By Corey Lewis, CPT, CSCS
Creatine is one of the most popular supplements for increasing strength, power, and size. Once upon a time, this supplement seemed much more straightforward. But now there seem to be endless varieties. With better absorption, less bloat, or more power, it’s challenging to know which is the best creatine type for you. Creatine is one of the most researched molecules in sports nutrition and is widely available. This article will breakdown twelve popular types:
Creatine is a substance that is found naturally in the body. Its chemical composition is similar to amino acids, the building blocks of protein. It is produced mainly in the liver but can occur in the kidneys and pancreas. It’s stored in muscles, but it can also be present in the heart and brain.
During heavy lifting or high-intensity exercise, creatine helps your muscles to produce energy. It is usually stored in your muscles so that you can access it quickly for fast, high-intensity movements like sprinting or weight lifting. This substance is a top-rated supplement among bodybuilders and athletes to increase strength, gain muscle, and boost overall performance.
You can also consume it through your diet in foods such as tuna, beef, and salmon. But to consume enough of this substance, you would need to eat a lot of these types of foods. That’s why it’s easier and more efficient to supplement this chemical.
To really appreciate the value of this supplement, you need to understand how it works. Creatine helps your body regenerate a molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is the body’s primary source of energy. When the creatine levels in your body are low, the production of ATP can massively decrease. This results in a significant drop in energy. Through supplementing this chemical, you can boost your body’s fuel to produce ATP. All of this contributes to an increase in muscle strength, size, and power.
You don’t just need to be a bodybuilder to benefit from the best creatine supplements. Athletes of all types can benefit from this supplement, including swimmers, sprinters, sports players, and anyone who leads an active lifestyle.
You can supplement this chemical in two ways. The first option is known as the loading phase. With the loading phase, you take twenty grams daily for five to seven days. Typically, you split up the dose into four- to five-gram servings throughout the day. The idea is that consuming a large amount of creatine in a short amount of time rapidly maximizes your muscle’s stores of this chemical.
Although this supplement does have a strong safety profile, some people do experience bloating in the beginning. This tends to occur mainly in the loading stage when your body is first acclimating to the chemical. In general, increases in water weight from creatine supplementation is usually short lived and resolves itself in a few weeks after the loading phase.
Following the loading phase, you then move onto the maintenance phase. Some people maintain with five grams per day, while others only need two to three grams daily. The other way to supplement creatine is by heading straight to the maintenance phase without the loading phase. Whatever method you choose, make sure you take this supplement with plenty of water to help avoid stomach cramps.
Another essential supplement for those looking to push themselves is Optimum Nutrition Amino Energy. If you live an active lifestyle, this is highly effective and is an excellent product to have in your muscle recovery toolkit.
With so many different forms available, it’s difficult to find the one that’s right for you. When you’re shopping for the best creatine supplements, here are some of the most common forms you’ll come across. To help you make the right decision, let’s break down each type.
This compound is made up of a singular creatine and water molecule. This is the most researched type on the market. It’s been around for years. The majority of benefits observed come from research on the monohydrate formulation. As one of the most popular forms of this supplement, it also comes in other versions:
Although the creatine is processed slightly differently, the benefits and effectiveness are pretty similar. This supplement has very few reported side effects. However, one mild side effect is an upset stomach. This is especially true during the first few days of consumption. It can be different in each individual, but it is something worth noting.
As a side note, I will use this form of the supplement as a comparison point as I discuss the effectiveness and safety of the best compounds in this article. The reason for this is that the majority of research carried out on this chemical is done with this monohydrate form.
There’s a ton of research surrounding this chemical and its effects on the body. Creatine monohydrate is the most effective supplement for athletes in terms of increasing lean muscle mass during training sessions. Multiple studies show that when you combine this supplement with resistance training, it results in increased muscle strength and weightlifting performance.
Creatine monohydrate has become the standard in the world of sports nutrition. It has been proven time and time again through decades of research to be effective and safe. It’s a rather inexpensive option, making it a great supplement for those on a budget.
When starting with this sports supplement, the majority of people tend to turn to this formulation. A cost-effective and popular option is Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine Monohydrate Powder. The micronized version offers up five grams of the chemical per serving and supports muscle building and performance.
Kre-Alkalyn is also called buffered creatine. This patented form of the chemical doesn’t require a load or a cycle. It may have superior absorption compared to monohydrate. This type aims to combat the issue of upset stomach that sometimes happens with the monohydrate supplement. Kre-Alkalyn is created by adding an alkaline powder to micronized creatine monohydrate. This process makes the pH more stable. The idea is that, by adjusting the pH, it helps to increase stability in the stomach’s acidic environment.
