Creatine Crash Course: The Best Creatine Monohydrate Supplements

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 improve your athletic performance.

What to Look For in a Creatine

There are 2 things you should be looking for in a product:

  1. 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 about as much of it as you can.  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).
  2. 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. On top of this there are other types of creatine other than creatine monohydrate, but this is the cheapest and most effective form currently on the market.

The Ultimate Creatine Supplement Comparison Chart

Use the table by clicking the headings at the top of the table in order to easily manipulate the database of products to find what you are looking for, whether it’s a certain price, size, or type.  There is a detailed explanation below the table if you need help.

I’ve only included the highest quality and most popular brands in this table.  If you have a lot of experience with creatine and would like more options, check out my complete list of creatines.

Image
Brand/ Name
Servings
Type
Flavor
Calories/ Serving
Price/ Serving
Rating
 
Amazon ImageOptimum Nutrition Creatine Powder120PowderUnflavored0$4.5Click to see in Store
Amazon ImageAll American EFX Kre-Alkalyn EFX120CapsuleUnflavored0$4.4Click to see in Store
Amazon ImageMuscle Pharm Creatine60PowderUnflavored0$$4.4Click to see in Store
Amazon ImageCon-cret Concentrated Creatine Powder 48PowderMany0$$$4.4Click to see in Store
Amazon ImageTwinlab Creatine Fuel30CapsuleUnflavored0$$4.3Click to see in Store
Amazon ImageBody Fortress Super Advanced Creatine HP30PowderFruit Punch150$$4.2Click to see in Store

You’ve seen the table by now, so what exactly is this table?  It’s the culmination of my research on different creatine products.

There are 8 columns in the table:

  • Image : What the packaging looks like
  • Name
  • Servings: How many servings in the product according to the manufacturer
  • Type : There are two main forms: capsules and powders.  Capsules offer easier portability and packaging is typically smaller.
  • Flavor : Most creatines are unflavored and intended to be mixed with juice, but if this is not an option you may prefer a flavored one.
  • Calories Per Serving : Strictly speaking creatine has no calories, but often carbohydrates are added to enhance absorption.
  • Price : The prices will fluctuate over time, but I’ve used symbols to give you an idea of the ballpark range of the price per serving ( $ = lowest, $$ = medium, $$$ = highest).  Sort by the price if this is a critical part of your choice.
  • Rating: Based on external and personal reviews.

What is Creatine?

creatine structureIf you’ve come for a cram session about creatine you came to the right place.  First of all, it 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 it is really important when the body needs energy fast.  Basically, it works 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, whether you are bodybuilding or playing a sport.  Here are some more creatine facts before we move on.

Types of Creatine

I already briefly alluded to it, but now we can go into a bit more detail on the different types/forms that are sold:

  • Monohydrate: This is the most common form of creatine supplements and can be absorbed once it comes in contact with water and mixes.  A heavy majority of the products in the table above are monohydrate supplements.
  • Solution: Creatine can also be put into a gel-like solution to be contained in capsules.
  • Ethyl esther: This is a relatively new commercial form but is nowhere near as popular as monohydrate in terms of supplements.  While some claim it is better, there have been no scientific studies that support this claim.
  • Hydrochloride: a creatine developed in 2009 that is a hydrochloride salt.  So far only one main study has been conducted, and the results showed this form is 59x more soluble in water than its monohydrate counterpart, which may lead to better absorption in the body! 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 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, does it work in real life?

Before we look at any effects of supplementation we need to first see if supplements are effective in raising the creatine levels in our bodies.  About ½ of our creatine stores are 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 levels of muscle creatine are much lower in vegetarians, which is expected since meat is a major source, which leads us to think that supplementation is probably even more imperative for vegetarian athletes.[1]

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

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 supplements had an improvement in their high-intensity anaerobic and maximum power performance, by 5-15%![2]

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 only 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.

How Safe is Creatine?

There are two main people that could be at risk if they begin using creatine.  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, you’re out of luck.

