Creatine Supplements Explained
As the most researched molecule in all of sports supplementation, Creatine is the “star child” of 200+ studies pertaining to its effect on body composition, performance, and muscle growth.
The best part… the verdicts are all the same. Creatine, “monohydrate” in particular, is the best supplement for muscle growth. We’ll dive into the various types of creatine a bit later in the article as well, as there are a number of different forms to choose from.
Creatine is a widely used supplement that fuels your muscles during times of high-intensity training. You can also find creatine in small sources naturally in some foods. Creatine helps to push out more reps in your training, which in turn, supports physique transformation. Aside from more reps, it also helps to support speed, as well as explosiveness during sprints or intense heavy lifting.
If your goal is to increase lean mass, strength, and power, we highly recommend reading about our best creatine supplements.
We put a lot of research into this article because we realize that the right creatine supplement is one of the most widely sought after supplements for today’s athlete or weightlifter. Our goal for this article is to help our readers become better educated on creatine, as a supplement, as opposed to just providing you with a list of the “best” products. After all, once you have a firm understanding of the various benefits and types of creatines out there, you’ll want to tailor your selection to meet your needs – not just because it’s the most “popular” product with your gym buddies.
The Benefits of Quality Creatine Supplements
As the most researched sports supplement, we expected to find some pretty awesome studies to support the dubious claims of the supplement industry. And, to our pleasure, we found quite a bit of epic content that we’re excited to share with you.
This statement, directly from Creapure’s website (arguably the purest form of creatine monohydrate), describes the benefits of creatine as:
“For sports that require speed, such as sprinting, long jump, swimming, kayaking/rowing, and for intensive strength training by bodybuilders and cyclists, creatine supplementation can greatly improve performance in areas of maximum strength and endurance (5-15%), with interval training (5-20%), with proper production in short sprints (approx.. 30%) and in training with repetitive sprints (5-15%).”
Creatine provides a plethora of benefits. Most notably by providing greater training capacity, and increased muscle mass and absolute power output”.
Great benefits aside, creatine has also repeatedly been shown to have no harmful side effects, for short or extended usage. For those that are serious about [inert your motivation here], creatine is an absolute staple in supplement nutrition.
The Best 10 Creatine Supplements
10. Beast Sports Nutrition CREATURE Creatine Complex
Of all the supplements on this ranking, CREATURE- by Beast Sports Nutrition- is likely the most unique. Don’t let it’s spot at #10 fool you- it’s certainly not your average creatine supplement. This is due to the fact that it has a diverse profile of 5 different forms of creatine per serving. These include patented CreaPure, malate, anhydrous, patented Crea-Trona, and gluconate.
In addition to its 5 types of creatine, it also has another hidden ‘Creatine Optimizer’ blend made up of banaba leaf extract, cinnamon bark, biotin, and chromium for a combined dose of 90 mg. It should also be noted that its proprietary creatine blend has a combined 4-grams per serving. We found that each tub has 60 servings which is designed to last two months of daily use.
That said, let’s go over its other details. In our experience and that of most other users, CREATURE dissolved fast in water and had no real discernible taste (unflavored version). It is however offered in 7 unique flavors if you count unflavored as one. To us unflavored is the way to go and the cleanest- any other version will contain artificial and natural flavors and dyes.
BSN CREATURE Overview:
- Provides 60 servings per container
- 4g of 5 unique creatines per serving
- 90mg insulinogenic co-factors blend
- Won ‘Best Supplement of the Year 2015’
- Unfortunately has two proprietary blends
- Contains artificial and natural flavors & dyes
9. MuscleTech CREACTOR Max Potency Creatine Powder
Made by MuscleTech (MT), CREACTOR is one of our most favorite exercise supplements. In fact, it’s the only product on this entire ranking that isn’t made of just creatine monohydrate. Unlike how most creatine supplements use monohydrate, it uses a different form called HCl. Basically, the “HCl” is short for Hydrochloride. You’re probably wondering what the difference is.
Creatine Monohydrate vs Hydrochloride (HCl) – the difference explained.
To better answer this question we’ll need to break down the words. Creatine monohydrate has one (mono) water molecule (hydrate) attached to it (resulting in water weight). On the contrary, Creatine HCl has a hydrochloride group attached to it which makes it more acidic. Because it’s more acidic it can mix in water almost instantly and significantly improve its absorption rate.
