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Cliff Wilson Q&A: Which type of creatine is best?

As a bodybuilder, should I count my sugar intake daily? I worry too much sugar may contribute to fat gain or possibly put me at risk of diabetes.

My recommendation for my clients is that they don’t need to count their sugar on a daily basis. Sugar is often demonized by the fitness industry and the media leading people to believe that it is the sole reason for fat gain and health maladies in modern society. Most of the claims about sugar are completely unfounded though. 

The first thing I’ll address is the issue of body fat gain. It’s first important to realize that a gram of sugar will not impact body fat any differently than a gram of carbohydrate that is not sugar (complex carbohydrates). Sugar and complex carbohydrates contain the same amount of calories per gram. In fact, complex carbohydrates are eventually digested and broken down within the body until they are simple sugars as well. The varied rates of digestion and differences in metabolism will not impact your body composition so you can rest easy there.

As for the question of diabetes, I should start by stating that as bodybuilders, we should be weight training regularly, eating a variety of healthy and nutritious foods, and maintaining a good body composition where we are not too heavy. Now with that all said, people that develop type II diabetes typically have a long history of a poor diet and body composition for YEARS! It is not as if you will have a bad week with your diet where you eat too much sugar and come up with diabetes. Also, the act of weight training has incredible insulin effects on muscle tissue to allow it to take up glucose. Plus, body composition is going to be one of the biggest factors to being healthy overall. While it’s not the only factor, it is a big one.

Is you simply focus on eating a good base of vegetables, fruits, and starches while doing all the things a bodybuilder should do, then you won’t have to worry about having some sugar each day. It won’t hurt you in the least.  

Which type of creatine is best? I see many different forms of creatine and it gets confusing.

I can understand your confusion. It seems every week there is a new form of “breakthrough creatine” hitting the market. I can still remember some of my early days walking into the supplement stores. I would ask where the creatine is and I would be directed to an entire wall of creatine! Hell, with the lighting, the variety, the colors and wording on the ads it wasn’t even a wall, it was practically a shrine of creatine. I didn’t know if I was supposed to pick one or bow down and pray to it.

Let’s take a look at some of the facts about the different types so you don’t need to hit the ground and pray for divine intervention when selecting your creatine type.

Creatine Monohydrate- Creatine monohydrate is possibly the most researched supplement in history. Time and time again it has been proven effective and safe. It has become the standard against which all other creatines are judged. It is rather inexpensive making it an excellent supplement option even for those on a budget.

Effervescent Creatine- Effervescent creatine  is made up of creatine monohydrate along with citric acid and bicarbonate. It is often touted as being more stable in liquid form as well as well as having a greater retention rate in the body. Unfortunately research has shown that it is unstable in liquids just like other forms of creatine (11) and it also has no greater retention than creatine monohydrate (12). 

Creatine Nitrate- Creatine nitrate is creatine that has been bound to a nitrate group. Creatine nitrate has been found to be about 10x more soluble than creatine monohydrate which may allow it to cause less gastric distress to those that sometimes experience stomach issues with regular creatine monohydrate. However, the claims of creatine nitrate being more effective for increasing strength or power have not been shown to be true.

Creatine Citrate- Creatine that has been bonded with citric acid.  It is often claimed that creatine citrate is more absorbable and therefore more effective at increasing muscle creatine stores. However, research has shown this is not the case and only appears to be as effective as creatine monohydrate (13).

Creatine Ethyl Ester (CEE)- Creatine ethyl ester is commonly called an “advanced creatine” and that it “increases uptake” over standard creatine monohydrate. It is funny that this is the common marketing claim because the truth is that creatine ethyl ester rapidly degrades into the metabolite creatinine in the intestines, almost completely in fact (14,15). Therefore making it FAR LESS effective than its cheaper counterpart creatine monohydrate. This is an extremely ineffective supplement. Don’t waste your money on this.

Buffered Creating (Kre-Alkalyn)- This is also known as Buffered Creatine. The buffer is actually sodium bicarbonate, more commonly known as baking soda. The marketing claim for buffered creatine is that you don’t have to take as high dosages as regular monohydrate because more of the product will pass through the stomach and GI tract through less degradation. Unfortunately Kre-Alkalyn is negated by stomach acid and turns into a basic creatine molecule. The claim that regular creatine monohydrate needs to be buffered in order to prevent it from breaking down into creatinine with the body is inaccurate. High acidity environments, like in your stomach, will actually slow the conversion of creatine to creatinine. So once you take creatine there will be very little degradation (16). This makes Kre-Alkalyn no more effective than regular creatine monohydrate. In fact, one study even showed Kre-Alkalyn less LESS effective at promoting changes in muscle creatine content than regular creatine monohydrate (17). This was body at the recommend lower dose for Kre-Alkalyn as well as an equivalent dose of monohydrate. This is a little disappointing when you consider it is also more expensive.

Magnesium Creatine Chelate- There is some research that shows creatine magnesium chelate enhances uptake of creatine into muscle cells as well as intracellular water (18). However, at this time any performance benefits are still yet to be shown.

Creatine Pyruvate- There is actually some mixed research on creatine pyruvate. Creatine pyruvate was found to be more effective than creatine citrate (19) which is promising since creatine citrate appears to be as effective as creatine monohydrate. Other research also shows that creatine pyruvate raises plasma creatine levels to a greater degree than monohydrate BUT it was no more effective in terms of absorption (20). Another study also showed that creatine pyruvate intake failed to improve cycling performance both in an endurance capacity as well as sprinting (21).

Creatine Malate- This is creatine that has been bound with malic acid. This form of creatine has yet to be researched to determine its effectiveness. However, malic acid may have performance enhancing benefits on its own (22).

Creatine Hydrochloride (Con-Crete)- Creatine Hydrochloride is typically marketed as being more soluble and also absorbs more rapidly in the GI tract. While it is true that hydrochloride typically bound to amines will have these abilities, this has not yet been proven to be the case with creatine hcl. There are as of yet no studies to show superior absorption of creatine hcl or improved performance.

As you can see, you are going to be best off with creatine monohydrate. It really has been the most proven and most effective according to the research. In some rare cases creatine monohydrate can give a few people stomach issues in which case you might want to try creatine nitrate. However, this is a very very small amount of people. The other forms of creatine are usually just more expense for less results. Obviously not a good thing.

One final word on selecting creatine. There are typically powders, pills, and liquids you can choose from. You will definitely want the powder form. Creatine is NOT stable in liquid for long periods. If left in liquid for too long, creatine will degrade into useless creatinine. If a company is trying to sell you liquid creatine, just run away as fast as you can. Pills are a decent option, they are no more or less effective than creatine powder and can even be better for travel, but it can just be a pain in the ass swallowing 10 pills in a single shot.

I hope that clears up your question.


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