With all of the different supplements on the market, it can be hard to keep track of them, creatine included. So, what are the different types of creatine?
One thing you should know is that creatine monohydrate is the king of creatine supplements. Every other form of creatine that comes out is compared to creatine monohydrate to see if it’s effective. If you just want something that works, go for monohydrate.
That being said, below, I’ve made a table for all of the different types of creatine available on the market, with their benefits and drawbacks listed out.
|Type of Creatine:||Benefits:||Drawbacks:|
|Creatine Monohydrate||Most researched, most common, possibly most effective||Minor side effects|
|Micronized Creatine||Same as creatine monohydrate, but more water soluble||Minor side effects|
|Creatine Hydrochloride (HCL)||Absorbs more efficiently into muscles||Not enough evidence to support these claims|
|Creatine Ethyl Ester (CEE)||Less water weight gained||Conflicting evidence about water retention|
|Creatine Magnesium Chelate||Claims of better strength gains and more efficient absorption||No proven benefits of creatine magnesium chelate over creatine monohydrate|
|Buffered Creatine||Higher pH, better for your stomach||No proven benefits in any studies|
|Creatine Citrate||Easier on your digestion system, better absorption||No proven evidence of better absorption|
|Creatine Malate||Better anaerobic production, easier to dissolve in water||No control studies with creatine monohydrate and a placebo group|
|Creatine Gluconate||Absorbed efficiently into the body||No published studies proving/disproving this claim|
|Creatine Pyruvate||Good for endurance||Some studies show it could be worse than other types of creatine|
|Creatine Alpha-Ketoglutarate (AKG)||Preventing digestive issues||Not enough evidence|
|Creatine Nitrate||Don’t have to take as much for the same effectiveness||No difference from other types of creatine|
Click on any of the links above to see its specific description!
Or, dowload the Types of Creatine Cheat Sheet that I made just for this article.
If you’ve noticed a pattern in the drawbacks category, that’s because there is one. There may be 12 different types of creatine, but none of them are proven to be any more effective than creatine monohydrate.
Out of all these variations, creatine monohydrate is by far the most popular. I wrote another article about why it’s my favorite, so read that if you’re just looking for the best type of creatine. You can also use the coupon code “GET15” for 15% off your order!
If you’re looking for more, below, I’ll go over each type of creatine, why they’re beneficial, and which ones you should avoid.
I mentioned this earlier, but creatine monohydrate is the king of creatine supplements. It’s the most researched, the most common, and the most effective out of all the creatine variations.
Other types of creatine claim that they’re more effective or more efficient than creatine monohydrate, but at the end of the day, there’s no evidence proving any of these claims.
Creatine monohydrate, on the other hand, has countless studies proving that it’s an effective supplement. It’s one of the most studied supplements of any type, not just creatine.
However, this isn’t to say that other types of creatine have no benefits. There may not be any studies proving that they’re more effective, but there aren’t any studies proving that they aren’t more effective. Supplements affect everyone differently, so there’s really no way to know until you try.
The “monohydrate” in creatine means that there’s one molecule of water connected to each molecule of creatine. For most people, knowing this won’t make any difference.
All this being said, creatine monohydrate is a great place to start. It’s safe, well researched, and proven to be effective.
Micronized creatine is another form of creatine monohydrate that’s been “micronized”. This means that the molecules of creatine have been made smaller.
This makes micronized creatine better at dissolving into water, as well as possibly making it easier to digest and absorb into the body. Micronized creatine has the same benefits and side effects as normal, creatine monohydrate.
The only difference is that it may be easier to consume. This being said, that benefit comes with a downside. Micronizing creatine is an expensive process, so you may be paying a bit more if you choose to go with it. If you have a few extra dollars to spare, however, micronized creatine is a lot more convenient to use and take.
Creatine Hydrochloride (HCL)
Creatine hydrochloride (HCL) is different from creatine monohydrate in that it has a molecule of hydrochloride attached to it. This extra molecule lowers the pH, making it more acidic.
