Unless you’re new here, you know you should probably be taking creatine. It’s one of the most well-research, reliable, and safe supplements around.
So I’m not going to address any questions about the general effectiveness of creatine.
Yes, it works.
No, it’s not “steroids.”
No, it’s not bad for your kidneys.
From this point on I’m assuming we’re all on the same page with the baseline knowledge of creatine’s effectiveness and safety. For an overview of all the research on creatine, check out Examine, who’ve compiled all the research for us.
But what about the different forms of creatine?
The two heavyweights in the creatine-chemistry game are creatine monhydrate and creatine hydrochloride (creatine HCL). The difference between them starts on a chemical level.
Creatine monohydrate is creatine bonded with one water molecule (hence, monohydrate).
Creatine HCl is creatine bonded with a hydrochloride molecule.
These chemical differences mean they’re going to interact differently in the body.
And the biggest difference is their solubility. Creatine HCl is much more soluble (1). If you remember from high school chemistry, solubility is how well something dissolves.
Proponents of creatine HCl will say its solubility means the body absorbs it better. But, this extrapolation is built on speculation, not research.
The vast majority of research on creatine showing over and over again the substance’s effectiveness was done on creatine monohydrate, and there’s no research to show Creatine HCl’s superiority.
The reality is they probably both work equally. And if we’re talking about differences, they’re so minuscule they’re not worth worrying about. What’s more important is that you’re actually taking creatine on a consistent basis.
The more tangible difference on a practical level between creatine monohydrate vs HCl is the cost. Creatine monohydrate costs less. In terms of bang for your buck, it’s one of the best supplements around.
And because of this, I recommend going with the tried and true creatine monohydrate.
However, solubility is not something to brush off to the side. Creatine monohydrate really does not mix well in water.
Drinking creatine with just water is like putting sand in your water.
I use it in smoothies so it doesn’t matter, but if you need a creatine form you can easily mix in with water or juice, then paying a few extra bucks for creatine HCl might be worth it for you.
But, in terms of the best creatine supplement considering the price and effectiveness, creatine monohydrate is still king.
Nearly all creatine monohydrate supplements are exactly the same: they’re just creatine monohydrate. And if they were all exactly the same, there would be no best. Unfortunately, because the supplement industry can be a bit shady, they’re NOT all the same.
Remember that supplements are not regulated by the FDA. That means supplement companies sneak in other substances, or cheaper substances without putting it on the label. That’s a huge problem for the supplement injury, but for you, it just means you should go with a trustworthy brand that’s been third party tested.
I also take this to the next level, because the supplement industry can be shady, and look for companies with a reliable reputation and that maintain the highest standards of ethics and sustainability. That’s why I buy almost all my supplements from ONNIT, and their creatine monohydrate is no exception.
With regards to health and fitness, you know we here at Roman Fitness Systems understand that training is a part of life, but not your whole life, as you can tell by our numerous articles on topics ranging from Rules for an Awesome Life, to Why The Twilight Books Suck. And that means that we aim for a practical approach so you can get the most out of your training, and enjoy the rest of your life.
When it comes to the best time to take creatine, the answer is whenever is most convenient for you. Because what’s most important is that you take it. And if taking it pre-workout is more work for you than in the evening, then you’re less likely to take it and thus not reap its benefits.
So the answer to the best time to take creatine depends on your routine.
For example, I have a smoothie for breakfast almost every morning. So, I always put a few grams of ONNIT creatine monohydrate in the smoothie. Creatine monohydrate is insoluble, but I’ve found that in a thick smoothie made in a blender, I don’t notice it at all.
If you usually have a post-workout shake, throw it in there. The point is, the best time to take creatine is the time that works best for you. That way you do it consistently.
There is no best creatine supplement. And every year, I see more and more creatine supplements on the market, often with different forms of creatine. Those companies, I’m sure, will talk about a new form of creatine is superior in every way. There may be some truth to it. Only further research will tell.
But what we know right now is that creatine monohydrate is one of the most well-researched supplements, period. It’s inexpensive, effective, and safe.
If you eat a ton of red meat (and here’s why you should be) then you’re getting plenty of creatine from your diet. And like most nutrients, there’s a point of diminishing returns. A 16-ounce steak contains around 2 grams of creatine. The recommended serving for creatine is 5 grams. Even if you’re a red meat-eater, it’s worth trying creatine monohydrate and see if you respond to it.
One easy way to gauge its effectiveness is to see if you gain weight within a few days. It will be water weight, but the gain will be a sign that you aren’t saturated with creatine and therefore can benefit from supplementation.
We just answered the five most common supplements questions.