Creatine supplementation isn’t a complicated subject.
Get the right creatine supplement, take it at the right time, lift heavy, and enjoy the gains. That’s it!
Our staff has a combined 100+ years experience taking all sorts of different creatine brands and types. Monohydrate, HCL, Ethyl Ester, free-acid; you name it, we’ve taken it.
So here is our experience based guide to creatine supplementation, as well as the current best creatine supplements on the market.
When exactly is the best time to take creatine?
Like all supplements, there is an optimal time to take creatine. Here are the most common times athletes take it, as well as the benefits and disadvantages of these timings. We know that you probably want to know the best time to take creatine, and we’ve included that below based on our personal experiences and facts!
Taking creatine pre workout is doable, but may not be the best.
The vast majority of weight lifters take creatine pre workout; that is, within 30 minutes of going to the gym. The theory behind this is much like taking stimulants; that creatine will be able to immediately absorb and influence your performance.
It is important for you to know that this may not be the case. Even the most advanced forms of creatine such as HCl take time to first reach the duodenum, second absorb into the blood, and third enter into muscle cells to participate in respiration. So, for even the fastest absorbing creatine forms, this process will take at least an hour for full benefit, despite your body’s increased nutrient uptake during exercise.
We believe that post workout is the best time to take your creatine.
The second most popular time that bodybuilders take creatine is post workout. We’re not going to pull your chain, post workout is the best time to take creatine based on our research and personal experience. This is due to the biological factors that occur during the post workout window.
First, creatine is most depleted after working out. Second, your post workout meal will naturally spike insulin and provide carbs for optimal creatine assimilation. Third, since creatine both expands muscle cells and acts as an energy source, it promotes muscle synthesis by both triggering growth and powering the process of growth.
Really, the only caveat with taking your creatine post workout is its interaction with caffeine (if you still have it in your system). Those of you not taking a pre workout don’t need to worry about this.
See, in order for creatine to assimilate at peak efficiency it often crosses membranes as a hydrated molecule (aka with water). Therefore, during creatine uptake we seek conditions where water is flowing into your cells (with carbohydrates to spike insulin which helps too). This is your typical post workout scenario, and that’s why we think post workout is so perfect.
Therefor, take your creatine alongside your post workout meal for best results.
Creatine in pre workout supplements – what’s the deal?
Nearly every pre workout supplement contains creatine, with the exception of creatine free pre workouts of course. The function of creatine in your pre workout is often ‘slightly noticed’ or functional towards the end of your workout when it begins to find its way into muscle cells.
Though overall, the creatine in your pre workout supplement is ineffective and possibly ‘buffering’ for your next gym session. In addition, pre workouts often contain downwards of 2,000 mg (2 grams) of creatine at most. This is not an effective clinical dose.
With that being said, if supplementing with creatine is something you are conscious of and want to pursue – you can take a separate creatine supplement in addition to your pre workout. Simply take your creatine supplement as we recommend above.
Different types of creatine available to you
Aside from different brands, there are also many different forms of creatine on the market. These ‘differences’ are not an actual change in the creatine itself, rather a difference in the transport vector of creatine.
Compare transport vectors to cars, buses, planes, boats. Depending on your unique genetic composition, certain forms of creatine will enter your muscles more effectively. Here is a brief overview of those different forms or ‘transport vectors’ of creatine. Often you will have to try them in order to determine which is most effective for you.
Aside from monohydrate creatine, there are several others with names attached to the end. These specify the molecule that creatine is bonded to in order to allow it to enter your body easier. The main purpose of this is to increase the solubility of creatine. Micronizing of monohydrate does supplement solubility to a degree, but supplements like creatine HCL blow solubility away being able to dissolve entirely in fractions of the liquid amount.
Multi-creatine formulas – There are several multi-creatine formulas available for creatine supplementation. The advantage here is multiple modes of delivery offering a full spectrum approach to supplying creatine. In addition, the use of multiple forms has demonstrated a ‘timing effect’, where different modes of creatine activate at different thresholds of activity.
The best type is still creatine monohydrate.
There is simply so much research, its inevitable. Of creatine monohydrate, Creapure patented creatine monohydrate is the next level of quality. When looking for your next creatine supplement, make sure its Creapure if you are going with monohydrate.
