Beginners Guide: Best Creatine Supplement Powders for 2018
Confused about Creatine? Our guide shows you how creatine works, the different types available and how to choose the best creatine supplement for your body building goals.
Many supplements claim to increase muscle growth, strength, and endurance but only one has conclusive proof to support them, and supplement is creatine.
Despite being one of the most widely used and scientifically researched supplements, there's still a lot of confusion surrounding creatine.
That's why we produced this guide. To help you understand how creatine works, whether you need it, how to take it and the best creatine supplements to take.
What Is Creatine
Creatine is nitrogenous acid created naturally in the human body. You can also acquire it from red meat and fish. The organic compound comprises of the amino acids L-arginine, glycine, and L-methionine.
How Creatine Works
The main energy source for every cell in your body, including muscles, is Adenosine Triphosphate
Adenosine Diphosphate is the waste product produced by the body after using ATP to fuel muscle contractions
When lifting weights the body uses ATP to contract the muscles
Creatine works by converting A.D.P into A.T.P to produce the energy your need for muscle recovery and growth nnnn
Creatine performs an important role in the body's energy system.
During periods of high exertion, such as weightlifting, the body uses creatine to supply energy to the muscle cells. In a way, creatine acts as an extra fuel tank.
The body breaks down a molecule called ATP (adenosine triphosphate) an energy source that fuels muscular contractions. With more ATP available the more energy you have to fuel your workouts.
However, high-intensity training can rapidly deplete ATP. During these periods the body calls upon its creatine reserves and converts them into new ATP molecules.
Unfortunately, these reserves also deplete rapidly. That's why it's crucial to get plenty of creatine from your diet or supplementation in order build bigger, stronger muscles.
What Are The Benefits Of Using Creatine To Build Muscle
Here are the three top benefits of creatine supplementation:
Helps Increase Muscle Strength and Endurance
Creatine is a fast-acting energy source for anaerobic exercises especially weight lifting because it's stored directly in the muscle cells.
When you have higher levels of creatine, there's more fuel to burn so you can lift heavier weights for longer. And the longer and heavier you can lift the stronger you'll get.
In simple terms, creatine makes you stronger.
In fact, creatine supplements are a popular choice among athletes involved in anaerobic exercise because of the supplements ability to fuel explosive bursts of energy and strength.
Helps Increase Muscle Size
Increasing research shows that taking creatine supplements increases water retention in the muscle fibers which helps increase body mass and muscle size.
Helps Improve Muscle Recovery Times
Studies show that having high levels of creatine while performing intensive weightlifting workouts can help lower lactate acid and ammonia in the blood. This is significant because both lactic acid and ammonia can suppress peak performance levels.
When Is The Best Time To Take Creatine
There's a lot of debate surrounding the importance of nutrient timing or whether it makes any difference at all.
Elite bodybuilders and athletes have attempted to optimize everything from protein powders, fat burners, and testosterone boosters to give them an edge.
And there's no shortage of anecdotal claims about their effectiveness even if scientific evidence is much harder to find.
There are studies suggesting the timing of carb consumption may have positive effects on muscle recovery and growth, replenishing glycogen stores and even protein synthesis.
And you would expect a highly researched supplement like creatine to be an exception. However, there's no clear evidence on the optimal time to take creatine.
So, should you take creatine pre-workout or post workout or does it matter?
Even with limited research available, most creatine supplement takers fall into 2 distinct groups:
Currently, there's not enough research to determine the optimal time to take creatine. Until further evidence is available, your best bet is to experiment to find out what works for you.
How Much Creatine Do I Need to Take?
If you're new to creatine the most common dosing protocol is to front load for a short period then follow with a daily maintenance dose. Front loading with a heavy dose will saturate your creatine reserves.
The most efficient way to front load is a daily dosage of 25 grams for the first five or six days. To avoid digestion problems don't take the 25 grams dose in one go.
Instead, take a five-gram dose at five different times of the day. Then follow with a maintenance dosage of one 5 gram serving per day.
How it Works: Creatine Loading
The aim of front loading is to saturate your muscle cells with creatine during the first week of use. The main benefit of Front loading is faster results, not better results.
Front Loading Phase - First Week of Use
Recommended dose is 20 to 25 grams of creatine each day for the first week. Its recommended to space the 5 gram serving evenly throughout the day.
Maintenance Phase - Following First Week of Use
The aim of the maintenance phase is to maintain the saturation levels achieved during the first week. The maintain dose is usually 5 - 10 grams a day.
How Long Should You Take Creatine?
Creatine is considered to be a safe supplement as there have been no reports of serious side effects with its long-term use.
However, if you're going to use creatine all year round, make sure its good quality. Cheap creatine can contain impurities which may cause complications with long term use.
