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September 18, 2022
Look in any serious lifter's gym bag, and you're likely to see creatine in each and every one of them. As one of the most studied and beneficial dietary supplements, it's easy to see why so many gym goers take creatine.
But even the most dedicated weight lifter can start to slack in their daily supplement routine or simply forget about one of the creatine tubs that's been pushed to the back of their pantry. For whatever reason, there may come a day when you find an older tub sitting around.
You have no clue where or when you got it. The big question on your mind: Does creatine expire? And if it does, what will happen if you consume the expired supplement?
We're about to answer those questions in this post, which will discuss:
Let's find out if you can still use the creatine you just found in the dark depths of your kitchen cupboards.
Creatine is a non-proteinogenic amino acid, meaning it doesn't play a part in protein formation. Regardless, it's still highly effective at providing multiple benefits to exercise performance, body composition, and building lean body mass.
About 95% of creatine is stored in the muscles as creatine phosphate, also known as phosphocreatine, and the other 5% is stored in your brain and testes.
This cycle of synthesizing ATP means that your phosphocreatine stores are constantly increasing and decreasing. Therefore, we can refill our phosphocreatine stores through several means. They include:
Creatine monohydrate powder is the market's most studied and used form of creatine. It's made by combining one molecule of creatine and one molecule of water. That's it.
Even though seemingly simple, creatine monohydrate powder is the most beneficial form of creatine.
In addition, creatine monohydrate is the supplement used in most research and studies.
Since creatine monohydrate is so popular, multiple other creatine types have been formulated to offer a better version. Some examples of these are creatine ethyl ester, creatine hydrochloride (HCL), and buffered creatine.
These other forms claim to be absorbed easier than a creatine monohydrate supplement, mitigating side effects and the need for a loading phase.
But tread cautiously here, as many of these claims are unsubstantiated or highly exaggerated. As of now, when comparing creatine, like with HCL vs. monohydrate, it seems as though all creatine works fairly similarly.
Another type of creatine found on the market is creatine liquid. This is simply the liquid form of other types of creatine.
While liquid creatines claim to have various benefits, such as better absorption, these claims are yet again inconclusive. The only benefit we see is that they're more convenient to take with you. This is the same benefit you'll find when comparing creatine pills vs. powder.
As for liquid creatine's expiration date, similar to almost anything's liquid form, it breaks down much faster and primarily loses potency. So while powdered supplements may be more "cumbersome," they are significantly more stable.
Depending on the person's diet, most people's creatine stores are only 60-85% full. While this is enough to function properly, it's very difficult to operate at 100%.
Since you're missing out on the ability to create more energy production by way of creatine, you aren't performing as optimally as you could be.
Creatine supplements work by filling your creatine stores to 100%. As a result, you're able to produce more ATP during intense bouts of exercise, including everything from weight lifting programs to plyometrics exercises.
Over the years, taking creatine has been found to provide an array of benefits.
Taking creatine powder is relatively straightforward. There are 2 phases that you must take part in: a loading phase and a maintenance phase.
The purpose of the loading phase is to rapidly fill your creatine stores so you can start getting maximal benefits fast. To do this, take 20-25 grams of creatine powder for 5-7 days. This will get your stores to 100%
The maintenance phase requires a daily dose of just 3-5 grams to maintain full levels.
Yes. All compounds are going to expire at some point.
That said, compared to other versions, creatine monohydrate is extremely stable with a long shelf life. This means that as long as you're prioritizing it and remembering when to take creatine, it's highly unlikely to expire before you use it up, even if you bought it in bulk.
Before we discuss a supplement going beyond its expiration date in any more detail, it's important to first understand what the words "shelf life" and "expiration date" even mean.
There are several terms that are given to products to describe how long they can sit out. These terms are expiration date (sometimes seen as the expiry date), shelf life, and the sell-by date.
Although related to one another, they all mean different things.
For example, just because a compound is past its shelf date, it may not be expired. So how does that happen?
Let's first go over the terms.
The shelf life of a food product or dietary supplement refers to how long it can sit after manufacturing before losing quality. For natural, healthy foods, like these high protein low fat options, you'll find that their shelf life is far less than that of creatine.
When speaking about chemicals (yes, creatine is a chemical), the shelf life usually refers to how long until it begins to undergo reactions and lose quality.
When this happens to creatine, it will break down into a waste product known as creatinine. When this happens, your creatine isn't creatine anymore.
So while consuming it won't harm you, you're not going to see the benefits that you desire.
The expiration date is how long a product can be used until it is no longer safe to consume. If you consume a product past this date, you are risking adverse side effects due to the product spoiling.
In other words, a product can still be safely consumed after it has passed its shelf life. However, its intended effects could be diminished if it has passed its shelf life. This means that if your goal is to build muscle, using creatine past its expiration date may not help as much as non-expired creatine would.
The sell-by date is just the time a product needs to be sold within to maintain freshness. This isn't really isn't a huge concern for creatine. You likely won't see one on creatine packaging, but it may come up on occasion.
In fact, we have seen some stores selling "old" supplements at a heavily discounted as they were near the sell-by date.
If you come across this with creatine, we suggest buying it, particularly if you're planning to take it for a long time. As a side note: When you stop taking creatine, you may slowly begin to lose some of the supplement's positive effects. And as there are no ramifications to taking it long-term, it doesn't hurt to stock up (within reason) at a cheaper price and continue taking it daily.
Assuming proper storage is practiced, creatine can last a long time. Most creatine products will have an expiration date of 2-3 years after their production1. However, studies show that creatine remains stable for much longer.
For example, one study shows that creatine remains stable for at least 3 years. Further, other studies have shown that creatine sees no sign of degradation until 44 months when stored at high temperatures2.
Beyond this point, creatine breaks down into creatinine, or at least the process begins. And while it will begin to lose potency, it's still not bad for you.
While we're not saying you should use expired supplements, in the case of creatine, it's likely not going to affect you and will probably still help you hit your leg workout harder than you could if you weren't taking it.
As just mentioned, if your creatine has gone past its expiration date, it's still likely good for some time.
While it's hard to say for sure, we'd say it's still safe to consume for at least a year after. Again, assuming it's stored in a cool, dry location.
Therefore, you could get away with taking expired creatine for some time.
Sometimes when you open your creatine powder, you'll find clumpy creatine. This is caused by moisture getting inside.
While it doesn't make the creatine go bad, it could cause it to lose its potency. This depends on how much moisture has gotten in and for how long.
To be clear, clumpy creatine powder is not expired, so it won't cause any harmful effects. However, its potency may have diminished.
The best way to prevent this from happening is to keep it away from water. A big culprit is when we wash a spoon real quick before using it. Or, when you stir some creatine into your protein coffee and then accidentally put the spoon back in your creatine tub. Be sure that whatever you use to scoop your creatine is dry.
This is in addition to the rest of our guidelines.
If you're worried about consuming expired creatine, prolong its quality to make sure it's helping you get the most out of your 5-day workout split by following these simple guidelines for proper storage.
Creatine is an incredibly stable supplement. Compared to other supplements like protein powder, creatine has a much longer shelf life and expiration date. Further, while we're not necessarily saying you should do this, studies show that creatine monohydrate supplements are still stable a couple of years after the supposed expiration date.
When you consider this 3-5 year timeframe and that even bulk brands typically include 200 servings, we think it's highly unlikely you'll even run into this issue.
Follow our guidelines to keep your creatine stored properly, and you should never have to worry about expired creatine. And if you suspect it's really old, just buy another tub as it's one of the cheapest supplements on the market.
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