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Creatine has the potential to improve performance and body composition, but not all types of creatine are created equal.
The 10 types of creatine ranked from best to worst are:
- Creatine monohydrate
- Creatine hydrochloride
- Buffered creatine
- Creatine magnesium chelate
- Creatine nitrate
- Creatine citrate
- Creatine pyruvate
- Creatine malate
- Creatine gluconate
- Creatine ethyl ester
Before you begin supplementing with creatine, it’s important to understand how it works so you’re maximizing your results. It also helps to know which type you should look for when choosing a supplement.
After reading this article, you’ll learn:
- What creatine is
- How creatine works
- What benefits there are to taking creatine
- What different forms of creatine exist
- Which type of creatine is the best for you
What Is Creatine?
Creatine is a chemical that your body produces that helps your muscles produce energy, especially when you’re strength training. However, your body has limited stores of creatine, so it is easily depleted.
Creatine can also be found in animal products such as beef, eggs, seafood, and dairy products. Therefore, those who are vegan or consume limited animal products probably aren’t maximizing their creatine stores.
How Does Creatine Work?
There are three energy systems that produce energy in the body, but the one we’re most interested in for creatine is the phosphocreatine system.
The phosphocreatine system produces energy the fastest, which is why it’s best for high-intensity, short-duration exercise. This is the system that your body relies on the most for high-intensity strength and power exercises like weightlifting, powerlifting, throwing, and sprints.
The downside to this energy system is that it’s very short-lived. Therefore, these intense efforts aren’t sustained, meaning that you can only do so much work before you become fatigued.
Creatine has been identified as a limiting factor in this energy system because when creatine is depleted in your muscles, you will be too fatigued and unable to exert the same amount of force.
For this reason, creatine is often supplemented in hopes that the time to fatigue will be delayed, allowing for more work to be accomplished while strength training.
By supplementing with creatine, you can top up your body’s creatine stores and delay the time to fatigue. This is beneficial because if you could normally do 3 reps with a certain weight before becoming too fatigued, perhaps with creatine supplementation you can now do 5 or 6 reps at that same weight.
Although this may seem minor, the extra reps do add up over time to increase your strength and power. This can improve your athletic ability and also your body composition due to the increase in muscle mass and force-generating capabilities.
Benefits of Creatine
The benefits of creatine are that it:
- Improves Strength Gains: Creatine supplementation with strength training has been shown to produce greater strength gains than strength training alone.
- Improves Power Output: Creatine supplementation resulted in increased power output in already trained power athletes.
- Increases Lean Mass: Those who supplement with creatine appear to have increased success with muscle hypertrophy likely due to higher quality training sessions.
- Enhances Cognitive Function: Creatine supplementation has also been shown to have positive effects on memory and intelligence by improving processing speed.
Different Ways You Consume Creatine
The different ways that you can consume creatine are:
- Creatine pills
- Creatine powder
- Natural forms of creatine
Creatine pills are capsules that dissolve once consumed to release creatine into your system and are available for many different types of creatine.
Creatine pills are ideal for those who enjoy the convenience of simply taking a pill rather than having to scoop out and mix a powder.
One thing to be aware of with creatine pills is that the dosage of creatine in each pill will be different across each brand of creatine. Therefore, you may have to take more than one pill to get the optimal serving of creatine.
- If you want to know exactly how much creatine to take for your bodyweight and goals, use our Creatine Calculator
Creatine powder is another form of creatine that you can purchase for creatine supplementation. It comes in many different types of creatine.
Additionally, there are different ways that you can purchase creatine in powder form:
as a component of another supplement (stack) or by itself (pure creatine powder).
Stacks vs Powders
A stack that contains creatine can be effective if a higher quality type of creatine is used and the dosage is sufficient. However, the stack should be something that you take every day as creatine is most effective when consumed daily.
The most common stack that you will find is pre-workout that also contains creatine. This could be a great option for those who want the convenience of taking one product that provides multiple supplements.
However, it may not be the best option if you don’t plan to take a pre-workout every day (which you probably won’t do on rest days).
- Learn more about taking creatine with pre-workout in Can You Mix Creatine With Pre-Workout? Yes, Here’s How To Do It.
With creatine powders, there is more control over the type of creatine that you’re getting and the dosage. Daily consumption is not limited by other supplement inclusions.
All in all, I recommend creatine powder more than a stack that contains creatine because of the versatility and quality control of the creatine powder.
