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You’re going HAM in the gym, eating your carbs and protein, drinking your H20, getting enough sleep, and even taking your favorite pre-workout before you get down and dirty—what else could possibly give you an edge to increase strength and charge up your results? 

Let’s welcome creatine to the chat.

Creatine is an amino acid (derived from arginine) that’s found in both animal proteins and within our own muscle cells. It’s used by the body to replenish ATP (adenosine triphosphate) stores, which is the energy source your body uses for explosive movements, like sprinting and heavy lifting.

Creatine supplementation has been researched fairly extensively, and has been shown to boost the effects of short-duration, high-intensity exercise on muscle strength and size. Read on for information about why creatine is an effective supplement, what you should consider when choosing a creatine product, and our list of the best creatine supplements to buy.

Backed by a Sports Nutrition Expert 

At GGR, we’ve been reviewing home gym equipment since 2014. And not to toot our own horn, but we think we provide the best, unbiased approach to our reviews, giving you all the info you need to know to make the best purchasing decision. And during our journey into supplements, we’ve consulted a sports nutrition expert, Dr. Krissy Kendall, to help us formulate this list of the best creatine supplements. 

9 Best Creatine Products 

Best Creatine Overall: Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine Monohydrate 

Good for: Someone who’s looking for a basic, yet high-quality, creatine supplement

Best Creatine Overall
Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine Monohydrate
Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine Monohydrate

If you’re looking to add some bulk, creatine is likely a supplement you’re considering to add to your regimen. And, Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine Monohydrate is one worth considering. With close to 50,000 positive reviews on Amazon, adding this supplement to your favorite drink has been linked to increased lean muscle mass, energy, and endurance while decreasing recovery time. Consumers report very good results when taking Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine Monohydrate.With 5 grams of pure creatine monohydrate per serving, consumption of this product also supports ATP recycling, which results in more power and explosiveness. It is banned-substance tested and also keto-friendly for those watching their carb intake. Available in  60-, 120-, and 400-serving size containers, Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine Monohydrate is cost-effective. To note, it does not come with a scoop so you will have to measure out your serving size.This supplement is only available as unflavored and can be added to your favorite beverage. It is micronized, which is intended to improve mixability. But, some reviewers do report that Optimum Nutrition’s Micronized Creatine Monohydrate does not dissolve and leaves a gritty taste behind.* 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.

Pros:

  • Uses 100% pure micronized creatine monohydrate
  • 5g of creatine per serving is ideal
  • Less than 40 cents per serving is affordable

Cons:

  • No flavored options available 

Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine Monohydrate has everything Dr. Kendall looks for in a creatine supplement. The only ingredient is 100% pure creatine monohydrate, which is the most researched form of creatine with over 500 peer-reviewed publications evaluating the potential benefits of the supplement.

With 5 grams of creatine per serving—the research-backed daily dose to see improvements in muscular strength, speed, power, and recovery according to Dr. Kendall—the sub-40 cent per serving cost is very reasonable. * Plus, it’s micronized creatine powder, which means the molecules have been cut down to improve solubility. 

And lastly, Optimum Nutrition’s Micronized Creatine Monohydrate has been tested in accordance with the Informed Choice certification, which means there are no banned substances on the WADA banned list snuck inside.

Nicole, GGR editor and our expert product tester, didn’t get to taste this one yet. When she does, we’ll update this text. 

Price per serving$0.38
IngredientsCreatine monohydrate
FlavorsUnflavored

Best Creatine for Muscle Growth: Transparent Labs Creatine HMB 

Good for: A trainee whose main goal is to increase muscle size 

Best Creatine for Muscle Growth
Transparent Labs Creatine HMB
Transparent Labs Creatine HMB

Creatine has been linked to increased strength, power, and the size of lean muscle mass. Transparent Labs’ Creatine HMB puts a spin on the established supplement of creatine monohydrate alone. It combines high-quality creatine monohydrate with B-Hydroxy B-Methylbutyrate (HMB) and BioPerine, which claims to result in increased strength, stamina, muscular anabolism, recovery, and to support muscle retention.HMB is produced in the body naturally in very small amounts when it metabolizes the amino acid leucine. When added to the body via a supplement, it functions as an anti-catabolic and retains muscle by preventing the breakdown of proteins in the muscle. Transparent Labs’ combination of this effective ingredient with creatine and Bioperine results in a product that is uniquely formulated to both produce muscular size and to prevent muscular breakdown. What’s more, Bioperine, a black pepper extract, aids in the body’s absorption of creatine. Available in 10 fruit flavors as well as an unflavored variety, there is enough variety for most people. It also does not contain a stimulant, which might be missed by those looking for a pre-workout boost.

