Supplements

Creatine HCL vs. Monohydrate | Which Is Better?

 

The majority of studies have focused on the effects of creatine monohydrate on performance and health; however, many other forms of creatine exist, HCL for example.

When it comes to bodybuilding and strength gains for athletes during resistance training, creatine is up there, arguably, with whey protein for a must-have in your arsenal of supplements. One of the main reasons for this is its tried, tested, and proven results, making it a highly effective ally in building muscle.

How does it help? Supplementing creatine boosts the natural creatine stores in your body. Your muscle tissue stores creatine as phosphocreatine. Phosphocreatine synthesizes during high-intensity exercises, such as lifting weights, to provide your muscles with extra energy. Creatine pulls water into your muscle cells, increasing protein synthesis. It is then utilized by your body as a quick form of energy during high-intensity, short-burst activities such as lifting a heavy weight or breaking into a sprint.

Creatine also helps your body to produce more ATP, which essentially helps your muscles to work harder and function better during a training session.

This wondrous supplement, however, comes in more than one popular form. But what is the difference, and which is better?

 

What are the types of creatine?

HCL

There is more than one form of creatine. The most common and popular are creatine HCL and creatine monohydrate.

Both HCL and monohydrate are utilized for the same end purpose, achieving the aforementioned results.

What is HCL creatine?

Creatine HCL, or creatine hydrochloride, is creatine that is molecularly bound with hydrochloric acid to enhance its solubility and overall absorption rates. This means that it will be broken down quicker in your body and more easily absorbed by your muscle cells. As it is more quickly absorbed, water retention is not a concern and by absorbing faster into your bloodstream, side effects are reduced.

Is HCL creatine?

HCL is a compound of creatine and hydrochloric acid. HCL was introduced to help alleviate some of the negative side effects of creatine such as water retention. HCL is supposed to be 41 times more water soluble than creatine monohydrate1.

Monohydrate

What is creatine monohydrate?

Creatine monohydrate is the original supplement that has been around for the longest and is most widely used. As such, there is more proof of its effectiveness than any other kind. One of the main pluses is its purity, being around 99.8 percent, not to mention it is the more affordable option.

What does creatine monohydrate do?

Creatine monohydrate increases energy, exercise performance, and muscle mass when taken in combination with training. Creatine speeds up the natural process of how our bodies produce Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP). ATP is used up and quickly depletes during high-intensity exercise.

By supplementing creatine, you can increase the ability to store more, meaning that more ATP can be produced during exercise.

It is not a provider of extra energy in the same way as boosters like caffeine and glucose, but increases your reserves, thus allowing you to work harder for longer – therein lies the gains.

What is the difference between HCL and monohydrate?

Creatine monohydrate is a molecule found naturally in the body and may also be ingested from food sources including seafood, eggs, and meat. It is made up of three amino acids: glycine, arginine, and methionine.

HCL is creatine that is molecularly bound with hydrochloric acid. HCL is a newer version of creatine and has not been studied as extensively as creatine monohydrate.

Is creatine HCL better than creatine monohydrate?

There are many claims surrounding creatine HCL such as it absorbs faster than monohydrate, and thus avoids some of the side effects of monohydrate. There is not enough research done on HCL to determine which is the better form of creatine. Both forms have been proven to be effective in increasing muscle mass and strength.

If you are looking for a proven supplement guaranteed to work, it has to be monohydrate as many more studies have been published on its effective performance. This includes research on its ability to increase strength, recovery rates, and the ability to build muscle.

What does creatine do?

Creatine has been shown to improve exercise performance, disorders of creatine metabolism or transport, muscle strength and mass, and age-related muscle loss (sarcopenia)2.

The primary reason athletes take creatine is to build muscle and improve performance.

What are the benefits of creatine HCL?

HCL is creatine bound with hydrochloric acid, making it supposedly more water-soluble and more easily absorbed by the body. HCL’s permeability in the intestinal tract is also greater than that of creatine monohydrate. Because HCL is purported to be absorbed faster by muscle cells, water retention should not be a concern and side effects of creatine monohydrate like bloating should be reduced1.

The attached hydrochloric acid molecule also improves the stability of the creatine. This means that no loading phase is required as it is with creatine monohydrate1. 

How effective is creatine HCL?

Creatine HCL has been shown to demonstrate similar levels of effectiveness as creatine monohydrate in terms of performance and strength1. In one study published in the International Journal of Food and Nutrition Research, HCL was shown to increase lean mass, decrease fat percentage, and increase strength in males aged 18-25.3

Does creatine HCL make you look bigger?

The effects of creatine HCL are not well studied, but in one study, just like with creatine monohydrate, creatine HCL has been shown to increase lean mass.3 However, because creatine HCL does not cause as much water retention in the muscle cells as creatine monohydrate, you may not appear as “swole” when taking HCL.

What is the best creatine HCL?

The best Creatine HCL will be one that is high quality, does not contain any fillers, and goes through third-party testing to ensure quality. These are some of the things you should look out for when purchasing Creatine HCL.

