Creatine is a popular supplement used by athletes and fitness enthusiasts. It is a natural compound found in the body that helps produce energy, improve performance, and increase muscle growth.
However, despite its popularity, many people are unsure of the optimal creatine dosage they should take for their goals.
In this article, we’ll provide you with all the information you need to know about creatine.
How Much Creatine Does My Body Need?
While the body can make creatine on its own naturally, the amount produced is relatively small and might not be enough to meet the demands of high-intensity exercise or intense physical activity.
Determining how much creatine is the right amount for you can be challenging because it depends on several factors including:
According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), a daily creatine dosage of 3–5 grams of creatine monohydrate is enough for most people to maximize the creatine stores in their muscles.
However, for those with a larger body mass, a higher creatine dosage of up to 10 grams per day may be needed to achieve the same effect.
Taking more than the recommended dose does not necessarily lead to additional benefits and may increase the risk of side effects.
As with any supplement, it's recommended to speak to a healthcare professional before starting creatine to ensure that it's safe for you to use.
How Many Grams of Creatine Should You Take Per Day?
According to research, an effective maintenance dose of creatine is .03 grams per kilogram of body weight per day.
For an individual who weighs 175 lbs, taking about 2.5 grams of creatine daily can increase muscle performance in short-duration, high-intensity resistance exercises.
What are the Benefits of Creatine?
There must be some significant benefit to be gained from taking creatine if so many people are taking it.
A daily creatine dosage can increase the amount of creatine stored in muscles, which can provide several benefits.
It may also have beneficial effects on brain health.
Improved Strength and Power
Creatine has been shown to enhance muscle strength and power, which can benefit athletes and fitness enthusiasts looking to improve their performance.
In a meta-analysis of 22 randomized controlled trials, researchers found that taking creatine significantly increased maximal strength and power compared to a placebo.
Another review found that creatine increased maximal strength by an average of 8% and power output by 14%. This increase in strength and power is accomplished through increased production of ATP in the muscles.
During intense exercise, creatine’s primary function is to increase the phosphocreatine stores in your muscles. The additional stores of phosphocreatine can then be used to produce more ATP.
ATP is the primary source of energy for all cellular processes, including muscle contraction.
During muscle contraction, the myosin head of a muscle fiber attaches to an actin filament and pulls it, causing the muscle to shorten. This process requires energy, which is provided by ATP.
Muscle cells store a limited amount of ATP, which can only sustain muscle contraction for a short period of time.
Once the ATP stores are depleted, the muscle cells must replenish them to continue contracting. This is accomplished through several pathways, including the breakdown of stored creatine phosphate.
Creatine phosphate, which is stored in muscle cells, can quickly donate a phosphate group to ADP (adenosine diphosphate) to form ATP, providing a quick source of energy for muscle contraction.
How much creatine phosphate can be stored in muscle cells is limited, and can only sustain muscle contraction for a short period of time.
This increased production of ATP is significant for athletes and fitness enthusiasts who participate in activities that require explosive power and strength, like weightlifting, sprinting, and jumping.
Creatine can help athletes and gymgoers perform at a higher level, leading to improvements in overall athletic performance.
Many people use creatine for faster recovery from intense exercise because it may help reduce muscle damage and inflammation.
High-intensity exercise and resistance training causes damage to the muscles, which can result in muscle soreness, reduced strength, and impaired performance.
Studies have shown that creatine may reduce muscle damage and inflammation after exercise, which can lead to faster recovery.
In one study, participants who took creatine supplements had lower levels of muscle damage and inflammatory markers after exercise compared to those who did not.
Another review of data found that professional soccer players who supplemented with creatine had reduced markers of muscle damage and inflammation after a game.
Scientists don’t fully understand how creatine enhances recovery after exercise, however, it is thought that creatine acts as an antioxidant, reducing oxidative stress and inflammation caused by exercise.
Creatine might also improve the function of mitochondria, the energy-producing organelles in muscle cells, which can help to reduce muscle damage and inflammation.
One of the most well-established benefits of creatine is its ability to increase muscle mass. Creatine has been shown to promote muscle protein synthesis and reduce muscle breakdown, which can lead to increased muscle mass over time.
Muscle protein synthesis is when the body builds new muscle proteins, while muscle breakdown is when the body breaks down existing muscle proteins. In order for muscle mass to increase, muscle protein synthesis must exceed muscle breakdown.
Creatine supplementation has been shown to increase muscle protein synthesis and decrease muscle breakdown, which can tip the balance in favor of muscle growth.
Just like your muscles, your brain stores phosphocreatine and requires plenty of ATP for optimal functioning.
Supplementing may improve neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s disease. It may also improve memory and brain function in older adults.
While there is data to support the cognitive benefits of creatine, most of the research has been done in animals, so more research is needed in humans.
How Much Creatine Should I Take a Day to Build Muscle?
Most research shows that a creatine dosage of 3–5 grams per day is enough to support muscle growth.
Many people who supplement with creatine start with a loading phase, which produces a rapid increase in levels of creatine stored in the muscles.
Should I Take 5 or 10 Grams of Creatine Daily?
Studies in a variety of different populations have determined that taking creatine supplements in doses of up to 4–20 grams per day for 10 months to 5 years has no negative health effects.
Taking a daily dose of 3-5 grams of creatine monohydrate is generally recommended for most individuals looking to improve their performance and increase muscle mass.
