As you saw in the previous article , scientifically, creatine monohydrateis usually considered the best sub-type of creatine in terms of price / effectiveness. In this article I will cover how to take creatine, its dosages and cycles and who can benefit from this supplement.
How to take creatine?
Although the doses used in some studies are quite high, more recent studies suggest that lower doses are equally effective in increasing creatine phosphate levels in the body . That is, people with pathologies and a decreased amount of creatine can benefit from a higher dose (5 to 10 grams / day) but in healthy subjects, 2 to 3 grams / day are enough to increase levels of creatine phosphate [ 1-4]
What is creatine loading and is this really necessary?
Although there are lots of options on how to take creatine, indications and protocols, as you may have heard, creatine is a supplement that is known to have a “charge” period (also called creatine loading), followed by a period of “Maintenance” and a final (washout). So there are different times and ways of how to take creatine.
A typical creatine monohydrate cycle then has three phases:
- Loading phase – in which doses ranging from 5-35 grams (more often 0.3 grams / kg) daily, for 5-7 days, or even 10 days;
- Maintenance phase – where doses range from 2-9 grams (most often 0.03 grams / kg) daily, for 3-4 weeks;
- Final phase – optional, one or two weeks without creatine supplementation.
Regarding the exact dose of how to take creatine, several strategies have been used in an attempt to maximize the total concentration of this supplement, and particularly phosphocreatine. It is known that the amount of creatine in the muscle is about 125 mmol / kg dry weight and that there is an upper storage limit of 150-160 mmol / kg dry weight.
Although the most common is in the loading phase (daily total of 20 to 30 grams of creatine in four equal doses of 5 to 7 grams for 5 to 7 days followed by 5 grams of maintenance creatine for 20 to 30 days ), studies show that significantly lower loading doses (0.071 grams / kg – equivalent to 5 g for a 70 kg person), followed by maintenance doses (0.029 grams / kg – equivalent to 2 g for a person of 70 kg) produced similar results in increasing total muscle creatine concentration. [4-8]
In addition, it is important to note that this loading phase is not strictly necessary. Many studies show benefits when starting with a dose of 5 to 10 grams / day or even less than 2 to 3 grams / day.
The loading phase will cause a faster saturation of the creatine levels in the muscles. This may have psychological benefits and be more motivating as it will suddenly increase strength levels and appear to rapidly increase muscle mass. However, the truth is that this body weight gain, in this first phase, is mainly due to a water retention effect, as we have already seen in another article in our guide .
It is known that taking a smaller dose for a longer period of time will lead to the same saturation point and the differences between the two methods is minimal and not significant. However, for some people who may be more sensitive to weight variations, it may be more advisable this latter method for how to take creatine. [9,10]
Who can benefit most from creatine supplementation?
- People with the goal of increasing physical performance , strength athletes and bodybuilders with the goal of further increasing muscle mass;
- People with chronic neurodegenerative or cardiovascular diseases, or congenital diseases with creatine deficiency;
- Vegans and vegetarians , or any other type of diet that does not include / have reduced amounts of meat, eggs or fish.
What is the washout phase?
After 12 weeks of supplementation, some authors advocate a 2-week washout. This theory is based on ancient studies on creatine that argued that it was important for the kidneys to “rest” from increased creatine levels .
But the truth is that today, after hundreds and hundreds of studies, it is known that creatine will not have significant effects on kidney function and that it can be used without problems in healthy individuals. It’s more a matter of personal preference.
If the person feels more psychologically comfortable in how to take creatine by decreasing creatine intake for 2 weeks, it will reduce the reserves. However, this decrease is not complete since cell saturation takes about 28 days, and when starting a new cycle, 1/3 of the initial loading dose may be enough to fully “recharge” the muscle stock!