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Cleanest Creatine Supplements You Can Buy Right Now

Creatine is one of the most studied supplements on the market. It also boasts the most research supporting its performance benefits. Some of those benefits include supercharged strength, quicker reaction times, elevated testosterone, and bigger muscle growth. If you’re not complementing your training, let us brief you on everything you need to know—plus recommend the cleanest creatine supplements you can buy now.

What is creatine?

Creatine is an amino acid naturally found in animal products like chicken, steak, and fish. Because of this, vegetarians have been reported to have lower creatine stores and therefore may see greater boosts in muscle creatine after taking supplements. The body uses creatine as an energy source for quick bursts (think 5 to 15 seconds). It helps maintain ATP (energy) availability, particularly during maximal effort anaerobic exercise, like sprinting. On average, a normal diet supplies about 1 to 2 g/day of creatine from foods, leaving muscle creatine stores at about 60 to 80 percent saturation. Therefore, dietary supplementation of creatine can increase muscle creatine by 20 to 40 percent. Performance of high-intensity and/or repetitive exercise is generally increased by 10 to 20 percent after creatine loading.

Can creatine help performance?

As we mentioned, creatine has a bevy of benefits. Here’s a deeper look:

  • Enhanced training. About 95 percent of creatine is stored in muscle, while 5 percent is in the brain. Creatine supplementation can allow you to do more work over a series of sets or sprints leading to greater gains in strength, muscle mass, and/or performance due to an improvement in the quality of training.
  • Greater glycogen storage. Creatine supplementation with carbohydrate or a combination of carbohydrates and protein have been reported to promote greater muscle glycogen storage than carbohydrate supplementation alone, so you don’t fatigue as fast.
  • Boosted neuroprotection. Creatine supplementation can, in fact, reduce the severity of spinal cord injury, cerebral ischemia, and concussion or traumatic brain injury by promoting cellular homeostasis.
  • Improved recovery. Creatine supplementation may reduce muscle damage and enhance recovery from intense exercise. It may also help athletes tolerate heavy increases in training volume.
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How do I dose creatine?

The fastest way to increase muscle creatine stores is to ingest 5 g creatine monohydrate (or approximately 0.3 g/kg body weight) four times daily for 5 to 7 days, followed by a maintenance dose of 3 to 5 g/day or 0.1 g/kg of body mass/day. However, such a loading dose is not necessary. You can also use the daily dose of 3 to 5 g/day if you don’t need to achieve creatine saturation quickly. Larger athletes may need 5-10 g/day additionally as a maintenance dose.

Note: There are reports that ingesting creatine with carbohydrate or carbohydrate and protein (ex: post-workout recovery shake) can more consistently promote greater creatine retention.

Creatine Monohydrate vs Creatine Hydrochloride

Creatine Monohydrate
The name “creatine monohydrate” comes from the fact that this type of creatine includes one molecule of water. As a result, monohydrate is about 88 percent creatine by weight. The most commonly studied form of creatine in literature is creatine monohydrate, regarding both efficacy and dose. It’s also relatively inexpensive.

Creatine Hydrochloride
Creatine HCl is creatine bound to a hydrochloride molecule. The HCL version is about 72 percent creatine by weight. Creatine HCl claims to be more soluble, better absorbed, and effective at smaller doses, all with less water retention. While the HCl version is more water soluble and potentially absorbed faster, faster intestinal absorption does not result in increased bioavailability. Creatine HCl is also significantly more expensive than monohydrate, even when taken in smaller doses.

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Bottom line: While Creatine HCl may potentially be effective in smaller doses, the overwhelming literature supports creatine monohydrate as the optimal choice.

Common Misconceptions

  1. While the initial loading phase of creatine supplementation may result in water retention, long-term data suggests any potential water retention doesn’t remain.
  2. When consumed in recommended doses (3 to 5 g/day), creatine supplementation does not lead to kidney damage or renal dysfunction in healthy individuals.
  3. Current research does not show a causal relationship between creatine supplementation and dehydration or muscle cramping. In fact, most research actually supports the opposite.

Cleanest Creatine Supplements You Can Buy

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1. Thorne Creatine

  • NSF Certified for Sport
  • Easy to mix, highly researched, micronized form of creatine monohydrate that’s colorless and odorless
[$36; thorne.com]

Get it

Momentous Creatine
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2. Momentous Creatine

  • NSF Certified for Sport
  • Highly soluble, colorless, and flavorless creatine monohydrate (we’re big fans of their whey and vegan protein powder; consider making a morning smoothie or post-workout shake)
[$35; livemomentous.com]

Get it

Klean Creatine
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3. Klean Creatine

  • NSF Certified for Sport
  • Flavorless, highly soluble creatine monohydrate
[$29; kleanathlete.com]

Get it

Onnit Creatine
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4. Onnit Creatine

  • Informed Sport Certified
  • Favorless, highly soluble creatine monohydrate
[$15; onnit.com]

Get it

Pure Encapsulations Creatine
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5. Pure Encapsulations Creatine

  • Flavorless, highly soluble creatine monohydrate
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[$58.70; pureformulas.com]

Get it

Jordan Mazur, M.S., R.D., is the Director of Nutrition for the San Francisco 49ers


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