Creatine Part 1: To Load or not To Load – That is the Question!

Creatine Part 1: Anyone who has walked into a gym at any point in there life likely has heard about creatine and the associated benefits of loading up on the grainy white powder and or some form available on the market today. As more information trickles in from lifting buddies, lifting mags, health store employees, and or the internet’s plethora of articles everyone starts to get the idea of what creatine might offer them and likely will want to give it a crack at some point in their quest for the gainz.

The most basic information to start with creatine though is how to consume it for best results. Creatine is not an instant energy supplement like a stimulant preworkout and requires dosing it for a duration prior to getting its benefits underway in your workout program.

For the sake of simplicity, we will focus on the most studied and available creatine in the form of creatine monohydrate. The initial protocols on creatine were that you always needed to run a loading phase to start. This is where you take a certain amount of creatine (usually monohydrate) multiple times per day until your body can absorb and saturate the muscle tissue with enough creatine to enhance strength and muscle volume. Creatine absorbs water and carries it into the muscle tissue as it also provides precursor and intermediate fuel for the ATP cycle (instant/burst energy) inside the muscle tissue (other articles will go deeper in how creatine works.)

A typical load for a 170-200lb male would look like this:

  • 3-5g of creatine x 4 times daily for 5 days (with 10-12oz of water/juice with each dose)

A typical maintenance dose after loading:

  • 3-5g x once daily for maintenance until ending the use of creatine monohydrate
  • Dosing around workouts may offer best results on active days
  • Adding it to protein and or meals may benefit absorption as well

The other option as researched has commenced over the last few decades is a longer load, and may offer benefits to those sensitive to creatines potential water retention side effects. Creatine can collect under the skin with water in excessive doses and cause some to have a puffy or bloated look ( see articles on advanced forms of creatine for reference to avoid that issue)

A typical long load protocol:

  • 3-5g creatine once per day for 21 days

This will elevate stored creatine levels to the same degree as a quick 5 days x 4 dose per day loading schedule, but take an obvious 17 days longer. Those who just don’t have the time or energy to dose four times a day will definitely appreciate this protocol.

Stay tuned for Part 2 where we discuss the benefits of creatine further and Part 3 where we talk about new and advanced forms of creatine available. Read more about Creatine Part 1.

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