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If you are interested in muscle building and gaining weight for strength, creatine is an amino acid that can help you meet your goals and provide endurance as well. It has a large following among athletes, from college to professional levels, as well as in the military and is generally regarded as safe and effective.
“Creatine naturally occurs in the brain and muscles, and is obtained in small amounts from meat and fish,” according to Kelly Jones, MS, RD, CSSD, board certified sports dietitian and founder of Student Athlete Nutrition. In fact, approximately 95% of creatine is stored in the muscles and used during physical activity to supply energy to your muscles. Many studies have shown improvements in “quick burst” of energy, “making it the optimal fuel for quick, high intensity muscular movements lasting up to 18 seconds,” says Jones. Additionally, “while the mechanism of action is still unknown, creatine has also been found to have antioxidant effects,” she adds.
There are an overwhelming amount of creatine supplements on the market, as well as different forms (although creatine monohydrate is the most popular and most researched form). Supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which can make it difficult to choose the right one for you. That’s why our team of registered dietitians within the Good Housekeeping Institute Nutrition Lab reviewed dozens to find the best creatine supplements for men and women to aid with strength training and muscle building. Here are some of the top picks, according to experts.
Our top picks:
You can learn more about what creatine is and how we evaluate creatine supplements – including tips for what to look for when choosing the best creatine supplement for you – at the end of this guide. Please note that price per dosage is based on the price at the time of publication.
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Best Overall Creatine Supplement
Creatine Monohydrate Powder
|Dose per serving||5 grams|
|Price per dose||$0.29|
Best Value Creatine Supplement
|Price per dose||$0.28|
Best Creatine Supplement on Amazon
|Price per dose||$0.40|
Best Creatine Supplement for Muscle Growth
Creatine Micronized Monohydrate
|Price per dose||$0.33|
Best Creatine Capsule Supplement
Creatine HCl Capsules
|Dosage||1 capsule (750mg)|
|Price per dose||$0.33|
Best Creatine Supplement for Athletes
|Price per dosage||$0.48|
Best Vegan Creatine Supplement
100% Premium Creatine Monohydrate
|Price per dosage||$0.37 ($0.30 sale price)|
Best Pre-Workout Creatine Supplement
Creatine Pure Performance & Power Unflavored
|Price per dose||$0.61|
|Form||Creapure creatine monohydrate|
Best Chewable Creatine Supplement
Creatine Chews Creatine Monohydrate
|Dose||5 grams – four tablets per day|
|Price per dose||$0.88|
Best Post-Workout Creatine Supplement
Micronized Creatine Powder
|Price per dosage||$0.42|
Best Unflavored Creatine Supplement
Creatine Premium Creatine with Creapure
|Price per serving||$0.65 ($0.62 sale price)|
|Form||Creapure creatine monohydrate|
While there are many creatine options to chose from most are available in powder form and as creatine monohydrate. We evaluated our choices based on the following criteria:
✔️Third-party tested: The FDA does regulate supplements, but the industry overall is poorly regulated, so we only looked at companies that conduct third-party testing by credible institutions such as USP, NSF, Consumer Lab, Labdoor, Informed-Choice and Informed Sport, to ensure quality standards and that what is on the product label is in fact what consumers are purchasing. We reviewed marketing claims, ingredient lists and product quality and prioritized companies that test for heavy metals, pesticide and herbicide contamination among others items of concern.
✔️Types of Creatine: we looked for a variety of forms of creatine that could accommodate a range of dietary preferences, although most forms of creatine contain one ingredient and the majority are available as a powder. We looked for brands that provide creatine that mixes easily into water and smoothies, since that is the popular way to use creatine.
✔️Ingredients: We prioritized companies that use better quality ingredients, free from artificial preservatives, sweeteners, fillers, synthetic dyes and colors.
What to look for in a creatine supplement?
When taken in the recommended dose, creatine is generally recognized as safe and is allowed by collegiate and professional sports.
When purchasing creatine, look for products that as always, have been third party tested and contain minimal ingredients. Avoid products with additives, artificial colors, flavors and sweeteners. Pay attention to other added ingredients such as caffeine.
✔️ Form and size: There are a variety of creatine supplement forms available, including tablets, powders and capsules. The majority of athletes we consulted favored the powder form because it was easily to blend in pre- and post-workout shakes and smoothies. The capsule and tablet forms are easy to use when traveling or more convenient when on-the-go.
