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Creatine vs Creatine: What's the Best?

Posted on September 9, 2018

Creatine vs Creatine: What's the Best?Dividerimage

Updated 22nd February 2020

 

Creatine is one of the most well-known nutritional supplements, having hit the market in the early 1990s. It is generally used to improve athletic performance for power sports and exercises and to increase lean muscle mass.

 

Creatine supplementation offers a number of physiological  benefits. According to Paul Greenhaff, a professor at the University of Nottingham who specialises in muscle metabolism, "Creatine supplementation increases the rate of water uptake by muscle cells, allowing for faster protein synthesis."

 

Once creatine is taken orally in supplement form, much of it enters muscle cells where it can be converted to phosphocreatine, a high-energy oxygen-independent molecule.

 

Phosphocreatine is stored in the muscles due to its use in the creation of ATP, an energy source used to a greater degree by the body for short-duration, high-intensity exercise such as sprinting and low repetition weight-lifting.

 

Creatine assists with strength and power, and helps to reduce recovery time between sets during these activities (1).

 

Creatine supplements are most effective in those who are performing exercises that last up to three minutes. As a basic rule of thumb, the shorter the duration of the effort, the more benefit that will be attained from supplementation with this nutrient.

 

In addition, vegan and vegetarian diets do not contain creatine and will therefore derive more benefit from supplementation. Food sources of creatine are muscle meats, including meat and fish, which provide around 1 gram per day.

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It's worth noting, however, that the human body produces around 1 gram per day as well, synthesized from the amino acids arginine, methionine and glycine (2). So as long as your diet contains adequate quality protein, whether it's pure vegan or plant-based, your body will synthesize some of its own creatine.

 

Creatine has also been shown to boost intelligence, working memory and support mood in unipolar depression (3). However, creatine supplementation could potentially trigger mania in bipolar (manic) depression by increasing S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) availability, a natural byproduct of the one-carbon cycle that is known to exacerbate this condition (4).

 

Given that creatine supplementation has been around for decades, there were always going to be some interesting takes on this tripeptide. But do these new reformulations of the age-old creatine actually offer additional benefits over the old fashioned creatine monohydrate powder?

 

And we also have to ask, are they even as effective as standard creatine?

 

It can be disheartening when on the hunt for scientific evidence in favour of a nutrient that through our subjective experience has been helpful.

 

However, it's a worthwhile task, and one that can point us towards even more gains in the future. Let's take a look at what some published research is indicating.

 

creatines-aint_creatines.jpg1) Creatine Monohydrate

Creatine monohydrate is a well-established creatine supplementation option. Due to its scientific scrutiny over decades now (over 300 published research papers!), there is certainly adequate evidence to show that it is both safe and effective at improving exercise performance and lean muscle mass. 

 

Multiple studies have shown that creatine monohydrate increases the levels of phosphocreatine within muscles, where an average 70kg person stores around 120-140 grams.

 

When it comes to clinical research, almost every scientist examining the effectiveness of this nutrient uses creatine monohydrate, which may or may not be micronised.

 

Given that the bulk of evidence for creatine is studied in this form indicates that the old adage if it ain't broke don't fix it can still be helpful.

 

Creatine Monohydrate is backed by perhaps more scientific support than any other natural ergogenic and lean muscle mass aid.

 

2) Micronised Creatine Monohydrate

Micronised Creatine Monohydrate is simply creatine monohydrate that has passed through a fine mesh in order to create a smaller particle size.

 

This leads to better solubility in water, which should lead to increased absorption rates, and more of this tripeptide finding its way to skeletal muscle tissue.

 

As Micronised Creatine Monohydrate mixes more efficiently in water, less ends up hanging at the bottom of the glass or shaker after the beverage is finished.

 

This gives Micronised Creatine Monohydrate an advantage over regular creatine monohydrate.

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3) Creatine Nitrate

This creatine supplement contains creatine that has been combined with nitrate to form a salt. As a nitrate salt, creatine nitrate is more water-soluble than some other formulations.

 

The manufacturers of creatine nitrate supplements claim that the addition of nitrate allows for production of nitric oxide. In the body, nitric oxide stimulates the dilation of blood vessels, which can lead to greater uptake of creatine by muscles and improved athletic performance.

 

They also maintain that a loading phase is not required. However, the limited research carried out on this form of creatine suggests that it is no more effective than creatine monohydrate (5).

 

This study indicated that 3 grams of creatine nitrate was as effective as 3 grams of creatine monohydrate regarding performance benefits.

 

Given that part of the creatine nitrate molecule is composed of nitrate, it is likely that a higher dosage can be used to attain maximal benefit, or perhaps taken in conjunction with creatine monohydrate.