Pros:

  • Comes in 10 flavors, plus an unflavored option
  • Serving size is right on at 5 grams 
  • Contains HMB, shown to help prevent the breakdown of muscle protein *

Cons:

  • Expensive at $1.50 per serving 

If you’re looking for creatine to support muscle gain—or the best creatine for bulking—Transparent Labs Creatine HMB is a good choice. It puts a twist on a traditional creatine supplement. Each serving contains the recommended 5 grams of creatine monohydrate, which has repeatedly been shown to increase power, repeated sprinting ability, maximal strength, and muscle mass.

This product also contains 1.5 grams of beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyrate (HMB) per serving. 

“HMB is a metabolite of the amino acid leucine, which helps to prevent the breakdown of muscle protein and can help speed up the recovery process from strenuous exercise,” explains Dr. Kendall. *

An image of Transparent Labs Creatine HMB in Sour Grape in a shaker

It also contains bioperine, which has been shown to increase the absorption rate of numerous compounds it is taken with, which in this particular case are creatine and HMB. *

There are 10 flavors of Creatine HMB available—Sour Grape, Peach Mango, Fruit Punch, Watermelon, Black Cherry, Blue Raspberry, Orange, Tropical Punch, Hawaiian Splash, and Strawberry Lemonade—plus an unflavored option if you just want to stick to the basics. Know, too, that there are no artificial sweeteners, colors, or preservatives in any flavor of this supplement either.

Nicole, GGR editor and our expert product tester, says:

“I tried Black Cherry and I wasn’t a huge fan of the taste of this one—it tasted a bit watered down, even with the right amount of water. Some people may prefer this though! There were floaties after I finished mixing, but it didn’t interfere with the overall drinking of it.”

Price per serving$1.50
IngredientsCreatine monohydrate, beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyrate (HMB), BioPerine
FlavorsUnflavored, Sour Grape, Peach Mango, Fruit Punch, Watermelon, Black Cherry, Blue Raspberry, Orange, Tropical Punch, Hawaiian Splash, and Strawberry Lemonade

Best Creatine for Cutting: Kaged Creatine HCL 

Good for: Trainees who want to add lean muscle

Best Creatine for Cutting
Kaged Creatine HCl
Kaged Creatine HCl

Unlike other forms of creatine on the market, Kaged Creatine HCl is reported to be the only patented pure form of creatine hydrochloride (HCL). HCL boasts faster absorption in the body, which results in fewer side effects and little water retention. As compared to creatine monohydrate, creatine HCL also has better solubility. And, users report that Kaged Creatine HCl does all that it promises, featuring great mixability, few side effects, and solid results.Available as unflavored or in Lemon Lime, you can skip the loading phase with Kaged Creatine HCl. According to the directions, consume two servings both before and after a workout and, if preferred, it is available in a veggie capsule form. Most users appreciate the Lemon Lime flavor, however, the unflavored option gets mixed reviews. This product is free from artificial flavors and colors.Kaged Creatine HCl is more expensive than others on the market. Kaged acknowledges this and attributes the higher cost to the clean, patented formula. It is third-party tested and has received accolades on several different platforms.* 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.

Pros:

  • Uses creatine hydrochloride (HCL) to aid in faster absorption rates and to curb bloat *
  • Good solubility 
  • Certified by Informed Sport 

Cons:

  • Large serving size 

Whereas most creatine supplements use creatine monohydrate—the most researched form of creatine—Kaged Creatine HCl uses a patented form of creatine hydrochloride (HCL) to aid in faster absorption rates and reduced bloating. *

According to Dr. Kendall, benefits of HCL include that it’s super soluble and easy to mix in any liquid, it doesn’t require a loading phase, and can help you combat gastrointestinal disturbances, like occasional gas, cramping, and bloating, and temporary weight gain from water retention, which may occur with creatine use. This is great for those who are concerned with weight loss and muscle preservation. We could call this product “best creatine for bodybuilders,” too, just for that reason. *

An image of Kaged Creatine HCl in shaker

It’s available in powder form in unflavored and Lemon Lime, as well as a capsule form. And although it only costs $.40 per serving, the instructions recommend you take 4 servings per day—this means one container wouldn’t even last you three weeks. 