That being said, let’s go over its specs. We found CREACTOR has a combined total of 1.5 grams of creatine HCl and free-acid creatine per serving. Each $18 tub has a total of 120 servings.
MuscleTech Creactor Overview:
- 120 servings per container
- 1.5 grams of creatine per serving
- Micronized for increased mixability
- Contains Free-Acid and Creatine HCl
- 100% Pharmaceutical quality creatine
- Lab verified for both purity and safety
8. RSP Nutrition Pure Creatine Monohydrate
RSP Nutrition is a relatively new kid on the block when it comes to fitness supplements – but don’t underestimate them. Coming in at $15 (on Amazon), this creatine supplement is as simple as it is effective. Like most of the best creatine supplements, it’s made up of pharmaceutical grade creatine that’s been micronized for increased mixability and is safe for athletes to take.
In addition, RSP’s creatine isn’t afraid of 100% ingredient transparency. The only ingredient we found is 5 grams of pure creatine monohydrate per serving- nothing more nothing less. So you know, each 500-gram container is made to withstand 100 straight days of continuous use. If taken once every day, this means it can last a little over 3 months. That’s not too shabby at all.
In terms of flavor, it’s best not to expect much from RSP’s creatine – but this is a good thing. We’ve found that, because it only has one ingredient, there is no flavor enhancers and thus it has no discernible taste. This makes it great for use in other supplements like PWO’s or shakes.
RSP Nutrition Creatine Overview:
- Provides 100 total servings per container
- Micronized for absorption and mixability
- Pure pharmaceutical grade quality creatine
- Clinically effective true 5-grams per serving
- More than 90 days worth of creatine for $15
- Naturally taste-neutral for more stackability
7. MusclePharm Ultra-Pure Micronized Creatine
MusclePharm has easily one of our most favorite creatine supplements and with good reason. Designed with longevity and value in mind, it’s one of the most valuable to make our ranking. Simply put, this is mainly because of its excellent cost: serving ratio (and other various factors).
Every tub of MP’s ultra-pure pharmaceutical grade creatine monohydrate costs $10 and has a whopping 120 servings, or 4 months supply, at clinically effective 5-gram dosages. Moreover, each tub is micronized to enhance mixability and is naturally taste-neutral. It’s also lab tested and verified free of banned or otherwise harmful substances for ensured safety and purity.
On that note, MP’s ultra-pure creatine is both banned substance and gluten-free. However, this shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the brand’s been around and good for so many years. Because it only has one ingredient- creatine- you won’t find anything else, which is great.
MP Essentials Creactor Overview:
- Supplies 120 servings per container
- Highly effective 5-grams per serving
- Micronized for easier dissolvability
- Lab tested free of banned substances
- 100% pharmaceutical quality creatine
- Naturally taste-neutral (no additives)
6. MuscleTech EssentialSeries Platinum Creatine
Made by MuscleTech, Platinum Creatine is a key part of the brand’s EssentialSeries supplement lineup. This is because creatine is considered by many – including ourselves – as nothing short of essential for achieving optimal fitness gains and results. Let’s check out why it’s so effective.
First off, MT Platinum creatine supplies 2½ month’s worth of creatine. More specifically, though, this translates into 5-grams per heaping scoop (80 servings per container). That’s hard to beat seeing as how it only costs $7.99 and is shipped for free via Amazon (current lowest price).
While it undoubtedly has a great price: serving value, it’s quite safe to use. This is because MT Platinum Creatine is pharmaceutical grade, HPLC lab tested and micronized for mixability. It also contains no hidden blends or undisclosed ingredients and is even vegan-friendly to boot.
So, is it a simple supplement? Yes – and if your creatine isn’t, then it’s probably not that great. All in all, we’d totally recommend this supplement for beginners in particular because of value.
MT Platinum Creatine Overview:
- Provides 80 servings per container
- HPLC Purity tested and micronized
- 100% Pharmaceutical grade creatine
- Contains 5-grams of powder per serving
- Vegan-friendly, great customer reviews
- Fully disclosed formula, no hidden blends
5. Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine Powder
For those of you who don’t yet know, Optimum Nutrition is a household name of sorts when it comes to performance nutrition. Founded all the way back in 1986, it’s safe to say this brand’s been around the block and back quite a few times. To put this into perspective, ON owns and sources protein from their own dairy farms to be used in their many different supplements.
