If you ask “how much creatine should I take?” Invariably the answer given is 5 grams as a typical creatine dosage.
But did you know it’s WRONG? (it’s generally acceptable but technically incorrect)
Have you ever seen the creatine dosage listed below? I’m sure you have as it’s the most common recommended serving size given verbally and on almost every single brand of creatine monohydrate you can purchase.
A creatine dosage is commonly between 2-25 grams a day depending on your body weight, the stage you are in and any special circumstances. The more muscle mass you have, the greater the requirement for creatine. The information below is not your typical creatine dosage that you see on almost any website or products. To date, there’s been no negative effects reported by such a higher dosage so there’s no real reason to change it. Keep in mind that almost every study to date has not measured the long term effects of a 5 gram a day creatine dosage. It’s just nobody has any negative consequences yet after 15 or more years being on the market so it’s generally accepted as safe.
Why Almost Everybody Says 5 Grams of Creatine per Day
The 5 gram daily maintenance dose that every company says to take and almost every fitness professional asked will tell you is the daily dosage is wrong. But the real reason nobody is going to change it is because it’s too difficult to re-educate the consumer and if you recommend such a dosage, it’s going to work for 99% of the population that would take it and respond to creatine. Hence, the shotgun approach to supplementation.
So how much creatine can your body absorb?
Bottom line, it depends on your overall body weight which determines your maintenance dosage. A person who’s 250 lbs will require more than a person who is 130 lbs to maintain muscle saturation (the ultimate goal of creatine supplementation). Once you’ve reach the saturation point, if the muscle can’t hold anymore, it won’t keep it and will flush out any excess creatine. Look at the table below to find your perfect dosage based on your body weight. Any more and you are wasting the product. Too much and it can technically be dangerous.
The Drawbacks to an Improper Creatine Dosage
Unused (not absorbed excess creatine) ends up in the toilet. It puts stress on the kidneys and other filtering organs to eliminate it. It’s a waste of product. So if you really only need 2.5 g a day creatine dosage based on body weight but all the labels tell you take 5 grams, you are wasting 2.5 grams and putting a small bit of unnecessary stress on your body. It’s worth the effort to get it right rather. Unlike protein where 1g per 1 lb of body weight is actually pretty accurate, 5 grams of creatine per day for everybody is well off the mark.
An over consumption of creatine:
- reduces the efficiency of creatine absorption by muscle,
- over-supplementation is (athletically) futile,
- (physiologically) stressful and
- (economically) wasteful
Creatine Loading Explained
First it’s important to mention you do not need to load creatine for it to be effective. This phase is optional. Almost every study done starts off with the loading phase. This is a quick way to get your muscles saturated with creatine. It’s important to note that your body can only absorb so much at one time. 5 grams is correct for the average sized male. So there’s no need to take too much at one time during the loading phase. The idea is to split up the dosage during the day. You get the muscles to the saturation point much faster and you start receiving the benefits quicker.
How Long is the Loading Phase
If you use the loading phase, in about 5 days give or take a day, your muscles are at full capacity. At which point, they can be maintained with just a few grams a day. The stage after the loading phase is called the maintenance phase. You can skip the loading phase and just start with a maintenance phase and still derive the full benefits of creatine supplementation.
Is the Loading Phase Really Necessary?
To load or not to load, that is a matter of personal decision and your tolerance to higher levels of creatine initially. On one hand, the loading phase will aid in results happening quicker. On the other hand, if you omit the loading phase you will put less stress on the kidneys (renal) and reduce overall stress on your filtering organs. Most of the stomach discomfort people report are is their intolerance to high levels of creatine. Skipping the loading phase can help with that situation. Because of the increased susceptibility of older people to kidney dysfunction, anyone over 70 years of age is strongly encouraged to skip the loading phase.
If you skip the loading phase, creatine dose of 0.045 grams of creatine per kilogram of bodyweight is recommended for 4- 5 weeks before incorporating the washout phase explained below.
The Maintenance Phase Explained
You can take just a few grams a day and in about 20 days or so, you’ll be at maximum levels. The creatine dose only needs to cover the amount of creatine lost per day. This phase lasts about 3 to 5 weeks before taking a break from creatine supplementation called the Washout Phase.
How Do You Calculate Your Personal Creatine Dosage
During the loading phase take 0.3 grams of creatine for each kilogram that you weigh. Reduce the dosage to 0.03 grams of creatine per kilogram of body weight during the maintenance phase; 10-times less.
Daily creatine dose according to bodyweight
This table gives creatine doses during the loading and maintenance phases of supplementation for a range of body weights.
Creatine is rather insoluble. Five grams of creatine requires at least 13 ounces (385 mLs) of liquid to go completely into solution. Therefore, mix your creatine in at least 13-16 ounces (474 mLs) of liquid.
When is the Best Time to Take Creatine
Take one part of your loading dose and your entire maintenance dose immediately after exercise. Include carbohydrates and protein in these meals. If you aren’t doing the loading phase, then just take your calculated creatine dosage.
Do You Need to Take Creatine Every Day?
Your creatine stores won’t empty in a day or two if you miss a creatine dose. It takes about a month for your creatine stores to return to normal.
The Washout Phase – When to Stop Taking Creatine
After 4-6 weeks of supplementation, stop taking creatine. This allows your body to recover and return to normal levels. This phase lasts for about 1 month. Some research has shown that creatine levels drop in muscle even with continual supplementation. This is reason alone to stop using creatine for a short period so that the effects and levels and results can be achieved again.
This is a good little summary of creatine monohydrate by About.com
Questions? Comments? Tried Creatine yet? What are your results? Thoughts? Share!