Top 10 Creatine Supplements
#1) Transparent Labs StrengthSeries: Creatine HMB – The Best Creatine Supplement
When all is said and done, there can be only one creatine choice for:
- building as much muscle as possible
- getting a quality sourced product
- and getting a good value
Creapure HMB is that and more, by the brand Transparent Labs.
Each serving of Creatine HMB has the clinical 5 gram dose of the superior Creapure creatine along with 2 grams of the leucine metabolite HMB.
We’ve seen several clinical studies tout HMB to be over 10X more effective at preserving lean muscle mass than leucine alone.
Better yet, we’ve seen reliable HMB results in ourselves and fellow bodybuilders while supplementing with this natural leucine derivative.
Though, when you combine creatine and HMB – that’s when the forces of muscle preservation and muscle growth combine to give you solid gains all while staying natural.
For regular creatine users and new users alike, Creatine HMB is a solid buy. There is no other post-workout creatine that we prefer more than this, and we’ve tried a lot.
StrengthSeries Creatine HMB is available at www.transparentlabs.com
#2 Staunch Creatine 5 – Quick Dissolving Multi-Creatine Blend
Ranking in for second place is Creatine Five by Staunch Nation. We like this creatine because it dissolves incredibly fast, provides 50 servings per container, and is reasonably priced.
Staunch Creatine 5 contains:
- 2 Grams MagnaPower Magnesium Creatine Chelate
- 2 Grams Creatine Monohydrate
- 330 mg Tri-Creatine Malate
- 330 mg Creatine Pyruvate
- 290 mg Creatine Anhydrous
All of these ingredients are combined into one product that is recommended to be taken daily.
If you are curious about Staunch Nation, we’ve reviewed two of their pre workouts as well – Staunch Koala Freak (super-stim pre workout) and Staunch PRE Zero-Stim Pre Workout. On our review schedule is their new BCAA +Hydration and Whey Isolate Protein.
Staunch Nation Creatine FIVE is available at www.staunchnation.com
#3 VitaDirect Creatine Monohydrate – Economy Buy [100 servings]
We decided to acknowledge the ‘value factor’ for our 3rd ranking, and how a lot of guys just want a really good deal on creatine monohydrate from a 100% reputable brand.
For that reason, we chose VitaDirect’s Creatine Monohydrate which comes in 100 serving tubs and is available on the cheap ($13) via Amazon Prime.
VitaDirect uses micronized creatine monohydrate, and that’s it. There are zero fillers, dyes, flavors or preservatives – just 100% creatine monohydrate in a tub.
If you prefer to get extra benefits from your creatine like added BCAAs, glutamine, electrolytes, etc. – then continue reading above or below for other great creatine supplements to consider.
VitaDirect’s Creatine Monohydrate is available on www.amazon.com
#4 Muscletech Cell-Tech Hard-Gainer Creatine
Muscletech’s Cell-tech is a living legend, and definitely deserves to be included on this ranking of the best creatine supplements.
What makes Cell-Tech different from other creatine supplements, is that they combine their creatine with 38 grams of carbohydrates. This allows you to easily take Cell-tech creatine without food, and still get really good absorption (since spiking your insulin significantly aids creatine uptake).
Personally, we still prefer to take our TL or Staunch creatine with some food, or alongside some sugary grape juice, apple juice, or OJ. But, we’ve got to give credit where credit is due… And Cell-Tech is one of the few things that Muscletech has done very, very, very right.
The current version of Cell-tech provides:
- 3.5 Grams creatine monohydrate
- 1.5 Grams creatine hydrochloride
- 1 Gram taurine
- 750 mg BCAA matrix
- 100 mg ALA
- 38 Grams of carbohydrates
Muscletech’s Cell-Tech is available at all major supplement retailers
#5) Controlled Labs Green Magnitude Creatine
Green Magnitude is a duel creatine blend which contains di-creatine malate and magnesium creatine chelate in addition to betaine, L-taurine, and L-tyrosine. These two creatine forms offer advanced absorption, as well as enhanced molecule stability complements of the magnesium chelate.
Green Magnitude contains a total of 5,000 mgs of creatine, potent enough for serious bodybuilders. This blend is an admirable competitor for our top creatine choice below. But, its not Creapure creatine monohydrate – and that’s a statement in itself.
#6) EFX Kre-Alkalyn Creatine
Kre-Alkalyn is a buffered form of creatine monohydrate distributed by EFX. Research suggests that creatine monohydrate absorbs best at pH in and around 7 (neutral pH). However, upon ingesting creatine supplements, the creatine must first pass through the stomachs acidic domain with a pH as low as 2.
