Types of Creatine: Which Is The Best?

Types of Creatine: Which Is The Best?

So you want to learn more about creatine, huh? Well, you’ve come to the right place.

Believe it or not, creatine has quite the history. The first time I had heard of creatine was on my middle school football field. In middle school, some kids hit puberty before others.

The ones who did were significantly bigger and stronger than the rest of us. Since we had no understanding of puberty or creatine ... we used to think that all of the "bigger kids" were taking creatine (as if they were the equivalent to anabolic steroids). Now that I know what creatine is and what it actually does, those memories make me laugh.

Clearly, creatine is nothing like anabolic steroids. It's actually a wonderful supplement and has more evidence to back up its effectiveness than any other supplement that exists! For real, it does.

Creatine was originally discovered in meat back in 1832 by a french scientist. However, scientists didn't know until the late 1920s that creatine had any involvement in exercise.

It wasn't until the summer Olympics of 1992 when a handful of champions had been using creatine while training [1].

That opened everyone's eyes to how powerful creatine is for performance.

From there, it didn't take long to become popular. By the next summer Olympics in 1996, it was estimated that over 80% of the olympians were using it [5].

From that point forward, the rest is history. Now, it's one of the most widely used supplements in an almost 40-billion dollar industry today.

In fact, over the years, many different types of creatine have come to surface. But, which ones are the best? Which forms of creatine are worth your time and money? Which forms are the most effective?

Today, we'll cover all of those questions and more. But first, let's go over what creatine is and how it works.

What is Creatine?

Creatine is a nitrogen-based molecule that's made from the amino acids glycine, methionine, and arginine. Some people call creatine an amino acid, and some don't.

When to Use Amino Acids

I'd argue that creatine itself is not an amino acid. If you think about it, it's made from other amino acids, and it isn't used to make proteins like other amino acids.

In the body, creatine is found mostly in muscle tissue, but it's also in the brain, liver, kidneys, and testes [2].

Creatine is mainly used for energy. In fact, without it, we wouldn't perform anywhere near as well in intense exercise.

You see, in the body, we have 3 main energy systems:

• The phosphagen system (Adenosine Triphosphate - Phosphocreatine)
• Glycolytic (Anaerobic)
• Oxidative (Aerobic)

The phosphagen system is where creatine comes in, and it helps to give our body a burst of energy for maximum effort. This burst of physical energy is short-lived though, because it only lasts about 10 seconds into each set [5].

Why does it only last 10 seconds? That sounds a little odd, right?

Well, the whole point is to provide immediate energy for when you really need it. It is also designed to provide enough energy for producing maximal effort.

Creatine allows you about 10 seconds of maximal effort until your body can start using carbohydrates for energy.

It’s really a wonderfully designed system, but how does it work so well? Let me give you a short background on energy and how this works...

Remember back to your middle school science class. The most simple form of energy used by every cell in your body is ATP, or adenosine triphosphate.

This adenosine has 3 phosphates attached. When one of the phosphates breaks off, it releases energy that we harness and use. This is a very fast process, but we only have enough stored ATP for 1-2 seconds of maximal effort [5].

Once that is out, we have a bunch of ADP left, or adenosine diphosphate (adenosine with 2 phosphates instead of 3). This is where creatine comes in.

In the muscle, creatine is stored as creatine phosphate. Creatine is able to donate that phosphate to ADP to create more readily available ATP.

So creatine essentially is like a 10-second high-powered battery charger. It keeps recharging our batteries until our other energy systems can kick in to help out.

Also, there are TONS of studies showing creatine increases power, strength, and muscle growth too [4].

If you have more creatine in the muscle, you can recycle more ATP, and produce more force at a faster rate! Without creatine though, we would have a lapse in energy during any intense exercise or rapid movement. I don’t want that, and I’m sure you don’t either.

How Long Does it Take to Build Muscle?

So basically, if you want to maximize performance, creatine is where it's at.

But, what type of creatine should you take?

Let’s take a look at some of the different types of creatine and figure that out.