In terms of strength gains, Kre-Alkalyn delivers similar results to monohydrate. However, the benefit of this form of the supplement is that you don’t have to go through the loading phase as you do with other types. It also seems to be effective in lower doses, which means you don’t have to consume as much. Things like total body strength, muscle mass, and fat percentage are definitely comparable to monohydrate. However, the monohydrate form does produce a higher, almost double, level of muscle creatine content.
When it comes to strength gains and increasing performance during resistance training, this chemical is up there with protein as a must-have in your workout supplement arsenal. Just as when choosing among the many types of protein powder, selecting the best creatine type for you will require research and trial.
If you’re considering using Kre-Alkalyn, EFX Sports uses pH-correct creatine monohydrate to increase strength and enhance performance. Available in both capsules or powder, the brand manufactures all its products and is one hundred percent free of banned-substances.
Another form of this fitness supplement is Creatine Hydrochloride (HCL). Creatine HCL is molecularly bound to hydrochloric acid to improve absorption. What this means is that the creatine will break down quicker and is more easily absorbed. The main advantage comes from its quicker absorption rates.
To be honest, there isn’t a ton of difference between the two types in terms of strength and performance. Early studies suggest that this HCL formulation is more soluble than the monohydrate form. It’s known to be more comfortable on the stomach for those who may experience stomach issues from monohydrate. Some research also suggests you only need a fraction of the amount of the HCLform for it to be as effective as monohydrate. This means you can consume much less of the chemical, which may help with any stomach upset side effects. Due to the higher bioavailability and absorption, you also don’t need to go through the loading and cycling phase.
Creatine HCL is certainly as effective as the monohydrate version, but there is not enough research to prove that HCL is more effective. Multiple studies have demonstrated that monohydrate is safe for people without pre-existing conditions. If you’re looking for a higher level of reassurance, the monohydrate form has years of research behind it.
The main appeal of the HCL form is its bioavailability and absorption rate. If your stomach just doesn’t agree with monohydrate, this may be the best supplement for you. Kaged Muscle supplements are all third-party tested and contain premium creatine HCL that is a patented form specifically developed for Kaged Muscle. It’s available in lemon and lime flavors or as an unflavoured powder, as well as vegetarian capsules.
Magnesium chelate is a formulation of creatine that has been “chelated” with magnesium. What this means is that the magnesium has bound to the creatine molecule.
Creatine magnesium chelate increases exercise performance, strength, and endurance. Compared to monohydrate, magnesium chelate is as effective, but not superior. One potential standout of magnesium chelate is that it could increase performance without adding water weight, which is typical of this chemical. Preliminary research on this is promising, but more studies are needed to confirm this.
Creatine citrate is bonded with other molecules to increase absorption. The creatine molecule is bound with citric acid. Citric acid is a naturally occurring compound found in citrus fruits like lemons and limes.
This supplement is soluble and absorbent, so it should cause less stomach discomfort. However, compared to monohydrate, there doesn’t appear to be any significant differences in absorption between the two. Although the citrate formulation has decent absorption and seems to be slightly more water-soluble, that’s not to say it’s any more effective than monohydrate.
The drawback of this form is that it requires double the amount to be as effective as monohydrate. This means that it can end up being a more expensive option, as you have to buy and consume more of the supplement to deliver the same results. Nevertheless, it is just as potent as the monohydrate form, and more water-soluble, which helps to avoid clumping in water.
Creatine ethyl ester is often just called creatine ester. Some manufacturers claim that it is superior to many other types, including monohydrate. Claims suggest it absorbs better than monohydrate and also has a longer half-life.
In general, there just isn’t enough information out there to support the effectiveness of ethyl ester as a superior form of this chemical. The ethyl ester formulation has certainly been trending in recent times. However, research does not support the claims of this form’s superior quality. In fact, one study found that creatine ethyl ester was less effective than monohydrate. Overall, ethyl ester resulted in less creatine in the muscles, compared to monohydrate.
One thing to note is that this supplement led to higher plasma levels of the byproduct of creatine. Typically, excess creatine leaves the body as waste, but this is taxing on the kidneys. Therefore, this form of the supplement generally isn’t recommended as an effective muscle-building supplement. It also has a pretty nasty taste. So, anyone with sensitive taste receptors will struggle to knock this back.
With this version, the molecule binds to malic acid. Malic acid is a naturally-occurring substance that you can find in apples and pears. Malic acid is already used as a stand-alone supplement to boost physical performance. This is why manufacturers combined creatine with malic acid.
In several studies, the malate formulation has improved anaerobic output in sprinters and judo practitioners. Anaerobic means “without oxygen.” It’s the type of exercise that leaves you feeling out of breath in a few moments, like when you lift weights or sprint. When you increase your anaerobic production or output, you can improve your athletic performance.
