We received a question from Niclas, who writes:
“I have a question about creatine. I went without it during the holidays and I began taking it again when work started. However, it’s seems like more often than not, I forget to take it during the weekend when I don’t have the routine that comes with work. So let’s say that I take it regularly 5 times per week, Monday to Friday, then skip two days. Do you have any thoughts of the effect? I do strength training 5 times per week and play beach volleyball 3 times per week, but the gym is my number one priority.”
I answer this question in the video below, but if you’d rather read, you can skip to the transcript below the video.
First off: we’ve got a huge guide on creatine, that you should check out if you’re the least bit curious about it: Creatine: Effects, Benefits and Safety
Secondly, for those of you who don’t know: creatine is probably the best legal supplement we currently know of, and you should be using it whether you train for strength or muscle growth, and are bulking or cutting.
Now, to Niclas question. The answer lies in the fact that creatine’s effect isn’t acute. It works by increasing the creatine content in your muscles, which is a process that happens over weeks. If you do a loading phase of creatine and you take 20 grams per day for 5–6 days, then you will have increased your muscles creatine content by about 20% by the end of that phase, and you could move on to a maintenance phase of 3–5 g per day. If you skip the loading phase and go straight to the maintenance phase of 3–5 g per day, then it takes upwards of 2–3 weeks before you’ve reached the same level of muscle creatine content.
So it takes anywhere from a week to a couple of weeks to load up your muscles on creatine, and it doesn’t matter what time of day you’re taking it. But what if you stop taking it after you’ve filled your creatine stores? Then it will slowly start decreasing again.
One study tested this.1 Participants did a loading phase and increased their muscle creatine content by 20%, and then stopped taking creatine at all. After two weeks, the muscle creatine content had decreased by 5%. So they where still up about 15% from start. After a full month without creatine, they were pretty much back to baseline.
So, the wash-out period for creatine, if you’ve taken it regularly, is about a month. But what you’re describing is more of a recurring dosage pattern. In your situation, as long as the total intake from those five weekdays that you take creatine, average out to something like 3–5 grams a day, I wouldn’t be worried. 3 g/day seems to be enough for most poeple, five grams per day is something like a safety margin, so if you get five grams five days a week, and divide that by seven, you’re still at 3.5 grams per day, so I’d say you’re just fine.
Thanks for the qestion, Niclas!
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