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The Best Type of Creatine (Explained)

Updated: Oct 13, 2023

Evidence-Based. Scientifically Reviewed by Michael Sharpe, MSc.


TL;DR: The best type of creatine is creatine monohydrate; it's effective and is backed by the most research, it's also inexpensive and has minimal adverse effects.

Creatine is one of the world's most researched nutritional supplements. It is produced naturally in your body and performs a number of essential activities, including energy generation.


Some food items are a great source of creatine, such as meat. Despite the fact that it comes from food, taking it as a supplement may help your body increase its creatine stores.


Creatine has been proven to increase muscle growth, strength, and even endurance.


There are many different types of creatine.


In this article, I'll explore the evidence on the most researched forms and conclude with an evidence-based suggestion of the best type of creatine.


man reading creatine label in a supplement store

How Creatine Works

Creatine's primary function in enhancing exercise performance during high-intensity activity is to increase phosphocreatine reserves.


This extra phosphocreatine can be utilised to generate more ATP, which is the main energy source of muscle and is used in high-intensity and high-resistance workouts.


Creatine aids muscular growth by:

  • Increasing workload 

  • Increasing anabolic hormones 

  • Improving cell signalling 

  • Increasing cellular hydration 

  • Reducing myostatin 

  • Reducing protein breakdown



What Makes One Better Than Another?

When assessing which type of creatine is best, we want to look at absorption, adverse effects, the amount of research, its actual effectiveness, and price.


Ideally, we want a form of creatine that is inexpensive, absorbs well, has minimal adverse effects and interactions, is effective at increasing creatine stores, and has a lot of research behind it.


In the section below, I'll go into depth on six of the common forms of creatine and examine the research behind them.


Creatine Monohydrate

Creatine monohydrate is the most popular type of creatine. This is the form that the bulk of the research on the subject has taken. (1)


The majority of creatine's positive benefits, such as enhanced exercise performance, have only been seen when creatine monohydrate was utilised. (2)


Creatine monohydrate consists of a creatine molecule and a water molecule, it may be processed in a variety of ways. Creatine anhydrous is created when the water molecule is removed.


The quantity of creatine in each dosage rises when the water is removed. Creatine anhydrous has 100% creatine by weight, while creatine monohydrate contains about 90% creatine by weight.


To enhance water solubility, the creatine is sometimes micronized. Better water solubility may theoretically enhance your body's capacity to absorb it. (3)


Despite these small variations in processing, when given equivalent dosages, each of these forms is likely to be equally efficacious.


Creatine monohydrate may increase the amount of water in muscle cells.


This is known as cell swelling and it may have a positive impact on muscle growth, similarly to how the pump (increased blood flow in the muscle) may increase muscle growth. (4)


A substantial body of evidence suggests that creatine is safe to ingest, and there have been no severe adverse effects associated with its usage. (5, 6)


When mild adverse effects do occur, they are usually stomach discomfort or cramps. Rather than taking one big dosage, adverse effects may be alleviated by taking multiple smaller doses. (7)


Creatine monohydrate has long been the gold standard for this supplement since it is safe, effective, and inexpensive.


  • It's safe with minimal adverse effects

  • It's effective

  • It has the most research

  • It's widely available and inexpensive



Creatine Ethyl Ester

According to the manufactures, creatine ethyl ester is better to other forms of the supplement, including monohydrate. According to some research, it may be better absorbed in the body than creatine monohydrate. (8)


Additionally, some people think it may beat creatine monohydrate owing to variations in muscle absorption rates.


However, one study examining a direct comparison of the two forms of creatine showed that it was less effective at raising creatine levels in the blood and muscles. (9)


As a result of its ineffectiveness, lack of research, and unknown safety, taking creatine ethyl ester is not advised.


  • It's not as effective as creatine monohydrate

  • It's lacking in research

  • Its safety is unknown


Creatine Hydrochloride

Creatine hydrochloride has acquired a lot of traction among supplement producers and consumers. Its initial popularity was fueled by claims of its greater solubility.