Each batch is also certified by Informed Sport, meaning it’s tested for banned substances (on the WADA banned list).

Nicole, GGR editor and our expert product tester, says:

“It completely dissolved, so for solubility it gets an A+. I tried the Lemon Lime flavor and really liked it—it was tart and not too sweet.”

Price per serving$0.40
IngredientsCreatine hydrochloride 
FlavorsUnflavored, Lemon Lime, or capsules 

Best Creatine Capsules: Optimum Nutrition Capsules 

Good for: Someone who’d rather swallow a creatine pill 

Best Creatine Capsules
Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine Capsules
Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine Capsules

The positive impact creatine has on muscle growth, recovery, and overall performance has been well-researched. If you have wanted to add this to your diet but do not want the powder, you are in luck. Optimum Nutrition’s Micronized Creatine Capsules offer all the benefits of creatine in capsule form.In every two capsules, there is 2.5 grams of creatine monohydrate in its purest form. Absorption is a bit slower with capsules but the end result is the same—improved muscle recovery, growth, and performance. Optimum Nutrition recommends four pills daily providing 5 grams of creatine monohydrate.These capsules do not seem to cause the same digestive issues experienced with powders. It also avoids concern over taste, which is an important factor for many consumers. The capsule form is considered to be more convenient.

Pros:

  • Contains creatine monohydrate
  • Capsule form makes it easier to take on the go 

Cons:

  • Have to take 4 capsules to get the recommended 5-gram dose 
  • $0.90 per 5-gram dose 

If mixing creatine powder in a liquid doesn’t sound appealing to you, don’t fret—there are quite a few creatine capsules available on the market. We like Optimum Nutrition’s because the brand is widely respected and the reviews are overwhelmingly positive. 

An image of Optimum Nutrition creatine capsules in a woman's hand

Creatine in capsule form tends to be much easier to transport, if you want to take your supps on the go with you during the day, and you don’t have to worry about mixing or measuring. Plus, you won’t have to deal with any flavors (or aftertaste) you don’t like. 

One downside of these capsules is that you’ll have to take four to hit the recommended 5-gram dose, which takes the price per serving up to 90 cents. If taking pills is no issue for you, then this shouldn’t be a problem; if it is, you may want to think twice. 

Nicole, GGR editor and our expert product tester, says:

“These are pretty big pills, but if you don’t mind that, capsule form would be easy!” 

Price per 5-gram serving$0.90 
IngredientsCreatine monohydrate, gelatin, magnesium stearate
FlavorsUnflavored capsule

Best-Tasting Creatine: Jacked Factory Growth Surge 

Good for: Those who appreciate flavor options 

Best-Tasting Creatine
Jacked Factory Growth Surge
Jacked Factory Growth Surge

Jacked Factory’s Growth Surge Post-Workout Muscle Builder receives rave reviews from consumers for its flavor profiles, mixability, and effectiveness. Designed to support muscle growth, encourage fat loss, and enhance recovery, Growth Surge should be consumed directly after your workout to maximize results. So what is it that makes this product so effective? Three key ingredients are combined to improve your post-workout recovery: creatine monohydrate, betaine anhydrous, and l-carnitine l-tartrate. In addition, it contains BioPerine, which facilitates absorption into the body. What is missing from the list of ingredients is protein in any form as typically seen in post-workout drinks. Still, consumers report seeing great results in both their muscle growth and recovery time when using Growth Surge.To note, this product does contain sucralose, which can cause digestive issues for some.

Pros:

  • 8 flavors available
  • Great customer reviews

Cons:

  • Contains more than just creatine monohydrate
  • Creatine dosage per serving is lower than recommended 5 grams   
  • Price per serving is on the high end 

If you’re looking for more of a post-workout cocktail, consider Jacked Factory Growth Surge. Not only is there a variety of flavor options in this line for those who don’t want to choke down unflavored powder, according to Dr. Kendall, Growth Surge contains three key ingredients to support muscle growth and recovery. *

There are 3 grams of creatine monohydrate, plus each serving also contains 2.5 grams of betaine anhydrous. “Similar to creatine, Betaine promotes cell hydration and resilience to stressors,” Dr. Kendall explains. “It may also lead to increases in workout volume and enhance endurance.” 