Moreover, we strongly believe ON’s creatine is one of the brand’s best supplements for a few reasons. For one, each 600-gram bottle is made to withstand nearly 4-months of daily use. This is because it has 114 servings at 5-grams of CreaPure creatine monohydrate per serving.
While great, it should also be noted that it’s micronized and contains no other ingredients. Basically, this means it’ll dissolve almost immediately, is flavorless, and is vegetarian-friendly. The only potential downside we found was the lack of a scoop, but it hardly affected us.
ON Creatine Overview:
- Includes 28 servings per container
- No other ingredients – just creatine
- Full 5-grams of creatine per serving
- Micronized for more efficient mixing
- Left unflavored for better stackability
- Great for beginners and bodybuilders
4. Bulk Supplements Creatine Powder
As their name suggests, Bulk Supplements is notorious for providing bulk amounts of powder at effective price points. To us, this is most apparent when it’s value is on par with #1 and #2. What impresses us the most about Bulk Supplement’s Creatine, though, is its single-ingredient formula containing 400 servings of pure, pharmaceutical grade (99.99%) creatine monohydrate.
While great, it should be noted that Bulk Supplements (BS) creatine has 2.5 grams per serving. As we talked about below, 2.5 grams is half the standard dosage for a maintenance dose. Thus, in order to maintain creatine levels, you’ll need to take twice the suggested serving size. Taking BS creatine at twice the suggested dosage will still provide over 6-months of daily creatine use.
We also found BS creatine to be lab-tested and verified for accuracy and safety. This includes being free of many potential allergens like dairy, gluten, soy, and other artificial additives. That said, because it doesn’t have any other ingredients, it’s also naturally taste-neutral (flavorless).
BulkSupplements Creatine Overview:
- Amazon’s #1 rated micronized creatine
- Contains x400, 2.5-gram servings
- Pharmaceutical grade ingredient
- No additives, sugar, soy, or gluten
- Naturally flavorless for versatility
- Awesome value – $0.05 per serving!
3. Dymatize Micronized 100% Creatine Monohydrate
If you didn’t already know, Dymatize is somewhat of a titan when it comes to powerhouse supplements. Their micronized creatine is by no means making an exception to this rule either. Entering in at $10, this supplement is arguably the most cost-effective one to make our ranking.
While creatine supplements as a whole aren’t overly expensive, this one is particularly valuable. For one, this is mainly due to its price in regard to serving size and the total amount of servings. More specifically, you’ll find 100 servings at 5-grams each- or over 3 month’s worth of creatine.
In addition to its great value, you’ll be glad to note that, as the title suggests, it’s micronized. This means it can mix and absorb much faster compared to non-micronized supplements. Finally, it only has one ingredient: Pure creatine monohydrate. Good luck beating this for $10.
Dymatize Creatine Overview:
- Clinically effective 5-grams per serving
- Left unflavored for stacked versatility
- Among the highest rated on Amazon
- Full 3+ month supply of pure creatine
- No fillers, additives, gluten, soy, or GMOs
- 100% Pure HPLC certified to ensure safety
2. Naked Nutrition Pure Creatine Monohydrate
Naked Creatine is an unmistakeably epic supplement, and we’ll tell you why. For one, it’s made by Naked Nutrition- one of the industry’s select few great leaders in clean supplement nutrition. Notoriety aside, we’ve reviewed and tested almost every supplement this brand has to offer. That said, let’s get into the review and find out what makes this supplement oh-so-awesome.
For one, NKD Nutrition claims “additives are for their bottom line, not your health”, and we’re inclined to agree. As such, NKD Creatine has just one ingredient only: creatine monohydrate. More specifically, each $20 bottle supplies x200 individual 5-gram servings, which is awesome.
Of course, what good would awesome value, micronization, and serving-size be if it had toxins? You don’t need us to tell you. But, as classic Naked “Nothing to Hide” style would have it, that’s not something to worry about, either. This is because it’s been third-party lab tested & verified.
NKD Creatine Monohydrate Overview:
- Supplies 200 clinically effective servings
- Third-party lab tested for toxic impurities
- No GMOs, soy, gluten, dairy, or artificials
- Micronized to quickly dissolve and absorb
- Just one ingredient – creatine monohydrate
- Excellent value – $0.10 per 5-gram serving!
