If you’ve started noticing that your creatine order is more expensive than usual or even totally unavailable, you’re not alone. No, this isn’t some nightmare for meatheads. The truth is, there is a short supply of creatine and it’s affecting the supplement companies and beginning to trickle down to consumers. Many of the popular brands are out of their ingredients and the ones that are able to get what they need have almost doubled in price over the last few months.
Remember the mad dash for toilet paper in the beginning of 2020? That is what marked the flashpoint of the pandemic’s effect on consumer goods. While the empty shelves in grocery stores around the world seemed to be an indicator of the end times, toilet paper was not the only product to experience supply issues as the pandemic spread around the world.
Before the coronavirus pandemic took over the world, supplements such as creatine drove steady growth in the fitness industry at a rate of approximately 5% each year. However, in April 2020, sales jumped 44% higher than that same time in 2019. Gyms began closing and the news started focusing more on health and hygiene than ever before, which led to people snatching up supplements in a frenzy. However, this came at a cost.
When demand increases for products such as whey protein, multivitamins, creatine, and other dietary supplements, the supply chain is challenged from start to finish. For dietary supplements, especially creatine products, the pandemic has created a severe shortage, which has led to the cost of creatine increasing- and that doesn’t appear to be changing any time soon.
While it’s difficult to come up with exact figures, we know that creatine supplementation is a high profit industry all around the world. In fact, the search engine software Ahrefs showed more than 400,000 online searches in December 2021 for creatine. This is around 100,000 more searches than in December 2020, only a year prior. Athletes and gym enthusiasts consume creatine daily in capsule form or a powder mixed into a shake or other beverage to improve their physique and performance. For those that use creatine religiously, the issue is that they have to replenish their supply quite regularly.
This consistent, widespread demand puts the industry at risk for disarray. Clea Murphy, supply chain manager for Nutra Holdings, LLC says: “As it stands, the shortage remains in full effect, and we anticipate creatine to be harder to purchase throughout 2022.”
Nutra Holdings, LLC is a sports nutrition platform that supervises a variety of popular supplement brands, including Transparent Labs and Jacked Factory.
Since creatine relies so heavily on accessibility and low cost, inadequate supply is a major issue. While it sells quite well alone, it is also a common ingredient in many “proprietary blends” in protein supplements and pre-workout powders. This means that in addition to creatine increasing in cost, these will as well.
According to Murphy, in early 2021, it held steady at an average price of approximately $5 per kilogram. The same time in 2022, it costs as much as $42 per kilogram, with no end in sight.
Honey, an online consumer savings app that tracks price changes, shows that many of the prominent players in the industry are raising their prices as a reflection of the lack of availability. Some of the increases that have been seen are as follows:
- Optimum Nutrition Creatine Monohydrate capsules (300 count): started at $26, now costs $50
- BSN Micronized Creatine Powder (60 servings): started at $25, now costs $35
- MyProtein Creatine Powder (100 servings): started at $26, now costs $47
Please note: This pricing is based on 3-month price change averages. The prices on these products fluctuate regularly on Amazon. As of February 2022, BSN and Optimum Nutrition were out of stock at the serving sizes listed.
What is Causing the Fluctuations?
The rapid price increases, as well as vendors struggling to provide this supplement are due to hiccups in the supply chain. The supply chain stretches across most of the world and while it’s efficient when it works- it can easily be derailed with things such as geopolitics and health crises.
China is the largest source of creatine monohydrate- much of the world’s supply is synthesized and exported from there, according to Murphy. Restrictions related to the pandemic, such as limitations on capacity in factories, mean that the rate of production is slowed- which results in a slowing of supply to the brands in the Western world.
That being said, COVID restrictions and policies are just one of the factors (though it does have a significant impact) that is causing the situation with the creatine pricing and supply.
According to Murphy, politics also play a major part in the accessibility of ingredients and many of the insiders in the industry believe that the shortages could be a result of the ongoing trade disputes that began in 2018 between the United States of America and China.
The disputes are related to tariffs that were imposed by the Trump administration on foreign imports in an attempt to convince Americans to purchase domestically produced products instead international goods.
While it’s true that some brands of creatine products are packaged and sold domestically, the primary ingredient, Creapure® is an international patent. It is owned by a German chemical manufacturer, AlzChem Group. Operations of companies such as AlzChem are dependent on the crop yields in China, and a poor harvest can have substantial effects across the entire process.
