Your Guide To The Best Creatine Monohydrate Supplements Of 2024


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Dr. Melina Jampolis is a former past president of the National Board of Physician Nutrition Specialists and author based in Los Angeles.
Melina Jampolis, M.D. Diet / Nutrition
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Creatine monohydrate is one of the most studied dietary supplements. It’s a natural substance most often used as a workout supplement for its ergogenic, or performance-enhancing, properties.

Creatine supplementation can help endurance, strength and power athletes, says Jose Antonio, Ph.D., chief executive officer and co-founder of the International Society of Sports Nutrition and Forbes Health Advisory Board member. It can also help anyone generally interested in maintaining their physical fitness and well-being, he adds. In fact, research suggests creatine monohydrate can go beyond muscle building and boost brain function as well[1].

Here you can learn more about creatine monohydrate, its safety considerations and the best creatine brands to look for when shopping.

What Is Creatine Monohydrate?

Creatine monohydrate is a dietary supplement made of one creatine molecule (a naturally occurring amino acid) combined with one molecule of water. The human body already produces creatine on its own—a person weighing 154 pounds averages a total of 120 to 140 grams of creatine. We also consume creatine when eating meat and fish. Supplementation simply boosts the amount of creatine available in the body, which is primarily used for muscle function.

Largely found in skeletal muscles, creatine is a significant source of rapid energy, especially during short bursts of high-intensity exercises. As it makes its way through the body and interacts with other compounds, creatine can also fuel your metabolism (the process of using energy and burning calories) and act as an antioxidant (a substance that prevents or delays cell damage).

When to Take Creatine Monohydrate Supplements

Creatine monohydrate is best used as an exercise supplement when you’re doing high-intensity, high-level workouts. Used in boosting muscle mass, creatine supplementation would not help the everyday jogger or gym-goer in leaning out or losing weight.

Age-wise, creatine monohydrate is safe for use by the elderly when it can help preserve muscle mass. Younger folks should reconsider. “I wouldn’t encourage supplementation in teenagers or someone who’s still developing,” says Emily Clairmont, a registered dietician at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

Populations who aren’t getting much creatine through their diets, such as vegans and vegetarians, may also benefit from supplementation. However, Clairmont suggests first turning to foods that contain other amino acids that the body can use to create creatine, such as nuts, seeds, beans, seaweed and dark green leafy vegetables. As an exercise supplement, some research suggests it’s best to take creatine immediately before or after a workout[2].

Other studies specify that post-workout ingestion is more effective. One small study of 19 recreational male bodybuilders found post-workout creatine ingestion was superior in improving body composition and strength to pre-workout ingestion[3]. Another study of adults ranging from 50 to 71 years old found taking creatine after exercising led to greater gains in lean tissue mass, but found no difference between pre- and post-workout supplementation for muscle strength enhancement[4].

Different Types of Creatine Monohydrate Supplements

Creatine monohydrate supplements can be found in capsule or powder form. The type you choose to use depends on your preferences. Capsules can be taken by mouth with liquid or food while powders are usually incorporated into a shake.

There are other types of creatine compounds, such as creatine pyruvate, creatine nitrate and creatine ethyl ester. However, the research on these substances is not as robust as the research that supports the use of creatine monohydrate, and the information that is available reports that they aren’t superior to creatine monohydrate in terms of efficacy.

Health Benefits of Creatine Monohydrate

Creatine monohydrate helps increase muscle mass and performance in high-intensity resistance exercises like HIIT (high-intensity interval training) and track or swim sprints. Creatine monohydrate’s role in increasing lean body mass can be particularly helpful for athletes who need to increase their weight for fight sports or weightlifting.

The supplement can also help brain function and short-term memory, as well as help individuals who have suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI)[5][6][7]. One study found creatine supplementation had a significant positive effect on working memory and intelligence, suggesting that it can assist processing speed. Creatine can also help improve athletic recovery time, boost cognition and reduce headaches, dizziness and fatigue after a TBI, particularly benefitting children and adolescents by improving the duration of post-traumatic amnesia, behavior, communication and locomotion.

Top Creatine Monohydrate Supplements, Recommended By Experts

While plenty of supplement companies sell creatine monohydrate, find brands that have been verified by third-party organizations like The Cologne List, NSF International and The United States Pharmacopeial Convention (USP). These certifications ensure that each batch of creatine monohydrate supplement is free of compounds on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s prohibited list and that what’s on the label is actually what you’re getting.

One such brand is Creapure, a Germany-based creatine on The Cologne List that’s commonly used by other supplement brands with creatine products.

