If you’re invested in a gym and want to get the most out of your training, supplementing with creatine is an effective way to maximize both performance and results.
As a supplement, creatine is one of the most tested in the world, and numerous studies show that it can increase muscle mass, strength, and exercise performance.
Needless to say, it’s very popular among athletes and bodybuilders.
And while it’s true that dietary creatine is found in animals, the creatine in most supplements is synthesized from sarcosine and cyanamide — and is therefore vegan.
In this article, we’re going to cover all you need to know about creatine, including the different types of creatine, as well as the different delivery forms (including one that may not be vegan).
What is Creatine?
Put simply, creatine is a molecule that’s similar in structure to amino acids and can be found naturally in muscle cells. It functions as an accessible energy reserve in your muscles and is particularly useful during heavy lifting or high-intensity workouts.
Since meat is the primary source of creatine, vegetarians usually have lower amounts of it in their bodies than people that consume meat. (1)
However, creatine is not an essential nutrient as it’s produced by the liver, but its benefits are well-documented, so both vegans and vegetarians can gain a lot from taking a creatine supplement, especially if they’re athletes or bodybuilders.
How Does It Work?
Creatine plays an important role in high-intensity workouts.
In addition to improving performance, it can also increase muscle growth, which may be determined by different factors, including:
Besides its performance-enhancing and muscle-growth benefits, creatine supplements are also known to increase phosphocreatine stores in the brain, which may have positive effects on brain health, including the prevention of neurological disease (13, 14, 15, 16, 17).
What Are The Different Types of Creatine?
Creatine supplements vary by the amount and quality of the creatine they contain.
However, in a huge market like this one, you’re bound to find brands that rely on shady marketing claims to draw you in as a customer.
What they do, however, is create a supplement containing other less-studied forms of creatine, as well as extracts, botanicals, sweeteners, artificial colors, and flavors, or any other ingredient that may be used to stand out from the competition, regardless of its validity.
The best creatine supplements have the fewest extras and make the least claims, and they’re typically available in the form of creatine monohydrate.
This is the most common form of creatine, and also the one that’s been used in the majority of research on the topic, hence being the most widely used.
Creatine monohydrate is made up of a creatine molecule and a water molecule, even though there are various ways in which it can be processed.
For example, in some cases, by removing the water molecule, you obtain what’s called creatine anhydrous. Meaning, you get an increased amount of creatine per dose by removing the water and leaving the creatine content.
Other times (and one this is quite popular), the creatine is micronized, which is a mechanical process in which the creatine is processed to improve water solubility. The goal here is to obtain a form of creatine that can improve your body’s ability to absorb it.
Bulk Supplements, one of the most popular brands of supplements, has a thoroughly reviewed and popular creatine monohydrate supplement that is micronized. Not only is it effective and safe to consume, but it’s also extremely cheap.
That said, despite any of the processing methods, every one of these forms is effective.
Additionally, any new forms of creatine that show up in the future are to be compared with creatine monohydrate, which is essentially the benchmark for creatine supplements.
Creatine Ethyl Ester
In some cases, you have manufacturers that claim that creatine ethyl ester is superior to any other form of creatine available.
And while you can find some evidence suggesting that it is better absorbed by the body, there’s a study comparing it to creatine monohydrate, and the conclusion was that creatine ethyl ester performs worse in terms of increasing creatine content in the body.
For that reason, it’s not recommended that you take creatine ethyl ester.
Creatine hydrochloride (HCI) is gaining popularity among manufacturers and supplement users.
This is due to reports of its superior solubility, and it’s speculated that a lower dose can be used to achieve the same results, but without reducing common side effects like an upset stomach.
In fact, there is a study that compares the solubility of creatine hydrochloride and creatine monohydrate, and HC) was 38 times more soluble.
However, there are absolutely no experiments done on humans with HCI, and given that creatine monohydrate has a larger amount of data — it’s certainly more recommended to go with the later.
Some manufacturers have tried to improve the stability of creatine by adding an alkaline powder, which results in what’s called buffered creatine.
However, like many other forms of creatine, there is not enough evidence to prove that buffered creatine is AS effective as creatine monohydrate.
Because there’s not that much information, it’s not recommended.
Additionally, there’s research suggesting that creatine may break down in the water after several days. (21) Thankfully, it’s not something that happens immediately, otherwise, other forms of creatine (including creatine monohydrate) would be left with no effects.
In summary, there’s not enough evidence in favor of this creatine form.
Creatine Magnesium Chelate
Creatine Magnesium Chelate is magnesium attached to the creatine molecule.
While there’s evidence showing that creatine magnesium chelate may be as effective as creatine monohydrate, nothing suggests you should choose it over standard creatine.
Essentially, there’s no benefit in doing so, and thus creatine monohydrate remains the best choice.
Creatine can be delivered in three different ways: liquid, powder, and capsule forms.
The most common delivery form is powder. Yet, the use of capsules is also popular since it’s a convenient way to ingest the creatine without having to mix anything. Though unlike the powdered form, it’s not as easily digestible and the effects may not occur immediately.
Also, it’s quite common for the capsules to be made of gelatin, a non-vegan ingredient. If you prefer capsules, first ensure the brand or manufacturer is using veggie capsules.
Are Creatine Supplements Safe?
Creatine is among the most well-research supplements available.
But despite its research-backed benefits, some people avoid taking it because they’re afraid of potential negative effects.
Among the negative effects, you can spot different claims, with some people suggesting that it may cause weight gain, cramping, digestive, liver, or kidney problems.
On the other hand, the International Society of Sports Nutrition considers it to be extremely safe, and they also conclude that creatine is among the most beneficial supplements. (18)
Still, there are sources (like WebMD) that do not recommend taking creatine if you have pre-existing conditions such as liver or kidney disease, or even diabetes. You also need to be careful if taking medication or a supplement that could affect your blood sugar levels, since creatine may affect blood sugar levels as well.
Before taking any supplement, be sure to talk to your doctor, as you may have pre-existing conditions that may cause some sort of incompatibility.
Dietary creatine is typically found in animal foods, however, the one found in supplements is usually synthesized from compounds that are vegan-friendly.
That said, if you’re planning to take a creatine supplement delivered in capsule form, ensure that these aren’t made from gelatin — a non-vegan ingredient.
If you don’t want to waste time searching for the right supplement, the creatine monohydrate supplement by Bulk Supplements is probably the best you can find. It’s cheap, available in both powder and capsule form (including veggie capsules), you can get it from as little as 100g to 25kg, and there are no shady extras or any weird claims made by the company.
Finally, It doesn’t matter whether you’re vegan or not, taking creatine can positively affect how you train and help you build more muscle.