What Is Creatine?
Creatine is a nitrogenous compound that occurs naturally in meats and fish and is synthesized by the liver, pancreas and kidney. It’s also called metylguanidine-acetic acid and is produced from three amino acids: methionine, arginine and glycine.
Creatine is not at all new, it was first discovered in 1835 by a French scientist named Chevreul. He named it after the Greek word for flesh “Kreas”.
It wasn’t until 1847 that creatine was first linked to muscle tissue. 1922, human studies dating back to 1910 were reviewed by a scientist named Hunter, in these studies, subjects were “loading” with creatine up to 20 grams per day for 6 days.
In 1926, Chanutin detailed case studies where human subjects loaded 4 times a day for 10 days. In the 70’s, researchers thought insulin might be involved in the uptake of creatine, this was determined yet again in 1992 by Harris.
It wasn’t until 1993, however, that creatine monohydrate was actually introduced as a supplement by EAS, it was called Phosphagen. Ed Byrd, an EAS co-founder and the man that gave us NO2 in 2002, was largely responsible for it’s introduction.
Since then it’s pretty much taken the supplement world by storm and has proven to be one of the most effective supplements on the market.
Bar none the most available and research-backed form of creatine (and for good reason), creatine monohydrate has stood the test of time when it comes to weight training and athletic performance.
It’s one of the most efficient supplements to consider when looking at its cost-to-benefit ratio and safety/tolerability.
Many creatine monohydrate products come in “micronized” powders, such as that of the patented Creapure product.
Which is a unadulterated form of creatine tested for purity, safety and made from carefully selected raw materials.
Creatine Ethyl Ester
This form of creatine is highly reviewed for its’ incredible absorption rate – almost 99% of this creatine gets absorbed in the human body!
There are also no commonly reported side effects for this type of creatine supplement.
Further, given the higher absorption rate, everyone will notice the benefits of creatine when supplementing with a product that is rich in creatine ethyl ester.
On the downside, creatine ethyl ester is much more expensive and it does not contribute as much towards size gains.
It is still very beneficial for its effects on performance intensity and strength, but anyone wanting to also look bigger due to the creatine use will want to stick to a different type of creatine.
Creatine Magnesium Chelate
Creatine magnesium chelate is a form of creatine bound to magnesium.
Magnesium plays a role in creatine metabolism and thus, theoretically, supplementing with it alongside creatine may increase its effectiveness.
However, one study found that creatine magnesium chelate is more or less the same as creatine monohydrate in terms of ergogenic effects but may result in less water weight gain.
More research is needed on creatine magnesium chelate to determine if it offers any reliable advantages over creatine monohydrate.
Micronized creatine is 5% of the size of typical creatine particles. This makes it faster absorbing through the bloodstream and means quicker access for the muscles.
The quicker digestion process also helps to eliminate the digestion-related side effects that are commonly associated with creatine supplementation.
Due to its quick delivery, it can be very effective as an intra-workout source of creatine as it will replenish the used supply of creatine to give a second burst of energy for the remainder of the workout.
This form of creatine is completely water-soluble. This helps out a lot considering the high amount of water within the human body.
Its quicker absorption and ability to prevent conversion to creatinine make it a highly efficient form of creatine. Another plus is that creatine HCL can be started without any loading phase.
This is a relatively new creatine form that is now found in many different creatine supplements.
However, it is worth mentioning as many people have seen tremendous size gains while using this form of creatine.
By tremendous, I mean a night and day difference between the effects of creatine gluconate and all other forms of creatine.
Creatine gluconate is effective because of the glucose molecule that the creatine is bonded with. This combination allows for the creatine to be digested similar to glucose, which is a carbohydrate that digests very quickly.
The result of this is quicker and more direct delivery to the muscle cells, which ultimately means a higher absorption rate.
Note: Creatine in liquid or chewable form is NOT recommended as absorption rates are lower, potency is lost when creatine sits as a liquid, and there is insufficient scientific evidence to back these forms of ingestion.
Liquid creatine is created by suspending a form of creatine–usually monohydrate–in a solution like water and the amino acid glycine.
Supplement companies claim this has many advantages over powdered forms that you mix yourself–better absorption, smaller effective dosages, less kidney strain and bloating, and more–but it’s all hype and no substance.
Ironically, research shows that liquid creatine has no ergogenic benefits whatsoever.
This is because suspending creatine in liquid for several days causes it to break down into the inactive substance creatinine.
How to take creatine supplements
Some supplement manufacturers recommend a total daily dose of 3-5 g/day. This will eventually load the muscle, but may take up to 28 days before the muscle is saturated with creatine.
The muscle cell has a creatine threshold or saturation point. Typically, creatine loading increases total creatine and creatine phosphate by 25% above resting levels.
The response is individual and some athletes may improve their stores by 50%. Some research has suggested that athletes whose levels are initially lowest might respond best to supplementation.
Obviously only those who can achieve a substantial increase in muscle creatine levels will show improved function.
If supplementation is ceased, muscle creatine stores gradually return to resting levels – some studies have shown that it takes 4-6 weeks for this to occur.
A ‘maintenance’ supplemental dose of 2-5 g creatine per day keeps the loaded muscle at elevated levels.
Many athletes cycle their creatine supplementation – loading up, maintaining for a certain training period, and then stopping the supplements for a couple of weeks before reloading.
This may suit the athlete’s training cycle or periodisation.
Whether such cyclical use is better than prolonged continual use has not been studied.
So which form of creatine is really the BEST?
At this point in time, it’s rather hard to argue against creatine monohydrate powders as being the best.
Most efficacious form of creatine supplements available.
Some of the salt forms of creatine may present decent alternatives with other performance-enhancing benefits.
And glycosylated creatine does appear to have some potential as well, but at the end of the day you really can’t go wrong with plain ol’ creatine monohydrate.
It’s proven, time-tested, and comes in pure, safe and quality-assured forms like that of Creapure.