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Contents of this Article

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Recommend a Supplement

I’m sure you’ve seen or at least heard of creatine and the benefits that it provides; most notably an increased level of strength (1).

But are there any downsides or side effects to taking creatine? Which is the best creatine to get?

You’ll find all the answers to your creatine-related questions in our ultimate guide to creatine!

Top 10 Creatine Products Examined

These are the 10 best creatine supplements as picked by our editorial team!

1. Transparent Labs StrengthSeries Creatine HMB

Transparent Labs Strengthseries Creatine Hmb

There’s a good reason why they call this Transparent Labs! What’s most admirable about this product is that they disclose every single ingredient, as well as their dosages.

This includes the dosages of ingredients that they are not required to put on the label, such as the inactive ingredients like stevia and blue raspberry flavor.

They also include optimal dosages of each primary ingredient, making this a very high-quality product amongst other creatine products on the market.

Highlights

  • Generously dosed in primary ingredients
  • Lists the dosages for every single one of its ingredients; even the inactive ones
  • It contains black pepper for enhanced food absorption (2) (potentially enhancing recovery abilities) as well as HMB for increased muscle protein synthesis during times of high- stress training (3).
  • Zero artificial sweeteners, fillers, harmful additives, or unnecessary ingredients
  • Gluten-Free & Non-GMO
  • No artificial Preservatives
  • Offers unique payment plan that allows payments in installments rather than paying in a lump sum

Package Deals:

  • 1 Tub – $39
  • 2 Tubs – $68.00 $78.00
  • 3 Tubs – $87.00 $117.00
  • Ships to a large number of countries! Check out their shipping info

Primary Ingredients

  • Creapure®Creatine Monohydrate: 5,000 mg (5 g)
  • 𝛽-Hydroxy 𝛽-Methyl butyrate (HMB): 2,000 mg (2 g)
  • BioPerine®(Black Pepper Extract) (95% Piperine): 5 mg

Secondary Ingredients

  • Blue Raspberry Flavor: 1,000 mg (1 g)
  • Citric Acid: 800 mg
  • Malic Acid: 800 mg
  • Stevia: 300 mg

Drawbacks

  • The price is a bit steep at $39 for 30 servings. However, you are getting a very high-quality product, so it does make sense why the price is set this high.
  • Only comes in one flavor (blue raspberry)
  • Some people are not a fan of the stevia aftertaste, which is some of the reason as to why many supplements are flavored with sucralose and acesulfame potassium (and it’s also cheaper).

Bottom Line

While it may be on the expensive side, this is a very high-quality product with some added recovery and metabolic bonus ingredients that significantly enhance the effects of the creatine.

Full Breakdown: Transparent Labs StrenghtSeries Creatine HMB Review

Where to Get It

2. Optimum Nutrition Micronized CreatineOptimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine Powder

Optimum Nutrition’s Micronized Creatine is a very basic product from a very reputable company; including only what you need at a great value.

Highlights

  • Comes in a micronized form, which makes it much easier to mix in liquids that contain other ingredients when compared to standard creatine monohydrate
  • Developed by one of the most popular brands in the sports supplement industry, so you know that you can trust their products
  • Includes optimal dosing per serving of creatine monohydrate (5 grams)
  • Excellent value for money
  • Very well reviewed throughout the industry

Primary Ingredients

  • Creatine Monohydrate: 5 g

Secondary Ingredients

  • None

Drawbacks

  • It only comes in an unflavored version. Doesn’t offer any different flavor varieties

Bottom Line

Basic doesn’t necessarily mean bad and Optimum Nutrition has shown us the reason as to why; giving you an effective product at a great value. Simple.

Full Breakdown: ON Micronized Creatine Review

Where to Get It

3. Universal Nutrition Creatine

Universal Nutrition Creatine

Universal Nutrition provides a unique spin on plain old creatine monohydrate with unflavored as well as flavored varieties; coming in blue raspberry, fruit punch, and green apple!

Highlights

  • Universal Nutrition is a trusted name in the sports supplement industry, as they’ve been around since 1977
  • They use the recommended dose of creatine (5 g)
  • They provide three flavors: blue raspberry, fruit punch, and green apple
  • Great value (~$6 for 30 servings)

Primary Ingredients

  • Creatine Monohydrate: 5 g

Secondary Ingredients

  • Unknown/Data not available

Drawbacks

  • Nutrition facts for flavored varieties unavailable
    • This makes it difficult to know if artificial flavorings or colors are added, among other ingredients people may be sensitive to
    • Also, we don’t know if this product contains calories or not due to flavoring. This can cause issues in those who aren’t looking to gain weight
  • Flavored varieties only come in one size (500 g/1.1 lbs), which makes it difficult for people who don’t want to make a commitment to a flavor they may or may not like, as this equates to 100 servings. This can be quite a lot for somebody who is unsure what the product will taste like
  • Not micronized so mixing may be a bit of an issue if you don’t have a shaker bottle

Bottom Line

Universal Nutrition gives us a great, effective product at a good price. The choice of flavors makes taking creatine a more refreshing, less boring experience.

