Creatine Monohydrate vs HCL: Which Is Better? Pros & Cons

Creatine is one of the best sports supplements, with creatine monohydrate and creatine HCL being the most popular types. If you’re new to creatine supplementation, you probably wonder which type is best for you. Let’s break it down.

Key Takeaways

  • Creatine monohydrate is the most popular and best-studied form of creatine, with countless studies showing its efficacy and safety at three to five grams daily doses. 
  • HCL is also popular and is claimed to absorb better and deliver the same benefits at smaller doses of one to two grams daily; however, there isn’t enough research to verify these claims.
  • Despite the claims and marketing hype, creatine HCL doesn’t seem superior to monohydrate. It doesn’t appear to be absorbed better, doesn’t deliver additional performance benefits, and costs more than twice as much (when comparing clinically effective doses).
Creatine Monohydrate vs HCL

Creatine Overview

Throughout the decades, countless athletes, gym-goers, and fitness enthusiasts have supplemented with creatine to improve their performance, boost strength gains, and recover better following workouts.

Creatine supports adenosine triphosphate (ATP) synthesis (energy production), which is particularly beneficial during intense exercise. During this exercise, the body can break down ATP molecules (the body’s energy currency) up to 1000 times quicker than usual.

Once you burn through the available ATP, your muscles don’t have the energy to keep contracting, and you get tired, unable to continue your activity without taking a break.

By providing phosphate molecules for ATP synthesis, creatine helps the body to generate energy more quickly. As a result, you can train harder for longer by keeping fatigue at bay and even recover more quickly between sets.

  • Check out this video for a more in-depth overview of how creatine works.

Creatine Monohydrate

understanding creatine monohydrate

Creatine monohydrate is the most popular form of the compound.

It is often deemed the best because it is the most widely studied form of creatine. The extensive research on creatine monohydrate demonstrates its effectiveness in increasing muscle creatine levels.

Creatine monohydrate is made by binding creatine to water molecules and is shown to absorb better than other creatine forms. Creatine monohydrate is a white, tasteless powder that mixes well with liquids and isn’t too unpleasant to ingest. 

You can purchase creatine monohydrate on its own, in pill form, or stacked with other supplements in a pre-workout or protein powder.

I recommend using creatine monohydrate powder as a stand-alone supplement as it is more affordable and convenient for daily supplementation.

Creatine HCL

understanding creatine hcl

Creatine HCL (hydrochloride) is another popular form of creatine that binds creatine to hydrochloride molecules. 

HCL is suggested to absorb better and is easier on the digestive system. One reason is that hydrochloride is very soluble in water, which means it mixes well with liquids. 

Creatine HCL is an alternative to monohydrate for people who experience stomach discomfort with creatine supplementation. Anecdotal evidence suggests that creatine causes less GI discomfort, reducing nausea and bloating.

That said, there isn’t nearly as much research on its effectiveness and how well people tolerate it.

Monohydrate vs HCL: Differences in Absorption and Solubility

Creatine HCL is far more soluble than monohydrate, which means a significantly smaller amount of liquid (e.g., water) is enough to dissolve an effective dose. 

Elliot Reimers (Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and Certified Nutrition Coach) explains:

“Creatine monohydrate is slightly soluble in water (at room temperature and neutral pH); a full liter of water is needed to fully dissolve just under 14 grams of creatine monohydrate. On the contrary, creatine hydrochloride (HCl) exhibits 41-fold greater water solubility than creatine monohydrate.”

Creatine HCL’s increased solubility means it absorbs better in the body; therefore, less is excreted as waste.

In theory, this should also mean smaller doses of HCL are enough to produce the same effects you would get from 3-5 grams of monohydrate daily.

However, research comparing the two forms is lacking, and longer-term studies with more participants are necessary.

Monohydrate vs HCL: Efficacy and Performance Benefits

The effectiveness of creatine monohydrate is shown in countless studies over several decades, whereas research surrounding the efficacy of creatine HCL is lacking.

Meta-analyses and reviews have concluded that monohydrate supplementation improves athletic performance (particularly for more intense activities, such as sprinting and weight training), supports muscle recovery, and may improve overall cognition

According to 20+ studies with 721 participants aged 57 to 70, it even benefits older adults.