- Related Article: Are There Risks of Taking Creatine? 6 Side Effects Explained
Natural Forms Of Creatine
Creatine can also be consumed naturally by eating foods that are rich in creatine like red meat, seafood, eggs, and dairy. However, it’s hard to get enough creatine from foods compared to a supplement.
For this reason, it’s likely best to choose a supplement rather than trying to get enough creatine from the food itself.
Does The Type of Creatine Matter?
The type of creatine does matter for the best results. It’s important to choose creatine that has been scientifically proven to produce the results you’re looking for so that you’re not wasting your money.
Creatine is one of the most well-researched supplements on the market, but there are still some forms of creatine that aren’t proven to be as effective as other types.
The goal of this article is to help you navigate the many different types of creatine and find one that is scientifically proven to work and fits your needs.
- Related Article: Creatine vs Pre Workout
10 Types of Creatine: Ranked Best To Worst
1. Creatine Monohydrate
Creatine monohydrate is the gold standard of creatine because it is the purest form and has been the most well-researched type of creatine on the market.
Creatine monohydrate is made by the bonding of creatine to a water molecule. This form of creatine has been shown to produce the best results and is absorbed more effectively than all other forms of creatine.
Most of the studies evaluating the effectiveness of creatine on strength, power, and cognitive function use creatine monohydrate.
Creatine monohydrate is commonly consumed in powder form or pill form, but some supplement stacks contain creatine monohydrate along with another supplement (typically pre-workout). But these are few and far between.
My favorite brand of creatine monohydrate is PEScience’s TruCreatine, which is a creatine powder.
This is my favorite creatine product because one scoop gives me the recommended dose (5g) and it is third-party tested, which means that this supplement has been evaluated by a third party for quality control and label accuracy.
2. Creatine Hydrochloride
Creatine hydrochloride is another promising type of creatine on the market because it appears to be absorbed better by the body and easier on your digestive system.
Creatine hydrochloride is made by combining creatine with a hydrochloride molecule, which is more soluble in water and has been suggested to absorb more easily once consumed.
This is why the serving size for creatine hydrochloride is only 1 gram, whereas the serving size for creatine monohydrate is 5 grams.
Additionally, there is anecdotal evidence that creatine hydrochloride consumption doesn’t result in stomach cramps in individuals who have had stomach cramps when taking creatine monohydrate.
Although creatine hydrochloride sounds promising, there is limited research supporting these claims, especially in humans. There also hasn’t been enough research comparing its effectiveness to that of creatine monohydrate.
For those who have experienced stomach cramps when taking creatine monohydrate, it may be worth trying creatine hydrochloride. My recommendation for a creatine hydrochloride supplement is the Kaged Muscle Creatine HCL Capsules because they’re convenient and third-party tested.
- If you’re having issues with your creatine clumping, check out this article on getting creatine to dissolve better.
3. Buffered Creatine
Buffered creatine is a type of creatine that is combined with some type of basic powder like bicarbonate to increase the pH of the creatine.
This type of creatine was created because it was hypothesized that making the creatine more basic would result in less breakdown of creatine during digestion and improve its absorption by the muscles.
There isn’t enough research to say whether the buffered creatine truly improves the absorption of creatine and provides the same benefits that creatine monohydrate provides.
There have been studies showing that buffered creatine does not promote greater training adaptations than creatine monohydrate but could produce similar results.
Ultimately, more research is needed before buffered creatine can be recommended with the same certainty as creatine monohydrate.
The most popular product on the market for buffered creatine is Kre-Alkalyn Creatine, which is sold in pill form. Although the product itself isn’t third-party tested, the facility that it’s made in seems to have been certified to be quality assured.
4. Creatine Magnesium Chelate
Creatine magnesium chelate is another type of creatine that is made by bonding the creatine molecule to magnesium.
This type of creatine is intriguing because studies have shown that most people are deficient in magnesium. This would mean that if it’s effective, creatine magnesium chelate could produce more results beyond that of creatine itself.
However, like many other creatine derivatives, there isn’t much evidence supporting its effectiveness at this time.
That being said, one study involving creatine magnesium chelate got some attention because they found that supplementing with creatine magnesium chelate resulted in less water retention than what is observed with creatine monohydrate supplementation.
This could be promising for those who need to maintain a leaner physique or lower body mass for competition, but more research is required.
The main product for creatine magnesium chelate is called MagnaPower, which is typically used in a stack with pre-workout rather than on its own. The most popular pre-workout that contains MagnaPower is NutraBio’s Pre-Workout Powder, which comes in 7 different flavors.