Full Breakdown: Universal Nutrition Creatine Review

Where to Get It

4. MuscleTech Platinum 100% Creatine

MuscleTech-Platinum-100-Creatine

It provides an adequate source of creatine monohydrate while also providing scientific evidence as to why Platinum 100% Creatine works!  The best part is that this information is included right on the front of the bottle (4).

Highlights

  • Provides scientific evidence right on the front cover as to why this product is superior to other creatine products
  • Gives an adequate dose of creatine monohydrate (5g)
  • 9 Star rating on their website
  • Educational website that teaches consumers about the science about creatine (very unique for a supplement company to do this)
  • 80 servings for only $15

Primary Ingredients

  • Creatine Monohydrate: 5 g

Secondary Ingredients

  • None

Drawbacks

  • Doesn’t offer any flavor varieties
  • Doesn’t offer any other sizes besides the 80 serving tub

Bottom Line

Muscletech offers a unique quality about themselves to their customers; utilizing the power of education to tell us why their creatine is a great product, rather than just using buzz-words and marketing jargon. However, they should consider adding more sizes and flavors.

Full Breakdown: MuscleTech Platinum Creatine Review

Where to Get It

5. Cellucor COR-Performance Creatine

Cellucor Cor Performance Creatine

Cellucor gives us several options (both in different sizes and flavors), while at the same time, giving us adequate dosing in a micronized form to ensure optimal mixing capabilities.

Highlights

  • Offers both 50 & 72 serving sizes
  • Offers 2 flavors; Icy Blue Razz & Fruit Punch, as well as an unflavored version
  • Comes in a micronized formulation; making it easier to mix with other ingredients
  • Adequately dosed creatine monohydrate (5 grams per serving)
  • Offers 20% off and free shipping when you purchase an auto-delivery subscription
  • Amazing value: $10 for 72 servings
  • No sugar, fillers, or additives

Primary Ingredients

  • Creatine Monohydrate: 5 g

Secondary Ingredients

  • None

Drawbacks

  • Nutritional information not available for flavored varieties

Bottom Line

Cellucor provides several options in both size and flavor to ensure that this meets the needs of its customers.  It’s a unique touch that they offer free shipping and 20% off with a subscription, as these savings are pretty significant.

Full Breakdown: Cellucor Creatine Review

Where to Get It

6. Bulksupplements Creatine Monohydrate

Bulksupplements Creatine Monohydrate

Well-known seller of unflavored bulk ingredients that get the job done at a fraction of the price. One of the best values around for sure!

Highlights

  • Offers a huge selection of sizes; ranging from 100 grams to 25 kilograms (that’s over 55 lbs of creatine!)
  • They offer both powdered and capsulated forms
  • Offers free shipping if you spend over $49.
  • Provides measurement chart for different doses (i.e. 1 teaspoon= 5000 mg, 1.5 teaspoons= 7500 mg, etc.)

Primary Ingredients

  • Creatine Monohydrate: 5 g

Secondary Ingredients

  • None

Drawbacks

  • No flavor varieties
  • It only comes in bag packaging (no tubs or canisters). This can make it somewhat inconvenient to transport and cause risk for spillage.

Bottom Line

Bulksupplements goes the extra mile and provides many different sizes, as well as capsule and powder variations of creatine. The best part is the price though; where else can you buy 55 lbs of creatine?!

Full Breakdown: Bulksupplements Creatine Review

Where to Get It

7. MusclePharm Creatine

MusclePharm-CreatineMusclePharm provides a simple, well-dosed creatine at an affordable price in their “MusclePharm Essentials” series, which is a stack of products that often contain one ingredient, or at the very least, very few ingredients such as Glutamine and L-Carnitine.

Highlights

  • Comes in three sizes; 60, 120, and 200 servings
  • 5 Star rating on their website
  • Adequately dosed creatine monohydrate (5 grams per serving)

Primary Ingredients

  • Creatine Monohydrate: 5 grams

Secondary Ingredients

  • None

Drawbacks

  • Only comes in Unflavored variety
  • No micronization will make it harder to mix compared to micronized versions

Bottom Line

A simple product that provides just what you need; nothing more, nothing less.

