I've gotten several questions lately about creatine nitrate by weight lifters who are wondering what it is and whether it's better than taking creatine monohydrate, which has been around for decades. In this review, I'll discuss the research on creatine nitrate and along the way discuss other related topics too. Hopefully, this review will help shed light on whether creatine nitrate is right for you.
What Is Creatine?
Creatine – also called phospho-creatine -is a molecule that bypasses the usual energy generating pathways in cells (Krebs cycle, and glycolysis). In bypassing these energy pathways, creatine is able to make ATP (our ultimate energy molecule) very quickly.
This, in turn, improves muscle power output, allowing us to lift a heavier weight or sprint a little bit longer.
Creatine is probably the most highly researched dietary supplement in the world with most studies showing it works when taken orally. Technically, creatine is an amino acid. It's considered a non-essential amino acid because we can make it.
What Is Creatine Nitrate?
Creatine nitrate is another form of creatine. It's creatine combined with nitrate. It is a patented compound. The company that owns the US patent is called TheroLife International (ThermoLife.com).
The nitrate in the molecule is said to increase vasodilation by way of augmenting nitric oxide production. The primary effects of both molecules are as follows:
- Creatine improves muscle power
- Nitrate improves vasodilation (expands blood vessels)
The idea here is that both compounds complement each other leading to greater strength gains and/or recovery from exercise. the nitrate portion of the supplement might also provide a temporary muscle pump too. By way of improving blood flow to the muscle, the vasodilation effect might -in theory – enhance the delivery of creatine to the muscles. This might also -in theory- lead to greater improvements in strength and power and muscle protein synthesis as well.
Creatine Nitrate Research
Does creatine nitrate really work? Yes. Let's take a look at that research now.
Researchers in 2016 gave various amounts of creatine nitrate or monohydrate or a placebo to 48 healthy young men for up to 28 days. They noted that 3 grams of creatine nitrate improved bench press performance as well as 3 grams of creatine monohydrate. No significant side effects were observed.
Interestingly, these researchers noted that only creatine monohydrate significantly raised muscle creatine stores. This study was funded by a grant from NutraBolt which also supplied the supplements.
A year later, researchers gave either 3 grams or 6 grams of creatine nitrate to 28 men and women for 6 days to see what effects it had on exercise ability. These researchers noted that after 5 days, taking the higher dosage, improved 1 RM bench press and 1 RM leg press values (note: 1 RM is the most weight someone can lift only 1 time).
Those taking the lower dosage (3g) were able to perform more reps on the bench press and leg press. The supplements were provided by NutraBolt and prepared/packaged by ThermaLife.
Is Creatine Nitrate Safe?
Both creatine and nitrate are found naturally in the human body as well as in foods. That said, the molecule, “creatine nitrate” is not found naturally. Normally when this happens, companies are supposed to first prove to the FDA that this New Dietary Ingredient (NDI) is safe for human use. But, as is pointed out in this Natural Products Insider article, this was not necessary because creatine and nitrate break apart during digestion.
In other words, since both nitrate and creatine have been around for a long time and are safe and because both molecules break apart during digestion and are absorbed separately, it's assumed the creatine nitrate molecule is safe too.
In one study, up to 2 grams of creatine nitrate was found to be safe, when it was given to 42 young men for 28 days. No abnormal blood changes were observed when it was given to this group. Another study noted it is safe when used up to 3 grams per day.
Does Creatine Nitrate Raise Nitric Oxide?
This is supposed to be one of the big advantages of the supplement. Because it contains nitrates, it makes sense creatine nitrate would raise nitric oxide levels. No study located however seems to have measured nitric oxide levels.
Do You Have To Load Creatine Nitrate?
For those not familiar with this concept, creatine dosages are usually split up into two phases:
- the loading phase (usually 20-25 g/ day for the first week)
- the maintenance phase (usually 2-5 g/ day thereafter)
In some of the research, it was speculated that loading up on creatine nitrate may not be needed because it is absorbed better. While I feel this needs to be determined, when it comes to creatine supplements in general, I don't feel the loading phase is required. This is because there is good proof, the lifting benefits of creatine start to occur pretty fast – in about a week.
