If you’re getting started with creatine, smart move! Creatine is one of the most heavily researched ergogenic aids out there with a wide range of proven performance benefits.
You might have come across the phrase “creatine loading” when searching for how to get started with this supplement.
Look no further because this article breaks down how creatine loading works and how you add this supplement to your routine in the most strategic way.
How Creatine Works
First, let’s firm up your background knowledge with exactly how creatine works in the body.
Your muscles are already packed with creatine - specifically, a molecule called phosphocreatine. Throughout a workout, phosphocreatine helps turn stored energy (ADP) into an active form of energy (ATP) that our muscles can actually use.
During intense workouts, muscle creatine levels start to the deplete and the body cannot continue transforming energy as effectively.
By taking creatine supplements, the goal is to make more creatine available for helping with energy conversion. More muscle creatine stores translates into more energy usage in our muscles, which in turn yields creatine’s performance benefits.
Creatine is safe and accepted by the NCAA, International Olympic Committee, and Professional Sports.
We actually naturally get about 1-2 grams of creatine daily from our food - so even if you feel “new” to the world of taking creatine, your body probably isn’t.
Why Creatine Loading Makes Sense
While muscle tissue naturally contains creatine stores, it’s not fully saturated. Creatine loading is the process by which we gradually “load” creatine into the muscles to help increase these stores to be as high as possible.
If you eat a typical diet, your muscles are already about 60-80% saturated with creatine.
Because dietary creatine typically comes from animal proteins like meat and seafood, vegetarians and vegans tend to have lower creatine stores (but good news for plant-based eaters: that means that they’re also able to better retain supplemental creatine).
By creatine loading, you’ll be able to quickly elevate creatine stores above that 60-80% threshold so that you can start using more energy in your muscles - and therefore, seeing better performance in the gym.
How to Load Creatine
Creatine loading involves starting off your creatine regimen at multiple daily higher doses to help boost how much of it is stored in muscle.
The International Society of Sports Nutrition explains that there are two main methods: a faster one and a slower one. Let’s break those down here:
Faster Method - 1 Week
According to ISSN, the fastest and most effective creatine loading phase is to take 5 g of creatine monohydrate four times daily for 5–7 days. This means taking 20 grams total per day for about 1 week.
Alternatively, you can take 0.3 g of creatine per kilogram of your body weight daily for 5-7 days.
This totals 20 grams daily if you weigh about 68 kg (or 150 lb). If you weigh significantly more or less than 150 lb, using this method may help you more accurately estimate how much creatine suits your body.
Slower Method - 1 Month
For a more gradual approach, you can take 3 g creatine daily for 28 days. While this method leads to slower results, it’s still ultimately effective and may be a better fit for people who do not want to take too much creatine at once.
How to Pair Creatine with Protein and Carbs
The research varies on exactly how much protein and/or carbohydrates are helpful to give you this boost.
One study used about 50 g of carbs plus 50 g protein as well as 100 g carbs alone, and found favorable results with both. Other studies have found that 93 grams of carbs and 18 grams of protein helped with creatine muscle retention.
When it comes to picking which protein and carbs to eat with your creatine, consider what foods and supplements fit your routine best.
Protein shakes that contain both protein and carbs are a quick option if you’re on the go and prefer liquids.
Alternatively, you can get plenty of carbs and protein from a food-based approach (like a turkey sandwich or a tall glass of chocolate milk).
Our premium grade Naked Creatine mixes easily with your drinks and is independent third-party tested for heavy metals.
Even if your creatine levels are already high, the insulin release thanks to protein and carbs’ presence helps with creatine retention.
After the Creatine Loading Phase
After the loading phase, it’s assumed that your muscles have reached a saturation point. What comes next is the maintenance phase.
ISSN recommends that most people can maintain creatine stores by taking 3–5 grams per day. If you’re a larger athlete, you may need to take as much as 5–10 grams per day in order to maintain creatine stores.
How Long Until I See Results?
Once your muscles are fully “loaded” with creatine, research shows gains of 10-20% in strength performance. Benefits of creatine also include enhanced recovery, faster sprint times, increased anaerobic threshold, and increased muscle mass.
The primary benefit of the 7-day creatine loading phase is that it speeds up how quickly you’ll see results. Muscles need to be saturated with creatine in order to see gains, so a faster loading process gets you to that saturation point quicker.
Keep in mind that once you’ve done the loading phase, you won’t continue to see extra gains by adding extra creatine. Once muscles are fully saturated, they cannot store any additional creatine.