If you want to build muscle and gain strength, unless you live on an isolated island, you've likely heard of creatine supplements. Creatine is naturally occurring in muscles and helps produce exercise energy. However, choosing the right type of creatine can be challenging with so many creatine supplements available.
Creatine is naturally occurring in muscles and helps produce exercise energy. However, choosing the right type of creatine can be challenging with so many creatine supplements available. This article will discuss the differences between two popular forms of creatine: Creatine Monohydrate and Creatine HCL. We will explore their characteristics, compare their effectiveness, and help you determine which is best for your muscle-building goals. Additionally, we will cover when to take creatine monohydrate and discuss its safety.
Creatine use is widespread among recreational, collegiate, and professional athletes, with more than $400 million in annual sales. (Butts et al., 2018) Creatine is an amino acid naturally found in foods like red meat and seafood and synthesized in the body, and stored in skeletal muscle as phosphocreatine.(Kreider et al., 2017)
Sports nutrition experts recommend creatine supplementation for individuals seeking greater muscle mass and strength gains, particularly when combined with resistance training.(Buford et al., 2007) It is often used in with a pre-workout caffeine caffeine containing drink.
Creatine is an amino acid mainly found in the muscles and brain, produced by the liver, pancreas, and kidneys, and obtained from dietary sources like seafood and red meat. Creatine plays a vital role in energy production by aiding the formation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is required for muscle contractions and other energy-demanding processes in the body.
In addition to its effects on physical performance, creatine has been shown to have potential therapeutic effects in various clinical conditions, such as cancer, muscle dystrophy, and neurodegenerative disorders. Furthermore, creatine supplementation has been shown to improve glucose management and diabetes and to improve strength and function in patients with certain neuromuscular diseases. (Solis et al., 2021)
Additionally, creatine supplementation has been shown to increase brain creatine content in humans and has shown some promise for attenuating concussion symptoms, mild traumatic brain injury, and depression. (Forbes et al., 2022)
Creatine supplementation has been shown to increase brain creatine content in humans and has shown some promise for attenuating concussion symptoms. (Forbes et al., 2022)
What is Creatine?
Creatine monohydrate is a form of creatine supplement consisting of molecules bound to a single water molecule, giving it the name “monohydrate.” It is the most popular and well-researched form of creatine, with a high percentage of creatine content by weight (around 88-90%). Creatine monohydrate is a form of creatine that has been extensively studied and commonly used in dietary supplements since the early 1990s.(Antonio et al., 2021) It is the most studied form of creatine. It has been used in earlier studies to assess bioavailability, determine proper dosages, and assess the impact of oral ingestion of creatine on blood creatine and intramuscular creatine stores.
Benefits of Caffeine/Creatine Supplementation in a Pre-Workout
Creatine improves athletic performance with its numerous benefits.
Here are some potential benefits of creatine monohydrate:
- Creatine increases muscle strength and lean muscle mass, especially when you combine it with resistance training. (Branch, 2003)
- Creatine supplementation enhances muscle strength and power output, allowing athletes to lift heavier weights and complete more repetitions. (Olsen et al., 2006)
- Enhanced muscle endurance: By increasing ATP availability, creatine allows muscles to perform at higher intensities for extended periods, resulting in improved endurance. (Wax et al., 2021)
- Faster recovery: Creatine helps muscles recover more quickly following exercise, reducing muscle soreness and promoting faster gains in strength and size.
- Vegetarian benefits: Creatine is especially beneficial for vegetarians and those who consume little red meat. Scientific studies suggest that creatine supplementation can benefit vegetarians during exercise. Vegetarians often have lower creatine levels than their omnivorous counterparts due to the absence of meat in their diet, which is a natural source of creatine. One study found that creatine supplementation increased lean tissue mass, type II fiber area, insulin-like growth factor-1, muscular strength, endurance, Wingate mean power output, and brain function (memory and intelligence) in vegetarian participants.(Kaviani et al., 2020)
Nutrition: Can you get enough Creatine from Your Diet?
The belief that sufficient creatine can be acquired solely through diet has been disproven, as obtaining the optimal amounts for peak performance from food sources alone is challenging. With a solid safety record and substantial scientific evidence supporting its effectiveness, creatine monohydrate is a valuable supplement for athletes looking to increase their body mass and achieve greater gains in their strength training programs.
Although creatine is present in food sources such as red meat and fish, the quantities obtained through diet alone are generally inadequate for maximizing the benefits of creatine supplementation. Studies indicate that to achieve the equivalent of a standard 5-gram creatine supplement serving; an individual must consume approximately 2.2 pounds of raw beef or salmon daily.(Balsom et al., 1994) This approach is impractical and could pose health risks due to the elevated saturated fat and cholesterol levels associated with consuming such large quantities of animal protein.
Creatine plays an essential role in our metabolism and can help prevent dehydration, muscle cramping, and injuries. With a solid safety record and substantial scientific evidence supporting its effectiveness, creatine monohydrate is a valuable supplement for athletes looking to increase their body mass and achieve greater gains in their strength training programs.
Studies indicate that to achieve the equivalent of a standard 5-gram creatine supplement serving; an individual must consume approximately 2.2 pounds of raw beef or salmon daily.(Balsom et al., 1994)
Is creatine HCL same as monohydrate?
Creatine HCL (hydrochloride) is a newer form that combines creatine with hydrochloride. It is believed to be more soluble and absorbable than creatine monohydrate, potentially providing the same benefits with lower doses. Although not proven, Creatine HCL is supposed to have enhanced solubility makes it more stable and less susceptible to water retention and gastrointestinal issues.
Creatine Monohydrate vs Creatine HCL for Muscle Growth?
Creatine HCL is reported to have better absorption than creatine monohydrate, so let’s look at the research studies comparing creatine monohydrate to creatine HCL.
– The study “Analysis of the efficacy, safety, and regulatory status of novel forms of creatine” by Ralf Jäger, Martin Purpura, Andrew Shao, Toshitada Inoue, and Richard B. Kreider aimed to examine the bioavailability, efficacy, safety, and regulatory status of different forms of creatine that are sold as dietary supplements. They found that creatine monohydrate is the only source of creatine, with substantial evidence to support these claims. The study concluded that no other purported form of creatine (i.e., creatine HCL) was more effective than creatine monohydrate. (Jäger et al., 2011)
-A review paper by the ISSN concluded, “While some forms of creatine may be more soluble than creatine monohydrate when mixed in fluid, evidence-based research clearly shows creatine monohydrate to be the optimal choice.”(Antonio et al., 2021)
Creatine monohydrate is the most effective and well-researched form of creatine, with numerous studies supporting its benefits in muscle strength, size, and power. Myths about better absorption rates in other forms are unsupported by scientific evidence, and creatine monohydrate remains the most cost-effective option.
When to Take Creatine Monohydrate?
Loading Phase Dosage
For optimal benefits from creatine monohydrate supplementation, experts typically recommend starting with a loading phase and then transitioning to a maintenance phase. The loading phase typically involves consuming 20 grams of creatine per day, divided into four 5-gram servings, for 5-7 days. This phase aims to rapidly saturate the muscles with creatine, leading to faster performance and muscle growth improvements. However, this is not necessary. You can take 5 grams a day and saturate muscle creatine; it just takes longer.
Some individuals may skip the loading phase and begin with the maintenance dose immediately. While this approach will still result in increased muscle creatine levels, it may take longer (approximately three weeks) to reach the same saturation level as with the loading protocol. (Wu et al., 2022) It should also be mentioned that it does not matter when you take creatine; there is no superiority in taking it pre- or post-workout.