Despite being one of the most common, thoroughly researched and well-proven supplements out there, a lot of confusion still surrounds creatine.
Specifically, there are concerns that this naturally-occurring compound can cause behavioral problems and hormonal imbalances, in addition to kidney and liver damage when taken incorrectly.
So, how should you be taking creatine powder? What's the appropriate dose? How much creatine powder is too much?
First of All...
Before we get into numbers, though, let's deal with some of these concerns that were mentioned at the outset.
There is no evidence that creatine has any adverse side effects, even when take for long periods of time at extremely high doses. Creatine is not a steroid and, therefore has none of the rage or hormonal problems associated with these substances.
Individuals with healthy livers and kidneys have nothing to worry about when it comes to creatine powder and some studies even show that it's safe for patients with kidney damage.
One study, for example, observed a man with only one kidney – which was damaged – as he took high doses of creatine and experienced no ill effects.
Still, if you have kidney problems, you should check with your doctor before beginning any supplementation.
Okay, now that that's out of the way, let's talk about doses. As mentioned, there have been no negative effects seen from doses of 25g per day or even higher.
Does that mean, though, that you should be throwing back that much creatine on a daily basis? Not necessarily. Typically, these high doses are taken during a loading phase of about a week – designed to saturate the muscles.
It should be noted, though, that this loading phase is not entirely necessary. While loading will allow you to fill the benefits of creatine slightly faster, many people skip this phase altogether and do just fine.
After that, doses drop for the prolonged maintenance phase. The minimum dose used in studies is 0.03g/kg of bodyweight each day. For a 180lb person, then, the standard maintenance dose would be 2.5g.
Most people, however, take more than this. The common dose – recommended by most manufacturers – is 5g per day. But why take this higher dose? First of all, creatine is relatively inexpensive considering its effectiveness. Second, these higher doses have the potential for more dramatic benefits.
Finally – as we have thoroughly discussed – there's no harm in it.
Another common practice related to creatine is cycling – the act of taking creatine powder for 3-4 weeks and then taking a week or two off before starting up again.
Generally, this is done out of concern for any potential complications. However, since creatine is incredibly safe, there is no real reason to cycle. Really, then, there is no upper-limit to how much creatine you should take – either in the short or long term.
That doesn't mean, though, that you should go nuts with it. That's just wasteful. A good, proven dose is 5g each day with no need to load or cycle.