You’ve probably heard that creatine is one of the few supplements that don’t suck…and you’ve heard right.
It’s the most well-researched molecule in all of sports nutrition–the subject of hundreds of scientific studies–and its benefits are clear:
What isn’t so clear, though, is which form you should take and why.
Is something fancy sounding like creatine nitrate worth it?
What about ethyl ester or hydrochloride?
Liquid or powder?
Buffered or micronized?
Or can the old faithful creatine monohydrate give you everything you need?
Well, this article is going to answer all these questions and more, and by the end, you’ll know how to get the most bang for your creatine buck.
Creatine is a molecule produced in the body and found in fairly high amounts in foods like meat, eggs, and fish.
It’s comprised of several amino acids–L-arginine, glycine, and L-methionine–and it’s present in almost all cells and acts as an “energy reserve.”
It does this by accelerating a process through which cellular energy (ATP) is generated, which increases the amount of work cells can do.
There are several ways that creatine helps you build muscle faster.
1. More strength and muscle endurance in your workouts means more effective workouts.
The harder you’re able to train, the more muscle you’ll gain over time.
2. Better muscle recovery means better workouts, too.
The faster your body is able to recover from a workout, the better it will perform in the next session.
This is obviously true of individual body parts but is applies systemically as well.
That is, if you do a heavy deadlift session on Monday and heavy squat session on Wednesday, the faster your body can recover from Monday’s workout, the better Wednesday’s will be.
3. Creatine has a “cellular swelling” effect.
Research shows that creatine supplementation increases the amount of water held in muscle cells.
4. Creatine has anti-catabolic properties.
Studies show that creatine can reduce protein degradation rates, which can help with muscle gain over time.
And the best part is there are really no downsides to supplementing with creatine.
Claims that it’s bad for your kidneys have been categorically and repeatedly disproven, the bloating complaints of the past are more or less a non-issue now, and it doesn’t “shut down natural production” a la steroids.
(That said, it’s worth noting that people with kidney disease are not advised to supplement with creatine.)
So, as you can see, I highly recommend that you supplement with creatine because it’s safe, cheap, and effective.
Which type do I recommend, though?
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If you want to take creatine, you need to know which forms work, which don’t, and which are overhyped and overpriced.
Well, that’s what we’re going to cover in this section of the article.
Creatine monohydrate is the form used in the majority of studies demonstrating creatine’s benefits. It’s the gold standard of creatine and a time-proven winner.
Creatine citrate is creatine bound to citric acid and research indicates it’s more water soluble than creatine monohydrate but no more better in terms of absorption and effectiveness.
Creatine ethyl ester is a form of creatine that is supposed to convert back to usable creatine in the body.
It’s usually marketed as having better absorption properties than creatine monohydrate, but research shows it’s actually less effective than monohydrate, on par with a placebo.
The reason for this is once creatine ethyl ester enters your body, it’s converted into an inactive substance known as “creatinine.”
Liquid creatine is simply a form of creatine–usually monohydrate–suspended in liquid.
Studies show that it’s less effective than creatine monohydrate because, when suspended in a solution for several days, creatine breaks down into the inactive substance creatinine.
Micronized creatine is creatine that has been processed to reduce the particle size of the powder. The most form most commonly sold as micronized creatine is monohydrate.
Micronization increases water solubility but changes nothing in terms of absorption or effectiveness.
Creatine nitrate is a form of creatine bound with a nitrate group.
This increases water solubility and nitrates do have ergogenic properties, but no studies have been conducted comparing creatine nitrate to monohydrate, so we don’t know yet if it’s a better choice.
Creatine magnesium chelate is a form of creatine bound to magnesium.
Magnesium plays a role in creatine metabolism and thus, theoretically, supplementing with it alongside creatine may increase its effectiveness.
However, one study found that creatine magnesium chelate is more or less the same as creatine monohydrate in terms of ergogenic effects but may result in less water weight gain.
More research is needed on creatine magnesium chelate to determine if it offers any reliable advantages over creatine monohydrate.
Buffered creatine is a form of creatine touted to outperform monohydrate due to a higher pH level.
Research indicates otherwise, however: it’s no more effective than monohydrate.
Creatine hydrochloride is creatine bound with hydrochloric acid.
It’s turned into a basic creatine molecule in your stomach while it may be more water soluble than creatine monohydrate, no research has yet proven it to be any more effective.
Creatine malate is creatine bound with malic acid.
While malic acid alone may enhance performance, it hasn’t been researched in conjunction with creatine.
Creatine pyruvate is creatine bound with pyruvic acid.
Research shows it may produce higher plasma levels of creatine than monohydrate, but this doesn’t translate into greater muscle absorption or performance enhancement.
Don’t overpay for “fancy” forms of creatine pushed by million-dollar ad campaigns and steroid-fueled bodybuilders.
As you can see, creatine monohydrate is the best bang for your buck, and remains the standard by which all other forms of creatine are judged.
That’s why I chose it for my post-workout supplement, RECHARGE.
This product is part of LEGION, my line of science-based, naturally sweetened workout supplements.
Each serving of RECHARGE contains:
Furthermore, RECHARGE is naturally sweetened and flavored, and it contains no unnecessary fillers or other artificial junk.