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Creatine took the supplement world by storm back in the early-to-mid 1990s. Going on to be scientifically proven to be one of the most potent muscle builders on the market, you can’t enter a supplement store without seeing shelves full of different choices. Since there are various types of creatine on the market, it can be hard to know the difference. This guide will help you differentiate between types of creatine so you can make a more informed purchasing decision.
Of all the types of creatine available, creatine monohydrate is still the one many lifters still think of. The original variation that introduced the workout world to creatine, monohydrate is dosed 5g at a time. Original recommendations included 5 doses/day for 5 days as a “loading” phase with another 1-2 doses/day thereafter. It also required sugar to be properly absorbed – either in the powder itself to be mixed with water, or “raw” creatine being taken with juice.
One of the next types of creatine to hit the market, creatine ethyl ester is “simpler” form than monohydrate. This is because it doesn’t require sugar for the body to be absorbed properly like monohydrate does, no “loading” phase is necessary, and you really only need to take half as much. A dose of 2-3 grams per day is sufficient.
Considered a “step up” from monohydrate, tri-creatine malate is comprised of three parts creatine molecules and one part malic acid molecules. The malic acid was added because it can act as a sort of intermediate substance that provides additional energy to the body. At the same time, this version of creatine is considered more water-soluble (which can eliminate some gastric issues creatine might ordinarily cause) and is thought to have greater bioavailability.
Because some types of creatine powder can be hard to mix and/or absorb, micronized creatine has become somewhat popular. It consists of much smaller particles than “normal” creatine, making it much easier to blend and drink. Typical dosage recommendations are similar to that of monohydrate – 5g taken 5x/day for 5 days, then 5g/day thereafter. After 21 days, cycle off for 3 days before starting over.
This new, more highly concentrated form of creatine is very popular right now. The biggest reason for this is because conjugated creatine’s higher concentration levels allow you to dose only 25% of what you’d normally have to with monohydrate. This means not only having to take less creatine overall, but better absorption and the least possible chance of experiencing creatine-related stomach issues.
When all is said and done, the real question is if you should care about all the different types of creatine. Experience with them can vary anecdotally, with some lifters not really noticing a difference while others swearing by their favorite formulation. Your best bet is to start with monohydrate (if you haven’t already), see how that works for you, then try other versions to compare results.