The Best Creatine Supplements for Muscle Gain, Pumps, and More

We tried every different type of creatine product to help you discover the best of the best.

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After whey protein powder, creatine may be one of the most popular supplements in a gym-goers’ pantry — and for good reason. Most supplements have a handful of studies supporting their use, but creatine has hundreds of them, suggesting a strong effect on performance and body composition

Creatine mainly works by increasing one’s ability to improve power output in the gym. As a result, you’ll get stronger more quickly and build more muscle. Of course, it’s more nuanced than that. There are numerous types of creatine on the market, with the most common and well-researched one being creatine monohydrate.

As for which creatine you should buy, we tried and reviewed dozens of top brands to land on the best creatine supplements that serve a number of needs and preferences. Below, we discuss the benefits of creatine and answer common questions related to this popular supplement. 

Best Creatine Supplements

Editor’s note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended to diagnose, prevent, and/or treat health problems. It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before beginning a new fitness, nutritional, and/or supplement routine.

Best Creatine Supplements Video Review

Be sure to check out our best creatine video for an up-close and personal look at each of the picks on our list.

Best Creatine Overall

Some creatine supplements have many unnecessary ingredients, but the best creatine product on the market should probably have one or two useful additions. We think Transparent Labs strikes this balance perfectly for high-quality creatine.

Transparent Labs Creatine HMB

The HMB, which stands for hydroxymethyl butyrate, is the main metabolite in the branched-chain amino acid leucine that prevents muscle protein breakdown. So, it may help you retain muscle, and it appears to do so more effectively than leucine alone. One bonus is that combining HMB with creatine also appears to increase strength better than taking either supplement alone. Transparent Labs Creatine HMB packs 5,000mg of creatine monohydrate per serving — plus, the blue raspberry flavor is delicious and contains no artificial sweeteners.

Transparent Labs Creatine HMB
Transparent Labs Creatine HMB
Transparent Labs Creatine HMB

We like that this product includes hydroxymethyl butyrate, the main metabolite in leucine that prevents muscle protein breakdown. Plus, the blue raspberry flavor is tasty, and the blend contains no artificial sweeteners.

Who Should Buy Transparent Labs Creatine HMB

  • Those who want the added muscle-specific benefits of HMB in their creatine supplement.
  • People who want flavored creatine but don’t want artificial flavors and ingredients.
  • Anyone who prefers a powder supplement over a capsule. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Transparent Labs Creatine HMB

  • Anyone looking for a stimulatory or ergogenic effect from their creatine supplement, as this product is stim-free.
  • Those who prefer flavored creatine may prefer to look elsewhere — this product only comes unflavored. 

HMB is a fascinating area of creatine science. There’s evidence that if you want creatine that promotes power output while retaining muscle mass, this product from Transparent Labs is a great bet for getting you there.

[Related: Could Baking Soda Be The Best Workout Supplement You’ve Never Tried?]

Best Creatine Monohydrate

Creatine monohydrate is far and away the most science-backed form of creatine. If you’re looking for nothing but pure, unflavored creatine at the best price, then look no further than Plantrise Creatine Monohydrate.

Plantrise Creatine Monohydrate

Each two-scoop serving provides five grams of creatine monohydrate that mixes seamlessly into liquid. Plantrise recommends you take this creatine 30 to 45 minutes before and/or after your workout mixed with juice or a high-carb beverage for best results. It’s unflavored, so you don’t have to worry about it disrupting the taste of your beverage. Plus, this product is dairy-free and non-GMO for those who value those qualities in their creatine.

Plantrise Creatine Monohydrate
Plantrise Creatine Monohydrate
Plantrise Creatine Monohydrate

This creatine is dairy free, non-GMO, and made in a lab tested facility. It has a high absorption rate, so it can digest faster than some other creatine supplements.

Who Should Buy Plantrise Creatine Monohydrate

  • Those who are looking for creatine without any artificial flavors or additional ingredients.
  • Anyone looking for fast-dissolving creatine that mixes well into liquid. 
  • Vegans who are looking for a creatine supplement that is free of animal products. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Plantrise Creatine Monohydrate

  • Consumers who want flavors or add-ons like amino acids in their creatine.
  • Folks who prefer to take a pill over powdered creatine. 

Basic yet effective, this formula delivers unflavored, soluble creatine without anything artificial. Plus it’s vegan, so it’s safe for anyone following a plant-based diet.

[Related: The Best Types Of Supplements For Performance, Weight Loss, And Health]

Best Creatine For Muscle Growth

Creatine on its own has many studies that suggest that it can be linked to increased muscle growth. The addition of HMB in this one though might help with that even more than plain creatine monohydrate.

Transparent Labs Creatine HMB

While creatine (and other stimulants) on their own may help boost your performance, that doesn’t guarantee that they’ll help you gain muscle. Transparent Labs’ formula contains 1,500 milligrams of an ingredient called HMB, which can prevent lean muscle loss and decrease fat. Both are key factors when looking to build muscle and increase strength.

