If you’re only going to take one supplement to support your workouts, there’s a strong argument to be made for creatine monohydrate.
It’s not only relatively cheap compared to other supplements, but there are also hundreds of studies to back its ability to help you gain muscle and strength. In fact, other than whey protein, it is probably the most popular sports supplement available.
We’re willing to bet that if you surveyed a group of serious lifters, you’d probably find that most of them are already taking a creatine supplement. However, there are hundreds of different brands on the market so it can be difficult to know which brand gives you the most for your money.
In this review, we’re going to break down the specific details of some of the most common creatine monohydrate supplements on the market to make your buying decision easier.
There’s also a lot of bad information floating around the internet about creatine. You may even come across some websites that refer to it as a steroid. While it is a powerful workout aid, it isn’t a steroid and doesn’t cause the same side-effects as anabolic steroids.
We’re going to set the record straight and tell you exactly what makes creatine a potent ergonomic aid and how you can take it to maximise its benefits. Let’s get started with our creatine UK buying guide!
Best Creatine Supplement: Quick Picks
- BULK Creatine Monohydrate Powder Editor’s Choice
- Optimum Nutrition Micronised Creatine Powder
- MyProtein Creatine Monohydrate
- Nu U Nutrition Creatine Monohydrate Powder
- OPAL Fitness Creatine Monohydrate Tablets
- BSN Creatine DNA
Note: There’s a lot more information below but clicking the above links will take you to current prices, further information and customer reviews on Amazon.
What is Creatine Monohydrate?
There are several forms of creatine, but the cheapest and most common form is creatine monohydrate.
Even though it’s one of the most common supplements out there, there are a lot of misbeliefs about it. It’s often compared to steroids and stimulant drugs, but it’s nothing like either of these things.
Creatine is essentially a group of the three amino acids glycine, methionine, and arginine. These amino acids are among the 21 amino acids that all proteins in your body are synthesised from.
Your body generally makes about a gram of creatine per day from these amino acids. However, that’s not where you get most of your creatine from.
Most of the creatine in your body actually comes from the fish or meat you consume in your diet. Some plants contain creatine as well but generally in concentrations hundreds of times smaller than the amounts found in animal products.
How much can your body absorb?
The vast majority of creatine in your body is in your skeletal muscles, but there’s also traces of it in your brain, kidneys, and liver. An average 70 kg individual stores about 120-140 g of creatine throughout their body.
Types of Creatine
As we’ve already mentioned, there’s strong evidence that taking a creatine supplement boosts your workouts—in particular—increase your muscle mass, power, and strength. New research shows that it might even have nootropic effects (brain-boosting) by allowing your neurons to fire longer before they become fatigued.
You can also buy it in several other forms such as the following:
- Creatine ethyl ester
- Creatine hydrochloride
- Ph buffered creatine
- Creatine magnesium chelate
Some people argue that these forms of creatine are either more bioavailable or absorb better. However, at this time there’s not enough research proving that they’re any better for you than creatine monohydrate.
Since creatine monohydrate is cheap and proven to be effective, it’s probably better to stick with it instead of dropping money on premium creatine supplements until more research comes out to prove them to be more effective.
How Does Creatine Monohydrate Work?
Before we even start talking about creatine, let’s take a refresher in school biology.
The basic unit of energy in your body is called Adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Every muscle in your body requires ATP for energy. When this molecule is broken down, energy is released that your body uses to contract your muscles and ATP separates from one of the phosphate ions to produce adenosine diphosphate (ADP) and a free phosphate ion.
Where do these ATP molecules come from?
There are several ways that your body can make it.
- Aerobic System – Activities that last more than a couple of minutes require energy from burning fat. This form of metabolism also requires oxygen. You use this energy system for long-distance running, cycling, and most cardio exercises.
- Glycolytic System – For exercise that lasts from about 10 seconds to a couple of minutes, your body creates energy from burning sugar stored in your muscles known as glycogen. Running the 400m, high intensity exercise such as interval training, and circuit training often utilises this system.
- Phosphocreatine Energy System – Your body uses this energy system for extremely short bursts of activity that less than 10 seconds such as short sprints, lifting weights, and any movement that requires one quick burst of energy.
