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Loading creatine. It’s a protocol that has been preached for years, but is it really necessary? It is often stated that, when beginning creatine supplementation you need to go through a loading phase. This typically calls for 5-7 days consuming a dose of 20-25g followed by a maintenance dose of 5g daily for around 4 weeks, before taking a week or two off creatine until repeating the cycle again. Now, there is no real drawback to this method, but there are also other options when it comes to creatine supplementation, and while it is said that this protocol is most effective when trying to reap the benefits of creatine, newer studies tend to suggest this may not be the only way to go about things.
Firstly, before we dive into it, lets have a quick re-cap, what is creatine? Creatine in and of itself is one of the most studied and popular supplements on the market, simply because it truly works. Creatine is used to increase strength, improve power, aid in recovery and promote the development of lean muscle tissue. It is commonly known for both its ability to replenish ATP stores in the body to fuel muscle contractions, as well as its cell swelling properties that allow it draw extra fluid into muscle cells to both hydrate and promote nutrient uptake, increasing recovery and growth after intense resistance training.
So what are the benefits of the loading strategies and why has it become so popular? Creatine loading will cause a faster saturation of creatine levels within the muscle cells, leading to a more pronounced acute effect in regards to strength and bodyweight increase. However, this will lead to a far more noticeable and difference in performance when choosing the end the cycle. There are two main drawbacks when looking at the loading scheme. The first is that there is a potentially psychological drawback to the decrease in strength and size when stopping the cycle, often seeing people loose motivation and drop off training as they don’t feel as ‘good’ or as ‘strong’ in the gym. The second is the potential digestive discomfort you may experience when taking such high doses of creatine for consecutive days, however this side effect is varied in severity and specific to each individual.
Current studies have shown that there is a much more straightforward approach to creatine supplementation, that over time will yield the same results as a load but without the potential acute discomfort loading can cause. Simply ‘taking creatine’ at a straight dose of 5-10g per day for a longer period has been shown to eventually peak your body with the same creatine saturation as the loading phase would. This means you can continue taking creatine for a more consistent duration, giving you more maintainable results and allowing your body to reap the benefits for longer. The drawback is that this method does take a bit more time, however, it is more maintainable, comfortable, and easier on the budget than the loading protocol.
While there is no real harm to loading creatine, it is not a requirement of creatine supplementation. Contrary to popular belief, creatine does not need to be cycled, so choosing to take a maintenance dose of 5-10g daily can lead to maintainable, consistent and progressive benefits of creatine use. Neither method of supplementation is inherently ‘correct’ compared to the other, and in the end it comes down to individual preference and response to the supplement. Regardless of the dosing protocol you choose, taking creatine can have amazing benefits on performance and recovery, and is one supplement you definitely want to incorporate into your routine to maximise your results.
Author Glen George from our Blackburn store!