DO YOU NEED TO LOAD CREATINE – CREATININE NORMAL RANGEAkshay
A common doubt regarding creatine supplementation, I get almost daily is whether we need to load creatine. Everyone has a different understanding of this concept, but few know the science and the research behind it. This article will once and for all clear this doubt of yours, on the basis of scientific studies.
- A 1996 study in the Journal of Applied Physiology, by a Swedish research team led by K. Soderlund, studied the effect of dietary creatine supplementation on skeletal muscle creatine accumulation and subsequent degradation and on urinary creatinine excretion in 31 male subjects who ingested creatine in different quantities over varying time periods.
The researchers saw that the muscle total creatine concentration increased by 20% after 6 days of creatine supplementation at a rate of 20g/day. This elevated concentration was maintained when supplementation was continued at a rate of 2g/day for a further 30 days.
However, in the absence of 2g/day supplementation, total creatine concentration gradually declined, such that 30 days after the cessation of supplementation the concentration was no different from the pre-supplementation value. During this period, urinary creatinine excretion was correspondingly increased.
A similar, but more gradual, 20% increase in muscle total creatine concentration was observed over a period of 28 days when supplementation was undertaken at a rate of 3g/day.
In conclusion, a rapid way to “creatine load” human skeletal muscle is to ingest 20g of creatine for 6 days. This elevated tissue concentration can then be maintained by ingestion of 2g/day thereafter.
On the other hand, the ingestion of 3g creatine/day is in the long term likely to be as effective at raising tissue levels as this higher dose.
- A 2003 study in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, by an Australian research team led by D. Preen, determined the impact of 3 different creatine loading procedures on skeletal muscle total Creatine accumulation and, second, to evaluate the effectiveness of 2 maintenance regimes on retaining intramuscular total creatine stores, in the 6-weeks following a 5-day creatine loading program (20g/day). Eighteen physically active male subjects were divided into 3 equal groups and administered either: (a) Creatine, (b) Glucose+Creatine, or (c) Creatine in conjunction with 60 min of daily muscular (repeated-sprint) exercise. Following the 5-day loading period, subjects were reassigned to 3 maintenance groups and ingested either 0g/day, 2g/day or 5g/day of Creatine for a period of 6 weeks. The data suggests that Glucose+Creatine is potentially the most effective means of elevating Total creatine accumulation in human skeletal muscle. Furthermore, after 5 days of Creatine loading, elevated muscle Total creatine concentrations can be maintained by the ingestion of small daily Creatine doses (2-5g) for a period of 6-weeks and that Total creatine concentrations may take longer than currently accepted to return to baseline values after such a Creatine loading regime.
- A 2003 study in the journal Clinical Science, by L.J.V. Loon & team, assessed the effects of both creatine loading and prolonged supplementation on muscle creatine content, body composition, muscle and whole-body oxidative capacity, substrate utilization during exercise, and on repeated sprints, as well as endurance-type time-trial performance on a cycle ergometer. Twenty subjects ingested creatine or a placebo during a 5-day loading period (20g/day) after which supplementation was continued for up to 6 weeks (2g/day). Creatine loading increased muscle free creatine, creatine phosphate, and total creatine content. The study found that the increase in body mass following creatine loading was maintained after 6-weeks of continued supplementation and accounted for by a corresponding increase in fat-free mass.
- A 2007 study in the International Journal of Sports Science and Nutrition, by Abbie Smith & team, examined the effects of 5-days of creatine loading on the fatigue threshold in 15 college-aged women, as compared to a placebo. The study found that 5 days of Creatine loading in women may be an effective strategy for delaying the onset of neuromuscular fatigue during cycling.
- A 2009 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, by a research team from Singapore led by Y.L. Law, established the effects of 2 and 5 days of creatine loading, coupled with resistance training, on muscular strength and anaerobic performance in trained athletes. Seventeen trained men were randomly assigned to a creatine or a placebo group. The creatine supplementation group consumed 20g of creatine per day (4 doses of 5g/day), whereas the placebo group was given a placebo similar in appearance and taste over the 5-day supplementation duration. The study found that a 5-day creatine loading regime coupled with resistance training resulted in significant improvements in both average anaerobic power. However, 2 days of supplementation was not sufficient to produce similar performance gains as that observed at the end of 5 days of loading in trained men, despite increases in creatine uptake in the body. The standard 5-day loading regime should hence be prescribed to individuals supplementing with creatine for enhanced strength and power.
- A 2010 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, by D.H. Fukuda, examined the effects of gender and creatine loading in anaerobic running capacity. Fifty trained men and women were selected and tested for 3 days. VO2 max was tested on a treadmill. The participants were divided into creatine or placebo group and received 20 packets of creatine or 20 packets of placebo. They consumed 4 packets daily for 5 consecutive days. The study found that the creatine loading group exhibited a 23% higher anaerobic running capacity than the placebo group. These changes were though not observed in women.
- A 2017 study in the Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition, by Richard Kreider & team, suggested that in a normal diet that contains 1–2g/day of creatine, muscle creatine stores are about 60–80% saturated. Therefore, dietary supplementation of creatine serves to increase muscle creatine by 20–40%. The most effective way to increase muscle creatine stores is to ingest 5g of creatine monohydrate (or approximately 0.3 g/kg body weight) four times daily for 5–7 days.
However, higher levels of creatine supplementation for longer periods of time may be needed to increase brain concentrations of creatine, offset creatine synthesis deficiencies, or influence disease states. Once muscle creatine stores are fully saturated, creatine stores can generally be maintained by ingesting 3–5g/day, although some studies indicate that larger athletes may need to ingest as much as 5–10g/day in order to maintain creatine stores.
An alternative supplementation protocol is to ingest 3g/day of creatine monohydrate for 28 days. However, this method would only result in a gradual increase in muscle creatine content compared to the more rapid loading method and may, therefore, have less effect on exercise performance and/or training adaptations until creatine stores are fully saturated.
Research has shown that once creatine stores in the muscle are elevated, it generally takes 4–6 weeks for creatine stores to return to baseline. Additionally, it has been recommended that due to the health benefits of creatine, individuals should consume about 3g/day of creatine in their diet particularly as one ages
With all the above studies, creatine loading proves to be beneficial, but the question is that who needs this extra benefit. Do you need to load creatine? May be or maybe not. If you want to see the results extremely fast, you may undergo a loading protocol. But even taking a maintenance dose every day, will fully saturate your muscles within a month.
Even in the above studies, creatine loading was tested mostly against a placebo. Yes, it will work. But if you test creatine loading against someone who is taking normal creatine dose for a long time, the effects would be the same. Studies also showed that as you age, taking normal doses of creatine would be better than large doses for loading.
According to examine.com, “you do not need to load creatine. Many studies use either a straight dose of 5-10g daily or even smaller amounts (2-3g). These studies also note benefits with creatine supplementation. This method is called ‘Just taking creatine’.
Creatine loading will cause faster saturation of muscles with creatine and can cause greater acute increases in strength and body weight (via water retention). This may also confer a psychological benefit since you can ‘see’ yourself getting bigger. Taking a smaller dose for a longer period of time will eventually reach the same saturation point, but will take longer. The differences at the end of a cycle, should you choose to end the cycle, would be minimal.”