An image of Jacked Factory Growth Surge in a shaker

You’ll also find 2 grams of L-carnitine L-tartrate per serving of Growth Surge, which can help fight muscle soreness post-exercise. *

This post-workout supplement is available in eight flavors—Cherry Limeade, Blue Raspberry, Fruit Punch, Blueberry Lemonade, Swoleberry, Watermelon, Black Cherry, and Unflavored—and costs $1.33 per serving. Just keep in mind, you’ll only be getting 3 grams of creatine in one serving, so you may need to consider more supplementation to follow recommendations on dosage for maximal benefits. 

Nicole, GGR editor and our expert product tester, says:

“The solubility of this one isn’t great, but I tried Cherry Limeade and liked the flavor. I though there was a slight aftertaste, though—not horrible, but noticeable.”

Price per serving$1.33
IngredientsCreatine monohydrate, betaine anhydrous, L-carnitine L-tartrate, BioPerine
FlavorsCherry Limeade, Blue Raspberry, Fruit Punch, Blueberry Lemonade, Swoleberry, Watermelon, Black Cherry, and Unflavored

Best Creatine for Athletes: Onnit Creatine Monohydrate 

Good for: Those who need to be sure there are no banned substances in their supplements 

Best Creatine for Athletes
Onnit Creatine Monohydrate
Onnit Creatine Monohydrate

The effectiveness of creatine on anaerobic performance, muscle growth, muscle recovery, and in the regeneration of ATP has been long studied. Onnit provides information gathered from several studies for potential customers to reference, which is nice for anyone who is new to the supplement or looking for some solid research. Onnit Creatine Monohydrate contains 5 grams per serving, which can be added to water or your favorite drink. Users report that when combined with a flavored beverage it does not leave an aftertaste. But, its solubility is reportedly poor, leaving a gritty finish.Onnit Creatine Monohydrate is dairy-free, soy-free, and vegan, so it’s attractive to those with dietary restrictions. This product may be a good choice for anyone who has not tried creatine before as it does not cost much and comes in a small container, a benefit to those who want to try it out. But, if you are looking to buy in bulk, you won’t find that with Onnit Creatine Monohydrate. This product receives mixed reviews but a large portion of consumers report that Onnit Creatine Monohydrate has positive effects on their overall performance as well as body composition.

Pros:

  • Safe for athletes as it’s tested and certified by Informed Sport 
  • Very affordable at less than 40 cents per serving 

Cons:

  • Some reviews say it has a gritty consistency after mixing 

Athletes need to take special care with supplementation that no WADA-banned substances are present, as it could disqualify them from competition. That’s why we like Onnit’s Creatine Monohydrate powder—they certify all of their sports products through Informed Sport, which means that what they say on the label is confirmed accurate. 

As we know, creatine monohydrate has been shown to support increases in muscle mass, strength, and power, plus promotion of positive adaptations in body composition, and athletes are allowed to consume it. *

An image of Onnit creatine monohydrate powder

Onnit’s particular unflavored powder is gluten and soy-free, suitable for vegans and vegetarians, and mixable in almost any liquid. Plus, at less than 40 cents per serving, you’ll get a lot of bang for your buck. 

Nicole, GGR editor and our expert product tester, says:

“This is a flavorless creatine powder and it truly was—I mixed it with water and sipped just to be sure. It dissolves well and I’m sure it would mix in unnoticeably into your post-workout drink.”

Price per serving$0.38
IngredientsMicronized creatine monohydrate
FlavorsUnflavored

Best Creatine for Beginners: BulkSupplements Creatine Powder 

Good for: Someone trying creatine for the first time

Best Creatine for Beginners
BulkSupplements Creatine Powder
BulkSupplements Creatine Powder

Creatine is one of the most researched supplements to effectively support muscle growth, recovery, and performance. BulkSupplements’ Creatine Powder provides athletes of any fitness level with these benefits through their pure creatine monohydrate powder or capsules. With close to 10,000 positive reviews, this product is available in a variety of sizes to meet your specific needs and budget. Each serving contains 5 grams of pure creatine monohydrate, which is approximately two teaspoons. BulkSupplements’ powder mixes well in water or your beverage of choice with very few reported digestive issues. Both the capsules and powder are sugar-, dairy-, soy-, sugar-, yeast-, and gluten-free, which is beneficial to anyone with dietary restrictions. This powder is unflavored and, according to consumers, it truly does not have any taste, which makes it more palatable than others on the market. BulkSupplements offers a great deal of information on their site regarding the benefits of creatine as well—another plus.