Until research proves otherwise, my advice is to not do the loading phase and instead, opt for the maintenance phase only. Another reason for not doing the loading phase is to remember that creatine does not make tendons or ligaments stronger. These tissues take much longer to get stronger.
This lag time in the development of ligament/tendon strength may be the reason why some report injuries in the weeks to months following creatine supplementation.
Don't' We Make Creatine?
Yes. Creatine is produced in small amounts in the body. Generally, healthy people make around 1-2 grams of creatine per day.
What Foods Have Creatine?
As I like to say, Any food that ever had a mom and a dad has creatine. This includes steak, chicken, salmon, tuna, bear, duck, goat, etc. If the food ever flew, swam or walked on the earth, it has some creatine. Granted, the amounts in food are much less than in supplements.
What Foods Have Nitrates?
Vegetables are good sources of dietary nitrates. For example, many have heard about the exercise enhancing the effects of beetroot juice. This ergogenic effect is attributed to the nitrates in vegetables. While beets often get much of the attention when it comes to this topic, it should be remembered that green leafy vegetables have even more nitrates than beets. In fact, arugula has some of the highest nitrate concentrations.
But, Aren't Nitrates Bad?
Nitrates are sometimes confused with nitrosamines, which are cancer-causing agents. Nitrates from foods are not the same thing as this. In fact, the nitrates in vegetables have been shown to have blood pressure-lowering benefits. This appears to be another healthy benefit of vegetables on cardiovascular health.
Does Caffeine Neutralize Creatine Nitrate?
Many years ago, a study noted that caffeine “completely eliminated” the effects of creatine. Since then a few other studies have also hinted that caffeine and creatine might not play well together. This is ironic given that many pre-workout supplements contain both caffeine and creatine. While I think this topic is worthy of better investigations, so far, no studies have looked at the effects of caffeine on creatine nitrate.
What's The Best Brand to Use?
There are a lot of creatine nitrate supplements out there. Which one is the best? While I'm tempted to say use the brand that has a license from ThermoLife (the owner of the US patent), not every brand I saw mentions them. At this time, I don't feel there is enough evidence to say one brand is better than another. I think all quality brands might be equally effective.
Some brands might combine creatine nitrate with other ingredients (glutamine, Beta-alanine, etc.). Do these other ingredients add to the benefits? This is unknown until studies are done which compare creatine nitrate alone to multi-ingredient CN supplements.
Can You Make Your Own Creatine Nitrate?
For the people reading this who operate supplement companies, I would not try to sell a creatine nitrate supplement – unless you first get a license from ThermoLife – the owner of the US patent. As stated on their website they are “the only legitimate source for patented and licensed amino acid nitrates.”
But, what if you are just some weight lifter on a budget whose wondering if you could take creatine monohydrate and eat foods that contain nitrates? Would this do the same thing? That is a very good question.
While I've not seen any studies addressing this issue, on the surface, it makes sense it might work similarly to a CN supplement. What's the harm in drinking a creatine shake while eating a salad?
For the college students reading these words, this would make a good Thesis/Dissertation topic. 🙂
Creatine Nitrate Side Effects
Studies to date -which have all used healthy people – have not revealed any significant side effects from creatine nitrate supplementation. While it's very likely creatine nitrate is safe in healthy people, for those who are not “healthy,” it's recommended people speak with their pharmacist, dietitian or doctor for more insights.
A shortlist of those who should seek personalized guidance includes the following. This list is not complete:
- heart disease
- blood pressure problems/taking BP meds
- taking meds for erectile dysfunction
- kidney/liver problems
Don't take creatine supplements while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Stop taking creatine and other supplements at least 2 weeks before having surgery.
Again, when in doubt, seek out a qualified health professional who can give you more tailored advice.
Does Creatine Nitrate Work?
From the few studies available, it seems creatine nitrate will improve how much weight you can lift. But, is creatine nitrate better than creatine monohydrate? Again, from the few studies out there, both supplements seem to be equal in terms of helping people lift more weight. This makes sense because both nitrate and monohydrate versions contain creatine. For now, I'd say use the version that has the most research and is least expensive. From everything I see, that is creatine monohydrate.
Here's Creatine Nitrate on Amazon. If you try it, let me know what you think.