Best Creatine Brands (+9 Proven Benefits)

Best Creatine Brands (+9 Proven Benefits)

Creatine is one of the most popular sports supplements of the 21st century. Luckily, this makes it one of the most well-studied supplements in the industry.

So, can creatine live up to the hype? In addition to highlighting 3 of the best creatine brands, we’ve laid out 9 of the science-backed benefits of creatine supplementation.

In this guide:

Quick Glance
Bulksupplements Creatine Monohydrate Powder Micronized (1 Kilogram)Best Overall: BulkSupplements – Creatine Monohydrate Powder

“With over 10,000 positive reviews on Amazon, this is one of the best creatine powders for most people.”
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Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine Monohydrate Powder, Unflavored, Keto Friendly, 400 Servings (Packaging May Vary)Best Value: Optimum Nutrition – Bulk Creatine Monohydrate Powder

“If you want the most bang for your buck, this 400-serving bucket of creatine goes a long way.”
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Pure Creatine Monohydrate – 200 Servings - 1,000 Grams, 2.2lb Bulk, Vegan, Non-GMO, Gluten Free, Soy Free. Aid Strength Gains, No Artificial Ingredients - NAKED CREATINEQuick-Dissolve Pick: Naked – Quick-Dissolving Creatine Monohydrate

“Naked’s pure creatine monohydrate powder dissolves much more easily than most other brands.”
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Our Criteria:

  • Pure creatine monohydrate power
    • Filler doesn’t help you reach your goals.
  • 60 cents or less per ounce (28.3 grams)
    • Success shouldn’t break the bank.
  • Tons of positive reviews
    • Stick with what’s crowd-tested and approved.

The 3 Best Creatine Powders

Best Creatine Power Overall

BulkSupplements – Creatine Monohydrate Powder

  • Pure creatine
  • Top Amazon pick
  • Vegan

If you want a quick and easy decision on the best creatine powder, this is probably it. BulkSupplements’ creatine contains no fillers, and is lab tested to ensure 99.99% purity.

Like any best creatine powder, this contains no other ingredients—which means it’s unflavored, of course. You can take it plain or mix it into water or smoothies for an inexpensive muscle-building boost.

BOTTOM LINE

With over 10,000 positive reviews on Amazon, this is one of the best creatine powders for most people.

Best Value Pick

Optimum Nutrition – Bulk Creatine Monohydrate Powder

  • Pure creatine
  • Bulk buy
  • Vegan

Although our top pick is already inexpensive, this creatine powder gives you a little more bang for your buck. Picking up the 400-serving bucket will get you one of the cheapest prices per serving on the market.

And that’s without sacrificing quality. Just like our top pick, this is pure creatine monohydrate powder, with no fillers or flavors. You can take it plain, mix into water, or blend it up in a smoothie.

It might even taste a little sweeter knowing you snatched one of the best deals available.

BOTTOM LINE

If you want the most bang for your buck, this 400-serving bucket of creatine goes a long way.

Best Dissolving Creatine

Naked – Quick-Dissolving Creatine Monohydrate

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  • Pure creatine
  • Quick-dissolve
  • Vegan

Some creatine monohydrate can be a little tricky to dissolve in water. For those who would prefer to avoid any gritty textures, Naked’s micronized quick-dissolve creatine powder is a great alternative.

And that’s not just a marketing gimmick. Reviews show that compared to other options, this pure creatine powder will easily dissolve completely in warm water (and even cold water, with a little effort). If you can’t stand the grit, this is it.

BOTTOM LINE

Naked’s pure creatine monohydrate powder dissolves much more easily than most other brands.


Creatine: What Is It?

Creatine is a naturally-occurring organic compound that plays a role in producing muscular energy (namely, ATP).

Although the human body produces creatine on its own, many athletes supplement creatine to boost their muscular stores of the compound.

Creatine monohydrate (creatine with one water molecule) is the most popular form of supplemental creatine. It’s also the most researched form of creatine, with over 1,000 scientific studied published about it.1International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine.