How much Creatine HCL should I take a day?

With Creatine HCL, no loading phase is required. According to the research, you only need a quarter of a teaspoon a day for it to be effective. With monohydrate, a loading phase and daily intake of 15 – 20 grams and then 5 grams a day is required to keep your muscles saturated.

There is little proof of this, with no formal research to prove that HCL is, therefore, the most convenient of the two supplements. We like a supplement that we know will work, and while you can take the word of the experts that HCL is effective in tiny doses, making it the more convenient to take and transport, monohydrate is proven to work at the aforementioned dose. At the end of the day, how inconvenient is it to mix those extra measures into your shake?

Can you take Creatine HCL every day?

Yes, just like with monohydrate, Creatine HCL can be taken daily and has been shown to produce results when taken daily1.

What are the benefits of Creatine Monohydrate?

Creatine monohydrate has been well-researched and boasts many different health benefits such as improving neurological and cognitive function. In older adults, creatine has been linked to fatigue resistance and increased strength, muscle mass, bone mineral density, and performance of activities of daily living4. Creatine monohydrate has even been shown to improve mental health by alleviating symptoms of depression5.

Creatine Monohydrate is also proven to be safe and effective for people without pre-existing medical concerns. Its safety has also been proven in the longer term, which is good to know if you’re a repeat user of creatine supplements.

The ‘no contest’ has to rule as the same research doesn’t exist for creatine HCL. So if you want the reassurance of a proven, tested product, creatine monohydrate is the one for you. Monohydrate is also considered the purest form of creatine available.

 

Is Creatine Monohydrate worth taking?

If you’re looking to gain muscle mass and improve your performance at the gym in a safe way, Creatine monohydrate is definitely worth a try. With tons of research to back it up and great results, monohydrate can definitely help you reach your lifting goals.

What are the side effects of Creatine Monohydrate?

Some people experience mild side effects such as bloating, weight gain, water retention, and gastrointestinal upset when taking creatine monohydrate. These side effects are likely due to the high dosage of creatine most people take, especially in the loading phase. Lowering your dose if you experience any of these side effects will likely alleviate them1.

How do bodybuilders use Creatine Monohydrate?

Bodybuilders use Creatine Monohydrate to increase muscle mass, energy levels, and training ability. In any form, creatine has been regularly shown to increase strength, fat-free mass, and muscle morphology in combination with heavy resistance training4. By increasing creatine storage and the rate of ATP regeneration, supplementing with creatine helps to increase performance and training ability4.

Is Creatine Monohydrate a steroid?

Creatine is not a steroid and is not similar to steroids in its effect on the body. Steroids are considered drugs while creatine is considered a natural supplement. Anabolic steroids are a synthetic form of testosterone and can increase muscle mass by increasing muscle protein synthesis through influencing the genetic expression of muscle-specific genes. Supplementing with creatine also increases muscle protein synthesis, but by pulling water into your muscle cells. Creatine also increases ATP production, and this over time can lead to increased muscle mass through increased training performance5.

When should I take Creatine Monohydrate?

Creatine can be taken pre and/or post-workout. Taking creatine post-workout can help provide your muscles with energy, which can help you to work out harder, for longer. Doing this will break down more muscle fibers and with sufficient recovery, lead to more growth. So you could take 5 g before your workout and 5 g after to help aid performance, recovery, and growth. It really is up to you when you choose to take it provided you stay within the recommended daily dosage.

 

Is creatine good for you?

In short, the research points to yes. Creatine is not detrimental to the body and has various positive effects. It helps you increase muscle mass and energy levels in a safe way.

How much does creatine cost?

Creatine Monohydrate will cost you about $35 for a standard size of 225 grams, while HCL Creatine is more expensive per gram and will run you about $20 for 45-55 grams.

You’ll get more bang for your buck with monohydrate. While HCL requires smaller daily doses, monohydrate compensates with a lower price per serving and greater volumes in each container.

How do you take creatine?

Creatine comes in either powder form or pills. With the powder, you simply mix a serving size into water or your beverage of choice and drink. With pills, the number of pills you take will depend on what your dosage is. Determine your desired dosage and measure out how many pills make that dose, and that is what you should take. Creatine can potentially be dehydrating due to it causing your muscle cells to pull water from the body. So remember to drink a lot of water when taking the supplement.

Can you take creatine every day?

Yes, you definitely can take creatine every day. Many studies have shown that creatine is effective for increasing exercise performance and strength performance when taken daily. A good way to take the supplement is to begin with a loading period and then move into a maintenance period. During both periods, you should take creatine daily to see the best results4.

Does creatine affect you sexually?

No evidence suggests that creatine has any sexual impact.

Does creatine raise testosterone?

Creatine has not been shown to raise testosterone levels. Many studies have reported no change in testosterone levels when subjects supplemented with creatine; this includes total testosterone, free testosterone, and DHT (the metabolite of testosterone linked to hair loss in men)5.

