If you’ve ever been anywhere near a gym, you’ve probably heard guys talk about the muscle-building effects of creatine. In fact, even most newbies know that taking workout supplements like creatine can make a huge difference to their results.
Creatine has actually been tested and studied by researchers more than any other supplement (with the possible exception of protein powder), and if you’re taking it in the right way, the science shows that it’s safe and effective. In fact, creatine has been proven to deliver on its promise of strength and muscle gains.
That said, with so many supplements available, how do you know which one to take? Narrowing down the best creatine product for your fitness goals means poring over reviews, wading through formulas and ingredients, and having to go over supplement labels with a magnifying glass.
But when you finally have found the right creatine powder, and combine it with other effective fitness supplements, maximizing your workout efforts quickly becomes a simple process.
Based on several criteria, including quality, effectiveness, price, user reviews and more, we tested and rated numerous creatine powders in order to determine the best of the best. After the smoke cleared, we were left with the top 5 highest-rated creatine powders that provide the most benefit for those looking for gains in size, strength, endurance, and overall fitness.
The Best Creatine Supplements
#1: Crazy Nutrition Ultimate CRN-5
Crazy Nutrition’s Ultimate CRN-5 is one of the highest grade creatine supplements available, combining five different forms of creatine to produce explosive energy during heavy lifting or high-intensity exercise. These include creatine monohydrate, creatine hydrochloride (HCL), creatine ethyl ester, tri-creatine malate, and creatine pyruvate.
This unique combination of different creatine types dramatically helps increase physical performance in successive bursts of short term high intensity exercise (HIIT).
CRN-5 also contains electrolytes like sodium and potassium, and Aquamin, a multi-mineral supplement derived from the red algae Lithothamnion corallioides which is rich in calcium and magnesium, and a variety of trace minerals including manganese, selenium and zinc. And it’s vegan-friendly and gluten-free.
Directions: Add 1 scoop (10.2g) to 250ml-400ml of water in a shaker bottle. Shake well and consume 20-30 minutes before workout. Do not exceed 1 serving per day. You may use more or less liquid to adjust the taste of your CRN-5.
Servings Per Container: 30
Bottom Line: CRN-5 is a high-grade, quickly-dissolving multi-creatine powder that is quickly absorbed by the body. For any fitness enthusiast looking for elevated physical performance, increased strength, and explosive bursts of energy, CRN-5 is the ultimate creatine supplement to get you there.
#2: Performance Lab SPORT Maintain
Performance Lab SPORT Maintain is a cutting-edge formula that replenishes depleted muscles in an insanely effective way. SPORT Maintain supports athletic recovery and triggers anabolic growth for up to 12 hours during your rest day, allowing you to return to your game bigger, faster and stronger.
Maintain helps you be your best at the gym, by being smarter during downtime. By blending state-of-the-art creatine, beta-alanine and iron innovations in advanced forms and precise dosages, Maintain delivers a 100% clean and natural slow-release muscle-building support system on your non-workout days.
SPORT Maintain contains Creapure pH10, a high-quality 99.5% pure form of pH-balanced creatine monohydrate that enhances bioavailability while reducing creatine bloating and gastric distress. Also included is SR CarnoSyn Beta-Alanine, one of the most important substances in sports nutrition because it supports both muscle recovery and performance.
Low levels of iron limit red blood cells’ ability to transport oxygen, resulting in diminished workout capacity, fatigue and decreased physical performance. Studies show that supplementing with iron helps to improve athletic performance, strength, stamina, and muscular power.
SPORT Maintain is formulated with NutriGenesis iron, a form of iron with enhanced absorption to make it easier for athletes to restore and sustain ideal iron levels required for peak performance.
- Replenishes depleted muscles with vital nutrients between workouts.
- Enhances athletic strength, stamina and muscle power.
- Promotes muscle recovery growth and recovery during a 12-hour window.
- Delivers consistent daily muscle loading necessary for peak athletic performance.
Suitable for vegans. Contains NO soy, egg, fish, shellfish, dairy, peanut, tree nuts, wheat, or other allergens. Non-GMO and non-irradiated. Free of gluten, synthetic additives, caffeine, artificial colors and preservatives. Banned substance tested.
Directions: Take 3 capsules 30 minutes before exercise and another 3 capsules immediately post-workout. For ongoing recovery and muscle growth, take 3 capsules in the morning and a further 3 in the afternoon on non-training days.
Athletes with advanced requirements can safely take up to 10 capsules daily. For best results, take on an empty stomach and use on a consistent basis.
Servings Per Container: 10
Bottom Line: Performance Lab Maintain helps you dominate at the gym by planning your rest day nutrition wisely. By combining advanced forms of creatine, beta-alanine and iron in highly effective and precise dosages, you get a 100% clean, natural, time-released muscle growth nourishment on your off days.