Proven Benefits of Creatine

In the past several decades, creatine has become one of the most well-studied sport supplements. Here are a few of its science-backed benefits.

Exercise Performance

  • Increased Muscle Energy Stores

Creatine supplementation increases the amount of energy available to muscle tissue during intense exercise. It does this by boosting production of ATP, a source of energy used by muscle tissue.

Put simply, supplementing creatine helps the ATP supply meet the ATP demand.2CREATINE SUPPLEMENTATION: Its Role in Human Performance Here’s a basic overview of that process:

During high-intensity exercise, skeletal muscle uses ATP (adenosine triphosphate) to produce energy. This turns the ATP molecule into ADP (adenosine diphosphate), which needs to be converted back to ATP in order to be used again.3Interaction among Skeletal Muscle Metabolic Energy Systems during Intense Exercise

ADP can be turned back into ATP by a molecule called phosphocreatine. As the name suggests, this molecule is a form of creatine.

During the first 10-15 seconds of intense exercise, phosphocreatine is the primary source of ATP replenishment.4Contribution of phosphocreatine and aerobic metabolism to energy supply during repeated sprint exercise. This means that when more phosphocreatine is available, more energy-producing ATP can be generated during short-term, intense exercise.

While resting after intense exercise, muscular creatine is converted to phosphocreatine to replenish those recently-used stores. This helps the body prepare for the next demand for ATP.

It can take several minutes to replenish phosphocreatine after intense exercise.5Recovery of power output and muscle metabolites following 30 s of maximal sprint cycling in man. This means that creatine is most effective for types of training than involve rest periods between 90 seconds and several minutes.

In summary, supplementing creatine increases creatine muscle content. Muscular creatine is converted to phosphocreatine, which is used to replenish ATP levels during intense exercise.

The more phosphocreatine available, the more ATP can be generated during short-term, intense exercise. The more muscular creatine available, the more phosphocreatine can be replenished at rest.

  • Increased Strength and Power

In addition to increasing muscle energy stores, research has shown that taking creatine can increase muscular strength and power. This has been observed even without resistance training.

For example, one study examined the effects of creatine supplementation without exercise on leg strength in women. After taking creatine for 5 days, they demonstrated significantly increased quadriceps extension power and decreased time to peak torque.6Short-term Creatine Supplementation Improves Maximum Quadriceps Contraction in Women

Of course, creatine supplementation has also been shown to increase strength when combined with resistance training.

One study found that with 7 weeks of biweekly training, male subjects taking creatine demonstrated significantly increased biceps curl one-rep max compared to those taking a placebo.7Effects of oral creatine supplementation on muscular strength and body composition

Another study examined the effects of creatine supplementation on physically active men over only 3 training sessions separated by 6 days each. By the end of the trial, the creatine group demonstrated significantly higher peak power output in all 5 sets of jump squats and a significantly greater improvement in reps for all 5 sets of bench press.8Creatine Supplementation Enhances Muscular Performance During High-Intensity Resistance Exercise

An even larger study of male athletes similarly found that creatine supplementation with resistance training significantly increased bench performance compared to placebo. The researchers noted an increase in total work until fatigue as well as greater peak force and peak power.9The Effect of Continuous Low Dose Creatine Supplementation on Force, Power, and Total Work

And these findings aren’t limited to men.

One study of both male and female track and field athletes examined the effects of 6 weeks of training while taking either creatine or placebo. At the end of the trial, the men and women in the creatine group demonstrated significantly superior gains in vertical jump height, vertical jump power index, cycling power, and lean body mass.10The Effects of 6 Weeks of Creatine Monohydrate Supplementation on Performance Measures and Body Composition in Collegiate Track and Field Athleteseeks_of_Creatine_Monohydrate.9.pdf

Creatine’s power and strength-boosting effects have been observed across many sports. These include the aforementioned weight lifting and track and field, as well as powerlifing,11The effect of creatine monohydrate loading on maximal intermittent exercise and sport-specific strength in well trained power-lifters ice hockey,12Oral creatine supplementation improves multiple sprint performance in elite ice-hockey players cycling,13Creatine Monohydrate Supplementation Enhances High-Intensity Exercise Performance in Males and Females. and more.