1. Transparent Labs StrengthSeries Creatine HMB – Our Favorite
Developed by Transparent Labs, Creatine HMB is an integral part of the brand’s infamous ‘StrengthSeries’ supplement lineup. When it comes to creatine, it won’t come as a surprise to many of you to see TL’s HMB sit atop #1. To us, it’s arguably one of the best ‘no frills’ brands.
Our reasoning behind this is pretty straightforward. Basically, it’s got everything you need at effective dosages- that’s it. No questionable ingredients like artificial colors, dyes, or additives. It should be noted, though, flavored versions will provide other enhancing ingredients. Its active ingredients CreaPure (5g), BioPerine (5mg), and HMB (2g) will remain unchanged either way.
That said, this is a supplement we personally take ourselves on a regular basis. To summarize, it provides 3 clinically dosed patented ingredient forms and doesn’t use hidden proprietary blends. You won’t find any other active or inactive ingredients, either. For $39 it’s a little high compared to most other supplements, but like most things, you certainly get what you pay for.
TL Creatine HMB Overview:
- Includes 30 packed servings per bag
- 5 g Creapure Creatine Monohydrate
- 100% transparent ingredient formula
- 2 g Hydroxy Methylbutyrate (HMB!)
- 5 mg patented BioPerine for absorption
- Absolutely no unnecessary ingredients
The Bottom Line on Creatine
Since it’s mainstream introduction back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, creatine has continued to dominate fitness supplement around the globe. With the immense amount of clinical research and numerous scientific studies, it’s easy to understand why this is the case.
At the end of the day, creatine is proven safe and effective for use by anyone-, especially athletes. So, to help streamline your search for the perfect creatine supplement (we know the options are endless), we’ve put together a comprehensive selection of the 10 best creatine’s.
That said, we hope you enjoyed our in-depth review. As always, it’s important to remember that athletic gains are dependent on a number of factors- namely lifestyle. So long as you follow the basics while taking creatine you can expect to gradually notice results with time.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is creatine?
Creatine is a non-essential compound found in tissue that’s involved in producing energy. About 95% of your body’s creatine stores reside in skeletal muscle as Phosphocreatine while the other 5% remain in the brain, liver, kidneys, and testes . Your body uses Phosphocreatine as a sort of fuel source to replenish ATP (adenosine triphosphate) reserves for muscle contraction.
An easier way to think of it is as fuel for your car. Your body’s engine (muscle) can’t fire and contract its pistons without first converting fuel (creatine) into energy (ATP) for the engine.
What are the benefits of creatine?
Creatine has a wide range of applications from enhancing athletic performance, supporting general health, and in some cases slowing down or deterring certain diseases [2, 3, 4]. Here are a few of its most notable clinically studied and peer-reviewed positive benefits it has to offer.
- Increased strength and endurance 
- Positively influence neural function 
- Improved blood sugar control 
- Some anti-cancerous properties 
- Promotes better muscle recovery 
When should I take creatine?
If you didn’t already know, finding out when to take creatine can yield mixed results. It’s a hotly debated topic with surprisingly few answers despite the immense amount of research behind it.
Objectively speaking, there are three main times when people take creatine. They are either pre-workout, post-workout, or at any time. Without going into detail, no clinical study has been able to conclusively pinpoint if one time is better to take over the other (yet). So, until there’s sound evidence for one over another, you can freely take it anytime and still achieve great results.
How much should I take?
How much creatine you should take depends on where you’re at. Basically, supplementing creatine can be divided into two stages you’ve probably heard of: Loading and Maintenance.
Loading: Loading is when you first saturate your skeletal muscle before beginning an exercise regimen. The standard and most common approach to loading lasts 5 days. During this period of 5 days, we recommend taking 1 dose of 5-grams, 5 times a day. Because this dosage is higher than usual, we suggest staggering it throughout the day.
Maintenance: Maintenance dosages are what you take after you’ve finished loading. This is because your muscles are now adequately saturated and no longer need such a high dose. The average clinically effective maintenance dose is generally between 5-10 grams per day.
Are there any side effects?
Since creatine became widely popular back in the 1990s, there have been over 1,000 studies conducted and billions of servings consumed. Interestingly, in all this time only one consistent side-effect has been reported: weight gain [10, 11, 12]. This includes both infants and elderly, too. This form of weight gain is almost always observed as some harmless, safe water retention.
That said, pure creatine has what’s considered to most people an impeccable safety profile.