There are so many different types of creatine out there and every supplement company says that theirs is the best.
There is the most basic creatine monohydrate and then there is creatine pyruvate, creatine citrate, creatine malate, creatine taurinate, creatine phosphate, creatine orotate, creatine ethyl ester, creatine pyroglutamate, creatine gluconate, creatine nitrate, and magnesium creatine chelate.
So which one is the best?
First off, not all these forms have been studied in humans before, but those that have been are all effective to different extents. Creatine monohydrate (CrM) has been studied the most and most of the other forms are compared to it for efficiency.
Creatine nitrate is a creatine molecule combined with a nitrate group (at a 2:1 ratio for creatine and nitrate) and is about 10 times more water soluble than creatine monohydrate.
This study (R) found that plasma creatine was significantly higher after CrM (5g dose) consumption than after creatine nitrate (2.5g dose). Meaning CrM increases creatine levels in the blood the most, but it could also have been because the CrM dose was bigger; which shows that the increased water solubility of creatine nitrate doesn’t make it better.
Plus, the creatine nitrate group had significantly greater creatinine concentration levels than CrM after 30min, meaning the creatine nitrate isn’t very stable in the body similar to creatine ethyl ester. After 28 days, CrM was the only group with significantly elevated intramuscular creatine.
Also, beware of nitrates and nitric oxide. More on that subject here.
Magnesium creatine chelate
Magnesium creatine chelate (MCC) is a creatine group combined with magnesium providing 800mg magnesium per 5g creatine. The reasoning behind this is that with a magnesium deficiency, energy cannot be obtained from creatine. Also, because magnesium is an intracellular mineral, this could help creatine get into the cells. And the research (R) did show greater availability of cellular creatine for MCC compared to normal CrM, indicated by a greater increase in intracellular water and a decrease in extracellular water. This decreases the water retention look and improves cellular hydration, which promotes proper cellular function and hypertrophy.
This study (R) compared MCC to creatine monohydrate + magnesium oxide to determine which is best for exercise performance. As we know, magnesium oxide has a very poor absorption rate of about 4% which might make it an unfair comparison. Regardless, the MCC group experienced a greater ergogenic effect.
No studies have been done on muscle mass and strength yet, but this form is definitely worth testing out. I would advise starting with 2.5g if your stomach is sensitive to magnesium.
Creatine ethyl ester: Creatine is esterified to make it more water soluble to increase its absorption and uptake into cells. Research shows that CEE was not as effective as CrM at increasing serum and muscle creatine levels or at improving body composition, muscle mass, strength, and power (R, R). Creatinine is actually elevated after CEE supplementation, indicating that it’s unstable and degrades easily in the body.
Buffered creatine: creatine combined with sodium bicarbonate is not more effective than CrM, but CrM was superior for increasing hypertrophy, strength and muscle creatine (R). Adding sodium bicarbonate to your CrM has also been shown not to have a synergistic effect.
Creatine malate: Tricreatine malate has a strong ester bond so that the degradation to creatinine would be avoided, resulting in improved absorption. Research shows that it’s effective at improving performance in sprinters, but there is no research on hypertrophy and strength yet comparing it to CrM (R). This form is very sour when taken on its own, so it’s a nice change up in taste :).
Creatine citrate: There isn’t much research on creatine citrate, except that the bioavailability of creatine citrate seems to be similar to CrM, but this does not mean better muscle creatine stores.
Creatine pyruvate: Also, not a lot of research on this form of creatine, except that it’s better at boosting performance than creatine citrate (R). The pyruvate can also be used to increase ATP in the mitochondria.
Creatine phosphate (CP): CP is believed to boost creatine storage in the muscle as phosphocreatine, but CP is already cleaved in the intestine broken down into only creatine monohydrate and phosphate. Research also shows that CrM is superior to CP at boosting strength and hypertrophy (R).
Skip all the fancy and expensive supplements and get yourself some creatine monohydrate for the most effective and reliable results. The only “fancy” creatine supplement to consider would be magnesium creatine chelate.
- Micronized creatine monohydrate – (Amazon)(iHerb) (after your loading phase, take 5g post-workout or first thing in the morning)