15 Creatine Monohydrate Alternatives

Creatine monohydrate is probably the most popular legal substances used as a performance enhancer by bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts.

Its effects have been proven time and time again; it work wonders from a performance enhancing perspective, there are close to no side-effects, and it's extremely cheap.

Over the last ten years, we have seen a lot of new creatine variations hit the market. Supplement manufacturers producing and selling these novel creatine variations always hype them with promises of being superior to the tried and tested creatine monohydrate.

A word of warning before we get to all the different versions is that, there is little to no scientific studies done on majority of these substances. They are usually much more expensive than creatine monohydrate, and the serving size tends to be way lower than the recommended 3 grams daily of monohydrate. So there is a good chance these supplement won't do you any good. Creatine monohydrate is always a solid choice, but sometimes, it's nice to try something new. With that being said, let's get to it. Here goes:

MICRONIZED CREATINE

Micronized creatine is creatine that has particles up to 20 times smaller than normal creatine monohydrate. Smaller particles increase the surface area which makes it is easier, faster and more complete for mixing (More soluble that is). It has been suggested that creatine monohydrate sits in the gut longer than micronized creatine. Micronized Creatine is basically a very fine powder form of creatine monohydrate, and because of this, it dissolves better and faster.

Benefits to the end user are that micronized creatine supposedly leaves the gut quicker causing no stomach upset or discomfort. There are a lot of claims that absorption of micronized creatine is better than that of creatine monohydrate. I cannot find any scientific studies to back these claims, though. The short version is that this is the same stuff as monohydrate, just in a fine powder form, which will make it dissolve better because of this, leave less sediment in your shaker. That’s a positive aspect, but I am not really sure it’s worth the higher price tag, this often comes with.

If I can get micronized creatine for the same price per serving as creatine monohydrate (and given the serving size is the same), I would choose micronized creatine.

CREATINE ETHYL ESTER (CEE)​

Creatine Ethyl Ester is creatine with an added ester molecule to its structure.

Creatine Ethyl Ester (CEE) is (was) believed to have a better absorption rate, Bioavailability and a longer half-life in the body than regular creatine monohydrate. Scientific studies do however, not confirm this to be true. There should according to various studies, not be any benefits to CEE over normal creatine monohydrate.

A study from Spillane et al. posted in Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition in 2009 showed no improved benefits from supplementing with creatine Ethyl Ester compared to that of creatine monohydrate:

In conclusion, when compared to creatine monohydrate, creatine ethyl ester was not as effective at increasing serum and muscle creatine levels or in improving body composition, muscle mass, strength, and power. Therefore, the improvements in these variables can most likely be attributed to the training protocol itself, rather than the supplementation regimen.

www.jissn.com/content/6/1/6​

Later it was shown to actually be less effective than creatine monohydrate:

This study indicates that the half-life of CEE in blood is on the order of one minute, suggesting that CEE may hydrolyze too quickly to reach muscle cells in its ester form.

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19524547

If you read up on people’s experience with this, it’s a different story. Lots of people really seem to like this stuff. Personally I believe I responded better to creatine ethyl ester than I did to normal monohydrate but it’s difficult to tell as it was all part of a larger mix. The short version here is that science shows the opposite, so what I believed to be true years ago, along with other peoples experiences with creatine ethyl ester is probably more of a placebo effect.

Today, I would not choose creatine ethyl ester over normal monohydrate. One thing is to get the same result from one of the new creatine alternatives as you would get from creatine monohydrate. But when its been proven you will see less effects from a novel creatine supplement while paying a higher price for it, I choose monohydrate.

CREATINE ETHYL ESTER MALATE​

​As Creatine Ethyl Ester gained a lot of attention in the early days, it didn't take long for supplement manufacturers to further develop an even “better” version of CEE by adding a salt to it.

Just like CEE was hyped to be superior to monohydrate in terms of absorption and bioavailability, the same story is sold to us, with information that CEEM is superior to CEE in terms of these two aspects.

However, it turns out that Creatine Ethyl Ester Malate does not exists!

