If you found a tub of creatine at the back of the cupboard and it’s past its expiration date, you’re probably wondering whether it’s still safe and effective or if you should get a new one.
- Creatine’s expiration date is typically set for two or three years after the manufacture date. When stored right (at room temperature, sealed well, away from direct sunlight, and kept dry), it can last for months or years beyond the expiration date.
- Creatine monohydrate, in particular, is exceptionally stable, even at temperatures of 40-60°C (104-140°F), with research suggesting it can last for over 3.5 years and remain potent and safe.
- The most common signs that creatine has gone bad are a strange odor, taste, and discoloration. Once it has gone bad, it is no longer safe to consume.
- Clumps are often seen as a sign that creatine has gone bad, but that typically means the product has been in contact with some liquid, and while a small percentage may be safe to consume, it will be ineffective.
Understanding Creatine Expiration Dates
The expiration date listed on creatine (typically under Best By or Use By) indicates how long the product is expected to last before its potency declines.
Here’s some input from Tod Cooperman, MD, the president and founder of Consumer Lab:
“Although the FDA does not require supplement labels to provide an expiration date, companies which include these dates are required to have stability data to support their claims.”
In other words, the expiration date is not added as a legal requirement (the FDA doesn’t require one for supplements) but as a guarantee for the consumer. More importantly, it’s not a random number or an estimation but a data-backed date.
According to most sources, creatine expires two or three years after manufacture.
Cooperman also supports this timeline, though he talks about supplements in general, not just creatine:
“Typically, supplements are stable and potent if properly maintained for two to three years, but this depends on the product.”
It’s important to note that just because your creatine has expired doesn’t necessarily mean it’s no longer safe to consume or effective.
Efficacy of Expired Creatine
Creatine’s expiration date exists to guarantee that the product you purchase will be effective until at least that point. However, that doesn’t mean creatine instantly loses its potency after expiration.
The product will begin to lose its potency over time, but the speed at which that happens will largely depend on storage conditions: temperature, humidity, and the quality of the package.
Research suggests that creatine monohydrate is exceptionally stable, even at elevated temperatures (40°C or 104°F) for at least three years.
The same paper also shows that even at much higher temperatures (60°C or 140°F), creatine to creatinine (a lesser byproduct of creatine; more on this later) conversion becomes noticeable after 44 months or over 3.5 years.
How long creatine can remain stable under normal conditions (i.e., at room temperature of 20 to 22°C or 68 to 72°F) is unclear. However, it likely remains potent even longer, given that heat accelerates chemical processes.
Given the industry standard of setting the expiration date to two to three years after the manufacture date (typically found under MFG on the tub), you may have up to a year or two (or even longer) beyond the expiration date where creatine still works.
If even more time has passed or you’ve stored your creatine poorly (more on that below), creatine will likely lose some of its potency. However, it’s unlikely to be harmful unless it spoils.
Signs of Spoiled Creatine
Let’s say you have a tub of expired creatine at home. It’s a few months past its ‘Best Before’ date, and you’re wondering if it’s still safe to consume.
The best thing you can do is examine the product for three physical changes that may indicate this creatine is no longer suitable to consume:
- Sour odor: as you open the tub, you may notice an unusual but strong odor. Good creatine doesn’t smell like anything unless it’s flavored.
- Bad taste: even if creatine doesn’t have a smell, it may develop a bad taste that makes it challenging to consume. Creatine doesn’t typically taste like anything (assuming it’s unflavored), so a change in taste is a sign you should dispose of it.
- Color change: creatine monohydrate is typically white. A rare sign that it’s gone bad could be discoloration.
Forming into clumps is also often considered a sign that creatine has gone bad. However, that’s typically not the case. It usually means the product has been exposed to small amounts of water (e.g., dipping a wet scoop inside).
However, it’s worth noting that these changes are unlikely to occur (especially the foul odor and taste) unless you’ve left the creatine tub open or the product mixed with some water, which may have promoted the spread of bacteria.
Safety Concerns with Expired Creatine
From what we know about creatine anecdotally and through research, the product appears safe even when expired unless it spoils (as described above).
It’s important to note that creatinine filtration occurs even when supplementing with fresh creatine (or simply living, as the body produces some creatine) because creatinine results from the breakdown of creatine in your muscles.