#3: Transparent Labs Creatine HMB
The StrengthSeries Creatine HMB by Transparent Labs contains ingredients delivered in clinically researched dosages and has absolutely no artificial dyes, sweeteners, needless fillers, or any type of harmful additives.
The thing that makes this product stand out is the combination of creatine monohydrate (Creapure) with HMB (Beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate). Normally, I’m not a fan of having unnecessary extras in my creatine, but this stuff completely changed that. HMB is similar to creatine, and has been shown to increase strength and lean body mass, and decrease body fat when used in conjunction with resistance training. has been demonstrated to boost strength and endurance, decrease body fat, and prevent the loss of lean muscle mass. And with the addition of BioPerine, the bioavailability and absorption of the supplement is even further increased.
Directions: Add 1 scoop to 4-6 ounces of water, juice, or protein 30 minutes post-workout. On non-workout/recovery days, use 1 scoop in the morning. This supplement can be taken with food. It is recommended to drink plenty of water in order to keep hydrated. Do not exceed the recommended daily dosage.
Servings Per Container: 30
Bottom Line: The StrengthSeries Creatine HMB is one powerful creatine powder. The combination of creatine and HMB, which are both boosted by BioPerine, makes for a potent supplement that will supercharge your workout results. Highly recommended.
BioCreatine by Natural Stacks is another unique and powerful creatine supplement that delivers the proven physical and mental benefits of creatine monohydrate, with the surprising but superb addition of Himalayan pink salt and Fenugreek Extract. And it’s taken in capsules, making it a really convenient option.
So why add Himalayan salt and fenugreek? Research shows that the addition of these two ingredients can help transport creatine into the brain and body without needing to consume simple carbohydrates.
The Himalayan pink salt is added to enhance sodium levels for maximum creatine uptake. The Fenugreek extract is included to optimize the absorption of creatine without the need to consume carbohydrates, and the combination of creatine and fenugreek has actually been shown to be just as effective as creatine with carbohydrates.
Not to mention, fenugreek is a great supplement for supporting healthy testosterone levels.
Directions: Take 1-2 servings (serving size is 4 capsules) per day with water or as directed by a healthcare practitioner.
Servings Per Container: 30
Bottom Line: BioCreatine is a unique and super-effective creatine supplement. And the fact that it comes in capsules makes it really convenient to use – no more mixing, shaking, scooping, or spills. If you’re all about convenience, or just looking for an impressively potent form of creatine, then look no further.
#5: Thorne Research Creatine
Thorne Research’s Creatine is an easy-to-mix, highly-researched and high-quality form of creatine, called Creapure. Creapure is a micronized form of creatine monohydrate that is colorless and colorless, with superior solubility.
This brand is commonly used in high-performance nutrition programs and is NSF Certified for Sport. Athletes need be certain that their supplements are consistent and compliant.
Because this is an NSF Certified-for-Sport product, the label claims are tested for compliance and the powder is verified to be free from over 200 substances banned by sports governing bodies, including steroids, stimulants, narcotics, diuretics, beta-2 agonists, and masking agents.
Directions: Mix 1 level scoop with at least 8 ounces of water, juice, or preferred beverage once daily or as recommended by your health-care or performance professional. Can be used 30-90 minutes before or after exercise.
Servings Per Container: 90
Bottom line: Thorne Research is a brand known for their superior ingredients and premium-grade quality. Their creatine powder is no exception. Pure, high-quality creatine monohydrate for the discriminating athlete.
Creatine Supplements – General Information
Since no one should put anything into their body without considering the pros and cons first (and there are some potential negatives associated with creatine that you should be aware of), educating yourself about this popular supplement is going to be a smart move.
Therefore, before you go all gung-ho about taking any creatine supplement, here is some information about what the supplement is, what it does, plus potential side effects and how to avoid them.
What is Creatine?
Creatine is actually produced by the body through the liver and kidneys when you consume protein. The creatine is then converted into creatine phosphate by the muscles, which then gets converted into ATC (adenosine triphosphate), which is used by the body during explosive exercise.
Makers of supplements have made creatine intake more efficient. Rather than eating pounds of protein, you only need to take the nutrient as a powder, liquid, or capsule.
That said, supplementing with creatine should not be considered as a replacement for consuming protein, because creatine and protein work in different ways. Basically, creatine helps more with boosting strength during your workout, while protein helps more with muscle repair post-workout.
What Are Creatine’s Effects?
Creatine occurs naturally in the body and helps fuel the muscles by enhancing the body’s ability to quickly produce energy. This is one reason why people take it as a supplement – to boost their workout performance.
The way it works is fairly direct: If you’re able to lift more weight in the gym, your body will have more muscle fiber tears to repair and rebuild, gradually resulting in bigger and stronger muscles after your workouts.