Different Types of Creatine

There are several forms of creatine out there, but are they worth it?

As creatine gets more and more popular among athletes and gym goers, new types get brought to light. Many companies boast about their new form of creatine being better. They say it's better absorbed, reduces digestive issues, and improves functionality.

Let’s dive into the various forms and see what the research has to say...

Creatine Monohydrate

This is the first form of creatine ever created, and is also the most heavily researched form.

Creatine monohydrate is a creatine molecule attached to a water molecule. It has by far the most research to back up its effectiveness. It also happens to be the most affordable form of creatine.

No other form of creatine has even been shown to increase muscular levels of creatine better than monohydrate either [7].

If you’re asking my opinion, I’d stick with creatine monohydrate every time. Just make sure it’s micronized so that it dissolves much better in water.

Creatine HCl

This is another popular form of creatine. Instead of binding it to a water molecule like in creatine monohydrate, creatine hcl is bound to hydrochloric acid.

Yes, that’s the same type of acid in your stomach.

With this form, it does have the advantage of better dissolving in water. Although, micronized creatine monohydrate dissolves quite well too.

Are You Drinking Enough Water?

The solubility doesn’t enhance effectiveness anyway [7].

It is more expensive, and shows no major benefits over creatine monohydrate.

Creatine Ethyl Ester

People claim this creatine has better solubility, bioavailability, and effectiveness than creatine monohydrate.

However, it’s actually proven to be less effective. It’s a chemically altered form of creatine, so some say it isn't accurate to call it creatine.

Also, in stomach acid a lot of it converts to a waste product called creatinine [7] which isn't useful.

Creatine Citrate

Creatine citrate is another form in which the creatine is bound to citric acid. Similar to creatine HCl, binding creatine to an acidic molecule increases solubility in water.

Which Pre-Workout Drink is the Best?

But, as we just discussed, solubility doesn’t change the effectiveness one bit.

There are a handful of studies showing that creatine citrate can increase strength and power similar to other forms of creatine. Still though, it has never been shown to be any more effective than good ol' creatine monohydrate.

Creatine Magnesium Chelate

This creatine is bound to magnesium. Many claim that it's better absorbed than creatine monohydrate, but without evidence.

Magnesium has a hand in ATP reactions, and exercise depletes magnesium levels, so it's not a bad idea. But good ideas don't always pan out to be better than the original.

It does show similar benefits for muscle strength and power to creatine monohydrate. Zero studies show it is any better though [7].

It’s more expensive than creatine monohydrate, yet provides no extra benefits.

What Type of Creatine is Best?

If you haven’t already guessed, creatine monohydrate is still the tried and true best version of creatine. There are plenty of other forms out there still, yet not one has ever been shown in a study to be any better.

I guess it’s still possible to find one, but in reality the point is to saturate the muscles with creatine. Creatine monohydrate does do that, so do we even need another form to be better?

"If it ain’t broke, stop trying to fix it!" That's my motto.

How Much Creatine Should I Take?

Now that you know the different types of creatine available, I'm sure you're wondering how much you need.

A lot of people recommend a loading phase of taking 20+ grams of creatine per day for 1-2 weeks when you begin taking it. Keep in mind though, your body can only absorb 5 grams at a time. That means, for loading, you'd have to split the doses throughout the day. After that, it's recommended that you take a maintenance dose of 5 grams per day.

Why People Quit and Why You Shouldn't

Research has shown that the loading phase is not required, but it can help saturate your muscles faster. I will leave that decision to you. Skipping the loading phase and taking 5 grams of creatine monohydrate per day should be fine. As long as you're resistance training, 5 grams a day will still help increase muscle strength and size [8].

If you do the loading phase, you could start to see the benefits more quickly, for the most part.

Should I Take Creatine?

Creatine is the most heavily-researched supplement on the market today. If you want to perform your best in the gym, or in sports, it’s something you want in your daily regimen.

While you have creatine inside your muscles right now, it’s normal to not be at full capacity naturally.