Curious which creatine supplement products experts recommend? Here are top picks from Antonio and Taylor Wallace, CEO of the Think Healthy Group and another Forbes Health Advisory Board member.

Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine Capsules

A two-capsule serving contains 2.5 grams of Creapure creatine monohydrate. Although research shows taking creatine directly after a workout benefits muscle mass increase, Optimum Nutrition’s product packaging indicates to take two capsules with a meal twice daily. Experts vary on their timing recommendations as well.

Bottles contain either 100, 200 or 300 capsules. Optimum Nutrition also offers Micronized Creatine as a powder, which works better for larger servings.

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Onnit Creatine Powder

Supplied by Creapure, Onnit’s creatine powder comes in a 150-gram tub with 30 servings per container. Each two-scoop serving contains 5 grams of creatine monohydrate.

Use the powder by adding two scoops to your post-workout shake or other beverage of choice (more details on how to take creatine below).

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Klean Athlete Creatine

Wallace recommends Klean Creatine because it’s Certified for Sport® by NSF International, a public health and safety organization, making it “ideal for competitive athletes.” This certification ensures the product meets quality standards and does not contain unsafe levels of contaminants, prohibited substances or masking agents.

Klean Creatine’s Creapure powder is unflavored and easy to mix into your workout beverage. The product contains 315 grams of powder, with 5 grams of creatine monohydrate per one-scoop serving.

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Naked Nutrition Creatine Monohydrate Powder

This product has earned vegan and gluten-free certifications, making it a great option for people with dietary restrictions or allergies, says Wallace. The powder comes in a 1-kilogram tub, with one scoop containing 5 grams of creatine.

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PurAthlete Power+

“This Power+ product from PurAthlete is best for athletes looking to increase endurance, strength and stamina,” says Wallace. Powder+ is Certified for Sport® by NSF International.

Power+ is a chelated creatine magnesium, meaning it combines the two substances to enhance its absorption compared to creatine monohydrate.

The product comes in a 102-gram tub. A one-scoop serving contains 290 milligrams of magnesium and 3.3 grams of PurAthlete’s Performance Blend, which is Creatine MagnaPower Magnesium Creatine Chelate and TRAACS Magnesium Glycinate Chelate.

Due to the high magnesium content, Wallace warns that taking three or more servings at once can lead to laxative effects.

Buy Now: Available On Amazon.

Is Creatine Monohydrate Safe?

Among the plethora of studies on creatine monohydrate, there is little to no evidence suggesting the supplement is unsafe. “The safety profile of creatine is absolutely outstanding,” says Antonio.

The most common side effect associated with creatine is transient (short-term) water retention in the first few days after you start taking the supplement. Essentially, your body retains more water which can lead to minimal weight gain, but only in those first days and not over the long term. Liver and kidney health complications from creatine consumption are rare and have only been reported in instances where creatine was taken alongside other supplements or at higher-than-recommended doses.

Antonio also says there are no added risks to taking creatine supplements that aren’t 100% pure—a 95% to 99% purity will do just fine.

Creatine Monohydrate Dosage: How Much Should You Take?

Assuming you already consume some creatine from your diet, Antonio recommends taking 5 grams of creatine monohydrate a day, noting that 3 grams a day is the lowest possible dose a person can take to maintain good levels of creatine. Data suggests up to 30 grams a day can be safe and effective for at least five years.

It’s not as simple as adding it to your workout shake or smoothie, though. Clairmont recommends taking creatine with the fewest number of other ingredients as possible, not even with food or other amino acids.

“If you add something else into the mix, ​​your body will take it and gladly make it into something else,” she says. Our bodies prioritize whatever needs the brain, stress responses or reproduction have and use creatine to create other substances, lessening the effect of supplementation.

Creatine Monohydrate Loading Phase

A dosage loading phase (an introductory period of time in which you take higher doses temporarily) may be helpful if you’re exercising again after some time off to build up your creatine to levels necessary for full muscle saturation. Depending on how quickly you want to jump back in, your loading phase could be 4 to 5 grams per dose taken up to four times a day, or it could simply be 5 grams per day for a week and then dropping to a maintenance dose of 3 grams per day.

Older guidance suggested cycling creatine supplementation, taking creatine for a period of time, stopping supplementation for a while, taking it again and so forth. It was thought to give your body a break, but studies show long-term creatine supplementation doesn’t cause adverse effects, negating the need for creatine cycling[8].

Muscle and Strength Building Formula

When combined, Creatine monohydrate and HMB have been shown to enhance strength, increase endurance, decrease fat mass, and prevent lean muscle loss. The added BioPerine® increases bioavailability and absorption.

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