Huge order volumes that German suppliers can’t fulfill, coupled with operational restrictions in Chinese factories and price increase motivated by politics creates a major issue: there is too much demand and not nearly enough supply. Many brands that are looking for creatine will go from one supplier to another, getting what they can in order to satisfy the demands of consumers.
According to Murphy, if a struggle is unable to keep up with the price increases on the raw material because of cash flow issues, they must increase their prices.
Concerns & Consequences Related to Supply Chain Issues
For the average consumer that just wants to get in shape, a breakdown in the international supply chain may seem irrelevant. Of course, that doesn’t mean that they are not concerned about more than the health of their bank account.
While it’s true that consumers should be worried about quantity, according to Murphy, quality control still remains at the forefront. The ingredient shortages do not have an effect on the quality of creatine products purchased in the United States. Manufacturers in the USA are still required to follow policies put into place and enforced by the Food & Drug Administration. They are still required to test and provide documentation that their products meet specifications related to safety.
Of course, there is still the risk of getting your hands on counterfeit products, as usual- but this typically happens in remote regions where the more prominent vendors struggle to ship to.
If you are looking for a creatine powder that works or you use a pre-workout that contains a proprietary blend that includes creatine, you really don’t have a whole lot to worry about. If you do consider creatine a critical part of your supplementation, your wallet may take a hard hit- but if you are able to get your hands on it, you can be sure that it will work just as it ever has.
Benefits of Creatine
If you have never used creatine before, this supply chain crisis may have aroused your interest in it. After all, unless there is a demand, a shortage can’t exist. If everyone is trying to get creatine products, it’s natural to be curious about what makes it such a popular product to start with.
Creatine is one of the most researched dietary supplements on the market. In fact, the scientific community has published hundreds of studies documenting the efficacy and safety of creatine supplementation to improve your overall performance both in and out of the gym. In fact, here is a closer look at some of the benefits related to creatine supplementation.
Body Composition is Improved
According to research, creatine supplementation is helpful for increasing overall body mass. When you start using creatine, water gets pulled into your cells, which results in an increase in body mass. This increase does result in water weight gain- but as long as you are working out, this will ultimately increase muscle mass and creatinine concentrations.
According to some studies, creatine supplementation over a short period of time led to an increase in lean body mass, which changes your body composition. When you combine creatine supplementation with resistance training, myostatin levels are decreased, which leads to improved muscle growth and, ultimately, muscle mass.
Athletic Performance is Improved
Research shows that creatine works exceptionally well in HIIT workouts, which is one of the primary reasons its used in athletics.
Studies indicate that creatine works to improve performance, endurance, fat-free mass, and strength during HIIT workouts. Also, some studies indicate that creatine improves muscle performance in jump squats and bench press and also improves sprint runs and strength during strength training workouts.
Phosphocreatine Concentration is Improved
Phosphocreatine is a phosphate molecule that is connected to the recycling and maintenance of ATP reserves. Phosphocreatine concentration is increased through creatine supplementation, which means that your body has the ATP levels required to power through your workouts.
Studies show that consuming 4 servings of creatine every day for a period of 5 days resulted in an increase in the concentration of phosphocreatine to ensure maintenance of ATP synthesis. This is what improves your energy levels.
Post-Workout Recovery is Improved
If you have ever engaged in HIIT workouts, you know that you typically end up sore- and may even experience injury. According to research, creatine can improve post-workout recovery and also reduce your risk of muscle damage. Additionally, creatine has been proven to improve recovery time when you do injure a muscle.
Some studies also indicate that creatine supplementation may support rehabilitation of injuries due to overuse of tendons, while others have indicated that creatine may decrease inflammation and soreness after a run.
The majority of the studies on creatine supplementation indicate that it is beneficial for preventing/reducing muscle damage and improving post-workout recovery after HIIT workouts.
May Help with Treating Parkinson’s
There are some studies that indicate creatine offers neuroprotective properties that can help with treating neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s. In another study, results indicated that creatine coupled with resistance training was beneficial for patients who had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
Parkinson’s is a disorder that affects the functioning of the central nervous system, due to nerve cell damage and a reduction in dopamine levels. It is a progressive disorder that has an effect on body movement.
