Creatine Supplementation Protocols
The most popular way to increase creatine stores is to do a “loading phase” by taking approximately 0.3 grams per kilogram of creatine monohydrate per day for about 5-7 days. For example one may take 6 grams 4x per day for 5-7 days. This protocol may increase muscle creatine levels and phosphocreatine anywhere between 10-40%. Once muscle creatine levels are high enough, you may only be required to take anywhere between 3-5 grams of creatine monohydrate/day to maintain constant and elevated creatine levels. This initial loading phase may be shortened if creatine is ingested with protein and/or carbohydrates. An alternative protocol is to consume 3 grams of creatine monohydrate per day for about 28 days which may be just as effective as doing an initial loading dose, although more gradual. It has been reported that 6 grams of creatine per day over 12 weeks of training is adequate to promote increases in muscle mass and strength. Alternatively, some athletes cycle on and off creatine by doing loading doses every 3-4 weeks while they follow a training schedule. Due to elevated creatine stores having to take 3-4 weeks to return to normal, the later protocol is effective in increasing then maintaining high creatine levels over time.
Muscle Creatine Levels and Effects of Supplementing with Creatine
There are a number of studies that suggest that dietary creatine monohydrate supplementation will increase muscle creatine and phosphocreatine levels by as much as 10-40%. Put simply, one may think of the normal creatine levels of muscle, around 120 grams, as being like a gas tank which is 3/4 full. Supplementing with creatine will allow an individual to fill up their “tank” to around 150-160 grams. It is worth pointing out that the amount of creatine which remains in the muscle after supplementation will depend largely on the amount of creatine which is in the muscle prior to starting their supplement regimen. With that being said, those individuals with low creatine levels prior to supplementing with creatine may have a 20-40% boost in muscle creatine, whereas those with high creatine levels prior to supplementation will only experience a 10-20% spike.
Increases in performance in response to supplementing with creatine is correlated with the degree of increase in muscle creatine stores. When an individual stops taking creatine after experiencing elevated levels, it will take around 4-6 weeks before the levels of creatine return to normal.