  • Reduced Fatigue in Short-Term Exercise

Research has also shown that creatine supplementation can decrease fatigue during intense, short-term exercise. This has been demonstrated in several athletic domains.

For example, one study found that compared to placebo, trained athletes taking creatine demonstrated better performance during the first 30 seconds of continuous running and continuous jumping tests.14Effect of Oral Creatine Supplementation on Jumping and Running Performance

Another study examined the effects of creatine supplementation on elite male rowers. The researchers found that the creatine group demonstrated significantly increased endurance compared to placebo.15Effect of Creatine Supplementation on Aerobic Performance and Anaerobic Capacity in Elite Rowers in the Course of Endurance Training

Other studies have noted more general fatigue resistance. For example, after taking creatine for 5 days, untrained college-age males demonstrated reduced fatigue in knee extension and grip tests compared to placebo.16Creatine Supplementation Differentially Affects Maximal Isometric Strength and Time to Fatigue in Large and Small Muscle Groups

These effects have also been observed in elderly subjects.

In one study, elderly individuals taking creatine demonstrated a significant improvement in performance at fatigue threshold on a cycle ergometer compared to placebo. The researchers noted that this suggests creatine might improve neuromuscular fatigue resistance.17EFFECTS OF CREATINE SUPPLEMENTATION ON THE ONSET OF NEUROMUSCULAR FATIGUE THRESHOLD AND MUSCLE STRENGTH IN ELDERLY MEN AND WOMEN (64 – 86 YEARS)

  • Improved Performance in Repeated Bouts

In a similar vein, creatine supplementation has been shown to improve performance in repeated bouts of intense exercise.

For example, one study examined the effects of creatine supplementation on repeated bouts of intense cycling. After 6 days of taking 5 grams of creatine daily, subjects showed significantly more power output and less fatigue than the placebo group in repeated tests.18The effects of creatine supplementation on performance during the repeated bouts of supramaximal exercise

A similar study looked at the effects of creatine compared to placebo on 5 sets of 2-minute cycling with 1 minute of rest in between sets. Creatine significantly improved performance compared to control and placebo.19Effects of Four Weeks of High-Intensity Interval Training and Creatine Supplementation on Critical Power and Anaerobic Working Capacity in College-Aged Men

Of course, these effects aren’t limited to cycling.

One study examined the effects of creatine compared to placebo on two exhaustive runs lasting roughly 90 seconds, separated by 8 minutes of rest. While both sets were improved more in the creatine group, the second set was even more significant.20Effects of Creatine Monohydrate Ingestion on Intermediate Duration Anaerobic Treadmill Running to Exhaustion

It should be noted that there are a handful of conflicting studies that did not find creatine to enhance repeated cycling sprint performance specifically.21No acute effects of short-term creatine supplementation on muscle properties and sprint performance22Effect of creatine supplementation on metabolism and performance in humans during intermittent sprint cycling23Effects of oral creatine supplementation on multiple sprint cycle performance. However, a greater number of studies do agree that creatine is likely to increase repeated sprint cycling performance.24Effects of Four Weeks of High-Intensity Interval Training and Creatine Supplementation on Critical Power and Anaerobic Working Capacity in College-Aged Men25Effect of creatine loading on anaerobic performance and skeletal muscle volume in NCAA division I athletes26The influence of dietary creatine supplementation on performance during repeated bouts of maximal isokinetic cycling in man27Effect of Creatine Loading on Endurance Capacity and Sprint Power in Cyclists28

man lifting weights
Creatine has been shown to improve athletic performance.

Body Composition

  • Increased Muscle Mass

Studies have shown that creatine supplementation, with or without resistance training, can increase muscle mass.