It’s this third energy system that we’re primarily concerned with when lifting weights.
When you consume creatine monohydrate, you allow your body to produce energy longer with the phosphocreatine energy system before switching to one of the two slower energy systems.
Your body stores creatine with a phosphate ion in the form of phosphocreatine. When your body breaks this molecule apart, energy is released that your body uses to resynthesise the molecule ATP from ADP and a phosphate ion.
How does this help you in the weights room?
Imagine you’re doing a set of bench press. If you’re normally able to get five reps before failure at 100kg, after saturating your creatine stores with a creatine supplement, you may be able to squeak out an extra rep before your muscles get tired.
If you’re having trouble digesting the science, don’t worry. The take-home message is that taking creatine monohydrate allows you to accumulate more reps than you otherwise would have. This increased lifting volume helps you increase your muscle mass and strength quicker.
What Are the Benefits of Creatine Monohydrate?
As we already mentioned, taking creatine supplementation allows you to produce energy with your phosphocreatine energy system longer before switching to a slower way of creating energy.
Over time it can lead to the following benefits:
- Increased power output
- Increased muscle mass
- Decreased muscular fatigue
- Increased bone mineral density
- May slightly increase testosterone
- May decrease symptoms of depression
Is Creatine Safe?
Creatine has a mistaken reputation for being a performance-enhancing drug and causing kidney damage. However, it hasn’t been linked to any long-term health effects.
If you have compromised kidneys, you may want to be careful just in case, but there’s no reason to believe that it leads to health complications in healthy individuals.
Are There Any Side Effects?
The most common side effect of taking creatine is water-retention. Because is stored with water in your muscles, you’ll likely notice that your muscles feel fuller and pop more than they did before you started taking it.
You may also experience bloating or gastric discomfort especially if you take particularly high doses.
How Do You Use Creatine?
You can either take it with a loading phase or take a constant amount every day. Both methods lead to the same long-term results, but the loading phase will saturate the amount of creatine in your muscles quicker.
If you’re doing a loading phase, you can take 0.3 g/kg of body weight for a week and then reduce your daily dose to 0.03 g/kg afterwards.
If you’re skipping the loading phase, you can take 0.03 g/kg per day.
For a 100 kg person, this would translate to 30 g per day in the loading phase and 3 g afterwards. Many people take 5 g per day since they’d rather take too much than too little.
A Detailed Look at The Best Creatine Monohydrate Supplements
If you look online for a creatine monohydrate supplement, it’s easy to be quickly overwhelmed by the number of choices available. However, here’s a summary of the pros and cons of some of the more common brands to make your buying decision easier. You can buy both creatine powder and tablets.
Editor’s Choice: BULK Creatine Monohydrate Powder
If you’re looking to stock up on creatine for most of the year or if you’re a big person who needs to take a particularly large dose, you may like this supplement.
Bulk fit a kilogram of creatine monohydrate into their container at one of the cheapest per serving price of any supplement on this list.
If you take 5 g per day, this product could last you most of the year before you have to buy another container. In our opinion, the large size and low price make it the best value of any supplement on this list.
- Large container
- Very pure quality (99.9% creatine)
- Widely recognised brand
- Only one container size
- Some customers report the powder being gritty
Bulk claim their creatine monohydrate powder is purified to over 99.9% creatine monohydrate so if you’re somebody who likes avoiding artificial sweeteners or chemicals, this may be a good choice for you.
This supplement stands out to us because it’s tied with Nu U Nutrition’s creatine supplement for largest container size (1kg). It also gives you the best price per scoop of any of the products we’ve reviewed.
Some customers report it being grittier than other brands, but if you prioritise cost, this might not matter to you. In our view this is one of the best creatine supplements on our list.
Optimum nutrition is one of the most well-known supplement company’s and has a reputation for delivering high-quality products.
Their unflavoured creatine monohydrate in powder form is priced around the market average, but because this product is micronised, it may mix better than many other creatine supplements.
If you’re looking for a creatine supplement that mixes well in water or your shakes without leaving a gritty taste in your mouth, this may be the supplement for you.