✔️ Certifications: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not evaluate supplements for safety, purity or efficacy. Therefore, we recommend choosing brands that have been certified by a third party to ensure that what the label states is in them is accurate. Select brands that are verified by USP or NSF and carry their individual seals, or ones that are granted by an independent, third party organization that asserts quality control via purity tests and ingredient fact-checking. Supplements carrying the USP and NSF seal have had their ingredient list verified, and have cleared tests for manufacturing contaminants like lead or other heavy metals. Additionally, Informed Sport certification tests for over 250 banned substances. Other third party labs, such as ConsumerLab.com, provide their own testing and verification on a range of supplements.
Shoppers can also turn to the FDA’s Good Manufacturing Practices.
Who should take creatine?
Creatine is generally recommended as safe in healthy individuals, and to take for up to five years, and while it has historically been recommended for athletes, that is changing.
Recent studies have suggested a correlation between creatine supplementation and improved short term-memory, which may be beneficial for elderly or stressed individuals, according to the study, although more research is needed.
“I recommend creatine to nearly all adults! I find it most helpful to athletes of all levels, including those who are recreationally active, anyone struggling with mental health and the aging population, particularly those at risk of cognitive decline or who deal with Parkinson’s or other neuromuscular disorders,” says Jones.
Take note, it is always best to consult your healthcare provider before adding any new supplements into your regimen.
What is the recommended dose of creatine?
Research shows that creatine is well tolerated when taken at the recommended dose of 3-5 grams per day, or 0.1 g/kg of body mass, per day. According to Jones, “I almost always recommend a daily 3-5 gram dose, but note that it isn’t a big deal if you miss a few days. Unless you’re a competitive athlete in season, you don’t have to worry about bringing it on vacation either.”
“For those who have experienced traumatic brain injury, such as concussions, or who haven’t been taking creatine and are coming out of a surgery that damages muscles, a loading phase is recommended, where you would take 0.3 g/kg of your weight in 3-4 doses for 5-7 days and then drop to the 3-5 grams daily.”
The efficacy of taking creatine for cognitive improvement is still under research. These are broad recommendations and not individualized. It is always best to consult with your healthcare provider before taking any supplement.
What are the benefits of taking creatine?
According to Jones, while it has become well accepted that supplementation may directly benefit muscle mass and strength for athletes in power sports, or indirectly support strength for other athletes, “creatine research is showing it can also benefit athletes and active individuals by increasing aerobic threshold, enhancing the storage of carbs as energy in the muscles, and improving recovery from exercise.”
Additionally, Jones adds that creatine supplementation may also help preserve muscle during periods of inactivity as well as with aging. It is being researched as beneficial to those with illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease, ALS, and muscular dystrophy.
Is creatine safe and are there any side-effects to taking it?
As discussed above, creatine has been studied in everyone from infants to adolescents to elderly and even at high doses, studies have not produced negative side effects in healthy individuals, when taken at recommended doses. “There are a lot of myths about creatine that aren’t based on science, with some of the most common being that it causes kidney problems and muscle cramping,” adds Jones. There is concern that it could be related to hair loss in men. These myths have been disputed according to research studies.
Some of the athletes we spoke with reported gastrointestinal distress upon initiation of supplementing with creatine that quickly subsided. According to studies, this could be a side effect with higher doses.
Will you gain weight taking creatine?
Weight gain from creatine is a concern for some and a goal for others. With most healthy individuals, it is common to have small weight fluctuations, regardless of supplementation use, on a daily basis. Jones points out that, “even without creatine, the scale can shift by 5 pounds or more in a single day, or even a single long training session, so getting hung up on whether a couple of pounds came from creatine supplementation isn’t worth it.”
She adds, “where we might see increases in weight in the short term is related to body water retention. This is most notable if you engage in a creatine-loading phase.”
Athletes that we spoke with reported weight gain during their loading phase which they mentioned might be beneficial to which facilitated lifting heavier weight and building overall strength. Overall studies show that creatine “does not always lead to weight gain from water retention” and more importantly it “does not increase fat mass.”
Why trust Good Housekeeping
As a registered dietitian, Amy Fischer has worked with thousands of patients in several clinical settings for over 10 years including working with gastrointestinal and heart transplant patients. Her goal is to help people improve their health through whole foods and a nutritious diet. Amy believes that food is to be enjoyed whatever your diet goals may be and that ideally, the focus should be on improving overall health, eating and living better.
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