 

For instance, 3 grams of creatine nitrate and 3 grams of micronised creatine monohydrate as an on-going maintenance supplement might work well, theoretically.

                                               

4) Tri-Creatine Malate

Tri-creatine malate is made up of three creatine molecules bonded with a single molecule of malic acid.

 

Malic acid is an important component of the Krebs cycle, an intermediary step in the synthesis of ATP. The manufacturer's claim an increased effectiveness from this formulation due to the added effects of malic acid.

 

Again, the impact of the malic acid is unknown at present on athletes and sports persons. However, research indicates that malic acid may benefit fibromyalgia sufferers by reducing pain and tenderness indices of the muscle.

creatines-aint-creatines.jpg5)Creatine HCL

Creatine HCL, or creatine hydrochloride, is a relative newcomer on the market. Patented in 2009, this formulation is the hydrochloride salt of creatine.

 

Manufactured by ProMera Health, and marketed as Con-Cret, its main benefit is an increased solubility in water, which allows the supplement to function at a lower dose than other less-soluble alternatives.

 

One study found that it had a 59-fold increase in water-solubility over creatine monohydrate. However, this study was commissioned by the manufacturer, and is somewhat of a conflict of interest.

 

According to the manufacturers, these properties also mean that Creatine HCL does not require a loading phase. However, loading phases are not absolutely essential for any form of creatine.

 

They are simply a means of maximising muscle creatine content faster. Regular doses taken over a slightly longer period of time, of any form of creatine, will eventually achieve the same outcome.  

 

Much more independent research is required on this form of creatine before any definitive statements can be made regarding its efficacy.

 

6) Kre-Alkalyn

Kre-Alkalyn is the trademarked name of a buffered creatine monohydrate supplement. The manufacturers claim that this formulation allows for greater retention of creatine by the body, together with fewer side-effects and a lower required dose.

 

However, these claims may not be accurate, as at least one study has found that buffered creatine supplements provide no benefits above and beyond those of standard creatine monohydrate.

 

It is also interesting to note that creatine monohydrate has a neutral pH of 7, as reported in the scientific journal Amino Acids, 2017.Therefore supplementation will not significantly alter the pH of the body.

 

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7) Creatine Ethyl Ester

A comprehensive clinical trial was undertaken comparing this form of creatine with creatine monohydrate, and published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition in 2009.

 

Subjects were supplemented with 20 grams of either creatine ethyl ester or creatine monohydrate, with serum and muscle levels (via biopsy) monitored, as was exercise level and dietary intake. The researchers found that creatine ethyl ester significantly increased serum creatinine.

 

Creatinine is a waste product of creatine. Creatine Ethyl Ester did not positively impact muscle creatine levels anywhere close to creatine monohydrate.

 

Unfortunately, this means creatine ethyl ester is likely broken down in the GI tract to creatinine, making creatine monohydrate clearly the more beneficial form of this tripeptide.

 

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Creatine supplements are not necessarily the passport to massive gains in athletic performance or lean muscle mass. However, the right product certainly can help, particularly for people not consuming meat or fish on a regular basis.

 

Creatine can also give power athletes and weightlifters the small improvements they need in order to succeed in competition, or to push through plateaus in training.

 

There are countless creatine products available on the market today, which, unsurprisingly, has led to a great amount of consumer confusion, particularly regarding product claims and formulation differences.

 

The main differences tend to relate to solubility, which can dictate the size of dose required, and additive effects from other compounds, such as malic acid or nitrate. However, the original creatine monohydrate, preferably micronised, some 30 years after entering the market, is still a market leader based on efficacy, safety and value for money.

 

References

1. Lanhers C et al. Creatine Supplementation and Upper Limb Strength Performance: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Medicine. 2017 Vol 47 p.163-173

2. Persky A and Brazeau G. Clinical pharmacology of the dietary supplement creatine monohydrate. Pharmacology Reviews. 2001 Vol 53 p.161-176

3. Rae C et al. Oral creatine monohydrate supplementation improves brain performance: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial. Proceedings. Biological Sciences. 2003 Vol 270;1529 p.2147-21504. Roitman S et l. Creatine monohydrate in resistant depression: a preliminary study. Bipolar Disorders. 2007 Vol 9;7 p.754-758

 4. Roitman S et l. Creatine monohydrate in resistant depression: a preliminary study. Bipolar Disorders. 2007 Vol 9;7 p.754-758

5. Galvan E et al. Acute and chronic safety and efficacy of dose dependent creatine nitrate supplementation and exercise performance. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2016

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