Creatine: The Complete Guide

The use of creatine as a supplement to enhance physical performance is very common today, but if you are new to the world of creatine, it can be a nightmare to navigate. Here on this page, I will share everything you need to know about this popular substance. It’s a long and detailed read, so you maybe want to bookmark this page and come back later to continue reading. Below you will find a table of content, so you can jump directly to the different sections if you are looking for specific information.

Creatine – An Introduction

Creatine

A short note here to begin with. A lot of information has been shared on creatine, online. Lots and lots of useful information, but also a lot of myths and especially a lot of biased information from supplement manufacturers. It can be quite the task to filter the good from the bad, in this case. Because of this, I decided to write this page, with everything I think you need to know about creatine. I have years and years of experience with this substance; I will share my experiences with it here, and I will try to be as brutally honest as I possibly can.

If you still have unanswered questions related to the use of creatine after reading this page, please drop a comment below or send me an email and I will make sure to have a section added to this page with the answer to your question.

Kind in mind that this article contains a bunch of links to external sources which I believe have reliable and relevant information. There are also a couple of internal links to other posts here on muscles.zone which I believe will be of value for more detailed information on the topic linked to.

With the being said, let’s dive in.

What is Creatine

Creatine is an organic acid containing nitrogen. It is produced naturally in the human body (in the liver and kidney). It is also found in small amounts in animal foods. It is produced from a combination of the following three amino acids: L-arginine, glycine, and L-methionine.

As meat and fish only contain small amounts of this substance, extracting it for commercial use would not be a profitable business. So as an alternative way to produce large quantities of creatine, it is synthesized from sarcosine and cyanamide, which in the end leaves us with creatine monohydrate. The end result contains about 90% creatine and 10% water as creatine picks up and bonds to water molecules during the initial phase of the synthesizing process (you can read more about the exact process here).

This process has been optimized over the years, and as the demand for performance enhancing substance is huge, prices for normal creatine monohydrate is today very fair.

Today, creatine is a very common supplement in the bodybuilding and fitness space, due to its performance enhancing properties which is covered in details further down. It’s a crystallized white powder with a bitter taste. It’s mostly sold as monohydrate where it’s bound with a single water molecule (more on this below). In recent years we have seen lots and lots of new creatine variations with promises of being superior to normal monohydrate. All of these alternatives have been covered in details, further down on this page.

A Bit of Creatine History

Creatine was first discovered in 1832 by the French scientist Chevreul. In the early 1990’s, we started to see reports indicating that supplementation with this substance would have psychical performance enhancing properties. This gave birth to Creatine monohydrate, which started to show in the bodybuilding space in the early 1990’s. This new supplement quickly gained a lot of attention, and later in toe 90s’ variations started to show.

During the first couple of years, it was sold as a powder, just like you see it today. But the first

Creatine

Creatine

variations seen in the years after its introduction was in the form of creatine pills and liquid creatine.

Years later we got Creatine ethyl ester, and then a lot of other variations over the years. Powder continues to be the most popular form, but there are lots and lots of alternatives to monohydrate today. All of these are covered in greater details further down in this post.

What Does Creatine Do?

It helps to increase the formation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP).This helps to provide energy to the body’s cells. Bodybuilders are mainly interested in this as creatine provides energy to muscle cells.

If you supplement with this stuff, it will enable you to enhance your workout sessions by increasing strength and power output. I will also speed up the recovery after a finished workout session. These are the main reasons why it is such a popular substance among bodybuilders and in the fitness and sports world.

However, keep in mind that creatine is not only used by bodybuilders. Supplementing with this wonder is likely to increase your performance in any kind of psychical activity, but it is also often used as a substance in nootropic supplements as it is believed to provide neuroprotection which should be a result of energy provided to brain cells.

The more specific mechanism of this substance is described below.

How Does Creatine Work?

Creatine has the ability to rapidly produce Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) to support cellular energy. ATP is the organic compound found in muscles which, when broken down, yields energy for muscle contraction. As ATP is used for muscle contractions, an increase in creatine levels is believed to increase the force of muscle contractions and thereby directly increasing strength and power output (read more on that here).

Said in another way, is that ATP is the compound the body uses as the primary energy source. In order for your muscles to contract, it uses APT which gets broken down and becomes ADP (adenosine diphosphate). ADP is basically useless from a bodybuilding perspective as it can’t be used for energy. But when you supplement with creatine, ADP takes a phosphate molecule and reforms into ATP, which again can be used for energy in muscle cells.

