The strength and performance benefits of creatine are well known and heavily promoted, leaving many curious about whether it is safe to continue taking it forever (so that the creatine gain train never has to stop).
Can you take creatine forever? Taking creatine forever generally appears safe, but it might not always be necessary. The balance of research suggests that taking creatine within the recommended dosage amount of 3-5g daily is unlikely to yield any adverse effects even with long-term use.
There have been over 1,000 studies on creatine conducted with billions of creatine servings ingested as part of those studies. The common theme overwhelmingly is that creatine poses no adverse health risks for the average person.
In this article, I’ll discuss whether creatine’s efficacy and safety stacks up for continued use over the course of your lifetime.
Long Term Use Of Creatine: Are There Side Effects?
Creatine consumption over long periods and its effects on the body has been investigated extensively, with evidence indicating no detrimental clinical reactions or changes in health markers.
What The Science Says
- One study found that there were no adverse effects on renal function and there were no harmful impacts to healthy individuals for short term (5 days), medium term (9 weeks) and long term (up to 5 years) use of creatine.
- Another study which showed no changes in liver or kidney function following creatine use for several months.
- A retrospective study of athletes using creatine within the duration ranges of 8-12 months and greater than 12 months compared with athletes not using any creatine for those same time frames found no differences in reported side effects across all the groups.
- A large study of 98 college footballers split into 4 groups (no creatine, creatine use up to 6 months, creatine use for 7-12 months and creatine use for 13-21 months), showed there were no adverse effects to health markers of any athlete regardless of the group they were in.
Much of the available data suggests that long-term creatine supplementation does not result in adverse health effects for generally healthy individuals.
So, if you fall into this bucket, it is likely you’ll be able to enjoy the benefit of creatine over sustained periods without any concern over its impact on your health.
You Still May Have Some Side Effects Though
With that said, some side effects, like gastrointestinal discomfort, from creatine use have been observed but these are not connected to the duration of your creatine use and often have more to do with how you are consuming creatine or other environmental factors rather than the supplement itself.
I’ve written previously on some of the known side effects:
- Creatine Makes Me Feel Sick: Why & How To Fix
- Is It Normal To Poop A Lot On Creatine?
- Creatine Makes Me Feel Dizzy: Why & How To Fix
Consult Your Doctor If You’re Taking Creatine Long Term With Other Medications
In addition, while studies have found that creatine is safe and there haven’t been any remarkable impacts on renal function, typical advice around creatine use generally is to consult a doctor if you are taking medication placing demands on your renal system.
This is because creatine supplementation may put added stress on your kidneys or liver already working hard to fight illness. This advice is independent of how long you would intend to supplement with creatine.
Should you take creatine? If so, when and how much?
Taking Creatine For Years Straight: Is This Good?
Using creatine for extended periods compared to shorter durations could yield more benefits because your muscles are exposed to higher creatine stores for a greater period of time.
Creatine supplementation has some convincing results on strength and muscle mass:
- One study found an 8% increase in 1RM maximal strength and 14% increase in weightlifting performance when supplementing with creatine.
- Another study showed that over a 42 day strength training program participants who were supplementing with creatine gained 2kg of lean muscle compared with those who were given a placebo and saw no change in their lean muscle.
Creatine supplementation does its work by filling up your muscles with surplus creatine stores, providing your muscles with energy to work harder and perform better. The longer you maintain these creatine stores in your muscles the more likely your muscles are to be performing optimally during workouts.
Given creatine is safe to take long-term and creatine use provides such significant benefits, it seems like taking it for years straight is likely to be more good than bad.
Are There Reasons To Cycle Off Creatine?
Ultimately, whether you want to cycle off creatine is going to come down to personal preference.
If you don’t have an underlying medical condition, aren’t experiencing any side effects with creatine, and you’re wanting to continually:
- Support a high intensity training regime;
- Develop lean muscle mass; and
- Increase strength;
There is no need to cycle off creatine. Evidence suggests creatine is safe for long-term use.
