A creatine cycle is the thought process where you will take a creatine supplement for a certain period then you will stop taking it entirely for a particular duration.
Not everyone agrees that you need to cycle off of creatine for better results, but in this article, I will give you all of the information you need to decide whether or not you feel like this will benefit you in reaching your goals.
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What Is Creatine
It is a chemical that is naturally made and found primarily in your muscle cells, your body uses it for many reasons, but the one action that concerns bodybuilders is how it distributes energy to your muscles during periods of stress from strength training and high-intensity cardio.
95% of your creatine is stored in your muscles with the other 5% being found in your brain, liver, and kidneys.
Different variables will decide how much you have in your body like…
- What percentage of testosterone you have
- How much meat you have in your daily diet
- How often you exercise will determine creatine levels
- What percentage of muscle mass you have on your body, since creatine is stored in your muscles the more you have will obviously allow your body to be able to store more.
What Is A Creatine Cycle
When you hear someone talking about cycling creatine or any supplement, what they are referring to is taking creatine for a certain period and then stopping entirely for some time.
What some people believe is that this will increase the efficacy of your creatine usage after you stop and then begin again.
This has never been proven through case studies and is more of an opinion than a fact.
Why Do You Need To Cycle Creatine
You don’t have to cycle creatine.
Creatine has been exposed to more testing than any other supplement on the planet; it has been done for decades, so there aren’t any more questions when it comes to long term or short term effects of creatine.
We know about the safety and effectiveness records of creatine over the long term and short term period.
Unlike other supplements that act upon the nerve, muscle, and neural receptors and, over time, create a tolerance weakening their effects.
Creatine doesn’t react with your body this way, and it’s absorbed by your muscles and then used as a quick energy source once you begin to ask your body to complete high-intensity workouts.
How Long Should You Stay On Creatine Before Cycling Off
Studies have been done on creatine that has lasted over five years, and the only side effect that has shown in healthy individuals is the increase in water weight since creatine pulls water into your muscle cells.
Creatine is very useful no matter if you’re on a bulking phase and trying to build muscle or on a cutting stage to lose weight and create more muscle definition.
Other than that, there is no reason to stop supplementing with creatine unless you stop working out or dieting altogether.
The People that do believe in creatine cycling will tell you to supplement with creatine for 6 to 8 weeks then to cycle off for two weeks later to start your creatine cycling all over again.
Is Creatine Cycling Necessary
It has never been scientifically proven to be necessary or beneficial; however, there are a lot of people out there who agree that it does have positive side effects towards their training results.
I tend to fall in line with case studies and time tested results, where other people like to make their own opinion.
Neither one of these approaches can be deemed wrong.
There are 2 reasons why you need to cycle a substance:
One is to allow your hormones to neutralize themselves in case the supplement you’re taking makes your body stop producing its natural hormone.
For example, if you’re taking an anabolic steroid, your body will stop making its natural production of testosterone, and the longer you’re on the steroid, the more dramatic this effect will become.
To fix the hormonal imbalance, you cycle off of the steroid to give your body the chance to balance its natural production of testosterone.
Creatine supplementation doesn’t affect your hormones this way, and it doesn’t even stop your body from making its creatine, so you don’t need to cycle off of it to allow itself to continue to produce creatine naturally.
To Avoid Building A Tolerance
When you take some medicines and supplements over time, you will build a tolerance that prevents you from getting the same positive benefits you were receiving from them in the beginning.
To fix this, you will cycle off of them to give your body a chance to decrease the tolerance, and then when you start to retake them you’ll receive the same early benefits as you did before.
A Creatine cycle doesn’t matter since your body doesn’t build a tolerance to creatine; it merely uses it as an energy source during your workouts.
Think of it as eating, you’ve been eating all of your life and you don’t need to eat more to receive the same amount of energy as you did 10 years ago.
The same amount of creatine use will give you the same amount of energy 10 years from now as it did the 2nd week into using it.
How Much Creatine Can The Body absorb at One sitting
After you take 20 grams a day for 7 days your creatine stores will be full and any extra will just be flushed out of your body.
This is why it is never recommended to exceed the recommended dosage during the initial week and the time afterward.
