With two kinds of creatine available, which is better? Is it the more common creatine monohydrate, or is the more expensive creatine ethyl ester? I gathered what science I could and here is what I found.
There is reason to believe creatine ethyl ester is probably more soluble than creatine monohydrate, or any other form of creatine. Seeing as solubility affects transport over biological membranes, such as muscle cells, it very likely is taken up into your muscles more effectively. This means that you can load it faster. Whether this leads to a greater accumulation of creatine in your muscles at the end of a typical five-day loading phase, when compared to creatine monohydrate, is unknown. Which means there is no human data as of yet that can support, or dispute this claim.
To give a brief overview of the scientific explanation, creatine ethyl ester is a membrane permeable form of creatine that in theory can enter the cells without having to use the typical creatine transporter molecules. Users are reported to gain substantial increases in strength and muscle mass, with none of the gastrointestinal discomfort or water bloating normally associated with the monohydrate form. Recommended dosages range from as little as one to three grams per day with no loading phase, as typically prescribed for the monohydrate form.
Most manufacturers who market creatine ethyl ester products recommend less than a five-gram dose of per day. Can a much smaller dosage of creatine ethyl ester, say 10 to 12 grams, lead to the same elevation of creatine muscle saturation as consuming 20 to 25 grams per day of monohydrate over four or five days, even when taking into account the better solubility of creatine ethyl ester? What would the difference be between supplementing with five grams of creatine ethyl ester versus five grams of creatine monohydrate over a 30-day period? And, which form would provide greater gains in strength, muscular size, and performance? Lots of questions so far I know, and I’ll do my best to find answers.
In tests, there appears to be a quantity limit in muscle for creatine uptake when the transport system is down-regulated. Uptake decreases further past a concentration of 150 mmol/l. With this being the case, I can’t see the creatine levels being any higher than those achievable with creatine monohydrate based on a 30-day period of supplementation at five grams per day. Where creatine ethyl ester may be more effective than creatine monohydrate is in maintaining muscle concentrations after the loading phase. That is if a greater amount of creatine does reach your muscle tissues when using the more soluble creatine ethyl ester.
We know that over time on a five-gram per day maintenance program, muscle creatine levels do begin to fall. Whether creatine ethyl ester can overcome this is just a guess at this time, as there are no muscle biopsy studies showing that creatine ethyl ester can be taken up more effectively, or even taken up in comparison to old creatine monohydrate. This is only the case because there isn’t any scientific data specifically on this, even though it is a logical conclusion.
To take this comparison further, we need to know where the creatine and the ethyl ester from the creatine ethyl ester product separate from being one compound into two. As in, when does the ethyl ester separate from the creatine. Is it in the gut, or plasma, or tissues? The answer to this will massively impact how well the creatine is absorbed in humans.
Given the information I have to work with, the answer is yes, creatine ethyl ester may be taken up into muscle tissues faster over the short-term, than would be the case with creatine monohydrate and carbs. The upper limit following complete creatine muscle saturation however, may still be just the same. The real issue has got to be overall effectiveness and whether creatine ethyl ester translates to greater or lesser performance than creatine monohydrate. Based on the current scientific as well as patent-based studies, we still do not know any of these answers for certain. We I can’t completely ignore the accumulating anecdotal evidence from people consuming creatine ethyl ester, my own included.
This is what those that take creatine ethyl ester have said about it as compared to creatine monohydrate: It works faster and is more efficiently absorbed. This is likely because the esterification of creatine, creatine ethyl ester will increase its lipopholic abilities, and thus esterified creatine will use fat more efficiently to permeate the cell wall and exert its effects on cellular function, more so than its un-esterified creatine monohydrate counterpart.
Those that use it report that creatine ethyl ester requires a smaller dosage. This is likely because regular creatine monohydrate is absorbed poorly by the body, and its effectiveness is dependent on the cells’ ability to absorb it. As a result, the poor absorption rate of regular creatine monohydrate requires users to ingest larger amounts of creatine monohydrate, as in five to 20 grams daily, in order to achieve the desired effect. This is versus the three to five grams of esterified creatine, daily.
Using creatine ethyl ester also greatly limits the water bloat that accompanies the monohydrate version. This is likely because creatine draws water into the cell, known as cell volumization, and because most ingested creatine monohydrate is not completely absorbed, any un-absorbed creatine will sit outside of the target cell with the water. The result of this may cause the creatine water bloat that nobody likes. Esterfied creatine is said to pull nearly all of the water into the muscle cell, thereby creating a harder, more solid appearance of muscularity.
I personally don’t find creatine monohydrate effective unless I use a LOT of it. My training partner swears by it. There may be a matter of preference, or a matter of insulin sensitivity on a person by person basis, which affects uptake. I always feel my strength and muscle hardness increase with creatine ethyl ester hydrochloride. The major drawback is that it tastes terrible, but I’m willing to deal with that for the results.