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Does Creatine Expire?

The manufacturer estimates that their supplement’s quality will decline gradually over time, and they set a final day for this to occur, known as the “expiration date”.

Creatine has a shelf life, just like other consumable supplements.  Because of its unique molecular structure, however, creatine is exceedingly stable and can be consumed beyond its expiry date, within reason.  

According to most product labels, the shelf life of creatine supplements is between two and three years. Creatine powder, however, can be kept fresh and usable for an additional year or two past its expiration date if stored properly.

Creatine is widely used as a supplement, notably by athletes, bodybuilders, and others who are into physical fitness. It’s common for a tub or pouch of creatine to be stored away in a cupboard and forgotten about, and when going to use it you find it has surpassed the use by date. 

Extensive studies have demonstrated that it improves physical performance in exercise, increases strength, promotes muscle growth, and may even protect against a variety of neurological illnesses.

This article will provide a foundational understanding of creatine and its storage, including such topics as how long it may be kept and how to use it safely past its “sell by” or “use by” date. 

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Creatine: Types and Functions

Taken orally, creatine supplements elevate levels of phosphocreatine, the body’s creatine storage form, in skeletal muscle.

When your body’s stocks of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) run dry, it draws from its supply of phosphocreatine to create more ATP. Benefits include an increase in anabolic hormones and improved cell signalling in athletes as well as the ability to train harder and for longer.

Creatine is an amino acid trilogy of arginine, methionine, and glycine.  That’s it; just a set of building blocks called amino acids. How many times have I heard someone refer to creatine as a steroid? – it’s not! It’s a completely natural compound. 

Creatine is a naturally occurring amino acid that can be found in high-protein foods like fish and red meat. It is a naturally occurring substance, not a synthetically produced one. It’s not a stimulant either, despite sometimes being used with caffeine and other stimulants in pre-workout preparations.

Why Is Creatine So Effective?

Creatine joins to a phosphate molecule upon entry into the body or upon production within the body to form creatine phosphate. 

In order for cells to function, they must utilise ATP (adenosine triphosphate). Oxidizing carbohydrates, proteins, or fats in the body results in the creation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP provides the fuel for nearly every biological operation. (More ATP is made in part thanks to ATP.) The phosphate group is hydrolyzed by ATP to produce this necessary energy.

The release of heat energy during the hydrolysis of a phosphate group serves to power the ensuing process, such as the contraction of a muscle. ADP is the result of ATP having one of its phosphates removed (adenosine di-phosphate). The hydrolysis of ATP has resulted in the release of free ADP.

In the absence of ATP, ADP serves no physiological use. It is at this point that creatine becomes useful. The phosphate group from the creatine is transferred to the adenine dinucleotide phosphate (ADP) to create ATP. I’m going to presume that you understand where this is headed. Creatine increases ATP storage by facilitating the reversal of ADP to ATP, enabling you to train for longer and at a higher intensity.

Creatine’s rising profile has led to the development of novel chemical formulations that aim to enhance bioavailability, mitigate digestive side effects, and boost performance. Some of the most popular types of creatine include:

Creatine Monohydrate

Creatine monohydrate, which is formed by attaching creatine to a water molecule, is the most widely used and inexpensive form of creatine supplement. It’s the original, the go-to, the standard. As the most studied form of creatine, creatine monohydrate has been found to increase intramuscular creatine levels more so than other forms, according to a recent review of creatine’s safety and efficacy published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

Creatine Ethyl Ester

When an ester is added to creatine monohydrate, you get creatine ethyl ester (CEE). In esterification, carboxylic acid reacts with alcohols to produce esters, a class of chemical molecules. The absorption of creatine is improved by attaching an ester to it, and the bloating and dehydration that some people feel while using creatine monohydrate are eliminated when an ester is also applied.

Research shows that taking creatine monohydrate on a consistent basis can boost your strength, power, and performance in the gym. Creatine monohydrate, on the other hand, is poorly absorbed by the human body. As a result, you’ll need to up your intake of creatine monohydrate to see results.

Because it improves creatine absorption, Creatine Ethyl Ester allows for far lower daily doses of creatine to have the same effects as pure creatine.

