When it comes to creatine supplements, few questions are as common 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.
Weightlifters often wonder if they should cycle creatine because it’s 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. As such, it does not have the potential dangers of abusing steroids.
As I said above, the easy answer to this question is no, you don’t have to cycle creatine. This is not only because of what I said previously, but also because you make creatine.
You make a 1-2 grams of creatine each day. If you really did need to cycle off creatine periodically, then your body would occasionally stop its natural production of creatine. But this doesn't happen.
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. Periodically going off creatine supplements, they say, is safer because it gives your body a chance to recover and start making creatine naturally again. But, I don’t see any proof of this.
Creatine supplements have not been shown to be harmful to adults who take creatine responsibly. I have never seen a study that found creatine supplements caused kidney damage or liver damage – or cause any damage for that matter, in healthy adults. If you’re not healthy, I would not take creatine.
On a related issue if you were wondering about creatine and injuries read my review of this for more insight. Also read my review about : is it OK for kids to take creatine. This is very important for coaches working with kids from elementary to high school age.
There are people who have been taking creatine for medical reasons for years in small amounts. I’ve never seen any proof that that creatine has harmed these people.
Related to this, some people wonder if the body might “forget” how to make creatine, if they took creatine supplements long enough. There is no proof of this. Most creatine studies however last only a few weeks to months. Based on this fact, until somebody does a 30 year study of creatine supplements in weight lifters who take creatine long term, I think its smart to go off creatine occasionally just in case.
The main reason why I feel it’s good to cycle creatine is because unless you are working out at a very high intensity, you are not really using creatine as an energy source.
Creatine 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. As such you’re not really using creatine to help you lift that weight.
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 heavy weight. Since people don’t lift super heavy all the time, then it makes sense to cycle creatine. Its smart for your muscles – and your bank account.