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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, according to a manuscript in the journal International Immunopharmacology1, which also emphasizes the many other benefits of creatine.

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 size2. 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 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

GGR Score: 4.85 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Uses research-backed doses 
  • Available in 10 fruit flavors as well as an unflavored option
  • Free from artificial sweeteners, colored dyes, fillers, and harmful additives

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • 10 flavors, 1 unflavored option
  • Includes B-Hydroxy B-Methylbutyrate (HMB)
  • 5 grams of creatine monohydrate per serving
  • Contains no added sugar, artificial sweeteners, dyes, or fillers

Cons

  • No stimulant (for those looking for pre-workout boost)

Bottom Line

Transparent Labs’ Creatine HMB puts a unique twist on the more traditional creatine monohydrate by adding HMB to more effectively build strength, stamina and recovery.

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 power3, repeated sprinting ability4, maximal strength5, and muscle mass6.

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, a patented form of piperine, which has been shown to increase the absorption rate of numerous compounds it is taken with7, 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

GGR Score: 4.8 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Only patented form of creatine HCL
  • Kaged Creatine HCl skips the loading phase
  • Available in capsule form as well
  • Third-party tested
  • Available as Unflavored or Lemon Lime
  • Free from artificial flavors and colors
  • Formulated to avoid gastrointestinal issues

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Only patented form of creatine HCL
  • Clean formula
  • No loading phase
  • Available in capsule form
  • Third-party tested
  • Lemon Lime mixes well and tastes good
  • Helps avoids stomach issues

Cons

  • Expensive

Bottom Line

If you're looking for a pure creatine HCL and are willing to pay for high quality, Kaged Creatine HCl may be for you.

Whereas most creatine supplements use creatine monohydrate—the most researched form of creatine—Kaged Creatine HCl uses a patented form of creatine hydrochloride (HCL) which may aid in faster absorption rates and reduced bloating8. *

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 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

GGR Score: 4.75 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Unflavored to mix with your favorite drink
  • Dairy-free, soy-free, and vegan
  • Designed to improve anaerobic performance, muscle recovery, and explosiveness
  • One serving, or two scoops, provides 5 grams of creatine monohydrate
  • Third-party tested to be competition-safe and certified by Informed Sport
  • Formulated to promote the regeneration of ATP and  increases in muscle mass

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Unflavored does not leave a poor aftertaste when mixed with a flavored drink
  • Dairy-free, soy-free, vegan
  • Informed Sport Certified
  • Affordable
  • Website provides studies on the effectiveness of creatine

Cons

  • Gritty
  • Small container

Bottom Line

If you're looking for a pure, low-cost creatine monohydrate, Onnit Creatine Monohydrate may be a good fit for you.

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 Budget Creatine: 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

GGR Score: 4.65 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Banned substance tested and approved
  • 5 grams of micronized creatine monohydrate 
  • Only available as unflavored
  • Best used during the loading phase
  • Potentially increases energy, endurance, and decreases recovery time
  • Supports lean muscle growth

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Very affordable
  • Pure creatine monohydrate
  • Can be mixed into your favorite beverage
  • Keto-friendly
  • Users report its effectiveness in building muscle
  • 5 grams of creatine monohydrate per serving

Cons

  • May cause digestive issues in some
  • Does not dissolve well according to some reviews

Bottom Line

If you’re looking to add some bulk with pure creatine, Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine Monohydrate is one worth considering.

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 Capsules: Optimum Nutrition Capsules 

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

Best Creatine Capsules

Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine Capsules

GGR Score: 4.5 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Supports muscle growth, recovery, and overall performance
  • Provides 2.5 grams of creatine monohydrate per 2-capsule serving (5 grams recommended daily)
  • Easy to take on the go
  • Should be taken with a meal
  • Receives great reviews for its effectiveness

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Capsule form is more convenient for some
  • No need to worry about mixability or taste
  • Main ingredient is high-quality creatine monohydrate
  • Fewer reported digestive side effects

Cons

  • Must take four pills for 5-gram dose
  • More expensive than powder form

Bottom Line

If you prefer capsules over powder, the Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine Capsules provide the same dosage and affect on performance as seen in the traditional powder supplement.

