Does Creatine Expire?

Scoop holding white powder beside a barbell and tablets on a black plate

Creatine, a widely popular supplement known for enhancing performance and muscle strength, has become a staple in the fitness world. But how long does it last, and what happens when it expires? In this article, we’ll delve into the expiration and shelf life of creatine, backed by scientific insights and user experiences.

Using Survey Monkey, we surveyed over 70 people in the United States about their creatine use and whether they used expired creatine and noticed any side effects. We have included the results in the form of user insights in the article. 

In short yes, creatine does expire. Manufacturers usually label a 2-3 year shelf life for creatine supplements. However, recent research indicates that creatine monohydrate, the most common type of creatine, can maintain its structure for nearly 4 years without losing efficacy.  

Quick Summary

  • Creatine monohydrate powder should last 1-2 years beyond its expiry date as long as it is stored properly. However, other forms such as liquid creatine and creatine ethyl ester won’t last as long.
  • Taking expired creatine is not usually harmful. However, it may be less effective depending on storage conditions, creatine type, and packaging.
  • Signs of expired creatine include a change in taste and color and foul or off odor. Most people in our survey do not notice signs of expired creatine. However, a bad smell was more commonly reported. 
  • A great percentage of people in our survey buy creatine every 2-3 months indicating that many users might not need to worry about their creatine expiring.

Understanding Creatine

Green scoop holds a mound of white powder

Creatine stands out as one of the most extensively studied and efficient supplements. It is considered a top dietary supplement among fitness enthusiasts and athletes due to its potential benefits in enhancing performance and muscle strength.  

Studies have shown that it may also protect against various neurological conditions, lower blood sugar, and improve brain function but more research is warranted in that field.

Types of Creatine

Creatine comes in various forms, with creatine monohydrate being the most well-studied and cost-effective. The array of creatine supplements includes:

  • Creatine Monohydrate
  • Creatine Ethyl Ester
  • Creatine Magnesium Chelate
  • Liquid Creatine
  • Buffered Creatine
  • Creatine Gluconate
  • Creatine Hydrochloride (HCL)

With all these different types of creatine types and supplements available, fitness enthusiasts usually wonder what the best creatine supplements are for purchase.

How Do Creatine Supplements Work?

Determined men lifting heavy barbells at the gym

Creatine is a naturally occurring compound produced in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas. When supplemented, it enhances phosphocreatine levels in muscles, replenishing adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the primary energy source during intense exercise. This ATP boost translates to enhanced performance, strength, and power output.

User Insights From Our Survey | Benefits

A significant portion of individuals in our survey reported experiencing increased strength as a benefit of taking creatine. This aligns with the well-established understanding that creatine supplementation can enhance strength and power during high-intensity, short-duration activities.

power during high-intensity, short-duration activities

How Long Does Creatine Last?

While most creatine supplements list a 2-3 year expiry date, the type of creatine, storage conditions, and packaging can significantly impact its lifespan. Creatine monohydrate powder, the most stable form, can last up to 4 years without breaking down.

The American Medical Association examined the expiration dates of many drug products and reported that shelf life was underestimated across most of the set expiration dates.

Specifically, 88% of lots were extended at least one year beyond their original expiration date. This suggests that, if stored properly, many drugs, including creatine supplements, can be used beyond their expiration date.

User Insights From Our Survey | Purchasing Frequency

A great percentage of people in our survey buy creatine every 2-3 months. This purchasing pattern indicates that many users might not need to worry about their creatine expiring given that it has a shelf life of 2-3 years.

Survey results infographic showcasing compelling stats on consumer preferences

What Is the Shelf Life of Creatine and What Affects Creatine Quality?

Like many other products, creatine does have a shelf life. The shelf life refers to the period during which the product is expected to remain effective and safe for consumption.

For most creatine supplements the shelf life is around 2 years from the manufacturing date. However, this depends on the type of creatine, storage conditions and packaging.

Rows of white tablets on a clean surface

Creatine Monohydrate Powder Lasts Longer

Creatine monohydrate is one of the most well-studied forms of creatine supplements. It consists of one creatine molecule and a water molecule attached to it. Creatine monohydrate supplements are considered the most stable form compared to creatine ethyl ester and liquid creatine which are more likely to break down into its waste products—creatinine—making them less stable past their expiry date.

Scientists found that creatine monohydrate showed no signs of degradation for more than 3 years when stored at high temperatures up to 104 °F. Other creatine supplements, such as liquid creatine or creatine salts, are not as stable as creatine monohydrate (creatine powder).