Creapure is considered to be the best quality and purest form of Creatine available. Creapure is produced by Alzchem, a German company that uses an intensive screening process to remove impurities. The result is 99.9% pure creatine monohydrate.
The 8 Week Creatine Cycle
Taking creatine over an eight-week period has proven to be a very popular cycle that has produced great results for many users.
Here's an example of an eight-week creatine cycle:
Week One: Pre-load with a 5g serving 4 times a day.
Week Two - Six: 5g of creatine per day.
As with any sports supplement, it's a good idea to take a break once and while. After an eight-week cycle, stop taking creatine for four weeks then start again with a six-week cycle.
For continuous use - a creatine dosage of 2 to 5 grams per day is suitable for most people.
Understanding The Different Types of Creatine
There's a lot of confusion surrounding creatine, and the increasing number of alternatives doesn't make it any easier.
The fact is, the different types are all based on monohydrate, although supplement companies want you to think otherwise. You'll often see a particular kind of creatine marketed as superior to another.
Of course, this is just a marketing ploy to create hype around the product to boost sales.
When you cut through the hype they're all creatine monohydrate, just processed differently.
Also, no conclusive evidence supports the claim they're superior to monohydrate in building muscle and strength. The only real difference is certain types either mix better or absorb more rapidly.
In fact, the majority of studies into benefits of creatine are based on creatine monohydrate. Until any further studies are conducted on other forms of creatine, your best bet is to stick with creatine monohydrate.
There are now many different varieties of creatine, however they're all based on monohydrate so their effectiveness in building muscle and strength will be the same.
Creatine Monohydrate (CM)
CM is the most popular form of creatine supplement.
Its also the most widely studied which means the majority of creatine's beneficial effects, including increased strength and athletic performance, are attributed to monohydrate.
There are even a few forms of creative monohydrate.
Creatine Monohydrate Anhydrous
Anhydrous is simply Creatine Monohydrate (CM) with the water removed resulting in higher concentrations per gram by gram basis. There's no scientific evidence that anhydrous is any better than monohydrate.
Micronized Creatine Monohydrate Powder
The same as mono, the only difference is the process. Micronized creatine is milled to create finer powder particles which make this form more water-soluble and easier to mix compared to regular monohydrate.
Summary: Monohydrate is the most common and popular creatine powder supplement. It's also the most widely studied and proven form to boost athletic performance during high-intensity exercise.
Creatine Ethyl Ester (CEE)
CEE is a variant of creatine monohydrate with an ethyl ester attached to it.CEE is heavily marketed as a superior form of creatine with a higher absorption rate than monohydrate.
However, a recent study found CEE to have an inferior absorption rate compared to monohydrate.
Furthermore, CEE is also known to increase creatinine, a waste by-product produced from muscle metabolism. High levels of creatinine in the blood is a reliable indicator of impaired kidney function.
Creatine Hydrochloride (CH)
To create CH, hydrochloride acid is bound to the creatine molecule.
CH has excellent water solubility which means you can use smaller doses. With less powder, digestion is easier, and there's less risk of the GI problems that are common with monohydrate.
Currently, there's no scientific evidence to suggest that creatine hydrochloride is more effective than CM at increasing strength and athletic performance.
Creatine Nitrate (CN)
Creatine nitrate is a relatively new alternative to CM. CN is claimed to be more effective than CM because it contains nitrates. These increase oxygen in the blood which helps support recovery times and athletic performance. Currently, no studies support this claim and the only real benefit it has over CM is greater water solubility.
Creatine Malate (CM)
Also known as Tri-Creatine Malate, this form has three separate creatine monohydrate molecules attached to a single molecule of malic acid. Malic acid has shown to improve athletic performance as and increase growth hormone.
The theory is that combining the two should have the same effect. Apart from one study, there's limited research that conclusively supports this claim, although anecdotal evidence suggests it does.
Creatine malate is considered more bio-available than CM and therefore, is easier to digest.
Kre-Alkayln or Buffered Creatine
Kre-Alkalyn is a recently touted "new and improved" creatine developed to avoid monohydrate's common side effects of GI discomfort and bloating. Kre-Alkaylan is considered more stable than creatine. There's also claims that it reduces the production of creatinine - a waste byproduct of creatine metabolism.
Again, these claims are based on anecdotal rather than scientific proof. A study testing the effectiveness of kre-Alkaylan vs. creatine monohydrate found the former to produce no significant improvements in body composition, strength, or anaerobic capacity.
Creatine Magnesium Chelate (CMC)
Creatine Magnesium Chelate has magnesium attached to the molecule. Adding magnesium can help absorb creatine into the muscle cells
Greater absorption should improve performance levels although one study did find little difference between the two.
