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Differences between the types of creatine available

With so many different types of creatine now available it can be difficult to know which is the most effective, both in terms of cost and effectiveness.

The truth is that although creatine itself has been proven in studies to be extremely beneficial to your strength and muscle gains, the various forms of creatine that have been mixed with other ingredients to make them ‘more effective’ often haven’t been tested.

Companies will promote many different types such as Kre-Alkyn with numerous claims about being more soluble in water, prolonging the breakdown of creatine to creatinine etc.

Creatine is one of the supplements that has been backed up with a series of studies to prove its effectiveness, but there are many different types of creatine

Creatine is one of the most effective muscle building supplements in the supplement world. An amino acid, creatine is found normally in the body, with 95% of it found in the skeletal muscle tissue. The body receives its creatine from food that is eaten, typically 2 grams per day. The body also makes its own creatine in the liver from other amino acids.

In this article we’ll take a quick look at some of the different types of creatine now available and try to cover the pros and cons of using them, and even provide the clinical study evidence that proves whether or not they are effective where possible.

Different types of creatine:

The reason for the creation of so many different types of creatine is that each supplement company is always trying to find new ways of increasing the effectiveness of this already beneficial supplement (or at least marketing their new product in a way which makes it seem more beneficial).

Each type of creatine will differ in terms of composition, solubility, and effectiveness. Some types will require a ‘loading phase’ (commonly found with creatine powders), but all will essentially do the same 3 things:

  • Volumizing muscle (increasing mass).
  • Improving strength.
  • Increases energy (ATP levels) for activities that require short bouts of quick energy such as lifting, sprinting, and HIIT cardio.
  • Creatine Monohydrate:

    This is the original form of creatine that people have been using for decades. It is still the most popular form of creatine despite numerous new combinations appearing over recent years.

    Purity is important when searching for a creatine product, because, the purer, the more effective SKW creatine (made in Germany) is the purest creatine around (99.8%). One of the best forms currently available is Creapure.

    Pros:

  • Almost all studies conducted concerning creatine used creatine monohydrate, and reached to amazing results and conclusions.
  • Most effective type of creatine yet.
  • Cheap.
  • Creatine Monohydrate

    Cons:

    • Not very soluble in water.
    • Causes water bloating in some people, although this is usually from the addition of lots of sugars rather than the creatine itself.
    • Some people do not respond to this type of creatine (non-responders).
    • Unstable in water and should be taken immediately after dissolving it.

    Top 3 creatine monohydrate products

    1. Reflex Creapure Creatine Monohydrate
    2. Protein Works Creatine Monohydrate
    3. Maximuscle Creatamax 300

    Micronized Creatine:

    Micronized Creatine is essentially creatine monohydrate, except it has been micronized, which means the molecules of creatine have been divided or cut up. This increases their surface area 20 times, increasing absorption and reducing stomach discomfort.

    Pros:

  • Essentially the same as monohydrate but with a larger surface area and smaller molecules, so the same amazing effects of monohydrate.
  • Greatly reduces unwanted monohydrate side effects such as bloating and stomach discomfort.
  • More effective than monohydrate, and most monohydrate non-responders should respond to this.
  • Purer than monohydrate because it goes through more processes.
  • Micronized Creatine

    Cons:

    • Slightly more expensive than monohydrate
    • Requires a loading phase

    Top 3 micronized creatine products

    1. Micronized Creatine Powder by Optimum Nutrition
    2. Bodybuilding Foundation Micronized Creatine
    3. AST Sports Science Micronized Creatine

    Creatine Ethyl Ester (CEE):

    CEE is a creatine molecule with an ester attached. Normal creatine molecules are zwitterions, or molecules with one positive end and one negative end. This causes less absorption into the body.

    The ester counteracts the charges and allows for almost 99% absorption into the body, removing the need for a loading phase and making it one of the most absorbent forms of creatine.

    This is backed up by a 7 week study published in 2009 that tested the differences in absorption between a maltodextrose placebo, creatine monohydrate and creatine ethyl ester (CEE).

    This concluded that the total muscle creatine content was significantly higher in CEE than the placebo or monohydrate after a 5 day loading phase and 42 day maintenance phase.

    Pros:

  • More effective because of increased absorption.
  • All users will respond to this.
  • Does not cause any of the side effects of monohydrate such as bloating or stomach discomfort.
  • Creatine Ethyl Ester

    Cons:

    • Foul taste in powder form. There are capsule forms, however, that eliminate this.
    • Can be expensive compared to monohydrate and micronized.

    Top 3 CEE products:

    1. CNP Professional Pro Creatine E2
    2. USN Creatine X4
    3. MET-Rx CEE AKG

    Creatine Serum:

    Creatine Serum was developed with a similar goal to effervescent creatine, in that it is designed to be more readily absorbed by the body than the powdered form.

    One of the main claims made by companies producing creatine serum is that this type of creatine doesn’t require a loading phase, which is commonly found with powdered creatine. This is because it saturates the muscles within minutes of use and bypasses the digestion phase.

    Unfortunately a quick internet search will reveal almost no companies that manufacture this type of creatine, with the couple that do having studies performed against them which look to discredit these claims.

    Pros:

  • No loading phase required because it absorbs easily.
  • Easy to use, just put a drop under the tongue.
  • Usually mixed with other vitamins and amino acids.
  • Creatine Serum

    Cons:

    • Mounting scientific evidence indicates that serum is not as effective as creatine monohydrate.
    • Creatine is unstable in liquid and breaks down to creatinine if dissolved in liquid for a prolonged period of time. Creatinine is a useless substance which puts strain on the kidneys, meaning that serums don’t have such a long shelf life as powders.
    • Extremely expensive.