Other than that however, studies have been very positive in terms of 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 supplementation.  The European Food Safety Authority stated that long-term intake of 3g per day is risk-free in terms of health.

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.[3]-[9]

Some people have concerns over the safety of including a loading phase where you take well over the recommended dose and have even gone as far to saying you need to cycle creatine. 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.

Reviews of the Top 3 Creatine Products

At this point you know quite a bit about supplementing with creatine!  You should be able to use the table above to help pick out something that meets 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 brand there is.  This is because all of their products ranging from protein to creatine are some of the highest quality on 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 review or:

Click Here For More Reviews and Ratings

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.

Click Here For More Reviews and Ratings

All American EFX Kre-Alkalyn EFX Capsules

Amazon ImageAll American is a company with a pretty solid reputation in this segment of the fitness supplement market.  They are also the highest rated capsule manufacturer, even higher than Optimum Nutrition.  Based on this reputation I did a full review of Kre Alkalyn. Not only is this a quality product, but because it comes in capsules it is highly portable and convenient!

Click Here For More Reviews and Ratings

Which Will You Choose?

I’ve told you everything I know, now which creatine monohydrate supplement will you pick?  Use the table near the top of the page to find a product that is in your price and quality range and meets all of your preferences. If you feel like any creatines were left out please leave me a comment below and I’ll get it added ASAP!

Sources
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.
3. Mayhew, DL; Mayhew, JL; Ware, JS (2002). “Effects of long-term creatine supplementation on liver and kidney functions in American college football players“. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism 12 (4): 453–60. PMID 12500988.
4. Kreider, Richard B.; Melton, Charles; Rasmussen, Christopher J.; Greenwood, Michael; Lancaster, Stacy; Cantler, Edward C.; Milnor, Pervis; Almada, Anthony L. (2003). “Long-term creatine supplementation does not significantly affect clinical markers of health in athletes“. Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry 244 (1–2): 95–104. doi:10.1023/A:1022469320296. PMID 12701816.
5.  Bender, A.; Beckers, J.; Schneider, I.; Hölter, S.M.; Haack, T.; Ruthsatz, T.; Vogt-Weisenhorn, D.M.; Becker, L. et al. (2008). “Creatine improves health and survival of mice“. Neurobiology of Aging 29 (9): 1404–11. doi:10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2007.03.001. PMID 17416441.
6. “Opinion of the Scientific Panel on Food Additives, Flavourings, Processing Aids and Materials in Contact with Food on a request from the Commission related to Creatine monohydrate for use in foods for particular nutritional uses Question number EFSA-Q-2003-125“. The EFSA Journal 36: 1–6. 2004. doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2004.36.
7. Gualano, Bruno; Ugrinowitsch, Carlos; Novaes, Rafael Batista; Artioli, Guilherme Gianini; Shimizu, Maria Heloisa; Seguro, Antonio Carlos; Harris, Roger Charles; Lancha, Antonio Herbert (2008). “Effects of creatine supplementation on renal function: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial”. European Journal of Applied Physiology 103 (1): 33–40. doi:10.1007/s00421-007-0669-3. PMID 18188581.
8.  Buford, Thomas W; Kreider, Richard B; Stout, Jeffrey R; Greenwood, Mike; Campbell, Bill; Spano, Marie; Ziegenfuss, Tim; Lopez, Hector et al. (2007). “International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: Creatine supplementation and exercise”. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 4: 6. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-4-6. PMC 2048496. PMID 17908288.
9. Gualano, Bruno; Ferreira, Desire Coelho; Sapienza, Marcelo Tatit; Seguro, Antonio Carlos; Lancha, Antonio Herbert (2010). “Effect of Short-term High-Dose Creatine Supplementation on Measured GFR in a Young Man with a Single Kidney“. American Journal of Kidney Diseases 55 (3): e7–9. doi:10.1053/j.ajkd.2009.10.053. PMID 20060630.