Which Type of Creatine Should I Use?
If you have been stregnth training, bodybuilding or powerlifting for any period of time, you most certainly have heard of Creatine. This article explains what it does and how it works.
Creatine is the king of supplements for bodybuilders. Protein supplements are extremely important, but creatine is equally necessary for optimum benefits. Creatine is derived from amino acids and is currently the most popular supplement out there for bodybuilders. Creatine is effective and creatine is safe, which is why it is so popular. Here are some of the different formulations that are currently on the market.
The proper use of creatine supplements may help a bodybuilder to add five or ten pounds of pure muscle in no time. Creatine's effectiveness and safety have been proven by numerous published studies. Most of these studies were done on creatine monohydrate, which was the first and most basic formulation of creatine to hit the market. Most of the studies done on creatine monohydrate found it to be very safe and quite effective.
How does creatine work?
Creatine has two important functions for bodybuilders. Number one, creatine causes a slight increase in the volume or size of muscle cells which is the amount of water the cells can hold. The entire muscle, in turn, becomes larger due to the expansion of the cells, and this triggers the muscle to begin growing even more. The second important function of creatine is that it provides muscle cells with immediate energy in the form of ATP (Adenosine triphosphate), which is absolutely essential to perform bodybuilding exercises. Having extra ATP within the muscle cells will allow you to perform more repetitions than you normally could, which translates into greater muscle growth.
Unfortunately, creatine is only effective for about 70% of athletes and bodybuilders. If creatine supplementation does not produce a response in some people, it may be because that person already produces plenty of creatine in their muscle cells without it.
Different types of Creatine Formulations.
Creatine monohydrate was the first creatine supplement available and is still the least expensive form of creatine. Some possible side effects of creatine supplementation are cramps, diarrhea and bloating, although very few people experience and discomfort at all. This is usually caused by forms of creatine that have not been ground into a fine enough powder. Almost all brands of creatine monohydrate on the shelves today is micronized creatine, which is an easily mixed fine powder. If creatine monohydrate is your preferred formulation, be sure it is micronized. This is the type of creatine that I use and it works great for me, and it is cheap!
Creatine anhydrous is simply creatine with the water molecule removed. This makes the creatine powder slightly more pure, but this is a minor advantage. There is little difference between creatine anhydrous and creatine monohydrate.
Creatine Citrate became available almost immediately following creatine monohydrate's popularity. The creatine citrate product is created by binding creatine molecules and citric acid molecules. Citric acid is used for energy production, and the theory is that when taken with creatine, the combination would provide more muscle energy than creatine taken by itself. Unfortunately this has yet to be proven in the lab. Creatine citrate, when compared serving for serving, supplies, about 40% less creatine than the monohydrate form, but it may dissolve more easily in water.
Creatine phosphate also popped up soon after creatine monohydrate first hit the supplement market. The creatine phosphate version is made up of a phosphate molecule and a creatine molcule bound together. The bonding of these two molecules normally takes place inside the muscle cell and is something that must take place an order for creatine to be effective at all. Creatine Phosphate was extremely well received when it first hit the market. However, most bodybuilders found out that it was somewhat less effective than creatine monohydrate.
Creatine malate is one of the newest forms of creatine. It is created by binding creatine and malic acid. Malic acid as well as citric acid, is an intermediate component of the Krebs cycle, which is the metabolic pathway that creates aerobic energy inside the muscle. This means that malic acid is important for energy creation which is believed to make creatine malate more potent than creatine monohydrate. The creatine malate formulation may cause less distress to the stomach, and dissolves quickly in water. The benefits of creatine malate are somewhat in question at this time as few studies have been done on it.
Creatine Ester is one of the more recent formulations of creatine, and is technically known as creatine ester ethyl hydrochloride. This creatine formulation is an acid mixed together with an alcohol, created in the lab at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The theory behind this formulation is that it will allow the creatine to permeate cell membranes more easily in the intestines and muscle cells. This should allow the creatine to be absorbed and taken into muscle cells much more quickly than the other forms of creatine.
This type of creatine has been around for a while and creates an effect similar to Alka- Seltzer. The formulation is usually a creatine citrate or creatine monohydrate mix together with bicarbonate and citric acid, which causes the effervescent effect to separate the carrier from the creatine. The creatine left over can dissolve more easily in water, and is prevented from being destroyed by stomach acid and may be better absorbed in the intestinal tract. Some studies have confirmed that this type of creatine does indeed remain stable in water much longer than creatine monohydrate does. This would be a good formulation of creatine to use if you plan on mixing it several hours before you drink it.
This version is made up of creatine and magnesium molecules being bound together. This protects the creatine from stomach acid and allows it to be absorbed more easily. Magnesium must be present in order for creatine phosphate to be converted into ATP, which is what creates energy in the muscle. At least one study has shown that this form of creatine causes the muscle to take in more fluid and creates greater strength than taking creatine and magnesium separately. If you're looking two use this type of creatine, you're better off buying the actual combination, rather than just adding magnesium as a separate supplement.
With all the different types of creatine available today, and with very little research showing one being better than another, I personally would recommend sticking with creatine monohydrate in the micronized form, unless you are experiencing some gastric distress. If this is the case, try some of the other versions to see if they work better for you.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David Monyer has written numerous articles on bodybuilding and supplementation, and has been a bodybuilder for over 20 years. For more information and recommended creatine supplements, visit http://www.RockSolidBodybuilding.com/creatine