If you ask the average athlete, you would quickly find out that creatine is a staple in their supplement arsenal. What you will not hear, however, is detailed knowledge about what makes creatine that good.
That being said, creatine is creatine regardless of where you get yours, right? Not exactly, as over the years, there have been enhancements to the base constituent which helped make an already good supplement even better.
One such development? The rise of creatine hydrochloride, otherwise known as creatine HCL.
Creatine HCL is formed via the addition of a hydrochloride group, (the HCL) to base creatine, which helps to improve its stability and solubility. See, although creatine monohydrate (the form you will find in 90% of supplements) is good, it misses the mark owing to its poor solubility.
In this article, we will discuss why creatine HCL is arguably the most superior form of this supplement on the market and why you should be using it. We will not be going over the merits of using creatine for endurance athletes, as this was already covered in a previous article here.
Do you recall mixing your creatine monohydrate powder in water, only to have tons of sediment remaining? That is a clear indicator of poor water solubility. When consumed, much is actually wasted since the absorption is subpar.
The enhanced solubility is also attributed to a reduction in its pH to the more acidic side, which does wonders for its dissolution.
Better mixability means that you can easily add it to your protein shake, fast carbohydrate beverage, or even consume on its own. Plus, you won't need to guzzle down a ton of liquid in the process.
It is purported that just about 3% of the creatine monohydrate you consume is absorbed via the intestines within 90 minutes, which is the critical interval around your training session. If there is one thing you will learn from years of training, it’s the fact that what you consume is just as important as when you consume it.
The speed of absorption will help with both aerobic and anaerobic endurance activity, as your mitochondria will synthesize ATP in a timelier manner to support muscle contractions.
Overall, creatine is not a dangerous supplement by any means, but this is not to say that it doesn’t possess some unpleasant side effects. Amongst these manifestations is a nasty little thing known as bloating.
This by itself is enough reason to want to ditch your basic creatine product, but do you know what’s even worse? Stomach cramping as a result of it drawing water into the intestine and it not going anywhere.
The feeling of bloated, crampy insides is bound to leave you feeling less than 100% and your performance will be negatively impacted. Keep in mind that when using the HCL form, you do not need to consume as much liquid, which inevitably feels better on the stomach.
Water retention usually happens in one of two locations; intracellular fluid, and extracellular fluid. Intracellular fluid refers to the areas within the muscle cells, which is where you want creatine to be, and extracellular areas, found outside the muscle cells which include areas like under the skin.
The retention of fluid here will not only manifest in your weight but also your appearance.
Creatine monohydrate usually requires a loading dose of 20-30g for 7-14 days, followed by a maintenance dose of 5g daily to keep muscles saturated.
Creatine HCL requires just about one-quarter of a teaspoon daily for the same effect as you would expect from the 5g maintenance dose of monohydrate, which can help extend how long a tub of the powder lasts.
There have been mixed verdicts from specialist researchers in the field when it comes to the best time to take creatine supplements, and the quick answer to this question is that there is no single best time.
The few studies that have been conducted reveal no noticeable differences between timing, although a combination of both intervals may be the better approach. There is one study that demonstrated that if you absolutely had to choose one, the post-workout interval may be slightly better.
On non-training days, a single daily dose is appropriate at any time you find convenient.
There are a couple of different brands of creatine HCL on the market, and not surprisingly, their recommended dose varies. However, one of the most trusted brands with a patented Creatine HCL product recommends a conservative 750mg per 100 pounds of bodyweight- a stark difference to the 5-10g amount that monohydrate requires.
A few creatine HCL brands also suggest a dosage of 3g, which may be a little high when compared to the market average of other reputable HCL brands.
The ergogenic effects of creatine supplementation do not become immediately evident. Even though the hydrochloride version does not necessitate a loading phase, it may still take about 7 days for its effects to become noticeable.
This is owing to the fact that muscle cell saturation is still an integral pre-requisite before its glory can be experienced.
Is there really a superior version of creatine?
The answer isn’t that straightforward. On paper, creatine HCL appears superior in virtually every aspect, but the problem with that is the fact that the claims are poorly backed up at best.
Anecdotal reports are one thing to go by, but not sufficient to prove it better beyond a shadow of a doubt. There is also the possibility that the creatine is cleaved apart from the hydrochloride moiety and thus rendering it back to just plain old creatine.
Many people will likely stick to plain old monohydrate, but those that dislike that form may find solace in the HCL version. At least that’s why many people make the switch in the beginning.
Creatine is one of the most studied supplements in history and carries with it a very good safety profile. A small subset of users may experience side effects which include:
The following people should not take creatine supplements without first consulting their doctor or pharmacist.
Creatine HCL may interact with the following drugs:
Creatine HCL can easily be sourced at Amazon from several competing brands. My pick for the best creatine HCL is Kaged Muscle Creatine HCL.
Give it a try and see if it works better for you than creatine monohydrate