A very common question we receive here at fitFLEX is what forms of creatine are there and which, if any are
best? In addition, how should creatine be used and taken with? Well, the good news is that if you are
responsive to creatine, most forms and methods of use will probably be effective, as long as the product
contains what's described on the label. Some research indicates that certain practices may enhance the
effects of creatine supplementation including taking the substance with simple carbohydrates and avoiding
caffeine consumption around time of your creatine dose. That said, the form of creatine you choose - be it
powder, pill, liquid or candy - really comes down to personal preference and cost concerns.
As certain supplements travel through the digestive system - from mouth to stomach to intestines - they face "risks" along the way. For example, when consumed alone, whey protein tends to move through the system at such a quick pace that it may not he completely assimilated and utilized: other supplements face degradation by stomach acid. However, creatine doesn't face these risks. Most of it is readily absorbed by the body, then stored in skeletal muscle - little is wasted.
In people who are responsive to it, creatine can certainly have positive effects on performance and other parameters. Adding carbs to the mix, however, can make what is already good better. In research, consuming about 100 grams (g) of simple carbohydrate - like fruit juice - at about the time of creatine supplementation has been shown to get more creatine into muscle cells than when creatine is taken alone. One study (A.L. Green et al., "Carbohydrate ingestion augments skeletal muscle creatine accumulation during creatine supplementation in humans," American Journal of Physiology, 271:E821-26, 1996) found that subjects who consumed 93 g of simple carbs 30 minutes after taking creatine had a 60% increase in total creatine concentration in muscle compared to subjects taking creatine only. The carb group also had a decrease in urinary excretion of creatine, compared to the other subjects. This translated into even wasted and more used.
Carbs may assist creatine absorption by "insulin mediation." That is, the availability of insulin (released by the body upon carb consumption) makes it easier for creatine to enter cells. There's also a school of thought that creatine-plus carbs-plus-protein may more effectively transport creatine to cells and mitigate sudden drops in blood sugar resulting from simple carb ingestion.
Of course, scheduling creatine doses around carb consumption means you'll have to keep track of one more element in your supplement program.
What about the different forms of creatine powder, effervescent, micronized, liquid, pill candy? Plain creatine monohydrate powder is most commonly used and researched and has been shown to be effective. Micronized and effervescent forms may be easier on your gut, and could be worth a try if powder upsets your stomach; however, these products have a higher price tag. Micronized creatine is designed to dissolve better in liquid so more goes into you and less clings to your mixing cup. Creatine tablets and capsules don't require prepping or mixing, thus simplifying your dosing routine.
Regarding creatine candy, recent research found no difference in benefits between that and powdered forms of the supplement (M. Vukovich and J. Michaclis, "Effect of two different creatine supplementation products on muscular strength and power," Sports Medicine, Training and Rehabilitation. 1998).
Some research has shown that caffeine negates creatine's positive effects on performance. It's probably not a good idea to consume caffeine within an hour or two of taking creatine. We'll cover the specifics in a future installment of fitFLEX Supplement articles.
Creatine stands out as one supplement that's easily absorbed by the body. Though some question its benefits, if creatine is helping you, rest assured that your body is most likely using it efficiently and effectively.