9 Best Creatine Supplements For Muscle Gains: Buying Guide for 2021

By Nader Qudimat ·
Updated Jan 27, 2021

BEST OVERALL

BEST FOR BULKING

When was the last time you’ve used a supplement that lived up to its claims?

Can’t remember? Never?

I’m not surprised. 

It doesn’t have to be a struggle though. 

Creatine is probably what you're looking for because it's one of the best supplements to take.

If you’re looking for:

  • More strength and muscle gains
  • The best creatines choices
  • Best bang for your buck

Then you’ll love the supplements we’ve rounded up here.

If you’re asking why creatine…

It's one of the few supplements with extensive research and decades of studies. 

In fact, the International Society of Sports Nutrition puts creatine in the spotlight for being the most effective supplement for strength and muscle gains. 

The question is, which creatine do you get?

There are so many forms, not to mention different blends.

The majority of choices are overpriced and sometimes all you need is pure creatine monohydrate.

Many don't even have the most researched form (creatine monohydrate) and instead makes ridiculous claims and hype.

So to help you make an informed choice, we've come up with a top list for creatine for you to choose from.

Whether you’re looking for natural, made for hardgainers, or the cheapest choice, you’ll likely find it here.

Contents

Best Creatine Supplements For Muscle Growth in 2021

Thanks to marketplace giants, Amazon, Bodybuilding.com, and even Wal-Mart, it's never been easier to find a creatine powder. 

However, you won’t find Transparent Labs at any of these places.

This supplement brand can only be found at one source; Transparentlabs.com.

Any company can pack creatine mono and put it on every reachable marketplace.

But TL has proved they can successfully create their own space in an competitive, saturated market without needing a e-com giant like Amazon.

Creatine HMB delivers two well researched compounds for strength: Creatine monohydrate and HMB.

Using a pure and high quality form of monohydrate, CreaPure, you’re getting the most out of this product as it is tested for impurities.

Next up we have HMB, β-Hydroxy β-Methylbutyrate, a metabolite of the anabolic amino acid, leucine.

However instead of increasing protein synthesis like leucine, HMB prevents muscle breakdown, helping maintain muscle mass, making it like insurance for muscles as it ensures you keep hard earned lean mass.

By speeding up the repair for damaged muscle tissues, HMB decreases post workout soreness and will help you get back in the gym more refreshed.

What about the research?

One study showing 30% more strength gains when taking creatine and HMB together (vs on their own).

BioPerine is included to help enhance the bioavailability and absorption.

Whether you’re cutting, bulking, or simply a hardgainer that struggles to gain strength and muscle mass, Creatine HMB will work quite well.

It comes either with natural flavors (Blue Raspberry) or unflavored.

The smallest quantity comes at 30 servings.

If you use coupon code FITFREK for 10% off, you can get 3 bags (90 servings), making it cost $0.87 cents per serving.

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If you’ve tried creatine before and barely noticed the gains then you’ll like this.. 

Especially if you’re trying to put on size. 

Formula XII is a creatine and carb formula that is formulated with muscle builders, recovery agents and pump enhancers. 

It uses clinical dosages and it is one of the best supplements you can get for muscle building. 

With a total of 15g carbs, Formula XII uses low glycemic rated carb sources that are quick to digest and easy to absorb but yet has no effect on blood sugar. 

This means it’ll help drive and shuttle creatine to your muscle cells, where they are needed to help enhance ATP production and turn on muscle protein synthesis.

Betaine anhydrous functions similarly to creatine, and it needs to saturate in your body to make the most out of it or you won’t reap the benefits from it. 

There is a proper full 3.2g dose of beta alanine and if you’re not used to that, you’ll certainly feel the tingles. 

It also uses powerful antioxidants, alpha lipoic acid, as well as 125mg grape seed extract. 

Huge Nutrition has formulated this creatine supplement to be more than your average creatine powder, but it comes at a cost. 

If you’re struggling to put on weight, and you’re putting in 110% into the gym and diet, then Formula XII is something you can try. 

Use coupon code FITFREK.

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ON’s Micronized Creatine is an ultra clean choice for a creatine supplement.

Not only is it 99.9% pure, but it uses creatine monohydrate, a proven form to work backed by hundreds of studies and decades of research.

There are no “other ingredients” like fillers or artificial flavors, this is as natural as you can get to a creatine supplement.

And with Optimum Nutrition’s name on the bottle, you’re getting something that is highly reputed in the supplement industry with their long running history of clean supplements.