BSN develops, manufactures, and sells nutritional supplements. Rivera alleges that BSN has sold tens of thousands of bottles of Cellmass, Nitrix, and NO Xplode based on false labels and false advertising. Rivera alleges that BSN has and continues to proclaim that its products contain a supposedly new and improved form of creatine called“Creatine Ethyl Ester Malate” or “CEM3.” Rivera claims that not only did the productsnot contain CEM3, but that CEM3 does not exist and is impossible to manufacture.

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There are lots and lots of discussions on this topic on various forums. Here is a key part from this thread over at bodybuilding.com

Welcome to the Supplement Settlement Website. The Defendant, Bio-Engineered Supplements & Nutrition, Inc. (?BSN?) develops, manufactures and distributes nutritional supplements. The Plaintiffs filed a class action Lawsuit against BSN, alleging that BSN made misrepresentations on its product labels and other marketing materials with regard to the existence of Creatine Ethyl Ester Malate (?CEM3?) in BSN?s products.

BSN denies any wrongdoing or any liability whatsoever, and no court or other entity has made any judgment or other determination of any liability.

The Parties have determined that it is in their best interests to settle the Action on the terms generally discussed below in order to avoid the expense, inconvenience and interference with ongoing business operations of further litigation.

The Honorable James V. Selna of the United States District Court, Central District of California, has determined that the Action should be certified as a class action for settlement purposes only, with Plaintiffs as the class representatives, and has granted preliminary approval of the Settlement subject to a Final Approval Hearing discussed below.

The Settlement will be distributed in the form of rebates and refunds. As part of the proposed Settlement, class members who submit valid Claim Forms and proof of purchase of eligible products are entitled to a refund check during the refund period. Refunds of $15.00 for each CEM3 product purchased during the Class Period, with a maximum refund limit of $30.00, will be available to those persons who purchased an eligible BSN product labeled as containing Creatine Ethyl Ester Malate, or CEM3, including, but not limited to, ?Cellmass?, ?Nitrix? and ?N.O.-XPLODE? in the United States, its territories or at any United States military facility or exchange for personal use and not for resale from November 6, 2003 through July 6, 2009.

Rebates will be available beginning no more than 60 days after the Final Approval Hearing. For a period of three years, class members who submit a $5.00 mail-in rebate coupon from a bottle of Cellmass and/or a $3.00 mail-in rebate coupon from a bottle of Nitrix sold in the United States, its territories or at any United States military facility or exchange for personal use and not for resale from November 6, 2003 through July 6, 2009 can receive a rebate check from the Claims Administrator. Additionally, for a period of two years, class members who submit a $3.00 mail-in rebate coupon from a bottle of N.O.-Xplode sold in the United States, its territories or at any United States military facility or exchange for personal use and not for resale from November 6, 2003 through July 6, 2009 can receive a rebate check from the Claims Administrator. With each redeemed rebate, consumers may choose to also receive a free sample pack of either Cellmass or N.O.-Xplode ($2.15 retail value). Redemptions shall be capped at $50.00 per customer per year. If, by April 30, 2010 total redemption of the rebates does not exceed $2,500,000.00, BSN has agreed to offer for 12 months a 25% discount on all direct retail sales of any BSN product (excluding apparel, liquid beverages, sample packs, and promotional items or programs) to all of their customers.

Counsel for the Plaintiffs is James Hardin of Call, Jensen & Ferrell.

Please note that the deadline to file a refund claim in this matter is September 22, 2009. Any and all claims received after such date will be late and will be barred from participation in the refund settlement distribution. Should you have any questions, please contact the toll-free number below.The rebate period will commence no later than 60 days after the Final Approval Hearing. Check back to learn more details of the rebate program.

bodybuilding.com

​Just do a google search for on this and you will get lots and lots of results. Mark Tallon also shared a couple of lines on this, which you can read here.

What is really interesting if of course, that some companies continue to sell Creatine Ethyl Ester Malate – Not sure how this is possible but bulkpowders.co.uk, nutrivitashop.com, body-attack.com and xxlabs.eu have the supplements listed on their websites.

