Health & Habits
What’s the Best Type of Creatine to Take and Why?
Posted May 20, 2021
We’ve already covered the creatine basics and safety here, and touched on the details of creatine loading here. For the uninitiated, creatine is arguably the most well-researched molecule in all of sports nutrition, and the subject of hundreds of scientific studies. It’s been proven to help us build muscle faster, get stronger faster, improve anaerobic endurance, and improve muscle recovery. As creatine has grown in popularity, supplement companies have developed new chemical formulations designed to optimize bioavailability, combat digestive issues, and improve functionality. Because creatine today has multiple forms, it can be difficult to choose the right one to help us reach our goals. Let’s take a look at the most common types of creatine on the market:
Creatine monohydrate is the most common type of creatine available today. It’s also the form that has been most scientifically researched and tested by experts in numerous studies. Essentially, most of the scientific effects of creatine have been observed when consuming monohydrate.
With just 5 to 10 grams per day, it can lead to increased power output, muscular endurance, and muscle size. It does this partly by bringing more water into the muscles, but over time it does indeed help with actual hypertrophy. Creatine monohydrate has even been linked to certain mental benefits, particularly among those who rarely consume creatine through meat, such as vegetarians and the elderly. For those people, supplementing with creatine may improve memory, though there’s not as much evidence for these effects as for the athletic applications.
Creatine Hydrochloride (HCl) results from the binding of creatine to the hydrochloride molecule. It’s typically marketed as being more soluble with rapid absorption in the GI tract, but it ultimately has yet to be proven. Since HCl is believed to be absorbed more effectively, most nutritional supplements containing this type of creatine offer less than 1 gram of active ingredient per dose, significantly lower compared to creatine monohydrate, which is normally given in 5 gram doses. Unfortunately, there is not yet enough research to confirm these effects.
Creatine Magnesium Chelate
Often sold under the name MagnaPower®, this form of creatine is bound with magnesium. It can again be argued that it offers better absorption than monohydrate, but there have been few studies performed on this claim. Its effects were examined in one study where experts compared bench pressure and the performance of athletes in 3 groups. The first group received creatine monohydrate, the second creatine magnesium chelate and the third group a placebo.
Both creatine groups improved their performance more than the placebo. It follows that creatine magnesium chelate is effective, but no more or less than creatine monohydrate.
Creatine nitrate is creatine that has been bound to a nitrate group, and is one of the newer supplement forms showing up in pre-workouts. Manufacturers claim that by binding the creatine molecule to a nitrate molecule, people will receive equal benefits from a smaller dose of creatine nitrate compared to creatine monohydrate. One study measured the relationship between creatine nitrate and increased performance, but found no significant difference in lifting volume between nitrate and monohydrate groups. Preliminary findings suggest that creatine nitrate may be as effective as creatine monohydrate at enhancing exercise performance, as long as supplementation of creatine nitrate occurred for at least 28 days.
Creatine Ethyl Ester (CEE)
Creatine ethyl ester is enriched with an organic component - ester. Some vendors claim that it (again) is better absorbed and has a longer half-life than conventional creatine monohydrate because it dissolves more easily in fat, but studies don’t agree on the results of its effectiveness.
One research study found that 7 weeks of creatine ethyl ester replenishment resulted in a lower ratio of creatine in muscles and blood than creatine monohydrate. In addition, its use may lead to higher plasma concentrations of the creatinine by-product. This is not gentle for the kidneys as creatinine is normally excreted from the body as a waste product, so the use of creatine ethyl ester is often not recommended.
Buffered Creatine (Kre-Alkalyn®)
What makes this product different from creatine monohydrate is its higher pH. The “buffer” is actually sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda. The marketing claim for buffered creatine is that dosages can be lower than monohydrate since more of the product will pass through the stomach/GI tract through less degradation. Unfortunately, it’s negated by stomach acid and turns into a basic creatine molecule. The claim that regular creatine monohydrate needs to be buffered to prevent it from breaking down into creatinine is inaccurate. High acidity environments, like in our stomach, will actually slow the conversion of creatine to creatinine, so once we take creatine there will be very little degradation, making this form no more effective than regular creatine monohydrate.
Exotic new forms of creatine notwithstanding, creatine monohydrate’s high solubility and improved bioavailability make its uptake into our skeletal muscles very efficient. Knowing this, we created VEDGE™ Creatine+ to combine the highest grade creatine monohydrate available, along with Peak02® - a trademarked ingredient with proven studies showing increases in strength, energy, and performance. Peak02 is made up of 6 adaptogenic mushrooms, which all have powerful recovery and restorative effects on the body. They help promote blood transport and deliver higher amounts of oxygen during stressful events - like long training sessions - so we can push ourselves longer without breaking down or fatiguing. There are many products that can market themselves as superior, but blending trusted ingredients like creatine monohydrate and Peak02 provide a thorough combination of sound science, exceptional quality, and proven results. Get yours here.
Spillane, Mike et al. “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 vol. 6 6. 19 Feb. 2009, doi:10.1186/1550-2783-6-6
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