What Does Creatine Do-Why Is It So Effective
The short answer is when taken on a regular basis it will increase muscle mass, add strength, allow you to do more reps during your workouts, and improve your exercise performance.
The longer technical answer is that it helps your body produce ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) ATP is basically the currency of energy. When you lift weights it makes the cells in your muscles require energy and your body supplies the energy by breaking down ATP, this is known as hydrolysis.
The problem is that there is not a lot of ATP to go around, and once you run out your muscle endurance and workout will start to sacrifice.
This is where creatine supplementation comes into play, your body can only store enough ATP for about 10 seconds of high-intensity workouts, at this point your body must start producing more ATP.
Creatine increases your body’s phosphocreatine which will be used to make ATP during strenuous activity, allowing you to workout longer, add reps, decrease muscle fatigue, and increase your intensity.
Being able to work out harder, longer and at a higher intensity, in the long run, will give you faster results
What Are The Effects Of Taking Creatine
While it has been shown to help fight neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s, Epilepsy, and brain and spinal cord injuries were going to focus on the physical benefits that come from it.
- An increase in lean muscle mass countless studies were done over the years have shown considerable gains in muscle mass when creatine supplementation is combined with strength training.
- Strength gains – When your levels hit their max by a loading phase or daily servings studies have shown increased strength between 5 and 15%
- Improved cardiovascular and muscular endurance – Your performance during high-intensity cardio and strength training will increase anywhere from 15 to 20%.
- Improved hydration – Creatine pulls water into your cells which is believed to help reduce cramps, muscle tightness, strains, and other miscellaneous injuries.
Is Creatine Safe
The first report of athletes using creatine was in 1992 during the summer Olympics, since then it has been the most studied supplement in the industry, it is deemed by the International Society Of Sports Nutrition as extremely safe and one of the most beneficial supplements an athlete can take.
Since creatine has been tested for almost 2 decades the long term and short term health questions have been answered, and unless you have pre-existing kidney or liver problems there isn’t any reason not to supplement with creatine
What Should You Mix Creatine With
The option below is one of the most popular ways people will take it if you want to take it with water that is also completely fine and you will still receive all the benefits.
A lot of experts will tell you to mix it with a fruit juice that is high in sugar. The thinking behind this is that insulin regulates the absorption of creatine, so if you spike your insulin you will elevate absorption levels.
There is a problem with this though, you have to use a fruit juice that has at least 100 grams of sugar in order to raise your insulin. Since you take creatine every day the calories from the high sugar content are going to add up quickly.
If you feel like this is beneficial make sure to do your research and to find the healthiest fruit juice you can and make sure to account for the calories in your nutrition plan.
How To Do A Loading phase
Your muscles naturally store creatine but it is believed that they are only 60 to 80% filled at any given time, supplementing with creatine will fill the remaining 40 to 20%.
Doing a loading phase you will fill up your creatine stores quickly allowing you to experience the benefits sooner.
During the first week of usage, you’ll take 20 grams a day broken up into 4 daily servings of 5 grams each, normally taken at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and before bed.
After the loading phase, you’ll take one serving every day that will range from 3 to 10 grams. I never take more than 5 grams a day and think anything above this is a waste.
Once you saturate your muscles with the loading phase and maintain the levels with 5 grams per day after that your muscles can’t hold anymore and the excess will be moved to your brain, liver, and kidneys.
Is It Necessary
In no way shape or form is it necessary to do the load, if you start off with 5 grams a day in about 3 to 4 weeks your storage will be at its max. The only benefit to doing this is to get your creatine levels filled up quickly and there is no other benefit other than that.
How To Take Creatine
The options below are some of the popular ways people take it, if you want to take it with water that is also completely fine and you will still receive all the benefits.
I mix my creatine with a protein shake just for the sake of convenience, I drink it after every workout and don’t have to worry about forgetting it.
Many people believe that there is a 30-minute window after your workout where your body is starved for nutrients and will use a higher percentage at this point than at any other point during the day.
Many people buy pre-workouts that have creatine in them already or you can add some to it, personally I find most pre-workout supplements to be garbage and it is just as beneficial or healthier at times to have a double shot of espresso.