As we mentioned, creatine supplementation increases phosphocreatine concentration, which means the depletion of ATP is reduced. This results in neuroprotective capabilities. Finally, some studies have indicated that creatine, coupled with CoQ10 may help with treating Parkinson’s as well.
May Improve Symptoms of Depression
Depression is a mood disorder that affects more than 250 million people around the world. Some research indicates that creatine may be able to relieve some of the symptoms associated with it.
One study looked at females with low phosphocreatine levels that had been prescribed methamphetamine for depression. They were given creatine supplements and, within 2 weeks of beginning the supplementation, their symptoms were improved.
Another study looked at the efficacy of creatine supplementation in treating patients with unipolar depression. Results showed that symptoms were improved soon after creatine supplementation began. That being said, some studies showed that creatine actually triggered mania episodes in patients who had been diagnosed with bipolar depression.
May Improve Cognition
Some research indicates that brain health and cognition may be improved through creatine supplementation. Many studies have proven that creatine can improve overall mental health and also offer protection against traumatic brain injuries. Additionally, some studies have shown that mental performance related to intelligence and working memory are improved by creatine supplementation.
Another study looked at creatine supplementation in elderly patients. Results indicated that creatine improved spatial recall and long-term memory tasks. Studies in younger individuals showed that reasoning and short-term memory were improved by creatine supplementation.
May Offer Cardiovascular Protection
Cardiovascular disease, which involves the heart and blood vessels, is the primary cause of death around the world. According to some studies, creatine supplementation may offer protection for your cardiovascular system.
According to the studies, when creatine is coupled with resistance training, homocysteine levels are decreased. If homocysteine levels are high, your risk for cardiovascular issues is increased.
Top 3 Best Creatine Supplements Reviews
Now that we know more about the creatine shortage and why the demand for creatine is so high, we’re going to take a closer look at the top 3 best creatine supplements on the market today.
According to XWERKS, their creatine supplement, Lift, is formulated to provide users with an increase in power and strength within minutes after taking it. When coupled with a strength training program, it facilitates the development of lean muscle mass, similar to many of the other creatine supplements on the market.
Since there are so many studies that indicate the superiority of creatine monohydrate, XWERKS has not made any improvements in this. After all, if it works, there’s no need to change it. XWERKS Lift is unflavored, which means you can add it to anything you want without affecting the flavor. Also, it is gluten-free and non-GMO.
XWERKS offers a 30-day money back guarantee if you are not satisfied with their products.
Onnit Creatine is number two on our list of top 3 best creatine supplements. Of course, it’s no surprise, since they do have a reputation of being one of the best dietary supplement manufacturers in the world.
This creatine supplement is made of creatine monohydrate and, as with other supplements, improves efficiency and strength. Each serving contains 5 grams of micronized creatine monohydrate.
Creatine supplements such as this one restores ATP, which is the fuel needed for muscles to work. Improved ATP levels mean that you will have increased strength gains, lean muscle mass gains, and much more. Onnit offers a 90-day money back guarantee.
Crazy Nutrition CRN-5 Creatine
CRN-5 by Crazy Nutrition promises to improve muscle pumps, improve lifting, and also improve performance in workouts at a lower price point. While most of the other creatine supplements on the market include 1 type of creatine, this one combines 5 different kinds to make sure that you get everything you can from your workout. The types of creatine in this supplement are:
- Creatine monohydrate
- Creatine HCL
- Creatine ethyl ester
- Tri-creatine malate
- Creatine citrate pyruvate
Additionally, in an effort to improve hydration levels, CRN-5 also contains electrolytes: magnesium, sodium, and potassium.
This kink in the supply chain for creatine is increasing its value to those who are dedicated to fitness and feel creatine is an integral part of their nutritional plans. While it does not appear that creatine is going to fall by the wayside any time soon, Murphy does stress that things are likely to get worse before we start seeing any improvements.
“The shortage is heavily influenced by the duration of the pandemic,” says Murphy. “So, as long as it persists, the regulatory consequences will affect the ability of domestic and international suppliers to meet demands.”
Therefore, it seems like for consumers this means that, while creatine has historically been cheap and available, prices are going to continue to increase, and availability is going to continue to decline. Ironically, this increase in cost for creatine supplements is more indicative of the benefits it offers. There are very few products designed to improve performance that have worked for so long, which is likely something that consumers are looking forward to getting back to as soon as possible.
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