For example, one eight-week study split 27 healthy males into one of three groups—control, resistance training plus placebo, and resistance training plus creatine. As you might expect, the creatine group demonstrated the greatest increase in muscle mass.29Effects of oral creatine and resistance training on serum myostatin and GASP-1

Similar results have been observed with more trained subjects. One study focused on subjects with at least one year of resistance training under their belts.

The study found that with 7 weeks of biweekly resistance training, those who took creatine demonstrated significantly increased muscle mass compared to placebo.30Effects of oral creatine supplementation on muscular strength and body composition

Similar results have been observed in even longer term studies. One study followed resistance-trained men over a 12-week program. As you might expect, the creatine group demonstrated a greater increase in body mass and fat-free mass than the placebo group.31Performance and muscle fiber adaptations to creatine supplementation and heavy resistance training.

Creatine’s muscle-building effects have also been observed in elderly subjects. One study found that low-dose creatine supplementation alongside 12 weeks of resistance training significantly increased muscle mass compared to placebo.32Impact of creatine supplementation in combination with resistance training on lean mass in the elderly

  • Reduced Muscle Breakdown

Beyond muscle building, creatine has also been shown to reduce muscle breakdown.

One notable study examined the effects of creatine supplementation in untrained males. The study found that during several days of rest following intense exercise, the creatine group had significantly lower levels of plasma creatine kinase, a marker of muscle damage.33Creatine supplementation enhances muscle force recovery after eccentrically-induced muscle damage in healthy individuals

Other studies have shown that creatine supplementation can also decrease muscle breakdown during immobilization.

In one study, 7 subjects had one arm immobilized in a cast for one week while taking creatine or placebo. After a week out of the cast, each subject then crossed over to the other group.

At the end of the trial, the researchers found that creatine supplementation helped to preserve significantly more lean tissue mas as well as elbow flexion and extension strength and endurance than placebo.34Effect of Creatine Supplementation During Cast-Induced Immobilization on the Preservation of Muscle Mass, Strength, and Endurance

  • Boosted Testosterone

Limited evidence suggests that creatine supplementation may increase testosterone levels.

One study followed 20 college rugby players taking creatine for 3 weeks. Compared to placebo, the creatine group demonstrated significantly higher levels of dihydrotestosterone, which is converted in the body from serum testosterone.35Three Weeks of Creatine Monohydrate Supplementation Affects Dihydrotestosterone to Testosterone Ratio in College-Aged Rugby Players

In another study, 20 men took either 20 grams of creatine or placebo for one week. At the end of the trial, subjects taking creatine demonstrated significantly higher levels of serum testosterone 15 minutes after intense exercise.36CREATINE SUPPLEMENTATION ALTERS THE HORMONAL RESPONSE TO RESISTANCE EXERCISE

While the findings thus far are promising, more research is needed to fully understand creatine’s role in increasing testosterone.

  • Reduced DNA Damage and Oxidative Stress

Research has also shown that creatine may be a powerful antioxidant, able to reduce or repair damage caused by oxidative stress.37Differential effect of creatine on oxidatively-injured mitochondrial and nuclear DNA

For example, one study found that creatine supplementation reduced oxidative DNA damage associated with intense resistance exercise.38Creatine Supplementation Decreases Oxidative DNA Damage and Lipid Peroxidation Induced by a Single Bout of Resistance Exercise

Another study found that creatine supplementation could reduce oxidative DNA damage caused by intense exercise in wrestlers.39Effects of creatine monohydrate supplementation on oxidative dna damage and lipid peroxidation induced by acute incremental exercise to exhaustion in wrestlers

One notable study found that in vitro,40in a Petri dish cells damaged by ultralight radiation could be repaired with creatine supplementation.41Creatine Supplementation Normalizes Mutagenesis of Mitochondrial DNA as Well as Functional Consequences These findings may be relevant to DNA damage caused by exposure to sunlight.

athletic man crouching
Creatine has been shown to increase muscle mass, reduce oxidative stress, and more.

Mental Benefits

  • Improved Cognition

Creatine has been shown to improve cognitive function in certain cases. These effects are most notable in those who are elderly, sleep deprived, or vegetarian.

