Creatine loading is a topic that athletes taking creatine debate on a regular basis – should I load creatine or should I just take a regular amount daily when starting off? Many people have their beliefs on whether it is beneficial to doing a loading phase when starting on the supplement. We will take a look at a few studies that will show if creatine loading is effective and why it is effective to “load” when beginning to use creatine.
Is Creatine Loading Necessary?
This is a question many athletes ask after reading up on creatine – what is the best way to take creatine? Reading online through other articles you will find many opinions, some people say that loading is unnecessary and that taking a fixed amount each day will suffice.
Others say that when starting out you should “load” for a week or so to get your creatine levels up. I will tell you from experience and based off of studies that doing a loading phase of creatine followed by a maintenance phase has shown more gains versus just taking a regular amount each day.
According to a National Institute of Health study on creatine the “study found that a 5-day creatine loading regime coupled with resistance training resulted in significant improvements in both average anaerobic power”.
The study compared a placebo group vs. a group loading for 2 days vs. a group loading for 5 days. The study showed that the group that performed the 5 day loading of creatine performed better in a 30 second wingate test and back squat strength test. The study goes on to recommend a “standard 5-day loading regime should hence be prescribed to individuals supplementing with creatine for enhanced strength and power.”
In another creatine study, this one from the Department of Human Biology at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, they studied the effect of creatine in atheletes and if there was any impact on a loading phase. The study is lengthy one but in the end they concluded: “In conclusion, short-term creatine loading increases muscle free creatine, CrP and total creatine content”.
Why does creatine loading work?
The difference between loading and regular use is that regular use helps to maintain the necessary levels of creatine your body to produce energy during explosive movements.
Creatine is naturally present in the body, but most people tend to have low amounts of it unless your diet is very, very high in animal proteins – mainly red meat. When used regularly creatine helps to maintain results that have been obtained from workout efforts. When doing creatine loading for a week long period you “load” your system with creatine to produce high levels in your body for your workouts to get levels up to where you are seeing benefits.
Getting this level of creatine into your body so your muscles have plenty of phosphocreatine to feed them is where you want to be at to receive the most benefits.
If you look at many bottles of creatine such as Optimum Nutrition’s Creatine you will find that the instructions recommend using a loading phase for the first week then moving onto a maintenance phase for creatine loading.
After that initial loading phase you can enter the maintenance phase to maintain that level of phosphocreatine in your body.
What is a Creatine Loading Schedule?
All of the studies on creatine show that using a loading phase during the first week will produce better results so what is the creatine loading schedule you should follow?
Week one should be your loading week – the best loading strategy is to use load creatine in 20 g a day for 5 days total. Of course make sure you’re working out during this period, you should be in the gym for those 4-6 days that you’re doing the loading phase.
After that first loading week you should return to your maintenance phase of 5g a day to maintain the creatine levels. Many athletes choose to cycle on and off of creatine, that is a top for a whole other article that will be coming out soon.
As you can see you can see real benefits from doing a loading phase of creatine when you are first starting out. Loading will increase creatine levels in your bloodstream having it ready to hand off energy to your muscles during a workout. You can still avoid the loading phase and still see the benefits of creatine but why not load so you can see maximum results?