Creatine has become one of the most popular supplements for athletes and gym-goers. Numerous studies back up the fact that creatine is one of the most beneficial supplements for athletic performance and increasing strength, as well as being well-tolerated by most people.
While many creatine users take it in the same way as you'd take a daily supplement, others do something known as creatine loading. In this article, we'll take a look at everything you need to know about creatine loading and how it can help you bust through plateaus and reach your fitness goals.
What Is Creatine?
Creatine is a naturally occurring substance that is found in our muscle cells. It aids the muscles by helping them produce energy during intense exercise such as heavy lifting. It does this by producing a high-energy molecule called ATP.
When you exercise you deplete the stores of creatine in your muscles. Less creatine in the muscles means the body can't produce as much ATP. So you have less energy.
Creatine can be sourced from red meat, fish, and seafood. However, the recommended daily amount of creatine is 5 grams. That would mean eating around 2.2lbs of steak a day!
This is why most athletes choose to supplement creatine, especially if they are vegetarian or vegan.
Creatine has been found to have several benefits regarding exercise performance and body composition. It is predominantly used because it increases the possible workload of each workout. Higher volume workouts mean more progress.
Creatine has also been found to boost muscle recovery and growth, as well as reduce muscle breakdown. It has also been found to raise the presence of the anabolic hormone IGF-1. All of these factors help to ensure that you're able to give it everything you've got each time you hit the gym.
Quicker recovery means you can maintain a higher intensity throughout your workouts. Demanding more of the muscles means they are forced to adapt and grow. This means faster strength gains as well as increased muscle mass.
All of these benefits have made creatine one of the most used supplements alongside the different types of protein powders.
What Is Creatine Loading?
If you're new to creatine and you've just started searching for the best way to take it then you've probably stumbled across the term 'creatine loading'.
Many people using creatine take 5mg a day like they would any other dietary supplement. Creatine loading, on the other hand, has an initial creatine loading phase which involves taking a larger dose of creatine for some time before dropping down to a maintenance dose.
Creatine Loading Dose
The most common creatine loading phase involves taking 20-25mg of creatine daily for 5-7 days. This helps to build up the muscles stores of creatine as fast as possible. During the loading phase, the creatine dose should be spread out into 4-5 5g doses and taken throughout the day.
After the first 5-7 days you should drop down to 5g a day. This is known as the maintenance phase. Some people might recommend that after 4 weeks of taking 5g a day, you should take a week off. However, most individuals will continue taking creatine to keep muscle stores at full saturation.
The Benefits of a Creatine Loading Phase
The only real difference between using a creatine loading phase and taking 5g of creatine daily is the speed at which your muscles become saturated with creatine.
If you take 5g daily, then it can take around one month to reach full saturation. During the creatine loading phase, the muscles can reach full saturation after the first few days.
This being said, the main advantage of using a creatine loading dose is that you'll feel the benefits of creating much quicker and they'll be more noticeable. This can also increase your body weight as it promotes water retention and you are likely to see yourself becoming bigger during the loading phase. This can be a good psychological push for bodybuilders.
The Disadvantages of a Creatine Loading Phase
If you participate in a sport that uses weight classes (such as boxing) then suddenly getting heavier might be detrimental. If your sport relies on fast-paced athleticism and endurance then carrying that extra weight might dampen your performance.
Creatine can be beneficial for any kind of athlete, but those who are looking for an increase in athletic output without any noticeable size and weight gain should consider taking creatine at 5g a day and not bothering with the loading phase.
Some individuals complain that the high doses taken during the loading phase can lead to gastrointestinal discomfort. This is likely caused by increased water retention and intake. Again, if this is a problem it can be minimized by taking 5g of creatine daily rather than utilizing a loading phase.
But, Does Creatine Loading Work?
If you're trying to find the best way to take creatine whether or not you should try creatine loading depends on your goals. If your primary focus is bodybuilding or weight/strength gains, utilizing a creatine loading phase is a great way to reach optimum creatine muscle saturation as quickly as possible.
You'll feel the full benefits of creatine within the first few days of the loading phase.
If you're looking to take advantage of creatine without gaining any sudden weight then it might be best to skip straight to a daily dose of 5 grams. This way you'll reach full saturation in around 28 days, but immediate weight gain should be minimized.
The Best Way to Take Creatine
No matter if you're planning on utilizing a loading phase or taking creatine like a daily supplement from the start, it's important to know the best way to take creatine.
Creatine monohydrate mixes easily with drinks such as smoothies, protein shakes, or even your morning coffee. It's best to take creatine around your workout. Either before or after.
Take Full Advantage of Creatine
By now you'll know whether or not creatine loading is for you. Creatine is well-tolerated by most people but if you do suffer from any GI discomfort then drop down to 5g daily and you'll still be reaping the full benefits of creatine by the end of the first month.
If you're looking for the best way to mix your creatine into your favorite pre or post-workout drink then check out our full range of shakers.
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