Updated: Jan 24
What are the different types of creatine and how does each form work?
We also explain the benefits of the different types.
Click the types of creatine below or scroll down.
Top 6 Types Of Creatine:
What Is Creatine
Creatine is the most popular, most-studied and most effective proven supplement.
It is a naturally produced compound, it is found all over the body but it's most prevalent in the muscles. It is responsible for the production and storage of energy. (Source)
You can also find creatine in certain foods, especially meat.
Supplementing with creatine can increase your bodily stores of phosphocreatine, improving your capacity of stored energy and energy production.
Many types of creatine are available, making it difficult to decide which one to use.
That's why this article breaks down the research of each form and the pros and cons of each, based on this we will make a science-based recommendation on the best type of creatine.
Further Reading: What Is Creatine
Benefits & Side Effects?
Creatine is proven to increase strength, it can also increase the water content inside muscle cells - this may lead to increased muscle growth by creating signals for hypertrophy related to cell volumization. (Source)
If minor side effects appear, they typically involve an upset stomach or cramping - these side effects can be reduced by supplementing with several smaller doses over the day, rather than one larger dose. (Source)
Further Reading: Creatine Side Effects
Creatine monohydrate is the most common type of creatine.
It is also the most commonly used form in research and studies. (Source)
Meaning that most of the benefits were seen using the monohydrate form of creatine.
The monohydrate form is made up of a creatine molecule and a water molecule, it can be processed in a few different ways.
Removing the water molecule results in creatine anhydrous.
Removal of the water molecule increases the amount of creatine in each dose.
The anhydrous form is 100% creatine by weight, and creatine monohydrate is around 90% creatine by weight.
Creatine can also be micronized, or mechanically processed in order to improve water solubility - the theory is that better water solubility could improve absorption.
However, each of these types of creatine are most likely equally effective and have minor real world differences.
Creatine monohydrate has long been the gold standard for this supplement, purely because its so well researched, safe and effective.
Any new forms of creatine need to be compared before they can be recommended. (Source)
Creatine monohydrate is the most studied, most effective and safe type of creatine. Any other form needs to be studied more and compared with the monohydrate form, before we can recommend it.
Creatine Ethyl Ester
Creatine ethyl ester is claimed by manufacturers to be better than other types of creatine, even monohydrate.
Because of differences in muscle uptake rates, some believe that ethyl ester could outperform creatine monohydrate.
There is some evidence it may be better absorbed. (Source)
However, there was one study directly comparing the two forms and found that ethyl ester was worse at increasing creatine content in the blood and muscles compared to monohydrate. (Source)
Because of this, and the fact there hasn't been enough research, using creatine ethyl ester is not recommended.
Early creatine ethyl ester research suggest it may have different uptake rates, however, it does not appear to be as effective as the monohydrate form, therefore, it’s not recommended for use.
Creatine hydrochloride, also known as creatine HCL, has grown in popularity in recent years.
This is probably because it had claims of enhanced water solubility, and therefore uptake.
Due to this enhanced solubility and uptake, it was claimed that lower dosages would be needed for better effects.
However, this is not proven and is only theoretical until researched.
There was one study that found creatine hydrochloride has around 38 times better solubility than monohydrate. (Source)
However, despite this improved solubility, there is no research in humans.
Similar to the previous type of creatine, the hydrochloride form can't be recommended.
The high solubility of creatine hydrochloride is interesting, but it needs to be studied much more, and studied in humans to be able to recommend.
Buffered creatine is a form of creatine with added alkaline powder, this helps improve the stability of creatine in the stomach.
In theory this could increase effectiveness and also reduce the likelihood of side effects like cramping and bloating.
However, there was a study done comparing the buffered and monohydrate forms of creatine, this study found no differences in the effectiveness of creatine, or occurrence of side effects. (Source)
While the buffered creatine didn't perform worse than monohydrate, it didn't perform better either.
Because of this, creatine monohydrate is still the recommended type of creatine.
There is no evidence buffered creatine is any worse than monohydrate, but it isn't any better. Therefore, monohydrate is still recommended.
Creatine Magnesium Chelate
This type of creatine is chelated with magnesium.
Basically, this means that magnesium is attached to creatine.
There was one study that compared bench press strength and endurance between creatine monohydrate, creatine magnesium chelate or a placebo. (Source)
The monohydrate and magnesium chelate groups improved performance more than placebo, but there was no significant difference between them both.
Similarly to buffered creatine, it doesn't seem to do better or worse than monohydrate.
Because creatine magnesium chelate didn't perform any better than monohydrate, there is no reason to recommend this form.
Most of the time creatine comes in powder or capsule form, however, there are also ready-mixed products on the market.
One study found that work performed while cycling was improved by around 10% with the creatine monohydrate form, but not with the liquid form. (Source)
However, this process takes time so you are fine to mix your creatine powder with water before hitting the gym.
Because of these results, it's recommended that creatine monohydrate powder is the best..
Liquid creatine performs worse than creatine monohydrate powder - likely due to breakdown of creatine in the liquid. Because of this, monohydrate is recommended.
Other Types Of Creatine
There are many other types of creatine being developed, each with their own claimed pros and cons.
However, there is limited research on these different types.
This is why we can't recommend any of these alternative forms.
Also, almost all research on creatine's benefits has been done using creatine monohydrate.
Other Types Of Creatine:
Best Type Of Creatine
Based on research and studies, creatine monohydrate seems to be the best type of creatine.
There are three main reasons why:
Creatine monohydrate is the most used form of creatine in research, almost all of the benefits and safety is proven using monohydrate.
Studies are published demonstrating its effectiveness at increasing your body’s creatine stores and improving exercise performance, strength and muscle growth.
While several other forms of creatine exist, most of them have limited research examining their effects, especially in humans.
Creatine monohydrate is widely available and at cheap prices.
The different types of creatine may be promising but require much more research to be recommended as a valid alternative.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: Which type of creatine is best?
A: As explained in this article, creatine monohydrate is best. It has the most research proving it's safety and effectiveness, it is also widely available and cheap prices.
Q: What are the two types of creatine?
A: The two most popular types are creatine monohydrate and creatine hydrochloride, however, the hydrochloride form has no human research.
Q: Is creatine HCL better than creatine monohydrate?
A: Creatine HCL (hydrochloride) is no studied in humans and therefore we cannot say if it's better or worse than monohydrate.
Further Reading: Supplement Articles