If you’ve been in the gym and around fitness enthusiasts, chances are you’ve heard of creatine. This is one of the most researched and used supplements in the fitness industry and, as long as it’s taken within normal parameters, it is deemed safe.
Some people who use creatine supplementation practice creatine loading/maintenance phases. This is also referred to as creatine cycling. Loading is the short phase in which a higher dosage is taken to increase ability to lift heavy weights. Maintenance is a long-term phase that follows the loading phase in which a smaller dose is taken to keep the creatine stores up. However, before you get started with creatine loading, you need to understand creatine and how the loading and maintenance phases work.
We’ll also provide you with reviews on what we feel are the top 6 best creatine supplements on the market today. Of course, please remember that you should always consult with a medical professional before starting this or any other supplement.
What is Creatine?
Before you get started with creatine supplementation and loading/maintenance phases, it’s important that you take the time to understand exactly what creatine is.
Creatine is a tripeptide that is naturally produced in our bodies and found in foods, especially seafood, red meat, and poultry. It is made up of three amino acids: arginine, glycine, and methionine. It helps your muscles produce energy during HIIT workouts or heavy lifting in strength training workouts.
As mentioned, creatine is found in dietary sources, such as meat. However, most of it is lost during the cooking process. This is the primary reason people often turn to creatine supplements to get what they need. When your muscles have sufficient creatine stores, you’ll be able to lift heavier weights- which means, through the logic of hypertrophy, you’ll gain muscle mass faster.
Creatine monohydrate is the most common form of creatine and it’s more budget-friendly and has been through decades of research. Other forms of creatine, such as creatine ethyl ester and creatine hydrochloride, or creatine HCL, have not been through as much research and their price is typically a bit higher.
Creatine Loading Defined
Now that you know a bit more about creatine, we can take a closer look at creatine loading. This is the first phase of creatine cycling. This typically lasts approximately 5 to 7 days and is where the individual takes a higher dose than typical in order to super saturate their muscles with it.
If the loading phase is done properly, the muscles can have enough creatine built up in them within that first week to show progress in their lifting numbers during that time. On the other hand, some individuals choose to skip the loading phase and just take creatine as recommended. These individuals will also see improvements in their lifting numbers, though it may take up to a month to obtain the same levels of creatine in their muscles.
If you have taken creatine in the past but stopped for a while and are thinking about using it again, you may wish to take advantage of the creatine cycling and start with the loading phase to get back into it quicker.
How Much Creatine Should be Taken During Loading?
As we mentioned, the loading phase is typically the first 5 to 7 days that an individual is taking creatine. During this time, the individual is usually consuming approximately 20 to 25 grams of creatine each day. This is typically spread out across 4 to 5 doses throughout the day.
Once the loading phase is complete, the individual will go back to taking normal doses of creatine as per the instructions on the container. This is typically between 2 to 10 grams each day. This is known as the maintenance phase and is when just enough creatine is taken to ensure that creatine stores in the muscles are maintained at optimal levels.
Top 6 Best Creatine Monohydrate Reviews
Now you understand more about creatine and creatine cycling. As mentioned, though there are several different forms of creatine on the market, creatine monohydrate is the most common- and the most affordable. Below, we are going to review what we believe are the top 6 best creatine monohydrate supplements on the market today. We hope this will be a guide for you to choose the one that works for you.
XWERKS Lift is 100% pure micronized creatine monohydrate. Since science backs creatine monohydrate as the best form, XWERKS didn’t try to bring something new and different to the market. They simply went with what works.
There are 80 servings in each bag of XWERKS Lift and each one of those provides a high amount of creatine monohydrate- 5 grams to be exact. This is an unflavored powder, so you can add it to whatever beverage you like: smoothie, shake, pre-workout, or whatever else you use when working out.
XWERKS Lift is one of the best values on our list and they are also well-known, well-respected, and well-established in the fitness supplement industry. They are a no BS brand that produces a variety of high-quality fitness supplements.
Onnit Creatine Monohydrate
Onnit is one of the best weightlifting/fitness supplement manufacturers on the market, so it just makes sense that their Creatine Monohydrate would be on our list. This formula is absolutely fantastic. It helps you improve your muscles and increase your strength, which will improve your effectiveness and performance in the gym.
Each container of Onnit Creatine Monohydrate contains 30 doses, and each does contains 5 grams of creatine.
