Updated: Oct 12
There are many different types of creatine, all have their own advantages and drawbacks. In this article we'll discuss the six most popular types of creatine.
Creatine monohydrate appears to be the best form of creatine according to research as it is thoroughly studied, safe, and effective.
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. (1)
Supplementing with creatine can increase your bodily stores of phosphocreatine, improving your capacity of stored energy and energy production.
Creatine comes in a variety of forms, making it challenging to choose which one to use.
We will provide a science-based suggestion on the optimal form of creatine based on the analysis of the research behind each form and the benefits and drawbacks of each.
Creatine monohydrate is the most common type of creatine. It is also the most commonly used form in research and studies. (4)
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. (5)
The most researched, effective, and safe form of creatine is monohydrate. Before we can recommend another kind, it should be researched more.
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. (6)
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. (7)
Because of this, and the fact there hasn't been enough research, using creatine ethyl ester is not recommended.
Although preliminary research suggests that creatine ethyl ester may have differing absorption rates, it is not advised for use since it does not seem to be as effective as the monohydrate version.
The popularity of creatine hydrochloride, commonly known as creatine HCL, has increased recently, perhaps as a result of reports that it has improved water solubility and absorption.
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. (8)
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.
Creatine hydrochloride's high solubility is promising, but additional research, including research in humans, is required before it can be recommended.
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. (9)
Creatine monohydrate is still the suggested form of creatine, despite the buffered creatine's performance being neither worse nor better than that of monohydrate.
Creatine Magnesium Chelate
This kind of creatine has a magnesium chelation, which essentially 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. (10)
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.
There is no reason to suggest creatine magnesium chelate because it didn't perform any better than monohydrate.
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. (11)
However, this process takes time so you are fine to mix your creatine powder with water before hitting the gym.
Because of the breakdown of creatine in the liquid, liquid creatine performs worse than creatine monohydrate powder. As a result, creatine monohydrate is advised.
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. Almost all research on creatine's benefits has been done using creatine monohydrate.
Below is a list of the many other forms of creatine.
Best Form of Creatine
Based on research and studies, creatine monohydrate seems to be the best type of creatine.
There are three main reasons why:
Most well researched form of creatine.
Seems to be the most effective.
Safest with the least reported adverse effects.
The most common type of creatine studied in research is monohydrate; essentially all advantages and safety are demonstrated using monohydrate.
Its efficiency in boosting your body's creatine reserves and enhancing exercise performance, strength, and muscular building has been documented in published studies.
There are many different types of creatine, but most of them have minimal research, particularly in humans.
The cost of creatine monohydrate is low, and it is readily available.
Although other various forms of creatine appear promising, much more study is necessary before they can be suggested as a reliable substitute.
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 of the different types of creatine features 13 reference, listed below.
1. Brosnan JT, da Silva RP, Brosnan ME. The metabolic burden of creatine synthesis. Amino Acids. (2011) (Review)
2. Brault JJ, Towse TF, Slade JM, Meyer RA. Parallel increases in phosphocreatine and total creatine in human vastus lateralis muscle during creatine supplementation. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. (2007)
3. Watt KK, Garnham AP, Snow RJ. Skeletal muscle total creatine content and creatine transporter gene expression in vegetarians prior to and following creatine supplementation. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. (2004) (Clinical Trial)
4. Buford TW, Kreider RB, Stout JR, et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: creatine supplementation and exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. (2007)
5. Jäger R, Purpura M, Shao A, Inoue T, Kreider RB. Analysis of the efficacy, safety, and regulatory status of novel forms of creatine. Amino Acids. (2011) (Review)
6. Gufford BT, Ezell EL, Robinson DH, et al. pH-dependent stability of creatine ethyl ester: relevance to oral absorption. J Diet Suppl. (2013)
7. Spillane M, Schoch R, Cooke M, 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. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. (2009)
8. Gufford BT, Sriraghavan K, Miller NJ, et al. Physicochemical characterization of creatine N-methylguanidinium salts. J Diet Suppl. (2010) (Comparative Study)
9. Jagim AR, Oliver JM, Sanchez A, et al. 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)
10. Selsby JT, DiSilvestro RA, Devor ST. Mg2+-creatine chelate and a low-dose creatine supplementation regimen improve exercise performance. J Strength Cond Res. (2004) (Clinical Trial)
11. 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) (Clinical Trial)
12. Astorino TA, Marrocco AC, Gross SM, et al. Is running performance enhanced with creatine serum ingestion?. J Strength Cond Res. (2005) (Randomised Controlled Trial)
13. 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) (Clinical Trial)
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.