Finding the best creatine can be hard, but the tools and information on this page will make it easy to find a high quality product that meets all your needs. Whether you are a bodybuilder, runner, football, or any other kind of athlete, male or female (see creatine for women), creatine can be used in order to help you sustain higher intensity training and performance.
What to Look For in a Creatine
There are 2 things you should be looking for in a product:
- Sugar content: Many people will tell you (especially salesmen) that you need sugar to absorb creatine. This is actually just a common myth. You can take pure creatine by itself and absorb a good amount of it. There is one exception, if you have a TON of sugar (90 grams+), it will raise creatine absorption, as found in this study. No product obviously includes that much, so while you can buy a product with sugar in it if you want, it’s far from necessary (plus you can always just mix in some at home).
- Type: There are two main types of supplements: powders and pills. Powders obviously have to be mixed in a drink, and personally I find them to be less convenient than pills. However, if you have difficulty swallowing pills, or just prefer powder, there’s no difference in the quality of products, just the form.
If you’d like more background information on creatine supplements, feel free to read how creatine works. Otherwise, I have a really cool tool to show you to help you pick a supplement.
What is Creatine?
creatine structureIf you’ve come for a cram session about creatine you came to the right place. First of all, creatine is an organic acid found in animals with vertebrates, the structure is shown in the picture on the right. The body can manufacture creatine using a combination of amino acids (from protein) or absorb it from a few different external sources that we will discuss later.
Okay, so why do we care about this stuff? It turns out that creatine is really important when the body needs energy fast. Basically, creatine helps by accelerating the formation of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which as you may remember from biology class is used to transport energy to whatever muscles need it. Having a lot of this during high intensity exercise is important to performance. If you want to learn more about creatine in general check out my article on creatine facts.
Types of Creatine
I already briefly alluded to it, but now we can go into a bit more detail on the different types of Creatine:
- Creatine Monohydrate: This is the most common form of creatine supplements and can be absorbed once it comes in contact with water. A heavy majority of the products in the table above are creatine monohydrate.
Solution: Creatine can also be put into a gel-like solution to be contained in capsules.
- Creatine ethyl esther: This is a relatively new commercial creatine but is nowhere near as popular as creatine monohydrate in terms of supplements. While some claim it is better, there have been no scientific studies that support this claim.
- Creatine hydrochloride: a creatine developed in 2009 that is a hydrochloride salt. So far only one main study has been conducted, and the results showed that creatine in this form is 59x more soluble in water than its monohydrate counterpart! The idea behind using creatine hydrochloride is essentially the exact same as creatine nitrate. While more studies need to be done these initial findings are promising and you’ll likely see a lot more creatine hydrochloride supplements in the years to come.
Does Creatine Work?
In theory you can probably guess what should happen when people take creatine supplements, but the question is, in reality does creatine work?
Before we look at any effects of supplementation we need to first see that the creatine supplements are effective in raising the creatine levels in our bodies. About ½ of our creatine is made by the body, but the other ½ comes from food sources (about 1 gram per day), in theory supplementation should have a significant effect.
Studies have shown that creatine levels are much lower in vegetarians, which is expected since meat is a major source, which leads us to think that creatine supplementation is probably even more imperative for vegetarian athletes.
One last note is that if you start supplementing you’ll notice a slight creatine weight gain, as creatine will cause you to retain extra water.
Results of Creatine Supplementation
This is in my opinion the highest area of interest for most people, myself included; are there any creatine benefits? The results in studies have been very promising. In an Australian study conducted by Stephen Bird a variety of athletes were given creatine loading doses of up to 20-30 grams and results were measured on their performances. What was seen was that the athletes using creatine supplements had an improvement in their high-intensity anaerobic and maximum power performance, by 5-15%!
Now with that being said, it was also seen that athletes in endurance sports saw no measurable benefit from the creatine. This actually supports the theory we looked at earlier since creatine plays a role in ATP facilitation, which is a big factor in short term energy production. Since results are such an important aspect of supplementation I wrote a full post on the pros and cons of creatine.
Is Creatine Safe?
There are two main people that could be at risk if they begin creatine supplementation. It appears to be a risk to people with existing renal disease, and in people with Polycystic Kidney Disease. Both are pretty rare, but if you have either creatine supplementation is not a good idea.
Other than that however, studies have been very positive in terms of creatine safety. Given that creatine supplementation is relatively new no in-depth long term studies have been completed, but short term studies seem to indicate that there are no dangers of creatine supplementation. The European Food Safety Authority stated that long-term intake of 3g of creatine per day is risk-free.
The few small long-term studies have thus far had positive results as well. The main concern for most people is typically liver and kidney damage, but these myths have been scientifically disproven as well.-
Some people have concerns over the safety of including a creatine loading phase where you take well over the recommended dose and have even gone as far to saying you need to have a creatine cycle. As long as you aren’t overdoing your intake for more than 2-3 weeks you shouldn’t have any issues. Please refer to those articles I have just linked if you need more information.
The Best Creatine Supplement – Top 3 Creatine Reviews
At this point you know quite a bit about supplementing with creatine! You should be able to use the table above to help pick the best creatine supplement for your individual needs. However, if you aren’t too picky here are 3 brief reviews on the most popular products.
Optimum Nutrition Creatine Powder
Amazon ImageOptimum Nutrition is one of, if not the most well-known supplement company there is. This is because all of their products ranging from protein to creatine are some of the best in the market.
For this particular product Optimum Nutrition focuses on creating a simple but effective product. There aren’t any additives, no bad taste, and it mixes great with juice. Read my full optimum nutrition creatine review or:
NOW Foods Creatine Powder
Amazon ImageAnother well-known company is NOW Foods. They are probably the best known company for making a quality product on a budget. This is a vegetarian product and very simple just like Optimum Nutrition, with very little added substances. Once again it mixes well in juice, but water works find as well if you prefer.
All American EFX Kre-Alkalyn EFX Capsules
Amazon ImageAll American is a company with a pretty solid reputation in the creatine market of supplementation. They are also the highest rated creatine capsule manufacturer, even higher than Optimum Nutrition. Based on this reputation I did a full review of Kre Alkalyn Creatine. Not only is this a quality product, but because it comes in capsules it is highly portable and convenient!
Which Will You Choose?
I’ve told you everything I know, now which creatine supplement will you pick? Use the table near the top of the page to find a creatine product that is in your price and quality range and meets all of your preferences. One final post I would like to point you towards if you are on a tight budget is my post on creatine vs protein, one may be better than the other depending on different factors.
If you feel like any creatines were left out please leave me a comment below and I’ll get it added ASAP!
1. Burke DG, Chilibeck PD, Parise G, Candow DG, Mahoney D, Tarnopolsky M (2003). “Effect of creatine and weight training on muscle creatine and performance in vegetarians”. Medicine and science in sports and exercise 35 (11): 1946–55. doi:10.1249/01.MSS.0000093614.17517.79. PMID 14600563.
2. Bird, Stephen. “CREATINE SUPPLEMENTATION AND EXERCISE PERFORMANCE: A BRIEF REVIEW”. www.jssm.org. Retrieved 23 March 2013.