Creatine is among the best and most-used sports nutrition supplements with numerous benefits, which is why it is equally popular among professionals and fitness enthusiasts.

If you like to buy supplements in bulk, you may wonder, "does creatine expire" and whether it is safe to use creatine supplements even after the expiration date.

Find the answer in this article, and I will also explain how a creatine supplement works, how long does creatine last, and which type is perfect for you.

In short, yes, creatine expires, like everything else. However, the answer is more complex.

The shelf life of the product is always indicated on the packaging. Most often, you will see "EXP" and then the date.

Some manufacturers, instead of "EXP," use "expiration date" or some other abbreviation, but it's all the same.

Until that date, the manufacturer guarantees the product's safety if it is stored properly.

Right next to it, you will see "MFD" - manufacturing date. Make sure to check "EXP" and not "MFD."

This advice is based on my experience since I once threw away perfectly fine whey protein because I checked "MFD" instead of "EXP" and only realized that when it was too late.

Creatine Capsules In Plastic Container

The sell-by date is usually irrelevant for creatine because of its long shelf life, so many factories omit it.

What distinguishes creatine supplements from whey protein is stability. What exactly does this mean?

Although it does expire, it is safe for consumption way past that date, which is not the case with whey protein.

You can use protein for a maximum of six months beyond its expiration date, and even that is not recommended.

On the other hand, expired creatine retains its properties much longer. The realistic expiration date is not the "EXP" you will see on the container.

Still, the manufacturers don't want to jeopardize you or push the limits, so they set shorter expiration dates.

I must emphasize that this applies to creatine powder form and creatine pills but not to liquid form.

Liquid creatine is more convenient, but apart from that, it has no proven benefits, although many will tell you that better absorption is one of the benefits.

What is especially important for you to know is that, unlike powder, you should not use liquid creatines past their expiration date.

This is because creatine supplements primarily lose potency in water.

Related Article - What Is Best To Mix Creatine With

How Does Creatine Actually Work?

There is no doubt that creatine is one of just a few supplements that benefit professionals, amateurs, men, and women alike. Have you ever wondered how creatine works?

What matters the most is that creatine supplementation is safe, effective, and legal.[1]

Thus it won't affect your drug test results, even if you are a competitive athlete. Creatine also does not cause renal problems, as once thought.[2]

After all, the body naturally produces creatine. Still, remember to measure how much creatine you are taking.

Although the logical conclusion could be that creatine can lead to dehydration or cramps because it draws water into your muscles' cells, no study has proven those claims.[3]

It plays an important role in the synthesis of ATP, and that is why one of the benefits is energy production. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the main source of energy at the cellular level.

Creatine supplements increase phosphocreatine stores, which the body uses to produce ATP in moments of great effort when ATP reserves are depleted.

In this way, this supplement improves power output and gives you more energy to work out longer and harder.

The following benefits are also worth mentioning:

  • Increase in lean body mass
  • Faster muscle growth
  • Fatigue reduction
  • Improvement of cognitive performance
  • Reduction of blood sugar levels
  • Acceleration of recovery
  • Replenish creatine stores
Man Holding Lid For Creatine Drink

There are different types of creatine, and now I will analyze the seven most common.

Creatine Monohydrate

You can't go wrong with creatine monohydrate supplements. It is obtained by bonding creatine molecules to a water molecule.

Almost all studies are based on creatine monohydrate, sometimes called regular creatine.[4]

Since it has been widely studied, we can speak with certainty about its safety and effectiveness.

Also, it is very affordable and should be a go-to option for both beginners and most other exercisers.

Creatine anhydrous is creatine monohydrate without water molecules, so you get 100% creatine by weight while the efficiency remains the same.

Creatine HCL

Creatine hydrochloride (HCl) is more soluble in water compared to creatine monohydrate. So, supposedly, absorption is better as well.

Whether the attached hydrochloride molecule really affects the absorption of creatine remains to be seen.

Still, creatine HCL is unquestionably superior when it comes to solubility, which is why the portions are significantly smaller, often below 1 gram.

If you have stomach problems after taking creatine monohydrate, consider this type.

Creatine Citrate

As the name implies, creatine bound to citric acid is creatine citrate.

This is another variation of this supplement that is more water-soluble, but no credible study has shown it to be superior to creatine monohydrate in any other category.

Creatine Malate

Malic acid is combined with other amino acids, such as L-citrulline, which is a very important part of pre-workout supplements, to improve absorption and bioavailability.

For the same reason, creatine malate is produced, which is more expensive than monohydrate and most other types.

Creatine Magnesium Chelate

You will find creatine magnesium chelate on the market under the trademark MagnaPower.

