So you’ve finally decided to jump on the creatine bandwagon and take your training to the next level. But after scouring the internet and perusing the shelves at your local supplement store you immediately notice something – there are a total of nine different kinds or varieties of creatine.
Now, you might be wondering, why do different manufacturers use different forms of creatine? Or, with each claiming superiority over the other, which is best for me? The most tried and true form of creatine, creatine monohydrate has long been used in the supplement industry and has already been discussed at length here on FashionBeans.
This article will focus on the alternatives, breaking down the benefits (if any) of each and whether or not manufacturer claims are backed by current scientific research and literature.
What Are the Different Forms of Creatine?
Let’s get straight to business. The fact is that supplement companies make their money by selling you… well, supplements. In order to be bigger and better than the rest, they simply can’t keep selling the same supplements with the same ‘old’ ingredients. For these reasons they come up with their own variations to set them apart from the crowd and broaden their offerings.
Unfortunately for us, we can get caught up in the hype surrounding a new product, whether be it from our favourite manufacturer, colourful and attractive packaging, or a promising new ‘proprietary formula’. Therefore, it’s important to recognise this caveat of the industry, and make informed decisions before spending your hard earned money.
Here are the most common creatine variants found in some top supplements, their claimed benefits and whether or not you should skip or consider adding them to your stack…
1. Creatine Citrate
Creatine citrate is a creatine molecule bound to citric acid. Citric acid supplementation has been linked to increased athletic performance during intense exercise lasting between two to fifty minutes. At such durations of prolonged activity, aerobic metabolism becomes vitally important.
Unfortunately, no conclusive evidence has shown that such supplementation is able to significantly increase ones aerobic capacity or endurance (1). Although creatine citrate dissolves more readily in water, studies have found that it is no more effective than creatine monohydrate in terms of absorption or overall effectiveness (2).
Our Advice: Skip this supplement and save your money by sticking with creatine monohydrate.
2. Creatine Ethyl Ester
Also known as CEE, creatine ethyl ester is touted as having a higher absorption rate and longer half-life (half-life is the amount of time it takes for the supplement to reach half the amount initially ingested; this hints at greater bioavailability) in the body compared to creatine monohydrate.
Conversely, research has shown the opposite to be true – a large portion of CEE is actually degraded in the GI tract before ever being absorbed and having a chance to increase serum creatine levels (3). Furthermore, supplementation recommendations based on such accusations result in lower prescribed dosing amounts and thus suboptimal increases in athletic performance (4).
Our Advice: At twice the price and half the effectiveness, skip this supplement and stick with creatine monohydrate.
3. Liquid Creatine
Liquid creatine is a form of creatine (most often creatine monohydrate) suspended in a liquid. This product claims to be more stable, metabolise faster and require no loading when compared to conventional powdered forms of creatine.
Sadly, this isn’t the case. In fact, when suspended in a liquid, most of the creatine found within is often converted into its inactive form, creatinine, by the time the product makes it to market (5). Thus, any remaining and viable creatine is found in concentrations too low to have any beneficial effect on athletic performance (6).
Our Advice: Skip this one and stick with creatine monohydrate.
4. Creatine Nitrate:
Sadly no research exists evaluating the effectiveness of this type of creatine. As you may have guessed, creatine nitrate is simply a creatine molecule attached to nitric acid. When mixed with water the two dissociate, leaving creatine to take a more aqueous or soluble form.
The main proposed advantage of this is increased solubility is that it reduces the grainy texture sometimes associate with powdered creatines, increasing palatability. However, there is no scientific evidence that it is any more soluble than creatine monohydrate.
Our Advice: Because of its dubious claims, lack of scientific research and high price, you should skip it. If texture is a concern to you, check out micronized creatine monohydrate for a better mixing and cheaper alternative.
5. Buffered Creatine
Buffered creatine is a pH ‘corrected’ creatine molecule. Manufacturers claim that the conversion of creatine into its inactive form creatinine occurs within a short period of time when added to liquid, depending on the pH of the final solution.
For this reason they recommended consuming their supplement within a short period of time, unless taken in pill form. The lower the pH (more acidic) the solution the faster and higher the amount of creatine conversion; conversely, a higher pH (more basic) slows this process.
Buffered creatine is a more basic or higher pH form of creatine claiming to reduce this conversion rate. Whilst studies have proven this true (7) significant drop-offs in creatine content occurs roughly four days following liquid suspension – much longer than companies would have you believe.
Furthermore, if the creatine remains in a crystalised form when mixed, it is even more stable until deliquescence occurs. Unless you mix your creatine days in advance or are consuming the previously mentioned liquid creatine, this shouldn’t be of any concern. Studies have proven that buffered creatine is no more efficacious than the gold standard, creatine monohydrate (8).
Our Advice: Don’t get caught up in the hype, stick with creatine monohydrate.
6. Creatine Hydrochloride
Creatine hydrochloride, or creatine HCl, is a creatine molecule bound to hydrochloric acid. Despite allegations that creatine hydrochloride is more soluble, has higher absorption rates than creatine monohydrate and eliminates the loading phase, the media claims far outweigh the supplements actual realisations.