- Well-known brand with a good reputation
- Mixes well without clumping
- Relatively small container
- Isn’t Informed Sport Approved
- There are cheaper options
When choosing between different creatine supplements, you’ll have to decide if you prioritise quality or price. Optimum Nutrition’s supplement offers a nice balance since it’s middle of the road price-wise but undergoes extra processing to remove lumps.
MyProtein offer a creatine monohydrate supplement that gives you the benefits of creatine monohydrate without including any filler ingredients. It doesn’t contain any gluten, dairy, or nut products, so you can take it even if you have dietary restrictions.
If you’re vegan or a vegetarian, you can use this creatine to improve your workouts without having to worry about the ingredients.
- No filler
- Relatively cheap
- Vegetarian and vegan friendly
- Not micronised
- Not Informed Sport approved
MyProtein offers a basic creatine monohydrate supplement at a cheaper than average price without giving you anything fancy. Their marketing is straight-forward and doesn’t try to over-hype the product.
If you’re looking for something simple and cheap, this might be the creatine supplement for you.
Assuming that you take 5 g of creatine monohydrate per day, this 1 kg bag will last you over 7 months. Nu U Nutrition offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee, meaning if you’re not happy they’ll fully refund your money.
If you’re looking for a cheap creatine supplement made in the UK that you only have to buy once or twice a year, this is the supplement for you. Its simple formula will help you build muscle and strength without breaking the bank.
- Money back guarantee
- Big container size (1 kg)
- Not micronised
- Not Informed Sport approved
If it’s important to you that you’re taking a supplement made in the UK, you’ll love this supplement. It’s one of only two supplements on this list that comes in a 1 kg container size.
It’s not quite as cheap as the other 1kg supplement on this list (by Bulk Powders), but it’s still a solid choice.
Unlike the other supplements we’ve reviewed so far, this supplement is in tablet form rather than powder. This makes it a little easier to take after your workout when you’re out of the house.
The 360 tablets in each container provides you with 72 servings at 2 g per serving. Unless you’re under than 65 kg, you may have to increase the daily serving to hit your daily dose of 0.03g/kg of body weight.
The transportability of this supplement makes a great choice if you’re looking for something to leave in your locker at the gym.
- Tablets are convenient to carry
- Relatively cheap
- 60-day money back guarantee
- May have to take a lot of capsules per day
- Can’t mix them in a shake like powder supplements
If you prefer taking tablets over powder, this supplement is a great option for you. However, if you plan on taking 5 g of creatine per day, you may want to go with a powder, or you’ll need to swallow 12-13 tablets per day.
If you’re looking for a creatine supplement that avoids filler ingredients but still mixes well, BSN’s Creatine DNA may be a good choice for you.
It comes in a smaller container (216 g) than most of the supplements we’ve reviewed so far, but because it’s micronised you shouldn’t have any trouble mixing it.
The small container also makes it a great choice if you’re looking to throw something in your bag to take with you to the gym.
- No filler
- Mixes well
- Small container (216g)
- Above average price
This supplement makes a good option if you’re specifically looking for a small container to bring with you in your gym bag. However, if you want the best value, going with a supplement that comes in a bigger container like 1kg will offer the lowest price per scoop.
If you’re serious about increasing your strength or muscle mass, you should be taking a creatine monohydrate supplement. There are a few supplement brands that jump out at us, but the one that you buy should depend on your specific needs.
If you’re looking for the supplement that provides you with the best value for your money, Bulk Creatine Monohydrate powder gives you one of the best prices per serving. It’s also one of two creatine powders we reviewed that comes in a 1 kg container (along with Nu U Nutrition’s supplement,) so you should only have to replace it twice a year at most.
If you’re looking for a creatine monohydrate supplement that won’t clump, we recommend Optimum Nutrition’s option. Price-wise, it’s about average. However, it’s micronised to reduce the size of the creatine particles and increase mixability.
If your top priority is finding something easily transportable, you may enjoy taking Opal Fitness’ creatine tablets. They’re a little more expensive per serving, but you don’t have to worry about carrying a shaker bottle with you if you plan on taking it at the gym.