Creatine is such a popular dietary supplement that you’ve almost certainly heard of it even if you’re not a fitness enthusiast. Frankly, it appears in virtually every modern protein shake or mass gainer, and is particularly useful for bodybuilders, weightlifters, athletes and practically everyone.
That said, even casual athletes can benefit from it – as well as the average person who may work out occasionally. There have been literally thousands of medical research studies conducted with creatine as the subject of interest. When you compare it to the numerous dietary supplements on the market, creatine comes out on top in a variety of metrics – including the most used.
Not all creatine is created equally, however. Even in this stratified realm, the most common is creatine monohydrate; basically, it is creatine that has a water molecules attached to it to facilitate consumption and utility by your muscle cells. With all that said, let’s jump right into a handful of the most important reasons why creatine monohydrate is the superior form of this dietary supplement.
Creatine Monohydrate Is Fully Backed by Science
In the beginning of this article, we stated that there have been many thousands of studies analyzing the effectiveness of creatine monohydrate (as well as creating in general). In fact, out of all the studies done on the many forms of creatine available for ingestion, creatine monohydrate studies represent the lion share of that allotment.
As for the other available forms of creatine, here is a short list of them to make it easier to read the labels and find out if your pre-workout supplement contains the desired form:
- Creatine in liquid form
- Creatine ethyl ester
- The magnesium chelate form of creatine
- Buffered creatine
- Creatine hydrochloride (HCL)
Although every single one of the above forms of creatine have several studies conducted to determine their efficacy, they amount to a very small fraction of the total studies done overall when it comes to how they affect people.
On the other hand, when it comes to creatine monohydrate, the many studies conducted have been done directly with human subjects. The results are indisputable: the monohydrate form of creatine when taken as a supplement prior to and after exercising, benefits the user through enhanced exercise performance, cognitive benefits, and of course muscle gain.
If you want some numbers on the matter, particular studies have shown that subjects taking creatine monohydrate and using it as part of a weight training program spanning several weeks experienced elevated muscle mass and strength gains of between 5 to 10% over those who engaged in a weight training program without taking creatine monohydrate (in the studies, it took a placebo).
In fact, a research paper compiling data from numerous other medical studies and published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information was able to demonstrate that out of all the creatine supplements tested, creatine monohydrate came out on top when it comes to building muscle mass and strength.
Creatine Monohydrate: A Superior Financial Value
Perhaps it isn’t surprising that creatine monohydrate is the most cost-effective variant of the on-market forms of creatine. Because there are so many studies backing its effectiveness, this is inevitably led to manufacturers prioritizing its utility in their pre-workout supplement powders. In fact, it isn’t all that easy to find the other types of creatine in tablet form – but creatine monohydrate is readily available in the latter.
There’s also the issue of the fact that creatine monohydrate is often sold as a single ingredient, instead of being combined into a mixture as is often the case with the other types of creatine. The numerous studies that stretch back several decades have certainly contributed to how relatively inexpensive creatine monohydrate is to produce. Understandably, the steep competition has also led to the inevitable aspect of supply and demand: the monohydrate form is cheaper as a result of the existence of numerous suppliers.
As an example of what you might expect when you go to the store, it will set you back about $50 to buy the standard 2.2 pound container of creatine monohydrate. This amounts to 1 kg; the standard recommended dose of creatine per day ranges from 3 to 5 grams; a quick calculation shows you that a single standard container can last you almost a year if you take 3 g per day, or about seven months if you take 5 g per day.
Keeping in mind that 1 kg of creatine monohydrate averages about $50, consider the cost of some of the less popular forms of creatine: the Ethel Esther or hydrochloride variant. For the same amount of 1 kg, you have to pay $60+. Furthermore, it’s not always easy to find a supplier that sells the single ingredient when it comes to the latter forms.
Insomnia and creatine monohydrate has two major advantages when it comes to the economics: it’s the most inexpensive form of creatine on the market, and it is also the easiest one to find being sold as a single ingredient unmixed with fillers.
Has a Legacy of Safety
Although most of the hundreds to thousands of studies done on creatine monohydrate was to ascertain its effectiveness in a workout regimen, the bulk of them also displayed just how safe it is to consume the supplement. Indeed, there’s a ringing endorsement from the International Society of Sports Nutrition: “There is no compelling scientific evidence that the short-term or the long-term use of the monohydrate form of creatine will confer any adverse effects on the users#8221;.
In addition to this, there have been recent studies in the past half-decade which continues to show that creatine monohydrate is safe for consumption. There hasn’t been a single reported detrimental episode where the supplement is concerned. In official studies, the results have been the same – none of the subjects experience adverse effects from the doses given during the study.
