October 16, 2021

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The Health Look

7 of the best supplements

Creatine supplements may benefit muscle building and recovery. Sometimes, a doctor may also recommend creatine for mental health conditions or to prevent pregnancy complications.

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About creatine

Creatine is a naturally occurring non-protein amino acid compound produced in the liver and kidneys. It is present in animal protein sources, and those who do not consume meat or seafood may have lower levels of creatine in their body.

The body stores most of its creatine in skeletal muscle and uses it during exercise.

Creatine supplements increase muscle growth, and athletes and older adults may take these supplements to improve exercise performance and increase muscle mass.

Learn more about using creatine supplements here.

Creatine for women

Researchers of a 2021 review state that there is less research on the effects of creatine supplements in females than in males.

However, the review notes that creatine supplements may improve exercise performance and strength in premenopausal women. Additionally, women who have passed through menopause and take high doses of creatine may experience an increase in skeletal muscle size.

According to a 2020 systematic review, creatine may help reduce the chances of pregnancy complications that may lead to low oxygen levels during birth.

One study notes that an 8-week treatment of creatine supplements and antidepressant therapy can reduce the symptoms of major depressive disorder in female adolescents and adults.  

Side effects and interactions

individuals who take creatine supplements may experience

  • nausea 
  • stomach pain
  • diarrhea 
  • weight gain from increased muscle mass or fluid retention
  • muscle cramps

Creatine can also interact with:

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reviews supplement ingredients for safety but does not approve them for their effectiveness. This includes creatine supplements.

What to look for and how to choose

People should consider some factors before purchasing creatine products.

Ingredients

People who eat a plant-based diet or are allergic to specific ingredients can purchase “free-from” products, including vegan-friendly and gluten-free supplements with no allergens.

However, while creatine occurs naturally in animal products, the supplementary version is synthetic. It uses cyanamide and sarcosine, which do not contain animal by-products. This makes all creatine supplements vegan-friendly. However, adding other ingredients to a creatine supplement may result in a non-vegan or non-vegetarian product.

Certifications

Some companies manufacture their products according to Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs). The FDA states that CGMP regulations ensure that companies identify the quality, strength, and purity of drug products, use quality raw materials, and establish robust quality management systems.

Third-party testing 

Some companies carry out third-party testing, which involves using certifying bodies to check their products for added transparency. A person can review the product they intend to use with Informed ChoiceNSF International, or Consumer Lab.

Formulation

People may find creatine as a micronized powder. This dissolves rapidly in liquid and may be best for people who do not like different textures in drinks.

Flavors

Creatine supplements are available in different flavors, and some have no flavor at all.

Product list

Here is a review of 7 creatine supplements that women may consider purchasing.

Researchers consider 3 grams (g) of creatine monohydrate to be a safe, effective, long-term daily dosage. However, many products contain 5 g, which may increase a person’s muscle creatine quickly but have no significant impact on health markers.

Anyone considering taking any dietary supplement should talk with their doctor or qualified healthcare professional to ensure they have a dosage appropriate to their needs.

A person should seek medical advice before using any supplementary product if they are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking other medications.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based.

Transparent Labs StrengthSeries Creatine HMB

The company states that scientific evidence backs this product, and in addition to creatine, it consists of:

  • Beta-hydroxy-beta-methyl butyrate (HMB): According to one source, this can increase muscle mass and strength. However, another study suggests that this only occurs with appropriate levels of exercise, and a sedentary lifestyle will not produce these results.
  • BioPerine: Comes from the black pepper fruit and increases the supplement nutrient’s bioavailability — the amount of drug that enters a person’s body

These supplements are gluten-free and are free from:

The company recommends that individuals take 1 scoop of creatine supplements with food 30 minutes after working out. They can also take 1 scoop in the morning whether or not they are exercising. 

Transparent Labs holds various certifications of compositions for all their products that third-party companies have tested. 

Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine Powder

This product contains 5 g of micronized creatine monohydrate powder per serving and claims to increase muscle size, strength, and performance. The body more easily absorbs micronized substances, which could make it more effective.

The company claims that the product contains only creatine monohydrate, and when taken alone, creatine is calorie- and carbohydrate-free.

The company suggests mixing 1 rounded teaspoon of creatine powder with a protein shake or flavored beverage. However, using protein powders will increase calorie intake.

Customers should receive their orders within 8 days, and they can return them within 30 days of receipt if they are not satisfied with the product. 

