Creatine is one of the most studied dietary supplements in the world.
Your body naturally produces this molecule, which fulfills a variety of important functions, including the production of energy (1).
In addition, some foods contain creatine, particularly meat.
Despite the presence of these two natural sources, consuming it as a dietary supplement can increase the stores of your body (2, 3).
This can improve exercise performance and may even help fight the disease (4, 5).
There are many types of these supplements available, which makes it difficult to choose one.
This article reviews the research on the six most studied forms and makes a recommendation supported by science on which is the best.
What is creatine?
Creatine is a molecule that is similar in structure to amino acids, the building blocks of protein.
Because meat is a major source of creatine in the diet, vegetarians tend to have lower amounts of this in their bodies than non-vegetarians (6).
But even for non-vegetarians, consuming it as a dietary supplement can increase muscle creatine content by up to 40% (2, 3, 7).
Its use as a dietary supplement has been widely studied for many years and is consumed throughout the world (8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13).
Its effects include better performance in exercise and musculoskeletal health, as well as potential benefits for brain health (4, 5, 8).
Summary: Creatine is a molecule found in the cells of your body. Play a critical role in the production of energy, and complement it can increase its content in your cells.
How does it work?
Creatine, in the form of creatine phosphate, plays a fundamental role in the production of cellular energy (14).
This is because it is involved in the formation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is an important source of cellular energy.
There is strong evidence that these supplements can improve exercise performance (8, 15, 16).
Some research has found that they can increase the strength gains of a weight training program by 10%, on average (17).
Others have stated that improvements in strength are around 5% for chest exercises such as bench press and about 8% for leg exercises such as squats (15, 16).
In general, exercise scientists agree that creatine supplementation can improve strength and energy production, or the amount of force that can be produced in a certain amount of time, during exercise.
In addition, some research has reported that it can improve performance in speed and swimming races, but other investigations have not been able to demonstrate consistent benefits (12, 18, 19, 20).
In addition, researchers have found that taking creatine can reduce mental fatigue (21).
These health and performance benefits are usually experienced when the content of creatine phosphate in your cells increases after you supplement it.
However, several different forms of the supplement are sold, which can make the choice of one unclear.
The rest of this article will help you know which is the best way.
Summary: The consumption of creatine supplements can increase the amount of this in your cells. This can help the production of energy and improve exercise performance.
1. Creatine monohydrate
The most common form of supplement is creatine monohydrate. This is the form that has been used in most research on the subject (8).
This means that most of the beneficial effects of creatine, such as improvement in exercise performance of the upper and lower body, have been observed almost exclusively when creatine monohydrate was used (15, 16).
This form is formed by a molecule of creatine and a molecule of water, although it can be processed in several ways. Sometimes, the water molecule is removed, resulting in anhydrous creatine.
The elimination of water increases the amount of creatine in each dose. The anhydrous creatine is 100% creatine by weight, while the monohydrate form is approximately 90% creatine by weight.
Other times, creatine is micronized or mechanically processed to improve water solubility. In theory, a better water solubility could improve your body's ability to absorb it (22).
Despite these small differences in processing, each of these forms is probably as effective when equal doses are administered.
In addition to increasing strength, creatine monohydrate can increase the water content in muscle cells. This can lead to beneficial effects on muscle growth by sending signals related to cellular inflammation (23).
Fortunately, a large amount of research indicates that creatine is safe for consumption and no serious side effects have been reported with its use (24, 25).
When mild side effects occur, they typically involve an upset stomach or cramping. These side effects can be relieved by consuming several smaller doses, rather than a larger dose (26).
Because it is safe, effective and affordable, creatine monohydrate has long been the gold standard for this supplement.
Any new form must be compared with it before it can be recommended (27).
Summary: Creatine monohydrate is the most studied and most used form. A large amount of research indicates that it is safe and effective, and that new forms of the supplement should be compared.
2. Creatine ethyl ester
Some manufacturers claim that creatine ethyl ester is superior to other forms of the supplement, including the monohydrate form.