This makes it easier for creatine HCL to dissolve into water, and to be absorbed into your body. This all sounds good on paper, but there isn’t really enough evidence to prove that creatine HCL has any benefits over monohydrate.
Another claim about creatine HCL is that because it’s “better absorbed into your body”, smaller doses of HCL will be just as effective as bigger doses of creatine monohydrate.
This being said, again, there aren’t any published studies proving this claim. That doesn’t mean creatine hydrochloride is bad for you, just that it might not be any more effective or beneficial than creatine monohydrate.
Creatine Ethyl Ester
Creatine ethyl ester, or CEE, is a type of creatine molecule with an added molecule of an ethyl ester. This type of creatine is claimed to be more effective in building muscle, as well as leading to less water weight being gained, compared to creatine monohydrate.
(If you didn’t know, creatine molecules attract water in your body, leading to an increase in water weight when you use it as a supplement). This being said, there’s conflicting evidence about whether or not it actually leads to lower levels of water weight.
For example, a study from BioMed Central found that there was no difference in water weight gained compared with creatine monohydrate, and there was no increase in muscle strength.
There are studies showing it does have an impact on water weight but at the end of the day, there are many conflicting studies, and not enough evidence to prove the claims behind creatine ethyl ester.
Creatine Magnesium Chelate
Creatine Magnesium Chelate is a type of creatine that’s bonded with a magnesium chelate, a mineral that’s found in nature. This type of creatine claims that you’ll see better improvements in strength gain compared to regular creatine (monohydrate).
While this sounds great on paper, it doesn’t play out in the real world. Multiple studies have been done on creatine magnesium chelate, and they all found that it’s no more effective than creatine monohydrate.
It isn’t any worse, however, but if you buy it, you’re paying extra for creatine that won’t give you any benefits. Creatine MC is also claimed to be absorbed better into your body, but these claims haven’t been proven either.
While creatine magnesium chelate isn’t any more beneficial than creatine monohydrate, it isn’t any worse. In the studies that were done, users of each type of creatine had near-identical results in strength gains.
This being said, I wouldn’t recommend using creatine magnesium chelate. Doing so is just a waste of money, and won’t give you any improvements over regular creatine.
Buffered creatine, or Kre-Alkalyn, is a type of creatine that has a higher pH than others. Its claims are that it’s easier on your digestive system, and causes fewer side effects than creatine monohydrate.
While this sounds great, in reality, there are no proven benefits to buffered creatine. Numerous studies have shown that buffered creatine has no impact on side effects, and isn’t any more efficient for muscle growth than regular creatine.
Because there are no proven benefits to buffered creatine, I can’t recommend that you take it. Instead, stay with creatine monohydrate.
Creatine citrate is a type of creatine that’s combined with citric acid, the same stuff that makes oranges and lemons sour. This added citric acid is supposed to be easier to absorb and be better for your digestive system.
While creatine citrate is just as effective as creatine monohydrate, there are no studies proving that it’s absorbed easier into your body. This doesn’t mean that it’s proven to not be better at absorbing, just that there haven’t even been any studies completed.
For this reason, I can’t recommend for or against creatine citrate. So, if you want to test it out for yourself, use discretion because it’s not proven to be any more beneficial than creatine monohydrate.
Creatine malate is a type of creatine that’s bonded with a molecule of malic acid. Manufacturers claim that creatine malate is easier to dissolve in water, and gives your body better anaerobic production.
Anaerobic production is part of your metabolic system, so basically, it gives your body energy when there’s no oxygen present. While these claims sound great, there’s no conclusive evidence to prove them.
Studies have been done, but none of them used a control group, placebo group, or a group comparing it to creatine monohydrate. While this doesn’t mean that creatine malate is bad, it just means there’s no evidence to show that it’s any more effective than creatine monohydrate.
For this reason, again, I can’t recommend that you take creatine malate. It isn’t proved to be any better than creatine monohydrate, but it isn’t proven to be any worse. There aren’t enough studies out there to show what its effects really are.
Creatine gluconate is a type of creatine molecule that’s bonded with a molecule of gluconic acid. Like other forms in this article, it’s claimed to be absorbed into your body much more efficiently.