Pros:

  • Only micronized creatine monohydrate powder 
  • Great mixability 
  • Great customer service 

Cons:

  • No flavor options available  

A creatine newbie just needs the basics—an affordable, no-frills supp to decide if creatine is right for them. That’s why we like BulkSupplements Creatine Powder.

An image of BulkSupplements creatine powder bag being scooped out

It contains creatine—and only creatine—plus a micronized form at that, which means it’s easily soluble. It’s also free of added sugar, soy, dairy, gluten, or any other additives. 

This product is also third-party tested to ensure that there are no banned substances inside. 

At 70 cents per serving it’s not the cheapest option on our list, but reviewers rave about the solubility and great customer service, so we’re calling that a win.

Nicole, GGR editor and our expert product tester, says:

“This powder dissolved completely and is unflavored—both checkmarks in my book. One downside though: There’s no scoop with this product, so you’ll have to measure out your servings with your own measuring spoons.” 

Price per serving$0.70
IngredientsMicronized creatine monohydrate powder
FlavorsUnflavored

Best Creatine for Post-Workout: Legion Recharge 

Good for: Trainees who want to maximize their post-workout recovery window *

Best Creatine for Post-Workout
Legion Recharge
Legion Recharge

Legion’s Recharge Post-Workout Supplement combines some of the most effective ingredients known to improve muscle recovery, encourage muscle mass, and enhance performance in a good tasting and high-quality powder. This Labdoor-certified product is formulated with 5 grams of micronized creatine, 2.1 grams of L-carnitine L-tartrate, and 10.5 milligrams of corosolic acid. The corosolic acid is included to enhance post-workout absorption of glucose amino acid, which improves the overall efficiency of the supplement. Using research-backed levels of these scientifically backed ingredients, Recharge has been proven to boost muscle growth and recovery. What is impressive is that Legion provides a direct link to lab results that tested the effectiveness of their product. This is a testament to their transparency and the quality of the product. Legion stands behind this post-workout drink and will provide your money back with no questions asked should you not be satisfied for any reason.Free from sugar, Recharge is available in four flavors; Fruit Punch, Strawberry Lemonade, Unflavored, and Watermelon. All four flavors do contain stevia, which can be too sweet for some users. Since it is a 100% all natural product, the stevia serves to cut the naturally bitter taste of the ingredients. Overall, most reviewers enjoyed the Fruit Punch, Strawberry Lemonade, and Watermelon flavors most. Legion’s Recharge post-workout supplement is made in the USA in a NSF-certified and FDA-inspected facility.

Pros:

  • Contains 5 grams of micronized creatine monohydrate 
  • Also contains two other research-backed ingredients that assist with recovery *
  • 4 flavors are available 

Cons:

  • Expensive at $1.00 per serving 

We all know protein powders are the go-to post-workout drink, but we like Legion Recharge as a post-workout drink because you’re getting a few research-backed ingredients that will help with muscle recovery and repair.

An image of Legion Recharge post-workout drink with creatine in a shaker

Beyond the 5-gram dose of micronized creatine, you’re also getting 2.1 grams of L-carnitine L-tartrate, which Dr. Kendall says has been shown to combat muscle soreness and improve muscle repair. *

Additionally, 10.5 milligrams of corosolic acid is there to enhance post-workout nutrient absorption. *

Available in four flavors—Blue Raspberry, Fruit Punch, Grape, and Strawberry Lemonade—Recharge has zero added sugar and no artificial food dyes or fillers, plus it’s naturally sweetened with Stevia. It’s also third-party tested so you know exactly what you’re getting.

Nicole, GGR editor and our expert product tester, says:

“The Strawberry Lemonade flavor was pretty sweet but also a bit tart, so it balanced out in my eyes. Recharge also gets an A for solubility.”