For micronized creatine, this choice is undoubtedly the best you can get and it's at it's purest form by using 100% miconized creatine.

This form offers optimal absorption because micronized creatine means it's been cut 20 times smaller for better utilization. 

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For gaining mass, CellTech makes it way too easy.

Personally I’ve used the earlier versions of this supplement before it was reformulated many times, and I have stretch marks from how quickly this helped me gain strength and weight.

It’s no secret though.

The amount of sugar and carbs makes the ultra form of a post workout creatine “gainer”.

It has the same amount of calories as a single scoop of protein but contains only carbs, vitamins, muscle volumizers and carbs.

CellTech doesn’t only include dextrose either, there’s 9 sources of carbs here. Yes, 9.

From fast digesting, to medium and slow, you’re getting the ultimate recovery drink here.

If it was just dextrose and creatine, you’d still make decent gains but by containing long lasting carbs, you’ll be refueling your muscles for longer periods of time.

It has 2 forms of creatine, amino acids and alpha lipoic acid to further help increase muscle size.

MuscleTech created the perfect formula for hardgainer, and it’s specifically made for skinny guys (and gals).

And let’s not kid, you’re not here for regular creatine monohydrate.

You’re here to gain mass and this formula will help you do that while retaining that natty status.

Oh and get some preventive stretch mark product before using CellTech.

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If you find yourself a non-responder when it comes to creatine, or you want a vegan and natural choice, Genius Creatine is an excellent choice.

This innovative formula contains 3 forms of creatine, CreaPure, Creatine HCl and Creatine Magnesium Chelate.

It’s topped with 1.6g beta alanine to help decrease muscular fatigue and help increase power output.

The extra ingredients are all natural, from organic stevia leaf to monk fruit extract, Genius Creatine is one of the few kosher, halal and vegan certified choices.

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Many of the top creatine supplements seem to import creatine from Germany.

It’s no wonder German Creatine Loaded made our rankings here.

German Creatine, as you guessed, is imported from Germany but from the CreaPure facility.

Since it’s third party tested, contains top quality creatine and contains absolutely no impurities, the price is slightly higher than your average monohydrate powder.

And this just contains CreaPure, completely unflavored so you can mix it in with any drink, like protein, pre workout, intra workout or any juice.

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Creatine HCl is a bit more expensive than regular creatine monohydrate.

But Kaged Muscle has the perfect balance between cost and quality.

C-HCl uses third party tested creatine by Informed Choice.

While creatine monohydrate is tested with decades of research, Creatine HCL, by theory, should work without causing bloating or cramping.

What is known for certain is that it will dissolve easily in water and it is easily absorbed due to its purity.

Kaged Muscle has a decent reputation of making supplements that work, so there’s little downside to trying a form of creatine like this from KM.

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MusclePharm is well known for making simple and straightforward supplements.

With their Essentials lineup, their formulas are more simple and better for those looking for bulk powders for their essential supplements.

It’s free of banned substances as it’s lab tested and verified by Informed Choice, which ensures purity.

This form is micronized creatine monohydrate, though the price is just a tad higher, it’s the perfect choice for those looking for something that is verified and lab tested for purity.

This formula previously contained 5 forms of creatine, this latest formula only has one and it’s the most researched form.

Creatine by MP is one of the best you can get.

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Powders can be an inconvenience for some people.

It isn't ideal for people on the go.

Creatine Chews solves this by offering exceptional flexibility and versatility. 

It keeps it simple with using the most proven form of creatine monohydrate and Universal has a great reputation for having no B.S. type of formulas that are straight to the point.

While these chews may remind you of when you used to take candy multivitamins as a kid, or maybe you still do take those delicious vitamins.

The chewable creatine tablets make it easy to take creatine without requiring a drink to mix it in, or making a mess with powders and bottles.

Take the tablet, chew it and you have your creatine intake in check.

This creatine is perfect for people on the go like travelers, gym goers, and people who simply do not have the luxury of carrying every supplement bottle in their bags.

All it contains is creatine monohydrate and 5g carbs.

So if you don’t want carbs in your creatine, you won’t like this. And this doesn’t taste exactly like candy, due to it’s chalkier texture, it isn’t the same.

For pills, Creatine Chews are the best choice and they are free from artificial sweeteners and are vegan-friendly.

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What is Creatine and How Does it Works?

Unless you live under a rock, you've probably heard of this supplement.

It's one of the best you can get.