Although the initial research surrounding creatine malate sounds promising, there have been no controlled studies. In a controlled study, experts would compare malate, monohydrate, and a placebo group. Creatine malate does appear to dissolve more easily in water, but without more research, you can’t compare the two in terms of effectiveness and results. As so much research has been carried out on monohydrate, it really is the best comparison you can make when looking at effectiveness and safety.
Creatine nitrate is one of the newer types available on the market. Similar to other forms, some manufacturers are making pretty big claims. It’s thought that by binding to nitrate molecules, individuals will need a lower dose compared to monohydrate.
Creatine nitrate is as effective as monohydrate in terms of enhancing exercise performance when taken for at least twenty-eight days. However, currently there is no legitimate scientific evidence that supports the claims that this nitrate form is better than monohydrate.
As creatine nitrate is attached to the nitrate group, it’s thought that it helps to increase oxygen in the blood. This is important in achieving a greater pump when lifting weights. It’s a personal choice as to whether the increased cost of the nitrate form is worth it when the benefits compared to monohydrate appear to be minimal.
If you’re thinking of trying this supplement, APS Nutrition Creatine Nitrate is a good option. In capsule form, the supplements are easy to take and may be a better alternative for people who experience a lot of bloating from other formulations.
This type of supplement binds creatine with a glucose (sugar) molecule so that it can be absorbed more effectively. In particular, when combined with insulin-spiking carbohydrates, this supplement may be absorbed more efficiently. But currently there is no scientific evidence to support this theory.
As with any supplement you’re considering adding to your routine, it’s important that you research any claims to be sure that they are valid. That’s not to say the gluconate form isn’t an effective bodybuilding supplement. But in terms of research, the scientific community needs to carry out more studies to support the claims fully.
Creatine alpha-ketoglutarate (APK) is created by combing a creatine molecule and alpha-ketoglutaric acid. The stomach is better at absorbing this variant, as alpha-ketoglutarate is a precursor to glutamine. Glutamine is a vital amino acid for your muscles, gut, liver, and immune system.
Some people claim that the better absorption helps prevent the stomach discomfort that some users find with other forms of this supplement. The better absorption may also mean that there is more creatine in the muscles than when you use monohydrate. Therefore, you need a smaller dose of this form of the chemical than you would of other compounds. While this all sounds great, the evidence supporting these claims is thin. Again, there is currently an insufficient amount of research to support claims of superiority of this supplement compared to monohydrate.
Creatine binds with pyruvic acid to create this formulation. With this interesting compound, users report slightly mixed results when it comes to improving endurance. While some studies show that it’s more effective on endurance than creatine citrate, other research shows no difference.
There’s evidence that supplementing the pyruvate form results in more of the chemical in the blood. If there’s more creatine in the blood, there’s less in the muscles. This means that it’s not more effective than other types of the supplement, and it isn’t more bioavailable than monohydrate. Bioavailability refers to the proportion of the supplement that your body actually absorbs. So, the higher the bioavailability, the more your body can absorb and use the chemical.
Multi-component creatine contains different types of the chemical. In an innovative approach, this form of the supplement takes the advantages of various forms and puts them into one mixture. It uses multiple active ingredients to support your body during training and muscle recovery.
Whether you’re an athlete, bodybuilder, or live an active lifestyle, anyone can benefit from multi-component creatine. If you’re really struggling to choose the best supplement for you, looking for a product that combines different types and benefits may be the solution. The multi-component formulation helps to provide rapid absorption, improve muscle gain, and support high-performance movements.
Beast Sports Nutrition is a reputable brand that’s been in the sports nutrition industry for over twenty-five years. Its Creature Creatine Complex contains five forms of the chemical to fuel muscle growth and reduce recovery time. The powder is quick dissolving with a mild taste and comes in several flavors, including Berry Punch, Citrus, and Pink Lemonade.
The message to take home here is that creatine monohydrate has far more evidence supporting its use as a way to improve performance, build muscle, and increase strength. Generally, the monohydrate version carries the best bang for your buck, as other forms tend to carry a higher price tag.
However, other types of this supplement bring benefits in terms of solubility. Those who experience stomach cramping from one form of the supplement should consider a more water-soluble form, such as creatine HCL. One thing’s for sure: this supplement has earned its place as one of the top sports supplements that boosts muscle recovery, increases gains, and improves performance.
If, after you’ve done your research on the best formulations, you think this supplement just isn’t for you, there are alternative supplements. Another supplement that’s worth thinking about is collagen. A significant amount of research shows that collagen can help boost muscle mass. Collagen supplements can also help with joint pain, improve skin, and support your overall health.