Over the past few years there has been an influx of different types of creatine supplements – these new forms of the performance athlete’s staple include Creatine Citrate, Creatine Nitrate, pH Buffered Creatine, Creatine Hydrochloride, and Creatine Ethyl-Ester.
With a seemingly endless market of creatine alternatives – all claiming to be ‘game-changing’ – it can be difficult for the inexperienced athlete to decipher what is legitimate and what is yet another gimmick in the unregulated supplement market. The most widely used form of creatine, Creatine Monohydrate, is the only form that has been widely tested and confirmed for its legitimacy.
How Do We Judge Creatine’s Efficacy?
Creatine is an organic acid that occurs naturally in humans and can be consumed dietarily, mainly through meats. It has been shown to increase athletic performance in numerous studies; other forms of creatine have also been tested and there is little evidence to back the bold claims that alternative forms have any reliability.
One indicator of efficacy is found in the actual creatine content provided in differing forms of the supplement. The table below shows 18 forms of creatine and the actual percentage of creatine contained. Obviously, in its purest form, Creatine Anhydrous will contain 100% creatine. Creatine Monohydrate contains nearly 88% creatine and after that the percentages drop off considerably.
Another indication may be in the stability of Creatine Monohydrate. As creatine degrades, it degrades into a byproduct called creatinine. There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that Creatinine may cause stomach pain, muscle cramps, and nausea among other things. After testing, Creatinine was finally found within Creatine Monohydrate – this evidence would suggest that as long as the creatine stays dry and free of moisture, it is unlikely degrade for long periods of time. Even when exposed to heat as high as 104 degrees Fahrenheit, Creatine Monohydrate remained in a stable form.
When creatine is placed in a solution however (typically mixed with water) the stability is greatly reduced. The pH of the solution changes the rate of degradation, but for everyday use, tap water typically has a near neutral pH. Note the graph to the right, the 7.5 and 6.5 pH lines, and the quick rate at which they degrade. Using the figure below, we see that after just half an hour the creatine begins to degrade. This suggests that consumption of mixed creatine should be within the first half hour to one hour.
Types of Creatine Studies
There have been multiple studies confirming the claims that creatine monohydrate makes. Studies have reported that supplementation with Creatine Monohydrate promotes performance increases as well as fat-free mass gain (Cribb and Hayes 2006; Kreider et al. 1998; Volek et al. 1997, 1999; Willoughby and Rosene 2001; Willoughby and Rosene 2003).
Only one study (Spillane et al. 2009) has been done thus far concerning Creatine Ethyl-Ester. The double-blind study showed that there was no increase in muscle saturation when compared to the placebo group. It also did not promote increased strength, size, or sprint performance. The study also found that subjects had higher Creatinine levels which could mean that Creatine Ethyl-Ester degrades at a higher rate.
While one study certainly isn’t conclusive, there is simply no other data to counter that research. Again, due to the fast pace at which new forms of creatine are being released there is not enough research to support the claims that these companies are making. There is however, significant positive research to indicate that Creatine Monohydrate has a positive effect on strength, muscle, and mass gains.
With such a multitude of new forms of creatine, it can be confusing when searching for the best. There are now several different forms of creatine all deriving from Creatine Monohydrate. At this time however, they simply cannot be compared. Creatine Monohydrate is truly the gold standard of creatine supplements and there is significant data to back it up.
Concerning the newer forms of creatine, there is little to no data to back the bold claims being made. With no almost no side effects, a low cost, and scientifically proven positive enhancements, Creatine Monohydrate is truly the best option on this ever-expanding market.