Creatine is one of the most popular supplements among bodybuilders and experienced strength trainers.
Studies have shown that creatine supplementation can increase muscle growth, strength, and overall workout performance.
So what if you're fresh out of creatine or can't take it?
Fortunately, there are plenty of choices to consider that provide the same or similar results. The guide below will discuss 9 of the best alternatives to creatine.
- 9 Best Alternative Supplements Similar To Creatine
- What Creatine Does & How It Works? (Benefits Provided)
- How Much Creatine Should I Take?
- Why Should You Avoid Taking Creatine Directly?
- Creatine Substitution FAQs
9 Best Alternative Supplements Similar To Creatine
Like creatine, beta-alanine is a compound that occurs naturally in your body. The building blocks of protein are called amino acids.
Beta-alanine is an amino acid that raises carnosine levels in your muscle. Carnosine is an acid in your muscles that affects muscle fatigue.
When your carnosine levels are high, your muscles don't get fatigued as fast, so you can achieve a higher output volume.
Beta-alanine is widely available and can elevate your workouts, similar to a creatine supplement.
Many lifters also feel more focused during their workouts after taking beta-alanine because the chemical compound is similar to caffeine.
Branched-chain amino acids, or BCAA's, are one of the better creatine alternatives. BCAAs, namely leucine, isoleucine, and valine, are amino acids that develop protein blocks in your body.
The best thing about BCAAs is that they aren't in your liver for long like other amino acids.
Branched-chain amino acids will make it to your muscles much faster, leading to bigger muscle gains and a quick boost of strength during your workouts.
Like creatine, BCAA supplements can help increase muscle growth, decrease muscle soreness after exercising, reduce workout fatigue, and keep your muscle from breaking down.
BCAAs are one of the cheapest creatine alternatives, so price shouldn't be an issue.
Additionally, branched-chain amino acids in powder form actually taste pretty good, so you should enjoy taking them.
3. Whey Protein
Whey protein powder is one of the most well-known alternatives to creatine and an extremely common muscle growth supplement.
Getting enough protein to support muscle growth can be difficult. That’s what makes whey protein powder such a good supplement.
Whey protein powders are a cheap, widely available supplement, and the taste can be excellent, depending on the brand.
When you work out, you're tearing your muscle fibers so they can rebuild and grow.
Whey protein helps to rebuild and grow your muscles. That’s why it is one of the best creatine alternatives and an essential supplement to build lean muscle mass.
Without enough protein, your body won’t be able to repair microtears in your muscles, and you won’t see any gains in muscle mass.
You may even lose muscle mass if you aren’t getting enough protein.
Caffeine can positively affect your workouts, whether you're a seasoned lifter or just starting your fitness journey.
However, if you drink a lot of coffee, soda, or energy drinks, caffeine might not have a significant impact because your body has developed a tolerance to it.
So to use caffeine for enhanced athletic performance, save it for your training sessions to maximize its benefits.
You want to take it about 30-60 minutes before you train, and you’ll be good to go.
5. Hydroxymethylbutyrate (HMB)
Another good alternative to creatine supplementation is HMB. This chemical is made in your body when it breaks down the branched-chain amino acid called leucine.
HMB has significantly increased lean muscle mass and strength gains when paired with resistance training.
It is worth noting that the benefits of HMB were most seen in new weight lifters. For some reason, seasoned lifters didn't experience the same effects.
Its muscle-growing effects begin to diminish once the lifter has been training for several months.
So while HMB might not be a suitable replacement for your creatine powder if you’ve been lifting for a long time, it’s a suitable replacement for beginner weight lifters.
6. Nitric Oxide
One of the main reasons weight lifters love creatine is because it can supercharge energy production for your muscles. Another substance that can do the same thing for you is nitric oxide.
When you take a nitric oxide supplement, you aren’t taking nitric oxide. You’re just taking compounds your body can use to create it.
Nitric oxide supplements will widen your blood vessels, increasing the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to the muscles you use during exercise.
Your workouts will be much more productive if your muscles have enough oxygen.
Believe it or not, carbohydrates are one of the best creatine alternatives available.
Carbs are a fuel that can aid in the proper functioning of your body and brain and can help you reach peak performance during physical activity.
They can do this because, like creatine powder, they provide energy and maximize muscle gain.