For example, one study found that vegetarians who took creatine demonstrated improved memory compared to those who took a placebo.42The influence of creatine supplementation on the cognitive functioning of vegetarians and omnivores

The same study found that both vegetarians and omnivores supplementing creatine demonstrated improved reaction time in quick decision making.

Another study found that when sleep deprived, creatine can help improve performance of central executive tasks, such as quick decision-making.43Creatine supplementation, sleep deprivation, cortisol, melatonin and behavior

One study found that at low oxygen (10% oxygen, 90 minutes), creatine prevents the decline in attention associated with oxygen deprivation, demonstrating potential neuroprotective effects.44Creatine Supplementation Enhances Corticomotor Excitability and Cognitive Performance during Oxygen Deprivation This may have implications for increased cognitive functions at high altitudes, such as when hiking.

And finally, one notable study found that creatine supplementation did not lead to any cognitive enhancement in individuals without cognitive impairments, such as sleep deprivation.45Creatine supplementation does not improve cognitive function in young adults

The above evidence suggests that creatine supplementation may improve cognitive function in cases of cognitive impairment, but likely not in unimpaired omnivores.


Creatine Side Effects

Research has shown that creatine supplementation is associated with minimal to no adverse side effects.

Perhaps the only notable adverse side effect anecdotally reported by some users is gastrointestinal discomfort during a heavy initial loading phase. These symptoms are reported to include diarrhea and bloating.46Gastrointestinal Distress After Creatine Supplementation in Athletes: Are Side Effects Dose Dependent?

However, there is no scientific evidence that regular creatine use can lead to gastrointestinal discomfort.47Studies on the safety of creatine supplementation48American College of Sports Medicine roundtable. The physiological and health effects of oral creatine supplementation.

Similarly, some sources claim that taking creatine may increase risk of injury or muscle cramps. However, this is not supported by the scientific literature.49Putting to rest the myth of creatine supplementation leading to muscle cramps and dehydration50Creatine supplementation during college football training does not increase the incidence of cramping or injury

In fact, creatine supplementation has been shown to reduce the risk of injury and muscle cramps.51Cramping and Injury Incidence in Collegiate Football Players Are Reduced by Creatine Supplementation52International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: creatine supplementation and exercise

In addition, creatine supplementation appears to have no long-term effects on the body’s natural mechanisms of creatine production. Research has found that creatine levels return to normal after ceasing a supplementation program.53CREATINE SUPPLEMENTATION: Its Role in Human Performance

man and woman exercising
Researchers have found little to no evidence of adverse side effects caused by creatine supplementation.

Myth: Creatine and Water Weight

Many sources claim that creatine supplementation causes muscle cells to swell with excess water, causing an increase in water weight. However, this claim is misleading, and is not entirely supported by the scientific literature.

Like many myths, there are elements of truth to this claim. Here, we explain in simple terms what the science actually says.

  • Creatine supplementation increases body mass.

It’s common to see weight gain of 2 to 5 pounds within a few weeks of creatine supplementation.54CREATINE SUPPLEMENTATION: Its Role in Human Performance55Effects of training and creatine supplement on muscle strength and body mass This is widely demonstrated in the scientific literature.

This means that muscle tissue is produced at a greater rate when taking creatine as a supplement.

Put simply, muscle cells are created at a higher rate when taking creatine.

That brings us to the first element of truth to this myth…

This means that any increase in cell production, whether muscle cells, fat cells, or blood cells, will increase total water content in the body.

As an illustration, a person who weighs 200 pounds has a much greater mass of water in their body than someone who weighs 100 pounds. However, that doesn’t mean that their individual cells each contain more water.

Since creatine increases the rate at which muscle tissue is formed, more water is needed to form those cells.

Furthermore…

Resistance training results in the production of muscle mass. Those cells, like any other, contain water. Therefore, resistance training increases total body water content.

We should note, though, researchers in years past had hypothesized that taking creatine causes causes cells to swell up with more water than usual.

