Use of creatine has increased over the years among bodybuilders. It is one of the most talked about supplement in the world.
In terms of bodybuilding or performance enhancing supplement, creatine is the most researched nutrient available. There are tons of facts and science based studies and information out there that certify/support the benefits of consuming this supplement.
As we learn about creatine supplements, another question that comes to our mind is- Which form of creatine supplement is the best?
There are different forms of creatine supplement available in the market:
- Creatine Monohydrate (The most commonly used creatine).
- Creatine nitrate.
- Creatine Ethyl Ester.
- Creatine HCL or Creatine Hydrochloride.
- Liquid Creatine.
- Buffered Creatine.
- Creatine Magnesium Chelate.
To answer your question, we have researched these creatine supplements for you. We shall discuss about this in our article. But, it is important to learn about creatine before we proceed with finding out the best creatine supplement.
What is Creatine?
Creatine is a nitrogenous compound, basically an amino acid that consists of L-Arginine, L-Methionine and Glycine. The basic function of it is to create energy stores. Creatine is produced in the human body and is present in every cell of our body, especially skeletal muscle cells.
Protein sources like meat and fish are the primary source of creatine. Thus, individuals that do not consume meat (vegetarians) are likely to have lower levels of creatine, as compared to meat-eaters. Thus, they are more likely to benefit by taking the supplements.
Non-vegetarians too, can increase the creatine concentration in the body by consuming creatine supplements. Research shows that they can find an increase of 10-40% in muscle creatine. (5)
Creatine is very effective in increasing exercise performance, improving muscular health and has several benefits towards brain health.
How does it work?
Creatine combines with phosphate to form phosphocreatine. It is very essential for the energy production in cells.
Phosphocreatine helps the body to create ATPs or Adenosine Triphosphates, which is the basic unit of energy in cells. (6)
Studies show that ATP present in the muscles only last for 8-10 seconds, when we work with maximum intensity. (7) Creatine supplementation increases the phosphocreatine content in the cells.
Further research states that this can improve the exercise performance.(8) This means, it allows you to continue working out in the same intensity. It also suggests taking creatine supplements and doing right training increases the strength by 10%. (9) There are several researches that confirm the increase in strength and power by consuming creatine supplements.
However, keep in mind that you are able to see the health benefits only when the phosphocreatine content in your cells increases. Thus, creatine supplementation becomes essential to benefit from it.
Creatine is a cheap, safe and most effective supplement for muscle building. But with the availability of it in different forms, it becomes essential to find out what is best for you.
Read- Creatine 101 Guide
Here are the 7 best forms of creatine supplements explained
Creatine monohydrate is considerably the best form of creatine, recommended for bodybuilders and athletes. There are other forms available too, but they are less effective as compared to creatine monohydrate. The supplements are as follows-
1. Creatine Monohydrate
It is the most popular and the most effective form of creatine supplement. Studies and researches done on the benefits of creatine supplementation mostly comprise of creatine monohydrate. (10)
Being precise, the increase in exercise performance, endurance and power observed with creatine consumption, is exclusively because of creatine monohydrate. (11)
Creatine monohydrate consists of creatine molecule and water. It takes time to be processed. There are creatine anhydrous supplements too that are formed by removing the water supplement. This does increase the creatine content in the supplement to 100%, which is only a 90% when the water molecules are present in it.
Creatine monohydrate helps you to increase strength, but it also increases the water retention power of muscles. This might result to cell swelling in muscles, which is beneficial, as it activates protein synthesis in muscle fibres.(12) But, it also adds additional weight to your body, which can be a concern.
There are a plethora of research and studies done on the safety and effectiveness of creatine monohydrate. They also stated that there are no major side-effects that you can experience using creatine. But, it might lead to certain minor side-effects, such as stomach ache, nausea, diarrhoea, cramping, etc. It can be avoided simply by reducing the doses into different servings.
Creatine monohydrate is cheap, easily available, very effective and well-researched; it has set the standards for other creatine supplements. New supplements have to be compared with creatine monohydrate before they are recommended. (13)
Tip: It includes a loading phase of 4-5 doses (5gms each) per day for a week and then 3-5gms per day to maintain the creatine stores in the body. Decrease it to 3gms in the loading phase, if you experience the mentioned side-effects. It shall increase your energy and endurance power within a month.
2. Creatine Nitrate
Creatine Nitrate is a synthetic form of creatine monohydrate (a very popular creatine supplement). It is a combination of nitric acid and creatine in water. Creatine nitrate offers the benefits of both creatine and nitrate supplementation (increases energy supply and exercise performance endurance respectively).
Creatine nitrate helps to increase water solubility and the nitrate content in it promotes the ergogenic benefits (enhance exercise performance).(16) Researches comparing creatine nitrate and monohydrate suggest both show same effectiveness.(17) However, as Creatine monohydrate is backed with more studies and researches, it becomes the preferred choice.