Anecdotal evidence does suggest CMC has a higher bioavailability than CM. However, more scientific research is needed to compare the effectiveness of creatine magnesium chelate vs. creatine monohydrate to determine a clear winner.
Creatine Citrate (CC)
This form has citric acid added to the creatine molecule. Citric acid has a role in energy production, therefore, combining the two should in theory boost energy and endurance levels. Which sounds promising buts there's no scientific evidence proving this.
CC is considered to be the most water-soluble of all forms of creatine and therefore, easier to mix and digest.
Liquid Creatine (LC)
LC is a ready-to-drink form of creatine. Pre-mixing the powder in the water means you don't have to mix it yourself.
Although more convenient, studies reveal the longer creatine is suspended in water, the faster it breakdown and becomes less potent.What's more, no research shows liquid creatine to be any more effective than CM.
Which is the Best Creatine Powder
Several forms of creatine claim to be superior to creatine monohydrate, however, no conclusive scientific evidence backs up these claims.
The fact is, all the major benefits of creatine are associated with monohydrate because it's the most widely studied.
The only major downside of monohydrate is that for some people it can be hard to digest, cause bloating and digestive discomfort.
It also has a tendency to increase water retention. However, this can be desirable if you're looking to bulk.
If water solubility is deciding factor, choose either HCI or CC over CM. Otherwise, CM will give you the best bang for your buck regarding effectiveness and value for money.
Top 3 Creatine Supplement Reviews for 2017
Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine Powder Review
If you're looking for a reputable brand that consistently delivers high-quality products at affordable prices, look no further than Optimum Nutrition. The supplement company is one of the biggest and most respected names in the sports and nutritional market.ON's creatine powder uses monohydrate the most clinically tested form of creatine proven to help boost strength and endurance levels. It's also micronized to dissolve easier in water for greater absorption. The creatine used is Creapure the cleanest and purest form you can buy.
- Bitter taste
If you need a creatine powder that's going to give you extra intensity in the gym or if purity and value for money are important considerations, then ON's creatine powder supplement is a no-brainer. You also get peace of mind that you're buying from a highly reputable and trustworthy brand.
Beast Sports Nutrition Creature - Creatine Powder Review
Creature by Beast Sports Nutrition contains a potent blend of 5 different types of creatine. First, there's Creapure Monohydrate, the purest form on the market, creatine magnesium chelate for greater absorption and no bloating, Creatine AKG for muscle growth and repair, Anhydrous a highly concentrated creatine source and buffered creatine for easier digestion and mixability.
Beast Sports Nutrition Creature absorbs fast so expect your flagging post workout ATP levels to replenish quickly. The addition of AKG should help reduce recovery times so you can train more and get bigger faster. The blend is digestive friendly, and users report little to bloating or stomach discomfort. There's no water retention which makes this a smart option for promoting lean muscle. Yes, it's more expensive serving, but you're getting five different creatines in one, which makes this great value for money.
Bulk Supplements Pure Creatine HCL Powder (1 KG) Review
Containing 99.99% pure Creatine HCL, Bulk Supplements Creatine powder supplement is a smart alternative if monohydrate causes digestive problems and bloating.HCL's superior water solubility requires smaller doses to deliver the same results. HCL is easier to mix and digests quickly, so the creatine molecules rapidly are absorbed into the muscle cells to optimize gains. There's no risk of excessive water retention and bloating making HCL a clear choice for lean bulking.What's more, Bulk Supplements Creatine HCL is vegan-friendly and free from sugar, soy, dairy, yeast, gluten, GMO, and additives. And at $0.03 per gram, you're also getting great value for money.
- Salty taste
With Bulk Supplements Creatine HCI you're getting all the benefits of creatine mono but without the common side effects of bloating and water retention. It's easy to mix, and the superior water solubility means digestive problems are not an issue. You'd expect to pay a bit more for HCL. But, this product offers outstanding value for money. A solid buy.
Centro de Investigación y Medicina del Deporte: Effects of creatine supplementation on muscle power, endurance, and sprint performance.
NCAA Student-Athlete Substance Use Study - Executive Summary August 2014.
Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada: Global and targeted gene expression and protein content in skeletal muscle of young men following short-term creatine monohydrate supplementation.
Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition - The effects of pre versus post workout supplementation of creatine monohydrate on body composition and strength.
www.medicinenet.com: Creatine Blood Test - Medical Author: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD.
University of Physical Education Department of Recreation and Biological Regeneration,Cracow,Poland: Effect of creatine malate supplementation on physical performance, body composition and selected hormone levels in spinters and long-distance runners.
Department of Health and Kinesiology, Exercise and Sport Nutrition Laboratory, Texas A&M University: A buffered form of creatine does not promote greater changes in muscle creatine content, body composition, or training adaptations than creatine monohydrate.