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Creatine: How Much to Take and When

© Ray Sahelian MD, Dave Tuttle
 (Excerpted from Creatine: Nature's Muscle Builder, Avery Publishing Group, 1996)

The question then became how long this loading period had to be. It turns out not to be that long at all. Harris gave his study subjects 30 grams of creatine per day, which by today's standards is a very high dose, even for the loading phase. Study participants weighed around 80 kg (175 lb) and engaged in only light exercise during the course of the study. Harris found that the muscles could only absorb so much creatine. After the maximum level had been reached, the excess amount was converted into a waste product called creatinine and excreted in the urine. Harris discovered that on the first day of supplementation 40 percent of the administered dose was excreted. This amount rose to 61 percent on the second day, and 68 percent on the third day. So by Day Three, two-thirds of the creatine consumed was wasted!

An unpublished study referred to by Dr. Balsom in his review article shows the effectiveness of the loading and maintenance concept. In this study, participants received 0.3 grams of creatine per kg of bodyweight every day for 6 days. (For a 70 kg person, this would be 21 grams per day.) That dose produced a significant increase in total creatine levels in skeletal muscle. Creatinine excretion was not measured. After this loading phase, the amount of creatine was reduced to 0.03 grams per day per kg, which is roughly equal to 2 grams per day for a 70 kg person. On this low dose, muscle creatine levels were maintained at the high level originally brought about by the loading phase. Unfortunately, this study did not reveal how much the participants exercised, if at all. Nevertheless, this study demonstrates that high loading dosages do not need to be continued over a long period of time. If you keep taking high doses of creatine after your muscles have been loaded, you're basically unloading; that is, unloading your cash. Your money is being flushed down the toilet. It's also likely that you're putting stress on your organs of elimination, such as your liver and kidneys. They will have to work harder to get rid of all that excess creatine, and that's not healthy.

Our recommendations for the loading phase are indicated in Table 2. As you can see, the total amount of creatine per day ranges from 12 to 20 grams, depending on your bodyweight and exercise intensity. A rounded (not heaping) teaspoon is equal to five grams, so your loading dose would be two to four rounded teaspoons. There are also five-gram plastic scoops on the market which allow for more precise measurement, but they are currently not provided in creatine containers. Hopefully, at least some of the supplement companies will seek competitive advantage by providing consumers with a convenient measuring scoop in each container of creatine, just as the industry already does with protein powders. For now, you may have to use a teaspoon and guess a bit in your measurements.

Your loading dosage should be divided into two to four servings. Servings should generally not be greater than five grams since larger doses can produce diarrhea in some instances. You should also drink a half-liter (pint) of water with each dose. The loading phase should last from five to seven days if you are a meat-eater, and seven to nine days if you are vegetarian. (Vegetarians have lower initial levels of creatine stored in muscles.)

These recommendations are based on two major factors. First, the total amount of creatine storage capacity in your body is directly related to your muscle mass. Ninety-five percent of the body's creatine is found in skeletal muscles. There is no creatine in bones or bodyfat, and only small amounts in the heart, brain and testes. Also, while there are some variations in the creatine content of individual muscles, on average every kilogram of muscle (2.2 lb) has around four grams of creatine in it. As a result, the more muscle you have, the greater the quantity of storage space available. This increases the amount of creatine you need to load proportionally.

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About The Author
Ray Sahelian, M.D., is a popular and respected physician who has been seen on numerous television programs including NBC Today, Dateline NBC, and CNN, and quoted by countless major magazines such as Newsweek He is the bestselling author of ...more
 
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