What is a Creatine Loading Phase?

Loading plates on a barbell

Remember those old computer/video games from back in the day? You know, the ones with the endless loading screens because your hardware back then had about as much power as a piece of lint stuck to your iPhone screen today?

You might not, but for some early 90s nerds who transformed themselves into the swole gym rats of today, that’s the image that comes to mind when they hear the phrase “creatine loading phase.” However, the only similarity between the loading screens back then and the creatine loading phase today is that they both require a degree of patience.

What a creatine loading phase actually is

Fortunately, instead of waiting up for four weeks of taking creatine supplements “to fully saturate your muscles,” explains nutritional consultant and PhD researcher Richie Kirwan, you can take a higher dose to get the level of creatine you want in your body in just one week. Taking that higher dose to speed things up is what is called a “loading phase.”

Taking 3 to 5 grams of creatine a day is what is considered a normal dosage. Doing a loading phase means taking 20 grams a day for a week to load up your muscles with creatine before reducing your dosage to 3 to 5 grams a day. If you have a large body or muscle mass, you may want to take up to 10 grams a day on a regular basis, Kirwan adds.

Does a creatine loading phase always produce faster results? Is a creatine loading phase safe?

There’s no guarantee that a higher dosage will produce faster results, but a lot of research suggests that it will. As Kirwan explains, “it’s perfectly safe, and you’ll pee out the excess. So there’s no need to worry about taking too much.”

Men’s Health nutritional advisor Chris Mhr. Ph.D., R.D. advises: “While the loading phase is not dangerous or unhealthy, research suggests after 30 days, results from using creatine end up the same for strength gains. That said, if someone needed faster results (e.g., five days vs. 30 days), then the loading phase could be considered.”

In other words, creatine loading may produce faster results, but after four weeks, it doesn’t mean you’ll look more shredded than the gym rat on the machine next to you who took the normal dose for the full four weeks.

Remind me: How does creatine work?

Creatine is an amino acid that helps your muscles produce energy during high-intensity exercise. It's found naturally in animal products, but you can also get it as a dietary supplement. Supplements are important because it’s difficult to get 100% of the creatine your body can handle by diet alone.

Research shows that creatine might improve muscle strength and increase muscle mass when combined with resistance training, giving you greater gains. Some people also report improved exercise performance and increased energy levels. Creatine might also have cognitive benefits, such as improving memory and thinking skills.

Creatine bodybuilding is growing in popularity because of its simplicity. Interest in creatine monohydrate grew 105% over the past year, according to statistics published by top trends site Glimpse in October 2022.

The best creatine: gummy vitamins

Are you not a big fan of annoying creatine powder supplements? We’ve definitely grown sick of them. Tired of swallowing pills? SWOLY Creatine Mono is our choice because it puts creatine monohydrate into tasty, bear-shaped gummies. In other words, you can eat gummy bears on-the-go without worrying about having water on-hand. They’re easy for your body to digest and absorb. 

For a normal dose, take 5 gummies a day for a 4-gram punch of creatine. For a loading phase, take up to 20 gummies a day for a week.