Update 3/8/23. When it comes to creatine supplements, few questions are as common with athletes and gym rats as “do I need to cycle creatine.” I understand why this is so because while the easy answer is no, you don’t have to cycle creatine, the real answer is both yes and no. Let’s address this question from both sides and see if I can help you out if you have been wondering about what you should do.
Other Creatine Reviews
See these additional reviews for more insights:
- Creatine Nitrate Review
- Does Creatine Cause Hair Loss?
- Is Creatine Safe For Kids?
- Is Creatine Good For Women?
- Does Creatine Cause Injuries?
- Can Creatine Improve Memory (video)
- Does Creatine Cause Rhabdomyolysis (video)
Why Cycle Creatine?
The idea of cycling creatine is a throwback to the thinking about steroids. Strength trainers and bodybuilders would cycle steroids because they wanted to reap the benefits of steroids while avoiding the possible dangers of steroid abuse. While that makes some sense, creatine is different. Creatine is not a steroid. So does that mean it doesn't have to be cycled? Let's answer this question by looking at the research.
Creatine Cycling Research
Over the years, I've read countless creatine studies. I don't think I've ever seen a study where people took creatine for a few weeks or months and then went off it for a period of time, only to go back to it again. Generally, in studies, researchers give people a certain amount – say 3-5 grams for a period of time (say a month or two), do some type of exercise study, and write up the results. Maybe they did a loading phase too at the beginning of the investigation too. That's normal.
Another thing to consider is we make 1-2 grams of creatine each day. If we really did need to cycle off creatine periodically, then our body's body would occasionally stop its natural production. But this doesn't happen.
Based on this, there's not much evidence for cycling.
Does Creatine Cause Hair Loss?
Watch on my Youtube channel.
Is Cycling Creatine Safer?
Sometimes people say that it’s good to cycle creatine because when you take creatine supplements, your body stops its natural creatine production. This is true. it does. Periodically going off creatine supplements, they say, is safer because it gives your body a chance to recover and start making creatine naturally again.
I see no evidence for this in healthy people. They also say if we didn't cycle, the body would forget how to make creatine if we took it for many years at a time. But I don’t see any proof of this either.
Creatine supplements have not been shown to be harmful to adults who take it responsibly. I have never seen a study finding creatine supplements that caused kidney damage or liver damage – or cause any damage, for that matter, in healthy adults. That said, if you’re not healthy, I would not take creatine without first talking to your pharmacist, dietitian, or doctor.
Something to consider is there are people who have been taking creatine for medical reasons for years in small amounts. I’ve never seen any proof that creatine harmed these people.
What About Injuries?
If someone took creatine on a regular basis (say, daily) would it increase their risk of injuries during exercise? I don't think so, but the idea of getting injured while taking creatine is a real thing. I've gotten several emails from people about this. Please read the creatine and injuries review of this for more insight. See the review on is it OK for kids to take creatine too.
So Should You Cycle Creatine? It Depends
While it may seem like I'm saying not to cycle, I'm not. I'm just pointing out the research doesn't seem to do it, and I don't think taking a few grams a day would hurt anyone who is healthy. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't cycle it. Here's why I say this:
I feel cycling can be smart because unless you are working out at a very high intensity, you are not really using creatine as an energy source. This supplement is best used when you are performing some activity that requires a high degree of muscle power (very heavy weight lifting, sprinting, etc.).
If you are lifting weights and can knock out 15 reps, then leave the creatine supplements alone. Any weight you can lift for 12-15 reps is light. You only need it when you are lifting very heavy.
My own opinion is creatine supplements are best used when you are using a resistance that you can only lift between 1 to 6 times. That’s a pretty heavyweight. Since people don’t lift super heavy all the time, then it makes sense to cycle creatine. It's smart for your muscles – and your bank account.