Semi-lipopholic best describes creatine monohydrate. That’s because it uses fat as fuel inefficiently. Esterification increases the lipopholic properties of substances (in this example, creatine monohydrate), meaning that esterified creatine can more effectively utilise fat to penetrate the cell wall and exercise its effects on cellular function.

Because of this, not only will smaller doses be sufficient, but the esterified creatine you take will be absorbed better and you won’t have to worry about negative effects like dehydration and bloating.

Micronized Creatine

Micronized Micronization is the process by which creatine monohydrate molecules are split in order to create creatine, which is effectively the same thing as creatine. This multiplies their absorbent surface area by a factor of twenty, making them easier on the stomach.

Magnesium creatine chelate

Magnesium is linked to creatine to make a product commonly known as MagnaPower. It’s not hard to come across claims that this is better absorbed than monohydrate, but just like with hydrochloride, there haven’t been many studies done on it (or any of the other substances on this list). No encouraging findings have emerged from the available research.

Can you Take Expired Creatine?

consuming expired creatine powder

Packages of creatine supplements often state a two- to three-year shelf life on the box. Of course, this ignores a number of other important considerations.

Supplemental creatine may have a stated shelf life of 2 – 3 years, but research shows that it is stable for an additional 1 – 2 years beyond this date, but only if stored correctly. This only applies to creatine supplements that are made of powdered creatine monohydrate, which is thought to be the most stable form. Different creatine supplement types may behave differently.

Despite the fact that the majority of creatine supplements have a shelf life of no more than two to three years from the date of manufacture, research shows that their usefulness extends well past this point.

It is improbable that creatine monohydrate powder, in particular, would degrade over time, especially at high temperatures, into its waste product, creatinine.

A creatine supplement that has been broken down into creatinine will not be nearly as effective.

Creatine monohydrate powder, for instance, exhibited evidence of disintegration after nearly 4 years of storage, even at a temperature of 140°F (60°C), according to a study of studies.

Therefore, if you keep your creatine monohydrate in a cool, dry place, it should last for an additional year or two after its expiration date. With that said, the longer past the expiry date, the more likely it is that your creatine may lose some potency, and you run risks of bacterial or mold growth, so it’s best to bin it if beyond 6 months after the expiry date on the label. 

Although you can take creatine outside of its expiry date, great quality creatine is so cheap, that it’s best to just bin the old stuff and buy a fresh new batch. 

Related: How Long Do Creatine Supplements Take To Work?

How to Store Creatine for Maximum Lifespan

Creatine monohydrate powder can keep for a very long time if it is kept in a cool, dry place and out of direct sunlight. The correct way to store it is in a dry, dark, cool place (room temperature). 

Creatine supplements, like any other consumable food or dietary supplement, have a shelf life, during which they can be safely used at any time up until their best-before date has passed. But like I’ve said, you can push past this date under the right conditions. 

Understanding Supplement Expiration Dates

Depending on the product, the packaging or container may include a “sell by,” “use by,” “best by,” “EXP”, or “do not use after” date. All of these dates are important in their own ways, but only “do not use after” indicates that the product should be thrown away after that time because it may be hazardous, ineffective, or both.

Store employees should use the sell-by date as a guide for when to remove an item from display. Customers are alerted to the potential for a decline in product quality by the use-by date. The best by date is only a suggestion that the product’s flavour or texture may diminish after that time.

Other than infant formula, no federal law mandates that food manufacturers include these dates on their products. Also, with the exception of infant formula, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) doesn’t offer much in the way of instructions on how to correctly identify the dates on foods.

According to the USDA, roughly 30% of the food supply in the United States is “lost or wasted,” in part because many customers discard food despite it being in good condition. It implies that a scent test or taste test is more reliable than a label in determining whether or not something is edible.

Related: Should You Cycle Creatine or Not?

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How Can I Tell If My Creatine Is Bad?

There are a few tell-tale indicators that your creatine supplement has gone bad that you can keep an eye out for:

  • How lumpy is it? Do not use creatine if it has lumped.
  • Is there an odour? Your creatine may have gone bad if it has an offensive odour.
  • Is there a new shade to it now? Discolored specks in your powder indicate that it’s time to buy a new container.

Even if your creatine seems fine, it’s always best to use your best judgement. Discard it if you have any doubts.