Full Breakdown: MusclePharm Creatine Review

Where to Get It

8. BSN Creatine

Bsn Creatine

BSN gives us a micronized version of creatine monohydrate, which makes it superior for mixing compared to standard creatine monohydrate.

Highlights

  • Provides optimally dosed version of creatine monohydrate (5 grams per serving)
  • Gives us the micronized version for superior mixability
  • No fillers or additives

Primary Ingredients

  • Micronized Creatine Monohydrate: 5 g

Secondary Ingredients

  • None

Drawbacks

  • Price is on the high side for unflavored creatine monohydrate ($20 for 60 servings)
  • No US-based website available; cannot purchase directly from manufacturer

Bottom Line

BSN provides a superior mixability product with the reputable BSN name.

Full Breakdown: BSN Creatine Review

Where to Get It

9. NOW Sports Creatine Monohydrate

Now Sports Creatine Monohydrate

NOW Foods has been known to offer very basic products. But as we discussed earlier, that’s not a bad thing, as that makes this creatine an amazing value! They also allow you to purchase a bulk size of 2.2 lbs, which equates to 200 servings of creatine! The addition of the Informed-Sport certification adds a layer of trust as well.

Highlights

  • Informed-Sport Certified (Third-party tested)
  • An adequate dose of creatine monohydrate (5 grams per serving)
  • Offers bulk size (2.2 lbs, or 200 servings for $30). Even this big of a size comes in a tub, which is a bonus as bags can more easily spill.
  • No artificial fillers, flavors, sweeteners, or additives

Primary Ingredients

  • Creatine Monohydrate: 5 g

Drawbacks

  • Doesn’t offer flavored varieties
  • Not micronized; so it can’t mix as easily as some of the other products mentioned in this list

Bottom Line

NOW Foods offers a simple, great value product, while at the same time, ensure trust by certifying their product through a third-party.

Full Breakdown: Coming Soon

Where to Get It

10. Beast Sports Nutrition Creature

Beast Sports Nutrition Creature

BEAST Sports Nutrition offers four unique flavors (cherry limeade, citrus, beast punch, and pink lemonade) in their powdered version, as well as offering capsules. Also, this product includes a unique ingredient profile, including an “Insulinogenic Cofactors Blend” to help with insulin sensitivity (10), which, in turn, may help to assist in muscle-building (6)

Highlights

  • Four flavors (cherry limeade, citrus, beast punch, and pink lemonade) and unflavored available in their powdered formulations
  • They also offer creatine in an encapsulated formulation
  • Offers Q&A section about creatine on their website to answer common customer questions, as well as brief education on the benefits of creatine supplementation
  • Offers interest-free installment payments (4 payments)
  • BOGO deal of Creature powdered version available on website
  • Unique ingredient profile

Primary Ingredients

  • Creature®Advanced Creatine Blend (4,000 mg)
    • Creapure®Brand Creatine Monohydrate, Di-Creatine Malate, Creatine Anhydrous, Crea-Trona®(Buffered Creatine), Creatine Gluconate
  • Insulinogenic Cofactors Blend (90 mg)
    • Banaba (Lagerstroemia speciosa) Leaf Extract, Cinnamon Bark PE 4:1, Biotin (as d-Biotin), Chromium Picolinate
  • Biotin (as d-Biotin): 200mcg (67% Daily Value)
  • Chromium (as Chromium Picolinate): 50mcg (42% Daily Value)

Secondary Ingredients

  • Citric Acid
  • Natural & Artificial Flavors
  • Sucralose
  • Silica (Anti-Caking)
  • Purple Carrot Extract Powder (for color)

Drawbacks

  • Price is pretty steep ($30 for 60 servings)

Bottom Line

BEAST provides a great product here with extra bonuses that help take this creatine one step further.

Full Breakdown: Coming Soon

Where to Get It

Creatine Buyer’s Guide

Qualities of a Good Creatine Product

While adding creatine to your supplement regime is a smart move, remember that not all creatine products are created equal. Here’s what to look for when you’re on the lookout for your next creatine product:

Product Form

What form does the creatine come in? Capsules, powder, liquid? This is something to consider, as you’d like to make sure that the type of creatine that you purchase matches your personal preference for taking it.

Type of Creatine

What type of creatine is used in the product? Is it a scientifically validated type such as creatine monohydrate? Or do they bog you down with fancy buzzwords that make unsubstantiated claims about a “new & improved” form of creatine? Read the label carefully and read our section on the types of creatine below.