How Does Creatine Work Continued – Benefits of Creatine

Benefits of Creatine

Benefits of Creatine

Creatine comes with a wide range of different benefits and few side effects. Below you will find a list of creatine benefits along with further details.

Improves strength

Creatine improves strength as a result of an increase in the energy to muscle cells. With more ATP we are able to “do more work”. Doing more as in lifting heavier will, over time, result in getting stronger.

This is clearly something most will consider as a a benefit, but its probably more the derived results that people really care for, specially;

Increase Muscle Mass

This is without a doubt the main reason why this substance is so popular amongst bodybuilders. Creatine itself isnt going to increase your muscle mass. You still need to hit the gym and work those weights, but with the increased strength as listed above, comes the ability to push more and further than what was possible pre-creatine. This extra effort will in the end, result in increase muscle mass.

Cell Volumization

Its debatable whether this is a benefit or a disadvantage. Some will find cell Volumization an additional benefit of creatine supplementation while others refer to it as bloat and think of it as a disadvantage. Basically, creatine causes cells to inflate with water, which means in short means more vloume – you look bigger. For most people, this is a bonus.

High Intensity, Longer

Supplementing with creatine will allow you to keep going at high intensity for a longer period, than if you don’t supplement with creatine. This is part of the equation for more strength and muscle mass, but exactly this point is probably more interesting for high intensity sport fanatics (High-intensity interval training (HIIT)). It has been proven that creatine will improve your anaerobic capacity, so creatine is not only for the heavy lifters at the gym.

Reduce Muscle Cell Damage and Inflammation

Another proven benefit you can expect from supplementing with creatine. Santos et al. published a study in 2004 which indicated that creatine supplementation will reduced cell damage and inflammation after an exhaustive intense race.

After the test, athletes from the control group presented an increase in plasma CK (4.4-fold), LDH (43%), PGE2 6.6-fold) and TNF-alpha (2.34-fold) concentrations, indicating a high level of cell injury and inflammation. Creatine supplementation attenuated the changes observed for CK (by 19%), PGE2 and TNF-alpha (by 60.9% and 33.7%, respectively, p<0.05) and abolished the increase in LDH plasma concentration observed after running 30km, The athletes did not present any side effects such as cramping, dehydration or diarrhea, neither during the period of supplementation, nor during the 30km race…

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15306159

There are other studies on this aspect of creatine as well, and the short version clearly seems to be that creatine is beneficial from a recovery perspective.

Brain booster – Enhance Mental Performance

Brain Booster
As mentioned above, creatine is often used in nootropic supplements as it is believed to have mental enhancing properties. A couple of studies have shown that creatine is able to combat mental fatigue.

All these findings pinpoint to a close correlation between the functional capacity of the creatine kinase/phosphorylcreatine/creatine system and proper brain function. They also offer a starting-point for novel means of delaying neurodegenerative disease, and/or for strengthening memory function and intellectual capabilities.Finally, creatine biosynthesis has been postulated as a major effector of homocysteine concentration in the plasma, which has been identified as an independent graded risk factor for atherosclerotic disease….

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12044443

Based on this study, creatine seems to act as a neuroprotectant which is an agent that increases the survival of nerve cells to environmental insults. Basically, when supplementing with creatine, the brain should be less damanged from toxins and other stressors. Surely this isn’t the main reason why most people consider adding creatine to their supplement stack, but you can consider this an added benefit to all the other posetive aspects.

The above listed benefits are the typically the most highlighted ones. The main reason why creatine is so popular in the fitness and bodybuilding industry, is without a doubt, because of the performance enhancing properties. However, the above listed benefits are not the only ones – just the most interesting ones, in my opinion. Creatine has also been shown to have a posetive impact on bone healing, promote life extension and reduce signs of aging. Finally it has also been shown that creatine helps to neutralize free radicals.

With all the creatine benefits covered, the next natural step is to take a closer look at the side effects of creatine.

Creatine Side Effects

Luckily, there are very few side effects of creatine, but if you are thinking about beginning to supplement with creatine, it’s a good idea to know what potential side effects that might come along from a cycle. Here goes;

Creatine side effectsWater retention / Bloat
Stomach distress
Diarrhea

These are the main side effects that can be experienced with supplementing with creatine.

