One of the most widely studied supplements for muscle growth has been creatine. And there is growing evidence of how creatine supplementation might drastically impact a bulking or loading phase.
But there is still a lot of debate about creatine HCL vs. monohydrate.
You’ll see both on shelves at your sports nutrition store. But which type of creatine is best suited for your fitness level and goals?
We teamed up with a nutritionist to see if we could scientifically show the best form of creatine.
Difference Between Creatine HCL And Creatine Monohydrate?
Creatine hydrochloride (HCL) and creatine monohydrate seem like fancy terms geeks in lab coats came up with.
But there are some significant differences between these most common creatine supplement options.
We’ve broken things down into six sections to show you better what both forms of creatine do to your body.
One of the main differences between creatine HCL and creatine monohydrate is how fast your body may absorb it.
The creatine HCL form is bound to the hydrochloric acid molecule, which is highly water-soluble.
That means you shouldn’t need too much planning about what and when you take it.
But scientists have also proved that once your stomach absorbs it, it’s much faster to become active in your muscle cells .
So, creatine HCL does seem to make it into your body faster due to the creatine molecule structure, which could be a big plus from a timing perspective.
But, the International Society Of Sports Nutrition has done some research and found that over a more extended period .
“Creatine is thought to improve strength, increase lean muscle mass, and help the muscles recover more quickly during exercise. This muscular boost might help athletes achieve bursts of speed and energy, especially during short bouts of high-intensity activities such as weight lifting or sprinting.” - WebMD.com
Creatine HCL is also the type that has been around the longest, with thousands of proven track records.
My personal experience has been positive with both of them, so I wouldn’t discount creatine HCL purely on this research.
Between the two forms, creatine monohydrate wins hands down with purity.
The creatine monohydrate form is usually around 99.8% pure, meaning when you measure out 5 grams of creatine, you pretty much get the full dose. While creatine HCL isn’t as pure, the stuff that it’s been mixed with makes it easier to absorb.
Just because it’s not as pure doesn’t necessarily make it a negative.
Scientists have measured that creatine HCL is 40 times more soluble than creatine monohydrate.
That makes it easier to absorb, but it should almost instantly dissolve in a glass of water if you take it as a powder supplement.
Some clients find creatine HCL works within about 15 minutes, and they take their supplement after their warm-up routine.
5. Side Effects
One of the advantages of creatine HCL compared to creatine monohydrate is the limited side effects .
Because your body may absorb it faster, there is a lower chance of stomach upset and bloating.
But it may also reduce the issue of water retention that is common with supplemental creatine.
I always advise people who start to use creatine monohydrate to take smaller doses first to see how they react.
If you notice signs of swelling and water retention, then it might be better to switch from creatine monohydrate to HCL. It might also be worth getting some medical advice.
If you’re taking creatine for a more extended loading phase, then creatine HCL may work out a lot more expensive than creatine monohydrate.
The faster absorption and fewer adverse effects do come at a price.
If cost is going to be an issue, then I suggest trying out creatine monohydrate, even if it’s slower acting.
You could plan to take creatine monohydrate about 30 minutes before your workout and still get good results for increased muscle mass.
Why Is Creatine Important For Athletes?
Both creatine hydrochloride and creatine monohydrate ultimately do the same thing for your muscles.
And a quick warning, this next paragraph might get a bit technical, but I’ll avoid all the nerdy science terms.
Your muscles require a form of energy called adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. It’s one of the most basic forms, and there is only ever a limited amount of ATP available at any given time.
You can only perform at peak levels for short periods, sometimes less than 5 seconds.
Creatine plays a crucial role in making more ATP available, and some studies suggest that creatine supplements might boost ATP availability for up to 8 seconds.
It also helps keep a constant flow of fresh ATP, which might improve your endurance, performance, and muscle gains.
And that’s why supplementing with creatine HCL or creatine monohydrate is so popular with bodybuilders.
When Is The Best Time To Take a Creatine Supplement?
There is a slight difference in timing between creatine HCL and creatine monohydrate.
I suggest taking creatine monohydrate about 20 minutes before you start warming up due to its slow creatine molecule breakdown.
Creatine HCL, on the other hand, may only take about 15 minutes to work, and some of my clients would take it during or even after their warm-up. As a result, it might delay the peak performance of the creatine supplement.
Stacking With Other Supplements
The good thing with creatine HCL and creatine monohydrate is that most pre-, post-workout, and dietary supplements don’t often include much.
I would suggest avoiding creatine in other supplements as you don’t want to be taking too much of it.
Water retention could become an issue, and you might also have an upset stomach.
One option you might want to consider is stacking creatine supplements with beta-alanine.
The two supplements seem to work well together to boost your performance and reduce early signs of muscle fatigue.
You may want to start with just micronized creatine and wait a week or two before adding beta-alanine. It ensures you don’t get any cramping from combining the two.
Will Creatine HCL Make You Bigger?
Yes, creatine HCL can make you bigger with weight gain when combined with a high-intensity workout, as with creatine monohydrate. It might increase the amount of water in your muscle cells and develop more muscle fibers from resistance training.
Is Creatine HCL Bad for Your Teeth?
No, creatine HCL isn’t bad for your teeth unless you eat the powder without diluting it. The hydrochloric acid in the creatine supplement could impact your teeth, but in capsule and mixed form, it shouldn’t have any effects.
Should You Take Creatine Every Day?
You could take creatine every day, but it’s only beneficial when you do higher-intensity training.
How Long Does It Take for Creatine HCL to Work?
It takes about a week for creatine HCL to take effect. You would have to take the supplement consistently and work out at least four days to see the impact of higher endurance, better physical performance, and muscle growth.
Creatine HCL vs Monohydrate: Which Is Better?
While HCL might be better than creatine monohydrate from an adverse effects perspective, the long history of creatine monohydrate supplement use shouldn’t be ignored.
Unless you have a sensitive stomach or seem to retain a lot of water while taking HCL, I would suggest you try creatine monohydrate first.
We have many clients who have been taking either creatine monohydrate or HCL for years, and they adjust the amount of creatine to the specific bulking or loading phase they are in.
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