Creatine is a nitrogenous organic acid made up of the amino acids arginine, glycine and methionine.

It plays a key role in replenishing lost energy.

When you eat, your body turns food into Adenosine TriPhosphate (ATP), the main form of energy that we use for explosive, short term activities.

These powerful, anaerobically produced energy reserves are quickly exhausted.

The actual muscle contraction is fueled by the phosphates that are derived from ATP.

When a phosphate splits off from ATP as a result of muscle exertion, Adenosine DiPhosphate (ADP) is formed.

ADP needs an additional phosphate to return it to the energy releasing ATP state and refuel additional bursts of strength.

This is where creatine comes in.

Creatine bonds with a phosphate inside muscles to form PhosphoCreatine, or PCr.

This additional phosphate immediately replenishes the lost phosphate in ADP to form ATP.

This process allows another powerful energy burst without having to wait on the slow process of ATP metabolism through cellular respiration.

The bottom line is that creatine allows bodybuilders and weight training athletes, sprinters and other trainers to quickly replenish their energy reserves so that they can do more work and make more rapid gains in mass and performance.

Does it work?

Creatine is the most studied athletic performance supplement in the world.

The results of those studies are conclusive and show that it is able to do the following:

  • Increase fat free muscle mass
  • Improve one rep max strength
  • Enhance muscular endurance
  • Improve anaerobic power

What are creatine supplements?

Creatine is the best supplement you can get.

It is the most efficent and the best bang for your buck in terms of gains and results.

It's available in several supplementary forms.

The most common is creatine monohydrate, which is creatine with a molecule of water.

Creatine monohydrate supplements are used by the body the same way that it uses creatine derived from meat sources once digested.

The only difference is that the body does not have to break down before delivering creatine to the bloodstream and then to the muscles.

As a dietary supplement, creatine is available in powder, caplet, tablet, gel and formula forms.

The powdered form is the most recommended.

Creatine powder can be mixed with nearly any liquid including water, juice and milk.

It can also be added to a protein or pre-workout shake.

Creatine supplements are made through a chemical reaction which is carried out between sodium or potassium sarcosinate and cyanamide.

A pH buffer, such as hydrochloric acid or carbonic acid, is then typically used to balance the solution. 

Best Form Of Creatine

The vast majority of scientific research on creatine has focused on the monohydrate form.

Monohydrate is the least expensive form of creatine and has the best bioavailability.

Other forms that have been marketed as being better than monohydrate have actually been shown to quickly degrade into the waste product creatinine.

The best form of Creatine is that produced by German company AlzChem AG and marketed as CreaPure.

Other Creatine Forms

Alternatives to creatine monohydrate include:
  • Creatine ethyl ester
  • Creatine phosphate
  • Creatine citrate
  • Creatine Hydrochloride (HCL)

Kre-alkalyn

Two forms that are worth checking out are Creatine HCL and Kre-alkalyn.

These are both bonded forms of creatine, which means that a molecule has been bonded to the creatine.

This is done to lower the pH of the creatine, making it more acidic.

This increases the absorbability of the creatine in the intestines.

The bonding also allows these forms to mix better than monohydrate.

The makers of these versions claim that, as a result of the increased absorbability, you only need to take about half as much of the creatine than you would if you were taking monohydrate (2.5 grams compared to 5 grams).

It is also claimed that these two versions (HCL and Kre-alkalyn) result in less conversion to the waste product creatinine.

How Does Creatine Affect The Brain?

The energy enhancing benefits of creatine have been shown to improve neuromuscular functioning.

A 2003 study, which was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences found that six weeks of creatine supplementation at 5 grams daily given to 45 vegetarians greatly improved their cognitive functioning.

The study authors concluded . . .

Results agree with previous observations showing that brain creatine levels correlate with improved recognition memory and reduce mental fatigue.

There are also some very promising studies which suggest that creatine supplementation has a beneficial effect on neuromuscular diseases such as Muscular Dystrophy, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease.

A large number of studies have shown that creatine also has the ability to protect the brain from neurotoxic agents.

Benefits Of Taking Creatine

I'm certain you'll never find a supplement that works as well as creatine.

Creatine helps athletes, bodybuilders and almost anyone to achieve a range of goals.

These include increasing strength levels, building muscle mass, enhancing athletic performance, improving cognitive ability and combating disease.

Creatine is also beneficial as a dietary supplement for vegans and vegetarians in order to replenish the creatine in their muscles that is absent with a meatless diet.

