Do you need to cycle creatine? That is the most often discussed and misunderstood concept regarding creatine in my experience. The short answer is that you don’t have to cycle creatine, but in the interests of being complete I’d like to address this with some information to help you decide the best course of action for yourself.
Weightlifters often wonder if they should cycle creatine because creatine somehow got lumped in with steroids. Strength trainers and bodybuilders would cycle steroids in order to reap the benefits of while avoiding the possible dangers of steroid abuse. While that makes some sense, creatine is different. Creatine is not a steroid. As such, it does not have the potential dangers of abusing steroids.
Your body produces one or two grams of creatine every day. The only reason we would need to consider cycling off creatine is if our body stopped producing it as a result of long-term use. When you take creatine supplements your body stops its natural creatine production, so in theory periodically going off creatine supplements is safer because it gives your body a chance to recover and start making creatine naturally again. There is no evidence that this is necessary. Your body begins producing it again when there isn’t any available.
Creatine supplements have not been shown to be harmful to adults who take creatine responsibly. There are no studies showing liver or kidney damage due to creatine supplementation in healthy adults. If you suffer from any kind of kidney or liver disorder then maybe creatine isn’t for you. .
Some people wonder if the body might lose its ability to make creatine, if they took creatine supplements long enough. There is no proof of this but most creatine studies however last only a few weeks or months. This means that until someone does a very long-term study on creatine supplementation we won’t know for sure, but there is nothing that suggests that the body will stop producing its own supply if it needs to do so.
The main reason why it may be a good idea to cycle creatine is because unless you are working out at a very high intensity, then using creatine will be of little benefit. Creatine is most effective when you are performing an activity that requires a high degree of muscle power. This means that if you are lifting weights and can perform 15 reps, then leave the creatine supplements alone. With lighter weights you’re not really using creatine to help you lift that weight.
Creatine supplements are most useful when you are using a resistance that you can only lift between one to six times, because when lifting heavy weight any extra energy will be needed as fast as it can be produced, and this is what creatine does-increase energy production under these circumstances. When using lighter weights, the demands on the body to produce large amounts of energy very quickly aren’t there.
This is where cycling creatine can be of benefit. No one lifts heavy all the time, so it may be wise to limit the use of creatine to those periods when you do. Otherwise it’s likely you’re just wasting your money.