Updated April 2022
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Buying guide for Best creatine powder

If you lift weights, participate in a competitive sport, take your workouts seriously, or simply spend a lot of time at the gym, you’ve probably heard of creatine powder. This popular supplement quickly and effectively boosts muscle mass and strength, helping weightlifters and other athletes compete harder and longer.

Finding creatine powder, however, can be an exercise in confusion. There are many brands on the market, all claiming to be the best. So how do you know which product offers more help than hype? What’s the best way to use creatine powder, and is it safe?

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If you compete in bodybuilding or team athletics, or even if you just want to reach your personal best at the health club, a creatine powder supplement can help you improve your strength, endurance, and muscle tone.

What is creatine?

At the most basic level, creatine is a compound that provides energy to your muscles. Your body produces it naturally – mostly in your kidneys, pancreas, and liver – creating it out of amino acids arginine, glycine, and methionine. Beef, tuna, and salmon are also potent sources of dietary creatine.

Whether from your body’s own production or dietary sources, once creatine enters your bloodstream, it travels to your muscles. There, it is converted into phosphocreatine. Your muscle cells break down the phosphocreatine to aid in the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the molecular chemical used by your cells to transport and provide energy.

During a vigorous workout, your muscles quickly use up their store of ATP, leading to fatigue. But when supplemented with creatine powder, your body has a much larger store of ATP to draw on before muscle fatigue sets in.

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Did you know?
As one of the most researched sports supplements available, creatine is generally considered safe and effective for most athletes looking to increase muscle size and strength.

Benefits of creatine powder

Researchers have studied creatine extensively. Some of the benefits they have found include the following.

  • Increased muscle mass, often within days

  • Improved muscle strength, including the ability to lift more weight and complete more reps of weightlifting exercises

  • More energy for explosive, high-intensity sports such as weightlifting, football, HIIT, and sprinting

  • Faster and more effective muscle repair after intensive exercise sessions

  • Increased aerobic endurance, although there is some dispute over this

There is some evidence – though not conclusive – that creatine also helps with many other health conditions, including the following.

  • Reduction in arthritis pain and stiffness

  • Reduction in the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease

  • Improved brain function in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and brain injury

  • Lowered blood sugar levels to fight diabetes

  • Heightened memory and cognitive function

  • Increased energy in conditions that normally cause fatigue

  • Improved skin condition and reduction of wrinkles when applied topically in cream form

How to take creatine

You’ll find creatine in several forms on the shelves of your local vitamin or health food shop, including powder, liquid, and capsules. For most people, the powdered form is the easiest to use and also the least expensive.

There are two basic ways most users take their creatine: rapid loading and slow loading.

In rapid loading, a larger dose of creatine is taken for five to seven days – 20 grams per day is a common dosage, broken into four doses of five grams each. This is followed by a lower dose of five to 10 grams daily for a week or two and then one or two weeks without any supplement at all. Rapid loading leads to an equally rapid increase of muscle mass and performance.

With slow loading, you simply take five to 10 grams of creatine powder daily. By the end of a month, you’ll have similar benefits to those users who employed the rapid-loading method.

Researchers and bodybuilders alike are divided on whether or not they recommend rapid loading. As the results are ultimately the same, you can save money by slow loading your creatine unless you need quick results for an upcoming competition.

Creatine powder forms

The most researched form of creatine by far is creatine monohydrate, and most researchers recommend sticking with this form. However, you’ll find quite a few other types of creatine powder on health food store shelves, each claiming to provide superior results. There is little to no research backing up these claims, however.

Here are some of the types of creatine you might see.

Buffered creatine

This is creatine combined with a bit of baking soda, supposedly to buffer the creatine against stomach acid. Luckily, creatine monohydrate is resistant to stomach acid on its own, so there’s no need to pay more for a buffered product.

Creatine magnesium chelate

The theory is that this form of creatine – which is bound to magnesium – will absorb more easily into your bloodstream, but there’s no proof of that happening.

Creatine hydrochloride

This form of creatine is bound to hydrochloric acid, supposedly helping it absorb and function better. But again, there is little research backing up these claims.

Micronized creatine

This is simply a creatine monohydrate powder that’s been finely ground so it will dissolve more easily in water. While it does indeed dissolve quickly and easily, there’s no reason to believe it works any better than regular creatine monohydrate once it’s in your body. Many users do appreciate the way it dissolves without clumps, however, making it one of the most popular forms of creatine.

Liquid creatine

While it might seem convenient to buy creatine monohydrate that’s already dissolved in flavored water and ready for you to drink, the fact is that creatine begins breaking down into creatinine fairly quickly after being mixed into a liquid. Rather than buying a premixed solution, you’re far better off mixing your own creatine supplement batch each day.

Creatine powder prices

Creatine isn’t expensive. As a general rule, you can find a one-pound canister of creatine monohydrate for less than $20. Products that cost more than that are generally one of the altered or refined forms of creatine that come with a great deal of marketing hype.

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Choose your favorite flavor; you’ll find creatine powder flavored in everything from banana to chocolate cake batter. There’s also unflavored powder that you can mix with juice or other beverages.


Q. When is the best time of day to take my creatine powder?

A. If you’re taking one or two doses of creatine daily, research shows the best time to dose is after your workout or after a meal. For the best absorption, take your supplement after a meal that combines equal amounts of carbs and protein. You should also drink plenty of water while using creatine, as it causes muscles to hold onto water and thus can lead to generalized dehydration if you don’t consume extra fluids.  

Q. Is creatine powder safe?

A. According to the Mayo Clinic, supplementing with creatine at a daily dose recommended by the manufacturer is generally safe for most people, although long-term effects beyond five years aren’t known. While not every athlete will benefit from creatine powder, most see at least some improvement in muscle mass and strength.

People with kidney disease, however, should not take creatine, as there is some concern that it may be hard on these organs in high dosages or over time.

It’s also not a good idea for anyone with bipolar disorder to take creatine, as there is some speculation it could lead to increased mania.

Q. Are there side effects when taking creatine powder?

A. When taken as directed, most people will not experience any troublesome side effects from creatine powder. If taken in high doses, however, or for those very sensitive to the supplement, side effects can include the following.

  • Dehydration

  • Muscle cramps

  • Stomach pain

  • Dizziness

  • Diarrhea

  • Nausea

  • Fever

  • Heat intolerance

If you experience bothersome side effects while taking creatine, stop using the product right away. The side effects should resolve quickly, but if they do not, speak with your doctor.

Q. Is creatine the same as steroids?

A. No. Creatine is a naturally produced compound made of amino acids. It is not a steroid or hormone, nor does it have any effect on your body’s natural hormone levels, including testosterone.

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