Such drastic pH differentiations can alter a portion of creatine molecules to be non-functional. In addition, acidity can ‘travel’ with the creatine preventing the optimal pH of 7 from being reached.
The theorized solution to this problem, is buffering the creatine molecule so that pH of 7 is guaranteed. In turn, this facilitates a much greater uptake of creatine in the monohydrate form. Theoretically this is a great idea, and many guys say Kre-Alkalyn works amazing for them; but others have mentioned little effect.
#7) Muscletech Creacore Creatine HCl Supplement
Creacore by Muscletech is a super-concentrated creatine HCl supplement that also contains a clinical dose of fenugreek, which supports healthy testosterone levels. This supplement contains nearly 2,000 mgs of creatine HCl per scoop which is twice the amount found in ‘Concrete Creatine’.
If affordability is an important consideration when it comes to creatine, take comfort in Creacore’s average price of $30 per 80 servings. That is a phenomenal value for a pretty effective product.
In the grand scheme of things, consider creatine HCl if you have a very sensitive stomach. Note – warming your creatine water as you mix it up can also reduce possible stomach irritability as well, read more below.
#8 Beast Creature Creatine
When Beast supplements first came out, they made a pretty big wave in the bodybuilding industry. Mainly, their pre workout beast mode was a heavy hitter. But right behind that is their creatine product – Creature.
Creature is a creatine blend like Staunch Creatine Five above, with 1 gram less creatine per serving and 20 less servings per container.
Creature Creatine Ingredients
- Creapure Creatine Monohydrate
- Di-Creatine Malate
- Creatine Anhydrous
- Crea-Trona Buffered Creatine
- Creatine Gluconate
- Banaba Leaf Extract
This looks like a very impressive list, however, remember that these 5 creatine sources total 4 grams in a proprietary formula.
#9 Kaged Muscle C-HCL Creatine HCL Pills
No matter how great creatine powders get, there will always be a demand for creatine in pill form. In order to minimize the quantity and size of pills required – we prefer to reach for creatine HCL pills.
Kaged Muscle makes a great option in this case, with their C-HCL creatine pills.
For C-HCL, each serving is 750 mg which requires one pill. When we take creatine HCL though, we prefer around 1,500 mg on the daily or 3,000 mg if we haven’t been taking creatine consistently.
If regular creatine monohydrate has the habit of upsetting your stomach or causing serious gut bloating, then these creatine HCL pills may be a good option for you.
#10 Universal Nutrition Creatine Chews
Last on our list, we have good old creatine chews by Universal Nutrition. In this product, Universal Nutrition uses Creatine Monohydrate, 5 grams per serving in total, which requires 4 chews.
If you can’t do pills and aren’t too fond of powders either- then this is your last remaining option for creatine supplementation.
In addition to the creatine, there is about 4 grams of carbohydrates per serving in Universal Nutrition’s creatine chews.
Getting Creatine Monohydrate to Dissolve
Monohydrate is the most popular form of creatine for many amazing reasons. But man, this stuff can be a little difficult when you try to get it to dissolve if you don’t know what your doing. And, we want it to fully dissolve since thats necessary for full assimilation.
Now first, what exactly is ‘dissolved’ you may ask? Stupid question? No. See, a lot of guys confuse ‘in suspension’ with ‘dissolved’. When you stir up your creatine and none is on the bottom of the glass but the liquid looks cloudy and gritty, that is ‘in suspension’. When you stir your creatine until there is no visible powder and the clarity of the liquid returns with the exception of dyes; that is ‘dissolved’.
So, how do you get it properly dissolved when it clearly doesn’t want to? Easy, take creatine the way it was originally taken back in the day – heat it up a bit! So, after your post workout meal go ahead and heat up a bit of water. Once it’s warm (doesn’t need to boil by any means) carefully transfer it to a cup and add in your creatine powder. From there, stir until it’s properly dissolved which won’t take too long. Now, you are good to go and will both get better uptake as well as less gas/bloating if that was an issue for you.
Its important to point out that this is not the case for 95% of guys that take monohydrate. Unless you have had trouble in the past, you should be good downing monohydrate in standard room temperature water, with or without protein/BCAAs. Just make sure you have plenty of water, which helps the whole process!
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