Transparent Labs Creatine HMB
Transparent Labs Creatine HMB
Transparent Labs Creatine HMB

We like that this product includes hydroxymethyl butyrate, the main metabolite in leucine that prevents muscle protein breakdown. Plus, the blue raspberry flavor is tasty, and the blend contains no artificial sweeteners.

Who Should Buy Transparent Labs Creatine HMB

  • Folks who want to hang onto muscle mass, especially those on a cut, may benefit from the addition of HMB in this product.
  • People looking to burn fat as they gain muscle mass. HMB is the main metabolite in leucine that prevents the breakdown of muscle protein.
  • Anyone who prefers a blue raspberry flavored powder creatine supplement.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Transparent Labs Creatine HMB

  • People who are more cardio-focused may not need or want the muscle-specific benefits of the HMB.
  • Thrifty shoppers looking for a low-cost creatine. There are cheaper, simpler products on this list for you.
  • Those who don’t want added stimulants in their creatine.

If you’re looking to gain muscle, all creatine is helpful — but some may be more helpful than others. So is the case with Transparent Labs’ formula that is specifically designed to include HMB for muscle retention.

[Related: The Lifter’s Guide To Magnesium: What This Nutrient Does For Strength]

Best Creatine for Men

A drawback to creatine monohydrate is that it can be rough on the stomach (especially if taken on an empty stomach), but creatine hydrochloride may reduce the likelihood of these creatine cramps — a great perk for those taking creatine before hitting the gym. We think this one is particularly great for men who want an easy-to-absorb supplement to take before their intense gym sessions.

Kaged Muscle’s C-HCl Creatine Hydrochloride

While Kaged Muscle’s C-HCl is pricier than monohydrate, it’s still fairly reasonable for creatine HCI at just 35 cents per gram. It’s also a smaller dosage than most monohydrates — instead of taking 5 to 10 grams, you only need to take 750mg as hydrochloride can be highly effective. This product is also third-party tested for banned substances, and it has a great lemon-lime taste or comes in vegetable caps for convenience. A great perk with hydrochloride is that there’s evidence that this supplement absorbs better than monohydrate (1), which makes it a solid pick for athletes worried about effectiveness.

Kaged Muscle C-HCl Creatine Hydrochloride
Kaged Muscle C-HCl Creatine Hydrochloride
Kaged Muscle C-HCl Creatine Hydrochloride

This is a tasty option for folks who are looking for creatine hydrochloride in either pill or powder form. It’s third-party tested for banned substances and competitively priced.

Who Should Buy Kaged Muscle’s C-HCl Creatine Hydrochloride

  • Anyone who wants an easier-to-digest creatine supplement. 
  • Athletes who want to take a smaller dosage of creatine hydrochloride and reap the same benefits of a larger dose of creatine monohydrate. 
  • Customers looking for a product that’s been third-party tested. 
  • Gym goers who want the choice between using powder or vegetable caps.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Kaged Muscle’s C-HCl Creatine Hydrochloride

  • Those who want more than one flavor to choose from. 
  • Folks who don’t want to spend extra on creatine hydrochloride.

This creatine from Kaged is easy to digest and can absorb faster than monohydrate. Plus, it’s got a great flavor, and a small dose can pack a big punch. 

Best Creatine For Women

A recurring theme when we talk to female athletes is a desire for supplements that improve performance without adding unnecessary bulk. So when looking for the best creatine for women, we sought one without the extras. 

Plantrise Creatine Monohydrate

Creatine, for the most part, is creatine, so there aren’t many women-specific features in most creatine supplements. That said, Plantrise offers up a straightforward supplement that contains 5g of creatine per serving without any additives. That means the unflavored powder is totally vegan and cruelty-free, plus it’s free of preservatives, added sugar, GMO’s, herbicides, pesticides, or anything artificial.

Plantrise Creatine Monohydrate
Plantrise Creatine Monohydrate
Plantrise Creatine Monohydrate

This creatine is dairy free, non-GMO, and made in a lab tested facility. It has a high absorption rate, so it can digest faster than some other creatine supplements.

Who Should Buy Plantrise Creatine Monohydrate

  • Women who want a clean, straightforward creatine supplement without added extras.
  • Anyone who follows a vegan diet, as this supplement is plant-based.
  • Folks who prefer an unflavored powder creatine supplement vs a flavored powder.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Plantrise Creatine Monohydrate

  • Athletes who prefer a pill or flavored powder might want to opt for another creatine on this list — this is an unflavored powder. 
  • Those who are looking for added stimulants or prebiotics for digestive health included in their creatine.

To be clear: Any creatine on this list will suit a woman just fine. That said, some women may prefer the lack of additives in this straightforward creatine supplement. 

Best Tasting Creatine

Sometimes all you need to stay hooked on a supplement is a great-tasting product. We think this pick takes the cake in that department. 