Taking expired creatine, where some part of it is converted to creatinine, likely means the product is less effective, though the difference is likely insignificant unless the product is well beyond (i.e., a few years) its expiration date.
Proper Creatine Storage and Its Impact
The following are the most essential tips to follow for optimal creatine storage:
- Close the lid or bag tightly after each use.
- Store it at room temperature, away from direct sunlight.
- Keep the creatine dry and away from moisture.
- When using the scoop, don’t dip it in liquids.
Leaving the creatine container open and exposing the powder to liquid are likely two of the biggest mistakes that cause the product to expire early.
According to one paper, creatine dissolves into creatinine within days of being mixed with water.
As we saw from previous research, temperature also plays a role in the stability of the product.
However, given the extreme stability of monohydrate, it’s likely to last three or more years even at higher temperatures (far above room temperature).
Other types of creatine may be more likely to spoil at high temperatures.
Regulatory Guidelines on Creatine Expiration
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) don’t have a specific stance on supplement expiration dates, including whether it’s safe to take expired creatine.
However, their stance on expired food and medicine can offer some insight. For instance, the FDA has written the following on the use of expired pharmaceuticals:
“The expiration date can be found printed on the label or stamped onto the bottle or carton, sometimes following “EXP.” It is important to know and stick to the expiration date on your medicine. Using expired medical products is risky and possibly harmful to your health.”
“Expired medical products can be less effective or risky due to a change in chemical composition or a decrease in strength.”
Here is another insight:
“FDA regulations require drug applicants to provide stability testing data with a proposed expiration date and storage conditions when they submit an application for FDA approval of their drug.”
Since supplements don’t require FDA approval for mass production and sale, the requirements for calculating expiration dates are more flexible.
Supplement manufacturers determine the expiration date to guarantee the product’s quality until at least that point.
So, when looking at the expiration date of your creatine, understand that the FDA is not involved in the process.
Recommendations: A Dietitian Weighs In
While researching the topic, I contacted my colleague Giulia Rossetto, a Dietitian and Nutritionist. Here’s what she said about expired creatine:
“Even though the shelf life of creatine monohydrate is typically 2-3 years from the production date, using it beyond the expiry date (e.g., by a few months, and if stored in an airtight container per the packaging instructions) may result in reduced efficacy.
If it significantly exceeds the expiry date (e.g., by 3-4 years) and you notice changes in color, smell, or taste, I would suggest discarding it to avoid the risk of bacterial contamination (this may occur if, for example, it has been inappropriately stored with the lid off for some reason).
Like with any food or supplement product, I recommend following the appropriate storage and hygiene guidelines, which can be found on the packaging labels.”
Best Practices for Creatine Use
The best thing you can do to ensure you’re using creatine within its optimal time frame is to take the recommended three to five grams daily.
With daily creatine supplementation, you will go through each tub before it expires and achieve the best results, as creatine benefits occur over time as your creatine stores build up and are saturated.
Another thing you can do to ensure the product is used up before its expiration is to purchase a smaller container.
As discussed above, the expiration date isn’t always the best indicator that your creatine is near (or past) its lifespan. You may use it beyond its expiration date if the creatine looks fresh and has no foul smell, unusual taste, or discoloration.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can expired creatine cause harm, or is it just less effective?
No research or anecdotal reports suggest that expired creatine is harmful.
It only means that it becomes less potent and effective over time, as creatine converts to creatinine, a waste product your body excretes.
Is it ever safe to take creatine after the expiration date?
In most cases, yes. Creatine monohydrate is stable and likely to last well beyond its expiration date.
Plus, expired creatine is typically safe to take, given no reported illness or adverse symptoms.
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About The Author
Philip Stefanov is a certified conditioning coach, personal trainer, and fitness instructor. With more than nine years of experience in the industry, he’s helped hundreds of clients improve their nutritional habits, become more consistent with exercise, lose weight in a sustainable way, and build muscle through strength training. He is passionate about writing and has published more than 500 articles on various topics related to healthy nutrition, dieting, calorie and macronutrient tracking, meal planning, fitness and health supplementation, best training practices, and muscle recovery.
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