That brings us to the next element of truth to this myth:

After this, the cell is quickly able to normalize back to its original water volume.65Effect of Exogenous Creatine Supplementation on Muscle PCr Metabolism66Membrane mechanisms in volume and pH regulation in vertebrate cells.

  • Past the first few days of supplementation, creatine is associated with increased muscle cell volume, but not due to water content.

Rather, this “cell swelling” is caused by an increase in creatine, phosphocreatine, and glycogen stores within the cell.67Effect of creatine supplementation on creatine and glycogen content in rat skeletal muscle.68Phosphocreatine compound summary

Farther up, we discussed how creatine supplementation increases creatine and phosphocreatine stores, which are used to replenish energy during intense exercise. This is where those compounds are stored.

Thus, past the first few days, the increased cell volume seen with creatine supplementation is not the result of increased intracellular water. This has been verified in further studies.69Effect of Exogenous Creatine Supplementation on Muscle PCr Metabolism

Furthermore…

Put simply, there is no difference in the volume of water within the cell in someone who takes creatine compared to someone who doesn’t.

Some sources claim, then, that creatine supplementation causes excess water storage outside of the cells, such as in between muscle fibers. However…

This means that the relative levels of intracellular and extracellular water remain unchanged when taking creatine.

And, finally:

Many studies that have observed medium- to long-term increases in body mass with creatine supplementation have assumed that the increase was largely due to bodyweight.

However, studies that have actually measured total body water content, such as those cited above, have found that the relative percentages of body mass to total body water content remain unchanged.


So, all of the above evidence considered, here’s what the scientific literature shows:

A) During the first 3 to 5 days of creatine loading, muscle cells may absorb excess water. However, water levels within the cell return to normal shortly afterward.

Therefore, net weight gain while taking creatine for 1 week or more cannot be attributed to cells “swelling” with water.

B) Secondly, creatine is effective at increasing lean mass with resistance training. As discussed, lean mass contains water.

Therefore, creatine supplementation with training increases the amount of water in the body, just as training does without creatine supplementation.

C) Finally, the ratio of lean mass to water mass gained following resistance training is the same with or without creatine supplementation.

Therefore, medium to long-term weight gain with creatine supplementation is primarily caused by increased lean mass, and not excess water weight.

man drinking creatine shake
Research shows that creatine’s water weight side effect is largely a myth.

Creatine Dosage

Most creatine users undergo a loading phase for up to one week, following by a maintenance for as long as desired.75Creatine supplementation with specific view to exercise/sports performance: an update

The typical loading phase is 20 to 25 grams daily for 5 to 7 days. Many people choose to split this into four or five daily doses of 5 grams each.

After that, the typical creatine dosage is 5 grams daily, taken any time of day.


Summary

The science shows that creatine is a safe and effective supplement for improving athletic performance, reducing fatigue, and increasing muscle mass.

Research also shows that creatine may have the potential to reduce oxidative DNA damage, increase testosterone, and improve cognition in some people.

If you’re interesting in testing out the science-backed benefits of creatine, try one of the curated brands below.

Overview: Best Creatine Powders
Bulksupplements Creatine Monohydrate Powder Micronized (1 Kilogram)Best Overall: BulkSupplements – Creatine Monohydrate Powder

“With over 10,000 positive reviews on Amazon, this is one of the best creatine powders for most.”
Check Price
Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine Monohydrate Powder, Unflavored, Keto Friendly, 400 Servings (Packaging May Vary)Best Value: Optimum Nutrition – Bulk Creatine Monohydrate Powder

“If you want the most bang for your buck, this 400-serving bucket of creatine goes a long way.”
Check Price
Pure Creatine Monohydrate – 200 Servings - 1,000 Grams, 2.2lb Bulk, Vegan, Non-GMO, Gluten Free, Soy Free. Aid Strength Gains, No Artificial Ingredients - NAKED CREATINEQuick-Dissolve Pick: Naked – Quick-Dissolving Creatine Monohydrate

“Naked’s pure creatine monohydrate powder dissolves much more easily than most other brands.”
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