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

GGR Score: 4.75 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Designed to build muscle and reduce fat
  • Three key ingredients: Creatine Monohydrate, Betaine Anhydrous, L-Carnitine L-Tartrate
  • The ingredients aide in muscle recovery, muscle building, and are formulated to reduce recovery time and soreness
  • Also contains BioPerine, which is said to improve absorption
  • Made in a cGMP-certified facility
* 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 & Cons

Pros

  • Creatine Monohydrate is scientifically shown to improve muscle growth
  • Tastes good
  • Mixes well
  • Can be used for recovery and muscle growth
  • Overwhelmingly positive reviews

Cons

  • Contains sucralose, which can cause digestive issues for some
  • No protein

Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a post-workout drink that tastes good and is designed to promote muscle growth and recovery, Growth Surge could be a good option.

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 endurance9.” 

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 super 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 Beginners: BulkSupplements Creatine Powder 

Good for: Someone trying creatine for the first time

Best Creatine for Beginners

BulkSupplements Creatine Powder

GGR Score: 4.45 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • 5 grams of pure creatine monohydrate
  • Formulated to promote muscle mass, improve recovery time, and increase anaerobic strength
  • Available in multiple sizes as well as in capsule form
  • Dairy-, soy-, sugar-, yeast-, and gluten-free

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Receives very positive reviews from the vast majority of users
  • Great customer service
  • Mixes well
  • Several sizes available
  • Both vegetarian and gelatin capsules available
  • Dairy-, soy-, sugar-, yeast-, and gluten-free

Cons

  • In capsule form, you must consume seven pills

Bottom Line

Bulk Supplements’ Creatine Powder is an effective supplement that is sugar-, dairy-, soy-, gluten-, and yeast-free so may be a good choice for anyone with dietary restrictions.

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

Product Highlights

  • Nature-based post-workout drink designed to improve recovery and increase muscle growth
  • Contains 5 grams of micronized creatine, 2.1 grams of L-carnitine L-tartrate, 10.5 milligrams of corosolic acid
  • Research-backed levels of ingredients
  • Made in a cGMP, FDA-inspected, and NSF-certified facility
  • Money-back guarantee

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Great customer service
  • Money-back guarantee
  • Can view actual lab results
  • All natural
  • No added sugar

Cons

  • Stevia flavor is too sweet for some
  • Unflavored is actually sweetened

Bottom Line

If you’re looking for an all-natural post-workout supplement that is made of research-backed ingredients, Recharge post-workout supplement is one worth considering. Its taste and positive impact on performance is appreciated by the vast majority of users.

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

GGR Score: 4.72 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Pre-workout formulated with creatine monohydrate and creatine nitrate
  • 5 grams of total creatine
  • Expensive—$3 per serving
  • Third-party tested
  • 3 flavors: Strawberry Lemonade, Fruit Punch, Glacier Grape

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Pre-workout and creatine in one
  • Contains 5 grams of total creatine
  • Third-party tested

Cons

  • Expensive

Bottom Line

If you're looking for a product that combines a pre-workout with creatine, Kaged Pre-Kaged Elite might be a good choice.

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 muscles10, plus 3.2 grams of beta-alanine, which is the recommended daily dose to reduce muscle fatigue, increase endurance, and performance during high-intensity exercise11. *

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 3 to 5 grams per day12—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 studies13. Studies have also analyzed creatine monohydrate supplementation’s effect on strength and performance in resistance training exercises like leg press and bench press14, as well as explosive movements like jump height15, and a great majority have found improved results from the creatine supplementation group versus the control group. 

In fact, a meta-analysis16 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.”