Dose

How much creatine is included in the product? Is it the amount that you need to fit your goals? Or will you have to take an exorbitant amount of the product to get the dosage that you’re looking for?

Flavorings/Other additions

Do they add any sort of artificial sweeteners to the product (if in powder form)? This may affect your ability to pair your creatine with other ingredients or it possibly can cause digestive distress; depending on the additions to the product.

Does the product contain ingredients that have calories? Is that a deal-breaker for you?

Source

Do you know where the product is sourced from? If you’re vegan, this is especially important, as you wouldn’t want your creatine to be sourced from animal products. This may require some online research about the manufacturer.

Value

Perhaps one of the most important aspects here is the ability to afford the product. Creatine is something that, if taken daily, will help you to see optimal results. If you can’t afford it, then you won’t be able to take it consistently.

Product reviews

Since the effectiveness of products varies based on a wide number of factors, one of the best things to do is read user reviews. However – remember to take reviews with a grain of salt, as there’s a lot of ignorance and misinformation out there.

Brand reputation

Have you heard of the brand that makes the supplement? Do they have a good reputation in the industry? How are their reviews? Stick to the well-known and reputable brands, and you’re sure to get a quality product

Benefits of Taking Creatine

There are various benefits to supplementing with creatine! Here are just a few of the most notable ones:

Strength & Power

This one is very well known and maybe the reason why you’re reading this article today. Creatine has been shown time and time again to improve strength and power ranging from resistance-trained athletes (1) to those with disorders (12).

Lean Mass

While it is considered to be more of an indirect effect, witnessing an increase in one’s muscle mass is quite common (13) when supplementing with creatine. It is indirect because creatine doesn’t necessarily increase muscle mass on its accord, rather, it increases it through its direct effect of increasing strength and power. The more strength you have, the larger the muscle-building capabilities that you have.

Cognitive Improvements

This isn’t something that many people think about when choosing to supplement with creatine. And yes, while this aspect is far-less researched than the physical effects of creatine, it still shows great promise in the areas that it does exist in. The types of people that it could potentially help are those who are sleep-deprived (13), the elderly (15), and those who have experienced traumatic brain injury (16).

Different Types of Creatine

Creatine Monohydrate

This is considered to be the “gold-standard” of creatine. It is the type of creatine that has been the most well-studied, (12) thus, we have the most data on it. It’s where our reference values for dosages come from (i.e. 5 grams to start, 2-3 grams for maintenance, etc.).

The best thing about creatine monohydrate is that it is the cheapest version to manufacture. This makes it cheaper for you (the consumer) as well! Plus, this version often comes in a micronized form. This means that it dissolves more rapidly/easily in water.

Creatine Anhydrous

This form of creatine is considered the “purest” form of creatine, containing 100% creatine content (13), in comparison to creatine monohydrates’ 87.9% creatine content. This type of creatine is created from the complete dehydration of creatine; resulting in a more concentrated creatine product.

Creatine Hydrochloride (HCL)

The goal in the creatine of this form of creatine is to increase its oral bioavailability (13). In other words, the intention in the creation of this form of creatine is to increase the amount of creatine that is absorbed by the body versus how much is excreted. This is due to its higher rate of solubility compared to creatine monohydrate.

Creatine AKG

AKG or Arginine a-ketoglutarate is a precursor (meaning that it leads to) the production nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a key component of many of the best pre-workout supplements because it increases blood flow to muscles. Because of this, you could theoretically increase your performance and recover faster, as blood is the primary transporter of nutrients throughout your body.

The intention of including this in creatine is to improve endurance and recovery capabilities (15) in conjunction with the established benefits that creatine has to offer.

Creatine Ethyl Ester

The ethyl ester form of creatine was created for the same reason as the HCL version; to increase its bioavailability. However, data has suggested (12) that it is no more effective at increasing the body’s creatine levels compared to monohydrate.

Fortunately, though, there’s still more research that needs to be done, as these findings are certainly not conclusive. Also, there are potential implications on improved brain function with this form of creatine, which may help it to act as a nootropic as well!

Creatine Phosphate

Phosphate is a key energy supplier for muscle tissue. Therefore, including phosphate for a product that increases energy production for muscles would theoretically increase a persons’ energy output. It has proven to be just as efficient as creatine monohydrate in this regard. Unfortunately, there’s only one study (16) on it utilized as a sports supplement in athletes.