How quickly does creatine work?

It can take between 7 to 28 days to see the energy effects of creatine6.

 

Does creatine affect mood?

While more research needs to be done, creatine has been shown in several studies to have a positive effect on mood. According to the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, creatine has been shown to improve mood and alleviate symptoms of depression in adolescent females5. Additionally, another study demonstrated that creatine boosted mood in patients with Parkinson’s Disease 7. Creatine was also shown to reduce mental fatigue in healthy individuals and improve mood and reduce fatigue in sleep-deprived individuals in a clinical trial published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology8.

 

Does creatine make you lose weight?

Creatine does not help you lose weight, and you should not take the supplement if weight loss is your goal. However, creatine will help you build lean muscle mass.

Is creatine good for your body?

Supplementing with creatine can have positive effects on the body including boosting mood and alleviating symptoms of certain metabolic and musculoskeletal disorders, among others.

Is taking creatine safe?

Taking creatine is currently considered safe and ethical4. When taken in appropriate doses, creatine is likely safe to take for up to five years. And just like with any supplement, you’ll want to ensure you choose a creatine that follows recommended manufacturing practices and goes through third-party testing to ensure quality, like Myprotein’s Creatine Monohydrate Powder. 9

Is it okay to take creatine before bed?

Yes, taking creatine before bed is totally fine. The supplement is not a stimulant, and thus there is no issue with taking it before bed, or whatever time of day works best for you.

What are the negative effects of creatine?

According to the research, there are no proven negative health effects for healthy individuals when taking creatine, both short and long-term. The health risks demonstrated applied only to those who were already diagnosed with specific health conditions like bipolar disorder or renal health disorders. For the general population, there are no known negative side effects of supplementing with creatine4.

 

Take home message

Creatine HCL offers many advantages, including quicker absorption rates, reduced side effects, and smaller doses.

Creatine monohydrate, however, has been around longer than any other, with more research confirming its effectiveness, not to mention its affordability and purity. If you are uncertain whether creatine may conflict with any pre-existing medical conditions, ask your doctor before trying this supplement.

 

Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you’re concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.


  1. De Franca, E., Santana, J. O., Fernandes Yoshioka, C. A., & Avelar, B. (2015, December). Creatine hcl and creatine monohydrate improve strength but only … Research Gate. Retrieved November 22, 2022, from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/288670717_Creatine_HCl_and_Creatine_Monohydrate_Improve_Strength_but_Only_Creatine_HCl_Induced_Changes_on_Body_Composition_in_Recreational_Weightlifters
  2. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (n.d.). Creatine: Medlineplus supplements. MedlinePlus. Retrieved November 19, 2022, from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/873.html
  3. Fernandes Yoshioka, C. A. (2019, June 27). Comparison between creatine monohydrate and creatine hcl on body composition and performance of the Brazilian Olympic Team. eSciPub Journals. Retrieved November 21, 2022, from https://escipub.com/ijfnr-2019-05-2205/
  4. Cooper, R., Naclerio, F., Allgrove, J., & Jimenez, A. (2012, July 20). Creatine supplementation with specific view to exercise/sports performance: An update. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Retrieved November 19, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3407788/
  5. Antonio, J., Candow, D. G., Forbes, S. C., Gualano, B., Jagim, A. R., Kreider, R. B., Rawson, E. S., Smith-Ryan, A. E., VanDusseldorp, T. A., Willoughby, D. S., & Ziegenfuss, T. N. (2021, February 8). Common questions and misconceptions about creatine supplementation: What does the scientific evidence really show? Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Retrieved November 19, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7871530/
  6. Creatine & Creatine supplements: What is creatine, are supplements safe. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Retrieved November 19, 2022, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/17674-creatine-and-creatine-supplements#:~:text=It%20will%20take%20seven%20to,or%20trying%20to%20lose%20weight.
  7. Creatine. Mount Sinai Health System. (n.d.). Retrieved November 19, 2022, fromhttps://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/supplement/creatine
  8. Allen, P. J. (2012, May). Creatine metabolism and psychiatric disorders: Does creatine supplementation have therapeutic value? Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews. Retrieved November 19, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3340488/
  9. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2021, February 9). Creatine. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved November 19, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-creatine/art-20347591


Alice Pearson

Alice Pearson

Registered Associate Nutritionist

Alice Pearson is a UKVRN Registered Associate Nutritionist and UK Anti‐Doping accredited advisor, having obtained a Bachelor’s of Science in Nutrition and a Master’s of Science in Sport Nutrition. She has a specialist interest in the use of sports supplements for improving health, fitness, and sport performance. Alice has experience working with both amateur and elite athletes, including providing nutritional support to Tranmere Rovers FC and Newcastle Falcons Rugby Club. Her nutritional guidance is always supported by evidence‐based research, which she keeps up to date through continuing professional development and independent learning. In her spare time, Alice loves travelling, hitting the gym, and getting stuck into a good book. Find out more about Alice's story here


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