Basically, creatine products come in several forms…
1. Creatine monohydrate powder: no added bells or whistles — just straight creatine which you can mix with water or juice. It’s very affordable (you can buy a 3-month’s supply from BodyBuilding.com for less than $25!) and if you buy a quality product from a reputable company, a good choice as a supplement, especially if you want to keep costs down.
Best of all, most studies verifying creatine’s effectiveness for athletic performance have been performed upon this very ordinary powdered creatine. No need to get fancy… the plain stuff works just fine, thank you very much.
2. Creatine delivery systems: These combine creatine with simple sugars like dextrose and alpha lipoic acid in order to elicit an insulin response — resulting in more creatine being shuttled to the muscle cells. A good example of such a product is Muscle Tech’s Cell Tech hardcore, reviewed here!
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 may also lead to fat storage (elevated insulin levels put the body in fat storing mode), which makes them less then ideal for regular usage.
It’s also worthwhile stating that although the supplement retailers claim these “delivery systems” vastly improve their products, to date there is no real clinical evidence demonstrating this is so.
3. 2nd generation creatine delivery systems: these are creatine products that attempt to mimic the effectiveness of products like first generation delivery products (like MuscleTech’s Cell-Tech) without the use of large amounts of sugar. Many are stacked with arginine to generate an even more impressive pump. Pump without sugar, of course, is a good thing.
4. Buffered Creatines Or Kre-Alkalyn: Kre-Alkalyn isn’t any old creatine monohydrate. No, it’s creatine that has been treated with alkaline salts to render a high pH when dissolved in water. Is it more effective than regular creatine?
The supplement retailers would have you think so.
Our intrepid reviewer Elissa recently tackled Kre-Alkalyn (click here to read the Kre-Alkalyn review) and discovered the science validating it’s effectiveness — beyond that of simple creatine monohydrate — is in short supply.
5. Newer, “more effective” chemical forms of creatine: Believe it or not, finding plain old creatine monohydrate in your creatine supplement is actually becoming a thing of the past. These days, it has very likely been replaced with one of the many “more effective” chemical forms of creatine. And as you’ll see when you check out Elissa’s review of CEE (creatine ethyl ester) more often than not, these “better forms” of creatine aren’t any better at all.
Have you seen these creatine variations in your favorite product?
Creatine citrate/dicreatine citrate, dicreatine malate/tricreatine malate, creatine ester malate, CEE/creatine methyl ester, creatine gluconate, creatine magnesium chelate, creatine pyruvate, creatine-6,8-thioctic acid-ketoisocaproic acid calcium (CREAKIC), carnitine creatinate, creatine alpha-ketoglutarate, tricreatine HCA, creatine l-pyroglutamate, creatine anhydrous, tricreatine orotate, disodium phosphocreatine, dicreatine HMB and “creatine titrate”?
The problem with these “variations” is a simple one. As Elissa says in her review of Muscle Tech’s Cell Tech…
“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.”
OK, with that out of the way, which creatine product should you use?
Well, if you want to be safe, stick with a plain creatine monohydrate powder from a reputable company (this is also your cheapest option). This would be my recommendation — since most clinical data is derived from studies performed on this form of the supplement — at least you know you’re getting a product that will deliver.
If you want to experiment with different type of creatine product after you’ve tried the basic, powdered creatine, at least you’ll have something to compare the results to.
A first generation delivery system is a good choice for your post workout creatine dosage, but these products tend to be expensive for what they are.
You can duplicate the results by staking plain creatine with dextrose—a simple sugar available for sale at most bulk food outlets.
Newer 2nd generation creatine products are more expensive, and in my experience, seem to be more effective at driving creatine to muscle cells — without all that sugar (I use Isatori’s 3-XL as my creatine product).
So who knows?
OK… so there you have it — a quick introduction to the wonders of creatine supplementation. For those of you who are interested in learning more about creatine before you attempt supplementation, have a look at Dr. A. Franco-Obregón’s “Creatine: A Practical Guide.”
It’s a well-written, well documented 67 PDF ebook that sells for just under $20. I recommend it for anyone who wants to know more about creatine and how it can help you attain your full potential.
Otherwise, why not give creatine monohydrate a try? We recommend ProLab’s product, available from BodyBuilding.com, our recommended online retailer!
This article is the last one in a 6-part series on creatine. If you’d like to review the entire series from the beginning (we cover correct dosages, safety issues, and more) please click here!