Creatine – you’ve probably seen it on the shelves next to the protein powders and other bodybuilding supplements. But what is it? Despite being comprised of three amino acids, it isn’t a protein.
It may enhance performance – but it isn’t a stimulant. Is this white, bland-tasting powder the enigma of the fitness world? Nah, there’s nothing mysterious about it. Read on to learn what it is, how it works, and our recommendations for the best creatine supplements with the most effective muscle gains.
Searching for ‘creatine powder’ on a popular online retailer returns hundreds of results. The prospect of poring over so many products can be daunting.
That’s what we’re here for. Scroll down to see our most recommended creatine products. We chose them based on quality, value, and brand reputation.
1. Crazy Nutrition Ultimate CRN-5
Brand new for 2022 is an incredible creatine formula by Crazy Nutrition, that’s so good it knocked Reflex Nutrition Creature off the top spot!
This “Crazy” create supplement packs a serious punch with not one, two, or three kinds of creatine, but FIVE. Crazy Nutrition CRN-5 contains creatine monohydrate, hydrochloride, ethyl ester, malate, and pyruvate to make for a synergistic muscle and strength-building supplement, and is the best available – nothing comes close.
On top of this delicious tasting blend of premium high-strength creatines, it contains minerals to optimize delivery and hydrate muscles. This formula means there’s no loading phase – start taking right away and experience an increase in strength, power, and muscle mass.
2. Reflex Nutrition Creapure Creatine
From by Reflex Nutrition—one of the UK’s leading sports nutrition companies—comes Creapure Creatine.
It’s synthesized by Germany’s specialist chemical company, AlzChem, to strict quality control standards, yielding a safe, high-purity, non-animal sourced product.
Each 5-gram serving—there are 100 servings per half-kilo container, and 50 servings in a 250-gram tub—provides rapidly absorbed creatine monohydrate that boosts muscle performance and enhances recovery.
Like other Reflex Nutrition products, Creapure Creatine contains no soy, aspartame, or artificial coloring agents. It’s as pure as pure can be, and mixes easily in water and other liquids.
We’d say it tastes great, but it tastes like nothing at all and is ideal for adding to smoothies and shakes.
Reflex Nutrition Creapure Creatine Key Features
- A proven performance enhancer—improves physical output during high-intensity exercise
- Free from animal products and testing—suitable for vegans
- Free of artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners
- Manufactured under stringent standards
- Rapidly absorbed
- Dissolves easily
- Guaranteed BSE-free
3. BULK POWDERS Creatine Monohydrate Powder
BULK POWDERS—you might recognize them as the plainly packaged, price-cutting, direct-to-consumer brand behind other affordable sports supplements—bring to market this low-cost, no-nonsense, high-value creatine monohydrate powder.
Available in 500-gram and 1-kilogram pouches, it’s 99.9% pure, and provides all the benefits of creatine at an incredible price.
A single three to five gram dose supplements your body’s endogenous creatine synthesis, producing more energy-giving adenosine triphosphate (ATP) when you need it most.
Like most creatine products, BULK POWDERS creatine monohydrate is virtually flavourless, and mixes well.
Bulk Powders Creatine Key Features
- High-quality creatine monohydrate
- Mixes well with plain water and other liquids—perfect for smoothies and shakes
- Available in a variety of convenient sizes
- An economically priced creatine monohydrate supplement
4. CNP Pro Creatine Monohydrate
Maybe you’ve never heard of CNP, but they’ve been in the business of sports nutrition for over twenty years. Their Pro Creatine Monohydrate Powder is a fine example of why – it’s a completely pure creatine powder, absolutely free of excipients, preservatives and other ingredients.
At a recommended dose of five grams a day, each half-kilogram container provides 100 servings – and at just under £13, it’s excellent value for the money.
Flavourless and finely powdered, CNP Pro Creatine Monohydrate blends easily with water, fruit juice and other liquids. Use it plain, or add it to your favourite smoothie or protein mix to give your muscles more power fast.
CNP Pro Features
- Ideal for an active lifestyle
- Five grams of creatine monohydrate per serving
- 100 servings per container
- Improves muscular performance
- Completely pure and filler-free
Creatine Supplement Buying Guide
Creatine is one of the simplest, most cost-effective ways to maximize your workouts—but how does it work? It isn’t magic (though it might seem like it!)—it’s science. Let’s jump right in, shall we?