Recent studies have also suggested that creatine may be an antioxidant.

It has properties that give it the ability to inhibit the damaging properties of free radicals.

Creatine has also been shown to aid in the treatment of several muscular, neuromuscular, neurodegenerative and neurological diseases. 

Creatine Benefits For Bodybuilding

More gains, more strength, and more brain power!

That would be great, am I right?

Creatine indirectly leads to increased muscle mass because it provides more energy for the muscles during workouts and exercise.

At first many creatine users notice an increase in muscle size, known as volumizing.

This increase in muscle size at the onset of creatine use is actually due to the fact that creatine absorbs water, and so retains additional water in the muscle.

Newly hydrated muscles appear larger and can make a bodybuilder look bigger and bulkier overall.

And, contrary to a popular myth, the increase in intra muscular water retention does not lead to an increase in water retention through the rest of the body.

The result is that a bodybuilder actually appears more ripped when using creatine.

Creatine allows bodybuilders to achieve more reps when training.

This allows for greater stress on the working muscle group, enhanced time under tension leading to the creation of micro-tears within the muscle fiber.

These micro-tears are the key to muscle growth.

Rest and proper post workout nutrition (i.e. high protein) will allow you to rebuild the fiber a little bigger than it was before. 

Benefits For Weightlifters

Weightlifters will experience an immediate increase in strength ability when using creatine.

The reason is that it prolongs their explosive strength ability.

Without ATP they will quickly lose a phosphate after about 30 seconds of maximum exertion.

Creatine immediately replaces a phosphate to allow the maximum energy exertion to continue for another 10-15 seconds.

That allows for the performance of another one or two repetitions.

Vegetarians

Creatine supplements are completely vegan and vegetarian friendly.

They are created from synthetic sources, which are far more cost effective than using animals sourced creatine.

The main dietary sources of creatine are meat, fish and dairy products.

As a result, vegans and vegetarians are usually lacking in creatine.

Supplementing with creatine allows allows them to safely bring up their creatine levels.

Vegans and vegetarians who are bodybuilders or others wanting to take the supplement for enhanced athletic performance should take a slightly higher dosage than non vegetarians in order to both bring their normal levels up and to provide the strength enhancement benefits for their gym training.

We recommend that they take up to 7 grams per day.

Can Women Take Creatine?

Yes for sure!

Creatine is found in fish, and meats, so technically if you already eat these foods then you are taking creatine.

Creatine supplementation is a good idea no matter what your gender is. 

There is a pervading myth that creatine supplementation will lead to fat gain for women.

Creatine does not contain fat.

What’s more, creatine usage leads to the growth of eam muscle tissue which burns fat because your body uses more fuel to move.

Many women are also afraid that creatine supplementation will make them bloated.

This is not the case.

What it will do is to cause your muscle to retain more water.

This will make the muscle look fuller.

However, the rest of the body will not retain water as a result.

In fact, you should actually drink more water when you are taking creatine in order to replace the amount that is drawn into the cell and to stay hydrated. 

Side Effects

Numerous scientific studies have proven creatine to be a safe short-term supplement.

Preliminary long-term studies have not found any dangerous side effects related to prolonged creatine use.

However, debate exists over the potential side effects of creatine use.

While some claim that creatine use leads to muscle cramping, this may well be the result of dehydration as a result of more water being drawn into the muscle cell.

Other side effects that have been reported are:

  • Diarrhea
  • Swelling
  • Bloating

The FDA has received just 32 complaints over adverse reactions to creatine use in the last decade.

Nine of them have been substantiated.

Contrary to the myth, creatine use has never been shown to adversely affect the kidneys.

How To Avoid The Side Effects

The main way to avoid creatine side effects is to stay hydrated in order to counter the water retaining effects of creatine within the muscle cell.

You should increase your daily water intake by about a liter (35 ounces) each day when using creatine.

You should also keep to the recommended daily dosage of 3-5 grams (vegans and vegetarians can go up to 7 grams).

How To Take Creatine

You should increase your daily water intake by about a liter (35 ounces) each day when using creatine.

You should also keep to the recommended daily dosage of 3-5 grams (vegans and vegetarians can go up to 7 grams).

If you take more than 10g, you might have the “runs” when you go to the bathroom. 

The main way to avoid creatine side effects is to stay hydrated in order to counter the water retaining effects of creatine within the muscle cell.

You should be sipping water throughout the day.

If your urine is not white, then you're not drinking enough water. 

Is Creatine Loading Necessary?