People who have a higher body mass may need up to 10 grams per day.
What is Creatine Loading?
The creatine loading phase is used to rapidly maximize your muscle stores of creatine.
During this phase, you consume a larger dose of creatine over a short period of time. Studies show that the creatine loading phase can increase stored creatine by 10–40%.
A common regimen is to take 20–25 g of creatine daily for 5–7 days. This dose is often divided into four or five 5-gram servings throughout the day.
After taking a higher dose of creatine for 5–7 days, you then switch to the maintenance phase.
What is the Creatine Maintenance Phase?
During the maintenance phase, a lower dose of creatine is usually taken to maintain the elevated levels of creatine in the muscle tissue.
The recommended daily maintenance dose of creatine is typically 3-5 grams per day. The maintenance phase lasts for at least 4-6 weeks to maximize the benefits of creatine supplementation.
Is the Creatine Loading Phase Necessary?
The loading phase is not necessary for creatine supplementation, and some people may prefer to skip the loading phase altogether and start with the maintenance dose right off the bat.
Some studies have found that a daily dose of 3-5 grams of creatine without a loading phase can also effectively increase muscle creatine stores over time, usually after about 28 days.
If you go through a loading phase then you might reach the desired muscle creatine stores a bit sooner, in around 7-10 days.
Creatine HCL or Monohydrate: Which One is Better?
Another common question that often comes up is whether you should take creatine monohydrate or Hcl, two of the most popular types of creatine supplements.
The difference between creatine HCL and creatine monohydrate is insignificant, but it can have a noticeable impact on how creatine is absorbed and utilized in the body.
What is Creatine Monohydrate?
Creatine monohydrate is the most common creatine supplement on the market. It is the most widely researched and has long been popular in the fitness industry.
There is significant research to support the effectiveness of all varieties of creatine monohydrate.
Creatine monohydrate supplementation is also known for bringing more water into the muscle, which is often responsible for the appearance of larger muscles when people start creatine supplementation.
What is Creatine Hydrochloride (HCL)?
Creatine hydrochloride (HCL) is a newer supplement that is quickly gaining popularity. This form is composed of a creatine molecule bound with hydrochloric acid.
One study found that creatine HCL is 38 times more soluble than creatine monohydrate.
This means that it's possible to take less creatine HCL and see the same results as creatine monohydrate. Faster absorption may also decrease water retention, which is a potential side effect of creatine monohydrate.
Which One is Better?
Creatine monohydrate and creatine HCL are equally effective at increasing muscle mass and boosting performance.
Theoretically, creatine HCL is more effective because of its higher solubility and easier absorption. You could say this makes this creatine HCL better, however, there isn’t conclusive evidence to support this.
Creatine monohydrate, on the other hand, is widely supported by research. So, you can be fairly certain that it is effective in improving performance.
But the best thing for you could be to try both and see which one feels better, and which one gives you the desired results. There is virtually no risk in trying either.
FAQs About Creatine Supplementations
Does Creatine Cause Hair Loss?
There is no scientific evidence to suggest that creatine causes hair loss in humans. While there have been some anecdotal reports of hair loss associated with creatine supplementation, there is no direct evidence linking creatine to hair loss.
Hair loss can have many different causes, including genetics, hormones, and certain medications.
If you are experiencing hair loss or any other unusual symptoms while taking creatine, it's best to speak with a healthcare professional to rule out any underlying medical conditions.
When is the Best Time to Take Creatine?
According to research, it's best to take creatine shortly before or after your workout on training days.
On non-training days, it might be beneficial to take it with food, but the timing is probably not as important as on days you work out.
What About Creatine and Weight Gain?
One of the most common reasons for weight gain that occurs during creatine supplementation is increased water weight.
Creatine pulls water into the muscle, so you may gain anywhere from two to five pounds during your first week of creatine supplementation due to water retention.
This water retention and associated weight gain might be temporary, or it might continue for as long as you use creatine. However, it could become less noticeable as gain more muscle.
Is Creatine Safe?
Creatine is a heavily-researched supplement and is considered safe when consumed appropriately.
Some believe that supplementing with creatine can cause dehydration and cramps, however, there is no research to support this.
You may have also heard that creatine supplementation causes kidney or liver damage, but again, there is no research to suggest that supplementing with creatine causes this in healthy individuals.
Is it Possible to Take Too Much Creatine?
Although creatine is safe, taking more than the recommended amounts does not result in increased benefits.
In fact, taking too much creatine may result in gastrointestinal upset, including bloating and stomach discomfort.
Keep an eye out for gastric discomfort or other (rare) side effects for signs that you might be taking too much creatine.
Does Creatine Have Side Effects?
Taking creatine has minimal side effects.
One common side effect is water retention which may result in weight gain. Some people might also experience slight gastric discomfort during the loading phase.
It's best to always take creatine along with some protein and carbs to help with digestion.
Other than that, the only side effect you’ll experience is an increase in strength and performance.
Final Word on How Much Creatine a Day
There are many potential benefits of creatine supplementation, both cognitive and physical.
If you’re wondering how much creatine to take to enhance exercise performance and build muscle, you may want to consider whether you want to do a creatine loading phase and a maintenance phase, or start with just a maintenance dose.
Although some people may opt to do a creatine loading phase to more rapidly increase creatine stores, research shows that you can achieve the same results using modest doses of 3–5 mg daily, it just takes longer.