Buffered Creatine

Supposedly, buffered creatine was intended to provide the same benefits as its monohydrate counterpart, but at a lower dosage and with less side effects (such as gastrointestinal upset).

Unfortunately, this proved not to be the case (12), as creatine monohydrate still proved to be the superior form when compared to buffered creatine.

Creatine Chelate

The chelate form of creatine is a magnesium-based form of creatine that has been shown (13) to have a positive effect on the ratio of intracellular water to extracellular water in the muscle cells. In other words, it increases the amount inside (intracellular) and decreases the amount outside (extracellular). This gives the muscles a fuller, denser look, rather than a bloated sort of appearance.

Effervescent Creatine

An effervescent formulation of creatine was created to prevent the degradation of creatine into its byproduct creatinine, which is the form of creatine that will get excreted from the body. So theoretically, we would be able to increase the amount of whole-body creatine, making its effects last longer.

More often than not, it has not been shown (14) to increase whole-body creatine levels any more than creatine monohydrate.

Microencapsulated Creatine

The theory behind this type of creatine is that the microencapsulation of creatine monohydrate, will increase its stability in liquid formulations (15), thus, a reliable “ready-to-drink” prepared formulation can be created without the degradation (breakdown) of the creatine.

It seems very promising, we’re just lacking evidence to support the theory behind its creation.

Free-acid Creatine

This type of creatine is most like creatine anhydrous, with a more pure percentage of creatine available. The water is taken out, essentially dehydrating the creatine, leaving you with a more potent product.

Forms of Creatine

Pure Powder

This is the form that most forms of creatine come in. This seems to be because it is a more convenient way of taking it compared to capsules for most people, and can be mixed with other common pre-workout ingredients such as citrulline malate and beta-alanine.

Capsules

However, some people do prefer capsules instead of powders. They can take them wherever they go and don’t have to have a shaker bottle on hand to mix it with water or some other liquid. The only downside here is that you’ll most likely have to take down more than one capsule, depending on the type of creatine it is.

Inside a blend

Having your creatine contained inside of a blend is a very convenient way to include your creatine supplementation regime into your workout program. The only downside here is that some companies will underdose the amount of creatine per serving, so you’ll have to take more than one serving to get the optimal amount of creatine that you’re looking for.

But don’t worry though, we have your back. Just follow this guide and you won’t have to worry about underdosed formulas (just take a look at our top 10 list!).

Recommended Creatine Dosages

The dose of creatine that you take is solely going to depend on the form of creatine that you’re consuming.

This makes things a lot easier, since a person’s age, sex, among other variables, generally don’t play a significant role in the dose of creatine taken.

Dosing protocols based on the type of creatine are as follows:

  • Creatine Monohydrate
    • 3-5 grams per day
  • Creatine Anhydrous
    • No established dose
  • Creatine Hydrochloride (HCL)
    • 5 grams per day
  • Creatine AKG
    • 1 grams/kilogram of body weight per day
  • Creatine Ethyl Ester
    • 3 grams/kilogram of body weight per day
  • Creatine Phosphate
    • 10 grams per day
  • Buffered Creatine
    • 5 grams per day
  • Creatine Chelate
    • Ratio of 800 mg magnesium, 5 grams creatine
  • Effervescent Creatine
    • 5 grams per day
  • Microencapsulated Creatine
    • 3 grams per day
  • Free-acid Creatine
    • No established dose

Creatine FAQ

What is creatine?

Creatine is a molecule that is made up of amino acids (small fragments of proteins). It is responsible for facilitating the body’s “energy currency” known as ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) (16).

This is important as this is the primary source of energy that your body uses to make your muscles contract. When you add more creatine into your system, you’re theoretically creating a more optimal environment in which your muscles have more ATP to draw from. Thus, you’ll be able to contract your muscles for longer.

This is called endurance.

What are creatine supplements?

Creatine supplements are an alternative way to get extra creatine into your diet. For those of us looking to optimize our performance, supplementing with creatine may be beneficial (17). This is because the extra creatine in our system will help us to generate more ATP, thus, enhancing our performance across a wide spectrum of activities, such as strength, power, and endurance.

Creatine supplementation is one of the best (and cheapest) ways to add more creatine into your diet without having to eat copious amounts of creatine-rich foods such as red meats.

Is creatine a steroid?

No, creatine is not a steroid.

Anabolic steroids are in a class of controlled drugs in the Controlled Substances Act of The United States (18), classifying it as a Schedule III Controlled Drug. This places this drug in a class of drugs that is classified as moderately addictive and may contribute to dependence and withdrawal.

