Is Creatine Loading Necessary

In the world of athletic supplements, creatine has had its fair share of controversy. In fact, the Mayo Clinic originally warned against creatine use, saying it was associated with kidney damage[1].

However, since 2004 creatine has received a clean bill of health. Studies done by the European Food Safety Authority have found that a moderate dose of supplemental creatine poses no risk[2].

Even though creatine has been deemed safe, controversy still exists over the most effective way to take it.

Some creatine manufacturers recommend a loading phase while others explicitly forgo it. It is only natural, then, to wonder “is creatine loading necessary?”

To answer this question, you must first take a few things into account. When you know what you want from your workout and how you expect to get there you will know if creatine loading is necessary for you. After all, just because some ripped guy at the gym loads creatine doesn’t mean you should.

What Creatine Type Are You Using?

Not all creatine types are created equal. The creatine molecule, which is naturally present in your body, appears in all different shapes and sizes in supplements.

Despite the variety of creatine options, the only creatine that requires a loading phase is creatine monohydrate. This is because creatine monohydrate is absorbed more slowly. Since creatine monohydrate is usually less expensive than other options, you can afford the extra loading phase.

Creatine powders such as Kre-Alkalyn or Creatine HCL are absorbed more quickly into the blood stream. Not only is it unnecessary to load more absorbable creatine sources, but it isn’t a good idea since they are more expensive. Your body won’t absorb the extra creatine and you will be literally flushing money down the toilet.

Interested in the Long-Term or the Short-Term?

Before you decide if creatine loading is necessary for you, it is important to know what benefits to expect from creatine.

If your main goal is to see results quickly, then you might want to consider creatine loading. However, large creatine loads can come with upset stomachs and muscle cramping. It’s hard to use something long-term when it causes a Charley Horse on your last set.

In addition, large creatine doses sometimes reduce your natural creatine production. So if you are interested in more sustainable, long-term results, creatine loading might not be the right choice.

How to Load Creatine Safely and Effectively

Even though there are some increased risks with creatine loading, the benefits are undeniable. An article in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that large creatine loads more thoroughly saturate muscle tissue with creatine than smaller, more regular doses[3].

These researchers found that men who consumed 20 grams of creatine for 6 days had creatine levels 20% higher than those taking the placebo. What’s more is that those levels remained elevated even after they tapered their doses to 3 grams each day.

If you have answered yes to the question “is creatine loading necessary?” then do it right. Don’t take more than 20 grams each day. Don’t forget to chug a lot of water during your workout. Water will increase circulation and decrease muscle cramp risk so you can enjoy creatine’s benefits.

References

[1] “Creatine: Safety”. MayoClinic.com. Retrieved 2012-11-27.

[2] “Opinion of the Scientific Panel on food additives, flavourings, processing aids and materials in contact with food (AFC) on a request from the Commission related to creatine monohydrate for use in foods for particular nutritional uses.” EFSA Journal. (26 April 2004). Retrieved 2012-11-27.

[3] 3Hultman, E.; Soerlund, K.; Timmons, J.A.; Cederblad, G.; Greenhaff, P.L.; “Muscle Creatine Loading in Men.” Journal of Applied Physiology. (July 1, 1996). 81(1):232-237. Retrieved 2012-11-28.

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