Currently, no studies have confirmed any of these claims.
Our Advice: Skip this one until research proves that it is any better than creatine monohydrate.
7. Creatine Malate
Creatine malate is a creatine molecule bound to malic acid. Studies involving malate itself hint that it may be effective at improving physical stamina or endurance as well as reducing muscle damage during intense exercise (9).
However, no studies currently evaluate the effects of creatine and malate combined, thus little is known as to whether or not this supplement may be effective at enhancing performance or reducing DOMS (delayed onset muscular soreness).
Our Advice: Until further research is done, skip this and stick with creatine monohydrate.
Creatine pyruvate is a creatine molecule bound to pyruvic acid. This is by far the most promising of the previously mentioned supplements and the only one that comes close to improving upon creatine monohydrate.
Research has found that creatine pyruvate is able to elevate blood serum concentrations of creatine over creatine monohydrate. However, whether or not this translates to greater rates of creatine bioavailability and absorption are unknown (2).
Whilst findings have shown it to be overall more effective than creatine citrate and have hinted that it may be effective at increasing athletic endurance (1), others indicate that this might not be the case (10).
Our Advice: This is definitely a supplement to watch, but wait until more research is conducted and more conclusive evidence can be provided. Skip, and stick with creatine monohydrate.
Here are some of the bestselling creatine monohydrate supplements from leading manufacturers.
Creatine monohydrate can be found in pill, powdered and micronised forms. Because of creatine’s lack of taste, it is easily combined with other supplements and can be added to both pre- and post-workout shakes:
- Myprotein Creatine Monohydrate
- Creapure Creatine Monohydrate
- Creatine Monohydrate
- Maximuscle Creatamax
- Phd Nutrition Micronised Creatine Monohydrate
- Reflex Nutrition Creapure Creatine Monohydrate
- La Muscle Explosive Creatine
- Bsn Cell Mass 2.0
- Dymatize Micronised Creatine
Clearly, most of the claims manufacturers make are just that, claims. With the amount of scientific research backing creatine monohydrate you can be assured that for the time being, and foreseeable future, it will be the most predominant, purest and superior form of creatine you can purchase.
Our Overall Advice: Go with creatine monohydrate.
(1) Jager, R., J. Metzger, K. Lautmann, V. Shushakov, M. Purpura, K.R. Geiss, and N Maassen. “The effects of creatine pyruvate and creatine citrate on performance during high intensity exercise.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 5.4 (2008): doi:10.1186/1550-2783-5-4.
(2) Jager, R., R.C. Harris , M. Purpura, and M. Francaux . “Comparison of new forms of creatine in raising plasma creatine levels.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 4.17 (2007): doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-4-17.
(3) Spillane, M., R. Schoch, M. Cooke, T. Harvey, M. Greenwood, R. Kreider, and D.S. Willoughby. “The effects of creatine ethyl ester supplementation combined with heavy resistance training on body composition, muscle performance, and serum and muscle creatine levels.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 6.6 (2009): doi:10.1186/1550-2783-6-6.
(4) Purser, Gordon. “Analysis of Creatine Ethyl Ester.” Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. n.d. n. page: http://www.utulsa.edu/academics/colleges/college-of-engineering-and-natural-sciences/departments-and-schools/Department-of-Chemistry-and-Biochemistry/Research/analysis-of-creatine-ethyl-ester.asp.
(5) Harris, R.C., A.L. Almada, D.B. Harris, M. Dunnett, and P. Hespel. “The creatine content of Creatine Serum[TM] and the change in the plasma concentration with ingestion of a single dose.” Journal of Sports Sciences. 22. (2004): 851-857.
(6) Gill, N.D., R.D. Hall, and A.J. Blazevich. “Creatine serum is not as effective as creatine powder for improving cycle sprint performance in competitive male team-sport athletes.” Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 18.2 (2004): 272-275.
(7) Ganguly, S., S. Jayappa, and A.K. Dash. “Evaluation of the stability of creatine in solution prepared from effervescent creatine formulations.” American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists . 4.2 (2003): Article 25.
(8) Jagim, A.R., J.M. Oliver, A. Sanchez, E. Galvan, J. Fluckey, S. Riechman, M. Greenwood, K. Kelly, Meininger C., Rasmussen C., and Kreider R.B. “A buffered form of creatine does not promote greater changes in muscle creatine content, body composition, or training adaptations than creatine monohydrate.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 9.1 (2012): doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-9-43.
(9) Wu, J.L., Q.P. Wu, J.M Huang, R. Chen, M. Cai, and J.B Tan. “Effects of L-malate on physical stamina and sctivities of enzymes related to the malate-aspartate shuttle in liver of mice.” Physiological Research. 56.2 (2007): 213-220.
(10) Van Schuylenbergh, R., M. Van Leemputte, and P. Hespel. “Effects of oral creatine-pyruvate supplementation in cycling performance.” International Journal of Sports Medicine. 24.2 (2003): 144-150.