Health & Habits
Creatine Loading - Is It Safe?
Posted April 5, 2021
We’ve already covered the creatine basics here, but surprisingly, the debate over how and when to take creatine continues. Some believe that a “loading phase” is necessary to maximize benefits, but others deem this process irrelevant. Whether we choose to load or stick to a low dose to start, our method will ultimately affect how quickly we see an increase of creatine levels in the body.
Creatine loading simply refers to the practice of taking a higher initial dose of creatine for 5-7 days followed by a lower “maintenance” dose. This initial loading phase serves to rapidly increase intramuscular creatine stores, while the maintenance phase ensures that such stores stay saturated. Once we load with creatine, we can maintain its effects indefinitely with lower doses. A typical loading phase can be 20 grams divided into four equal doses for a week (5 grams taken four times per day), followed by 3-5 grams per day thereafter.
It’s important to note that loading phases are not required to reap the benefits of creatine. Although a high-dose loading phase allows you to experience the benefits of creatine quicker, research shows that within one month, lower doses of 3-5 grams per day build up equally well in our muscles. In other words, loading is a shortcut to quicker results. However, if we’re patient, we can still achieve the same benefits with typical creatine doses.
When creatine is taken in large doses - like during a loading phase - there may be minor side effects including nausea, stomach pains, diarrhea and muscle cramps. This may be the result of potential dehydration, but the shift of cellular water content in our body when supplementing is minor. No research supports claims linked to dehydration, but making sure we drink enough water throughout the day should combat these effects. On the whole, creatine has been studied extensively for years and is deemed very safe.
The time of day we choose to take creatine comes down to personal preference and convenience. There have been no studies showing results to significantly favor taking creatine before or after a workout. However, one study did find that taking creatine closer to exercise increased muscle and strength than taking it long before or after exercise. So, regardless of when we choose to take creatine, it may be helpful to do so shortly before or after exercise.
A special formula in VEDGE™ Creatine+ includes not only the highest grade creatine monohydrate available, but also Peak02® - a trademarked ingredient with proven studies shown to increase strength, energy, and performance. Both creatine and Peak02® work together to enhance our training capacity, and PeakO2® helps to specifically improve oxygen utilization which can be helpful if taken prior to exercise.
Ultimately, the consistency of taking a daily creatine supplement is key. It’s a very safe, competition-legal supplement that has a plethora of highly researched, proven benefits with very low risk to consumers. Creatine has been used for more than a century, and thousands of studies support its safety and effectiveness. According to the best science, loading creatine is a safe and effective way to get all of its benefits - about four times faster than we would otherwise.
Written by Brett Malaney
Hultman E, Söderlund K, Timmons JA, Cederblad G, Greenhaff PL. Muscle creatine loading in men. J Appl Physiol (1985). 1996 Jul;81(1):232-7. doi: 10.1152/jappl.19188.8.131.52. PMID: 8828669.
Persky AM, Rawson ES. Safety of creatine supplementation. Subcell Biochem. 2007;46:275-89. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4020-6486-9_14. PMID: 18652082.
Cribb PJ, Hayes A. Effects of supplement timing and resistance exercise on skeletal muscle hypertrophy. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006 Nov;38(11):1918-25. doi: 10.1249/01.mss.0000233790.08788.3e. PMID: 17095924.
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