Adding creatine in will likely help you lift heavier weights with more force and more speed. That can also help you train to run faster, jump higher, and push harder in any sport or workout.

Creatine has also been shown to be good for your brain and cognitive function too!

Just be sure you’re getting the best form of creatine, and not the one with the fancy marketing. If you want the best: Creatine Monohydrate is where it's at.

No other form of creatine has been proven more effective. Plus, creatine monohydrate won’t break the bank. We even offer our own high-quality creatine monohydrate powder in case you're looking for one.

Now, taking the right supplements can surely help you get better results ... but they aren’t the most important factor to consider. If your diet and workouts aren’t on point, no matter what supplements you take, your results won’t be optimal.

Nutrition is arguably the most important factor for reaching any fitness goal. I'd also argue it's what holds most people back from seeing the results they want. It holds them back because it’s difficult to navigate.

That’s where we come in though...

If you aren't 100% sure you know what to do with your diet and workouts to reach your goals, check out the 1st Phorm App! Heck, even if you feel like you do know, there's a lot of misinformation out there!

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With the app you get a real person to advise you on your diet, workouts, supplements, and more. You also get access to a full library of custom workout programs for your goals!

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We’ll teach you everything we know on how to do this the right way.

If you have any questions, please reach out! We have a full team of NASM Certified Personal Trainers and Certified Nutrition Coaches you can talk to for free. Just give us a call at 1-800-409-9732 or send us an email at CustomerService@1stPhorm.com.


[1] Butts J, Jacobs B, Silvis M. Creatine Use in Sports. Sports Health. 2018 Jan/Feb;10(1):31-34. doi: 10.1177/1941738117737248. Epub 2017 Oct 23. PMID: 29059531; PMCID: PMC5753968.

[2] Fazio, Carly1; Elder, Craig L.2; Harris, Margaret M.1. Efficacy of Alternative Forms of Creatine Supplementation on Improving Performance and Body Composition in Healthy Subjects: A Systematic Review. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 36(9):p 2663-2670, September 2022. | DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000003873.

[3] Heffernan, Conor. “Creatine: A Short History.” Physical Culture Study, 16 May 2017, https://physicalculturestudy.com/2015/02/26/creatine-a-short-history/.

[4] Nunes JP, Ribeiro AS, Schoenfeld BJ, Tomeleri CM, Avelar A, Trindade MC, Nabuco HC, Cavalcante EF, Junior PS, Fernandes RR, Carvalho FO, Cyrino ES. Creatine supplementation elicits greater muscle hypertrophy in upper than lower limbs and trunk in resistance-trained men. Nutr Health. 2017 Dec;23(4):223-229. doi: 10.1177/0260106017737013. Erratum in: Nutr Health. 2021 Aug 9;:2601060211037228. PMID: 29214923.

[5] “Phosphagen.” Phosphagen - an Overview | ScienceDirect Topics, 2012, https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/biochemistry-genetics-and-molecular-biology/phosphagen#:~:text=PHOSPHAGEN%20SYSTEM&text=Unfortunately%2C%20the%20energy%20available%20from,10%20seconds%20of%20maximal%20activity.

[6] Taegtmeyer H, Ingwall JS. Creatine--a dispensable metabolite? Circ Res. 2013 Mar 15;112(6):878-80. doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.113.300974. PMID: 23493302; PMCID: PMC3646410.

[7] Kreider RB, Jäger R, Purpura M. Bioavailability, Efficacy, Safety, and Regulatory Status of Creatine and Related Compounds: A Critical Review. Nutrients. 2022 Feb 28;14(5):1035. doi: 10.3390/nu14051035. PMID: 35268011; PMCID: PMC8912867.

[8] Forbes SC, Candow DG, Ostojic SM, Roberts MD, Chilibeck PD. Meta-Analysis Examining the Importance of Creatine Ingestion Strategies on Lean Tissue Mass and Strength in Older Adults. Nutrients. 2021 Jun 2;13(6):1912. doi: 10.3390/nu13061912. PMID: 34199420; PMCID: PMC8229907.