Creatine supplements are safe and effective when used in recommended amounts, as I’ve discovered from aggressive research over the years. They rank among the supplements that have been the most thoroughly researched. However, I’ve always been curious about the loading phase of creatine when it comes to the strength-boosting powders and capsules.
On the back of your tub of creatine, you’ll probably discover instructions like this: “Mix 1 scoop (5,000 mg) in water or your preferred beverage 3 to 4 times daily for the first 5 to 7 days. Per serving, do not go over 5,000 mg. Take one serving (5,000 mg) for maintenance right away after working out.
It’s common to refer to this first week’s increased creatine intake as the “loading phase.”
So, What Exactly Is The Loading Phase?
Your muscle creatine stores are probably only 60-80% full if you consume a typical diet that includes meat and fish (1).
However, supplements help you get the most out of your creatine reserves.
Trainers typically advise a creatine loading period to enhance your muscle storage quickly. To quickly saturate your muscles, drink a sizable dose of creatine during this phase.
How Does It Work & Is It Necessary
For instance, a typical strategy is consuming 20 grams of creatine daily for 5-7 days. Then, four 5-gram portions are commonly taken throughout the day to make up this dose.
After consuming meat, your kidney and liver produce creatine on their own. Your muscles subsequently transform creatine into phosphate, which in turn creates adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which your body utilizes for vigorous exercise.
Although your body receives a lot of creatine during the loading period, it might not be required to increase overall levels.
It might take a little longer, but lesser doses of creatine administered once daily can be just as efficient at increasing your muscle’s creatine storage.
For instance, one study found that after taking 3 grams of creatine every day for 28 days, participants’ muscles were completely saturated (5).
As a result, employing this strategy instead of creatine loading may require an additional three weeks to maximize your muscle storage. As a result, you might have to wait before seeing positive results (2), (6).
Does Creatine Loading Have Any Negative Effects?
I experienced some uncomfortable stomach cramps throughout the creatine loading period and many bathroom breaks due to the amount of water I consumed while taking the supplement.
Numerous studies show that temporarily and permanently using creatine is safe (1), (2), (9), (10).
The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) states that healthy persons can often take up to 30 grams per day for five years without experiencing any adverse effects (2).
Though uncommon, gastrointestinal problems like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea have been documented. In addition, as creatine promotes water retention in your muscles, it can also result in weight gain and bloating (1), (2), (3).
Since your kidneys are responsible for metabolizing creatine, supplements with kidney illness may worsen things. Therefore, before taking creatine, check with your doctor if you have compromised renal function (3).
Contrary to what is typically assumed, creatine does not appear to raise your risk of dehydration, cramping, or heat illness.
Several research indicate that creatine may lower the risk of heat-related illnesses, cramps, and dehydration (2), (11), (12), (13).
When taken at acceptable levels, creatine is generally safe. However, as usual, if you have a health concern, are pregnant, or are nursing, you should talk to your doctor before using supplements.
Supplements for creatine are commonly available both offline and online. Creatine monohydrate has undergone the most significant research.
The most efficient strategy to raise your muscle creatine levels, according to the ISSN, is to consume 5 grams of creatine monohydrate four times each day for five to seven days. However, specific dosages will depend on your weight (2).
By dividing your weight in kilos by 0.3, you may calculate your daily dose for the loading period (2).
During the loading phase, a person weighing 80 kg (175 pounds) would take in 24 grams of creatine per day (80 x 0.3).
Research suggests that taking 3 grams of creatine every day for 28 days may also help saturate your muscles with the substance (2), 5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).
A lesser dose can keep levels high after your muscles are fully saturated.
Maintenance dosages vary from 2 to 10 grams per day (3).
Remember that once you stop taking creatine pills, your muscle storage will gradually return to normal (2), (5).
While it is possible to increase your creatine stockpiles gradually over a few weeks, the safest and quickest way to do so is with a 5- to 7-day loading phase of 20 grams per day, followed by lesser dosages to maintain high levels.
These include gaining muscle and strength, performing better, and running a lower risk of sports-related ailments.
Creatine loading may not be necessary, but it is quick and secure.