References

  1. Riesberg LA, Weed SA, McDonald TL, Eckerson JM, Drescher KM. Beyond muscles: The untapped potential of creatine. Int Immunopharmacol. 2016;37:31-42. doi:10.1016/j.intimp.2015.12.034 
  2. Wax B, Kerksick CM, Jagim AR, Mayo JJ, Lyons BC, Kreider RB. Creatine for Exercise and Sports Performance, with Recovery Considerations for Healthy Populations. Nutrients. 2021;13(6):1915. Published 2021 Jun 2. doi:10.3390/nu13061915
  3. Izquierdo M, Ibañez J, González-Badillo JJ, Gorostiaga EM. Effects of creatine supplementation on muscle power, endurance, and sprint performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2002;34(2):332-343. doi:10.1097/00005768-200202000-00023
  4. Bogdanis GC, Nevill ME, Aphamis G, et al. Effects of Oral Creatine Supplementation on Power Output during Repeated Treadmill Sprinting. Nutrients. 2022;14(6):1140. Published 2022 Mar 8. doi:10.3390/nu14061140
  5. Wang CC, Fang CC, Lee YH, Yang MT, Chan KH. Effects of 4-Week Creatine Supplementation Combined with Complex Training on Muscle Damage and Sport Performance. Nutrients. 2018;10(11):1640. Published 2018 Nov 2. doi:10.3390/nu10111640
  6. Wu SH, Chen KL, Hsu C, et al. Creatine Supplementation for Muscle Growth: A Scoping Review of Randomized Clinical Trials from 2012 to 2021. Nutrients. 2022;14(6):1255. Published 2022 Mar 16. doi:10.3390/nu14061255
  7. Kesarwani K, Gupta R, Mukerjee A. Bioavailability enhancers of herbal origin: an overview. Asian Pac J Trop Biomed. 2013;3(4):253-266. doi:10.1016/S2221-1691(13)60060-X
  8. De França, Elias & Avelar, Bruno & Yoshioka, Caroline & Santana, Jeferson & Madureira, Diana & Rocha, Leandro & Zocoler, Cesar & Rossi, Fabrício & Lira, Fabio & Rodrigues, Bruno & Caperuto, Erico. (2015). Creatine HCl and Creatine Monohydrate Improve Strength but Only Creatine HCl Induced Changes on Body Composition in Recreational Weightlifters. Food and Nutrition Sciences. 06. 10.4236/fns.2015.617167. 
  9. Arazi H, Aboutalebi S, Taati B, Cholewa JM, Candow DG. Effects of short-term betaine supplementation on muscle endurance and indices of endocrine function following acute high-intensity resistance exercise in young athletes. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2022;19(1):1-16. Published 2022 Mar 22. doi:10.1080/15502783.2022.2041988
  10. Gonzalez AM, Trexler ET. Effects of Citrulline Supplementation on Exercise Performance in Humans: A Review of the Current Literature. J Strength Cond Res. 2020;34(5):1480-1495. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000003426
  11. DE Camargo JBB, Brigatto FA, Zaroni RS, et al. Beta-alanine Supplementation for Four Weeks Increases Volume Index and Reduces Perceived Effort of Resistance-trained Men: A Pilot Study. Int J Exerc Sci. 2021;14(2):994-1003. Published 2021 Aug 1.
  12. Antonio, J., Candow, D.G., Forbes, S.C. et al. Common questions and misconceptions about creatine supplementation: what does the scientific evidence really show?. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 18, 13 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-021-00412-w
  13. Hall, Matthew DO; Trojian, Thomas H. MD, FACSM. Creatine Supplementation. Current Sports Medicine Reports 12(4):p 240-244, July/August 2013. | DOI: 10.1249/JSR.0b013e31829cdff2 
  14. Arciero PJ, Hannibal NS 3rd, Nindl BC, Gentile CL, Hamed J, Vukovich MD. Comparison of creatine ingestion and resistance training on energy expenditure and limb blood flow. Metabolism. 2001;50(12):1429-1434. doi:10.1053/meta.2001.28159
  15. Lamontagne-Lacasse M, Nadon R, Goulet E DB. Effect of creatine supplementation on jumping performance in elite volleyball players. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2011;6(4):525-533. doi:10.1123/ijspp.6.4.525
  16. Rawson ES, Volek JS. Effects of creatine supplementation and resistance training on muscle strength and weightlifting performance. J Strength Cond Res. 2003;17(4):822-831. doi:10.1519/1533-4287(2003)017<0822:eocsar>2.0.co;2

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