However, despite the proven benefits of creatine monohydrate, experts and supplement manufacturers often claim that other creatine forms, such as hydrochloride, are better.

But is that true?

In one 2022 paper, researchers compared creatine monohydrate to 16 other types of creatine, including hydrochloride. One of their findings was that HCL doesn’t appear to be more effective than monohydrate. 

The paper’s authors acknowledge the claimed benefits of HCL but suggest that it doesn’t get absorbed better than monohydrate, doesn’t lead to higher creatine retention in the muscles, and doesn’t appear more effective at lower doses––all ‘benefits’ you’ve likely heard before.

Also, given that creatine timing doesn’t matter (you can take it whenever you want), HCL is not better for athletes than traditional monohydrate. 

Even if creatine causes mild GI discomfort that can affect workout performance, simply take it several hours before or after working out to minimize risks and avoid taking it on an empty stomach.

Monohydrate vs HCL: Potential Side Effects

Potential side effects of creatine supplementation include diarrhea, muscle cramps, and elevated blood pressure

That said, these are extremely rare and primarily based on anecdotal reports (click to read a Reddit thread of people sharing their experience), which are not always reliable. 

Most people who report side effects with creatine supplementation indicate mild stomach discomfort: nausea, bloating, and stomach cramps.

These symptoms are more likely to occur during a loading phase (where the person takes 20-25 grams daily for up to a week) or if the person takes creatine on an empty stomach.

To avoid most side effects, take creatine monohydrate with food and break up the 20-25-gram daily dose into multiple smaller ones during a loading phase, or skip the loading phase altogether and stick to 3-5 grams daily.

Creatine HCL is often praised as a milder compound that delivers the same benefits in smaller doses without causing stomach discomfort. 

However, as we saw from one paper above, HCL doesn’t appear to be as effective at lower doses. 

Because of that, it’s difficult to say that it doesn’t lead to the same side effects. The best thing to do is test yourself and see which type feels better, especially if you experience GI discomfort from monohydrate.

Monohydrate vs HCL: Dosage Recommendations

Creatine Monohydrate

  • Dosage: 3 to 5 grams daily.
  • Loading: Optional (20-25 grams daily for five to seven days).
  • Timing: Doesn’t matter.
  • With food: You can take it with food to minimize the risk of GI discomfort.
  • How to take: Mix with water, milk, or juice (200-250 ml) and drink.

Creatine HCL

  • Dosage: 3 to 5 grams daily.
  • Loading: Optional (same as monohydrate).
  • Timing: Doesn’t matter.
  • With food: Same as monohydrate.
  • How to take: Mix it with water, milk, or juice (50-100 ml would be enough) and drink.

Monohydrate vs HCL: Cost and Availability

To understand the price difference, let’s quickly compare PEScience’s TruCreatine (one of my favorite monohydrates) and BEYOND RAW Chemistry Labs Creatine HCl, which has an average price and a solid 4.5-star rating on Amazon.

A 161-gram container (32 five-gram doses) of PEScience’s TruCreatine costs $19.99. Therefore, each dose costs $0.62, and the amount is enough to last you a solid month (not including a loading phase).

You can also get a 482-gram container with 96 five-gram doses that costs $49.99. It will last over three months, costing $0.51 per dose. 

Now, let’s look at the HCL product. It costs $32.99 for 120 grams (advertised to have 60 servings, which is more cost-effective than monohydrate). 

However, as discussed above, the claim that HCL is more ‘efficient’ and delivers the same benefits at a smaller dose is not backed by research. 

Therefore, if we apply the five-gram per serving rule, we get 24 doses or $1.37 per dose. There is also a 240-gram container that costs around $54.99, and its price per dose is $1.14.

So, as you can see, monohydrate is far cheaper (especially if you buy a larger container) at less than half the price per dose of HCL.

Expert Opinions: Which Is Better?

Before concluding, let’s hear from the experts (nutritionists, coaches, and researchers) to see what they say about the choice between creatine monohydrate and HCL.