Water Retention / Bloat

Water retention is by some, considered a side effect, mainly because this equals gaining weight (from water and not muscle mass). This is often thought to give the user a bloated look, meaning, less defined and vascular. A less defined and vascular look is not something that has been confirmed from a scientific perspective, as this is a difficult aspect to measure. However, creatine users have reported this “issue” over and over again. Personally, I never really though much about this. There might be some truth to it, but unless you have a very low body fat percentage, you probably won’t notice the difference. Basically this is not a harmful or dangerous side-effect, but simple an issue for those very concerned with temporary water retention – people who need have a ripped look for a contest as an example.

Upset stomach & Diarrhea

Luckily, there is no gaurentee that you will get an upset stomach or diarrhea from creatine supplementation. There is however, a pretty good chance you might experience a bit of this, specially if you chose to run a loading period. Back in the early days when I started to take creatine, I used to run loading periods, and I did have some issues with this. It was however, nothing major, and it gradually vanished over a couple of days. When I stopped the loading period and continued on the maintenance phase with 5 grams of creatine per day, I had no issues whatsoever.

Adverse Effect on Kidnet & Liver

There have, in the past been a lot of talk about the adverse effects of creatine supplementation on the kidney and liver. However, it has been proven time and time again, that this isn’t really an issue. Now if you have any kidney and / or liver disease you should naturally avoid creatine, but besides from that, this should not be a concern.

Muscle Cramps

Another creatine side effect that has been hyped several times is muscle cramps. Personally I have never experience any more muscle cramps while taking creatine compared to periods where I don’t. In addition to this, there is not scientific data supporting this claims (there are however, studies indicating that Cr does not cause muscle cramps). Finally, should this happen, then sure, muscle cramps can be a bit annoying but thats pretty much it.

The reaction to creatine, both with regards to benefits and side effects, is of course, very individual. However, the side effects I experienced from creatine seems to be a very common story, where stomach distress often seems to kick in at the inception of a loading phase, and then vanish within a couple of days. Basically, this is not something to worry about. Its a little uncomfetable, but thats it. If you are thinking about starting on creatine, this should not hold you back.

With these side effects in mind, it bring about a very common question, which is:

Is Creatine Safe?

The short version here is, yes. Creatine is one of the (if not the one) most well-studied sports nutrition supplements, with more than 200 scientific studies behind it, that confirms it’s benefits and a low level of adverse reactions. There are, of course, special cases where some users will experience allergic reactions characterized red and itchy skin and a swelled throat. These are, however, not common reactions to creatine supplementation. I have never personally experienced such a reaction, nor any of the people I know who have used creatine supplements. The above listed side effects are fairly common (water retention, upset stomech and diarrhea) and should probably be expected if you run a heavy loading period, but these are not dangerous side effects. Some people will claim that creatine is bad for you, but I disagree; countless of studies have indicated that dangers of creatine is low. Anyhow, it is of course, a good idea to start out with a very low dose, just to check for any adverse effects. Check with your doctor if you want to be 100% sure, creatine supplements are safe for you.

So It’s Safe, But Will it Raise My Creatinine Levels?

If you have been reading up on creatine side effects, you might have stumbled upon information on creatinine. Creatinine is a waste product /by-product of creatine which is passed through the kidneys and eliminated in urine. The reason why creatinine is a concern for some folks, is that a higher than normal level (normal creatinine levels are roughly 0.6 to 1.2 mg per deciliter in adult males and 0.5 to 1.1 milligrams per deciliter in adult females), might indicate a kidney damage or kidney disease (typically measured in a bun creatinine ratio), which might become an issue from a life insurance perspective. Supplementing with creatine is likely to increase creatinine levels, but the same is true for working out and eating meat. In other words, slightly increased creatinine levels is not necessarily indicative of kidney damage, but it might be. This is naturally something to keep in mind, if you have kidnet issues, or if you are trying to get yourself a life insurance. Besides from this, it should be much of a concern.

How To Take Creatine

How To Take CreatineAlright so you might be convinced by now. You decide to give it a go with a jar of creatine. First of all you need to decide if you should get creatine monohydrate or one of the many creatine alternatives. All of those have been listed in details further down on this page. Once you have decided on the creatine type, you need to chose which creatine supplement you want, that contains the creatine type you need; a couple of creatine supplements have also been listed further down on this page with details on price and popularity. Once done, you are all set, but you might still have a bunch of questions, on exactly how to use creatine. I have some of the most often asked questions about creatine use below, along with my thoughts on them.

How Much Creatine Should I Take?