Kaged Muscle’s C-HCl Creatine Hydrochloride

Kaged Muscle’s C-HCI may be a bit pricier than some other creatine supplements — like creatine monohydrate — but it’s still fairly reasonable for hydrochloride. At 35 cents per gram, you’re getting a product that studies suggest to be easier to digest than monohydrate, requires a smaller dosage, and has a great taste. (2) Though most creatine supplements aren’t flavored, Kaged’s C-HCl Creatine’s lemon line flavor tastes like an old-fashioned lemonade, so it’s super refreshing, and especially so after a workout. Plus, this product is third-party tested for banned substances, so you can trust the label you read.

Kaged Muscle C-HCl Creatine Hydrochloride
Kaged Muscle C-HCl Creatine Hydrochloride
Kaged Muscle C-HCl Creatine Hydrochloride

This is a tasty option for folks who are looking for creatine hydrochloride in either pill or powder form. It’s third-party tested for banned substances and competitively priced.

Who Should Buy Kaged Muscle’s C-HCl Creatine Hydrochloride

  • Users who want a product that tastes great to help them stay committed (and dare we say excited) to their supplement regimen. 
  • Athletes who want a product that is third-party tested for banned substances. 
  • If you’re looking for an easier-to-digest creatine supplement, this product’s hydrochloride form may be helpful. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Kaged Muscle’s C-HCl Creatine Hydrochloride

  • Anyone who wants lots of flavors to choose from — though their lemon lime flavor is great, it’s the only flavor option available right now.
  • Folks who are looking for a cost-effective creatine supplement may want to opt for a monohydrate.

This creatine not only tastes great but it can also be digested more easily than monohydrate, so the little extra money you’re paying per serving is worth it on multiple fronts. 

Best Post-Workout Creatine

For our post-workout pick, we searched for a high-end creatine product that’s focused on muscle retention and recovery. After a lot of digging, we landed on Legion’s Recharge, which contains an unusual metabolite that may work synergistically with creatine.

Legion Recharge

Legion Recharge is a great creatine product. It’s not just creatine monohydrate, which is the most research-backed form: One scoop delivers l-carnitine l-tartrate, which may help to reduce exercise-induced muscle damage and improve recovery. There’s also some banaba leaf extract, which may help to increase insulin sensitivity and improve the way we digest carbohydrates. Finally: it’s completely naturally flavored, colored, and sweetened.

Legion Recharge Creatine
Legion Recharge Creatine
Legion Recharge Creatine

Legion Recharge is a well-rounded option that includes a solid dose of creatine monohydrate, along with l-carnitine l-tartrate, which may help to reduce exercise-induced muscle damage and improve recovery.

Who Should Buy Legion Recharge

  • If you want creatine with additives but no stimulants, this is a great “any time” recovery drink.
  • Folks who like flavored creatine and multiple options to choose from — recharge comes in Watermelon, Fruit Punch, or Strawberry Lemonade (though it’s also available unflavored).
  • Anyone interested in the potential recovery and longevity benefits of l-carnitine l-tartrate (LCLT).

Who Shouldn’t Buy Legion Recharge

  • Customers who just want plain creatine without the extras can find a more basic option.
  • If you’re looking to save cash, this isn’t the cheapest creatine supplement out there.

This creatine formula from Legion is specifically geared towards muscle recovery, making it an excellent supplement to take after a tough training session.

[Related: I’m A Professional Powerlifter. Here’s What I Think About Bodybuilding]

Best Creatine for Beginners

If you’re just starting out and looking for a simple product that can potentially help boost your athletic performance, this pick is the way to go. 

Plantrise Creatine Monohydrate

Made with 100 percent creatine monohydrate, Plantrise Creatine Monohydrate is a great start for those looking to supplement with creatine for the first time. It’s dairy-free, non-GMO, and made in a lab tested facility — plus, it has a high absorption rate, so, it can digest faster than some other creatine supplements. This means its potential to boost athletic performance, reduce post-exercise fatigue, and build lean muscle mass kicks in quicker than slower absorbing monohydrates. It is, however, unflavored, so those looking for a flavor bomb will have to mix it with another supplement in their stack.

Plantrise Creatine Monohydrate
Plantrise Creatine Monohydrate
Plantrise Creatine Monohydrate

This creatine is dairy free, non-GMO, and made in a lab tested facility. It has a high absorption rate, so it can digest faster than some other creatine supplements.

Who Should Buy Plantrise Creatine Monohydrate

  • Anyone just starting out on creatine who’s looking for a simple, straightforward product. 
  • Those who want a product made in a lab-tested facility. 
  • Folks who prefer creatine monohydrate over hydrochloride will find this as a solid option. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Plantrise Creatine Monohydrate

  • Customers who are looking for a cost-effective creatine supplement can find cheaper options on the market. 
  • Athletes who prefer a flavored, great-tasting powder. 

While Plantrise Creatine Monohydrate is unflavored, it’s still one of the more effective and straightforward options on the market for beginners who are looking for a place to start their creatine journey. 

