Creatine Loading Phase: Is It Necessary & Does It Work?

April 20, 2022 8 min read

Ask a handful of athletes or bodybuilders what their favorite supplements are and you’re bound to hear a few of them answer creatine.

It’s one of the most popular supplements thanks to its ability to improve physical performance and increase muscle mass. Yet, it takes time to build up creatine levels within your muscles. Fortunately, you can skip the wait by undergoing a creatine loading phase.

During a creatine loading phase, you should take a higher dosage of creatine (typically 20 grams per day) for 5-7 days. This allows your muscles to quickly increase their stores of creatine, helping to boost your athletic performance within just a few weeks. After you finish the loading phase, continue to maintain your creatine levels by taking lower dosages every day.

In this guide, we will dive deep into everything you need to know about creatine. We’ll discuss what the supplement is, how it works, and how you can quickly build more muscular endurance by starting a creatine loading phase.

So, if you’re ready to make some lean, mean, gains, let’s get started!

What is Creatine?

Creatine is a molecule that is naturally produced within your body. It’s made from three amino acids—glycine, arginine, and methionine—and is stored in your muscles in the form of phosphocreatine. Phosphocreatine is used to create ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which is the energy molecule that your muscles use to contract.

During intense exercise, your muscles can’t produce enough ATP to meet their energy demands. This is where creatine comes in.Creatine supplements help to increase your muscles’ stores of phosphocreatine, which can then be used to create ATP and help your muscles to contract more forcefully. This eventually leads to improved athletic performance, particularly in short burst activities like sprinting and weightlifting.

Although your body naturally produces creatine, you must first consume the essential amino acid methionine from certain foods. This amino acid is found in meats and fish but you can also get it from taking a supplement. By taking a creatine supplement, the creatine is immediately absorbed into your bloodstream and then transported to your muscles.

Why Do Bodybuilders Use Creatine?

Creatine is a popular supplement among athletes and bodybuilders because it can help to improve exercise performance and increase muscle mass. It is thought to work by increasing levels of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in muscles, which acts as the main energy source for muscular contraction.

By increasing ATP levels in your muscles, creatine may help to improve exercise performance. In addition, creatine can help to increase muscle mass by promoting the synthesis of new proteins. With more stored energy, your cells can replicate and generate new proteins at a faster rate, encouraging rapid muscular growth.

Creatine is a highly effective supplement for increasing muscle mass and strength. In one study, creatine supplementation resulted in a 5-15% increase in strength and a 4-11 lbs increase in lean body mass (LBM) in just four weeks.

In another study, creatine supplementation increased bench press one-rep max (1RM) by 18 lbs and half squat 1RM by 22 lbs after just four weeks of training.

Two Types of Creatine

There are two main types of creatine—monohydrate and HCL (hydrochloride). Creatine monohydrate is the most common and most effective form of creatine. It’s also the cheapest option and far easier to find than creatine HCL. If you’re looking for a quality monohydrate option, we recommend checking out Huge Creatine Monohydrate.

It’s packed with 5 grams of pure creatine monohydrate packaged in easy-to-swallow pills. Every bottle of Huge Creatine Monohydrate contains enough to last the entire month, making it the perfect option for anyone wanting to start a loading phase.

Creatine HCL, on the other hand, is a newer form of creatine that’s thought to be more easily absorbed by the body. Currently, though, there is no evidence to suggest that HCL is more effective than monohydrate. Considering that it is a newer compound with less research to back it up, we recommend sticking with creatine monohydrate.

How Does the Body Process Creatine?

Your body is constantly breaking down ATP for energy. Although creatine can help to replenish your cellular ATP stores, providing a source of energy for muscles to contract, it must first build up within your muscle cells to be effective.

This process can take a few weeks but once creatine has built up, it can help to support protein synthesis and promote muscular regeneration.

Creatine is typically synthesized in the liver and then transported to muscle cells via the bloodstream but, by taking a creatine supplement, you can directly supply a source of creatine to your cells.

Once there, your cells will start storing any creatine that isn’t immediately used. However, you’ll have to consume a steady, constant, and a large amount of the supplement for it to reach peak saturation.

This is where a creatine loading phase can help out!

What is a Creatine Loading Phase?

A creatine loading phase is a period of time during which you take high doses of creatine to increase your muscle stores of the compound. This is typically done for 5-7 days, after which you can maintain your creatine levels by taking a lower daily dosage (3-5 grams per day).

There are two main types of loading phases—traditional loading and strategic loading. Traditional loading involves taking a large amount of creatine all at once, while strategic loading involves taking smaller doses of creatine over a longer period of time. The traditional loading phase typically lasts for 5-7 days, while the strategic loading phase can last up to 28 days.