On the other hand, creatine is not classified as a drug at all. In fact, creatine is marketed and sold as a dietary supplement; which are (usually) much safer and can be obtained (legally) without a prescription, unlike illicit substances such as anabolic steroids.

However, dietary supplements are regulated by the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (commonly known as “DSHEA”). This act is much more lenient compared to the Controlled Substances Act. Therefore, dietary supplements are placed to a much lower standard, so they may not be as effective as they are advertised to be (but that’s why you’re reading this article in the first place, right?)

Is creatine banned by sports?

WADA, also known as the World Anti-Doping Agency, does not place creatine under their Banned Substances List (19), as of 2019. The Banned Substances List records all banned substances for use in professional sporting bodies, as well as sports at the high school and college levels.

Who can benefit from taking creatine?

There are several types of people that can benefit from the usage of creatine, the most popular of which are athletes who need to have high power outputs, such as track and field (20) athletes. It also aids in those looking for maximal strength (21) such as those who partake in bodybuilding, crossfit or powerlifting.

However, creatines’ benefits aren’t just limited to athletes. The general population has experienced significant benefits with creatine supplementation, most notably cognitive benefits seen in vegetarians (22) and the sleep-deprived (4).

What can make creatine less effective?

Caffeine is a substance that could potentially cause a negative interaction with creatine. However, the evidence is extremely weak, as there is only one study (23) supporting this claim. This should be taken with a grain of salt. One should experiment on themselves with this combination to see what works best for them personally.

How do I take creatine?

Creatine most often comes in either capsule or powdered form. How you take it is completely up to you and what you find to be the most convenient. Some people like to pop a few capsules right before their workout, while others like to take the powder and mix it with their own pre-workout concoction.

When is the best time to take creatine?

There is no “best time” to take creatine. Creatine is stored in the body, whether you ingest it from food or supplementation. Therefore, there is no timing effect from creatine. Your body simply uses it when it is needed.

Should I take creatine every day or only on workout days?

For optimal creatine storage for your workout days, it is advisable that you take creatine even on your rest days from training. This allows for your muscles to be fully saturated with creatine at any given moment, giving you a much greater chance of experiencing the benefits of creatine on your training days.

What is creatine cycling?

Creatine cycling is the practice of scheduling a specific amount of time (usually weeks or months at a time) to take creatine, followed by a specific amount of time off of creatine (again, usually up to weeks or months at a time).

Should I cycle creatine?

No, creatine does not need to be cycled.

Likely, this concept stems from the fact that many people associate creatine as a performance-enhancing drug (PED), which is often associated with cycling, such as anabolic steroids.

However, since creatine is not a PED and has not been shown to cause adverse effects in healthy individuals when taken for long periods (24), there is simply no need to cycle it.

What is loading/the loading phase?

“Loading” of creatine simply refers to “megadosing” your supplemental creatine intake for the first week or so of your supplementation regime. This usually lies around 20-25 grams or so, which is 5x as much creatine as you would take normally, which is 5 grams if we’re discussing in terms of creatine monohydrate, the most common form of creatine supplementation.

Do I need to load creatine?

While some people find loading creatine to be helpful, it’s not necessary. While you will saturate the muscle cells faster by loading it (25), you’ll still eventually saturate the muscle cells within 28 days to a month at a regular dose of 5 grams every day.

What is the maintenance phase?

The maintenance phase of creatine refers to the common dose of 5 grams per day, or whatever the manufacturer states in the directions of the product if the form of creatine happens to not be monohydrate.

This is called the maintenance phase because this is the dose you take every day to keep your muscle cells fully saturated with creatine.

It has been referenced (26) that you can get away with 0.03 grams/kilogram of body weight per day (which is about 2 grams for a 150 lb person). This figure has shown great promise in the scientific community.

Should I take creatine pills vs creatine powder?

As addressed earlier, this is all up to personal preference. As of the date of this article, there is no solid evidence as to whether one form of creatine supplementation is more beneficial than the other.

So without this proof, we can assume that they are equally as effective in terms of bioavailability (that being how much of the product you actually absorb versus what you excrete out of your body later on).

Is creatine safe to take?

In most individuals, yes. Barring any sort of severe kidney or liver issues, creatine is completely safe to take (27).  However, if you still have concerns, you should consult with your physician before beginning a supplementation regime with creatine.

We recommend speaking with your doctor before taking any supplements.

What are the side effects of creatine?

The only notable side effect of creatine in healthy individuals is the potential water weight one could gain when supplementing with it. One study (28) showed an average water weight gain of 3.74 lbs over the course of 9 weeks.