Studies indicate that creatine supplements may help prevent muscle damage and enhance the recovery process after injury.
Creatine may also have an antioxidant effect following high-intensity resistance training, and may be helpful for preventing muscle cramps. It might even play a role in rehabilitation for brain and other injuries.
Studies show that creatine also appears to offer some increase in both upper and lower body strength, in adults of all ages. Additionally, creatine supplementation has been shown to increase athletic performance in rowing and soccer, and improves jumping height.
Some studies have indicated that creatine may help with explosive, high-intensity activity like sprinting, but more research is currently needed.
How Much Creatine Should You Take?
Most people need between 1-3 grams of creatine per day. About half of this comes from food, and the rest is produced by the body.
Natural food sources include red meat and fish. 1 lb. of beef or salmon can deliver 1-2 grams of creatine.
According to the ISSN (International Society of Sports Nutrition), bigger athletes who engage in high intensity training may require between 5-10 grams of creatine daily to maintain their stores.
Individuals who are unable to produce creatine because of a health condition may need to take 10-30 grams per day to avoid health issues.
For most people, adding 5 grams of creatine monohydrate with your workout shake will be enough to get you bigger and stronger.
What Type of Creatine Supplements Are Best?
If you’re wanting to specifically add a creatine supplement to your regimen, make sure it’s creatine monohydrate. Many creatine products will contain additives that you don’t necessarily want or need, and they’ll be much more expensive.
Powders will be your best option, preferably 100% pure creatine powder. Research shows that liquid creatine and creatine ethyl ester (CEE) are not stable and break down in the body.
And for best results, mix the powder with fruit juice. The sugar in the juice raises insulin levels, and that helps boost creatine uptake into the muscles. Sports drinks work well too.
Look for drinks or supplements with 60 grams of carbs per 100 grams of product. As a general rule of thumb, you’ll need about 70 grams of simple sugars for every 5 grams of creatine
One sure-fire way to tell if the powder you’re using is of poor quality is if it doesn’t dissolve well and there’s leftover residue at the bottom of your glass afterwards. If you notice this, try a different brand. After all, you want the creatine going to your muscles, not the bottom of your shaker.
As far as capsules go, they are effective, but you will usually be required to take a lot of them (especially during the loading phase) in order to get the right dosage. If that’s not an issue, then pills and capsules are fine, and more convenient to take and carry if you’re on the go.
Does Taking Creatine Boost Muscle Mass, Strength, and Stamina?
Creatine effects each individual differently, and for whatever reason (probably genetics), some people just don’t respond to it the same as others.
After you start taking creatine, you should be able to tell if it’s working for you in about a week. If your workout capacity increases, that’s a good sign. If it doesn’t, then you’re probably someone who doesn’t respond to the supplement, and taking it isn’t going to help much.
Your diet can also play a big part. Since creatine is found in high levels in certain meats and seafood, vegans and vegetarians will typically notice a greater response. Those who eat a lot of animal protein,however, may see less change.
Obviously, having a healthy diet is critical to anyone’s muscle-building strategy. If you’re eating a lot of garbage, using creatine isn’t going to make a huge difference – it would be far better to simply eat quality carbohydrates and lean protein.
At the end of the day, creatine by itself is not going to make you a bigger man. It’s only going to show results when combined with exercise. You still have to put in the effort.
New research is constantly being conducted measuring creatine’s safety and effectiveness, and the conclusion is that creatine is generally considered safe, even in high doses.
Although not proven, there have been anecdotal reports of possible negative side-effects, including:
- Stomach pain
- Muscle cramping
There are even reports of possible heart, kidney, or liver damage, but there is no evidence to back these claims. As stated before, creatine is one of the most-studied supplements out there, and if there were any major adverse side effects, there would be clear evidence of them by now.
If any of these side-effects do occur, they are rare. To be on the safe side, only use creatine if you are healthy and don’t have kidney problems.
Does Creatine Cause Weight Gain?
If you take creatine, you will gain weight – but not from fat. Creatine has no calories, and does not impact your fat metabolism.
But even though creatine is a great way to gain muscle, it does cause some water weight as well. During the first week of supplementation, most people will gain between 2-4 lbs. from water retention.
But in this case, that extra water is a good thing. Creatine will actually pull more water into your muscles, making them bigger and fuller.
Then, after the initial water retention period, additional gains will come from muscle mass because of the increase in workload you’ll be able to handle.
Mark McIntyre is the founder of MaleHealthReview.com and acts as it’s chief contributor. He is a fitness trainer and avid mountain biker who also enjoys camping, hiking and fishing. Besides managing Male Health Review, Mark is also a guest columnist for several blogs related to men’s health. More about this author…