine supplementation is stopped, it can give the illusion of a slight reduction in muscle size.
But this is due to the loss of water rather than actual muscle tissue.
- Decreased Creatine Production. Take creatine as a supplement consistently can cause the body to down regulate its own creatine production to maintain a balance.
If you stop taking creatine the body may take time to readjust. This temporary decrease in natural creatine production could contribute to the previously mentioned effects like fatigue and muscle weakness.
So how long does creatine stay in your system? A dose of creatine will stay in your blood 3-4 hours. Cycling off of creatine will last in your body up to 6 weeks.
Creatine retention is influenced by many factors including dosage, BMI, and overall health. Creatine is a saturation-based supplement, so it’s need to be stored in the muscles for maximum effectiveness.
Individual responses may vary, so pay attention to your dosage and consult with a healthcare or fitness professionals as needed. Cheers to a stronger you!