Creatine Dosing Strategies

February 20, 2001

Contents:

1- Featured Article:
How much creatine should I take?

2- Featured Question:
How old do I need to be to take creatine?


This month we will discuss the proper way to calculate your creatine dose according to the original method of Dr. Greenhaff and colleagues in the United Kingdom and Sweden.In this issue we will also address one of the most frequently asked questions submitted to our website: Am I too young to take creatine?

In subsequent issues we will expand on the basics of creatine use and will also discuss how to safely optimize creatine uptake into skeletal muscle.

Don’t miss out on future articles! Sign up and get the latest post straight to your e-mail inbox or RSS reader.

Featured Article:

How much Creatine Monohydrate should I take?

The Basics

It is commonly recommended that a person divide their supplementing regimes into three separate phases: 1.) loading; 2. ) maintenance and; 3.) wash-out. The sum of these three phases is known a period. Several periods can be chained together in a process known as periodizing.

Loading Phase: The purpose of the loading phase is to rapidly fill your muscle creatine stores within a few days.

Maintenance Phase: As it’s name implies, the maintenance dose should just compensate for the amount of creatine used on a daily basis to maintain the stores full-loaded.

Wash-out Phase: The wash-out period allows the body to recover from the artificially high creatine levels observed during supplementation that the body would not ordinarily encounter in everyday life. The wash-out period is mainly a precaution, since the long term consequences of creatine supplementation are not well known or understood.

Period: The cycling between these three phases has been termed periodizing. A period begins with each new loading phase and ends with the wash-out phase.

Loading

In the original scientific study that devised the loading strategy of taking creatine, a person’s creatine dose is a function of their weight (see reference below). This makes sense since a person’s capacity to store creatine is determined by their amount of muscle mass. During the loading phase, 0.3 grams of creatine should be taken for each kilogram of bodyweight.

NOTE: A scoop is usually provided by the manufacturer in the creatine container. The instructions on the side of the container should indicate how many grams of creatine are provided in each scoop of creatine. One scoop’s worth of creatine is often referred to as serving size. Also see Concluding Remarks.

How to calculate your weight in kilograms.

To calculate your creatine dose, you must first know your weight in kilograms. To convert you weight in pounds to kilograms, simply divide your weight in pounds by 2.2. For example, a 154 pound person would weigh 70 kilograms; 154 / 2.2 = 70.

How to calculate your creatine dose.

To calculate your loading dose, simply multiply your weight in kilograms by 0.3. For example, a 70 kilogram person would take 21 grams of creatine per day during the loading phase; 0.3 x 70 = 21.

For those of you who would rather not do the math, a table of creatine dose is provided below.

Creatine Dosing Table
(per day)

 

Creatine Dosing Table

 

Note: Below your weight is your corresponding creatine dose.

How to take your creatine dose.

Divide the loading dose into 4 equal parts; take one part every 4-5 hours. In other words, if your loading dose is 20 grams per day, you would take 5 grams of creatine four times a day during the loading phase. For the best results completely dissolve this amount of creatine powder into at least 16 ounces of fruit juice. Take one part with your morning meal, another at lunch, one immediately after your workout, and one before you go to bed. Again, do not take creatine immediately before you work out. The reason for this will be given in a subsequent newsletter. The loading phase should not exceed 5 days.

NOTE: As far as creatine is concerned, more isn’t necessarily better. During the five days of loading, an equivalent of one day’s creatine dose (~20 grams) is absorbed by our muscles. This is equal to about 1/5, or 20%, of our pre-existing muscle creatine reserves. After five days, creatine absorption by skeletal muscle declines precipitously. This can be either because the muscle is full or because creatine entry at the muscle surface is being blocked. No matter the reason, it doesn’t make sense (economically or physiologically) to continue creatine loading for more than 5 days.

Maintenance

Normally, our creatine stores degrade at a rate of about 2 grams per day. This amount would need to be replaced each day in order to “maintain” the stores full. The purpose of the maintenance dose is to replace this loss amount of creatine. During the maintenance phase, reduce the creatine dose to 0.03 grams of creatine per kilogram of body weight. This is equivalent to 2.1 grams of creatine per day for a 70 kilogram (154 pound) person; 70 x 0.03=2.1. It is recommended that the maintenance phase not exceed 4-5 weeks. Take the maintenance dose immediately following your workout.

Wash-out

Following the maintenance phase a wash-out period should be incorporated to allow the body to recover from abnormally high creatine concentrations. The commonly recommended duration of the wash-out period is one month. Usually our muscle creatine reserves return to their original levels after one month of stopping supplementation. After washout, the next round of supplementation may commence again.

Concluding Remarks

Remember that these values are for pure creatine monohydrate. If your creatine product contains other additives, such as sugars, this will increase the recommended dose. This should be explained with the manufactures instructions. Nevertheless, the actual amount of creatine you take should not exceed what was outlined above.

Original Scientific Reference:

Hultman, E., Soderlund K., Timmons, J. A., Cederblad, G. and Greenhaff, P. L. (1996) Muscle creatine loading in men. Journal of Applied Physiology, Volume 81(1), pages 232-237


Featured Question of the Month:

How old do I need to be to take creatine?

I commonly advise that you wait until after puberty to start taking creatine. This is only a precautionary suggestion since the long term consequences of creatine supplementation aren’t well understood. In other words, if negative consequences of creatine supplementation do exist, then the younger you start taking creatine, the more likely they are to manifest during your lifetime.


Furthermore, some studies have failed to show a clear effect of creatine on adolescent subjects, suggesting that creatine may be less effective in adolescents. Finally, athletes generally take creatine to enhance their performance during high intensity efforts. Therefore, a more pertinent question might be whether it is advisable for children to push themselves to such an extreme. There are those that believe that excessive force/stress might be harmful for a rapidly growing body. For example, placing too much stress on developing bones might alter bone growth and tendon development. Therefore, it may be inappropriate for children to exert themselves beyond the normal limits of play, making creatine use a mute point from the onset.

Still have questions about creatine? You'll probably find the answers in my ebook!

Creatine: a practical guide will teach you how to use creatine safely and effectively for greatest muscle growth. You'll learn: how to design your own personalized dosing protocol, what to eat (and what not to eat) and other methods to make the greatest muscle gains, at the lowest price. Also, find out whether expensive creatine formulations are really worth the money!

All for less than the cost of your monthly creatine!

More information