Creatine, the Real Muscle Builder

If protein supplements are number one, creatine is an extremely close second when it comes to supplements for bodybuilders. Proven safe and effective, creatine is a derivative of amino acids and is hands down the most effective supplement used by strength athletes and bodybuilders to boost gains in strength and muscle mass. Creatine citrate, creatine phosphate and creatine malate are just some of the formulations available today.

The proper use of creatine supplements may help a bodybuilder to add five or ten pounds of pure muscle in no time. Hundreds of studies have been published on the safety and effectiveness of creatine. Most of these studies were done on creatine monohydrate, which was the first and most basic formulation of creatine to hit the market. Creatine monohydrate was found to be safe and effective in most of these studies.

How does creatine work?

Creatine has two important functions for bodybuilders. First,creatine increases the size, or volume of muscle cells, which is the amount of water each cell can hold. This slight expansion of each cell causes the entire muscle to expand which triggers even further muscle growth. The second important function of creatine is that it provides muscle cells with immediate energy in the form of ATP (Adenosine triphosphate), which is absolutely essential to perform bodybuilding exercises. Having extra ATP within the muscle cells will allow you to perform more repetitions than you normally could, which translates into greater muscle growth.

Unfortunately, creatine is only effective for about 70% of athletes and bodybuilders. Those who do not respond to creatine may already produce enough creatine phosphate in their muscles that supplementing with creatine does not make much difference.

Different types of Creatine Formulations.

Creatine Monohydrate.

Creatine monohydrate was the first creatine supplement available and is still the least expensive form of creatine. Most people respond well to this basic creatine powder, although some people experience bloating, diarrhea or cramps. This is usually caused by forms of creatine that have not been ground into a fine enough powder. Almost all brands of creatine monohydrate on the shelves today is micronized creatine, which is an easily mixed fine powder. If you decide to stick with creatine monohydrate, be sure that it is the micronized version. This is the type of creatine that I use and it works great for me, and it is cheap!

Creatine Anhydrous.

Creatine anhydrous is simply creatine with the water molecule removed. This makes the creatine powder slightly more pure, but this is a minor advantage. There is little difference between creatine anhydrous and creatine monohydrate.

Creatine Citrate.

Creatine citrate came out shortly after creatine monohydrate gained popularity. The creatine citrate product is created by binding creatine molecules and citric acid molecules. Citric acid is used for energy production, and the theory is that when taken with creatine, the combination would provide more muscle energy than creatine taken by itself. Although this sounds good, it has never been proven through research. Creatine citrate, when compared serving for serving, supplies, about 40% less creatine than the monohydrate form, but it may dissolve more easily in water.

Creatine Phosphate

Creatine phosphate also popped up soon after creatine monohydrate first hit the supplement market. The creatine phosphate version is made up of a phosphate molecule and a creatine molcule bound together. The bonding of these two molecules normally takes place inside the muscle cell and is something that must take place an order for creatine to be effective at all. Creatine phosphate was very popular when it first came out. However, most bodybuilders found out that it was somewhat less effective than creatine monohydrate.

Creatine Malate

Creatine malate is one of the newest forms of creatine. It is created by binding creatine and malic acid. Malic acid as well as citric acid, is an intermediate component of the Krebs cycle, which is the metabolic pathway that creates aerobic energy inside the muscle. This means that malic acid is important for energy creation which is believed to make creatine malate more potent than creatine monohydrate. Creatine malate also dissolves easily in water and creates less stomach discomfort. Unfortunately, research on creatine malate is rare at this time, so its benefits are still in question.

Creatine Ester.

Creatine Ester is one of the more recent formulations of creatine, and is technically known as creatine ester ethyl hydrochloride. Developed by scientists at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, this version of creatine is basically an alcohol mixed with acid. The theory behind this formulation is that it will allow the creatine to permeate cell membranes more easily in the intestines and muscle cells. This should allow the creatine to be absorbed and taken into muscle cells much more quickly than the other forms of creatine.

Effervescent Creatine.

This creatine formulation has been around almost as long as monohydrate and when mixed with water, creaqtes a fizz. The formulation is usually a creatine citrate or creatine monohydrate mix together with bicarbonate and citric acid, which causes the effervescent effect to separate the carrier from the creatine. The creatine left over can dissolve more easily in water, and is prevented from being destroyed by stomach acid and may be better absorbed in the intestinal tract. Some studies have confirmed that this type of creatine does indeed remain stable in water much longer than creatine monohydrate does. This would be a good formulation of creatine to use if you plan on mixing it several hours before you drink it.

Magnesium Creatine.

This is a form of creatine that is bound to a magnesium molecule. This protects the creatine from stomach acid and allows it to be absorbed more easily. Magnesium must be present in order for creatine phosphate to be converted into ATP, which is what creates energy in the muscle. At least one study has shown that this form of creatine causes the muscle to take in more fluid and creates greater strength than taking creatine and magnesium separately. If you're looking two use this type of creatine, you're better off buying the actual combination, rather than just adding magnesium as a separate supplement.

With all the different types of creatine available today, and with very little research showing one being better than another, I personally would recommend sticking with creatine monohydrate in the micronized form, unless you are experiencing some gastric distress. If this is the case, try some of the other versions to see if they work better for you.

The dosage we recommend is 3-5 grams before and immediately after your workout session, along with 40 or 50 grams whey protein and 60-100 grams simple carbohydrates.



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