According to research, creatine facilitates the production of adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. This is the energy supplier for muscle activity. Onnit claims that their formula acts like other high-quality creatine monohydrate formulations, which implies that you’ll get more power, growth, and repetition when weightlifting. In addition, you’ll quickly see your strength improve as well as build lean body mass.
Cellucor Creatine Monohydrate
Cellucor is also one of the most well-known brands on the market. Their Creatine Monohydrate is a testament to their outstanding brand history.
Each container of Cellucor Creatine Monohydrate contains 72 doses and it’s budget-friendly. In fact, it’s one of the best deals on our list.
As we have mentioned, creatine is primarily used for it’s muscle-building properties. Cellucor has micronized their creatine monohydrate in an effort to improve digestion and absorption. This makes it comparable to many of the other high-ranking formulas on the market today.
Beat Sports Creature Creatine
Creature Creatine by Beast Sports stands out from the crowd due to their unique name and the fact that their packaging is one of the best looking. Another thing that makes it different is the variety of unique flavors available, including beast punch, citrus, pink lemonade, and cherry limeade.
According to their website, Beast Sports calls their Creature Creatine an “unfair advantage for next-level performance.” They promise that their formula will improve sprint performance, increase bench press reps, and help to quickly build lean muscle. This is one of the most effective creatine supplements on our list, as it can help you withstand full productivity for long periods of time.
As we have stated, creatine monohydrate is the most researched and most effective form of creatine. Creature Creatine contains creatine monohydrate along with four other types of creatine, which improves it’s effectiveness. The other four types of creatine are:
- Di-creatine malate
- Creatine anhydrous
- Creatine gluconate
- Crea-Trona (supplement that is 94% creatine, 6% buffering agent)
Beast Sports offers two options in their Creature Creatine: the standard powder that most people prefer, or capsules. Some people do enjoy the convenience of capsules and being able to consume their creatine on the go. Each dose of Creature Creatine provides you with 4 grams of creatine. You should take it prior to and following your workout session.
Creature Creatine promises to help you quickly increase strength, improve muscle mass, and speed up your post-workout recovery. Plus, it’s affordable- so you can be sure that you won’t break your budget.
CRN-5 Creatine by CrazyBulk
CrazyBulk is a fitness supplement brand that offers a variety of weight loss, weight gain, and muscle building supplements. One of their most well-known products is their CRN-5 Creatine. Each container of CRN-5 contains 30 servings of creatine, with 10.2 grams per scoop. This creatine supplement promises that users will see improvements in their HIIT performance, increased strength, and improved muscle pumps.
This creatine formula also contains five types of creatine. This ensures that you get the most out of your creatine when working out. The types of creatine included in CRN-5 by CrazyBulk include:
- Creatine monohydrate
- Creatine HCL
- Creatine ethyl ester
- Creatine citrate pyruvate
- Tri-creatine malate
Additionally, in order to help you hydrate and replenish following your intense workout, CrazyBulk also includes electrolytes: magnesium, sodium, and potassium. Of course, as recommended, you should always make sure that you’re drinking plenty of water, especially when you are using creatine.
NSP Nutrition Muscle Power Creatine
NSP Nutrition is a fitness supplement company based out of Florida. Muscle Power Creatine by NSP Nutrition stimulates your muscles to quickly increase strength and build muscle mass, as well as burn fat. If you use this product regularly, it will also improve your endurance and overall efficiency, along with a variety of other benefits.
Each container of Muscle Power Creatine contains 60 doses, with 5 grams of creatine per dose. It’s comparable in both price and quality to the others on our list. This product only contains one type of creatine: monohydrate. It is 100% creatine with no additives or fillers.
Types of Creatine
Though our primary focus is creatine monohydrate, as you saw in the reviews, there are some other forms of creatine as well. There has been lots of research dedicated to creatine monohydrate. It is the most affordable and the most available form of creatine on the market. Below, we will list the six most common forms of creatine:
- Creatine monohydrate
- Creatine ethyl ester
- Creatine hydrochloride (Creatine HCL)
- Buffered creatine
- Liquid creatine
- Creatine magnesium chelate
How we Chose the Best Creatine
According to the experts, there are three things that creatine will do for you: increase muscle mass and strength and improve your performance in the gym or on the field. The unfortunate truth is, not all of the brands on the market can actually fulfill that claim, which can make it hard to choose the best one. That is why we gave you our reviews on what we feel are the top 6 best creatine monohydrate products on the market today. Now, we’ll explain how we chose the best creatine monohydrate.