It's thought that because of its greater solubility in water, a lower dosage may be utilised, minimising relatively frequent adverse effects like nausea and stomach upset.


This hypothesis, however, is just theoretical until studies have been done.


According to one study, creatine is 38x more soluble than creatine monohydrate. Unfortunately, no human trials with creatine hydrochloride have been reported. (10)


Given the overwhelming evidence for creatine monohydrate's efficacy, creatine hydrochloride cannot be recommended until the two are compared in studies.


Plus, there have been no studies on its safety or actual effectiveness.


  • It's 38x more soluble than creatine monohydrate

  • No human trials have been conducted

  • Its safety is unknown



Buffered Creatine

Some manufacturers have added an alkaline powder to creatine to make it more stable in the stomach, resulting in a buffered version.


This is said to enhance potency while reducing adverse effects such as bloating, stomach upset, and cramps.


However, a comparison of buffered creatine and creatine monohydrate showed no differences in efficacy or adverse effects. (11)


The supplements were taken by the research participants while they continued their regular weight training routine for 28 days.


Regardless of which type of creatine was used, bench press strength and power output increased during cycling.


Because there is no compelling evidence that buffered versions provide any distinct benefits and creatine monohydrate has many more proven benefits, the monohydrate form emerges victorious.


  • There was no difference in efficacy or adverse effects between buffered creatine and creatine monohydrate

  • There is a lack of research

  • Its safety is unknown


Liquid Creatine

While most creatine supplements come as a powder or pill form, some ready-to-drink pre-workouts contain creatine already dissolved in liquid.


According to one study that has been done on liquid formulations, they are less effective than monohydrate powders. (12, 13)


Creatine monohydrate powder, but not the liquid version, was shown to increase work done while cycling by 10%. (12)


Furthermore, it seems that creatine can degrade if left in liquid for long periods of time. As this doesn't happen straight away, it's fine to mix creatine with liquids just before you take it. (12, 14)



According to studies, the best method to take creatine is to leave it as a powder and mix and consume it before your workout.


The pre-mixed liquid versions of creatine seem to degrade and become useless. They don't seem to boost workout performance or provide any advantages, especially over creatine monohydrate.


  • Pre-mixed liquid creatine degrades over time

  • They don't provide any benefits and may be useless



Creatine Magnesium Chelate

Creatine magnesium chelate is a magnesium-chelated version of the supplement. This simply means that the creatine molecule has a magnesium molecule linked to it.


In one study, researchers evaluated the strength and endurance of those who took creatine monohydrate, creatine magnesium chelate, or a placebo. (15)


Both the monohydrate and magnesium chelate groups outperformed the placebo group, although there was no difference in their results. (15)


As a result, creatine magnesium chelate seems to be an effective form, although it isn't superior than normal monohydrate forms.


  • May be as effective as creatine monohydrate

  • There is a lack of research

  • Its safety is unknown


Best Type of Creatine

The best type of creatine is creatine monohydrate. It's supported by the most research, with studies showing its ability to boost your body's creatine stores and improve workout performance.


While there are many forms of creatine, most of them have little research to back them up.


Furthermore, creatine monohydrate is a very inexpensive, effective, and widely available version of the supplement.


Although some of the new forms of creatine seem promising, additional scientific evidence is required before they can compete with creatine monohydrate.




References

This section contains links to research, studies, and sources of information for this article, as well as authors, contributors, etc. All sources, along with the article and facts, are subjected to a series of quality, reliability, and relevance checks.

Real Muscle primarily uses high-quality sources, such as peer-reviewed publications, to back up the information in our articles. To understand more about how we fact-check and keep our information accurate, dependable, and trustworthy, read more about us.

This evidence based analysis on the best type of creatine features 15 references, listed below.

