Creatine is one of the most widely researched supplements circulating within the world. It is prevalent for athletes and bodybuilders to use creatine to help improve muscle gains and workout performance.
One way to utilize creatine is through creatine loading. This is a method that increases creatine stores in order to improve energy output. Creatine loading may seem intimidating, but let us walk you through what creatine is and how creatine loading works.
What is Creatine?
Creatine is an amino acid found in the body. It is mostly located in the muscles of the body, but it can be found in the brain too.
Ninety-five percent of creatine stores are found in the body’s muscles. Creatine is both created by the body in a few different essential organs, but it can be absorbed through food and supplements, as well.
Creatine is produced and synthesized in the pancreas, liver, and kidneys. It can also be consumed through red meats and seafood. Supplements are another way to get creatine into the body.
Your body converts creatine into energy. The body uses creatine to boost energy levels and improve muscle mass. Athletes take creatine orally to try and improve performance, boost workouts, and improve muscle mass
Some individuals even consume creatine supplements to help with heart and skin conditions.
What is Creatine Loading?
Creatine loading consists of consuming creatine supplements to increase or maximize the creatine stores in your body. The goal is to accumulate more creatine stores in the body for increased energy output.
The first stage of increasing those stores of creatine in the body is called the loading phase. In the loading phase, you increase your creatine intake to supply your muscles with more creatine than they are accustomed to experiencing.
The goal is often to increase creatine stores by at least ten percent. However, some individuals may improve their creatine levels by up to 40 percent.
The ultimate goal is to create a larger store of creatine so the body can perform better during workouts, and the body may be able to build muscle more effectively.
What are the Phases of Creatine Loading?
There are two primary phases to creatine loading.
- Phase 1—This is the loading phase. In this phase, your goal is to maximize stores of creatine by consuming creatine supplements for several days. More commonly, the loading phase will last from 5 to 8 days.
- Phase 2—This is the maintenance phase. After you maximize your creatine scores, you can reduce the amount of creatine supplements you consume. You then continue to maintain both the supplements you consume and the maximum creatine store you have built in the muscles.
Is Creatine Loading Necessary?
The necessity of creatine loading is genuinely dependent upon the needs and goals of the individual. Additionally, this question can be tackled in one of two days.
Creatine loading refers explicitly to a period where someone consumes more substantial amounts of creatine to build a store in the body. Studies have shown that this short interval of consumption is not entirely necessary.
Individuals can build creatine levels over time. You can take smaller doses of creatine over a month and slowly build higher creatine levels. This takes a more extended amount of time, but you will reach the same results.
Therefore, creatine loading depends on your timeline and your goals. If you want to maximize your creatine levels quickly and see results immediately, then creatine loading will be a good option.
Creatine loading also refers to the concept of increasing and maintaining higher creatine levels overall to improve energy output and workout performance.
As will be discussed in the next section, creatine loading has several benefits. While these benefits can be experienced through creatine loading, the decision is ultimately up to the individual to decide whether or not to load creatine.
While it may not be necessary, creatine loading can help you reach your goals and improve your workout performance.
What are the Benefits of Creatine Loading?
Several studies have shown several benefits of creatine loading.
These studies have shown that increasing creatine stores in the body can reduce fat mass and improve muscle strength. It can also improve aerobic performance, endurance, and high-intensity intermittent speed training.
It can improve the quality of resistance training and strength training when you work out. It can also improve the neurological function and daily functions of the body.
In some cases, creatine loading even reduces the amount of oxygen consumed with lower levels of exercise.
Aside from these health benefits, creatine loading can provide quicker results than other methods, including loading over 28-30 days.
Those that load creatine can see improved results and workout performance within one or two weeks. That is a speedy turnaround, which many find appealing.
Those quick improvements can be seen in muscle gain, strength overall, improved workout or athletic performance, and rapid or less recovery time.
Is Creatine Loading Safe?
The majority of studies agree that increasing creatine stores in the body is safe. This means that creatine loading is very low risk.
One study even notes that “creatine supplementation does not result in adverse health effects.”
Another study demonstrates that healthy individuals can take up to 30 grams of creatine for days over five years without adverse side effects.
These studies and results apply to most healthy individuals, so this means that those with health conditions should discuss creatine loading with a medical professional. Studies do not address creatine loading for those with heart, lung, cardiovascular, or other diseases/conditions.
Therefore, for most healthy individuals, creatine loading has been proven to be safe and effective. Those with health conditions or diseases should always consult a medical professional before creatine loading.
It is always ideal to consult a professional before undertaking a significant change in diet or supplements.
- Related: When Is The Best Time to Take Creatine? Pre or Post Workout?
How Do you Load Creatine?
Creatine loading usually means taking a more significant amount of creatine supplements within 5 to 7 days.
It is common for many individuals to take 20 grams of creatine for 5-8 days. Most creatine loaders divide the 20 grams into four doses of 5 grams in the day.
After loading for 5-8 days, you then reduce your creatine intake to a lower, stable number. For instance, after a period of 5-8, you would then only take 5 grams of creatine per day for about four weeks.
It is then ideal for taking a two-week break from creatine after these two phases. The amount of creatine may vary depending on your timeline, goals, and body type.
You can achieve the same results by taking less amounts of creatine over a more extended period. For instance, you may take only 5 grams of creatine for 30 days to complete the loading phase. Then the maintenance phase may consist of 2-3 grams per day over two weeks.
It is best to think about your body and your goals to choose the best loading phase method and the timeline for yourself.
Are There Side Effects to Creatine Loading?
While the risks and side effects are minimal, some users may have a minor reaction to creatine loading. This could simply result from the body not being accustomed to the higher amount of creatine in the body.
Some side effects may include:
- Muscle Cramping
- Digestive Upset
- Water retention
- Weight gain
- Kidney stones
- Liver or kidney damage
While liver or kidney damage may seem dangerous, this side effect usually only occurs when creatine is combined with other supplements taken at a high dosage over several months.
Therefore, regulating your usage and monitoring your body significantly reduces any side effects of creatine
Creatine shows minimal side effects. However, with any supplement, it is always best to consult a physician and monitor your body’s reaction to supplements.
The Bottom Line
There have been many proven benefits of increasing the creatine levels in your body. While creatine loading is just one way to maximize creatine stores to increase energy output, you can increase creatine naturally by consuming foods with higher creatine levels as well.
Creatine loading can help you reach your workout goals quickly in a way that has been proven to be safer than other methods. Creatine loading can help you reduce your fat mass, improve overall body strength, and increase workout gains.
With little to no side effects and the ability to control the timeline of your creatine intake, creatine loading seems like an excellent method to help reach your goals. If you find that it does not work for you, then it is straightforward to stop creatine loading.
Consider the gains you could make, along with the other benefits you could enjoy. Now maybe a good time to look into creatine loading.
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Cooper, R., et al. (2012). Creatine supplementation with specific view to exercise/sports performance: an update. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3407788/
Schiling, B.K., et all. (2001). Creatine supplementation and health variables: a retrospective study. Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise, 33(2). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11224803