Creatine is one of the most extensively studied and clinically effective sports supplement ingredients renowned worldwide. In recent years, creatine has begun to climb in popularity like never before. However with its recent rise, a lot of different forms of creatine have saturated the market, leaving us asking now more than ever before, “Which Creatine Is Best?”
Before we can confidently answer that question, let’s begin with what creatine does.
What Does Creatine Do?
Creatine increases the synthesis of a compound called Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP). ATP is the body’s primary source of energy for the phosphate energy system; the energy system that the body uses to power short, sharp muscle contractions and other anaerobic exercises.
Creatine allows our muscles to contract with more power for an increased number of repetitions, increasing our anaerobic exercise capacity. Creatine therefore allows us to train harder, for longer, and stimulate more muscle growth, resulting in an increase in muscle strength and size if our diet is in check.
And while there are a number of different types of creatine that deliver these effects, the mother of all creatine, the OG creatine, is Creatine Monohydrate.
What Is Creatine Monohydrate?
Quite simply, Creatine Monohydrate is creatine with one molecule of water attached to it. This additional bond of monohydrate to creatine adds the additional effect of drawing water into muscle cells, increasing muscle cell hydration.
When our muscle cells are hydrated, they swell, and protein synthesis increases.
Creatine Monohydrate is also typically the best value for money form of creatine available, when looking at the price per gram.
Sounds pretty good, right?
Well there is one major downside to Creatine Monohydrate – because it is not particularly well absorbed by the body, a loading phase is recommended for maximum efficacy. Once every 8 weeks, Creatine Monohydrate should be taken up to 30 grams per day split into six 5 gram doses for an entire week to completely saturate skeletal muscle with creatine.
Additionally, because Creatine Monohydrate draws water into muscle cells, it can increase water retention within the body, which may be undesirable when trying to create a lean & hard looking physique.
Finally, Creatine Monohydrate has quite a neutral pH of approximately 7, which causes it to be converted into creatinine when digested and may cause bloating, stomach aches or cramping.
While Creatine Monohydrate is the most-studied, most-popular, and cheapest form of creatine, it’s definitely not the be all and end all. Creatine HCL and Kre-Alkalyn certainly give it a run for its money. Let’s take a deep dive and see how they stack up!
What Is Creatine HCL?
Creatine HCL is simply creatine bound with hydrochloric acid. Creatine HCL claims to be superior to other forms of creatine due to its superior solubility and bioavailability, making it easily digestible & absorbable by the body.
This means that we require a smaller dose of Creatine HCL compared to Creatine Monohydrate to elicit the same effects – about 80% less in fact! And we don’t need to “load” Creatine HCL like Creatine Monodhyrate, which is good news because it is much more expensive per gram.
And because Creatine HCL doesn’t draw water into muscle cells like Creatine Monohydrate, it won’t increase undesirable water retention within the body.
Finally, because Creatine HCL has a lower and more acidic pH, it is better aligned with the naturally acidic environment in our gastrointestinal tract and less likely to cause stomach upset.
What Is Kre-Alkalyn?
Kre-Alkalyn, also known as buffered creatine, is a pH corrected form of Creatine Monohydrate. The addition of an alkaline powder to creatine to produce Kre-Alkalyn increases its stability in the acidic environment of the stomach, reducing the negative side effects that are typically associated with the conversion of Creatine Monohydrate to creatinine.
As such, a smaller dose of Kre-Alkalyn is required compared to Creatine Monohydrate to elicit the same effects, while it tends to only be marginally more expensive per gram.
Similarly to Creatine Monohydrate, Kre-Alkalyn encourages muscle cell hydration, and hence may also increase water retention within the body.
So Which Creatine Is Best?
Once upon a time Creatine Monohydrate was the best form of creatine due to availability, price point and value per gram. That is now a thing of the past and with other options now available that promise the same desirable effects as Creatine Monohydrate without the undesirable side-effects, it really comes down to personal preference.
We tend to prefer Creatine HCL; if you can have all the desirable effects of Creatine Monohydrate and you only have to take one fifth of the amount, why wouldn’t you? Not to mention that even though the price per gram of Creatine HCL is much higher than other forms of creatine, the price per day of efficacious use is often much lower.
Ultimately the choice is yours. Choose your creatine wisely. And may the gains be with you!