Best Creatine For Bulking

If you’ve been training for years, then you know that every ounce of muscle added to your frame is a major milestone. Creatine with muscle-building benefits can help you make the most out of your bulk.

Transparent Labs Creatine HMB

What sets this creatine apart from others is the inclusion of HMB, a chemical that studies suggest is highly linked to fat loss and strength-building benefits. (4) Most lifters push heavier weights when they’re bulking (mass does move mass, after all), so this formula may help you gain more strength in addition to the common endurance-boosting benefits of creatine. It’s a win-win for lifters looking to bulk up big time.

Transparent Labs Creatine HMB
Transparent Labs Creatine HMB
Transparent Labs Creatine HMB

We like that this product includes hydroxymethyl butyrate, the main metabolite in leucine that prevents muscle protein breakdown. Plus, the blue raspberry flavor is tasty, and the blend contains no artificial sweeteners.

Who Should Buy Transparent Labs Creatine HMB

  • Lifters in a bulking phase who want to increase strength to build more mass will appreciate the HMB in this product.
  • Athletes who prioritize strength training and need a supplement to support their efforts.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Transparent Labs Creatine HMB

  • Those who would prefer a micronized creatine for faster absorption.
  • Penny pinchers. This product is slightly more expensive than others on the market, though one can argue that the addition of HMB makes it a more robust supplement.

If you’re looking to build muscle and bulk up, then you’ll need to push yourself. Creatine may allow you to eke out an extra rep, and this formula can help you build and hang onto muscle mass as a nice bonus.

[Related: The Real Pros And Cons Of The Bodybuilding Lifestyle]

Best Creatine for Cutting

If you’re cutting, you’re likely looking for a creatine supplement that is easily absorbed, effective, clean, and doesn’t cause any bloating — this pick is all of the above.

Kaged Muscle’s C-HCl Creatine Hydrochloride

Though hydrochloride is generally pricier than monohydrate, it’s for good reason. Kaged Muscle’s C-HCI Creatine Hydrochloride can be more easily absorbed than creatine monohydrate, potentially helping your body boost athletic performance faster and more effectively. At 35 cents per gram, this product is on the lower end of the price range for creatine hydrochlorides, and it’s third-party tested for banned supplements and peace of mind. Bonus: Its natural lemon-lime flavor tastes just like lemonade, so it’s refreshing at any time of the day.

Kaged Muscle C-HCl Creatine Hydrochloride
Kaged Muscle C-HCl Creatine Hydrochloride
Kaged Muscle C-HCl Creatine Hydrochloride

This is a tasty option for folks who are looking for creatine hydrochloride in either pill or powder form. It’s third-party tested for banned substances and competitively priced.

Who Should Buy Kaged Muscle’s C-HCl Creatine Hydrochloride

  • Those who get digestive discomfort from monohydrate and prefer creatine hydrochloride. 
  • Anyone who wants a product that is third-party tested for peace of mind. 
  • Those who want a product that can be absorbed more easily.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Kaged Muscle’s C-HCl Creatine Hydrochloride

  • Customers looking for a more reasonably priced creatine supplement. 
  • Athletes who want more than one flavor to choose from. 

While Kaged Muscle’s C-HCI Creatine Hydrochloride is a little pricier than more basic creatine monohydrates, it’s easier on the digestive system, and can potentially absorb faster for better athletic performance. 

Best Creatine HCl

Some prefer creatine hydrochloride, a more acidic form of creatine that may actually be easier on sensitive stomachs, as it’s closer to the pH of our stomach acid. Not all creatine hydrochloride is created equal, and — yes, here it is again — we think Kaged Muscle’s C-HCl sits above the rest. 

Kaged Muscle’s C-HCl Creatine Hydrochloride

Kaged Muscle’s C-HCl hits all the right notes. While it’s pricier than monohydrate, it’s a pretty reasonable cost for creatine HCl at about 35 cents per gram. Hydrochloride varies between 20 and 60 cents per gram, so Kaged Muscle’s product is right in the middle, and it has two big advantages: It’s naturally flavored with a tasty lemon-lime bent (you can get unflavored too), and most importantly, it’s third-party tested for banned substances by Informed-Sport, which makes it a great pick for athletes.

Kaged Muscle C-HCl Creatine Hydrochloride
Kaged Muscle C-HCl Creatine Hydrochloride
Kaged Muscle C-HCl Creatine Hydrochloride

This is a tasty option for folks who are looking for creatine hydrochloride in either pill or powder form. It’s third-party tested for banned substances and competitively priced.

Who Should Buy Kaged Muscle’s C-HCl Creatine Hydrochloride

  • If creatine monohydrate gives you digestive discomfort, there’s anecdotal evidence that this form may digest more easily.
  • Competitive athletes who only take supplements tested by companies like Informed-Sport will be happy with this product. 
  • If you like the taste of lemon-lime, you’ll like this product’s flavor.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Kaged Muscle’s C-HCl Creatine Hydrochloride

  • Those who don’t get indigestion from monohydrate — there’s no specific evidence that hydrochloride is a better overall supplement than monohydrate. It’s simply easier to digest. 
  • Folks who don’t want to spend extra on hydrochloride.