Evlution Nutrition Creatine 500

This product contains 5 g of micronized creatine monohydrate powder and has no other ingredients. 

Creatine 500 claims to help people with:

  • building muscle
  • boosting strength and power
  • improving mental focus

In addition, according to the Evlution Nutrition website, this product is gluten-free and free of:

According to CGMPs, Evlution Nutrition manufactures creatine in an FDA-approved facility.

The company processes orders within 24–48 hours, and customers should receive them within 7 business days. It also offers a 30-day return policy. 

Performance Lab Maintain

Performance Lab’s Maintain may suit individuals who follow a plant-based diet, as the small, easy-to-swallow capsules are vegan-friendly.

The company states that the product is GMP-certified and caffeine-free and does not contain gluten, egg, fish, soy, shellfish, dairy, peanut, tree nuts, wheat, or other allergens.

It comes with no synthetic additives, artificial colors, and preservatives. 

In addition to the 3,000 mg of creatine, other ingredients include:

  • SR CarnoSyn Beta-Alanine: This is a muscle booster and supports muscle recovery and subsequent muscle performance. However, the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) states experts should conduct further research to better establish the effect of beta-alanine on strength, other health conditions, and endurance exercise lasting longer than 25 minutes.
  • NutriGenesis Iron: If a person is iron-deficient, this may help them restore iron levels, as sweating when exercising can lead to iron loss. If a person is not iron-deficient, they may not experience any noticeable difference.

The company suggests that people take 3 capsules in the morning and 3 in the afternoon on rest days to help reload and recharge their muscles. Athletes who exercise at an advanced level can take up to 10 capsules on non-training days. 

Customers may benefit from a 30-day money-back guarantee on their first order. If they do not see any results after using Performance Lab’s product, they may receive a full refund within 30 days. 

RSP Nutrition Creatine Monohydrate

RSP Nutrition’s product contains 5 g of creatine monohydrate per serving and no other ingredients. The company claims that third-party companies have tested their products, although they do not specify.

Individuals who exercise regularly can purchase this product as a pre or post-workout muscle recovery supplement. 

Individuals can mix 1 scoop of creatine powder with cold water or any other beverage before, during, or after an exercise session. On rest days, they can take it in the morning.

The company offers a 30-day money-back guarantee and free shipping on orders over $49.99.

MuscleTech Platinum 100% Creatine

This scientifically-dosed product contains 5 g of creatine monohydrate per serving and is unflavored. 

The company suggests that individuals mix 1 scoop with water four times per day for the first 3 days. Then, they can take the same dose of creatine up to two times per day. People can use this product before or after working out.

On non-training days, a person can take this product first thing in the morning. 

The company has a smartphone app to help with the quality control of its products. A person can download the app and scan the product’s unique bar code to ensure it is not counterfeit and possibly unsafe.

Additionally, people who are not satisfied with their product can return or exchange it within 30 days. 

BPI Sports Best Creatine 

This creatine product is CGMP-verified and comes with no artificial colors. It contains six advanced forms of creatine, totaling 4 g per serving. The company website states that it can help with muscle building, recovery, and endurance.

Ingredients also include betaine, which according to a 2020 study may benefit novice athletes by increasing body composition, stamina, and aiding recovery but may not serve expert athletes due to their already high fitness levels. 

This product comes with a 100% no-risk money-back guarantee.

Alternatives

People who do not wish or cannot take creatine supplements can consume red meat and seafood to increase the body’s creatine amounts naturally.

They may also consider taking:

  • Nitric oxide supplements: These contain L-citrulline and L-arginine. One study notes that L-arginine supplements can reduce blood pressure during pregnancy. Nitric oxide supplements expand blood vessels and increase blood flow, which may enhance endurance in athletes.
  • Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs): This term refers to a group of three essential amino acids, leucine, isoleucine, and valine. They are naturally present in animal-based protein sources, such as eggs, meat, and dairy products. A systematic review found that BCAAs can reduce muscle damage that results from high-intensity exercise. 

Summary

Creatine may help with muscle building, recovery, and performance. Additionally, some evidence suggests that creatine supplements can reduce pregnancy complications and symptoms associated with depression in women. 

Individuals should consider different factors before deciding to purchase creatine, such as formulation and certifications. 

Whether a product undergoes third-party testing is also an important consideration, as the FDA does not approve supplements in the same way as prescription medication. A person should always discuss supplement use with their doctor or a qualified healthcare professional before use.