Creatine HCL vs Monohydrate: Which is Better?
You’ve probably already heard and know about the benefits of creatine.
Creatine is a chemical compound found in muscle cells and most types of meat. But alongside protein, it’s also one of the essential building blocks when it comes to prolific muscle formation. For this reason, creatine supplementation has become associated with increased muscle mass.
Supplementing post-workout or pre-workout increases the creatine stores in your body. Allowing you to draw from these stores for higher ATP production during high intensity workouts to keep you going.
But it’s common to experience some confusion when you hear all the different types of creatine out there on the market. Such as, for instance, ‘creatine monohydrate,’ ‘creatine hydrochloride,’ or ‘creatine nitrate.’ You might be asking, what type of creatine to take? Or, is all creatine created equally?
Altogether, there are more than 10 types of creatine on the market.
Today, we’ll be putting two of the most popular types of creatine on the market: Creatine Monohydrate and Creatine Hydrochloride (HCL), head to head.
Creatine monohydrate is creatine in its pure powdered form. Thus, it’s the standard in creatine supplements and creatine supplement studies.
The effects of creatine monohydrate are:
- Increased ATP production (the primary carrier of energy in cells)
- Hydrate and protect muscles with intracellular water retention
- Boost stores of creatine in the body
Creatine Hydrochloride (HCL) is a newer form of creatine that is popular on the market. Creatine HCL has added hydrochloric acid, unlike monohydrate, that encapsulates the creatine molecules. This effect, producers say, makes creatine easier to absorb and digest.
However, creatine hydrochloride doesn’t yet have the same backing with evidence for its claims or efficacy.
- Minimal water retention
- Less stomach irritation
- Reduced creatine required in doses
- Effects of ‘creatine loading’ without the loading
Creatine Monohydrate vs Creatine Hydrochloride: How do they stack up?
One of the claims creatine HCL makes is to cause no or minimal water retention or bloating. However, when it comes to choosing a creatine supplement, this goes against a key benefit of taking creatine.
A major benefit of creatine monohydrate is intracellular water retention or water stored inside the muscle cells instead of under the skin. This helps hydrate and protect muscle cells to assist athletes in prolonging or working harder in high-intensity workouts, without the ‘puff’ which means more muscle gains. Ultimately, this will give you the appearance and feel of larger tighter muscles under the skin which is what you want.
It is important to note however, that there have been some individuals that don’t like the feeling of creatine water retention, or for lean individuals, gets in the way of looking ‘shredded.’ If you have been experiencing these problems, trying HCL may be a worthwhile dive for you. But it likely isn’t going to be a problem for most people.
When it comes to evidence supported efficacy, creatine monohydrate has the numbers and studies to support its claims. Creatine monohydrate has over 700 peer-reviewed studies documenting its ability to enhance performance for weights and conditioning.
When comparing available evidence, creatine HCL comes out short at the moment. There have been studies to look into creatine HCL but there isn’t the same mountain of research that backs creatine monohydrate and has made it a staple in the fitness community.
HCL boasts a high absorption rate. This is one of the supplements’ prime selling points.
Creatine HCL claims to be 60% more absorbed in the intestines compared to creatine monohydrate. However, the absorption rate of creatine monohydrate is already really high at 98%. So absorption is not a point that the supplement really lacks.
Some studies also support that creatine HCL is 40% more soluble in liquid. However, whether water solubility truly translates to higher absorption by the body is still another question that still needs to be addressed in research. But it does make for a smoother shake.
Convenience & Loading
How easy a supplement to take may be another factor in deciding what to grab.
We recommend ‘loading’ with creatine monohydrate for faster results. This means taking 15-20g a day for your first week, and then going down to 5g for a maintenance dose after this cycle. The loading phase might intimidate some people, but it’s a suggestion for faster strength gains and isn’t necessary. At the end of 28 days, creatine muscle stores are the same.
Creatine hydrochloride is packed in a smaller dose which can make it more convenient, and can even be taken in capsule form.
If you’re taking creatine in powder shake form though (especially if you’re not loading) you’re really not gonna feel that much of a difference when scooping into your bottle.
Creatine monohydrate can cause stomach pain or diarrhea when it’s not mixed well, but this can often be avoided with a shaker bottle or by making sure you drink enough water.
If you have been experiencing an upset stomach with creatine monohydrate, you can also try creatine HCL instead which claims to do this less. Which is more water soluble and claims to be gentler on the stomach.
Creatine HCL is 78% by mass, lower than creatine monohydrate. The reason this is, is that creatine hydrochloride is bound to water (hence HCL) which results in a larger creatine molecule.
Creatine monohydrate is the purest form of creatine on the market with 90% creatine.
Creatine monohydrate is the more affordable choice. HCL really tanks when it comes to price, with some creatine hydrochloride supplements costing 3 times the amount of creatine monohydrate. Making it even more expensive, even when considering its smaller dosage.
What to Take Away
When it comes to comparing all these factors, we’ve decided to only sell and supply creatine monohydrate.
It’s tried, trusted and true.
Creatine monohydrate is purer, cheaper and more well researched to support its efficacy and safety to be used as a fitness dietary supplement. We know it works, that’s why we have full confidence when it comes to supporting our Growth Labs family through the loading journey.
Taking that in mind, we’ll always recommend taking creatine monohydrate and seeing how it works for you before suggesting taking HCL.