This creatine may digest more effectively than other formulas for better overall absorption. Also, it doesn’t hurt that the lemon lime flavor tastes great.

[Related: Best Macros Calculator For Tracking Muscle Gain and Fat Loss]

Best Creatine for Bodybuilders

Since bodybuilders are generally looking to enhance strength and gain muscle, creatine is a solid supplement (one could argue it’s a staple) to add to their regimen. This pick is high-quality, and HMB (β-Hydroxy β-Methylbutyrate) in particular can help you retain more muscle mass.

Transparent Labs’ Creatine HMB

The HMB in Transparent Labs Creatine HMB, which stands for β-Hydroxy β-Methylbutyrate is a metabolite in the branched-chain amino acid leucine that can help prevent muscles from breaking down, so you retain more of the muscle you build in the gym. Plus, combined with creatine, this product can help increase strength better than an individual creatine or HMB product can on its own. The blue raspberry flavor contains no artificial sweeteners, and the included Bioperine (a version of black pepper extract) can potentially help with the product’s overall absorption.

Transparent Labs Creatine HMB
Transparent Labs Creatine HMB
Transparent Labs Creatine HMB

We like that this product includes hydroxymethyl butyrate, the main metabolite in leucine that prevents muscle protein breakdown. Plus, the blue raspberry flavor is tasty, and the blend contains no artificial sweeteners.

Who Should Buy Transparent Labs’ Creatine HMB

  • Bodybuilders who are looking to increase their muscle mass, preserve their gains, and decrease their body fat. 
  • Anyone looking for a product that can absorb effectively.
  • Those who need a product that can potentially help keep their muscle gains from breaking down. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Transparent Labs’ Creatine HMB

  • Folks who want a creatine supplement at a lower price point. 
  • Those who prefer a wider selection of flavored powders, or capsules for convenience. 

Though this product is a little more expensive than some others, the combination of creatine and HMB can be particularly effective in helping users retain muscle mass and shed body fat — plus, the tasty blue raspberry flavor doesn’t hurt. 

Best Creatine For Mixing

This is one of the best micronized creatines on the market, which makes it a solid pick for mixing. Since it’s processed to assume smaller granule sizes, it dissolves easily in fluid.

BulkSupplements Creatine Monohydrate

Made in a Good Manufacturing Practices-certified facility free from major allergens, this pure creatine monohydrate is tested both in-house and by a third party for any impurities. If their good habits in production aren’t enough to convince you, perhaps having the most affordable price around when buying at least a kilogram will. What makes it great for mixing is the simplicity of the product — it’s just creatine monohydrate and nothing else, which means you can mix it with any other shake or drink without issue.

BulkSupplements Creatine Monohydrate
BulkSupplements Creatine Monohydrate
BulkSupplements Creatine Monohydrate

This creatine is clean and simple. It comes with 2.5 grams of micronized creatine per serving, and you can buy it in bulk to save money. Plus, it's tested both in-house and by a third party for any impurities.

Who Should Buy BulkSupplements Creatine Monohydrate

  • Those who want creatine monohydrate without any additional ingredients.
  • Folks who are working with tighter budgets will appreciate that you can buy this product in bulk. 
  • People looking for small-granule, micronized creatine that mixes well into liquid.

Who Shouldn’t Buy BulkSupplements Creatine Monohydrate

  • Athletes who prefer to use creatine hydrochloride will want to look elsewhere, as this is a monohydrate. 
  • Anyone who doesn’t need to buy in bulk. There may be more comprehensive creatine supplements out there for you in smaller packages.

This creatine is simple and mixes like a charm, BulkSupplements lets you buy up to 25 kilograms worth of their creatine, which can save you big time in the long run. [Related: The 3 Most Common Types Of Training Periodization (And When To Use Them)]

Best Creatine Pills

Pills are generally more convenient to carry around than powders, making them a great choice for travel and people who are always on the go. 

Kaged Muscle’s C-HCl Creatine Hydrochloride

Kaged’s C-HCl comes in the form of both creatine powder and creatine pills. The pill form is easy to travel with or throw into your gym bag. Also, Kaged Muscle boasts 750mg of creatine hydrochloride per capsule — hydrochloride can be absorbed by your body quicker and easier than creatine monohydrate, so while you may take 5g of monohydrate, 750mg of hydrochloride can be equally as effective. Each serving is just a single capsule, and you can buy bottles of 75 capsules. Plus, the capsules are made of vegetable cellulose, so this product is vegan-friendly.

Kaged Muscle C-HCl Creatine Hydrochloride
Kaged Muscle C-HCl Creatine Hydrochloride
Kaged Muscle C-HCl Creatine Hydrochloride

This is a tasty option for folks who are looking for creatine hydrochloride in either pill or powder form. It’s third-party tested for banned substances and competitively priced.