This sounds great, but there haven’t been any studies done on creatine gluconate at all. In fact, while I was searching for studies, the only one I found that included creatine gluconate was one that said that it’s “likely safe for consumption”, and it was talking about many different forms of creatine, all at once.
This doesn’t make me feel very good about taking creatine gluconate, and it should warn you away from it.
I’ve never taken it myself, and I probably never will, unless they complete more studies on it. When taking any supplement, it’s important that it’s thoroughly researched and known to be beneficial and safe.
Creatine pyruvate is a tough one. Like others, it’s a molecule of creatine bonded with a molecule of acid, this time it’s pyruvic acid.
Some studies show that creatine pyruvate is actually worse than creatine monohydrate, but others show that it’s better than creatine monohydrate, and can even increase your endurance during workouts.
That’s why this is a tough one. Some studies claim one thing, and some studies claim another. All the conflicting evidence, plus never having tried creatine pyruvate myself, I can’t recommend that you take it.
You shouldn’t follow my advice anyway, because I’m not a doctor, but you get the idea. This doesn’t mean that creatine pyruvate is bad, just that there aren’t enough studies yet to prove it one way or another. Until there are, you should stick to using a different type of creatine.
Creatine Alpha-Ketoglutarate (AKG)
Creatine alpha-ketoglutarate or creatine AKG is a type of creatine bonded with AKG acid. AKG on its own is a beneficial supplement for many reasons, not just building muscle, and it can be great on its own.
This being said, when combined with creatine, there are no proven benefits over creatine monohydrate. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take creatine AKG, just that if you do, don’t expect to see any extra strength gains.
If you do take creatine AKG, look at it as taking two different supplements at once. Do some research, and if it looks good to you, make the decision of if creatine alpha-ketoglutarate benefit you and your health.
Creatine nitrate is a type of creatine that’s bonded with a nitrate molecule. It’s claimed to be more effective, and require a lower dosage. This means that, allegedly, you can take less creatine nitrate, and have it be just as effective as a bigger dose of creatine monohydrate.
Unfortunately, there’s no evidence that creatine nitrate is any more effective. In fact, the only study that I could find was one that showed creatine nitrate “appears” safe to take for up to 28 days.
This doesn’t look like a very exciting study. A supplement that’s only shown to be safe for 30 days and no proven benefits looks like one that I would stay away from.
Again, there’s no evidence disproving its benefits, so we can’t write it off completely. This being said, I wouldn’t take it until there are more studies potentially proving that it is beneficial.
Why Creatine Monohydrate Is the Best
You’ve probably noticed this pattern, but most forms of creatine haven’t had enough studies to prove that they’re effective. Creatine monohydrate, on the other hand, is an exception to this.
There are countless studies showing/proving that creatine monohydrate is beneficial and that it’s safe to take. In fact, you can take it safely for years at a time, which I explain in my article about how long you can safely take creatine.
Creatine monohydrate, as well as micronized creatine, is proven to increase strength over time, have low/no side effects, and it’s even used as a supplement for people with conditions like Parkinson’s disease.
Overall, creatine monohydrate is proven to be safe and effective. If you take it, you can be sure that you’re getting a safe, reliable, and beneficial supplement to increase your performance in the gym.
Types of Creatine to Stay Away From
While almost all of the supplements in this article are safe to take, there are a few with weak benefits. While they’re technically safe, you should still avoid taking them. Here are a few I’d stay away from:
While there are no bad studies about creatine gluconate, there aren’t any good ones. This lack of evidence/studies makes me nervous about taking it as a supplement. Personally, I wouldn’t take this one.
Creatine nitrate is the one I would stay the furthest away from. It’s only proven to be safe for up to 28 days, and there aren’t any studies about its effectiveness as a muscle-building supplement. Because of both of these things, I wouldn’t recommend taking creatine nitrate unless your doctor recommends it.
My Recommended Creatine Brand
I recommend Micronized Creatine from BPI (link to Amazon).
I use this one myself, and it’s by far my favorite. If you want to learn more about it, read this article about why this type of creatine is my favorite.