First, we have Elliot Reimers on the comparison between monohydrate and all other forms:

“Creatine monohydrate continues to be the most-studied sports supplement (literally), followed closely by none other than good ol’ caffeine. While creatine HCl is arguably the best of the novel forms of creatine on the market, more research is needed before we can conclude that it should supplant creatine monohydrate as the gold standard.”

Next up, there is Ph.D. and certified strength and conditioning coach Eric Trexler on HCL solubility:

“The solubility of creatine hydrochloride and micronized creatine monohydrate might be a little better than normal creatine monohydrate, but you could also obtain this enhancement in solubility by simply mixing regular creatine monohydrate into a warm beverage.”

There is also Mike Matthews, a certified personal trainer and the founder of Legion Athletics: 

“Research shows that creatine of any kind improves your athletic performance in numerous ways. However, no type of creatine is as well-studied, safe, cost-effective, and reliable as creatine monohydrate. Thus, monohydrate is the clear winner in a battle between creatine monohydrate vs. HCL.”

Finally, here’s what Jose Antonio and colleagues wrote in a paper published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition:

Despite the known efficacy, safety, and low cost of creatine monohydrate; a number of different forms of creatine have been marketed as more effective with fewer anecdotally reported adverse effects. 

These marketing efforts have fueled speculation that creatine monohydrate is not the most effective or safest form of creatine to consume. This notion is clearly refuted by understanding the well-known physio-chemical properties of creatine monohydrate, as well as current creatine supplementation literature.”

As you can see, the experts agree that creatine monohydrate is still the gold standard form of creatine, and there isn’t enough research to suggest that creatine HCL is as effective.

Other Creatine Comparisons

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you switch between creatine monohydrate and HCL without any issues?

Yes, the two creatine types work similarly when taken at doses of three to five grams daily, and you can switch from one form to the other at any time.

How should these supplements be taken for optimal results (timing, with meals, etc.)?

Timing your creatine intake doesn’t matter, so it mostly comes down to convenience. I recommend taking it with food or after eating to minimize the risk of GI discomfort.

Is there a need to cycle off either form of creatine?

There is no research to suggest that cycling creatine is better in any way, so feel free to take it daily.

I’ve heard HCL is bad for your teeth, is that true?

There is no data on the matter, and creatine HCL is not known to harm tooth health. However, it never hurts to rinse your mouth after supplementation if you have concerns.

Is creatine monohydrate or HCL easier on the stomach?

HCL is generally considered easier on the stomach because of its better solubility, but that may vary from person to person. Give HCL a try if monohydrate leads to GI discomfort.

Is HCL supposed to provide the same strength gains as monohydrate?

HCL is supposed to provide the same benefits as monohydrate but at lower doses of one to two grams. However, research doesn’t support these claims, and you need to take the standard dose of three to five grams to see results.

Is there any water retention from HCL like there is from monohydrate?

Creatine supplementation causes more water to be drawn to the muscles, which differs from subcutaneous fluid retention (bloating). HCL will have the same effect as monohydrate if taken at the appropriate dose.


Kurosawa Y, Hamaoka T, Katsumura T, Kuwamori M, Kimura N, Sako T, Chance B. Creatine supplementation enhances anaerobic ATP synthesis during a single 10 sec maximal handgrip exercise. Mol Cell Biochem. 2003 Feb;244(1-2):105-12. PMID: 12701817.

Baker JS, McCormick MC, Robergs RA. Interaction among Skeletal Muscle Metabolic Energy Systems during Intense Exercise. J Nutr Metab. 2010;2010:905612. doi: 10.1155/2010/905612. Epub 2010 Dec 6. PMID: 21188163; PMCID: PMC3005844.

Rawson ES, Volek JS. Effects of creatine supplementation and resistance training on muscle strength and weightlifting performance. J Strength Cond Res. 2003 Nov;17(4):822-31. doi: 10.1519/1533-4287(2003)017<0822:eocsar>;2. PMID: 14636102.