Say you made up your mind and you are ready to get going with a jar of creatine. The first question that comes to mind is, how much should I take. Its quite common that users run a creatine loading phase to kick-star the cycle and get faster results, but this is not a requirement. You can get exactly the same results from with no creatine loading; it simply takes a bit longer before you see the same effect. Note that creatine loading might give you a head start, but users tend to agree that side effects are more apparent as well. With that being said, the standard recommendation is the following:

With Creatine Loading Phase:
20 – 25 grams of creatine per day in the first 5 to 7 days – This is know as the loading phase, where you give your body 4 to 5 times the standard daily dose, in order to get the creatine level up.

After this loading phase it’s typically recommended to run the maintenance phase (the period after the loading phase), with 5 grams of creatine per day.

These recommendations seem to remain popular today, and the simple reason is that this dosage will do wonders for the majority of users out there. There have been alternative ideas shared here and there, like adjusting the dosage according to your body weight, lean body mass, etc. I like the idea of adjusting it to your lean body mass, but the truth is that most people who are looking to give creatine a go, wont have any idea what their lean body mass is. I have also seen even more complex ideas as to how one should dose creatine, but for most users, 5 grams a day will do just fine! There is really no reason to get obsessed with minor details here as the difference is the end is likely to be minor; 5 grams or 6 grams per day is not the tipping point. Its whether you use creatine supplementation or not that will make an impact.

More on Loading Creatine

It is quite common to run a creatine loading period with 4- 5 times the daily recommended dose. Some people will tell you this is a waste of creatine and claims it is the best way to get started. There are mixed opinions on this. Personally, I don’t run creatine loading periods anymore, but that’s mostly because I don’t really cycle creatine anymore (more on cycling creatine below) – I take daily for long periods of time. I have tried it several times though, and I didn’t see any significant difference from just taking 5 grams daily, from the beginning.
From a scientific perspective, there might be a difference, but personally, I think the difference is soo small, that you won’t notice much of a difference, if you continue to take creatine for an extended period of time. In my opinion, one of the main benefits of creatine, is the psychological effect – the motivation; which is exactly the same if I take 20 grams or 5 grams a day.

The short version is that loading with creatine can help you get results faster as you need to saturate your muscle cells with creatine to get the full effect. This will happen faster with a loading period. This makes sense if you got a jar of creatine and plan to run a cycle for a month or two. If you plan to take creatine for a longer period (read: more than a month or two), I wouldn’t recommend to run a loading period, as you will get the same results eventually.

cycling with creatine

Cycling With Creatine

Years ago, it was standard practice to run creatine cycles, meaning you would supplement with creatine for an extended period of time (typically a creatine cycle would last 4 to 5 weeks), and then pause for an equally long period before beginning another round of creatine. The idea was that as your body creates creatine, it was believed that taking a daily dose of supplemental creatine would over time, shut down your natural production. In order to avoid from happening, creatine cycles were recommended, where a pause will help to restore and stabilize natural creatine production. I think the main reason why this belief got so much attention was because of a few parallels to testosterone and the use of steroids – namely that:

Testosterone
– Your body produces testosterone
– Taking steroids would shut down the natural Testosterone production
– Steroid users would run cycles to avoid this from happening

Creatine
– You body produces creatine
– Taking supplemental creatine was believed to shut down the body’s natural creatine production
– Creatine users would run cycles to avoid this from happening

There is some truth to this, but there key differences. Today, with The main difference here is naturally that testosterone is a hormone and creatine is an organic acid. A steroid cycle will shut down natural testosterone production, and there is no guarantee that levels will go back to normal, automatically. A creatine cycle will lower natural creation production, but after the cycle, levels will automatically go back to baseline .

Supplementation of Cr has been shown to reduce endogenous production in humans; however, normal rates return
upon termination of supplementation

http://pharmrev.aspetjournals.org/content/53/2/161.full.pdf

In addition to this, a person with a normal and healthy diet, will get creatine from foods as well. The short version here is that we simply cannot and should not compare reduced endogenous production of testosterone and creatine as a result of supplementation of the two – There simply isn’t a valid reason to do so, besides the fact the our body produces both of them.

Does that mean there is no need to cycle Creatine?
Well, this is more of a personal matter, in my opinion. I don’t really cycle creatine. I have been taking creatine daily for several months straight, and never had any issues with it.

Reasons to cycle: save money. Psychological effect might demish over time.