Personally, I wouldn’t touch any of the supplements named Creatine Ethyl Ester Malate with a ten-foot pole.

CREATINE SERUM​

Creatine Serum is simply a fancy name for a liquid version of creatine monohydrate. This stuff got a lot of hype a couple of years back, where supplement manufacturers claimed this to be superior to powdered creatine monohydrate. It is typically promoted with the following benefits when compared to normal creatine monohydrate:​

  • Absorbed faster and more efficiently than powdered creatine monohydrate.
  • Less bloating than what you would get from traditional powders creatine monohydrate
  • Being easier on the kidneys, and
  • No need for a loading phase when using liquid version of creatine monohydrate.​

There are four obvious things to keep in mind here;

  • Creatine Serum is far more expensive than normal powdered creatine monohydrate
  • Powedered Creatine monohydrate is mixed with water before ingestion; the obvious question to ask is, what the difference between this mix and liquid creatine is?
  • There is a complete lack of scientific studies confirming the claims listed above.
  • It is clearly not as popular as it were back in the days after it was released.

In addition to this, it has been highlighted several times that creatine is unstable in liquid for a longer period of time. It will simply be broken down to creatinine which has been discussed above.

One study from Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research in 2004 found it’s hyped promise of being a better option than creatine monohydrate to be false (at least from a cycle sprint improving perspective) (CP for Creatine powder and CS for creatine serum);​

A 7-week washout period separated the 2 supplementation protocols. Subjects’ total work (9.6%) and peak power (3.4%) in the cycle sprint improved significantly (p < 0.05) after loading with CP, but there was little change after loading with CS. The present data support previous research findings showing an ergo-genic effect of CP supplementation but indicate that supplementation with CS does not affect sprint cycling performance. Although the levels of creatine in each formulation were not determined, a substantial conversion of creatine into creatinine has been reported in many formulations and may explain the present findings.

source​

This is definitely interesting, but obviously most people reading this are more interested in the effects from a bodybuilding perspective, and care less for information on cycle sprint performance. Surely the results listed in the study above might be somewhat indicative of the results one should expect from a muscle building perspective, but luckily for us, there are more studies on this topic. One of the really interesting ones is this one from the Official Journal of The American Society of Exercise Physiologists (ASEP); EFFECTS OF SERUM CREATINE SUPPLEMENTATION ON MUSCLE CREATINE AND PHOSPHAGEN LEVELS from Kreider Et al. The company listed as MMUSD is Muscle Marketing USA, but I think its fair to say that the results would be similar for any creatine serum / liquid creatine supplements.

In the present study, creatine monohydrate supplementation (20 grams/day for 5-days) resulted in a 30.8% increase in free creatine content, a 22.0%increase in PC content, and a 22.6% increase muscle total creatine content. These findings are consistent withmany studies reporting that creatine monohydrate supplementation increases muscle creatine and/or phosphagenavailability.

MMUSA has marketed CS as a more effective form of creatine than creatine monohydrate powder. Accordingto marketing material, the rationale has been that providing “Creatine Phosphate Complex” in a liquid formallows for mucosal transport of creatine and therefore bypasses normal digestive processes. MMUSA claims thatthis method of creatine delivery is ten times more efficient in transporting creatine to muscle than CM powderbecause they contend that 90% of orally ingested creatine monohydrate is converted to creatinine and/or notabsorbed by muscle. Therefore, MMUSA contends that there is no need to follow traditional creatine loadingprocedures with CS.

Results of the present study do not support MMUSA’s marketing claims. In this regard, while CMsupplementation promoted significant increases in muscle creatine content, low dose CS supplementation (i.e.,the recommended amount on the label purportedly providing 2.5 grams/day of creatine monohydrate equivalent)and high dose CS supplementation (i.e., 8 times the recommended amount on the label purportedly providing 20grams/day of creatine monohydrate equivalent) had no significant effects on muscle ATP, FCr, PC or TCrcontent. Further, the gains in FCr and TCr observed following CM supplementation were significantly greaterthan low and high dose CS supplementation. These findings indicate that CS is a completely ineffective form ofcreatine to promote creatine retention and that CM is a significantly better form of creatine than CS to promotecreatine retention. Present findings also support previous studies reporting that there is little to no creatine in CSand that oral ingestion of CS has no effect on blood creatine levels and therefore could not promote creatineretention

source​

With this in mind, I think it's fair to say that Creatine Serum is a waste of money. You will be better off going for powdered creatine. It's cheaper, and proven to work. I would not spend any money on liquid creatine / creatine serum.

