Creatine is probably the most popular supplement for athletes and bodybuilders looking to improve their performance and muscle mass. Two of the most popular forms of creatine supplements are creatine hydrochloride (HCL) and creatine monohydrate. While both are similar in function, they have some distinct differences that are important to consider when choosing which one to use.
My name is Gary and I run allaboutthegains.com – I am a qualified PT and have been training for around 17 years. Over this time period I have tried loads of different supplements including creatine monohydrate and creatine hydrochloride. I have also done lots of research into various studies conducted, to make sure I give you the TRUTH about creatine.
In this article, we will discuss the difference between creatine hydrochloride and creatine monohydrate, how creatine works, the loading phase and whether it is necessary, dosage, and which one is more effective.
Creatine is a naturally occurring molecule that is produced in the body and is also found in certain foods, such as red meat and fish. It is stored in the muscles and is used as a source of energy during high-intensity exercise.
Creatine works by increasing the amount of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) available in the muscles. ATP is the primary source of energy for muscle contractions, and increasing its availability can help improve muscle performance during high-intensity exercise.
When you take a creatine supplement, your body converts it to phosphocreatine, which is stored in the muscles. Phosphocreatine is then used to produce ATP during high-intensity exercise, providing a quick source of energy to the muscles. This can help delay fatigue and improve performance during short, intense bursts of exercise, such as weightlifting or sprinting.
Creatine also increases water retention in the body. This is because creatine acts as an osmolyte, which means it helps to regulate water balance in cells by attracting water molecules. The increased water retention can cause weight gain and bloating, which can be a concern for some individuals, but has actually been proven to be beneficial in improving performance and muscle mass. We will discuss this later on in the article.
Creatine monohydrate is a simple molecule, consisting of creatine bound to a water molecule, and is relatively inexpensive compared to other forms of creatine.
Creatine monohydrate is the most common form of creatine supplement and is widely available in health food stores and online. It has been studied extensively and has been shown to be effective in improving muscle strength, power, and endurance. Creatine monohydrate is a simple molecule, consisting of creatine bound to a water molecule, and is relatively inexpensive compared to other forms of creatine
Creatine hydrochloride is a newer form of creatine supplement that has gained popularity in recent years. When I say newer, I mean relatively, it has still been around since around 2003.
It is marketed as being more water-soluble and more easily absorbed by the body than creatine monohydrate. Creatine HCL is made by combining creatine with hydrochloric acid, which creates a salt that is more acidic than creatine monohydrate.
When taking creatine monohydrate, it is common to hear people say that you should go through a loading phase in which you take a higher dose for the first week to saturate your muscles with creatine. The loading phase typically involves taking 20-25 grams of creatine per day, divided into four or five smaller doses throughout the day. After the loading phase, the maintenance dose is usually around 5-10 grams per day, taken either before or after exercise.
You will also hear people say that with Creatine HCL this loading phase is not necessary.
However, recent studies have suggested that a loading phase may not be necessary with creatine monohydrate either and that taking a smaller dose of creatine over a longer period may be just as effective. In a 2019 study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, researchers found that taking a smaller dose of creatine monohydrate (3 grams per day) for 28 days was just as effective in improving muscle strength and power as a loading phase followed by a maintenance dose.
As mentioned earlier Creatine causes water retention, but this isnt necessarily a bad thing. The water retention caused by creatine supplements can also have a positive effect on muscle growth and performance. By increasing water retention in muscle cells, creatine can help to increase muscle volume and size, which can lead to improved strength and power. This effect is known as cell volumization or cell swelling, and it can also help to increase protein synthesis in muscle cells, which is important for muscle growth and recovery.
In addition, the increased water retention caused by creatine supplements can also help to prevent dehydration during exercise. When you exercise, your body loses water through sweat, and dehydration can impair performance and increase the risk of heat-related illness. By increasing water retention in muscle cells, creatine can help to maintain hydration levels and improve exercise performance.
Overall, while water retention can be a concern for some individuals who take creatine supplements, it can also have positive effects on muscle growth and performance. Both creatine hydrochloride and creatine monohydrate can cause water retention, but the extent to which this occurs may vary between individuals. It is important to drink plenty of water when taking creatine supplements to help maintain hydration levels and prevent dehydration.
There have been few studies directly comparing the effectiveness of creatine HCL to creatine monohydrate. One study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition in 2012 found that creatine HCL was more effective than creatine monohydrate at increasing muscle creatine levels. However, this study was funded by a company that manufactures creatine HCL, so it is important to take the
results with a pinch of salt and wait for more independent research to confirm the findings.
Reccomended dosage for Creatine Monohydrate is 3-5g. When taking creatine HCL, the recommended dosage is typically much lower than creatine monohydrate. The suggested dosage for creatine HCL is 1-2 grams per day, taken either before or after exercise. This is because creatine HCL is more concentrated than creatine monohydrate, and less of it is needed to achieve the same effects.
You do not need to cycle on and off of creatine.
When it comes to effectiveness, creatine monohydrate is the most well-researched and established form of creatine supplement. It has been shown to be effective in improving muscle strength, power, and endurance, and is widely used and recommended by athletes and fitness enthusiasts. While there is some evidence to suggest that creatine HCL may be more easily absorbed by the body, there is not yet enough research to confirm its effectiveness compared to creatine monohydrate.
Ultimately, the choice between creatine HCL and creatine monohydrate will depend on individual preferences and goals. Creatine monohydrate is a tried and true supplement that has been shown to be effective in numerous studies, while creatine HCL may offer some benefits in terms of absorption and solubility. However, creatine HCL is typically more expensive than creatine monohydrate and is not as widely available, which may be a drawback for some users.
It is highly likely that any difference between the two forms of creatine is negligible when looked at over a period of time.
Creatine supplements are very popular with athletes and bodybuilders looking to improve their performance. Creatine monohydrate is the most well-researched and established form of creatine supplement, and has been shown to be effective in improving muscle strength, power, and endurance. Creatine hydrochloride may offer some benefits in terms of absorption and solubility, but more research is needed to confirm its effectiveness compared to creatine monohydrate. Ultimately, the choice between the two will depend on individual preferences, goals, and budget. As with any supplement, it is important to talk to a healthcare professional before starting to take creatine, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking any medications.
My name is Gary and I run All About The Gains.
I am a qualified PT and have been training for 17 years. I have been involved in lots of disciplines from bodybuilding to boxing, functional training to kettlebells, running, Jiu Jitsu and H.I.I.T. I am currently a member of GB top team - an M.M.A gym in south London.
I have spent the last 15 years extensively researching topics on diet and supplements, muscle building, exercise and biomechanics and I write these articles so that the normal person can understand the topic, without having to visit 10+ sites. Each article I write is researched with reference to properly conducted studies. I link to all of these studies so that you can look into it yourself if needed.