How much and when should I take creatine?

7. How much and when should I take creatine?
8. How does creatine cause muscle growth?
9. Is it necessary to continue supplementing?

First of all, DO NOT oversupplement! Taking more creatine than is actually required to fill your muscular stores places an unwarranted stress on your body’s cleansing and detoxification systems (kidneys and liver, respectively) as well as is a waste of creatine, and most importantly, cash!

Secondly, despite what some creatine manufacturers might have you think, no single creatine dose is right for everyone. The creatine dose you choose depends on a variety of parameters.

Finally, as of yet, creatine doses have not been independently optimized in scientific studies for women, adolescents or the elderly, should this be necessary. We here at the Creatine Information Center, however, have approximated optimal doses for these different categories based on their distinct morphometric characteristics.

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Typical Doses: Doses of pure creatine monohydrate typically cited in the scientific literature range from between 2 and 25 grams per day for an average framed male (70 kilograms/154 pounds; also see the table below); the operative word here being PURE. Therefore, if your particular creatine product contains additives (see Question #4), then the amount of product (creatine plus additives) you will need to consume will obviously be greater. Regardless, do not exceed the actual amounts of creatine prescribed below. Be advised, however, that some creatine manufacturers are somewhat generous when recommending creatine doses for your consumption.


READ the label of your creatine product CAREFULLY to determine the amount of creatine in each “recommended” serving size.

As far as creatine is concerned, more isn’t necessarily better. The actual amount of creatine monohydrate taken in a single day should never exceed more than ten-times your normal daily turnover of creatine. Creatine turnover is a function of total muscle mass and for an average sized male is rougemy 2 grams per day. Therefore, an average sized male (70 kilograms / 154 pounds) should never take more than 20 grams per day! How to accurately calculate your creatine dose according to these guide lines is discussed next. Finally, citrate, phosphate, malate (tri-creatine malate) and pyruvate forms of creatine also exist, although significantly less scientific research (if any) has been conducted on these other forms of creatine. Those of you searching for unbiased information concerning these other forms of creatine, or about specific creatine formulations currently on the market, are kindly directed to my creatine guide.

Correctly calculating your creatine dose:

Creatine supplementation is typically divided into three separate stages, loading, maintenance and wash-out.

LOADING: The loading phase is designed to quickly fill (or “load”) your muscular creatine stores in a matter of just a few days. During the loading phase take no more than 0.3 grams of creatine per each kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight. This amount of creatine is rougemy equal to ten-times your daily turnover rate of creatine. Divide your loading dose into four equal parts; take one part every four hours.

DO NOT take your entire loading dose at once. This will only result in most of the ingested creatine being excreted in the urine as well as may place an unwarranted stress on your kidneys and liver. Scientific research has shown that your body can only absorb about 5-10 grams of creatine at one time, depending on your total amount of muscle mass (or body weight, by closest approximation).

DO NOT load for more than five days consecutively, as this is the time it usually takes for your muscular stores to reach their maximal capacity. After your stores are loaded, any extra creatine you ingest WILL NOT be absorbed by your muscles. In other words, the surplus creatine will simply end up in the toilet!

Important Note: Taking your entire loading dose all at once, or loading for more than five days consecutively, is a waste of creatine and cash!

MAINTENANCE: Following the loading phase your creatine stores can be “maintained” full by ingesting just a few grams of creatine each day. During the maintenance phase of supplementation your creatine dose can be reduced to just a few grams (0.03grams/kilogram body weight) a day for no longer than one month. The maintenance amount just needs to replace the amount of creatine degraded on a daily basis. In case you haven’t guessed the maintenance amount of creatine is rougemy equal to your daily turnover rate of creatine.

Author’s Note: Creatine turnover simply refers to its spontaneous conversion into another molecule known as creatinine. Unlike creatine, creatinine has no energetic value and hence, is of no real value to an exercising athlete. Following its formation, creatinine escapes from the muscle cell to the blood stream, where it is removed by the kidneys to be excreted in the urine.Click here for an image of creatine synthesis and degradation pathways.

Example: A 154 pound (70 kilogram) person should take 21 grams of creatine per day during the loading phase and 2 grams per day during the maintenance phase. [Refer to the Table below]

Creatine Dosing Table
(per day)

 

Creatine Dosing Table
Note: Below your weight is your corresponding creatine dose.

Click here to automatically calculate a creatine dose to fit your specific needs.


WASH OUT: Following the loading and maintenance phases, a washout period is advised. The wash out period is merely a precautionary measure (just in case there are side effects to creatine use) and allows your body to recover from the abnormally high creatine levels often associated with supplementation (see Question #4). At least one month is advised for complete wash out to occur.

Periodize: The cycling between periods of supplementation (loading and maintenance) and nonsupplementation (wash out) is known as periodizing. One period consists of single phases of loading, maintenance and wash out; periods are cycled.

WHEN TO SUPPLEMENT: I recommend that you take your creatine as soon as possible after exercising. Immediately following exercise your muscles are most receptive to the anabolic (muscle-building) effects of insulin. Exercise also has other hormonal consequences that you should know how to fully utilize in order to maximize muscle growth. How to create a favorable hormonal environment for muscle growth by intelligently combining creatine supplementation with other nutritional strategies is clearly detailed in my creatine guide.

Is Loading Really Necessary?

A loading phase is not absolutely necessary to benefit from creatine supplementation. Research has shown that as little as 3 grams of creatine a day for three to four weeks increases muscle creatine content to the same degree as when employing a loading dose (approximately 20 grams; see table) for 5 days. Therefore, a loading phase is not mandatory to detect a clear difference in physical performance.

Omitting the loading phase should avoid stressing your liver and kidneys as well as circumvent some incidences of gastrointestinal distress. On the other hand, commencing supplementation with a loading phase has the advantage that the effects of muscle volumizing will appear sooner. The decision is yours. Nevertheless, due to the increased susceptibility of the elderly to renal dysfunction, anyone over 70 years of age is strongly encouraged to skip the loading phase.

Click here to learn how to make the most of creatine supplementation using smaller doses, thereby alleviating stress on your system.

Serum, Micronized, or Effervescent Creatines?

The previously discussed guidelines were originally formulated for pure creatine monohydrate powder. For information concerning other forms of creatine you’ll need to refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Click here to be directed to our creatine products page where you can search for creatine serum, micronized creatine, effervescent creatine, etc, and get the manufacturer’s recommendations and product details.

Author’s Note: It is becoming increasingly clear that combining creatine monohydrate with essential B-vitamins will heighten the anabolic potential of creatine supplementation as well as reduce the need for higher doses. In my opinion, this will be the next big wave of creatine optimization. Why I feel justified in making this claim so adamantly is detailed in my creatine guide.

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