What is the creatine loading phase?

A woman is sitting on a yoga mat, drinking a protein shake. She added creatine to her shake as she's currently in the loading phase for creatine.

Our bodies can produce around 1g of creatine daily, next to what we consume through our diet. However, without supplementing, the creatine stores are unlikely to be more than 60-80% filled. Because of this, many athletes use a creatine supplement. Often, they begin with a loading phase for creatine.

Let’s have a look at what a creatine loading phase is and whether it’s necessary to see optimal results from the popular supplement.

Related: The beginners’ guide to creatine – Everything you need to know

What is a creatine loading phase?

Your creatine stores are rarely more than 60-80% filled if you’re eating a regular diet. However, it’s possible to fill them with the use of supplements. Some decide to begin with a creatine loading phase to fill the stores as fast as possible.

A creatine loading phase is simply a period of time where you’ll exceed the recommended daily dosage to fill the stores as fast as possible.

How do you load creatine?

You should take a 5g dosage of creatine 4 times a day for 6-7 days during the loading phase. When the first week has passed, you need to take 5g every day to maintain and keep the stores filled.

Be careful not to exceed the recommended dosages, especially during the loading phase, as it can increase the risk of side effects even more.

What are the benefits of a loading phase?

A creatine loading phase won’t make the supplement more effective long-term. The only benefit is the time passed before the stores are filled.

If you take creatine without a loading phase, it can take up to 4 weeks before the stores are full and you can enjoy the benefits of the supplement. With a loading phase, it only takes a week. Remember that it isn’t necessary to cycle the supplement.

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What are the side effects?

The side effects of the loading phase are identical to those anyone using the supplement may experience. The most common side effects include:

  • Weight gain
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Heat intolerance
  • Muscle cramps
  • dizziness

Most of these side effects are rare. Often, you can avoid them by not exceeding the recommended dosage and staying hydrated. During the loading phase, we consume more of the supplement than recommended. This makes the risk of experiencing any side effects much higher than otherwise.

Related: What’s water retention?

Should you have a loading phase for creatine?

There is no clear answer to whether or not you should have a loading phase for creatine. It depends on your level of patience and whether or not you can live with the side effects.

For most of us, having a loading phase won’t be worth it. The risk of side effects will be higher, and there are no real long-term benefits to show for it.

Related: How to reduce water retention

Conclusion

For most of us, the loading phase won’t be worth it. The risk of side effects will be higher, and there are no real long-term benefits to show for it.

Some still do a creatine loading phase to get the full benefit from the supplement as fast as possible. This is done by taking a 5g dosage of creatine 4 times a day for 6-7 days. After the first week, they will go to a maintenance dosage, usually 5g daily.