It’s time to face the facts: creatine is the most effective supplement you can take (1).
More strength, faster recovery, less time between sets – this stuff is a powerhouse.
Really, there is only one thing stopping you from taking creatine, and that’s this false stigma that never ceases to go around.
Yeah we know:
Creatine supplementation is science-backed like no other, and we love the stuff for it.
Here, we’re going to cover exactly how creatine benefits you as both an athlete and scholar plus share with you our top creatine picks for maximum effect.
What is Creatine and what does it do?
Creatine is a naturally occurring compound that your body makes as well as receives through dietary meat (2).
Interestingly, this energy reserve is used relatively independent to standard mitochondrial respiration as seen in individuals with preexisting mitochondrial diseases (5).
How to increase creatine levels naturally
While creatine is made up of the amino acids: arginine, glycine and methionine – it appears that arginine is the key limiting step for creatine synthesis in the body (6).
Creatine not synthesized naturally by the body is safely obtained through diet via animal products and supplemental creatine powder.
How long is creatine stored in the body?
Dietary creatine from supplemental ingestion is stored relatively efficiently for later use and depletes in a slowing rate (meaning you lose more on day 1, than on day 2).
This is roughly a 15% loss after day one, compared to subsequent 5% losses thereafter (7).
This is why most athletes and bodybuilders supplement with creatine on a daily basis, but timing in reference to exercise really doesn’t matter.
Is creatine supplementation safe?
According to the JISSN as of 2017, yes, creatine is exceptionally safe.
These claims are for creatine monohydrate exclusively, and do not vouch for alternative forms of creatine with less extensive research performed (9).
Digging deeper, individuals with pre-existing renal (kidney) conditions should avoid creatine as a precautionary measure, despite a lack of recent correlating research (10).
What Creatine Does For Strength Training Athletes
Lift More Weight with Creatine
By far, the most notable benefit to creatine supplementation is its ability to increase strength quickly (11). This appears to be most prevalent in bodybuilding and powerlifting type exercises, as we’ll cover below.
We separated creatine’s effect on strength based on upper body and lower body as previous research was on-edge between the two.
Our solution was to cover research performed recently, since 2014.
Lower Body Strength Gains
According to a recent meta-analysis covering 60 studies, creatine supplementation does increase lower body strength (12).
This strength increase spans across all the muscles of the lower body.
Notable strength increases include:
- Athletes supplementing with creatine achieved greater 1RM squats after performing complex training protocols (13).
- Shocking results appear in a Western Washington University study were creatine and electrolyte supplemented athletes increased 1MR squat strength by 13.4% over six weeks (14).
So yes, you’ll squat more weight with creatine than without it.
Upper Body Strength Gains
Having a strong squat is cool, but the bench press is what really gets the ladies. And guess what – creatine has been found to increase your bench press 1RM faster than not supplementing (15).
Notable strength increases include:
- Athletes receiving creatine monohydrate continued to break their bench press 1RM despite being exhausted from aerobic exercise, compared to non-supplemented groups who merely maintained their 1RM (16).
- Participants receiving 4 grams of creatine per day increased their 1RM by 4.7% over one month (17).
- Athletes supplementing with creatine and whey protein increased their upper-body strength by 178% more than the only-whey-protein group over six weeks (18).
So yes, if you begin taking creatine and your lifting partner doesn’t – you’ll overtake him within no time on the bench press and claim all that salty glory.
Increase endurance and training volume with Creatine
Exercise volume is important for both muscle hypertrophy and endurance goals like (19).
Creatine has been found to improve total sets, time-trial performance, and agility in many studies; but it is not nearly as clear-cut as strength gain and muscle growth stimulation. So, let us explain.
Creatine can increase total reps and quality of sets
- Male and female participants performed the leg press after receiving a single dosage of creatine, both groups’ increased total reps in comparison to placebo, with females displaying a greater advantage with creatine (20).
Creatine can improve mental and physical agility
- During plyometric training, participants supplementing with creatine improved their sprint and jump performance greater than control and placebo groups (21).
- Elite soccer players were able to maintain greater jumping performance over time with creatine supplementation by 98% compared to non-supplementing players 50% (22). This suggests that creatine maintains strength despite cardio exhaustion.
Creatine may improve low-intensity cardio over time
The data on cardio is less clear:
- For starters, athletic women taking creatine and performing HIT exercises for 4 weeks did not display a statistical advantage over their non-supplementing counterparts (23). Noted though, was the insane effectiveness of HIIT training as a whole.
- This no-effect trend was also seen in amateur soccer players who consumed 20 grams of creatine monohydrate for 7 days, and then simulated soccer performance (24).
- However a submaximal endurance test with athletes receiving 5 grams of creatine per day showed positive results (25). In it, participants receiving creatine had a calmer heart rate, and exhibited greater endurance compared to the placebo group not receiving creatine.
This indicates to us that creatine improves strength-of-impulse as well as low-intensity exercise performance. However events where oxygen is completely depleted, creatine cannot improve endurance, only small bouts of strength.
Build More Muscle with Creatine
Building more muscle is a clear goal for the majority of men, whether training or not training (26).
Creatine is one of the most popular options for increasing the rate of muscle growth, and for good reason:
All of which commonly result in greater lean muscle mass in comparison to individuals undergoing the same training protocol without creatine supplementation (29).
Note: Basically all of the studies in the strength and performance segments correlated creatine supplementation with lean muscle mass increase.
How much Creatine should I take and when do I take it?
The standard dosage for creatine that we’ve seen across all studies ranges from 4 to 6 grams.
We prefer the classic 5 grams per day dosage, with slightly less or lighter women.
While creatine can be taken at any time, it appears that post workout with food is most effective (30).
Of unique and specific interest, is a noticeable increase in total muscle glycogen storage during this time (31).
That’s a wrap on ‘what creatine does’, now it’s time to cover our most trusted creatine supplements:
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.
#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.
#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.
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.
#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
#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 that’s 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!
Review of the ranking:
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