As one of the most studied dietary supplements, creatine monohydrate is considered safe and effective.
One question we often get asked is, “How Much creatine should I take?”
While taking too much at one time may cause digestive discomfort and bloating, if you do not take enough, you may not get the results you were hoping for.
This article will discuss how much creatine you should take to reap maximum benefits. We will also dive into the benefits of creatine supplementation and why you should add it to your supplement regimen.
Creatine monohydrate is affordable, safe, and effective. As one of the most researched supplements, it can improve muscle mass and strength. It can also improve recovery and enhance athletic performance.
The best way to achieve quick muscle saturation is to start with a loading phase of 20 grams daily (divided into four doses) for 5-7 days, followed by a maintenance dose of 3-5 grams per day.
Although some fitness enthusiasts recommend cycling creatine to prevent the body from building a tolerance to it, there is no scientific evidence to support this.
HOW CREATINE SUPPLEMENTS BENEFIT YOU
Creatine is an organic acid that your body naturally creates. It is mostly found in your muscle cells and the brain. Creatine helps deliver energy to your cells, particularly to your muscles, making it easier for them to contract, lift heavy weights, and recover faster.
A standard non-vegan diet provides 1 to 2 grams of creatine per day. With this daily intake, muscle creatine stores are only 60 to 80% saturated, according to a 2017 review published by the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Those who follow a vegan diet often have even lower amounts of creatine in their muscles.
Taking creatine supplements increases your muscle’s creatine stores, allowing you to train harder. While most of us know that creatine supplements are very effective at increasing strength, lean muscle mass, and exercise performance, newer studies suggest it may also have other health benefits, such as improving brain function.
We’ll dive into more details on the benefits of creatine supplementation later, but for now, let's discuss how many grams of creatine you should be taking each day to reap these benefits.
CREATINE DOSAGES: HOW MUCH CREATINE SHOULD YOU BE TAKING...
Consistently taking creatine supplements can help increase your muscle’s storage of creatine and phosphocreatine (a form of stored energy in your body) by as much as 40%. Phosphocreatine aids in the formation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the primary molecule your cells use for energy.
Creatine supplements can be taken in two different ways.
Although it is not mandatory, the most effective way to increase your muscle creatine stores is by starting with a loading phase. This involves consuming 5 grams of creatine monohydrate (or 0.3 grams per kilogram of your body weight) four times a day for 5-7 days.
Once creatine stores are fully saturated, you should consistently take 3-5 grams per day to maintain muscle saturation.
Studies suggest pairing creatine with a carbohydrate source can help promote creatine retention in the muscles.
Because creatine pulls water into your muscle cells, you may notice water retention or water weight gain during this period.
Although many people choose to begin with a rapid loading phase to enjoy the benefits of creatine much sooner, you can skip the loading phase and go straight to the maintenance phase.
Creating cycling involves starting with a loading phase, which consists of taking about 20 grams of creatine for 5-7 days. Following the loading phase, you will enter the maintenance phase, where you consume 3 to 5 grams of creatine per day for up to seven weeks.
After seven weeks of being in the maintenance phase, creatine supplements are discontinued for two weeks. The cycle repeats itself indefinitely.
A common belief is that creatine should be cycled to prevent your body from developing a tolerance to it. However, there is no solid research to support this. Your body will not build up a tolerance to creatine and can stay in the maintenance phase for as long as you desire.
IS CREATINE SAFE?
Creatine is one of the safest dietary supplements you can take. Studies suggest both short-term and long-term use of creatine (30 grams a day for five years) is safe and well tolerated in the general population.
POTENTIAL SIDE EFFECTS
Taking more creatine than what is recommended can result in stomach issues. For example, one study found that athletes who supplemented with 10 grams of creatine in a single sitting experienced stomach discomfort, belching, and diarrhea. However, those who took 5 grams did not experience these side effects.
The best way to avoid any potential side effects is by dividing your doses up during the day when following the loading phase.
If you have concerns about the safety or side effects of creatine usage, always speak with your healthcare provider.
WHY YOU SHOULD TAKE CREATINE
Studies have consistently proven the health benefits of creatine monohydrate. According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand, creatine supplementation can improve:
- Athletic Performance
- Reduced Fatigue and Increased Endurance
- Muscle Support
- Brain Health
Creatine effectively increases phosphocreatine stores and overall ATP (energy) production, enhancing athletic performance.
Studies demonstrate that creatine supplementation can significantly improve muscular power, endurance, speed, and total force in short-duration, maximum-intensity exercises.
Creatine is known for helping the muscles recover more quickly during training. In fact, there is strong evidence to support the use of creatine to reduce inflammation, reduce muscle damage, and improve recovery after intense training sessions.
Creatine also helps athletes tolerate heavy increases in training volume. More training volume = more muscle growth and muscular endurance.
REDUCED FATIGUE AND INCREASED ENDURANCE
Creatine supplements can also reduce fatigue and tiredness by increasing phosphocreatine stores in the brain to help it produce more energy.
One study found that creatine led to increased mood and reduced fatigue during periods of sleep deprivation.
Other studies suggest creatine can help improve high-intensity exercise capacity and delay fatigue.
Co-ingestion of creatine and carbohydrates can also increase muscle glycogen storage rates, increasing an athlete’s time to fatigue during periods of physical exertion.
Creatine can modify several cellular pathways that lead to muscle growth. For example, when combined with heavy resistance training, creatine can increase muscle mass by enhancing the formation of proteins that build new muscle fibers.
There is also evidence to support creatine’s ability to increase insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), a hormone that stimulates muscle tissue growth.
Furthermore, creatine can increase the amount of water in your muscles, making your muscles instantly appear larger.
Taking creatine for just 5-7 days can increase muscle size and lean body mass. Though the initial increase in muscle size is due to increased water content in your muscles, when taken for more extended periods, it helps build muscle.
One six-week study found that resistance-trained individuals who took creatine supplements added an average of 4.4 pounds of muscle mass compared to those who did not.
It’s important to note that if you stop taking creatine, your creatine stores will return to baseline within about four weeks.
Creatine supplements can also increase creatine phosphate in the brain, improving the energy supply to the brain and boosting brain power.
According to a new 2021 study, creatine may help combat mental fatigue in athletes, thus improving cognitive functions such as decision making, working memory, attention, and coordination essential for sports performance.
Creatine monohydrate is safe, affordable, and effective. It is popular in the world of sports nutrition because it offers myriad health benefits such as increased muscle mass, athletic performance, and cognitive functions. It also protects against injuries, supports recovery, and reduces fatigue.
While creatine loading is unnecessary, it rapidly increases your muscle creatine levels, allowing you to enjoy the benefits of creatine much sooner.
During a loading phase, you should consume a total of 20 grams of creatine daily for five to seven days, followed by a maintenance dose of 3-5 grams per day.
Alternatively, you can opt for a slower route and skip the loading phase, taking 3 grams of creatine daily for 28 days to achieve muscle saturation.
Regardless of your route, taking creatine every day is vital to maintain optimal muscle stores. You’ll also want to choose a clean creatine supplement from a reputable company that utilizes third-party testing for maximum results.