For clarity, “loading” creatine means taking a larger dose over a short period of time immediately to help saturate your muscle’s storage – about 5g taken four times a day for 5 days. Yes that’s 100 grams of creatine monohydrate to load up. Listen, we know there’s conflicting viewpoints on this in part because loading 20g of creatine a day for 5 days sure looks like a great way for supplement manufacturers to get you to go through that first tub of creatine in no time so you can spring for another one.
However, despite this high intake at first, creatine loading is rooted in science.
The function of creatine in the body is to act as fuel to produce ATP in the phosphagen energy system, which is used during anaerobic activities like weigh lifting where energy is needed very quickly, and shortly, for about 8 to 10 seconds. The purpose of taking creatine in supplement form is to increase the duration of time the phosphagen energy system can function by saturating creatine stores. In short, creatine exerts it’s boost to your training when your muscles are fully saturated with it.
Research on loading goes all the way back to the mid 1990s when Hultman et al. found that creatine concentration in muscles increased by 20% after 6 days of creatine supplementation at a rate of 20 g/day. What’s notable is this study also found that a similar, but more gradual, 20% increase in muscle total creatine concentration was observed over a period of 28 days when supplementation was undertaken at a rate of 3 g/day.
Subsequent studies sought to determine if it was possible to gain a performance boost from creatine after just 2 days of loading.
A 2009 study found that 5-days of creatine loading coupled with resistance training resulted in significant improvements in both average anaerobic power (Wingate test) and back squat strength compared with just training alone. The group that only took creatine for 2 days supplementation did not produce similar performance gains. The volume of research on creatine is vast, but most researchers agree that loading creatine is an effective way to get the most from it quickly. Regardless of what method you choose, Once you’ve loaded up – whether it be in 5 days or 28 days, you simply need to take 2-3 grams per day to maintain full muscle cell capacity.