Who Should Buy Kaged Muscle’s C-HCl Creatine Hydrochloride

  • People who travel a lot or like to throw their creatine in the gym bag to take pre- or post-workout.
  • This product is ideal for folks who would rather take a pill than go through the rigamarole of mixing a powder to consume their supplement.
  • If you’re looking for a hydrochloride over a monohydrate creatine supplement, this is a great option.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Kaged Muscle’s C-HCl Creatine Hydrochloride

  • Those who don’t want to spend extra on hydrochloride may want to go for a less expensive monohydrate.
  • Those who are pill adverse are better off opting for a powder supplement. 

If you’re on the go a lot, pills may be more convenient since you don’t need to haul a shaker bottle around. Also, each two-pill dose ensures you’re receiving 2.5g of pure creatine.

How We Decided Our Picks

Here are the primary factors we considered when choosing which creatine supplements to place on this list.

Supplement Type

There are pills, powders — both flavored and unflavored — and even creatine chews. Some supplements aren’t even pure creatine supplements, but rather intra-workout supplements that include creatine. We have included a variety of creatine types on this list so you can choose the supplement and delivery mechanism that best suits your needs. 

Price

Depending on what supplement type you choose, the price will vary. An intra-workout supplement that includes carbs, protein, and creatine will be more expensive than a pure monohydrate. That said, the products we picked float right around the market price. Supplements are nice to have, but they shouldn’t break the bank. Luckily, creatine is one of the most affordable supplements on the market.

Research

As creatine is absorbed by the body, it draws water into the muscles, and as muscles become more saturated, creatine can potentially help improve power output in the gym. It is generally thought that creatine supplementation may promote a faster rebuilding of adenosine triphosphate (ATP — an energy molecule in the body’s cells) in between workouts. With more energy for your next session, creatine may help increase performance in resistance training and high-intensity work. (3)

Creatine
Image via Shutterstock/itakdalee

While creatine may seem straightforward, there are actually many different types of creatine on the market. We’ve double-checked that each supplement uses a science-backed creatine variety and — just as important — that it’s dosed correctly. [Related: How To Do The Romanian Deadlift For Lower-Body Size And Strength]

Before You Buy Creatine

If creatine is a brand new supplement to you, or even if it isn’t, there’s some info you should know before you add it to your daily routine. Read on for a few pro tips on this well-researched, yet sometimes misunderstood product.

Some People Don’t Respond To Creatine

A small percentage of people, perhaps twenty percent, is called creatine non-responders: Their bodies don’t uptake creatine the same way most people do. (4) It’s hard to know if you’re one of them until you start taking it. This is one of the reasons it’s great that creatine is so inexpensive: You’re not down too much money if you’re a non-responder. 

You Don’t Need to “Load” Creatine

It used to be fashionable to “load” creatine, taking 20 to 25 grams per day for the first week, then dropping down to five or 10 grams for a few weeks, taking one or two weeks off, and repeating. The goal in this method was that taking a lot of creatine for a week or two would increase muscle stores quickly, then by significantly decreasing the amount you’re taking, you’d maintain the high levels you built up, and then do it all over again. (5) The idea with creatine is to take it every day until your muscles are “saturated,” and you’ll enjoy the ergogenic effects. Loading creatine may saturate the muscles a little more quickly, but it’s not necessary at all. You can take the standard five to 10 grams per day. If you are consistent with your supplementation, this saturation will build up naturally over time — there’s no need to rush it with loading. (6)

You Can Have Creatine With Caffeine

Following on from the previous point, one study published in 1996 found that creatine didn’t increase power output when combined with caffeine. (7) However, many other, higher-quality studies (like double-blind, randomized trials) haven’t found this to be the case. If you have some creatine with your morning eggs and coffee, it’s no big deal.

Chat With Your Doctor First

Creatine is widely seen as safe, but it’s always smart to chat with your doctor before making any new additions to your supplement routine. This is especially true if your doctor is monitoring your creatinine levels, for instance, as taking creatine can throw them off a little. This doesn’t mean creatine harms your kidneys; rather, your doctor should simply know about your supplements you’re taking.

What’s the Best Type of Creatine?

The general sentiment among nutrition experts is that creatine monohydrate is, for most people, the best bet. It’s the cheapest form, and more importantly, it’s the most well-researched. Hundreds of studies have been performed on creatine monohydrate, and there’s no evidence of ill effects, whereas many of the more novel forms of creatine have one or sometimes no studies supporting them.

Some people indeed experience stomach cramps when they consume creatine monohydrate, and it’s possible that taking creatine with a different pH — usually creatine hydrochloride — can have a different effect on stomach acid and make for creatine that digests more easily. As far as we know, easier digestion doesn’t necessarily mean it’s more effective or that you need less of it to achieve the desired result. That’s the long and short of it: monohydrate for almost everyone, hydrochloride if that gives you stomach issues. But if you’re curious about other kinds, check out these 10 kinds of creatine and what they all mean.

How Much is Creatine?