Don’t be fooled by the naysayers, who will tell you that you need to cycle off creatine to stop your body from getting used to it and experiencing reduced benefits as a result.
Perhaps you have heard these myths:
Myth 1 – Cycle creatine so you don’t build a tolerance
Once you have built up creatine stores in the muscles and continue to replenish these stores with creatine supplementation your muscles are likely to be operating optimally as they are being provided with consistent energy to work hard.
With continued creatine use you may not feel the initial boost you did when first starting using creatine, but this doesn’t mean your body has developed a’ tolerance’ or that it isn’t benefiting from it.
Myth 2 – Cycle creatine so you don’t impact your body’s ability to produce creatine naturally
Studies have indicated that your body’s natural production of creatine may slow down when supplementing but it will return to its usual levels of production within a couple of weeks of stopping creatine.
With that said, just because creatine is generally considered safe for long-term use, it doesn’t mean you need to continue to use it indefinitely.
Maybe you are taking a training break, going on holiday, or changing up your style of training, or maybe you want to save some cash and cut down on supplement costs. Whatever the situation, cycling off creatine for short or longer periods of time is ok too.
Stopping creatine won’t reverse any muscle, strength, or performance outputs achieved while supplementing with it. As long as you aren’t in a harsh nutritional cut or stepping away from training for a significant period of time, you won’t lose your gains.
Dosing Recommendation For Long Term Creatine use
The general consensus around recommended creatine dosing for long-term use is 3-5 grams per day.
This dosing recommendation has proven to be both safe and effective when used for sustained periods of time.
Other Tips For Taking Creatine Forever
If you’re looking to keep creatine supplementation in your daily routine now and into the foreseeable future, consider the following:
- Is it aligned to your training goals?
- Is it aligned to your training intensity?
- Are you following appropriate nutritional practices to support supplementation?
- Are you taking a break from training?
- Have you developed a medical condition that might be placing pressure on your renal system?
- Is your creatine supplement high quality?
- Have you noticed any abnormal side effects develop with creatine use?
Where your training, personal or medical circumstances change, review whether creatine still fits in with your plans and your goals.
If you’re planning on taking creatine for the long term, make sure you use a supplement that is quality controlled and of the purest form so you know you’re not putting rubbish in your body.
Regardless of how long you’re on creatine, if your nutrition isn’t dialed in and you’re not training appropriately, you’re unlikely to reap the benefits.
Have a FeastGood Nutrition Coach help you get results faster than trying to stick it out alone
Read More Creatine Resources
- Creatine Every Other Day: Should You Do It? Pros & Cons
- Does Creatine Make You More Vascular? (What Science Says)
- How Long For Creatine To Work? (1-Week & 1-Month Results)
- Can You Build Muscle Without Creatine? (What Science Says)
- Can You Dry Scoop Creatine? Benefits, Risks & Effectiveness
- Does Creatine Make You More Aggressive? (Science-Backed)
- Does Creatine Make You More Hungry? (What The Science Says)
- Creatine Makes Me Tired: Causes & How To Fix
- Can You Mix Creatine With Milk? (Yes, Here’s How To Do It)
- Can You Mix Creatine With Pre-Workout? Yes, Here’s How To Do It
- Can You Take Creatine Before Bed? And, Does It Affect Sleep?
The Bottom Line
The main thing that will get in the way of me taking my creatine is my memory because the bulk of the literature suggests continued use within recommended ranges is unlikely to cause any health concerns. So I’ll continue taking creatine as long as I want to and as long as it continues to support my training goals.
About The Author
Steph Catalucci | Nutrition Coach
@macronutritionau | macro-nutrition.com.au
Steph Catalucci is an online nutrition coach from Australia, working with clients all over the world. Her passion for nutrition was born through wanting to treat her body better, for health and performance. She is a strong advocate for understanding nutrition to develop informed nutritional habits that go beyond just food. Steph leverages a decade of her own nutritional experience to help people make sense of the noise and carve a path forward with their nutrition, supporting clients with whatever body composition goal they have. When not coaching or writing, you’ll find her training for her next powerlifting competition.