TL;DR Summary: How long do the effects of creatine last?
In terms of its effects, creatine lasts for as long as you are taking it. Once you stop taking creatine, the benefits will quickly disappear; your recover time between heavy sets will increase, and your muscles will release water, making them appear relatively deflated.
Creatine is the single most studied sports performance supplement in the world. No other supplement used by bodybuilders, weight lifters, fighters and endurance athletes has the same scientific pedigree as creatine.
Even protein powders – the first supplement most gym rats ever try – doesn’t have anywhere near the same clinical data supporting it as creatine does.
This is a large part of the reason why creatine has become one of the most widely used sports performance supplements on the market today (alongside protein powders and pre-workouts). The fact of the matter is that creatine is extremely effective for almost everybody. It quickly increases strength, explosive power, and muscle size without causing any notable side effects.
However, creatine is not a miracle substance. It has its own limitations, and the benefits do not last forever.
So how long do the effects of creatine last?
How long after you stop taking creatine can you expect to still enjoy the benefits?
Let’s take a closer look at what creatine is and how it works. Then we can answer these questions in detail.
What is creatine and how does it work?
Creatine is a naturally occurring compound. It is found in the cells of all vertebrates, particularly in muscle and organ cells. Creatine’s primary role in the body is energy metabolism. Within your cells are structures called miotochondria; these are the ‘engines’ of your cells where energy is released from fuel.
Your mitochondria release energy by recycling a compound called adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, into adenosine diphosphate and then back again. Over the course of a single day, a human will recycle about 50-75kg of ATP!
Creatine is the intermediary in this process of ATP to ADP conversion (and vice versa). Higher creatine availability would therefore mean a more efficient ATP-ADP recycling process, which would more mean efficient energy metabolism.
How does this benefit you?
Well, ATP is the main limiting factor in heavy lifts. When attempting a max lift (where you need to lift explosively and release as much power as possible), you exhaust your ATP stores in a matter of seconds. It can then take 30-60 seconds for your stores to replenish (via ADP-ATP recycling).
Having more creatine in your cells would speed up this process, meaning you can recover from heavy sets faster and ultimately do more reps at a heavier weight.
As a salt, creatine also pulls water into your muscle cells. This makes your muscles appear larger and fuller, as well as increasing your total body weight (and fat-free mass). While this is not lean muscle tissue, the added weight will help you move more weight in the gym, thus making your training more efficient and boosting real muscle mass gains.
Who should use creatine?
Because its main benefits are increased muscle size, increased strength and faster recover between heavy sets, creatine is ideal for bodybuilders, powerlifters, and other power athletes who rely on building lean, powerful muscle mass.
Creatine generally improves cellular energy metabolism. This applies to both your muscle cells and your brain cells. So creatine is also great for anyone who wants more mental energy throughout the day.
So how long does creatine last?
The beneficial effects of creatine last only as long as you are taking it. Once you stop taking creatine, your muscles will quickly lose all of their excess creatine and return to normal, baseline levels.
However, that doesn’t mean the benefits you have accrued while using creatine disappear too. On the contrary; the increases in training intensity that creatine affords people leads to rapid increases in strength and lean muscle tissue. This lean muscle tissue should remain long after you stop taking creatine (assuming you are training and eating to accommodate it).
So while your muscles will quickly deflate after you stop taking creatine, all of the gains you made while on creatine will stick around for months, potentially years to come.
- How often should you take creatine?
- Do vegan athletes need creatine supplements?
- What is the healthiest form of creatine?
- How long do the effects of creatine last?
- How long before a workout should I take creatine?
- How long does it take for creatine to kick in?
Pavel Sadovnik is a leading biochemical scientist with a PhD in biochemical engineering. He has spent decades working in industry as a chemist and pjharmaceutical consultant. He has extensive experience with the supplement industry, and specialises in supplement tsting and formulation consultancy. He is the Editor of NARSTO.