There are many methods of taking creatine these days, loading and cycles included. Because these methods are always pushed on buyers, I was wondering, are creatine loading phases actually necessary?
Put simply, creating loading phases are not necessary. With or without a loading phase, your muscles will become fully saturated with creatine. Creatine will work exactly how it should whether you do a loading phase or not.
However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do a creatine loading phase. While you may not need to do one, loading phases can be very helpful. Below, I’ll go over why loading phases aren’t necessary, but why you should do them anyway.
You Don’t Need to Do a Creatine Loading Phase
I’ll put it simply again; you don’t need to do a creatine loading phase. Whether or not you do one, you will see strength increases. The only thing that a loading phase does is change how quickly you see those strength increases.
When you start taking creatine, it slowly fills up the creatine reserves in your muscles, usually over the course of around a month. After this month, when your reserves are filled up, you start to get more energy in your muscles and are able to do more sets and reps in the gym.
When you do a loading phase, you’re taking about 5 times more creatine every day than you would be without a loading phase. Because you’re taking that much more creatine, if you do a loading phase, you’ll fill up your reserves 5 times faster.
This means that you’ll start to see benefits in around 7 days with a loading phase, rather than 30 days without one.
I’ll say it again; the only difference between a loading phase and no loading phase is how soon you see results. In the long run, there’s no difference between the two.
If you’re looking for a good brand of creatine to take during your next loading phase, read my article about my favorite creatine and why it’s the only one that I use. Be sure to check it out!
In fact, taking too much creatine can give you digestive issues, or possibly make you feel dizzy or have headaches. Not everyone will have these side effects, but a loading phase will make them worse if you happen to be one of these people.
Because you’ll see the same results either way, you don’t need to do a loading phase for creatine. Doing one will help you see results and benefits a lot quicker, but once you’ve been doing either one for a month, you won’t notice any difference.
All that being said, just because you don’t need to do a loading phase doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do one. Seeing results five times faster will help you stay motivated, and it just feels good to see strength increases sooner rather than later.
Probably the only time you shouldn’t do a loading phase is if you’re someone that’s sensitive to creatine. Some people will experience uncomfortable side effects during a loading phase, like digestive issues. If you’re one of these people, the benefits of a loading phase is probably outweighed by the side effects.
Some brands of creatine claim that their type of creatine makes it so you don’t need a loading phase at all, but these claims are largely unfounded. If you want to learn about all of the other types of creatine available, check out my article on the 12 different types of creatine!
In the end, you don’t need to do a loading phase while taking creatine, but you probably should. You’ll see results much faster, and most likely have minimal side effects. You may run out of creatine faster, but in my opinion, loading phases are worth it.
Here’s Why You Should Do a Creatine Loading Phase
I mentioned before that you don’t need to do a creatine loading phase. I also said that you should do one. This is because a loading phase will help you in multiple ways, which I’ll go over right now. Here are some benefits of doing a loading phase:
See Results Faster:
Loading creatine will also help you see results much faster. Seeing results sooner rather than later will help you stay motivated in the gym, as well as just making you feel good. Everybody wants to see the benefits of their hard work, and it’s nice to see those results come quickly. Taking creatine, in general, will make you progress faster, but loading with creatine will help you see results much faster.
Figuring out Where You Need Work:
Nobody talks about this one, but it can be very beneficial. Once you start seeing your results from creatine, it’ll help you see which muscles on your body that you need to do work on. The muscles that you were already building will become more pronounced, and it’ll show the areas that you might have forgotten about.
For example, if you were doing a lot of bicep workouts, but not enough tricep exercises, it might be difficult to tell just by looking at your body. After you’ve been taking creatine, your biceps would grow more if you continue to work them out, but your triceps would be far behind.
This can help show where you need work, and figure out what muscle groups you need to focus more on.
Build Consistency and Discipline:
When you’re doing a loading phase with creatine, it’s very important that you stay consistent. This means taking the same amount every day throughout the phase, as well as taking your doses at a consistent time, although the latter is less important.
This helps you build a routine, and so you don’t forget to take your dose. Building discipline through taking supplements will also help you with lifting, however, because it’s even more important that you’re consistent with your workouts.