Some tests indicate that it can be better absorbed than the creatine monohydrate in the body (28).
In addition, due to differences in muscle uptake rates, some believe it could outperform creatine monohydrate.
However, a study that directly compared the two found that it was worse with increasing creatine content in the blood and muscles (29).
Because of this, the use of the ethyl ester form is not recommended.
Summary: Creatine ethyl ester may have different rates of absorption and absorption than other forms. However, it does not seem to be as effective as the monohydrate form, and its use is not recommended.
3. Creatine hydrochloride
Creatine hydrochloride (HCl) has gained considerable popularity among some manufacturers and users of supplements.
The initial emotion about this was probably due to reports of its superior solubility.
Due to its superior solubility in water, it is speculated that a lower dose may be used, reducing the relatively common side effects such as an upset stomach.
However, this theory is only a speculation until it is put to the test.
One study found that creatine HCl was 38 times more soluble than the monohydrate form (30).
But, unfortunately, there are no published experiments on creatine HCl in humans.
Given the large amount of data that supports the effectiveness of creatine monohydrate, the HCl form can not be recommended as superior until the two have been compared in experiments.
Summary: While the high water solubility of the HCl form is promising, it should be further studied before it can be recommended in other forms.
4. Creatine buffered
Some supplement manufacturers have tried to improve the stability of creatine in the stomach by adding an alkaline powder, resulting in a buffered form.
Supposedly, this could increase its potency and reduce side effects such as bloating and colic.
However, a study that directly compared buffered and monohydrated forms found no differences in effectiveness or side effects (31).
The participants in this study took the supplements while continuing their training program with normal weights for 28 days.
The strength of the bench press and the production of power during cycling increased, regardless of the shape that was taken.
In general, although the buffered forms were not worse than the monohydrate forms in this study, they were not better either.
Since there is no good evidence that buffered forms provide unique advantages, creatine monohydrate is the winner.
Summary: Although a very limited amount of research indicates that buffered forms could be as effective as monohydrate forms, there is not enough information to recommend them.
5. Liquid creatine.
While most creatine supplements come in powder form, some ready-to-drink versions have already dissolved the supplement in water.
Limited research examining liquid forms indicates that they are less effective than monohydrate powders (32, 33).
One study found that the work done during the cycle was improved by 10% with a monohydrate powder, but not with a liquid form (32).
In addition, it appears that creatine can decompose when it remains in liquid for several days (32, 34).
This does not happen immediately, so it is not a problem to mix your powder with water just before consuming it.
Most investigations have used powders that are mixed shortly before use. According to the research, this is the recommended way to consume creatine supplements.
Summary: The liquid forms of the supplement seem to decompose and become ineffective. They do not seem to improve exercise performance or produce other benefits.
6. Creatine Magnesium Chelate
The creatine and magnesium chelate is a form of the supplement that is "chelated" with magnesium.
This simply means that magnesium is bound to the creatine molecule.
One study compared the strength and resistance of bench press between groups that consumed creatine monohydrate, creatine chelate and magnesium or a placebo (35).
Both the monohydrate and magnesium chelate groups improved their performance more than the placebo group, but there was no difference between them.
Because of this, it appears that the creatine and magnesium chelate may be an effective form, but it is not better than the standard forms of monohydrate.
Summary: Some evidence shows that the creatine and magnesium chelate is as effective as the monohydrate form. However, there is limited information available and it does not seem to be superior.
The bottom line
According to scientific evidence, creatine monohydrate is the recommended form.
It is backed by the most solid research, with studies demonstrating its effectiveness to increase the stores of your body and improve exercise performance.
While there are several other ways, most of them have minimal research that examines their effectiveness.
In addition, the monohydrate form is relatively inexpensive, effective and widely available.
The new ways may be promising, but more scientific information is needed before they can compete with creatine monohydrate.
Reference: https: //www.healthline.com/nutrition/types-of-creatine