Liquid creatine’s degradation is influenced by pH levels and temperature making it less stable. The higher the pH and temperature, the faster the degradation. 

Creatine salts affect pH levels and are therefore less stable in solution than creatine monohydrate.

Creatine monohydrate supplement remains the most widely used form due to its efficiency and stability, allowing safe consumption beyond the expiration date.

What Affects Creatine Quality?

Several factors can impact the shelf life of creatine and quality including:

  1. Moisture: Exposure to moisture can cause creatine to clump or degrade.
  2. Heat: High temperatures can accelerate the breakdown of creatine.
  3. Light: Prolonged exposure to light, particularly sunlight, can lead to the degradation of creatine molecules.

To ensure the freshness and quality of your creatine, it is essential to store it properly in a dry cool place.

Does Creatine Expire?

In short, yes, but it depends on the type, storage conditions, and packaging.

Most creatine supplements list an expiry date on their packaging within 2-3 years after their production. 

However, depending on the type of creatine, storage conditions, and packaging it may last beyond its expiration date. 

For example, research found that creatine monohydrate in solid powdered form did not break down into its waste product creatinine over a period of 44 months at room temperature and even at a little bit high temperatures. Creatine monohydrate powder can last for 4 years without breaking down into its waste product creatinine. 

Back view of can with visible expiration date

How to Store Creatine

Proper storage is key to maximizing the shelf life and preserving the quality of creatine. Here are some best practices for storing creatine:

  1. Keep it in a cool, dark, and dry place: Store your creatine in a location away from direct sunlight and moisture, such as a pantry or cupboard.
  2. Seal it tightly: Ensure creatine is sealed in an airtight container after each use to prevent exposure to air and moisture.
  3. Keep creatine at room temperature: Keep creatine at room temperature and avoid freezing it or storing it in the fridge.

Can Expired Creatine Make You Sick?

Expired creatine is unlikely to cause severe illness or present major health risks.  However, it may lose potency and quality may be compromised, resulting in diminished benefits.

User Insights From Our Survey | Side Effects

A significant 56% of participants admitted to not taking creatine past its expiration date, underlining the importance users place on product freshness.

The majority of individuals who took creatine past its expiry date reported no side effects (25%). Others noted nausea (16%), stomach cramps (13%), and diarrhea (8%) as potential issues. This highlights the need for awareness about potential side effects and the importance of proper storage.

Chart showing expired creatine side effect statistics

How to Tell If Creatine Has Expired?

You may notice that expired creatine has an unusual taste, off or foul odor. Consuming expired creatine may not be pleasant. It would be recommended to discard it if you notice signs of expired creatine. 

If you have concerns about consuming expired creatine or experience any adverse effects, it’s always best to consult with a healthcare professional.

User Insights From Our Survey | Signs of Expired Creatine

We found that most people check the date on the packaging to see if it is expired, whereas only a small percentage of people notice signs of expired creatine with the main being a foul odor (17%). 

Final Takeaway

Understanding the expiration and shelf life of creatine is essential for maximizing its benefits and ensuring its quality. While creatine may still be safe to consume after the expiration date, its potency and effectiveness may decline over time. Storing creatine properly and using it within its designated shelf life can help maintain its freshness and optimize results.

The extended shelf life of creatine offers practical benefits for bulk purchasing and long-term use making it a valuable supplement for athletes.

Remember, consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian before starting any new supplement regimen, especially if you have specific health concerns or medical conditions. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is creatine still good if it hardens?

The effectiveness of creatine may be compromised if it hardens. Ideally, creatine should be stored in a cool, dry place to maintain its quality. If it has hardened, it is recommended to replace it with a fresh supply for optimal results.

How long is creatine safe for?

Creatine is safe for consumption within its designated shelf life. After that period, its potency and quality may gradually decline.

Can you be too old for creatine?

Creatine can be used by individuals of various age groups, including older adults. However, it’s always advisable to consult with a healthcare professional, especially if you have any underlying health conditions.

References

Joanna Tsintaris | Registered Dietitian | MS Nutrition & Dietetics

Joanna Tsintaris | Registered Dietitian | MS Nutrition & Dietetics

Joanna is a registered Dietitian in the UK and Biomedical Science graduate with first class MSc in Nutrition and Dietetics. She is also the founder of Nourish (RD)—an online health and nutrition clinic offering personalized 1:1 dietetic advice.

Learn More About Joanna

More posts from Joanna Tsintaris | Registered Dietitian | MS Nutrition & Dietetics

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