Review: MuscleTech’s Cell Tech Hardcore Creatine Formula

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Note: Although Cell-Tech is still in existence, the “Hardcore” version reviewed below has been discontinued.

Cell-Tech Hardcore is billed as “…the world’s most powerful creatine formula.” “Hardcore” is the updated version of MuscleTech’s well-known Cell-Tech™ creatine delivery system. It features an extensive list of ingredients grouped into “four supersaturating creatine and insulin matrices” and “…is powered by Nanomolecular Hyperdispersion Technology for ultra-fast absorption.”

Wow.

Like its predecessor, Cell-Tech Hardcore contains dextrose, alpha lipoic acid, taurine and chromium. It also provides the same amount of creatine per serving (10 g). Instead of plain old creatine monohydrate, however, “Hardcore” contains Crea-Edge™—a proprietary blend of 7 different forms of creatine.

It’s a pretty impressive array: besides creatine monohydrate, Crea-Edge™ includes creatine anhydrous, creatine malate, creatine alpha-ketoglutarate, CreaKIC™ (creatine-6,8-thioctic acid-ketoisocaproic acid calcium), creatine pyroglutamate and tricreatine HCA.

There’s only one problem: there’s exactly zero science behind a complicated blend like this.

Here’s the deal: creatine monohydrate is the most thoroughly researched supplement in the strength trainee’s arsenal. Study after study has verified its effectiveness and safety. Nonetheless, other forms of creatine have appeared on the market, all claiming to be superior to creatine monohydrate in various ways. They’re allegedly more soluble, more stable and more bioavailable. Are these claims true? Who knows?

The reality is that few of these alternative forms of creatine have ever been studied at all, much less compared directly to creatine monohydrate. The claims of superiority rest almost entirely on speculation. Certain forms might be better…no different…or even worse than creatine monohydrate.

So, where’s the “science” behind the Crea-Edge™ blend? There’s no proof that creatine alpha-ketoglutarate, creatine HCA, etc., are individually any better than creatine monohydrate. Similarly, there’s no proof that blending these different creatines together will produce better results.

On the other hand, Muscletech’s sales site states:

“In a 28-day clinical study, Cell-Tech Hardcore was clinically proven to be 26 times more powerful than regular creatine at building mass (4.34 vs. 0.16 lbs.)…”

Am I wrong? Is there some proof that “Hardcore” is better than creatine monohydrate? “In-house” clinical studies aren’t as credible as peer-reviewed ones published in reputable scientific journals, but can be acceptable if they’re properly controlled. It all depends on the details.

Unfortunately, there are no details—just carefully selected results. This raises certain questions. We don’t know, for example, whether the creatine and “Hardcore” groups consumed the same number of calories.

Used as directed, “Hardcore” would provide 300 – 600 additional calories per day, which is a significant amount when it comes to building mass.

We also don’t know what the added mass consisted of: those extra calories were in the form of sugar, after all…a lot of sugar. Was it fat? Water? Muscle tissue? There is no way to tell, based on the information supplied.

So the numbers look good, but they don’t tell us anything about how the actual creatine component in “Hardcore” compares to “regular” creatine.

When it comes to evaluating product claims, what supplement companies don’t tell you is just as important as what they do!

Similar issues arise with the other ingredient “matrices,” such as the Osmodrol™ (Hyperosmotic Cell Volumizer) blend. Taurine and glutamine are useful nutrients, but there is no actual proof that taking either will enhance creatine uptake. In addition, the Osmodrol™ blend provides not one, but two different forms of each amino acid. Why? How are two forms better than one?

The Insulodrive™ (Accelerated Insulin Maximizer) is another complicated—and questionable—blend consisting of mulberry extract, Enicostemma littorale Blume extract, sweetbroom powder, Andrographis paniculata extract, trehalose and D-mannose. According to Muscletech, it’s “…a specific complex designed to maximize insulin secretion for ultimate creatine uptake.”

Now, whatever the merits of the various plant extracts and sugars, you get only 30 mg per serving of the entire Insulodrive™ blend. These ingredients just aren’t that potent…Is it possible that such a tiny dose will have a significant effect on the insulin response to a whopping 75 grams of pure dextrose?

I don’t think so. The Insulodrive™ blend is simply label decoration—no more and no less.

What about the “Nanomolecular Hyperdispersion Technology”? Once again, there’s less to it than meets the eye. According to Muscletech:

“Cell-Tech Hardcore™ represents a true breakthrough in harnessing the power of nanoparticulation. Nanoparticulation is the technical process of reducing a compound to microscopic size to initiate rapid absorption…Using pneumatic and jet milling systems, researchers were able to reduce a precise portion of the creatine in Cell-Tech Hardcore as small as two to 50 microns.”

A nanometer is 10-9 meters. To use the term “nanoparticulation” implies that “nano” sized particles are being produced. Yet MuscleTech’s FAQ clearly states that the range of particle sizes is between 2 and 50 microns. A micron is 10-6 meters – a thousand times larger than a nanometer.

There’s another name for the process of producing micron-sized particles. It’s called “micronization.” Micronized creatine is, of course, quite common. Micronization increases the surface area of the particles so they dissolve more easily. This is a good thing in the case of creatine monohydrate, as it has a relatively low solubility. The issue here is that Muscletech is using a term that makes it sound far more sophisticated and cutting edge than it actually is.

This last point sums up the entire “Hardcore” formula. “Hardcore” is more complicated than the original Cell-Tech, but the additional complexity doesn’t really add anything to it. In the end, it’s still about the creatine, dextrose and alpha-lipoic acid. This is an effective combination, but nothing unique or unusual. And – as Paul points out – this type of product has its drawbacks:

“Although I have used these products, I tend to avoid them — they are very expensive for what is little more than creatine mixed with dextrose (a simple sugar which you can pick up at your local bulk store for almost nothing). Agreed, they do lead to a better pump, and are ideal as a post workout supplement, but they also lead to fat storage (elevated insulin levels put the body in fat storing mode), which makes them less then ideal for regular usage.”

The bottom line is: don’t be overwhelmed by the seemingly long list of ingredients, invented terms, and appeals to “clinical studies” that you can’t evaluate for yourself. If you liked the original Cell-Tech™, you will probably like Cell-Tech Hardcore, although it’s considerably less than Muscletech’s sales hype makes it out to be.

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