EFFERVESCENT CREATINE​

Effervescent creatine was also a hyped alternative to creatine monohydrate years ago, where it was promoted as having a better absorption rate than regular monohydrate. Effervescent means bubbling; as far as I can tell, effervescent creatine was simply creatine combined with some bicarbonate (which would give the bubbling effect) and some sugar which is probably why people agree the taste is better than normal creatine monohydrate. However, promoted benefits of better absorption seems to be nothing but hot air. It is however, far more expensive than normal creatine monohydrate.

Effervescence is the escape of gas from an aqueous solution and the foaming or fizzing that results from a release of the gas.

source​

Some people over at bodybuilding.com suggested to simply mix alka-seltzer tabs with creatine monohydrate and water to form your own Creatine effervescent. Not something I would recommend, but that mainly because I don’t recommend Effervescent Creatine to begin with. The effervescence might make your creatine shake slightly more similar to that of a soda, if it’s flavored as well, but that’s probably it.

I have found several threads on various forums, but specially on bodybuilding.com with people who have tried Effervescent Creatine and majority of are not impressed with the results.

TRI- AND DI CREATINE MALATE

Tri-creatine malate is an alternate form in which three molecules of creatine are bound to one molecule of malic acid (malate). Just like all the other alternatives to normal creatine monohydrate, Tri-Creatine Malate is promoted as a more soluble and absorbent, less side-effects than monohydrate (no upset stomach, less water retention, etc.) and less fatigue during workout. There is a lack of scientific studies on this stuff, but from a personal perspective, I do think there are benefits to Tri and Di Creatine Malate over normal Creatine Monohydrate. For those of you who have been following me here on muscles.zone for a while will know that V-12 Turbo from Sann was one of my first and favorite pre workout supplements; this stuff contained Tri and Di Creatine and my results was nothing short of amazing. Sure this is years ago, but thats how I recall things. I loved it.

CREATINE ORATE​

creatine orate is creatine that is bound to the orate molecule which is derived from oratic acid; a heterocyclic compound and an acid also known as pyrimidinecarboxylic acid. I have seen it for sale some time ago, but this does seem to have vanished from the market meantime. I remember it as being extremely expensive, and promoted as increasing ATP levels more than normal monohydrate. But as said, searching for this today, I cannot find this for sale anywhere, nor any studies backing the above-listed claims.

​CREATINE ANHYDROUS

Creatine monohydrate is creatine with a water molecule. Creatine anhydrous is creatine monohydrate with without the water molecule – pure creatine that is. The short version is; it provides more pure creatine than creatine monohydrate, it’s usually sold in capsules, and since it takes a chemical process to remove the water molecule, its usually more expensive than creatine monohydrate. There is a lack of scientific studies proving this to be more beneficial than normal creatine monohydrate.

CREATINE MAGNESIUM CHELATE​

Another creatine variation where creatin is chemically bonded to magnesium instead of a water molecule which is the case with creatine monohydrate. Just like all the other creatine monohydrate alternatives, this is promoted as being more bio available. The idea is that creatine magnesium chelate is supposed to allow the creatine molecule to be absorbed into the muscle via the ligand-gated cation channel instead of a sodium-dependent transporter. The studies (two is all that I can find), on this, does not indicate that creatine magnesium chelate should be more beneficial than normal creatine monohydrate. On the flip side, the two (read: creatine monohydrate and creatine magnesium chelate) does seem to enhance physical performance at somewhat same levels, so the real question to ask here is what you cheapest option is – and that seems to be creatine monohydrate.

