Creatine Loading: To Load Or Not To Load?

Conversations surrounding creatine invariably spark one of the supplements most heated debates- is it better to load creatine, or follow a consistent dosing protocol? Although the answer (not unlike other supplement questions) comes down to science, you don't' have to be Bill Nye to understand creatine loading.

First Things First

Before we get to creatine loading it's important to remember why we use creatine in the first place. Creatine is an amino acid that is utilized by the body to replenish ATP, the main source of energy for the body’s cells. Supplementing with creatine saturates muscle cells, and increases anaerobic capacity by boosting the creatine phosphate pathway.

When this occurs and ATP is replenished at a quicker rate, it increases strength and endurance. This improves your ability to build muscle as you train with a greater intensity, and push your body to failure.

Creatine Loading Clarity

When someone mentions creatine loading or a loading phase, they are referring to doubling or tripling the amount of creatine normally taken for about a week, so that it completely floods the body.

Creatine loading typically involves taking as much as 0.3 grams/kg of body weight/day of creatine monohydrate for 5 to 7 days. For a 180 pound person this would be about 25 grams of creatine a day. After this loading phase is completed, a daily dose of about 5 grams of creatine is taken everyday for maintenance.

The major benefit to creatine loading versus taking a standard dose, is a quicker saturation of the muscle cells with creatine. The sooner this happens, the sooner you'll notice an increase in strength.

The problem with the term "loading" is that taking a daily dose of 5-10 grams of creatine will still saturate muscle cells, it might just take a few more days. Your muscles have a finite capacity for how much creatine they can absorb. Eventually, you will get the same increases in strength and endurance by following either method.

Side Effects

When loading with creatine, it is not uncommon to experience gastrointestinal discomfort or bloating. Everyone is different but if you are sensitive to creatine, it is better to follow a standard dosing protocol of 5-10grams a day.

Conclusion

In attempt to reinvent the creatine wheel, new forms are continuously being discovered and put into pre-workout powders and pills. Although many of these newer forms are said to enhance storage capacity and uptake of creatine into muscle cells, there are few documented studies, and still not enough data to fully support these claims.

Whether or not you choose to load creatine doesn’t change or diminish its overall effect. You will experience the same benefits of creatine supplementation either way. Creatine monohydrate is one of the most extensively studied supplements on the market. It has been proven effective in numerous studies, and is safe for athletes to take.


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