Price per serving$1.00
IngredientsMicronized creatine monohydrate, L-carnitine L-tartrate, corosolic acid, Stevia leaf extract, calcium silicate, citric acid, and red beet powder 
FlavorsBlue Raspberry, Fruit Punch, Grape, and Strawberry Lemonade

Best Creatine Pre-Workout: Kaged Pre-Kaged Elite 

Good for: Someone who wants to get their creatine in with their pre-workout

Best Creatine Pre-Workout
Kaged Pre-Kaged Elite
Kaged Pre-Kaged Elite

Kaged Pre-Kaged Elite is an all-in-one pre-workout formulated with nine patented ingredients, including both creatine monohydrate and creatine nitrate. Other important ingredients include L-citrulline, beta-alanine, and caffeine.It's formulated to promote more energy and focus, as well as increases in strength. Take the 1-scoop serving (or half a scoop if you're new, to assess your tolerance) mixed with water 20 to 30 minutes before your workout for maximum results. 

Pros:

  • Contains 5 grams of total creatine
  • Third-party tested 
  • Rolls two supps—pre-workout and creatine—into one product 

Cons:

  • Most expensive on our list at $3 per serving 

We named Kaged Pre-Kaged as the best pre-workout supplement because of its research-backed doses of ingredients shown to boost energy and performance, plus full transparency on the label. Its brother, Pre-Kaged Elite, is an all-in-one pre-workout that contains nine patented ingredients, including two forms of creatine—monohydrate and nitrate. 

The 5 grams of total creatine hit the right mark for daily dosing to support strength and increase muscle mass, plus Dr. Kendall likes the addition of 10 grams of L-citrulline, a compound shown to promote increased blood flow and nutrient delivery to active muscles, plus 3.2 grams of beta-alanine, which is the recommended daily dose to reduce muscle fatigue, increase endurance, and performance during high-intensity exercise. *

All in all, this third-party tested pre-workout is designed to deliver more energy, bigger pumps, greater power, and support sharper focus. And, at a whopping $3 per serving, it better provide hella benefits. But, considering it rolls two supplements (creatine and pre-workout) into one drink, it could be cost-effective for the right person.

Nicole, GGR editor and our expert product tester, didn’t get to try this one yet, but she has tested Kaged Pre-Kaged. It wasn’t too sweet and she liked the flavor, but did have some concerns about solubility. 

Price per serving$3.00
IngredientsCreatine monohydrate, creatine nitrate, L-citrtulline, beta alanine, betaine anhydrous, taurine, L-tyrosine, caffeine, and others 
FlavorsStrawberry Lemonade, Fruit Punch, Glacier Grape

Other Creatine Powder We Tried and Researched 

Creapure Creatine: This is a type of branded creatine monohydrate produced in Germany and distributed by a handful of partners including Proteinfactory and BPN. It is touted to be high-quality, but there seemingly isn’t anything special about this product versus another micronized creatine monohydrate. 

Beast Sports Creature Creatine: This product contains a blend of five types of creatine, totaling only 4 grams—less than the ideal 5-gram serving size. Plus, creatine monohydrate is the most studied type of creatine with the most proven benefits, so we opted for products mostly containing just that.

Cellucor Cor-Performance Creatine Monohydrate: Another micronized creatine monohydrate powder at an affordable price point of less than 50 cents per serving. We’d call this a solid runner-up for sure. (We also love Cellucor’s C4 pre-workout, and even have a special coupon code for GGR readers.)

How We Picked and Tested the Best Creatine

We narrowed down our list of the top nine creatine products by weighing the following factors:

  • Formulation: Does the product contain strictly creatine, and how much? If there are other ingredients present, are they research-backed and included with a purpose?
  • Serving size: The ideal dosage of creatine is 5 grams per day—how many servings do you need to hit this?
  • Solubility: If powdered, does the product dissolve completely in liquid? 
  • Cost: What’s the price per serving?
  • Third-party testing: Has the product been tested for banned substances by Informed Sport, NSF, or Banned Substance Control Group (BSCG)?
  • Taste/Flavors: Is there more than an unflavored option? How do all of them taste?

What is Creatine?

