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Creatine Loading 101: What It Is, How to Do It, Safety, and Benefits

Creatine Loading

Despite creatine being one of the most researched supplements, there are still many misconceptions and confusions on how to take it. Take creatine loading for example. It involves taking an increased amount of creatine to speed up the process of fully saturating your muscles.

Some people believe it’s necessary while others prefer to take a smaller fixed dose every day. What’s correct?

Well, the truth is, there are NO addition long term performance benefits of a creatine loading phase. Creatine has proven effects in increasing muscle mass, improve recovery process, and improve performance in high-intensity training.

However, with a loading phase, you might just see the benefits of creatine a little faster.

So, should you, do it? Is it safe? How do you do it?

Well, we will go through EVERYTHING in this very article. We will look at a three step process on how to load creatine, it’s benefits and possible side effects, and other important information about creatine.

But let’s start with what creatine is and how it works.

What is Creatine and Why is it Important?

Creatine is one of the most popular fitness supplements that known to increase strength, lean muscle mass, overall performance.

Creatine is a molecule that is produced in our body by amino acids which helps supply energy to our working muscles. It stores high energy phosphate groups in the form of phosphocreatine to help increase ATP (adenosine triphosphate) production.

This essentially increases our performance in high intensity training. In fact, according research, creatine increases exercise performance by 10-20%.

About 95% of your body creatine is stored in your muscles and your body breaks down 1-2% per day. To compensate for this, our body produces creatine from amino acids, or we can source it through our diet. Foods like meat and fish all have creatine.

However, is this enough to maximise creatine stores in your muscles? Probably not! That’s why we use creatine supplementation. This becomes even more necessary if you’re a vegan or vegetarian since these diets have little to no creatine.  

What is Creatine Loading?

Creatine loading is when you increase your creatine consumption for a short period of time to saturate your muscles faster.

This will allow you to see the results and key performance benefits of creatine rapidly.

In fact, research has shown that short term loading of creatine monohydrate can increase intramuscular creatine stores by 20 – 40% and exercise performance capacity by 5-10%.

That being said, taking a lower amount of creatine consistently for a long period of time has shown to have equal positive effects.

That brings up a question. Why is creatine loading so popular? Well, if you have a week left before school starts and you want to look bigger, you might want to consider creatine loading!

However, it’s important to follow this 4-step guide to properly creatine load without any side effects.

 4 Steps to Properly Creatine Load – According to Research

Generally, creatine loading is safe however you need to follow and understand 4 important steps when creatine loading. These steps will insure to avoid any possible side effects and maximize benefits of creatine.

Step 1: Measuring How Much Creatine During the Loading Phase?

With creatine being one of the most popular fitness supplements, we have come across various types of creatine. However, the most researched and affordable option is creatine monohydrate.

According to various studies, the recommended amount of creatine monohydrate per day during the loading phase is 20-25 grams.

However, this may differ depending on your weight.

According to research, the amount of creatine during the loading phase should be at least 0.3g/kg. So, if you weight 60kg, then you would need 18 grams (60 x 0.3) of creatine per day during your loading phase.

However, don’t be afraid of taking slightly more because you would simply urinate the excess.

If you aim for 20 grams of creatine per day, take 5 grams of creatine four times throughout the day with at least 4 hours in between each serving. Avoid taking 20 grams of creatine at once since it may cause digestive issues.

Step 2: Duration of the Loading Phase

The main purpose of creatine loading is to fully saturate your muscles rapidly to reap the benefits quicker. But how long will it take for your muscle to fully saturate? How long is this loading phase?

Well, research shows that 5-7 days of a loading phase is enough to fully saturate your muscles with creatine. Don’t exceed this period since you won’t be getting any additional benefits.

Step 3: Maintenance

After the 5-7 days of loading creatine, your muscles are complete saturated and daily dose of 3-5 grams per day (or 0.03 g/kg day) will help maintaining these high levels of creatine.

This maintenance dose of 3-5 grams will keep maximum creatine stores in your muscles and improve overall performance for a longer period.