However, the bright side here is that creatine does not tend to change the ratio of intracellular to extracellular water (29) in the muscle. In other words, supplementing with creatine won’t make you look “watery.”

For example, if we increased the amount of extracellular water (the water that lies directly outside of the muscle), then it would blur the definition of our muscles. On the contrary, if we increased the amount of intracellular water, then our muscles would look fuller and bigger.

However, since creatine does not change the ratio of the water around our muscles, the overall appearance of your body will not be negatively affected.

Also, some people do report digestive upsets (30). Fortunately, there are multiple forms available, such as the micronized form of creatine monohydrate, that can alleviate this issue.

Does creatine cause dehydration?

In essence, yes, but that’s if you don’t drink enough water to go with your creatine supplementation regime. This is why it’s always recommended to drink more water when consuming creatine.

But it has actually been shown that creatine positively improves plasma volume (31), which is a significant cardiovascular health marker that often declines as dehydration progresses. So as long as you’re drinking enough water, then you’ll be just fine.

Does creatine cause damage to the kidneys and liver?

Unless your physician has clinically diagnosed you with serious liver or kidney problems such as kidney disease, fatty liver disease, or jaundice, then there’s no concern for creatine causing any sort of issues for your liver or kidneys (32).

Does creatine cause pimples (acne)?

No, just like with many of the myths about creatine, this stems from the misguided assumption that creatine is a steroid, which are substances that cause acne. Creatine has no link whatsoever to acne.

Does creatine cause hair loss (alopecia)?

There is a very small potential for this to occur, as creatine has been associated with an increase in DHT (dihydrotestosterone), which is responsible for androgenic alopecia, or male-pattern baldness.

However, this study (33) was very small, underpowered, and not replicated. As of now, there is no solid evidence of creatine being directly linked with hair loss.

Will creatine cause testicle shrinkage?

Absolutely not. Again, this is assuming that creatine is in the same class as anabolic steroids are. This is not true.

Creatine has no relationship with the Hypogonadal Axis, which is what gets shut down in anabolic steroid users, causing testicular shrinkage. So no need to worry here!

How long is Creatine stored in the body?

One study (34) showed that about 46% of the creatine that is ingested (including supplemental creatine) is excreted by the kidneys after 24 hours. This is why creatine supplementation is so important because it is constantly being used as a substrate for energy.

How long can I take creatine for?

You can take creatine for as long as you like, given that you have no existing kidney issues. While it may not be likely that creatine would cause an issue when taken long-term in those with kidney issues, we have no long term studies to prove that this is the case.

But for those who are healthy, creatine has a very optimal safety profile (35) and has not been linked to hindrances in either performance (36), general health (37), or disease states (38) such as Parkinson’s.

Should I take breaks from taking creatine?

There have been theories out there postulating that you should “cycle” off of creatine. Again, barring any serious chronic kidney issues or contraindications that would prevent you from taking creatine, there is no reason to cycle on and off of it.

This type of thinking brings us back to our steroid question; which assumes that creatine and anabolic steroids are the same and carry the same threshold of adverse effects. This is simply not the case.

The method of cycling dates back to “bro-science”, which is a slang term for unsupported, supposed “evidence” in the health/fitness industry.

Does Creatine Make You Retain Water?

It will cause a degree of water retention in most, if not all individuals. Remember the study (28) that was mentioned in an earlier question that showed an average water weight gain of 3.74 lbs over the course of 9 weeks?

This is an average weight gain amongst people who supplement with it. But again, let’s also recall that the ratio of intracellular to extracellular water (29) in the muscle does not change!

Therefore, associating water retention as something bad is simply nonsense, as this won’t contribute to any sort of negative outcome on your physique.

The only time this will cause any sort of issue is if you have kidney and/or blood pressure issues, in which your physician should be consulted before beginning a supplementation regime with creatine.

Can I Mix Creatine with other Supplements?

Yes, absolutely! With the exception of caffeine (in which the evidence for it is still weak), there are no known negative interactions between creatine and other common general health or sports supplements, such as pre-workouts, multivitamins, etc.

What are the best supplements to mix creatine with?

The best supplements that you could mix creatine with would be ones that would best complement your fitness goals. For example, if your goal is to gain muscle, taking creatine with a high-glycemic sugar source such as dextrose would compliment creatine well.

Another example of this is if your goal is to lose fat, then taking creatine with fat-burning stimulants such as yohimbine will allow you to reap the benefits of strength gains from the creatine and the metabolic effects from the yohimbine. It’s a win-win!