For the purpose of this article, we’ll introduce a standard traditional loading phase. This approach is tried-and-true and more likely to produce the results you’re after in a shorter period. To start a loading phase, follow these guidelines:

  • Prepare a 20-gram dosage of creatine monohydrate divided into four 5-gram portions every day.
  • Take one 5-gram portion of creatine monohydrate with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and again before bed.
  • Continue this course for 5 to 7 days. If you have never taken creatine monohydrate, we recommend a longer course to allow the compound to build up within your muscles.

After completing a loading phase, continue to take creatine at a lower 3–5-gram dose every day. This will help maintain your cells’ creatine levels, allowing you to continue your rate of growth even after finishing the loading phase.

Is a Loading Phase Necessary?

It’s not strictly necessary to load creatine but, if you want to see the best results in the shortest amount of time, we recommend it.

Eating a diet rich in meats and fish should provide about 60% of your body’s creatine requirements so taking a standard 3 to 5-gram daily dose will eventually build up enough creatine to promote faster ATP production.

The difference, though, is that a loading phase allows your muscles to quickly increase their stores of creatine, leading to improved athletic performance within just a few weeks. Rather than waiting a month or two to see results, a loading phase gives your body the ability to bulk up faster and become stronger than before.

Are There Any Risks?

Creatine is well-researched by both the scientific community and everyday athletes. With thirty years of anecdotal reports, it’s been proven to be safe and effective for most people. However, there are a few things you should keep in mind before you start a creatine loading phase.

First and foremost, during the loading phase, it’s important to stay hydrated. Creatine can cause your muscles to retain water, so you may notice an increase in weight during this time. This is normal and will go away once you finish the loading phase and return to taking a maintenance dose.

It’s also important to note that some people may not need to undergo a loading phase. If you have been consistent with your creatine supplementation prior to starting a loading phase, you may already have high enough levels of creatine within your muscles. To check your levels, you can ask your doctor to measure your muscle creatine levels with a simple blood test.

Additionally, creatine has been shown to cause some mild but noticeable side effects. The most common of these side effects include:

  • Temporary weight gain
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Headaches due to dehydration
  • Dizziness

If you experience any of these side effects, stop taking creatine and consult your doctor. Most of these symptoms are caused by dehydration and can quickly be treated with fluids.

Is Creatine Legal?

Creatine is legal in most countries but there are some exceptions. In the United States, creatine is classified as a dietary supplement and is regulated by the FDA. However, in some European countries, creatine is more strictly regulated and only allowed to be sold in low volumes.

If you’re unsure about the legal status of creatine in your country, it’s best to consult with your doctor or a legal professional. Most physicians are willing to provide you with creatine as long as you are in good shape and can maintain an active lifestyle.

Frequently Asked Questions about Creatine and Loading Phases

Most athletes considering their first creatine loading phase have a ton of questions. To help you out, we’ve gone ahead and compiled a few of the most-asked questions and provided answers so you know what to expect before you get started. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about creatine and loading phases:

1. How long does it take for creatine to work?

The effects of creatine supplementation can be seen in as little as two weeks but, for maximal effect, it may take up to four weeks. This is why we recommend starting a loading phase if you want to see results faster. By loading creatine, you could start seeing results within the first week alone.

2. Can I consume too much creatine?

Yes, it is possible to take too much creatine. However, the amount of creatine you would have to consume to experience toxic effects is far higher than what you would ever realistically consume. For example, a 160-pound person would need to consume over 350 grams of creatine per day to reach toxic levels.

3. Are there any long-term risks associated with taking creatine?

No, there are no known long-term risks associated with taking creatine. In fact, some studies have shown that creatine supplementation can actually improve kidney function in people with renal impairment.

4. Do I need to take a break from creatine after finishing a loading cycle?

No, unlike other supplements, you do not have to take a break from creatine. In fact, it may be beneficial to continue taking lower doses of creatine (3-5 grams per day) even after completing a loading phase. This will help maintain your cells’ levels of ATP and allow you to see the benefits of supplementation for an extended period of time.

5. I’m vegan but want to experience rapid gains. Can I take creatine?

Yes! Although most people get creatine from consuming meat, fish, and other animal products, most supplementary creatine is completely vegan-friendly. Rather than sourcing the compound from animal products, supplementary creatine is synthesized from cyanamide and sarcosine, both of which are vegan-friendly products.

Final Thoughts on Creatine and Creating Loading Phases

Creatine is a safe and effective supplement that can help to improve exercise performance and increase muscle mass. By taking a loading dose of creatine (20 grams per day) for 5-7 days, you can quickly increase your muscle stores of the compound. After the loading phase, continue to take a lower dose of creatine (3-5 grams per day) to maintain your levels.

During the loading phase, it’s important to stay hydrated to avoid potential side effects. If you begin to feel dehydrated, consume more fluids and reduce your dosage for the day. These symptoms should pass quickly without leaving any permanent effects.

If you still have questions about loading creatine or any of its effects, don’t hesitate to reach out to use with your inquiries. We’ll be happy to answer and provide you with the most accurate information around.


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