Especially since caffeine is the main ingredient in pre-workouts, it’s just covered up by a bunch of other ingredients to make you feel like you’re taking something special.w Much Creatine Should You Be Taking On A Daily basis
Depending on how far along you are in your creatine supplementation you will be taking different amounts of creatine. You will take a different amount during your loading phase, then lower that amount while on a maintenance phase.
What Is Creatine Loading
At any given time your body stores about 60 to 70% of the maximum amount of creatine, this leaves a lot to be desired since you’re going to need a lot more to do intense workouts.
The loading phase will happen in the first 5-7 days (I recommend seven days) when you’ll take a dose of creatine equal to 5 grams four times a day to add up to 20 grams per day to saturate your muscles and raise your creatine stores to make sure they’re full.
This phase will make sure that you receive the benefits of creatine quicker giving you better pumps, more stamina, and more reps during your workouts.
Example Of A Loading Phase
If you’re going to do the loading phase, then you will take 5 grams of creatine four times a day for seven days straight.
For example, You will take 5 grams at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and before bed.
After this phase, your creatine stores will be full, and you will receive the full benefits from your creatine much sooner than if you didn’t do the loading phase.
You don’t have to do the loading phase, all you would do then is take the normal 5 grams per day. It will take a little longer for you to see the advantages though, probably around a month.
Creatine Maintenance Phase
After your loading phase, you would take 5 grams once a day for as long as you are working out or dieting.
If you decide that you feel like you agree with cycling, then you would also have to determine how long you would want your cycle to last.
When Is The Best Time To Take Creatine
This is a debate that I don’t ever think will end, is it better to take when you first wake up when your body is craving nutrients, or before your workout to enhance power and strength, after your workout or before bed. You can decide, and then you’ll have your own opinion to keep the debate alive.
When you first wake up
The thought behind this is when you first wake up, your stomach is empty, and you’re catatonic from not eating for 6 to 8 hours, making your body ready to absorb anything you put into it. On my off days, I take it first thing in the morning with my espresso shat.
Before your workout
This argument wants you to believe that consuming it before your workout will increase your strength, force, and endurance. Allowing you to activate more muscle fibers and as a result, lift more weight and lead to more muscle growth.
The problem I have with this is that as long as you are taking creatine every day your muscles are already saturated with it and you should already be seeing increases in strength, force, and endurance. I don’t see how this would make any difference.
This is why there are many opinions about this topic
After your workout
I personally feel this is the best time to drink creatine, I subscribe to the thinking that there is a window of opportunity between 30 and 60 minutes after your workout, where your body is primed to absorb every gram of creatine and protein in order to repair itself from the epic workout that you just performed.
This is only my opinion, but it is also backed by science. In the end, find what works best for you and do that.
There are some people that feel it helps them sleep, but I’ve had a hard time finding any studies to prove this. There isn’t anything that happens during your sleep that would make it more effective or absorbed more.
I’ve heard people arguing this point before, but for the life of me can’t figure out why. If you want to take it before bed go right ahead, but at least with the three prior times, you can find a case study or science fact to back them up.
What Type Of Creatine Is Best
There isn’t any doubt that creatine monohydrate is the best form of creatine on the market.
Of all the studies done creatine monohydrate is the one that has been used in the majority of them so the track record of its effectiveness and safety is unquestionable.
It provides the highest production of ADP and
Does Creatine Give You A Big Belly
Creatine does not make you fat, it doesn’t have any calories and has no impact on the speed of your metabolism.
The first week that you take creatine you will have between 2 and 4 pounds of water weight added to your body, but this is a good thing. Creatine pulls water into your muscles making them look bigger and fuller and this also helps them repair faster.
In fact even while on a cutting cycle you should continue to take creatine to help burn fat and maintain your existing muscle mass.
It’s a myth that creatine gives you a big belly, do not miss out on one of the best supplements out there because you hear this from people that don’t know what they’re talking about.
Performing a creatine cycle is one of those topics that is based a lot on opinion and individual habits, then it is on scientific data.
There isn’t a lot of studies that show any type of positive benefits from stopping the supplementation of creatine; in fact, I feel there is more proof showing that it will hinder your results in the long run.