Types Of Creatine: Is Creatine Monohydrate Still The King?

Which creatine supplement is currently the best option? This article explores the various forms of creatine and tells you if creatine monohydrate is still the way to go.

If you’ve dabbled in the supplement industry much you’re likely well aware of the popular sports supplement creatine monohydrate and its performance-enhancing effects. However, as with most any industry, the natural evolution of supplements has led to companies taking on their own endeavor to create a better, more efficient creatine product.

But do any of these new, “advanced” forms of creatine really present better options than that of the time-tested, proven creatine monohydrate form. Read on as we look at what the research has to say about all the creatine hoopla in the supplement industry and which form is really the best bang for your buck.

A look at 13 popular forms of creatine

Creatine Monohydrate: Bar none the most available and research-backed form of creatine (and for good reason), creatine monohydrate has stood the test of time when it comes to weight training and athletic performance. It’s one of the most efficient supplements to consider when looking at its cost-to-benefit ratio and safety/tolerability. Many creatine monohydrate products come in “micronized” powders, such as that of the patented Creapure product, which is a unadulterated form of creatine tested for purity, safety and made from carefully selected raw materials.

Creatine Salts: It has been hypothesized that the binding of creatine to various salts will produce a product that is more bioavailable and soluble in liquid than creatine monohydrate. Below we will take a look at the popular forms of creatine salts and the research findings behind them.

Creatine Citrate—This citric acid-bound form of creatine does not appear to be more absorbable (nor effective) than creatine monohydrate.[1] It is however suggested to be more soluble in liquid solution.

Creatine Nitrate—A popular salt of creatine is the nitrate salt. The research is still somewhat scarce on creatine nitrate, but it is a highly soluble form of creatine and should cause less gastric distress than creatine monohydrate.

Muscle Pumps

Creatine Malate—The malic acid-bound form of creatine has yet to be studied (at least as far as it’s effects on athletic performance). However, malic acid on its own has demonstrated performance-enhancing benefits.[2]

Creatine Orotate—Similar to the above scenario with creatine malate, creatine orotate has little scientific research behind it at the time of this writing. However, orotic acid is a pivotal organic acid in the biosynthesis of pyrimidines, and also spares vitamin B12 and folate in animals. [4]

Creatine Pyruvate—Probably the most intriguing salt of creatine is the pyruvate salt. Research does indicate that it is more effective than creatine citrate and produces high plasma levels of creatine.[3] That being said, there is yet to be conclusive research that suggests creatine pyruvate is more effective than creatine monohydrate.

Magnesium Creatine Chelate—It appears that magnesium creatine chelate enhances the uptake of creatine into muscle tissue, but the significance of this enhanced uptake on athletic performance is still up for debate. [5]

Buffered Creatine (Kre Alkalyn): This is a form of creatine purported to be buffered at a basic pH and more absorbable then creatine monohydrate. The buffer used is simply baking soda, but the irony here (as below with esterified creatine) is that studies show it to be no more (or even less) effective than creatine monohydrate in terms of performance enhancement. [6]

Creatine Esters: Esterified creatine is somewhat ironic in that supplement companies claim it has “enhanced uptake” over creatine monohydrate, but the research has shown it is actually less bioavailable . [7] Upon ingestion, creatine esters are readily converted to the creatine byproduct creatinine.

Liquid Creatine: It’s a bit disconcerting that supplement companies even go down this route with creatine products given that creatine monohydrate is not stable in aqueous solutions. Essentially, these products are rendered into the useless byproduct creatinine long before they even hit store shelves. Moral of the story—stick to powdered creatine supplements.

Effervescent Creatine: Given the unstable nature of creatine in liquid solutions, some manufacturers created an effervescent form of creatine which is comprised of creatine monohydrate, citric acid and bicarbonate. However, studies show that this form of creatine ultimately becomes unstable in solution just like other forms of liquid creatine monohydrate supplements. [8]

Glycosylated Creatine:  This is actually one of the more intriguing “new” forms of creatine due to the absorption-enhancing effect polyethylene glycol (PEG) produces. In fact, studies seem to suggest that polyethylene glycosylated creatine is just as effective as creatine monohydrate at doses 75% less than that of monohydrate treatments. [9,10] This suggests that PEG acts as a highly efficient vehicle for oral creatine supplements. However, this is still a somewhat scarce creatine form in the supplement industry.

So which form of creatine is really the “gold standard”?

At this point in time, it’s rather hard to argue against creatine monohydrate powders as being the best, most efficacious form of creatine supplements available. Some of the salt forms of creatine may present decent alternatives with other performance-enhancing benefits, and glycosylated creatine does appear to have some potential as well, but at the end of the day you really can’t go wrong with plain ol’ creatine monohydrate. It’s proven, time-tested, and comes in pure, safe and quality-assured forms like that of Creapure.

References:

1. Jäger R, Harris RC, Purpura M, Francaux M: Comparison of new forms of creatine in raising plasma creatine levels. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 2007, 4:17

2. Wu, J., Wu, Q., Huang, J., Chen, R., Cai, M., & Tan, J. (2007). Effects of L-malate on physical stamina and activities of enzymes related to the malate-aspartate shuttle in liver of mice. Physiological research, 56(2), 213.

3. Jäger R, Metzger J, Lautmann K, Shushakov V, Purpura M, Geiss K, Maassen N: The effects of creatine pyruvate and creatine citrate on performance during high intensity exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 2008, 5:4

4. Abraham, Sal, and Shengli Jiang. "Process for preparing a creatine heterocyclic acid salt and method of use." U.S. Patent No. 6,838,562. 4 Jan. 2005.

5. Brilla, L. R., et al. "Magnesium-creatine supplementation effects on body water." Metabolism 52.9 (2003): 1136-1140.

6. Jagim, A. R., Oliver, J. M., Sanchez, A., Galvan, E., Fluckey, J., Reichman, S., ... & Kreider, R. B. (2012). Kre-Alkalyn® supplementation does not promote greater changes in muscle creatine content, body composition, or training adaptations in comparison to creatine monohydrate. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 9(Suppl 1), P11.

7. Spillane M, Schoch R, Cooke M, Harvey T, Greenwood M, Kreider R, Willoughby DS: 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, 6:6.

8. Ganguly S, Jayappa S, Dash AK: Evaluation of the stability of creatine in solution prepared from effervescent creatine formulations. AAPS PharmSciTech 2003, 4:E25.

9. Herda TJ, Beck TW, Ryan ED, Smith AE, Walter AA, Hartman MJ, Stout JR, Cramer JT:Effects of creatine monohydrate and polyethylene glycosylated creatine supplementation on muscular strength, endurance, and power output. J Strength Cond Res 2009, 23:818-826.

10. Camic CL, Hendrix CR, Housh TJ, Zuniga JM, Mielke M, Johnson GO, Schmidt RJ, Housh DJ:The effects of polyethylene glycosylated creatine supplementation on muscular strength and power. J Strength Cond Res 2010, 24:3343-3351