The price of creatine varies depending on which type of creatine you buy, and what other supplements are included in the product. The good news though? Creatine is a very inexpensive supplement compared to others on the market. Creatine monohydrate is the most basic form of creatine, and is generally going to be the least expensive. Creatine hydrochloride can potentially absorb better than creatine monohydrate, which can be more desirable for some athletes who want a product that’s easier on the stomach, and who are looking for the effects to kick in faster. Creatine HCL tends to be a little more expensive than monohydrate for that reason. At the top of the charts is creatine that’s enhanced with other supplements (like HMB). These creatines tend to be the priciest because their potential effects can be more powerful and nuanced than those of plain creatine taken on its own.

Best Creatine Overall Transparent Labs Creatine HMB $39.00
$1.30 per serving
Best Creatine Monohydrate Plantrise Creatine Monohydrate $39.00
$0.65 per serving
Best Creatine for Muscle Growth Transparent Labs Creatine HMB $39.00
$1.30 per serving
Best Creatine for Men KAGED MUSCLE C-HCl Creatine Hydrochloride $19.99
$0.27 per serving
Best Creatine for Women Plantrise Creatine Monohydrate $39.00
$0.65 per serving
Best Tasting Creatine KAGED MUSCLE C-HCl Creatine Hydrochloride $19.99
$0.27 per serving
Best Post-Workout Creatine Legion Recharge $44.99
$0.75 per serving
Best Creatine for Beginners Plantrise Creatine Monohydrate $39.00
$0.65 per serving
Best Creatine for Bulking Transparent Labs Creatine HMB $39.00
$1.30 per serving
Best Creatine for Cutting KAGED MUSCLE C-HCl Creatine Hydrochloride $19.99
$0.27 per serving
Best Creatine HCl Kaged Muscle C-HCl Creatine Hydrochloride $19.99
$0.27 per serving
Best Creatine for Bodybuilders Transparent Labs Creatine HMB  $39.00
$1.30 per serving
Best Creatine for Mixing Bulk Supplements Creatine Monohydrate $12.96
$0.65 per serving
Best Creatine Pills KAGED MUSCLE C-HCl Creatine Hydrochloride $19.99
$0.27 per serving

Though the prices vary, the general price range tends to be anywhere between 10 and 80 cents per gram, or $20 to $45 per box or bottle depending on the number of servings in the container and the type of creatine you’re buying.

The Benefits of Creatine

Creatine is one of the few supplements on the market with a whole bevy of studies supporting its effects on exercise performance and muscle growth. 

More Energy for Exercise

When you exercise, your body produces and uses what’s called ATP (adenosine triphosphate) — a molecule that is a key energy source for many functions. To create ATP, the body needs to tap into phosphocreatine. A creatine supplement helps to increase your phosphocreatine stores, thus providing the body with more ATP for more energy. A review of creatine for exercise performance found that creatine seems to pose no health risks and may boost performance in those who are performing max reps or sprints. (8) [Related: The 3 Most Effective Workouts Splits For Strength Training]

More Power

Because of its ability to help the body produce more ATP, which is at-the-ready energy, creatine has been shown to directly improve power output by anywhere from five to 15 percent. (9) This implies that creatine can help you eke out another extra rep or two of moves that require full effort — for example, the bench press, medicine ball slams, and box jumps.

More Muscle Growth

While creatine has been strongly linked to improved performance, some studies show that it can also help with muscle growth. This is in part due to creatine’s ability to help the body crank out extra reps, which, over time, will lead to more growth. But some studies have also found creatine to be linked to lean muscle gains. (10)

When Should I Take Creatine?

Since creatine can help pull water into your muscle cells, taking creatine with water is the best way to ensure you’re giving the supplement the tools it needs to slay the job. Plus, without water, creatine monohydrate may cause cramping or stomach discomfort. The effects of creatine accumulate over time — the longer you consistently take creatine, the more consistently saturated your muscles will be. If you want to have particularly saturated muscles during exercise, creatine can be taken 30 to 45 minutes before or after exercise. However, studies have shown that taking creatine post-workout is better overall for body composition and strength. (11)

Do I Need to Load Creatine?

You don’t have to, but you can. The typical creatine dose is five grams once or twice per day, but it’s sometimes suggested that one should “load” creatine by taking 20 to 25 grams per day for the first week of usage. This is then followed with three to four weeks of five grams per day, then a break for a week or two, then repeat. This may bring about more acute increases in strength and muscle size — creatine will “work” more quickly, in other words — but it’s not necessary. While it’s sometimes advised that one should take a month off from creatine a few times a year, there’s currently not much evidence suggesting that’s necessary.

Final Word

Creatine works by drawing water into your muscles, and this hydration over time can potentially provide more power to boost athletic performance. You can choose from creatine monohydrate, creatine hydrochloride, or creatine with added supplements — all will generally have the same effects; you just need to decide which one will suit your lifestyle and workout regimen best. Once you’ve weighed your options, let this list be your total guide to all things creatine — what it can be used for, what you should consider before buying, what you’re going to pay for it, etc. After all, we’ve already used these best creatine supplements to do the heavy lifting here, so why should you have to?