In fact, creatine monohydrate is so safe that even when the supplement is imbibed in doses that are higher than the recommended amount, there have still been no adverse effects reported. More specifically consider the recommended daily dose of between 3 g and 5 g; there have been instances where users have imbibed 10 times this much every single day for half a decade and there have been known safety issues reported. A large part of this is due to the fact that the body naturally produces creatine in your muscle cells, and certain foods such as milk and broccoli contain moderate amounts.
The primary side effect of using creatine monohydrate is an increase in muscle mass – which can also be recorded simply as weight gain, in case the user wasn’t particularly interested in adding muscle. However, if you take creatine regularly and lift weights, some weight gain – i.e. muscle mass increase – is almost inevitable.
It’s more appropriate to call this weight increase muscle mass increase, since one of the results of creatine production and use in the muscle cells is to increase the water content of said cells. This is an effect that occurs on the way to building muscle during the post workout recovery phase.
In conclusion for this subsection, creatine monohydrate is about as safe as they come. Presumably, the other forms of creatine may behave similarly – but the primary difference between them and monohydrate is that there are numerous studies on the latter. There simply aren’t enough studies to confidently ascertain the prolonged safety of the non-monohydrate forms of creatine.
Ease of Acquisition
If you’ve ever gone on a hunt for the various forms of creatine, then it probably became clear to you after a while that creatine monohydrate is available everywhere, whereas creatine ethyl ester, buffer creatine, creatine hydrochloride, creatine magnesium chelate, and creatine is liquid form are simply not nearly as available – in addition to being quite a bit more expensive per serving.
In your search you probably also found that many of the forms of creatine are only sold mixed together with the other elements of a pre-workout powder. The monohydrate form is the only one that is regularly and popularly sold as a single ingredient. This is actually one of the reasons why creatine monohydrate can be solved relatively inexpensively; when you buy the other variations of creatine, you’re almost always compelled to pay for the extra ingredients that are mixing with each one.
When you go searching for pre-workout supplements, keep an eye out for a specific phrase “proprietary blend”. Many times – not always, however – you are paying for largely useless ingredients in this proprietary plan that is mixed in with the other forms of creatine. More often than not, a lot of the other ingredients have little to no scientific support in terms of their performance-enhancement claims.
Although we are touting creatine monohydrate for legitimate reasons, this is not to say that you cannot find variants such as creatine ethyl ester and creatine hydrochloride; in fact you very well can find them – it’s just that they aren’t nearly as available whether you search in brick-and-mortar stores or in the online space, including Amazon.
Juxtapose this with the fact that creatine monohydrate is quickly and readily found from just about any source that sells pre-workout supplements. You can always buy it as a standalone ingredient, or as part of a protein powder, masking or, or pre-workout supplement. It stands head and shoulders above the rest in terms of how easy it is to locate.
Creatine Monohydrate is Effective As a Performance Enhancer
The following is a cooperative analysis, since it is pretty clear from a previous point (the one denoting the sheer breadth of scientific backing through research trials concerning creatine monohydrate) that it has been successfully tried as a performance enhancer in thousands of double-blind research studies. Specifically, creatine monohydrate has been proven to elevate your exercise performance, increase your muscle mass, and enhance both your strength and power during the workout and afterwards.
There’ve also been several corporate analyses involving creatine monohydrate and the other variations of creatine mentioned in this review. For example there have been some tests done on creatine ethyl ester and the liquid form; the monohydrate variant has contributed greater results to overall exercise performance in the studies.
In a particular study, it was shown that although creatine ethyl ester does flood the body with useful creatine, creatine monohydrate is able to swallow a greater density of creatine into the blood and muscles for a greater effect towards workout performance.
The results are even more convincing when comparing creatine monohydrate to liquid creatine: in a study gauging the performance of bicyclists, those who took liquid creatine did not notice an improvement in their performance. On the other hand, those who imbibed creatine monohydrate powder before their workout consistently noticed a 10% increase in their performance.
The results are different when it comes to weightlifting exercises. Creatine magnesium chelate and buffered creatine were effective in elevating performance in weightlifting movements such as the bench press, as well as in how much power the subjects produced during a cycling event. It turns out that they improve exercise performance in these avenues just as well as creatine monohydrate.
There are several forms of creatine available for those wishing to enhance their exercise performance; creatine monohydrate consistently shows to be the superior form for several reasons.
The monohydrate variant shows better results than creatine ethyl ester and the liquid form of creatine. It has been shown to perform just as well as creatine magnesium chelate and the buffer form of creatine; however the number of studies involving monohydrate far exceeds the number of studies involving magnesium chelate and the buffered form of creatine.
With that said, creatine monohydrate is still easier to find, cheaper, and more readily available than any of the other variations.
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