Tip: Creatine Nitrate supplementation is recommended at 1gm or 2gm daily for a period of 28days. According to studies creatine nitrate did not show any adverse effects with daily doses of 2gms for 28days.(17) Thus,it may be used as an alternative for creatine monohydrate supplements, but more studies are needed to be done.
3. Creatine Ethyl Ester
Creatine ethyl ester is another effective form of creatine supplement. It is often advertised by manufacturers as a better alternative to creatine monohydrate and other forms of creatine. It is considered that it increases the creatine availability.
There are certain studies that suggest, it might have better absorption rate and improved muscle uptake rates as compared to monohydrate form. (18)
However, in a research made by comparing the two forms of creatine directly, it was found that ethyl ester is comparatively less effective than monohydrate supplement. (19) Moreover, as creatine ethyl ester enters the body, it easily gets converted to creatinine (instead of creatine).(20) Therefore, it is not recommended, as an alternative to creatine monohydrate.
Note: Creatinine is a waste product produced after creatine synthesis in muscles.
Tip: It can be consumed at 2gms per serving, twice a day. It doesn’t need added sugar and no loading period is required. More studies are needed to recommend it, instead of creatine monohydrate.
4. Creatine Hydrochloride
Even though creatine hydrochloride is a new form of creatine supplement, it has become popular among the supplement users. The reason behind this is its highly soluble nature. It is a form of supplement, where creatine is combined with hydrochloric acid.
Considering its solubility in water, it is suggested that even lower doses could be used to gain benefits. This further reduces the common side-effects like nausea, stomach ache, etc.
An extensive research shows creatine HCL is 40 times more soluble as compared to creatine monohydrate. It also showed better absorption rate than creatine monohydrate i.e. about 60% better absorption rate in intestine.
As compared to creatine monohydrate, the researches or studies performed on this version of creatine are negligible. Therefore, more research needs to be done before recommending it as effective as monohydrate supplement.
Tip: Per serving of 2gms of C-HCL is recommended both before and after training, it shall work best for you. But, if you are taking the monohydrate supplement, you do not need this.
5. Liquid Creatine
Liquid Creatine is the simplest form of creatine. It consists of creatine powder suspended in liquid. It is basically a creatine supplement (namely creatine monohydrate), which is added to water to form a solution.
There are creatine supplements available in the form of powder. But, this is a liquid form of creatine that one can drink instantly.
There are a very few studies made on liquid creatine, in comparison to other creatine supplements. However, a research in regards to cycle sprinting performance after supplementation suggests,liquid creatine is not as effective as creatine monohydrate powder. (21)
When suspended in a solution for several days, creatinetends to break down into an inactive substance, creatinine, which is ineffective.(22) However, it is a time taking process. Thus, if you prepare a mixture of water and creatine right before drinking, it shall not be a problem.
Tip: Bodybuilders considerably prepare a liquid creatine drink, just before using it. Thus, it becomes the recommended way of consuming creatine supplements, in general. You can consume liquid creatine around 200-250ml both before and after training.
6. Buffered Creatine
It was the result of an effort made by the manufacturers to prepare a better supplement than creatine monohydrate. The buffered creatine is a form of creatine, with added alkaline powder, which increases its pH level and results in the buffered form.
This was supposed to increase the potential benefits of the creatine supplements and get rid of side-effects like bloating, cramping or stomach pain.
However, a study conducted by comparing both buffered creatine and creatine monohydrate, indicated it is not more effective than CM.(23) Additionally, no evidence was found that consuming buffered creatine show fewer side-effects than monohydrate supplements.
But, as the pH levels are higher, it tends to slow the creatinine conversion rate, thus, increases creatine availability, still more research is needed on this.(24) However, as there are no major side-effects, you can check if it works for you.
Tip: Consume 1-2gms of buffered creatine before training in the morning.
7. Creatine Magnesium Chelate
It is an older version of creatine supplement. It is a form of creatine “chelated” with magnesium.
(Note: Chelate is a type of bond. It means creating a ring like complex structure to bond with minerals.)
In the case of creatine magnesium chelate, the magnesium binds to the creatine molecules.
The CMC was prepared to exceed the benefits of the creatine monohydrate. As because magnesium increases metabolism, it was expected, combining it with creatine might increase its benefits.(25)
However, studies conducted between CMC and monohydrate supplements suggest that the benefits and effectiveness are same in both the cases.(26) Both the groups, taking part in the research, ended up with same results even while consuming two different forms of creatine supplements.
Strength and endurance after adding creatine magnesium chelate to the diet does increase. But, it does not create any significance difference in performance or create better standards than monohydrate, apart from reducing the water weight gain.
Tip: One can add CMC to the diet as a pre-workout drink in the morning; add 2gms to your drink, to see the benefits. Still, more research is needed on CMC to consider it superior to creatine monohydrate.
Although there are different versions of creatine supplements available, creatine monohydrate is still the recommended form.
The amount of researches and studies done on its effectiveness towards increasing energy levels and enhancing performance, make it stand out among others.
Additionally, creatine monohydrate is the cheapest, most effective and popular supplement available in the market.