No, just take 5g per day, at least 3-4 times a week.

It takes a few days for your body to flush out creatine, hence why you don't need to take it everyday.

When creatine first came onto the market, the idea of loading became popular.

Loading involves taking a higher than normal dose for the first 5 days of use in order to saturate the muscles.

So, for the first 5 days, people would take 20 grams per day instead of 5 grams.

Then they would bump down to 5 grams as their maintenance level.

However a lot of people found that the extra amount led to gastrointestinal problems including bloating and diarrhea.

Fortunately, research seems to indicate that a loading phase is not necessary.

A 1996 study compared a loading versus non loading creatine supplement regimen in 31 healthy male subjects.

The subjects loaded for 6 days at 20 grams per day followed by a maintenance level of 2 grams for a further 30 days.

Muscle creatine levels went up by 20% and the participants got stronger and increased lean muscle mass.

The same group was then given 3 grams per day without a loading phase.

The researchers noted a similar increase in strength and muscle.

They concluded:

The ingestion of 3 grams Creatine/day is in the long term likely to be as effective at raising tissue levels as this (20 gram loading) higher dose.

When Can I Take Creatine?

It does not matter what time of the day you take your creatine supplement.

The idea is to keep topping up your muscle creatine levels so that they are ready to go into action when your body calls upon them.

Take it when it is most convenient for you.

Your powdered creatine can be taken with a glass of water or added to your protein shake

Do I Need To Cycle?

No you don't need to cycle.

There are a number of supplements that, when taken for a prolonged period of time, inhibit the body’s own natural production of the ingredient.

This is especially the case with anabolic steroids which can inhibit the body’s natural production of testosterone.

For this reason, users cycle their supplementation in order to prevent the natural production slowdown.

There is no such danger with creatine.

Your body will not slow down its natural production when you take the supplement.

For this reason, you should continue taking creatine at the recommended dose of 5 grams per day in order to keep the muscle cell saturated.

If you are a fighter or other weight class athlete, you may want to cycle off creatine in order to attain your required weight.

This is because creatine’s water retaining ability may cause a slight weight gain. 

Can Creatine Be Taken While Cutting?

Yes certainly.

Creatine supplementation is an important supplement for fat loss.

When you are cutting you will be reducing your caloric consumption. This presents the potential for loss of muscle mass.

Creatine supplementation allows you to train harder for longer, so that you can maintain, and even increase, your muscle mass while you are cutting.

Creatine supplementation has the added fat burning benefit of increasing the metabolism.

This is the result of the enhanced hydration properties of creatine.

Creatine isn't going to make you fat, but it has the potential of making you carry more water, which is something to keep in mind if you plan to compete on stage. 

What To Look For In A Creatine Supplement

To get the best creatine, it is important to understand how it is made, packaged, marketed and sold.

It is not uncommon to find the same exact creatine in two different bottles at two different prices.

This is because many companies get their creatine from the same source.

The consumer ultimately pays for high-level marketing, fancy packaging and other expenses associated with bringing the product to market.

As a result, a higher price does not necessarily mean a better product.

The key consideration when looking for top quality creatine is the quality of ingredients.

It should be 100% creatine, without any added fillers or contaminants left over from the manufacturing process.

A source of creatine that is very highly regarded as the most pure is branded as Creapure and is manufactured by the German company AlzChem AG.

CreaPure is the most widely studied form of creatine. 

A large number of companies source their creatine from AlzChem AG.

Do I Need To Look For It In A Pre Workout Supplement?

It is a good ideas to look for a pre workout supplement that contains creatine.

It will combine creatine with a number of other ingredients.

One that is especially beneficial, and that works synergistically with creatine, is beta-alanine.

One potential problem with using a pre-workout is that may combine the ingredients into a proprietary blends, so you do not know the exact amount of creatine that you are getting.

But if you get creatine monohydrate in bulk form, you won't need to worry about it in a pre workout. 

And it doesn't matter what time of day you take creatine but it's a good idea to take it immeditately after your workout. 

What To Avoid

Do not take creatine during a workout.

It will produce a dehydrating effect, which will inhibit performance.

If you have been taking 5 grams of creatine daily, you will already have saturated the muscle cell with the substance, so there is no need to take it as an intra workout supplement.

Do not exceed the daily stated dosage of creatine.

Many scientific studies have established the ideal daily dosage as between 3-5 grams.

If you take more creatinine than is recommended, you will waste the extra creatine as it is lost through the digestive process. 

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