FAQs

What are the benefits of creatine?

Creatine has strong links to improve power output similar to pre workout — basically better performance in strength workouts. Among people who don’t consume much meat, supplementing creatine may also improve some areas of cognition. What many people take creatine for, though, is because it draws more water into the muscles, meaning it makes them bigger. That’s an aesthetic boost that many people enjoy.

Do I need to load creatine?

Not really. A lot of people suggest taking 20 to 30 grams per day for the first week, then dropping to five grams per day for about a month, then taking a week or two off and repeating the cycle. But taking five to 10 grams per day consistently seems to be just as useful. If you want the “bigger muscles” benefit of creatine as soon as possible, then loading for a day or two might be worth it.

How much creatine should I take?

The default dosage is five grams; when a supplement comes with a scoop, that’s how much it’ll provide you with. Some like to “load” creatine with 25-ish grams per day for a week, then dropping down to five-ish grams for a few weeks. This will saturated the muscles with creatine more quickly if you really need the benefits to set in quickly. But five grams per day, without loading, will work fine. 10 grams may be better for larger athletes.

What's the best type of creatine?

Creatine monohydrate is far and away the most researched and best supported form of creatine. Dozens and dozens of studies support it; no other form of creatine has more than five studies. There’s no evidence any of the other forms, like creatine hydrochloride, nitrate, Kre-Alkalyn, (and so on) are more effective. The main exception is if creatine monohydrate gives you stomach cramps. If this is the case, a form like hydrochloride or nitrate might be easier on your belly.

Do I need to take carbs with creatine?

No. There’s a little evidence that adding carbs makes the creatine absorb more quickly, but creatine isn’t a drug or stimulant that has an immediate effect — it’s something that you saturate the muscles with over a period of days and weeks. So it doesn’t really matter if your daily scoop absorbs faster or not.

References

  1. De França, Elias & Avelar, Bruno & Yoshioka, Caroline & Santana, Jeferson & Madureira, Diana & Rocha, Leandro & Zocoler, Cesar & Rossi, Fabrício & Lira, Fabio & Rodrigues, Bruno & Caperuto, Erico. (2015). Creatine HCl and Creatine Monohydrate Improve Strength but Only Creatine HCl Induced Changes on Body Composition in Recreational Weightlifters. Food and Nutrition Sciences. 06. 10.4236/fns.2015.617167. 
  2. Gufford BT;Sriraghavan K;Miller NJ;Miller DW;Gu X;Vennerstrom JL;Robinson DH; (n.d.). Physicochemical characterization of creatine n-methylguanidinium salts. Journal of dietary supplements. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22432515/. 
  3. Examine.com. (2021, February 4). Creatine – health Benefits, Dosage, side effects. Examine.com. https://examine.com/supplements/creatine/. 
  4. Cooper, R et al. Creatine supplementation with specific view to exercise/sports performance: an update. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012; 9: 33.
  5. Hall M, Trojian TH. Creatine supplementation. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2013 Jul-Aug;12(4):240-4. doi: 10.1249/JSR.0b013e31829cdff2. PMID: 23851411.
  6. Examine.com. (2018, September 27). Do i need to load creatine? Examine.com. https://examine.com/nutrition/do-i-need-to-load-creatine/. 
  7. Vandenberghe, K et al. Caffeine Counteracts the Ergogenic Action of Muscle Creatine Loading. J Appl Physiol (1985). 1996 Feb;80(2):452-7.
  8. Bird SP. Creatine supplementation and exercise performance: a brief review. J Sports Sci Med. 2003;2(4):123-132. Published 2003 Dec 1.
  9. Kreider RB. Effects of creatine supplementation on performance and training adaptations. Mol Cell Biochem. 2003 Feb;244(1-2):89-94. PMID: 12701815.
  10. Nissen SL, Sharp RL. Effect of dietary supplements on lean mass and strength gains with resistance exercise: a meta-analysis. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2003 Feb;94(2):651-9. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00755.2002. Epub 2002 Oct 25. PMID: 12433852.
  11. Antonio, J., & Ciccone, V. (2013). The effects of pre versus post workout supplementation of creatine monohydrate on body composition and strength. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 10, 36. https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-10-36
  12. Green, AL et al. Carbohydrate Ingestion Augments Skeletal Muscle Creatine Accumulation During Creatine Supplementation in Humans. Am J Physiol . 1996 Nov;271(5 Pt 1):E821-6.
  13. Burke, DG et al. Effect of Alpha-Lipoic Acid Combined With Creatine Monohydrate on Human Skeletal Muscle Creatine and Phosphagen Concentration. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab . 2003 Sep;13(3):294-302.
  14. Benton, D et al. The Influence of Creatine Supplementation on the Cognitive Functioning of Vegetarians and Omnivores. Br J Nutr . 2011 Apr;105(7):1100-5.