Updated: Aug 24
There’s a huge range of creatine supplements available nowadays, and it’s no wonder creatine is exploding in the market, because there are so many benefits to this incredible supplement. From increased power and endurance in workouts to greater muscle gains and recovery, creatine is an athlete’s best friend. But with so many varieties available, it can be hard to know which type to choose. If you’re wondering which type of creatine is better, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, we’ll discuss the different types of creatine available and which one might be the best choice for you.
The many types of creatine
Creatine monohydrate is the most common form of creatine, and the most heavily researched. This means that a huge amount of the studies that you'll stumble upon and which show great results, are referring to creatine monohydrate. Creatine monohydrate is a super popular choice among bodybuilders and strength athletes, due to its well known ability to boost strength and power. Ever feel that you’d benefit from an extra energy burst in your workouts? Creatine monohydrate can really help to level up your training.
Creatine monohydrate is made up of a creatine molecule and a water molecule, but there’s a few different ways that it can be processed. Sometimes, the water molecule is removed which creates creatine anhydrous. Creatine anhydrous has more creatine per gram — 100% compared to 90% in the monohydrate form. Other times, creatine is micronised to improve water solubility. In theory, this could improve your body’s ability to absorb it.
Creatine monohydrate is a great choice if you’re looking to make those muscle gains, as lots of research shows it can enhance muscle mass and size. However, some people experience bloating and stomach discomfort when using it as a supplement. As with all new supplement regimes, it's recommended to consult a healthcare professional before starting.
Creatine Hydrochloride (HCL)
Creatine HCL is marketed to have better water solubility than creatine monohydrate. This means it’s grown in popularity with some athletes and supplement companies, because in theory a lower dose could be used for the same effects, reducing the risk of side effects.
Unfortunately, this is all just theory until it’s tested. No studies have been published yet which test the use of creatine HCL in humans. Compared to creatine monohydrate which is so strongly researched, creatine HCL can’t be recommended as an alternative until it’s been tested to prove the results.
Creatine Ethyl Ester
Creatine Ethyl Ester is a type of creatine that’s bound to ester salts, which are believed to increase the creatine’s bioavailability (the amount of creatine that can have an active effect in your body). Disappointingly, despite a small amount of promising research, there’s research to show that creatine ethyl ester is worse than monohydrate at increasing blood and muscle creatine levels - which most people taking the supplement are naturally looking for!
Other research has shown that creatine ethyl ester has no improvement on muscle strength or performance. Because of this, creatine ethyl ester can’t be recommended as an alternative to creatine monohydrate at this stage.
As the new kid on the block, CreGAAtine is a serious competitor for creatine monohydrate and one which has recently been backed up with research. It’s made of creatine and Guanidinoacetic Acid (GAA), which is the natural precursor for creatine in the body.
CreGAAtine has been shown to boost muscle and brain creatine more so than creatine monohydrate over a four-week period, and to target the weaker muscles in your body. It actually increases their strength by 20% compared to creatine monohydrate. That’s a pretty big increase!
Interested to learn a little more about the science behind creatine? Read more here.
When looking at which type of creatine is better, it's worth taking a look at liquid creatine. Liquid creatine is a pre-mixed, ready-to-drink formula instead of the usual powder that creatine supplements are typically provided in. The idea behind liquid creatine is that it is more convenient and more easily absorbed in your body.
In reality, research shows that liquid creatine doesn’t work as well as traditional creatine monohydrate. In fact, creatine may break down when it’s stored in liquid for several days, although this doesn’t happen straight away — so you’re still fine to mix your creatine in liquid right before you drink it. If liquid creatine sounds interesting for you, then mixing right before use is the recommended way to take creatine supplements based on the research.
Creatine magnesium chelate
Another type of creatine worth paying attention to is creatine magnesium chelate. This is a type of creatine that’s “chelated” with magnesium, which just means that the creatine molecule is actually attached to magnesium.
There’s some evidence to show that creatine magnesium chelate works as well as creatine monohydrate, but so far there is nothing to suggest that it actually works better.
Buffered creatine is a type of creatine which has an alkaline powder added to it. The reason this has been done, is with an aim to increase potency and reduce side effects like bloating and cramping.
Despite its great intentions, research that compared the two side by side unfortunately found there were no differences in side effects or how effective they were. So if you're someone who gets bad side effects from creatine, buffered creatine might not work for you.
It's not that buffered creatine was worse than monohydrate, but it wasn’t better either. As there’s no clear difference between the two, creatine monohydrate is still the winner as the most researched and the most available.
So, which type of creatine is better?
Now that you've learned a little about the types of creatine, it's time to find out which type of creatine is better.
For many, CreGAAtine offers an upgrade to creatine monohydrate, and is the clear winner of the other supplements discussed above. CreGAAtine also reduces creatine-driven side effects like water retention, and its single-dose packaging prevents it from degrading over time. Popular across the world, CreGAAtine is widely considered as an improvement on previous creatine monohydrates.
Check out the science behind CreGAAtine if you’d like to learn more!
Gill, N.D., Hall, R.D. and Blazevich, A.J. (2004). Creatine Serum Is Not as Effective as Creatine Powder for Improving Cycle Sprint Performance in Competitive Male Team-Sport Athletes. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 18(2), p.272. doi:https://doi.org/10.1519/r-13193.1.
Jagim, A.R., Oliver, J.M., Sanchez, A., Galvan, E., Fluckey, J., Riechman, S., Greenwood, M., Kelly, K., Meininger, C., Rasmussen, C. and Kreider, R.B. (2012). 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), p.43. doi:https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-9-43.
Selsby, J.T., DiSilvestro, R.A. and Devor, S.T. (2004). Mg2+-Creatine Chelate and a Low-Dose Creatine Supplementation Regimen Improve Exercise Performance. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 18(2), p.311. doi:https://doi.org/10.1519/r-13072.1.
Spillane, M., Schoch, R., Cooke, M., Harvey, T., Greenwood, M., Kreider, R. and Willoughby, D.S. (2009). 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, [online] 6(1), p.6. doi:https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-6-6.