Ribeiro F, Longobardi I, Perim P, Duarte B, Ferreira P, Gualano B, Roschel H, Saunders B. Timing of Creatine Supplementation around Exercise: A Real Concern? Nutrients. 2021 Aug 19;13(8):2844. doi: 10.3390/nu13082844. PMID: 34445003; PMCID: PMC8401986.

Antonio J, Candow DG, Forbes SC, Gualano B, Jagim AR, Kreider RB, Rawson ES, Smith-Ryan AE, VanDusseldorp TA, Willoughby DS, Ziegenfuss TN. Common questions and misconceptions about creatine supplementation: what does the scientific evidence really show? J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2021 Feb 8;18(1):13. doi: 10.1186/s12970-021-00412-w. PMID: 33557850; PMCID: PMC7871530.

Tarnopolsky, M. A., & MacLennan, D. P. (2000). Creatine Monohydrate Supplementation Enhances High-Intensity Exercise Performance in Males and Females.. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 10(4), 452-463. Retrieved Jan 26, 2024, from

Wax B, Kerksick CM, Jagim AR, Mayo JJ, Lyons BC, Kreider RB. Creatine for Exercise and Sports Performance, with Recovery Considerations for Healthy Populations. Nutrients. 2021 Jun 2;13(6):1915. doi: 10.3390/nu13061915. PMID: 34199588; PMCID: PMC8228369.

Avgerinos KI, Spyrou N, Bougioukas KI, Kapogiannis D. Effects of creatine supplementation on cognitive function of healthy individuals: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Exp Gerontol. 2018 Jul 15;108:166-173. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2018.04.013. Epub 2018 Apr 25. PMID: 29704637; PMCID: PMC6093191.

Chilibeck PD, Kaviani M, Candow DG, Zello GA. Effect of creatine supplementation during resistance training on lean tissue mass and muscular strength in older adults: a meta-analysis. Open Access J Sports Med. 2017 Nov 2;8:213-226. doi: 10.2147/OAJSM.S123529. PMID: 29138605; PMCID: PMC5679696.

Escalante G, Gonzalez AM, St Mart D, Torres M, Echols J, Islas M, Schoenfeld BJ. Analysis of the efficacy, safety, and cost of alternative forms of creatine available for purchase on are label claims supported by science? Heliyon. 2022 Dec 6;8(12):e12113. doi: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2022.e12113. PMID: 36544833; PMCID: PMC9761713.

Ribeiro F, Longobardi I, Perim P, Duarte B, Ferreira P, Gualano B, Roschel H, Saunders B. Timing of Creatine Supplementation around Exercise: A Real Concern? Nutrients. 2021 Aug 19;13(8):2844. doi: 10.3390/nu13082844. PMID: 34445003; PMCID: PMC8401986.

Antonio J, Candow DG, Forbes SC, Gualano B, Jagim AR, Kreider RB, Rawson ES, Smith-Ryan AE, VanDusseldorp TA, Willoughby DS, Ziegenfuss TN. Common questions and misconceptions about creatine supplementation: what does the scientific evidence really show? J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2021 Feb 8;18(1):13. doi: 10.1186/s12970-021-00412-w. PMID: 33557850; PMCID: PMC7871530.

About The Author

Giulia Rossetto

Giulia Rossetto is a qualified Dietitian and Nutritionist. She holds a Masters in Human Nutrition (University of Sheffield, UK) and more recently graduated as a Dietitian (University of Malta). Giulia aims to translate evidence-based science to the public through teaching and writing content. She has worked 4+ years in clinical settings and has also published articles in academic journals. She is into running, swimming and weight lifting, and enjoys spending time in the mountains (she has a soft spot for hiking and skiing in the Italian Dolomites).

Why Trust Our Content

FeastGood logo

On Staff at, we have Registered Dietitians, coaches with PhDs in Human Nutrition, and internationally ranked athletes who contribute to our editorial process. This includes research, writing, editing, fact-checking, and product testing/reviews. At a bare minimum, all authors must be certified nutrition coaches by either the National Academy of Sports Medicine, International Sport Sciences Association, or Precision Nutrition. Learn more about our team here.

Have a Question?

If you have any questions or feedback about what you’ve read, you can reach out to us at We respond to every email within 1 business day.