By Andrew Heffernan
Curious about creatine loading? Let's start at the beginning.
Among the thousands of potions, pills, and powders marketed at fitness-minded folks, creatine monohydrate is among the most studied. It's also among the most tested and most effective. Regular use can help enhance strength, muscle growth, and athletic performance by providing the raw materials your body needs to fuel brief, high-intensity efforts.
Some trainers and nutritionists suggest a creatine loading phase for the first week of use, followed by a maintenance phase.
What does that mean, is it effective, and should you do it?
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To speed up the availability of creatine for use in your workouts, creatine loading calls for taking a higher initial amount of the supplement for a brief period before switching to an ongoing schedule of regular servings.
Creatine is the body's primary fuel source during the first few seconds of any exercise, and continues to be the primary fuel source during repeated bouts of high-intensity exercise (think: sprinting and weightlifting). This fuel is stored in your cells and typically acquired through dietary sources such as meat and fish. Supplementation allows you to top off your cellular stores of creatine, helping make more of it available during exercise.
At typical servings (5 to 10 grams per day) of a creatine product, it can take a month or more of supplementation to build up your cellular creatine stores enough to make a noticeable difference in your workouts. Creatine loading allows you to reach those levels in as little as a week.
Here's how it works:
Continuing at a higher amount for longer than a week to 10 days won't do you any good — you can't make your cellular tanks any larger, after all — so once they're topped off, be sure dial back your daily intake to the maintenance level.
“Water retention is the most common event reported in the first several days of creatine use," says Paul Falcone, senior scientist for LADDER nutrition. Retaining water can occasionally lead to bloating and other gastrointestinal issues, including frequent urination.
However, the recommended five grams taken four times a day while loading should help mitigate these side effects. “Spreading out your intake strategy should enable your body to on-ramp more easily," says Falcone.
Any water retention should disappear after a few days, says Falcone. So even if you're a little bloated at first, the effect will be temporary. And after five to seven days, switch to a lower amount of about five grams daily — the amount in each serving of LADDER Pre-Workout. (Don't use LADDER Pre-Workout as a way of creatine loading because the product contains ingredients other than creatine.)
You don't need creatine to achieve your strength training goals, but it can help you reach them faster. In fact, if you're interested in maximizing muscle and strength, creatine should be high on your list of supplements to try. Most people notice an uptick in their strength, performance, and muscle mass, with minimal side effects.*
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.