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Creatine is one of the most popular supplements on the market when it comes to weight training and athletic performance. This is because it has been proven to increase muscle mass, strength, and exercise performance. It is one of the world’s most tested supplements and has a great safety profile.

I remember when I first started looking into supplementing with creatine. I would read articles stating that you must load creatine when you first start to take it. This means that you must start off by dosing a higher amount for about a week and then resume taking a normal dose for the rest of your time taking creatine.

Why load creatine?

A creatine loading phase is typically recommended to get your muscles saturated with creatine in a shorter amount of time. A recommended approach would be to take 20 grams of creatine monohydrate a day for 7 days. You don’t want to take all 20 grams at once as this could cause stomach discomfort. Divide the 20 grams over the day into four 5 gram servings throughout the day. After the seven days of the loading phase, you would then switch to 5 grams a day for the remainder of the time.

If you are on a somewhat regular diet and eat meat and fish, your creatine stores in your muscles are only at about 60-80%. Research shows that loading with creatine can increase your muscle stores by 10-40%. This saturates your muscles quicker and you can start receiving the benefits from creatine sooner.

Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine Monohydrate

Is creatine loading necessary?

Creatine loading does get your creatine stores in your muscles loaded and saturated faster but it is not necessary to get the benefits from creatine. Taking lower doses of creatine per day can be equally as effective at filling your muscle stores, it just may take a bit longer. With creatine loading, your muscles can be fully saturated within a week. A study once showed that people who took 3 grams of creatine per day had full saturation after 28 days. With that being said, it is not necessary to load your creatine.

How to load creatine

Getting started with creatine loading is very simple. For the first seven days, you want to take 20 grams of creatine per day. This needs to be split up into 4 doses per day. Take 5 grams of creatine four times a day for seven days. If you have an unflavored micronized creatine monohydrate, you can add the 5 grams to any drink that you like. After your seven days, resume taking 5 grams of creatine once per day.

If you don’t want to load creatine, you can just take 5 grams of creatine per day. Your muscles should reach peak saturation within about thirty days.

Do I need to cycle creatine?

While talking about loading creatine, we will also talk about creatine cycling. This is a popular question that has been brought up for some time now. Many people recommend cycling creatine in the following manner: 1 week creatine loading, 3 weeks maintenance dose (5 gram per day), then 1-2 weeks off. After your off time, start the cycle over again. This method is unnecessary. Many people cycle supplements like pre workout because they build a tolerance to the caffeine. Your body does not build a tolerance to creatine. It also does not act upon any receptor that would cause creatine sensitivity. Since you do not build a tolerance, or there is no receptor sensitivity, there is no reason to cycle creatine.

What happens when I stop using creatine?

When a person stops taking creatine, it will take anywhere from a few weeks to a month for creatine levels to lower back to where they were before the person started using creatine. The time it takes to leave your system depends on a lot of factors such as gender, body fat percentage, how active one is, and how much creatine they were actually taking. After your levels return to normal, there are some things that can happen. Since creatine causes your body to retain water, you may notice slight weight loss because your muscles are no longer holding that extra water and you may also notice a slight decrease in strength. Most people don’t even notice this happening so I would not worry about it too much.

Bottom line

So what did we learn? Creatine loading helps creatine get in your body faster and see quicker results. It is not necessary though. Creatine cycling is not necessary because your body builds no tolerance to it. If you are looking to gain lean muscle and increase strength, you should definitely consider creatine.

BPI Sports Micronized Creatine
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