5. Creatine Nitrate
Creatine nitrate is a newer form of creatine that has been developed by combining a creatine molecule and a nitrate molecule.
Creatine nitrate is intriguing because there are benefits to nitrate consumption and there are benefits to creatine supplementation, but their effectiveness together hasn’t been studied enough to form a conclusion.
The research that does exist seems promising, with results showing that although it wasn’t as effective as creatine monohydrate, those who took creatine nitrate had better performance outcomes than those who took the placebo.
The most popular product containing creatine nitrate is Cellucor’s C4 Pre-workout Powder. The creatine nitrate is identified on the label as NO3-T (Cellucor’s specific brand of creatine nitrate).
6. Creatine Citrate
Creatine citrate is a type of creatine that combines a creatine molecule with citric acid, which is in citrus fruits and many nutritional supplements, to enhance flavor. Creatine citrate is most often found in stacks that contain creatine rather than in powder form by itself.
There is evidence to suggest that creatine citrate is more soluble in water than creatine monohydrate, but that doesn’t seem to make it more effectively absorbed in the body.
7. Creatine Pyruvate
Creatine Pyruvate is a type of creatine that combines a creatine molecule with pyruvic acid, which plays a role in many metabolic processes in the body. There is limited research surrounding the effectiveness of creatine pyruvate.
The research that does exist claims that creatine pyruvate supplementation doesn’t benefit endurance or sprint performance. But participants in the study only supplemented creatine for 7 days, which likely isn’t enough time to produce results even if creatine pyruvate supplementation is beneficial.
As with many of these creatine supplements, more research is needed to verify whether creatine pyruvate is as effective as creatine monohydrate.
8. Creatine Malate
Creatine malate is composed of creatine combined with malic acid, which is also found in many fruits.
Creatine malate hasn’t been researched enough to form a conclusive opinion. However, the current studies that exist don’t provide much hope for its effectiveness.
9. Creatine Gluconate
Creatine gluconate is a type of creatine that involves bonding a creatine molecule to a molecule of glucose.
Creatine gluconate is probably the least researched form of creatine. As of right now, no studies exist on its effectiveness.
Therefore, creatine gluconate is near the bottom of the list of the best types of creatine. Without any research, it’s impossible to know how effective it is.
10. Creatine Ethyl Ester
Creatine ethyl ester is a form of creatine that is bound to chemical compounds called esters. It was developed primarily due to the theory that it could be better absorbed than other types of creatine and therefore more effective.
However, this proves to be untrue in many studies assessing the effectiveness of creatine ethyl ester.
In a study comparing creatine monohydrate and creatine ethyl ester, researchers determined that creatine ethyl ester had no impact on improvements in body composition, strength gain, or muscle gain.
Although there is limited research on many alternative forms of creatine supplementation, creatine ethyl ester is in last place because it has been researched and is not effective.
What Form of Creatine Is Best? My Recommendation
When looking for a creatine monohydrate, pill or powder form is a great option and mostly comes down to personal preference if the dosage is equated.
I always recommend choosing products that have been third-party tested to ensure quality control and to confirm that there aren’t any undisclosed banned substances in your creatine.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Type of Creatine Is In Bang?
The creatine present in Bang energy drinks has been branded “Super Creatine.” It is a creatine bonded with leucine (an amino acid), but there has been some debate about whether this product is truly absorbed as creatine or is just a waste product.
What Type of Creatine Is in C4?
The creatine present in C4 is creatine nitrate, which is a creatine molecule bonded with nitrate. This form of creatine has little research supporting its effectiveness and the product only has 1 gram of creatine per serving, which likely isn’t enough to be beneficial.
What Type of Creatine Is in Meat?
Creatine in meat is a naturally occurring creatine and therefore is the purest form of creatine that you can consume. But you likely won’t get enough creatine to illicit the same benefits as creatine supplementation.
Although creatine is one of the most well-researched supplements, not all types of creatine have been studied as extensively as creatine monohydrate. For this reason, creatine monohydrate continues to be the best form of creatine on the market for the majority of people.
Learn More About Creatine Supplementation
- How Long For Creatine To Work?
- Does Creatine Make You Look Bigger
- What Happens When You Stop Creatine
- Does Creatine Make You More Vascular?
- Can You Build Muscle Without Creatine?
- Does Creatine Help You Lose Weight?
- Does Creatine Break a Fast?
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About The Author
Amanda Parker is an author, nutrition coach, and Certified Naturopath. She works with bodybuilders, Olympic weightlifters, and powerlifters to increase performance through nutrition and lifestyle coaching.