When To Take Creatine

When To Take Creatine

Should you take creatine before or after workout? This is a common question from people new to creatine. There are a lot of different opinions on this matter, but I think the key point here is that, as long as you get a daily dose, it probably won’t do much difference at what time of the day you get it. This is from a pratical and personal perspective. There a couple of studies on this topic – what is the best time to take creatine. From a rational perspective, it would seemingly make sense to take it prior to your workout session, but this isnt nessecarily the truth. Based on a study from Jose Antonio and Victoria Ciccone, you are likely to see more benefits from creatine when taking it imidiately after your workout session.

Creatine supplementation plus resistance exercise increases fat-free mass and strength. Based on the magnitude inferences it appears that consuming creatine immediately post-workout is superior to pre-workout vis a vis body composition and strength.

http://www.jissn.com/content/10/1/36

However, it should be noted that the difference in results from the group taking it pre workout to the ones taking it post workout, is minor.

In the early years when I started with creatine, I also used to take it post workout along with my protein shake. In recent years, with the raise of pre workout supplements, I have started to take it before my workout session, simply because almost all pre-workout supplements include creatine. Some periods, I only run pre workout supplements and simply go with the creatine I get there, but I mostly run periods taking both pre workout supplements with creatine along with a scoop of 2 – 3 grams of creatine post workout. The main reason for this is because most pre workout supplements don’t contain the full 5 grams dose I am looking for. Another reason I also like to get a serving post workout is because I take a protein shake along with it, and taking creatine with carbs and protein does make it more effective.

When to take creatine is clearly still a question left unanswered today, from a scientific point of view. Personally, I try to get a part of my daily dose pre workout and the remaining part post workout. Although it might be slightly more effective to take it pre or post workout, it’s probably not something you will notice anyway. That is the case for me at least; I simply havent been able to see any difference. The most important thing is, that you get a daily dose, and less so, exactly when you get it.

Will I Feel Anything When Taking Creatine?

Nope – you wont. This is not a stimulant. The only thing you might feel shortly after taking a dose of creatine, is a bit of stomech discomfort as discribed above. Over time, your performance in the gym will be enhanced, but this is also, not something you will notice directly. Creatine wont give you extreme strength right after ingestion. It will give you a small edge, over a long period of time.

Best Creatine

Best Creatine

If I had been asked this question just a couple of years ago, the answer had been short and easy – Creatine Monohydrate, as that was basically the only type of creatine sold as a bodybuilding supplement. Today, things have changed radically. We see new and “innovative” creatine products hit the market all the time. If you are new to Creatine, it can be a true jungle, due to all the hype and promises from supplement manufacturers, claiming new creatine supplements will work better than anything else on the market.

There is no doubt about the benefits of supplementing with creatine. It’s been proven time and time again, that supplementing with creatine will give you several benefits, from a bodybuilding perspective. It has also been proven that potential (and undesired) side effects are close to nonexistent if you dose it properly.

Because of this, it’s not surprising that we see a lot of innovation in this space. But should you really spend your hard earned money on new and more expensive creatine supplements, or stick with the good old and cheaper, creatine monohydrate?

Below is a list of all the different creatine types being sold as bodybuilding supplements today, (all the ones I have been able to find at least)

A couple of notes;

Most of these different creatine types are sold separately, but you very often find them forming part of pre workout supplements.

Almost all of these alternatives to monohydrate are promoted with the same benefits;
Better Bioavailability: bioavailability for dietary supplements can be defined as the proportion of the administered substance capable of being absorbed and available for use or storage.
Better absorption: Absorption refers to how much of the substance the body is able to assimilate and use.
More soluble: Solubility simply tells us how well creatine to dissolve in liquid. Less
In addition to this, as a result of the three above listed factors, derrived benefits in form of fewere side-effects are often highlighted:
Fewer side-effects
– less water retention
– no bloating
– less upset stomach
– No need for loading period

Every single alternative to creatine monohydrate I have come across, have been more expensive than standard creatine monohydrate. Sure you might find a special type, where the gram for gram price is the same, but then a different serving size is recommended, which in the end, again, will make it more expensive than monohydrate.

Creatine monohydrate has been studies extensively! The opposite holds true for majority of the below listed alternatives. Because of this, most of this is based on logic, other people’s experience, and partially my own. I have included info from studies where relevant.