    Effervescent Creatine:

    Effervescent Creatine is basically creatine combined with sugar or sodium to create a form of effervescence in order to increase solubility.

    The basic thought process around this was that the more soluble the creatine was, the more readily it would be absorbed into the bloodstream which would create a more beneficial effect.

    However there are yet to be any studies that prove this is any more effective than regular creatine monohydrate.

    Pros:

  • Increased absorption.
  • Often has a better taste.
  • Effervescent Creatine

    Cons:

    • More expensive.
    • Combines the creatine with sugar and sodium, which don’t have direct benefits to strength training.
    • Very few studies carried out to determine if this is any different than monohydrate.

    Creatine Citrate:

    Creatine citrate is where creatine has been bound to citric acid. Similar to CEE this was created due to some evidence pointing towards citric acid helping the creatine to be more soluble in water and more readily absorbed by the body.

    The effectiveness of increasing your strength and reducing fatigue is not increased compared to standard monohydrate and research has indicated it is no different in terms of absorption.

    Effervescent Creatine

    A study of the effects of creatine citrate published in 2007 found that the small differences between citrate and monohydrate are “unlikely to have any effect on muscle creatine elevation during periods of creatine loading”.

    Pros:

  • Soluble and absorbent, will cause less stomach discomfort
  • Cons:

    • Expensive.
    • Requires double the dosage to be as effective as monohydrate.

    Tri & Di Creatine Malate:

    These are another type of creatine bonded with other molecules (companies seem to love this) which increases absorption. Tri is the more absorbent and soluble of the two.

    Tri Creatine Malate is a compound of molecules created from malic acid and creatine. Tri Malate has 3 monohydrate molecules attached and Di Malate has 2.

    Pros:

  • Faster recovery and less fatigue during workout.
  • More water soluble and absorbent.
  • Cell Volumizing effect.
  • Tri & Di Creatine Malate

    Cons:

    • Usually very expensive because it is mixed with other chemicals.
    • Health effects are unknown.

    Creatine Kre-Alkalyn:

    Creatine Kre-Alkalyn is basically a special protected creatine which does not convert into useless creatinine as readily as other creatines before being absorbed into muscle tissue.

    This is another form of creatine where supplement companies will make a lot of positive claims without necessarily linking to any positive studies to back them up.

    In fact a study published in 2012 that compared the effects of creatine monohydrate against a pH balanced form of creatine (Kre-Alkalyn). This came to the following conclusion:

    “Neither manufacturers recommended doses or equivalent loading doses of KA promoted greater changes in muscle creatine content, body composition, strength, or anaerobic capacity than CrM. These findings do not support claims that KA is a more efficacious form of creatine.” Jagim et al.

    Creatine Kre-Alkalyn

    If you do decide to do a bit more research on the Kre-Alkalyn and find some studies that can back up its ability to create a buffer which slows down the conversion of creatine to creatinine then make sure the study was conducted by a reputable source. This means that it’s not a study funded by or conducted by the supplement company itself.

    Pros:

  • No loading phase required.
  • Less bloating and stomach discomfort.
  • Cons:

    • Expensive.
    • No studies have been carried out on this type of creatine yet.

    Top 3 creatine Kre-Alkyn products

    1. Fusion Bodybuilding Purple-K
    2. Labrada Kre-Alkalyn
    3. FWSS Kre-Alkalyn EFX Pro

    Creatine Cocktails

    Although this isn’t a type of creatine, creatine cocktails are certainly worth mentioning due to the extra benefits they can add to your training.

    These are essentially supplements where creatine will form a larger percentage of the ingredients, but also add other beneficial ingredients such as glutamine, taurine, leucine and nitric oxide.

    This allows us to benefit from the effects of both products in the same serving. For example products that mix creatine with glutamine will give you the cell volumization and strength increase of creatine, with the muscle preservation properties of the glutamine.

    N.O.-Xplode is an excellent example of combining creatine with another effective supplement, in this case Nitric Oxide

    One of the best known combinations in terms of increased performance is combining NO and creatine. The creatine helps with the strength increases and reduced muscle fatigue while the NO increases circulation and helps pump more blood into the muscles you are working to give you better pumps.

    Pros:

  • Cheap compared to the amount of supplements in the arsenal.
  • Extremely effective as they take advantage of the synergetic effects of combining different supplements.
  • Contain creatine transports and transports for the other ingredients which increase absorption. This doubles the effectiveness of these already extremely effective products.
  • Cons:

    • Uses many kinds of chemicals, not all their effects have been thoroughly studied.
    • You don’t have as much control over the serving sizes of the individual ingredients as if you bought them separately.
    • Expensive as a product.

    Top 3 creatine cocktail products

    1. BSN NO-Xplode (Creatine, NO)
    2. BSN Cell Mass 2.0 (Creatine, Protein, Glutamine, Taurine
    3. Optimum CGT-10 (Creatine, Glutamine, Taurine)

    Summary:

  • Drink lots of water with creatine to reduce the pressure put on your kidneys.
  • Some people do not respond to monohydrate.
  • Creatine causes some people to bloat or retain water, which is usually related to the amount of sugar in the creatine product they are taking. If this is happening to you then check how much sugar is in each of your daily servings and perhaps find a creatine with less sugars.