Everyone and their dog knows what creatine is, but I think there is often confusion on how to properly dose this excellent supplement. I won’t be going over what creatine is, or how it works though. Most bottles of creatine tell you to take a certain amount per day, or load for 5-6 days then go on a maintenance dosage. I’d like to go over both these methods to clarify what might work best for you.
First off I will get this out of the way for people who think creatine is cheating: Cr is produced endogenously by the liver or ingested from exogenous sources such as meat and fish. So that’s enough of that bullshit.
I remember 5 years ago, a lot of people seemed to be against the whole loading creatine ‘craze.’ I too got sucked up into it, but in all honesty it doesn’t make much of a difference whether you load or not.
Let’s get some of the lingo out of the way creatine loading refers to a short phase of 5-6 days where you usually ingest 20g/creatine(CR)/Day. A maintenance dose is a dose that will maintain a loading dose, or eventually saturate you.
The reasons for loading is that the body can reach it’s saturation limit quicker than if you just took a maintenance dose. According to Bemben et al 120-140 grams is the maximum amount of cr that a 70kg (154lbs) male can store. After this short loading phase you will go on a maintenance dose for usually 2 or 3 months.
The other method of creatine use, is to take a 2-5g/cr/day over an extended period of time. Let’s use a hypothetical guy named X. X decides he doesn’t want to load creatine. So he takes 5g/cr/day. In order for him to saturate himself with cr and get it’s full benefits, it will take ~28 days (140/5) to saturate. After the 28 days he keeps on taking 5 grams of cr/d to maintain his saturation point.
Now, 5g/cr/day isn’t set in stone. Research has been done with as little as 2g/cr/day. So to conclude about maintenance doses, you only need 2-5g/cr/day in order to maintain your saturation.
The other ‘controversy’ I’ve read about creatine, is that the loading period is just suggested by supplement companies to waste their customers money on more and more cr. Let’s examine this claim. First, let’s find out how much total cr would be used for a loading/maintenance phase over 28 days. The creatine is loaded for 5 days at 20g/cr/day. Then a maintenance dose of 2g/day is used for 23 days. Total cr usage is (20*5)+(2*23)=146g of cr.
Now, how much cr would you consume if you took a maintenance phase of 5g/cr/day for 28 days. This would be a total of 140g of cr. As you can tell, there isn’t much of a difference. When you consider how cheap creatine is, you can see how 6g of cr is literally pennies.
The difference is that the loading protocol would reach saturation in a matter of days, where a maintenance only protocol would take the full 28 days to saturate. I’ve done both protocols and haven’t really noticed a difference in strength gains between each protocol. Since creatine is usually used in 2-3 months increments, it doesn’t matter what method you use, because over the same period of time, you will use about the same amount of creatine.
Now that you’re armed with what the research says about creatine, you will be able to tell if someones talking BS when they talk about their ridiculous dosages of creatine. Peace!