Consume some carbs before you exercise, and even during if you'll be working out for more than an hour.
Then, right after your workout, you can consume carbs to replenish the energy stores in your body.
If you exercise longer than 90 minutes, you should eat carbs, preferably with protein, as soon as possible after your workout.
Take a sports bar, trail mix with nuts, yogurt, or granola to the gym, and you’ll be ready.
8. Water & Sports Drinks
Yes, you can use water to replace your creatine. Of course, you should already be drinking plenty of water, but some people still undermine the impact of hydration on their physical performance.
When you exercise, your body maintains an optimal temperature by sweating. This results in a loss of body fluid, which can be quite a bit, especially after an intense workout.
The fluid loss also rises with the rise in ambient temperature.
That’s why drinking plenty of fluids, especially during exercise, is necessary to replace the fluids you’ve lost.
In addition, drinking enough water or sports drinks will decrease your risk of heat stress, maintain normal muscle function, regulate your blood pressure, and prevent reduced performance brought about by dehydration.
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9. Other Types Of Amino Acids
We mentioned earlier that amino acids like beta-alanine are blocks of muscle tissue created by protein.
Amino acid supplements are available everywhere and come in different forms, like tablets, powders, and liquids.
Amino acid supplements like L-Glutamine are one of the best creatine alternatives we’ve tried.
Related Article - Creatine Vs Glutamine (Major Differences You Should Know)
Amino acids aid muscle recovery after an intense workout and increase energy and endurance. They also play a major role in a lot of biological processes.
In addition to supplements, amino acids are found in foods like fish, eggs, dairy products, quinoa, raisins, olives, chicken, beans, avocados, peanuts, leafy greens, etc.
So, in addition to supplementation, try including as many of these foods as possible in your daily diet.
What Creatine Does & How It Works? (Benefits Provided)
Now that we’ve gone over the best creatine alternatives, let’s do a quick creatine overview and discuss why creatine is considered one of the best muscle-building supplements.
Creatine monohydrate is an amino acid naturally produced in the human body in the kidneys, pancreas, and liver.
Creatine produces adenosine triphosphate, the primary energy source of your muscles.
When you undergo high-intensity exercise, however, the ATP stored in your muscle cells, along with your energy, is quickly depleted.
A higher creatine intake means more ATP in your muscles. So if you often engage in intense exercise, you must keep building up your creatine stores.
Numerous studies and substantial evidence prove creatine's ability to help build muscle, limit muscle mass loss, and improve exercise performance during strength training.
When you take creatine supplements, you're giving your muscles a boost of energy when they contract.
That boost lets you lift heavier and crank out a few more reps. Creatine isn't directly involved in building muscle, but it allows you to work your muscles harder to promote growth faster.
Creatine supplements will kick your workouts into gear and help you be the most you can be, whether you're an elite athlete or a weekend warrior.
This is why creatine monohydrate is one of the most-consumed sports supplements in the world of weight lifting and the fitness industry in general.
Benefits Of Creatine
It’s important to be aware of the proven benefits of creatine because any creatine alternatives you take should provide you with the same benefits.
Long-term creatine supplementation has been proven safe when consumed by healthy individuals.
There haven’t been adverse side effects, even when you up the amount of creatine they take to 30 grams daily.
While we don’t believe in 100% certainties, you can rest assured that your creatine probably won't hurt you.
Natural Creatine Sources
While you can always take a creatine supplement to ensure you’re getting enough to fuel your workouts, getting as much of your nutrients from solid food as possible is always best.
Fortunately, there are several foods high in natural creatine, including:
- Organ meats like kidneys, liver, etc.
- Red meat
- Dairy products
Wild game also contains a lot of creatine. It has more creatine than any other food and is an excellent way to get enough creatine without relying on the powder form.
Learn More - How Much Creatine Is In Eggs? (From A Nutritionist)
Venison, duck, rabbit, and elk are fantastic sources of creatine and make excellent supplement alternatives.
How Much Creatine Should I Take?
Personal trainers and weight training experts typically recommend people start with a creatine-loading phase. The load phase works to rapidly maximize your muscle stores.
During this phase, you consume a large amount of creatine over a short period to saturate your muscles.
Most people take 20 grams of creatine daily for about a week. You can divide this dose into four 5-gram servings throughout the day.