Can I mix creatine with energy drinks?

Yes, but again, just consider that caffeine study that was referenced earlier, and see for yourself how it affects your performance.

And also, many energy drinks nowadays contain certain artificial flavors and preservatives. Not to say that these are “bad” per se, it’s just that we don’t know how these components of modern-day energy drinks interact with creatine, even if they do.

So again, utilizing a guess-and-check method is the best route to go here.

Can I mix creatine with soda?

You certainly can, but there doesn’t seem to be much benefit here in my own professional opinion, as there’s certainly no scientific literature present on this topic as of 2019. If anything, you’re better off using a source of carbohydrates that acts more optimally for performance, such as dextrose (39).

Can I mix creatine with my coffee?

Again, you can do anything. The question we should be asking here is “Is this optimal for my goals?”

Mixing creatine with your coffee may or may not be optimal for your performance depending on what your goals are. If your goal is to enhance your strength performance, then this combination may help you (23).

On the other hand, the combination of the acidity from the coffee and the water-drawing capabilities of the creatine may create some gastrointestinal upset in some individuals. But again, since there is not much evidence to back up this claim, trying it before one of your sessions should give you a good idea of whether or not it works for you.

Does Caffeine Make Creatine Less Effective?

As stated earlier, caffeine could potentially cause a negative interaction with creatine. However, the one study (23) that supports this claim is quite weak in nature and needs to be replicated to be proven.

Should I take Creatine when I’m trying to Lose Weight?

Yes, absolutely! There’s no reason not to take creatine when trying to lose weight. You’ll still receive all the benefits that creatine has to offer and as was debunked earlier, creatine will not make you gain actual weight, just water weight. And again, this is only in particular individuals.

And that’s what should be taken into consideration here. The only way to know for sure if you gain any sort of water weight from creatine is to try it for yourself (give it about a month) and see how your body looks in the mirror and how your weight changes on the scale.

If you happen to be somebody who does gain water weight when taking creatine, then you should only stop taking it if you are aiming to look a particular way for a certain deadline, such as wanting to fit into a bridesmaids dress for a wedding or what have you.

Other than that, you’ll be missing out on the benefits of creatine if you stop taking it just because of the mild water weight gain.

Will I Lose Weight or Muscle Mass If I Stop Using It?

You may lose weight, in fact, it’s more likely to happen to you. However, notice the word weight here. Fortunately, we’re just talking about water weight, NOT muscle mass.

You see, one of creatine’s primary functions is to draw water into the muscle cells (40) from other parts of the body, such as from other organs. This is why it’s quite common to see on the directions of a creatine label to increase your water intake when supplementing with creatine.

This extra “holding” of water will cause you to gain more scale weight for sure, but it does not necessarily translate into muscle or fat directly.

When you stop supplementing with creatine, this holding of water will naturally stop, therefore, the weight will drop accordingly.

Can I increase creatine levels naturally?

By naturally, if you mean without supplementation, then yes, you most certainly can. This can be accomplished with particular food sources of creatine (see the next question).

However, if you’re talking about having your body produce its own creatine, then no, increasing your body’s own natural production of creatine is not possible. The body produces creatine within the body via the liver, kidneys, and pancreas. The average person produces about 1 gram per day, and this amount is tightly controlled by the body (41).

While that 1 gram per day mark may be enough for the average Joe, it usually isn’t for those who partake in moderate to vigorous physical exercise (41). This is why most creatine supplements tout a 5 g serving (the monohydrate variant anyway, which is the most common type sold in supplemental form).

What foods contain creatine?

The most common foods in Western diets that contain creatine are red meats, fish, and milk (42).

This is perhaps why many vegetarians and vegans may find it helpful to invest in a creatine supplement to be able to boost their performance while still being able to adhere to their dietary and ethical standards.

Many of today’s creatine supplements are certified vegan as well.

ⓘ Any specific supplement products & brands featured on this website are not necessarily endorsed by Zachary.

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2 Comments

  1. john on September 21, 2019 at 9:05 am

    can creatine be mixed with energy drinks

    • Top10supps on December 30, 2019 at 8:53 pm

      Hey John,

      Good question. Zach has answered it in our Creatine FAQ above.

      “Yes, but again, just consider that caffeine study that was referenced earlier, and see for yourself how it affects your performance.

      And also, many energy drinks nowadays contain certain artificial flavors and preservatives. Not to say that these are “bad” per se, it’s just that we don’t know how these components of modern-day energy drinks interact with creatine, even if they do.

      So again, utilizing a guess-and-check method is the best route to go here.”

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