If you go to the gym sporadically, at different times of the day and different days of the week, it’s gonna be hard to see results. For every lifter, it’s important to build discipline and form habits for working out and setting a routine for yourself. A great way to start these habits is with building a schedule for your supplements.
How Long Should a Loading Phase Last?
On average, a loading phase lasts about a week. Yours can be longer or shorter, but it all comes down to math. As I mentioned earlier to fully saturate your muscles with creatine, it takes a month, or 30 days, of taking 5g of creatine per day.
During a loading phase, because you’re taking 20g-25g per day This is about four times as much creatine as a maintenance dose, so it will take a quarter of the time to saturate your muscles, or one week.
You could do a longer loading phase, to get full saturation of creatine in your muscles, but taking more than you need isn’t beneficial. Taking more creatine than your muscles can hold will cause that creatine to be excreted from your body, which just means that that extra creatine is useless to you. For this reason, most creatine loading phases end after a week.
How Much Creatine Should You Take During a Loading Phase?
As I mentioned just above, most loading phases are between 20 and 25 grams of creatine per day. Again, this is just a matter of math. To calculate your loading phase of creatine, you first need to figure out your maintenance dose, which you can find using this calculator, or just assume that it’s about 5grams/day.
Next, multiply this number by four or five, depending on how much creatine you actually want to take. This is your creatine dose for your loading phase! The only other step you have to take is to take this amount of creatine every day for a week, broken up over the course of the day.
If your loading dose is 20grams/day, take four doses of 5 grams per day, once every couple hours. This is to prevent digestive issues, as well as make it easier to consume.
Taking 20grams of creatine all at once would require a lot of water, and wouldn’t be fun to do. Just break up your doses to once every couple of hours, and you’ll be just fine.
Can You Skip a Day of the Loading Phase?
Skipping a day of creatine is not something I recommend, whether it’s during the loading phase or maintenance phase, but it’s bound to happen. If you skip or miss a day during your loading phase, just extend your loading phase by one day.
If your loading phase was Monday through Sunday, and you missed Wednesday, just keep loading as usual and extend your phase to the next Monday. If that doesn’t make sense, when you miss a day, just keep going and take a loading dose for one extra day.
If you miss a day of taking creatine after your loading phase, during your maintenance phase, it’s not a huge problem. Just keep taking the next day, and don’t do anything differently.
Missing one day of creatine isn’t the end of the world, but if you do it too often, it can lead to some problems. Over time, if you stop taking creatine, your muscle’s reserves will run out, and you’ll stop seeing benefits.
Missing a day isn’t the end of the world, but remember to be consistent and you’ll see the best results from your loading phase.
Are Creatine Loading Phases Safe?
Generally, yes, creatine loading phases are safe. A small amount of people will experience mild side effects while taking creatine in any amount, like digestive and stomach issues, discomfort, headaches, and feeling slightly dizzy. If you’re one of these people, and you do a loading phase, it will only make the side effects worse.
Not everyone will experience side effects from creatine loading but for those who do, they’re usually mild. This being said, there’s always the slight chance that you will experience more harmful side effects.
There aren’t any harmful side effects proven in any studies, but everyone’s bodies are different, and the chance is always there that your body will react to creatine intake.
Because of this, if you experience any side effects at all while loading creatine, it’s best to play it safe and stop loading. You don’t know how bad the side effects will get, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
All this being said, I’m not your doctor. As much as I’d like to help you, there’s always a risk when you’re taking a supplement. Before you do a loading phase or take creatine at all, check with your doctor and make sure it’s safe for you to take.
How Much Creatine Should I Take During the Loading Phase? The average dosage of creatine during a loading phase is 20 grams per day. This varies for everybody, so check with a doctor or a dosage calculator to see if this is right for you.
Can I Skip a Day of Creatine? While it’s important to stay consistent with any and every supplement that you take, missing one day of creatine isn’t the end of the world. I don’t recommend it, but it won’t impact your results.
Do I Need to Load Creatine? Creatine loading phases are very helpful, but they’re not necessary. Doing a loading phase will help you see results faster, but you will see results even if you don’t do one.