Remember, the point the loading phase is to build up the MAXIMUM amount of creatine in your muscles quickly and just maintain this by taking daily smaller doses.

Note that once you stop taking creatine, your muscles will slowly reduce it creatine stores back to its usual levels. So, it’s important that you CONSISTENTLY take your creatine daily.

Step 4: Water Intake

What creatine does is that it draws water into your muscles making them look bigger.

With your muscle cells absorbing excess water, your body is left with less water for other organs which can impact their normal functions.

Plus, for creatine to pull water to your muscle cells, you need to drink more water then your daily consumption. Especially if your creatine loading.

So, how much water do you need per day if you’re in the loading or maintenance phase? If you’re in the maintenance phase or simply have the recommended 3-5 grams of creatine per day, aim for a daily consumption of 4-5 liters of water. Especially if you’re working out a lot and need water to compensate for your sweat.

If you’re in still in the loading phase take an additional 100 ml for every 1 gram of creatine.

Also note that creatine works best with carbohydrates and protein however avoid taking creatine with caffeine and alcohol. This is because they can cause dehydration.

Benefits of Creatine Loading

Creatine Loading has only one benefit. It shows the positive effects of creatine faster.

Creatine itself has many benefits when your muscles become fully saturated with it.

One being that it increases ATP production which is vital for high intensity training. You’ll be able to perform better in explosive movements such as deadlifts, bench press, or squats.

This in return has shown to increase muscular strength and lean body mass.

So, if you want to see effects like, muscle gain, strength, and power, faster creatine loading is the way to go.

Having said that, taking a normal dose of 3-5 grams per day will give you the same benefits however it takes about a month to show results while creatine loading can show results within a week.  

Side Effects of Creatine Loading

It’s very important to follow that 4 step guide on taking creatine properly to avoid some of these side effects.

Note that there are some claims of creatine causing kidney, liver, or dehydration issues however there is insufficient evidence to prove these claims. However, it is a good idea to talk to a medical professional before taking creatine if you do suffer from some of these conditions.

1. Digestive issues

For most people creatine loading is safe however for some, it may cause digestive issues. Gastrointestinal disturbances have been reported by a few healthy individuals. However, to prevent this, make sure you take 4 doses of 5 grams of creatine throughout the day with at least 4 hours in between.

This will ensure that you’re not taking too much creatine at once which is the leading cause of stomach discomfort.

2. Weight Gain

Another significant side effect is that creatine causes weight gain. Creatine draws water into your muscles and holds it there (water retention) which means it’s common to see the weight scale increase after supplementing creatine. However, creatine does NOT make you fat! It’s just water weight.

Creatine loading or not, water retention will occur. However, you will notice an increase in weight much quicker if you are in the loading phase. Research suggest an 2% increase in weight in the loading phase.

3. Creatine Waste

What happens if you take too much creatine? Well, once your muscles become fully saturated, any excess creatine will be urinated out. Which means it’s basically a waste of creatine.

This is another reason a lot of athletes go for a regular amount (3-5 grams) of creatine per day. Yes, you might see the results a little later but what’s the rush?

Creatine Loading vs Not Loading

As we’ve mentioned before, creatine has got many benefits:

  • increased Muscle Mass
  • Strength and Power
  • Improve Recovery Process
  • Lower Blood Sugar

Without creatine loading and taking a regular dose of 3-5 grams per day, you will notice the benefits within 3-4 weeks. I know, some of you aren’t that patient, which is why you creatine loading has come in. You will notice the SAME effects when creatine loading within 1 week.

It all comes down to preference.

Key Takeaway

Creatine loading can help your muscles achieve full saturation in about a week’s time but it’s not necessary. Taking the recommended dose of 3-5 grams per day and noticing gradual improvements can be the most motivating in your fitness journey.

However if you do creatine load, then use that 4-step process in order for you to maximize your results and prevent major side effects.

I hope this article helped you get a better knowledge of creatine loading and if it’s for you or not.

As always, stay fit and stay healthy. I will see you guys next week!

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