Dr. Kendall is breaking it all the way down for us. Here are some of the key facts:

  • Creatine is a naturally occurring amino acid that’s found in animal proteins like meat and fish, and is also made by the human body in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas.
  • Approximately 95% of your body’s creatine is stored within your muscles, with the other 5% is stored in your brain tissue. 
  • Creatine is used by the body to replenish ATP (adenosine triphosphate) stores, which is the energy source your body uses for muscular contractions and explosive movements, such as sprinting and heavy lifting.

What Are the Different Types of Creatine?

Creatine monohydrate is the most studied and most popular form of creatine used in supplements, but it’s not the only form available on the market. Three other popular variations include creatine hydrochloride (HCL); Kre-Alkalyn, which is creatine buffered with bicarbonate; and creatine nitrate (creatine bound to a nitrate molecule).

Creatine monohydrate is the least expensive form of creatine and the one most commonly used in research studies—so you know it works.

Creatine HCL is a creatine molecule bound to hydrochloric acid to enhance its solubility and overall absorption rates. Because of this, Dr. Kendall explains, you may be able to take a smaller dose (1 to 2 grams) and still observe the same benefits as taking 5 grams of creatine monohydrate. Consuming less product may help curb bloating and other minor gastrointestinal symptoms you may experience when taking larger doses of creatine monohydrate. *

Then there’s Kre-Alkalyn. “Manufacturers of Kre-Alkalyn claim that the addition of an alkaline powder (like bicarbonate) reduces the breakdown of creatine in the stomach leading to improved creatine uptake in the muscle,” says Dr. Kendall. “Improved absorption rates may mean you can skip the loading phase and still get the gains.”  

And lastly, similar to the other forms of creatine, creatine nitrate is thought to have greater solubility, meaning you may receive equal benefits from a smaller dose of creatine nitrate (3 grams) compared to creatine monohydrate.

There are other creatine formulas—including creatine magnesium chelate, creatine ethyl ester, creatine citrate, and liquid creatine—but they’re not nearly as popular and research surrounding their effects is limited.

Why Should You Take Creatine?

Creatine monohydrate is one of the most widely studied nutritional supplements, which is great news for you—this means that there’s research-backed evidence around the effects of creatine on performance and strength during high-intensity exercise.  

When you participate in short bouts of intense exercise—like a 10-second sprint or a one-rep-max squat—your body uses its anaerobic system and stores of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) for energy. ATP, which is produced by phosphocreatine stores inside your muscles, is limited. So, the idea is that if your creatine stores are not full, you may be missing out on potential ATP production, or in other words—leaving some untapped strength and power on the table. 

“While your body makes around 1 to 2 grams of creatine per day, individuals who train regularly may need to consume 5 to 10 g of creatine daily to maintain creatine stores,” says Dr. Kendall. “Creatine supplementation appears to be most useful for short-duration, high-intensity, intermittent exercise, and has been shown to boost the effects of resistance training on muscle strength and size, as well as athletic performance overall.”

Supplementing with creatine orally can help increase your intramuscular stores of creatine and phosphocreatine by as much as 40%, as shown in several studies. Studies have also analyzed creatine monohydrate supplementation’s effect on strength and performance in resistance training exercises like leg press and bench press, as well as explosive movements like jump height, and a great majority have found improved results from the creatine supplementation group versus the control group. 

In fact, a meta-analysis of 22 studies found that the average increase in muscle strength following creatine supplementation was 8 percent greater than with just resistance training alone. Also, the increase in weightlifting performance was 14 percent greater than with just training alone.

How to Dose Creatine

According to Dr. Kendall, to maximize the benefits of creatine, you need to saturate your body’s stores of creatine, and there are two ways to do this:

  • Loading protocol: Creatine loading involves taking 20 grams of creatine a day, typically divided into four equal doses of 5 grams, for five to seven days. This has been shown to be an effective method to fully saturate your muscle’s creatine stores in one week’s time. Following the loading phase, it’s recommended to drop down to 5 grams of creatine daily to maintain creatine stores. 
  • Low-dose protocol: The alternative method is to simply take 5 grams of creatine every day, without a loading phase. This approach will eventually get your muscle’s creatine stores maximally saturated, it just takes a bit longer—about four weeks compared to one week with a loading protocol. 