Research has shown that the loading phase can boost your stores by 10–40%.
Once you’ve finished the loading phase, you’ll maintain your stores by taking a lower dose of creatine, typically between 2–10 grams daily.
Related Article - How Much Creatine Should I Take? | Garage Gym Pro
Why Should You Avoid Taking Creatine Directly?
Don't Want To Spend The Money On It
If you don’t have the money for creatine, it might be wise to skip it.
However, creatine is cheap, and it is packed with several benefits, like providing you with more energy and more oxygen to your muscles.
Creatine is one of the cheapest supplements you can get when it comes to building muscle, and the benefits are almost guaranteed to outweigh the cost.
Unfortunately, most of the creatine supplement alternatives we’ve discussed will be more expensive than your creatine.
A pound of steak or any other red meat or cod and other seafood will cost much more than creatine.
And most of the expensive creatine alternatives won’t do as much for your exercise performance because they have less creatine in them than a 25-cent, ½-teaspoon dose of creatine monohydrate.
You’re A Vegan
Most vegans need help with muscle building, but they have trouble finding vegan supplements.
Creatine is produced naturally in humans in our liver, kidneys, & pancreas. That might make it seem like it is off-limits to vegan lifters.
However, the powdered creatine sold as a supplement does not come from animals or contain animal products.
These great supplements are created when the synthetic chemicals sarcosine and cyanamide combine. That means artificially-made creatine monohydrate is vegan-friendly.
Related Article - Is Creatine Vegan? (Find Out Which Brands Are Safe)
Creatine Causes Water Weight Gain
Many people think they need to avoid creatine because it causes water weight gain. And taking creatine can indeed result in a few pounds of weight due to water retention.
But this isn’t the same as the typical bloated, water-weight gain commonly reported in our culture.
Creatine aids muscle building by transporting your body's energy cells, called ATP, to your muscles. This process is supported by drawing water into your muscles.
Creatine Makes You Go Bald
This is a concern that isn't based on reality. Since creatine is naturally found in many foods we eat, wouldn't we all be going bald?
No research supports the idea that creatine contributes to hair loss.
One small study found that creatine supplementation increased DHT, a male hormone linked to sometimes triggering hair loss.
However, there were no reports of hair loss, just an increase in DHT that was still considered within clinical norms. Fortunately, “creatine hair loss” is nothing more than a rumor.
Creatine Causes Erectile Dysfunction
Here’s another reason men avoid creatine that isn’t based on evidence. If you’re a lifter, you’ve probably been told half of the supplements you take will cause ED.
The rumors of creatine causing male sexual problems are not based in fact. Just like the hair loss problem, no scientific evidence supports the idea that creatine causes ED.
Related Article - Does Creatine Affect You Sexually? (Benefits & Side Effects)
Other Side Effects
Creatine is one of the best muscle-building supplements out there, but it’s still good to know if it has any risks. Fortunately, there are little to zero known risks when it comes to creatine.
In fact, the International Society of Sports Nutrition called many rumors about creatine unsubstantiated anecdotal reports, misinformation published on the Internet, and perpetuated myths.”
They went on to say that contrary to unfounded reports, and the peer-reviewed literature demonstrates that there is no evidence that creatine supplementation increases the anecdotally reported incidence of:
They also stated that long-term supplementation doesn’t result in any clinically significant side effects among athletes.
Creatine Substitution FAQs
The best way to increase creatine naturally so you have all the energy you need for your workouts is to eat foods rich in the supplement. You can find a good substitute for creatine powders in the lists above.
You can build muscle without creatine, but creatine helps. More creatine, even just a natural alternative to supplementation, can provide you with an extra 5% muscle growth potential.
You can always take a creatine replacement if you need to stop supplementing creatine. If you stop completely, your body's stored creatine levels will decrease. This could lead to a loss of strength, a slight loss of muscle mass, and you won't have all the energy you need or your workouts.
Creatine is entirely safe. It has been subject to numerous studies, and no harmful effects have been found besides maybe an upset stomach, usually due to not drinking enough water.
If you still can’t have it or choose not to take creatine, several alternatives are available.
While they don’t provide the exact same effect as creatine, most are still excellent supplements for building muscle and improving strength and performance in the gym.