​CREATINE KRE-ALKALYN: BUFFERED CREATINE

Creatine kre-alkalyn is creatine monohydrate synthesized with buffering agents, giving it a higher ph than normal monohydrate. This is promoted as being superior to creatine monohydrate specially since it should be more stable in water (less conversion to creatinine), and therefore cause less “typical creatine side-effects”, such as bloating, cramps, and remove the need for a loading phase. There was however, one thorough study done on this, and as you might have guessed, creatine Kre-Alkalyn was shown not to be superior to creatine monohydrate. The pricing is naturally higher though.

Kre-Alkalyn® supplementation does not promote greater changes in muscle creatine content, body composition, or training adaptations in comparison to creatine monohydrate

source

CREATINE AKG

creatine-AKG is creatine attached to an alpha-ketoglutarate molecule. AKG is a krebs cycle intermediate, which is thought to help creatine transportation providing more creatine to the muscles resulting in a higher muscular creatine concentration. Because of this, it was believed that less creatine AKG was needed compared to monohydrate to receive same results.

​alpha-ketoglutarate infiltrates the Krebs cycle. This provides great potential as a creatine transporter and possibly reduces fatigue.

​CREATINE HYDROCHLORIDE

Creatine HCL, short for creatine hydrochloride is made by attaching a hydrochloride group to creatine. The idea here is that by attaching a hydrochloride group to creatine we enhance its stability and solubility. Unfortunately there isn't a whole lot of studies on this stuff, but its debated heavily on various bodybuilding and supplement sites. Jim S. for one, is a true fan of creatine hydrochloride.

​CREATINE CITRATE

​Creatine citrate is creatine bonded to citric acid. This form of creatine
is supposed to provide better absorption, but there isn’t a whole lot of scientific evidence to support that notion. Creatine citrate is made up of only about 40 percent creatine, making it an inefficient way to deliver creatine.

​CREATINE NITRATE

creatine nitrate is creatine bound to a nitrate salt, often listed as CreNitrate.

I have covered Nitrates before here on muscles.zone. It’s a chemical compound which, when ingested, is converted nitrite which is then converted into Nitric Oxide. Nitric Oxide has been studied heavily from a bodybuilding perspective, and is loved by anyone looking for a better pump. The idea with creatine nitrate is that the nitrate will enhances the absorption of the Creatine portion, which has some truth to it. However, I think the true benefit of creatine nitrate is that you get creatine and nitrates.

CREATINE PYRUVATE​

Creatine Pyruvate is Creatine bonded with Pyruvic Acid. This stuff is created by the same company behind CreaPure (listed above) called AlzChem. Supplementing with Creatine Pyruvate instead of creatine monohydrate, has been shown to produce higher creatine plasma concentrations when compared to creatine monohydrate and tri-creatine citrate.​

The findings suggest that different forms of creatine result in slightly altered kinetics of plasma creatine absorption following ingestion of isomolar (with respect to creatine) doses of CrM, CrC and CrPyr although differences in ka could not be detected due to the small number of blood samples taken during the absorption phase. Characteristically this resulted in higher plasma concentrations of creatine with CrPyr. Differences in bioavailability are thought to be unlikely since absorption of CrM is already close to 100%. The small differences in kinetics are unlikely to have any effect on muscle creatine elevation during periods of creatine loading.

source​

In addition to this, there are two additional, but contradicting studies on the subject of Creatine Pyruvate. The conclusion of the first study reads the following:

It is concluded that four weeks of Cr-Pyr and Cr-Cit intake significantly improves performance during intermittent handgrip exercise of maximal intensity and that Cr-Pyr might benefit endurance, due to enhanced activity of the aerobic metabolism.

source​

which contradicts somewhat with the results from this study, which reads;

It is concluded that one week of creatine-pyruvate supplementation at a rate of 7 g x d -1 does not beneficially impact on either endurance capacity or intermittent sprint performance in cyclists.

source​

So yeah, we are left a bit in the dark with creatine pyruvate. Personally, I dont think there is any reason to go for this over normal creatine monohydrate, due to the mixed results, and a lack of studies. I have however, not tested this personally, so I can’t say for sure.

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