What is Creatine?

Creatine is a naturally occurring nitrogenous organic acid found in most vertebrates. Creatine is formed of three amino acids: L-arginine, glycine, and L-methionine. It makes up about 1 percent of the total volume of human blood. The vast majority of creatine in the human body is stored in skeletal muscle, with the remaining 5 percent in the kidneys, liver, and brain.

Your body can only produce so much creatine, with the liver, pancreas, and kidneys making about 1 gram of creatine per day. The body needs at least 2 grams of creatine a day for normal, basic functioning (more if you are active or involved in intense physical or mental activities), so the rest of the creatine the body needs and craves is supposed to come from your diet. This makes creatine a great supplement for anyone, but especially for vegetarians who cannot increase creatine consumption through their diet.

Different Types of Creatine

There are various types of creatine on the market, some of the most common being creatine hydrochloride (HCl), creatine monohydrate (CM), and creatine nitrate (CN). Due to its increased bioavailability and improved absorption in the body, Creatine HCl is the most widely licensed form of creatine and greatly reduces the risk of the negative side effects of CM and other creatines. Some possible side effects of other forms of creatine include: gastrointestinal distress, diarrhea, bloating, water retention, upset stomach, cramping.

Different Types of Creatine

Creatine hydrochloride (HCl) is creatine molecule that is bound with hydrochloric acid molecule which is extremely symbiotic with the gastric juices of the stomach. The conjugation of creatine with a hydrochloric acid molecule both enhances stability and solubility. The importance of the latter is that, if it’s not in solution, it can’t get into your bloodstream. Since it absorbs more efficiently in the body, creatine HCl eliminates the need for loading and reduces the serving size required for optimal results. Overall, supplementation with creatine HCl provides a more efficient method for enhancing creatine levels in the body. Creatine HCl also is well-tolerated due to dosing efficiency. The ability to micro-dose makes for an easier form of creatine for supplementation.

Creatine monohydrate (CM) is the least expensive form of creatine. It is also one of the oldest and most common forms of creatine. It is conjugated with a water molecule. Because creatine monohydrate has been around the longest, there are more published studies associated with it.

Creatine pyruvate (CrPyr) is made up of creatine that is bound with pyruvic acid which is a colorless, water-soluble, organic liquid. It supplies energy to living cells through the citric acid cycle whenever oxygen is present but hasn’t been shown to be superior in delivering creatine to the body.

Creatine citrate (CrC) is creatine that is bound to citric acid, with around 40 percent creatine making up the solution. It is said to be a more soluble form of creatine, however it is often more expensive and requires a higher dosage.

Creatine ethyl ester (CEE) is a creatine pronutrient. It is produced by adding an ethyl group to creatine and is found in both tablet and powder form. Creatine ethyl ester is created to increase the bioavailability of creatine, but has not been found to have benefits when compared with taking creatine monohydrate or hydrochloride. In fact, it is actually less stable than these forms of creatine and quickly degrades into creatinine in many circumstances. It is especially fragile in neutral or basic aqueous solutions.

Creatine malate (CMal) is formed by combining one molecule of malic acid with three molecules of creatine through the use of an ester bond. Malic acid is a carboxylic acid meaning it is an organic compound in which a carbon atom is bonded to an oxygen atom by a double bond and to a hydroxyl group by a single bond. This helps it to easily penetrate mitochondria and transport the products of glucose breakdown. Essentially, it plays a big role in the energy metabolism occurring in muscle cells – contributing to an easier supply of energy during anaerobic processes. It also has less tendency to bind subcutaneous water, reducing the risk of water retention and bloating.

Creatine nitrate (CN) is made by combining nitric acid and creatine in water. Both creatine and nitrate supplements are typically taken to increase the rate of muscle mass and are associated with exercise endurance and heart health. Nitrates are inorganic salts present in many fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Nitrate supplementation may improve muscle endurance during exercise by decreasing oxygen and energy demands per unit of force.

“Buffered” creatine (BC) is made by adding an alkalized powder to micronized creatine monohydrate to make the pH levels more stable. This is considered to make it more stable in the stomach and results in greater bioavailability.

Creatine Gluconate (CN) is the product of one creatine molecule and one glucose molecule. It is a bonded form of creatine that utilizes glucose as a transportation mechanism into the bloodstream. The gluconic acid, found in naturally sweet foods, is readily soluble in water. Due to the attached glucose molecule, creatine gluconate is readily absorbed by the cells. One downside, however, is that creatine gluconate may spike insulin levels due to the presence of glucose.

Magnesium creatine chelate (MCC) is absorbed differently compared to other forms of creatine. Magnesium is an alkali compound that counteracts the acidic environment in the stomach reducing the likelihood of creatine being degraded into creatinine. Magnesium also plays a role in physiological functions including those involved in anaerobic exercise. Because ATP synthesis requires magnesium, it is thought that supplementing with magnesium creatine chelate could have a greater anabolic effect.

Which Type of Creatine is Best?

While there are many forms of creatine to choose from, creatine HCl has numerous advantages that outshine the others. This form of creatine is highly soluble in water so it will dissolve almost immediately without any sedimentation at the bottom of the glass. Not only does this make the supplement more enjoyable to take, but helps the creatine to absorb in the body. It won’t sit in the intestines because it dissolves easily into the water. Creatine HCl can also be taken in smaller doses to achieve the same effect.

There has been an extensive amount of research done to support creatine as a supplement. Studies have shown that creatine supplementation is both safe and also results in statistically significant strength and performance gains. In addition to improving strength gains, creatine supplementation has also been shown to improve other functions, as well.

There is solid research that demonstrates that creatine has immune, sexual, heart, and cognitive benefits. Some studies have shown creatine supplementation to be useful in improving short-term memory and sharper thinking, particularly in older adults. Some of the biggest cognitive benefits are seen among vegetarians and vegans who don’t consume creatine in meat – particularly red meat – the most natural and plentiful form of creatine. For other info on the various benefits of creatine supplementation, please review the other pages of this website.