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Supplement Breakdown: Creatine HCL

Supplement Breakdown: Creatine HCL
Not all creatine is created equal. The HCL form trumps all others. Here's why.

Think all creatine is the same? It's not. The type you see most often is creatine monohydrate, but this is far from your only option. In fact, your best bet for reaping all the benefits of one of the most highly touted (and widely studied) performance-enhancing supplements ever is creatine HCL.

Creatine hydrochloride (HCL) is made by attaching a hydrochloride (HCL) group to creatine to enhance its stability. While creatine is well-recognized by sport scientists and athletes as one of the most effective supplement ingredients you can take to promote muscle growth and strength gains, there can be a few issues with the standard form of creatine known as creatine monohydrate.

Creatine Monohydrate's Downside

The main issues with creatine monohydrate are its solubility in fluids and its absorption by the body. Some research has reported that less than 3% of the original amount of creatine monohydrate is transported across the intestinal cells within 90 minutes. Not only is this an issue because it limits the uptake of creatine by the intestines and then by the muscles, but it can also lead to stomach upset (from the creatine sitting in the intestines and drawing water into them) and water retention in the subcutaneous space (under the skin), which blurs a person's muscularity and makes them look smooth and bloated.

Although some experts claim that creatine monohydrate doesn't cause bloating or water retention, I have data on thousands of individuals showing that many of them do, in fact, experience this "bad" water retention with creatine. In fact, several studies actually show that creatine monohydrate not only increases intracellular water (inside the muscle cells where you want it), but it also increases extracellular water levels, which is the area under the skin that causes that puffy look. Even though the changes in extracellular fluid may be small, in those who are very lean it can make a big difference in how "shredded" they look. I know that when I'm getting ready for a photo shoot I am NOT risking any small increases in my subcutaneous water levels. That's just one reason why I use creatine HCL.

There's also data on numerous individuals experiencing stomach issues such as abdominal cramps and diarrhea from taking creatine monohydrate, even when it's micronized. Again, this is due to the creatine that's not dissolved in the fluid it's mixed with -- it then sits in the intestines and draws water in. I've personally had severe issues with creatine monohydrate. It doesn't do well with my intestines. And I've heard from thousands of others who experience the same issues. With creatine HCL, I have zero stomach issues, which is not only great news for my stomach but also for my muscles, because I know that it's being absorbed and getting to them.

HCL Rationale

Creatine HCL works well because adding the hydrochloride group to the creatine molucule lowers the pH of the creatine, making it more acidic.This drastically increases its solubility in fluids. You'll notice this when you mix creatine HCL in water; it mixes almost instantly with no sedimentation, with no particles sitting in the bottom of the glass. Any ingredients that have precipitated to the bottom of a cup are ingredients that will sit in your intestines and not be absorbed properly. This will also cause water to be pulled into the intestines, causing stomach discomfort and diarrhea. Creatine HCL has been shown in the lab to be about 40 times more soluble in fluid than creatine monohydrate.

And research shows that when subjects consume the same amounts of creatine HCL and creatine monohydrate, the creatine HCL is absorbed by the intestines around 60% better than creatine monohydrate. This means that you can take a much smaller dose of creatine HCL to get similar results as creatine monohydrate. With greater solubility in fluid, greater absorption by the intestines and with a much smaller dose, you significantly reduce the chance of stomach issues and subcutaneous water retention.

Although published studies comparing performance benefits of creatine HCL to creatine monohydrate have yet to be done, the data I have on trained lifters confirms that creatine HCL outperforms creatine monohydrate in lean muscle mass gains, strength and power increases and greater endurance in the gym. This has also been reported by thousands of people following my advice to switch to creatine HCL.

But even if you don't want to believe that creatine HCL outperforms creatine monohydrate, you can rest assured knowing that it definitely provides similar results as creatine monohydrate, at a much smaller dose and with none of the potential side effects. There truly is no debating that fact.

These are all reasons why I included creatine HCL in both Pre JYM and Post JYM. Each product contains two grams of HCL per dose. This is the dose that I've found works best for the majority of people: two grams before training and then another two grams after.

Am I saying that creatine monohydrate is bad? No. Just that creatine HCL is better – a significant upgrade for a supplemental ingredient already proven effective. And wouldn't you prefer to take the best form of creatine possible before and after workouts? I know I would!

Looking for more information on creatine in general? Learn why it's been one of the most widely studied and widely used performance-enhancing supplements of the last 20+ years by reading my Creatine Primer article.

 

References:

Dash, A., et al. Evaluation of creatine transport using Caco-2 monolayers as an in vitro model for intestinal absorption. Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences 90(10):1593-1598, 2001.

Powers, M. E., et al. Creatine supplementation increases total body water without altering fluid distribution. Journal of Athletic Training 38(1):44-50, 2003.

Miller, D. Oral bioavailability of creatine supplements: Is there room for improvement? Annual Meeting of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 2009.

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