One study was conducted regarding the benefits of a low dose of magnesium creatine chelate supplementation on repeated sprint ability, which is something to start with.[5]

Nevertheless, at least a few more credible studies are needed to be sure how the combination of magnesium and creatine affects ATP.

Buffered Creatine

The idea behind buffered creatine is good.

By adding alkaline powder, they made it more alkaline to increase its potency in the stomach and, at the same time, eliminate side effects such as bloating.

However, the study has shown they failed in their endeavor.[6]

Although it is only one study and it would certainly be desirable to have more information available, there is no reason to use a buffered version in the foreseeable future.

Creatine Ethyl Ester

Creatine ethyl ester is yet another attempt to improve absorption, make it more bioavailable, and reduce stomach issues caused by powdered creatine products.

It seems they failed again, and that's not all. Since ester reduces acid stability,  this type of creatine is not just the same as monohydrate but is actually inferior to it.

That's why I advise you against using creatine ethyl ester.

How To Tell If Your Creatine Has Expired (Common Signs)

In most cases, you won't be able to differentiate an expired creatine supplement from regular ones since they will look exactly the same.

What consumers most often notice are lumps. Even that does not automatically mean that creatine monohydrate powder is beyond its expiration date. Clumpy creatine indicates moisture.

Moisture does not make creatine unusable. Instead, it affects the effectiveness of the supplement.

Exactly how much the effectiveness will be reduced depends on the amount of moisture and how long the powder was exposed to it.

If you see that almost all of it has become clumpy, my advice is to stop using it.

Changes in color, taste, and smell are obvious signs, though very rare.

The foul smell can be described as acidic, while uneven color indicates stale supplements.

A change in the original taste is also something you shouldn’t ignore, but the probability that it will happen is smaller compared to a change in smell and color.

One Scoop of Creatine Mix

Tips On How To Store Creatine Properly For Longevity

All you need to do is to take a few simple preventative measures and keep creatine stored properly. That way, it will be safe to consume, and you will extend the shelf life of the supplement.

I tell each of my clients to always keep creatine, protein, pre-workout, and all other supplements in their original packaging and in proper storage.

In the original packaging, the powdered form (or some other form) is the safest from moisture, bacteria, and everything else that can damage the quality.

However, more is needed. You must keep it in a cool, dark place. Never leave the air-tight container open after you use it.

Also, keep it away from sunlight since it is photosensitive (light-sensitive).

It goes without saying that you must keep it in a dry environment, as far as possible from sources of moisture. Even the original packaging can't help if there's moisture all around.

Frequently Asked Creatine Shelf Life Questions

Should you take creatine that has expired?

It depends on whether the creatine supplement has expired recently or not. Generally, taking expired creatine won't make you sick, and it will be effective if stored correctly up to that point. When expired creatine breaks down into creatinine (a waste product), it loses its potency, but years have to pass before that happens.[7]

How long is creatine normally good for after the expiration date?

In general, creatine supplements are safe for at least 6 more months. Most agree that creatine monohydrate supplement is good for even longer.

What should creatine smell like?

Creatine powdered supplements should be odorless, so a change in odor is a red flag. If you notice a very mild smell as soon as you open it, this may be normal, but be careful and check the taste, expiration date, and search the Internet for reviews.

Do you have to drink creatine immediately after mixing?

It is best to consume creatine right after you mix it with water. Nothing will happen if you drink it an hour later, but you should definitely not refrigerate it or leave it overnight at room temperature.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that creatine supplements may expire.

If you store it properly in an airtight container, it can be safely consumed after its expiry date, especially when we are talking about monohydrate, the most famous and extremely stable type of creatine, even at high temperatures.

However, creatine is a rather cheap supplement, and there is no reason to take a risk if you notice that it has changed its smell, taste, texture, or color.

You probably won't get sick after consuming expired creatine, but the potency will be significantly reduced. So it's reasonable to buy a new one.

Although it is a dietary supplement considered safe to consume, consult your doctor if you experience side effects.

References: 

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0899900704001054?via%3Dihub
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15273072/
  3. https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2001/07000/Physiological_responses_to_short_term_exercise_in.6.aspx
  4. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1186/1550-2783-4-6
  5. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/12/10/2961
  6. https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1550-2783-9-43
  7. https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/physrev.2000.80.3.1107
Miloš Lepotic

Miloš Lepotic

Meet Miloš, a certified sports nutritionist and self-taught supplement expert whose pharmacological background and nearly a decade of gym experience make him the perfect guide for optimizing your health and athletic performance through supplement reviews and practical advice rooted in factual, science-backed information.