What Is Creatine, Anyway?
Unlike protein powder, creatine contains only three amino acids—glycine, l-arginine and l-methionine. Taken in isolation, these aminos each provide their own unique benefits.
For example, high-dose glycine has shown promise in the treatment of certain mood disorders. When precisely combined, glycine, l-arginine and l-methionine form creatine—a nitrogenous organic acid.
Creatine is produced endogenously by the kidneys, liver and pancreas, and can be obtained from food, most notably fish and meat—though they provide relatively little in comparison to supplemental sources.
That said, vegetarian diets have been shown to result in measurably lower resting creatine levels.
The body produces approximately one to two grams of creatine per day. It’s converted into phosphocreatine, stored largely in the muscles, and, as it’s used, degraded into creatinine, which is excreted in the urine.
Creatinine excretion is roughly on par with the rate of endogenous production.
How Does Creatine Work?
When you take a creatine supplement, creatine is transported into the cells by CreaT1—a genetic creatine transporter.
Chemical reactions—phosphorylation and glycosylation, which involve the addition of phosphorus and glycans (sugar compounds) to proteins—control the uptake of creatine within the body, which is further regulated by existing creatine stores in and outside of the cells.
Creatine supplementation improves athletic performance by increasing mitochondrial levels of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Mitochondria are organelles—specialized structures found in cells—responsible for energy production and cellular respiration.
ATP is a complex substance that provides energy for many cellular processes, including nerve impulses, chemical synthesis, enzymatic reactions and muscle contraction. It’s found in all life-forms, and is, as such, often described as a “molecular unit of currency”.
ATP is crucial to muscle function, particularly where explosive effort—think rugby, sprinting, jumping or strength training—is concerned. Unfortunately, during high-intensity exercise, ATP is depleted faster than it can be replenished.
That’s why it’s hard for most people to sustain a full-speed sprint for more than five to ten seconds.
When your car is low on petrol (or voltage, if you drive an electric vehicle), what do you do? Fill up the tank or charge the battery.
But adenosine triphosphate isn’t like regular fuel—it’s supercharged. The only ways to top up your ATP stores are to stop and rest, or consume creatine.
Even six days of creatine supplementation can dramatically increase muscle creatine levels, improving explosive speed and power—and without the drawbacks of caffeine, ephedra or other central nervous system stimulants.
More cellular energy begets more power, which allows for greater adaptation, growth, and strength. It’s part of a virtuous cycle—one which can be sustained with the correct diet and training regime—and disrupted by insufficient creatine levels.
What Else is Creatine Good For?
There’s ample evidence that creatine supplementation is of benefit for high-intensity activity.
Does that mean it’s only for hardcore athletes? Not at all. Research also indicates that consuming creatine while carb-loading can maximize glycogen levels. Glycogen is the primary fuel source utilized during endurance exercise, and increasing it may help you climb, walk, swim and ride longer.
Creatine also promotes the growth of new muscle fibers, while raising levels of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1). IGF-1 increases lean mass and protein synthesis, improving body composition and tissue repair.
Furthermore, creatine supplementation can provide a relatively quick (albeit, superficial) boost to muscle size via cell volumization—in other words, by increasing water content.
And, by decreasing myostatin—a protein produced by muscle cells, and responsible for inhibiting myogenesis (muscle growth), creatine supplements may help you build long-lasting muscle faster.
Non-Physical Benefits of Creatine
The brain isn’t a muscle, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t feed it like one.
In fact, the brain utilizes two primary power sources: ketones and glucose. It’s through glucose metabolism and the generation of ATP that the fuel for brain function is produced.
Research indicates that four weeks of oral supplementation with creatine monohydrate significantly increases brain levels of creatine—this shows that creatine passes the blood-brain barrier.
Higher brain creatine levels may improve cognition, as evidenced by studies showing better mental performance in sleep-deprived individuals, greater working memory in vegetarians, and enhanced verbal and spatial memory in the elderly, after regular creatine use.