Creatine is available in various forms
As we mentioned, there are several different forms of creatine on the market. Creatine monohydrate is the most common and is found in most supplements because it’s readily available and affordable. Of course, as you can see in the reviews, there are other forms of creatine as well. We listed the six most common ones above.
That being said, there are some formulas that combine 3 to 5 different types of creatine (typically monohydrate is one of them). After all, the thought process is that the more types of creatine, the better.
The different types of creatine are absorbed and used differently in your body. There are some forms that are better for short-term use while others are more ideal for long-term use. When you combine several types of creatine, you can maximize your benefits.
Cost vs. Benefit
In general, creatine is one of the most inexpensive fitness supplements compared to things like protein powder, pre-workouts, and more. You don’t have to wreck your budget to get a good quality creatine supplement.
You will find that most of the effective creatine supplements on the market will cost approximately $0.50 per dose. When we were choosing creatine supplements for our list, we considered cost and benefit.
We are cautious and skeptical of those that charge a higher price for the same dose of creatine. Either way, it’s possible to get a great product, whether you are on a budget and can only afford around $10 per container or you have the money to spend $100+. Of course, again, you don’t have to spend lots of money to get a good one.
Credibility/Expertise of the Manufacturer
There are some fitness supplement companies that have been around for many years, while others are new to the market. We did not show any preference between younger or older companies when we were making our list. Our primary focus was selecting creatine supplements that are from manufacturers with a proven history of producing high-quality products.
Many times, creatine is included in lower quality creatine supplements as part of a “proprietary blend” or “patented formula”. When manufacturers do this, it’s difficult to determine exactly how much of each ingredient is used in the “blend/formula”. Basically, the company appears to be trying to hide the amounts they used.
In some of the ones that offer several different forms of creatine, the primary one is creatine monohydrate and only small concentrations of the other ones. When we were choosing supplements from our list, we made sure that labels were clear, and the company was 100% transparent about their ingredients.
Advantages are Clearly Stated
One thing to be cautious of is brands that promise exceptional muscle growth overnight with no effort. This is simply not true. There is no creatine supplement that is going to make your muscles grow unless you’re willing to put in some effort. We were careful to avoid brands that make excessive promises or overstate their benefits.
Dosage that Works
Creatine is one of the fitness supplements that has a confirmed dosage. You need 3 to 10 grams of creatine in order for it to be effective. Most of the creatine supplements on the market contain approximately 4 to 5 grams, as this seems to ensure optimum performance.
One thing to keep in mind is typically the creatine capsules contain a smaller dosage of creatine. Experts recommend that you choose a supplement that has at least 3 grams of creatine per dose. However, you don’t want any more than 10 grams per dose, as that would end up converting to creatinine in your kidneys and would not be of any use for you.
Smallest Amount of Fillers
Most of the time, when people are looking for a creatine supplement, they want it for creatine. They are not interested in other ingredients, such as protein, amphetamine, or other substances. We preferred creatine supplements that had no additional substances added.
Of course, there is one exception: a creatine supplement containing electrolytes such as potassium, magnesium, and sodium. This is simply to aid in hydration. That being said, a creatine supplement is best with few fillers in it.
Some of the creatine supplements on the market are difficult to mix. They are known to clump and create grainy pockets, which means that you will fail at trying to make a shake. On the other hand, many others are easy to mix, creating a smooth and delicious shake.
As you can see in several of our reviews, many companies use micronized creatine, which makes it easier for your body to absorb. Micronization decreases the size of the creatine molecules. After all, your supplement is only as effective as what your body can absorb and use. The more that it’s able to absorb, the more it can use. Therefore, it’s recommended that you use micronized creatine when possible.
Is Creatine Loading Necessary?
To be completely honest, no- creatine loading is not necessary. You are not required to go through the loading phase to benefit from creatine supplementation. However, it’s important to note that not loading means that it will take longer to achieve results.
Since creatine has been determined to be harmless, most people that are serious about wanting to increase muscle mass will start with the loading phase so they can jumpstart their workout program and see benefits quickly instead of having to wait- without having a negative impact on their overall health or recovery.
Many times, when people are just getting started with creatine supplementation or they are coming back after taking a break, they decide to use creatine cycling. This is a process by which they start with a loading phase (high dose) for 5 to 7 days and after that, drop to a dose of approximately 2 to 10 grams per day. This is known as maintenance and helps ensure that your muscles remain saturated with creatine.
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