This post may include affiliate links. See our affiliate policy for more details.
Unfortunately, it seems like every day, there’s a news story about a shortage of something in the United States, and the most recent to make that list is the creatine shortage. Below, we briefly cover what’s going on with the creatine shortage and what’s causing it.
The Basics of Creatine
Creatine is one of the most popular supplements people rely on to improve their exercise performance, strength, and muscle mass. There’s also evidence showing creatine has other potential benefits as well. For example, it might improve brain function and lower blood sugar.
Our muscle cells naturally have creatine, which helps them produce energy when you’re doing high-intensity workouts or lifting weights.
Benefits of creatine and ways that specifically work to improve your athletic performance and health include:
- When you take creatine, it increases something called phosphocreatine stores in your muscles during high-intensity exercise. Then, those stores can be used for the production of more ATP. ATP is an energy source for high-intensity exercise and heavy lifting.
- The supplement can improve cell signaling, which helps with muscle repair and new muscle growth.
- You can sometimes do real work or volume in a training session, which is important for long-term muscle growth.
- Using creatine may help raise certain anabolic hormones like IGF-1.
- Taking creatine can lift the water in your muscle cells, leading to more volume and muscle growth.
- The supplement can reduce muscle breakdown.
As with your muscles, your brain also stores phosphocreatine and requires ATP to function at an optimal level. There are potential benefits a result of taking creatine for neurological health.
In some studies, supplementing has been shown to improve symptoms of conditions including Alzheimer’s, ischemic stroke, and epilepsy and boost brain function and memory in older people.
There are different types of supplements, with the most commonly used being creatine monohydrate. Creatine monohydrate is a favorite because hundreds of studies support its use, and it’s cheap.
Why Is There a Creatine Shortage?
If you’ve found it harder to buy your favorite creatine recently, you aren’t alone, and aren’t imagining the issue. There is a creatine shortage.
When creatine is manufactured, it requires using pre-cursor compounds. These are added to a reactor and then cooled, creating crystalized creatine. From that point, the crystalized creatine is centrifuged, which means the material is spun at high speeds. Centrifuging the creatine helps separate the fluids from the crystals. Then, it’s dried and packaged.
There’s a lot of equipment involved in making creatine and supply chain challenges across the board.
This has been combined with increased interest in creatine, with retail prices having gone up 150% since April 2021, according to The Vitamin Shoppe.
A vice president for GNC said shortages are being driven by many factors, including higher demand, sourcing issues, transportation problems, and production.
Some of the higher demand may also be stemming from people returning to the gym after two years of the pandemic.
If You Find It, You’ll Probably Be Paying More
If you can find your favorite brand of creatine, you can expect you’ll probably pay more. The cost has gone up anywhere from 20-300% depending on where you live, the type you use, and the brand.
Many people are finding that during the creatine shortage, their favorite brand has tripled in price, so they have to find alternatives.
Before this creatine shortage, one of the many benefits was that it was one of the cheapest supplements on the market. It tends to still be less expensive than other supplements like pre-workout formulas, but the sticker shock is still affecting buyers.
A representative from Onnit said that many of the supply chain issues causing the creatine shortage are more related to manufacturing overseas than domestically. A lot of creatine is manufactured in China, Germany, and Japan. Chinese factories are still dealing with significant lockdowns and a shortage of workers.
Germany is also dealing with a labor shortage, and the creatine supply has also been getting stuck at the Port of Shanghai, like so many other items.
Some companies make their creatine in the U.S., but the primary foundational ingredient known as Creapure is an international patent that a German chemical company owns. Along with Germany’s labor shortage, the operation of the AlzChem company that owns the patent tends to rely on crop yields from China. On top of everything else, poor harvests are seriously impacting the manufacturing process of creatine.
Right now, it looks like the creatine shortage is set to last until at least the end of the year, and it’s possible it could go into early 2023, according to some estimates.
Creatine Shortage Frequently Asked Questions
Below are brief answers to some of the most commonly asked questions people have about the current shortage of creatine.
Why Is There a Creatine Shortage?
One of the biggest reasons there is a creatine shortage because there are problems overseas, including in Germany and China, that make it difficult to produce the raw materials for creatine supplements, especially creatine monohydrates.
There’s a company in Germany that holds the patent for one of the key ingredients in creatine, and it’s been affected by supply issues in China, as well as the country’s labor shortage.
The specific effects on the ingredients used to make creatine are in addition to widespread global supply chain problems affecting so many items. The shortage is worldwide, affecting countries all over the globe.
There’s also another issue going on. For products originating in China, including both creatine and caffeine, strict export regulations were recently put in place.
Where Did All the Creatine Go?
There is a global creatine shortage because of a wide variety of factors. For example, many starter materials used to make creatine come from China. China is still dealing with pandemic lockdowns, port backups, and other issues. Most creatine factories are in the northern part of China, and that region has seen major production facility closures.
When companies started getting wind of a potential shortage of creatine, they started buying up all they could.
That put upward pressure on pressures, in addition to furthering the shortage.
Some insiders also theorize that the creatine shortage might be partly because of political issues. China is saying they have a shortage of everything to dominate the world market, raise pricing and stimulate demand.
Why Is Creatine Powder Not Available?
Creatine powder isn’t available because of the reasons listed above—many of the starter raw materials used to make the supplements come from China, and they aren’t available right now. Plus, general supply chain disruptions are going on.
Is the FDA Banning Creatine?
The FDA is not banning creatine now, and new regulatory guidelines in the U.S. don’t have anything to do with the shortage.
Why is Creatine So Expensive Now 2022?
One of the reasons creatine is such a popular supplement is that it’s typically been highly accessible and inexpensive. With inadequate supply around the world, both of these benefits have disappeared. Creatine isn’t just in the single-ingredient products on the market either. It’s also in things like pre-workout powders and protein supplements, so these prices are rising amid the shortage.
In early 2021, creatine was around $5 per kilogram. At the start of 2022, it was as much as $42 per kilogram, and the number is likely higher now.
The price increases stem from vendors trying to provide the supplement and buying up what supply is available.
Creapure is an ingredient that has an international patent and is used in these products. As mentioned, Creapure is owned by the AlzChem Group in Germany, and the supplier can’t fulfill to huge order volumes it’s seeing. Many brands looking for creatine are also going from supplier to supplier, trying to source it. If there’s a struggle to keep up with the price increase on raw materials, prices inevitably go up.
This can put consumers at risk of potentially buying a counterfeit product to try and get a lower price.
When Will the Creatine Shortage End?
We don’t know when the creatine shortage will end, but it’s likely to go at least for the rest of 2022 and perhaps into 2023. This is the case with most of the ongoing product shortages.