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Muscle Enhancement Supplements (Creatine and Branched Chain Amino Acids) Reviewed by


  • What Does Creatine Do? Creatine is an amino acid that helps supply muscles, including the heart, with energy, particularly for short-term, maximal exercise (See What It Is). Some, but not all studies suggest creatine supplements can improve muscle strength and endurance during repeated high-intensity exercise of short duration, such as weight lifting and sprinting, but is not helpful in purely aerobic exercise. Creatine may also be useful in improving exercise tolerance in patients with congestive heart failure (CHF) and muscle strength in people with muscular dystrophies (See What It Does).
  • Is Creatine Safe? Creatine is generally considered safe when taken in appropriate amounts for short periods of time, but little is known about potential long-term adverse effects of creatine. There is some concern that long-term use at high doses (20 grams/day) may adversely affect the kidneys and cardiovascular system (See Concerns and Cautions).
  • How to Take Creatine? Commonly, a "loading" dose of creatine is taken for 5 to 14 days, followed by a maintenance dose. However, some studies have shown a benefit using a constant dose rather than a larger loading dose. If using a powder or mix, drink it as soon as possible -- creatine will begin to break down once in liquid. Also, when using creatine supplements, it is important to drink about 8 cups of water per day. For dosage details, see ConsumerTips™.
  • Which Form of Creatine Is Best? Creatine comes in various forms, the most common being the monohydrate form, which also yields the greatest amount of free, usable creatine. Certain formulations are inherently unstable and should be avoided.'s tests for this Review showed that one creatine product exceeded CL's limit for impurities. Among the others, CL's Top Pick provided 5 grams of pure creatine monohydrate powder for less than 10 cents (See What CL Found and CL's Top Picks).
  • What Do Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) Do? Branched chain amino acids are the essential amino acids isoleucine, leucine and valine that the body cannot produce (See What It Is). Taking BCAAs before and after exercise may help reduce or delay the onset of muscle soreness and improve muscle recovery. Leucine appears to be the most significant BCAA for stimulating protein synthesis (See What It Does).
  • Are BCAAs Safe? BCAAs are considered safe at standard doses, but may interact with certain medications (See Concerns and Cautions).
  • How to Take BCAAs? For muscle recovery and to prevent soreness, daily doses of 1 to 5 grams have been used. How to take this and doses for other uses are explained in ConsumerTips™.
  • Which BCAA Supplement Is Best? ConsumerLab's tests revealed that one product contained less leucine than claimed. Among products which passed CL's tests, several provided 5 grams of BCAAs for about 30 cents (See CL's Top Picks).
Other Muscle Enhancers Learn about glutamine, HMB, and taurine. Also see information about the muscle enhancing effects of vitamin D, protein powders, and "nitric oxide" supplements.

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Alphabetical list of creatine or BCAA supplement brands compared in this review

View Larger Image 5765_small_BPISports-PreWokout-Small-2017.jpg

BPI Sports Best BCAA - Fruit Punch

View Larger Image 5766_small_BulkSupplementscom-BCAA-PreWorkout-Small-2017.jpg BCAA 2:1:1

View Larger Image 5758_small_BulkSupplements-Creatine-PreWorkout-Small-2017.jpg Creatine Monohydrate (Micronized)

View Larger Image 5767_small_DymatizedNutrition-PreWorkout-Small-2017.jpg

Dymatized Nutrition BCAA Complex 5050

View Larger Image 5759_small_GNC-Creatine-PreWorkout-Small-2017.jpg

GNC Creatine Monohydrate 5000 - Unflavored

View Larger Image 5768_small_GNC-BCAA-PreWorkout-Small-2017.jpg

GNC RapidDrive BCAA 5000 - Fruit Punch

View Larger Image 5760_small_KagedMuscle-PreWorkout-Small-2017.jpg

Kaged Muscle C-HCI

View Larger Image 5769_small_MET-Rx-PreWorkout-Small-2017.jpg

MET-Rx BCAA 2200

View Larger Image 5761_small_MuscleTech-PreWorkout-Small-2017.jpg

MuscleTech Creactor

Myology Creatine Extreme Caps

View Larger Image 5770_small_NatureNitro-PreWorkout-Small-2017.jpg

Naturo Nitro Atlas BCAA Powder - Lemon-Lime

View Larger Image 5771_small_OptimumNutrition-PreWorkout-Small-2017.jpg

Optimum Nutrition Mega-Size BCAA

View Larger Image 5762_small_PrecisionEngineered-PreWorkout-Small-2017.jpg

Precision Engineered Creatine Extreme Caps

View Larger Image 5772_small_Solgar-PreWorkout-Small-2017.jpg

Solgar BCAA Plus

View Larger Image 5773_small_UltimateNutrition-PreWorkout-Small-2017.jpg

Ultimate Nutrition BCAA 12,000 Powder

View Larger Image 5763_small_Universal-PreWorkout-Small-2017.jpg

Universal Creatine Chews - Grape Flavor

View Larger Image 5764_small_Vitacost-PreWorkout-Small-2017.jpg

Vitacost Creatine

You must become a member to get the full test results for creatine and BCAA supplements. You will get results for seven creatine supplements and nine BCAA supplements, including products selected for testing by and several which passed the same tests through CL's voluntary Quality Certification Program. 

In this comprehensive review, you'll discover:
  • Which creatine supplements and BCAA supplements failed testing and which passed
  • CL's Top Picks among the best creatine and BCAA supplements
  • Cost comparisons to help you choose a creatine or BCAA supplement offering the best value
  • What creatine and BCAA supplements may and may not do for you
  • The differences among forms of creatine: creatine monohydrate, creatine HCL, creatine AKG, dicreatine malate, tricreatine malate, and KreAlkalyn
  • Differences among the BCAAs (isoleucine, leucine, and valine)
  • Dosage for specific uses of creatine and BCAAs
  • The best way to take creatine and BCAA supplements
  • Safety concerns, potential drug interactions and side-effects of creatine (including if creatine causes hair loss) and BCAA

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Additional Information
Tested through CL's Quality Certification Program prior to, or after initial posting of this Product Review.