Creatine is one of the most effective (legal) ergogenic aids available and has been the focus of hundreds of studies over the years. However, while the overall consensus on Creatine as a performance enhancer is quite clear (it works), supplement companies are still claiming left and right that certain forms are “better” than others. In this article, we will take you through the various forms of Creatine, the claims attached to them, and the research (or lack thereof) behind them in order to determine which form of Creatine is truly the best.
Creatine Monohydrate is formed by dehydrating a solution of Creatine, where a single water molecule remains bound to the Creatine powder. Out of the many forms of Creatine currently available, Creatine Monohydrate has been studied the most extensively so it has become the benchmark against which to compare other forms of Creatine.
Research indicates that Creatine Monohydrate has anywhere between 80-99% absorption, depending mostly on the size of the dose. Larger doses, say 10g, may be less readily absorbed than smaller doses (2-5g).
Creatine HCL is simply a Creatine molecule bound to Hydrochloric Acid (HCL), which makes it much more water soluble than Creatine Monohydrate. The general claim is that this increased solubility enhances absorption, meaning less Creatine HCL would be required to achieve the same absorption as a given dose of Creatine Monohyrate. However, this claim remains unsubstantiated, as no studies have demonstrated this. Furthermore, logic suggests that, upon reaching the stomach, Creatine HCL is converted into the basic Creatine molecule because the stomach already has an abundance of Hyrdrochloric Acid which should cause the Creatine molecule to dissociate.
A 2009 study, published in the “Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition”, directly compared Creatine Ethyl Ester to Creatine Monohydrate with regards to various measures of performance as well as muscle Creatine levels. Ethyl Ester was significantly less effective for increasing muscle Creatine levels as well improving muscle mass, strength, power, and body composition.
BUFFERED CREATINE (KRE-ALKALYN):
Kre-Alkalyn is a buffered form of Creatine with a higher pH than standard Creatine Monohydrate. This characteristic forms the basis for the claims that it is better absorbed, but research suggests otherwise.
A 2012 study, published in the “Jounal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition”, set out to determine whether buffered creatine (as KreAlkalyn) was superior to Creatine Monohydrate (as CreaPure). The subjects of the study were 36 resistance trained participants who were placed in one of three groups. One group loaded with Creatine Monohydrate at 20g/day for 7 days followed by 5g/day for 21 days. The second group followed the same protocol but using KreAlkalyn (20g/day for 7 days followed by 5g/day for 21 days). The third group consumed the manufacturer recommended dose of KreAlkalyn at 1.5g/day for 28 day (no loading). Neither dose of KreAlkalyn demonstrated superiority over Creatine Monohydrate with regards to muscle creatine content, strength, body comp, or anaerobic capacity.
CREATINE MAGNESIUM CHELATE:
Creatine Magnesium Chelate is Creatine bonded to Magnesium, and was originally invented because of Magnesium’s crucial role in Creatine metabolism. Few studies have been conducted to compare Creatine Magnesium Chelate to other forms of Creatine, but the research that has been conducted indicates it is roughly as effective as Creatine Monohydrate, but not more.
A 2004 study, published in “The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research”, found that 2.5mg of Creatine Magnesium Chelate was equivalent to the same dose of Creatine Monohydrate with regards to increasing 1 rep max in trained men.
Although Creatine Magnesium Chelate appears no more effective than Monohydrate in terms of physical performance enhancement, a 2003 study published in “Metabolism” did note that Creatine Magnesium Chelate may result in less water retention. However, more studies are needed for a more direct comparison.
A 2007 study, published in the “Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition”, sought to determine if different forms of Creatine raised plasma (blood) levels of Creatine more so than standard Creatine Monohydrate. The researchers found that peak plasma Creatine levels were roughly 15% higher with Creatine Pyruvate than with either Creatine Citrate or Creatine Monohydrate. Unfortunately, due to the small sample size (only 6 subjects) of this study, further research is required to determine whether these results can be reliably reproduced. Furthermore, the researchers in this study determined that better bioavailability is unlikely because Creatine Monohydrate is close to 100% bioavailable anyway and once muscular Creatine saturation occurs, there would be no discernable difference with regards to performance enhancement.
WHICH FORM OF CREATINE IS BEST?
Despite the claims of many supplement companies, no form of Creatine has proven more effective at increasing lean mass and strength than Creatine Monohydrate. Certain forms such as Creatine HCl and Buffered Creatine may be more water-soluble, but this does not make them more effective, just more expensive. We recommend sticking with Creatine Monohydrate (Micronized if you want it to dissolve easier) and would caution potential Creatine users not to over-pay for “designer” forms that all boil down to the same basic molecule in the end anyway.
- Jäger, Ralf, et al. “Comparison of new forms of creatine in raising plasma creatine levels.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 4.1 (2007): 1-5.
- Balsom, P. D., et al. “Skeletal muscle metabolism during short duration high‐intensity exercise: influence of creatine supplementation.” Acta Physiologica Scandinavica 154.3 (1995): 303-310.
- Jagim, Andrew R., et al. “A buffered form of creatine does not promote greater changes in muscle creatine content, body composition, or training adaptations than creatine monohydrate.” J Int Soc Sports Nutr 9.1 (2012): 43.
- Spillane, Mike, Ryan Schoch, Matt Cooke, Travis Harvey, Mike Greenwood, Richard Kreider, and Darryn S. Willoughby. “The Effects of Creatine Ethyl Ester Supplementation Combined with Heavy Resistance Training on Body Composition, Muscle Performance, and Serum and Muscle Creatine Levels.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 6.1 (2009)
- SELSBY, JOSHUA T., ROBERT A. DISILVESTRO, and STEVEN T. DEVOR. “Mg2+-creatine chelate and a low-dose creatine supplementation regimen improve exercise performance.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 18.2 (2004): 311-315.
- Brilla, L. R., et al. “Magnesium-creatine supplementation effects on body water.” Metabolism 52.9 (2003): 1136-1140
- MacNeil, Lauren, et al. “Analysis of creatine, creatinine, creatine-d< sub> 3 and creatinine-d< sub> 3 in urine, plasma, and red blood cells by HPLC and GC–MS to follow the fate of ingested creatine-d< sub> 3.”Journal of Chromatography B 827.2 (2005): 210-215.
- Jäger, Ralf, et al. “Analysis of the efficacy, safety, and regulatory status of novel forms of creatine.” Amino Acids 40.5 (2011): 1369-1383.