Creatine is known for its role in the body’s production of adenosine triphosphate. It is a popular supplement among athletes in the fitness industry looking to train longer and harder.
There are multiple types of creatine that are considered safe dietary supplements, but you may wonder if its shelf life extends past its expiration date.
So, does creatine expire?
- Creatine supplements work by increasing your body’s muscle phosphocreatine stores.
- There are many types of creatine, the most common and most researched being creatine monohydrate.
- Creatine is incredibly stable and can last beyond its expiration date without losing its potency.
HOW DOES CREATINE WORK?
Your body’s primary source of energy is adenosine triphosphate (ATP). When your ATP stores are depleted, your body uses its phosphocreatine stores to create more.
Creatine supplements work by increasing the phosphocreatine stores in your muscles, which then creates more ATP for use during your high-intensity workouts.
The good news is that your body naturally produces creatine through an interaction between the amino acids glycine and arginine. It is then stored in the body as phosphocreatine.
Many people take creatine hoping to increase their strength and endurance with more energy to push through their tough workouts, but creatine also helps you build muscle by
- Improving cell signaling
- Pulling more water into your muscles
- Reducing protein breakdown
- Raising anabolic states
While creatine muscle tissues naturally contain creatine stores, they are not saturated. For this reason, many people will gradually load creatine into their system during what is called the “loading phase.”
They build their stores as high as possible during this phase by gradually dosing their creatine supplement multiple times daily.
Whether you follow the fast loading method or the slow loading method determines how much creatine you take each day during the loading phase.
TYPES OF CREATINE
- Creatine Monohydrate
- Creatine HCL
- Creatine Citrate
- Creatine Malate
- Creatine Magnesium Chelate
- Buffered Creatine
- Creatine Ethyl Ester
Creatine HCL is creatine with a hydrochloride molecule attached. The hydrochloride is said to enhance water solubility and absorption compared to the creatine with an attached water molecule.
Creatine citrate is creatine bound to citric acid. Research shows that it may be more water-soluble than CM but not better in terms of effectiveness or absorption.
Creatine malate comprises one molecule of malic acid and three molecules of creatine.
There is an ester bond in the product which is said to help with absorption. However, it tends to be less economical as far as budget goes.
CREATINE MAGNESIUM CHELATE
Creatine magnesium chelate is a form of the supplement that has been “chelated” with magnesium, meaning the magnesium is attached to the creatine molecule.
However, more research is needed to determine if magnesium increases its advantage over CM.
Buffered creatine includes an added alkaline powder that is said to increase its stability in the stomach.
Some say that this dietary supplement has increased potency compared to CM. However research says otherwise.
CREATINE ETHYL ESTER
Creatine ethyl ester is creatine monohydrate with an ester attached, which is an organic compound formed by the reaction between carboxylic acid and alcohols.
The ester compound is said to help increase creatine absorption and decrease bloating and dehydration.
However, the ethyl group reduces the acid stability and accelerates the breakdown, turning creatine into creatinine.
HOW LONG DOES CREATINE LAST?
A study completed by the American Medical Association examined the expiration dates of many drug products and found that most of the set expiration dates greatly underestimated the product’s shelf life.
In fact, the study found that 88% of the sample lots tested were extended past their marked expiry dates for an average of 66 months. This is proving true for creatine supplements as well.
Creatine monohydrate is incredibly stable and unlikely to break down into creatinine, its waste product.
It’s important to properly store your creatine monohydrate powder supplements to prevent physical change from environmental factors. Factors such as moisture, high temperatures, and open air can affect the product’s lifespan.
However, one study found that creatine in solid form, otherwise known as powdered creatine monohydrate, even withstood high temperatures without degradation over many years.
If stored properly, your CM should last years beyond its expiry date in the same tub in which it was manufactured.
DOES CREATINE EXPIRE?
Most creatine products do have an expiration date, but science has proven it safe for consumption after its listed date.
Creatine is extremely stable. So much so that even if expired creatine does begin to break down, it will primarily lose potency without causing adverse side effects in the consumer.
Many forms of creatine are available to consumers, but each varies in its stability and scientific data.
Other supplements, such as liquid creatine or creatine salts, are not as deeply researched and don’t share the same stability as powder creatine.
Liquid creatine is not considered stable as it is very dependent on pH levels and temperature. The higher the pH and temperature, the faster the degradation of the liquid product.
Creatine salts are less stable in solution than CM because the salts affect the pH levels of the solution.
For these reasons, creatine monohydrate continues to be the most widely used form of the supplement. Not only is it utilized efficiently by the body, but its stability allows it to be safely consumed long after its expiration date.
WHEN TO TOSS YOUR CREATINE
Creatine supplements tend to have a long shelf life and are even said to be safe for consumption after their posted expiration date. Yep, you heard that right. Expired creatine does not have to go in the trash.
Proper storage plays a major role in extending your creatine’s shelf life as certain factors can break down the product before you even have the chance to use it.
Clumpy creatine is a common occurrence, but it is safe to consume. If your powdered supplement is clumpy, it has likely been exposed to slight moisture.
Of course, trust your common sense. If you notice a change in its smell, color, consistency, or taste, it’s time for a new tub of your creatine supplement. Those physical changes likely indicate that the creatine has gone bad.
Bacteria will take advantage of poor storage situations. If significant moisture is allowed to reach the supplement or if the sealed container is left open for an extended period of time, bacteria have the opportunity to grow. The bacteria can cause changes in smell and appearance and can cause adverse side effects if ingested.
HOW TO STORE CREATINE
While the powdered supplements may have a listed expiry date, your storage methods can prevent the product from degrading into creatinine and keep them ready for use long after their expiration dates.
Creatine stored properly without moisture and at the appropriate temperature has an increased shelf life and is still considered safe to consume even after its expiration date.
The packaging on the product will provide you with guidance on how to best store your supplement. Still, it’s best to store creatine powder in an airtight container in a cool, dry place to prevent moisture from getting into the container.
Although it presents a small risk, a prolonged period of contact with moisture can cause creatine to break down into creatinine.
Also, avoid storing it in direct sunlight as the high temperature may speed up the breakdown process.
The safety and efficacy of creatine supplements have been intensively researched over the years, including consumption after their expiry date. Research has shown that expired creatine can be trusted for safe consumption.
Creatine supplementation has become a staple among athletes in the fitness industry, hoping to increase their strength and endurance in high-intensity exercise.
Regular creatine use has been shown to increase cell signaling, help build muscle, and reduce protein breakdown. There are many types of creatine supplements, the most common and widely researched being creatine monohydrate powder.
If stored correctly, your creatine monohydrate supplement is safe to consume even after its listed expiry date as CM has a very stable shelf life. It should be stored in an airtight container in a dry place.
A good indication that your creatine has gone bad would be physical changes in the product. If you notice a change in smell, taste, consistency, or color, you should consider opening a new tub of the dietary supplement.
Of course, it is recommended that you speak with your healthcare professional before adding any new dietary supplements to your routine.