A Short Note on CreaPure

If you have been looking a various creatine supplements or pre-workout supplements containing creatine, chances are you probably came across the name Creapure a couple of times. But what exactly is creatine creapure? Creapure is a registered trademark for very pure creatine monohydrate developed by a company in Germany called AlzChem. Here is what they have to say about CreaPure:

Creapure® is the premium brand for creatine worldwide. When it comes to manufacturing creatine, no other brand combines the three pillars of quality the way Creapure® does:

careful selection of raw materials
high-performance technology thanks to sophisticated process engineering under GMP conditions
precise chemical analysis
This is how we make sure Creapure® is as effective and safe as possible.

Creapure® is a registered trademark and a registered logo, standing for high-quality pure creatine (monohydrate).

Simply put, this is a very recognized trademark, and because of this, often used by supplement manufacturers, as a way to include creatine monohydrate that is known to be of a high quality. In short, CreaPure is pure creatine monohydrate. There seems to be a lot of confusion as to whether creapure is micronized creatine or not. To the best of my knowledge, creapure is not micronized creatine, but some supplement manufacturers process creapure to become “micronized creapure”.

That was a bit of a side-step, so lets get back to..

creatine monohydrate

Creatine Monohydrate

The standard stuff thats been on the market for years. It’s been proven time and time again to be beneficial for anyone looking to gain strength and muscle mass.

Creatine Monohydrate is cheap and you can be sure they carry it in your local supplement store. Results from a cycle with creatine monohydrate are good and side-effects are minimal. If you are new to the world of creatine, this is a safe bet, and probably the best substance to start with.

I won’t be covering any more specific details on creatine monohydrate here, as everything posted above is related to this substance. If you have questions about creatine monohydrate, what it is, how it works, when you should take it, or any other question, make sure to read the whole thing above this section and your questions will probably be answered. If not, make sure to drop a comment below or send me an email and I will make sure to get your questions covered here.

If you are looking for a jar of clean – no fluff – completely normal creatine monohydrate, here are the top three rated products on budybuilding.com:
MM288 Micronized from Mass Machine Nutrition
Creatine-XS from Ronnie Coleman Signature Series
CREAmore from Controlled Labs

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.

http://www.jissn.com/content/6/1/6

Later it was shown to actually be less effective than creatine monohydrate (read more here)

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.

https://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 believed 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 didnt take long for supplement manufactures to further develop an even “better” version of CEE by adding a salt to it.

Just like CEE was hyped to be supirior to monohydrate in terms of absorption and bioavability, the same story is sold to us, with information that CEEM is supirior 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 allegesthat 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 toproclaim 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.

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.

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.

http://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Abstract/2004/05000/CREATINE_SERUM_IS_NOT_AS_EFFECTIVE_AS_CREATINE.12.aspx

This is definately 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 with
many studies reporting that creatine monohydrate supplementation increases muscle creatine and/or phosphagen
availability.

MMUSA has marketed CS as a more effective form of creatine than creatine monohydrate powder. According
to marketing material, the rationale has been that providing “Creatine Phosphate Complex” in a liquid form
allows for mucosal transport of creatine and therefore bypasses normal digestive processes. MMUSA claims that
this method of creatine delivery is ten times more efficient in transporting creatine to muscle than CM powder
because they contend that 90% of orally ingested creatine monohydrate is converted to creatinine and/or not
absorbed by muscle. Therefore, MMUSA contends that there is no need to follow traditional creatine loading
procedures with CS.

Results of the present study do not support MMUSA’s marketing claims. In this regard, while CM
supplementation 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 20
grams/day of creatine monohydrate equivalent) had no significant effects on muscle ATP, FCr, PC or TCr
content. Further, the gains in FCr and TCr observed following CM supplementation were significantly greater
than low and high dose CS supplementation. These findings indicate that CS is a completely ineffective form of
creatine to promote creatine retention and that CM is a significantly better form of creatine than CS to promote
creatine retention. Present findings also support previous studies reporting that there is little to no creatine in CS
and that oral ingestion of CS has no effect on blood creatine levels and therefore could not promote creatine
retention

http://www.fitnesspont.hu/mass-shop/picture_gallery/_not_gallery_pix/Effects_of_Serum_Creatine_on_Muscle_Creatine_and_Phosphagen_JEPonline.pdf

With this in mind, I think its fair to say that Creatine Serum is a waste of money. You will be better off going for powdered creatine. Its 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.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effervescence

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 supirior 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 supirior 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

http://www.jissn.com/content/9/S1/P11

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 isnt 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.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17997838

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.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18269769

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.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12669262

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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