Furthermore, creatine has shown promise in alleviating some symptoms of age-related cognitive decline, and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Huntington’s, Parkinson’s and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
These conditions are linked to dysfunctional energy metabolism, which creatine—used to produce adenosine triphosphate—helps improve.
Will taking a creatine supplement turbocharge your brain? Likely not—but if you’re run down, overwhelmed or sleep-deprived, a daily scoop of creatine monohydrate may give you the mental boost you need.
Is Creatine Safe?
Creatine has been widely studied for efficacy and safety. The International Society of Sports Nutrition considers it beneficial and extremely safe.
As with any supplement, side effects are possible, but fortunately, they are relatively mild and uncommon. Creatine, taken in large quantities (especially so-called “loading doses” of up to 20 grams per day) may cause digestive upset.
Also—though there is little evidence to suggest risk—creatine should be used cautiously by those with kidney or liver issues or hypertension.
Though creatine is found primarily in meat and fish, the supplemental form is chemically synthesized under controlled heat and pressure, resulting in pure creatine crystals—making it perfectly suitable for vegans and vegetarians.
Also, contrary to popular belief, creatine is not a hormone, steroid or banned substance.
What’s the Best Form of Creatine?
There are several forms of creatine: monohydrate, kre-alkalyn, hydrochloride, ethyl-ester and nitrate.
Each is purported to have unique benefitsd—better absorption, less water retention, smaller required doses—but there’s a good reason that the best creatine supplements use the monohydrate form. It’s inexpensive, widely available, highly bioavailable and effective.
Don’t go mad over insignificant differences; go with what works.
How to Use Creatine
Using creatine powder couldn’t be easier—stick to the manufacturer’s recommended dosage, and add creatine to water, fruit juice, or your smoothie or protein shake of choice.
Most creatine products include a handy scoop that holds exactly the right amount.
Good-quality creatine monohydrate mixes easily. You can use a spoon or a shaker cup. If you have digestive issues, try taking creatine on a full stomach.
Because plain creatine powder is virtually flavourless, it goes with anything.
Can I Take More Than Five Grams a Day?
We always advise not taking more than the recommended dose of any supplement, even one as safe as creatine.
That said, doses of up to 20 grams spread throughout the day, and taken over the course of several days to a week, are not unheard of. Such high doses help to quickly maximize muscle stores of creatine, but are, for most people, unnecessary.
If you train hard and wish to experiment with creatine loading, please work your way up to more frequent doses, and avoid upsetting your stomach.
Who is Creatine For?
Creatine, with its wide-ranging benefits and excellent safety profile, ranks alongside protein powder as a sports supplement that’s great for almost anyone. It’s a staple among bodybuilders, but regular fitness enthusiasts also use it to enhance their speed and power.
Trying to lose weight? Because of its effects on muscle mass and body composition, creatine monohydrate may indirectly function as a weight loss aid.
And vegetarians and vegans, whose creatine stores tend to be lower than those on an omnivorous diet, can easily make up for that lack by supplementing with creatine.
Maximizing the Effects of Creatine
To make the most of your creatine supplement, mix it with a non-acidic juice, or take it in conjunction with dextrose—a high-glycemic carbohydrate.
Doing so creates an insulin spike, which improves creatine uptake.
Combining creatine with waxy maize—a corn-derived starch—may provide similar benefits. Plain water is fine, too, but may not push as much creatine into your system.
Some research also suggests that taking creatine with a one-to-one ratio of carbs to proteins can increase absorption. An easy way to do this is to add creatine to a pre- or post-workout shake that contains both a quality protein powder, and a healthy amount of rapidly absorbed carbohydrates.
Creatine can be taken at any time, for the most benefit, consume it shortly before or after working out.
Anything Else to Know?
Brand reputation and quality matter. Though creatine monohydrate is a relatively simple product—there’s no concern over calories, flavour or preservatives—it’s still important to choose creatine from a reputable company that adheres to good manufacturing practices, ensuring a pure, safe product.
Wrapping it Up
We hope you’ve enjoyed our guide to the best creatine supplements. Next to whey protein, creatine is one of the most widely used sports nutrition products, favoured by professional athletes, every day gym-goers, and anyone else looking for a stimulant-free energy boost.
Try incorporating a scoop of high-quality creatine monohydrate into your daily routine, and enjoy more speed, power, and strength.