Both the loading protocol and the low-dose maintenance protocol have been shown to produce significant improvements in muscle strength and size when used alongside a resistance training program

Potential Side Effects of Creatine

Studies examining the effects of long-term creatine supplementation have demonstrated no negative effects on liver, kidney, blood, bone, brain, or muscle function. More so, there is no data that shows creatine causes muscle cramps or leads to dehydration. On the contrary, according to Dr. Kendall, creatine supplementation has been proposed to increase total body water, which can help to maintain hydration status. 

However, taking creatine, especially larger doses, may cause some occasional, minor gastrointestinal issues. 

“It’s estimated around 5 to 7% of people who take creatine may experience stomach aches; however, taking smaller doses (3-5 grams) or using a micronized form of creatine may help reduce gastrointestinal distress,” Dr. Kendall says. “Creatine loading may also lead to an initial weight gain of 1 to 2% body mass in the first few days due to water being pulled into the muscle; however, this is less likely to occur if following a low-dose protocol.” 

Also of note: Although creatine doesn’t appear to affect kidney function in healthy individuals, it’s recommended that people with pre-existing kidney problems avoid taking creatine. Additionally, people with liver disease or high blood pressure should talk to their doctor first before taking creatine as there may be possible interactions with medications they are currently prescribed.  

How to Choose the Best Creatine for You

Before you whip out your credit card, decide what creatine supplement is the best fit for you. 

Decide What Your Goals Are

Are you strictly concerned with getting stronger? Are you concerned about muscle-building while staying lean? Creatine monohydrate is the most-researched type of creatine, but is known to have some minor side effects like gastrointestinal issues and water retention. Creatine HCL has less of this reported. Also creatine with HMB has been shown to help prevent the breakdown of muscle protein.

Consider Dosage

If you’re in a loading protocol and need to take 20 grams of creatine per day, consider the serving size of the supplement. Some containers only come with 30 servings, and if you need to take four per day, you’ll run through it quickly.  

And Also Cost Per Serving

Whether you purchase from Amazon or directly from the manufacturer, creatine can range from less than 40 cents per serving on the low end, to $3 per serving on the high end. The most affordable options are usually just creatine monohydrate with nothing else, while the more expensive options tend to have other ingredients in them, such as pre-workout or HMB. After deciding on your goals, you can come to the determination if extras are needed.

Pill or Powder?

Would you rather swallow a few pills to hit your creatine dosing, or does powder sound more appealing? Plenty of unflavored powders are available—you can mix them with almost any drink—or you can find flavored options as well. 

Choose Third Party-Tested Products

This is especially important if you’re an athlete, but really anyone taking supplements should heed this advice. Look for Informed Sport, NSF, or BSCG logos on the products to ensure they’ve been batch-tested for banned substances. 

* 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.

FAQs About Creatine

What’s the most effective brand of creatine?

Our pick for best creatine is Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine Monohydrate because it’s a solid, affordable, easily mixable creatine supplement. We also recommend: 

Best Creatine for Muscle Growth: Transparent Labs Creatine HMB
Best Creatine for Cutting: Kaged Creatine HCL
Best Creatine Capsules: Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine Capsules
Best Creatine for Athletes: Onnit Creatine Monohydrate
Best-Tasting Creatine: Jacked Factory Growth Surge
Best Creatine for Beginners: BulkSupplements Creatine Powder
Best Creatine for Post-Workout: Legion Recharge
Best Creatine Pre-Workout: Kaged Pre-Kaged Elite

Which creatine is best for muscle growth?

We think Transparent Labs Creatine HMB is best for muscle growth because it contains 1.5 grams of beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyrate (HMB), which has been shown to help prevent the breakdown of muscle protein according to our expert Dr. Krissy Kendall.

How do I choose the right creatine?

Consider factors like dosage, pill or powder, cost per serving, flavor options, and what your own goals are. 

Is it OK to take creatine everyday?

According to sports nutrition expert Dr. Krissy Kendall, yes, it’s OK to take creatine daily. 

“When it comes to creatine, consistency is key,” she says. “Not only is creatine safe to take everyday, it’s the recommended approach to maximize the benefits of creatine. Unlike some supplements (i.e. caffeine), your body does not build up a tolerance to creatine, therefore cycling on and off serves no real purpose. Should you decide to stop taking creatine, it takes approximately six weeks for creatine stores to return back to pre-supplementation values. You may notice a decrease in energy and exercise intensity, however it will be no worse than where you were before you started supplementing with creatine.”

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