When supplementation first started to see a dramatic rise in popularity decades ago, your options were limited. Now, you can literally spend days going over all of your options. One of the classic supplements has evolved over time as well. Creatine has become a staple to every type of fitness enthusiast from the athlete to the weekend warrior. The difference is that you have more to choose from than just Creatine Monohydrate.
Let's take a look at the different types of creatine, their differences, and which one will serve you best.
Proven Benefits of Creatine
Before we discuss the differences between each form of creatine, let's quickly review the benefits that have been shown by science.
Many studies have confirmed that creatine is an effective means of supplementation when it comes to supporting athletic performance. Creatine is used during high energy demands such as exercise. 5 grams of creatine a day has been shown to support these energy demands, improving intra-workout performance.
Creatine is famously used by bodybuilders as a means to support lean muscle mass. Creatine does NOT directly increase muscle size. What it does is improve performance. Through better performance, your strength and power levels will increase. From this, you'll see better results in terms of muscle size. (1, 2)
Now that we have our benefits laid out, let's take a look at the highlights between each type.
This is the classic form of Creatine. Through leaps and bounds in supplementation technology, we now have a monohydrate without the bloating side effects that were commonly reported years ago. This is the subject of most studies so you can't go wrong with Monohydrate as it's extremely effective and inexpensive.
Micronized is famous for having a smaller particle size. You're still getting Creatine Monohydrate but you'll need less of a dose. You'll notice the serving sizes are very small. It offers the same benefits as Monohydrate and it's been reported by companies to have a better absorption rate but this has never been proven in an official study. It's usually a bit more expensive than Monohydrate.
This is Creatine Monohydrate that has an organic compound known as an Ester attached to it. Does this mean it's better for you? No. Creatine Ethyl Ester has been shown to be less effective than Monohydrate. It's reported to have a higher absorption rate but again, this has never been shown. Price wise, it's usually much more expensive than Monohydrate.
As the name suggests, Malate is made up of three Creatine Monohydrate molecules and they are combined by one molecule of malic acid. So what does this mean for you? Although studies have yet to prove this, it's been reported that the molecule of malic acid greatly increases absorption and assimilation resulting in better recovery, energy, and performance.
You don't see Buffered Creatine as much but those few companies swear that it's superior to Monohydrate. It's claimed to be fully absorbed by the body without resulting wasting of the creatine product. One popular study proved this to be untrue. It was tested against the classic Monohydrate. The results showed Buffered Creatine was inferior to the bodybuilding original. (3)
Finally, we have Liquid Creatine. You'd think being in liquid form would be beneficial for absorption and effectiveness but this isn't the case. Creatine is faster to breakdown in its liquid form, making it less effective.
Despite the big claims made by supplement companies, Creatine Monohydrate is still king. With Monohydrate you know what to expect because all of the studies have been based on it. It's proven and it's inexpensive so what more could you ask for? If I had to pick one more type of creatine to buy, it would be Tri-Creatine Malate but only if it's on sale.
- Kreider RB. Effects of creatine supplementation on performance and training adaptations. Mol Cell Biochem. 2003 Feb;244(1-2):89-94.
- Robert Cooper, Fernando Naclerio, Judith Allgrove, and Alfonso Jimenez. Creatine supplementation with specific view to exercise/sports performance: an update. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012; 9: 33. Published online 2012 Jul 20. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-9-33.
- Andrew R Jagim, Jonathan M Oliver, Adam Sanchez, Elfego Galvan, James Fluckey, Steven Riechman, Michael Greenwood, Katherine Kelly, Cynthia Meininger, Christopher Rasmussen, and Richard B Kreider. A buffered form of creatine does not promote greater changes in muscle creatine content, body composition, or training adaptations than creatine monohydrate. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012; 9: 43. Published online 2012 Sep 13. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-9-43.