1. Buford TW, Kreider RB, Stout JR, Greenwood M, Campbell B, Spano M, Ziegenfuss T, Lopez H, Landis J, Antonio J. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: creatine supplementation and exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. (2007, Aug 30) ✔

2. Lanhers C, Pereira B, Naughton G, Trousselard M, Lesage FX, Dutheil F. Creatine Supplementation and Lower Limb Strength Performance: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analyses. Sports Med. (2015, Sep) (Review) ✔

3. Ali Zeinolabedini Hezave, Sarah Aftab, Feridun Esmaeilzadeh. Micronization of creatine monohydrate via Rapid Expansion of Supercritical Solution (RESS). J of Supercrit Fluids. (2010)

4. Safdar A, Yardley NJ, Snow R, Melov S, Tarnopolsky MA. Global and targeted gene expression and protein content in skeletal muscle of young men following short-term creatine monohydrate supplementation. Physiol Genomics. (2008, Jan 17) (Randomised Controlled Trial) ✔

5. Lopez RM, Casa DJ, McDermott BP, Ganio MS, Armstrong LE, Maresh CM. Does creatine supplementation hinder exercise heat tolerance or hydration status? A systematic review with meta-analyses. J Athl Train. (2009, Mar-Apr) (Review)

6. Gualano B, Ugrinowitsch C, Novaes RB, Artioli GG, Shimizu MH, Seguro AC, Harris RC, Lancha AH Jr. Effects of creatine supplementation on renal function: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Eur J Appl Physiol. (2008, May) (Randomised Controlled Trial)

7. Groeneveld GJ, Beijer C, Veldink JH, Kalmijn S, Wokke JH, van den Berg LH. Few adverse effects of long-term creatine supplementation in a placebo-controlled trial. Int J Sports Med. (2005, May) (Clinical Trial) ✔

8. Gufford BT, Ezell EL, Robinson DH, Miller DW, Miller NJ, Gu X, Vennerstrom JL. pH-dependent stability of creatine ethyl ester: relevance to oral absorption. J Diet Suppl. (2013, Sep)

9. Spillane M, Schoch R, Cooke M, Harvey T, Greenwood M, Kreider R, Willoughby DS. The effects of creatine ethyl ester supplementation combined with heavy resistance training on body composition, muscle performance, and serum and muscle creatine levels. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. (2009, Feb 19) ✔

10. Gufford BT, Sriraghavan K, Miller NJ, Miller DW, Gu X, Vennerstrom JL, Robinson DH. Physicochemical characterization of creatine N-methylguanidinium salts. J Diet Suppl. (2010, Sep) (Comparative Study) ✔

11. Jagim AR, Oliver JM, Sanchez A, Galvan E, Fluckey J, Riechman S, Greenwood M, Kelly K, Meininger C, Rasmussen C, Kreider RB. 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. (2012, Sep 13)

12. Gill ND, Hall RD, Blazevich AJ. Creatine serum is not as effective as creatine powder for improving cycle sprint performance in competitive male team-sport athletes. J Strength Cond Res. (2004, May) (Clinical Trial) ✔

13. Astorino TA, Marrocco AC, Gross SM, Johnson DL, Brazil CM, Icenhower ME, Kneessi RJ. Is running performance enhanced with creatine serum ingestion? J Strength Cond Res. (2005, Nov) (Clinical Trial) ✔

14. Harris RC, Almada AL, Harris DB, Dunnett M, Hespel P. The creatine content of Creatine Serum and the change in the plasma concentration with ingestion of a single dose. J Sports Sci. (2004, Sep) (Clinical Trial)

15. Selsby JT, DiSilvestro RA, Devor ST. Mg2+-creatine chelate and a low-dose creatine supplementation regimen improve exercise performance. J Strength Cond Res. (2004, May) (Clinical Trial) ✔

Citations with a tick indicate the information is from a trusted source.

 

The information provided in this article is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the guidance of a physician or other competent professional before following advice or taking any supplement. See our terms and conditions.


Real Muscle leads the way in terms of transparency and privacy, which is why we want to let you know that some of the outbound links in this article may be affiliate links in which we may earn a small commission through. Despite this, our product recommendations are completely unbiased.



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