What forms of creatine supplements are there?
Creatine can come in powder, liquid (serum), pills, gum or effervescent powder form. Let’s take a quick look at each one:
Creatine pills really just work the same way as the powder. They are easier to take because you don’t have to mix up anything. What we really don’t like about the pills is that it is very hard to vary the dosage. If you decide you only want to take 4 grams a day – and the pills are 5 grams each – your stuck. At least with the powder you could just use one less teaspoon.
Powder creatine is by far the most popular form of creatine supplements. You mix the powder up in some juice and drink it down. While this is the most popular – and cheapest form of creatine supplementation, it does have some problems.
For starters many people find creatine powder has a very gritty taste. This can be helped by “micronized creatine powder”. This is just very finely ground creatine powder that dissolves better in liquid.
The other major problem is that creatine powder is not very effective when you look at absorption rates. The powder passes through the stomach and the acids in the stomach start to digest the creatine. This is not what you want, since you want the creatine to reach your muscles. Studies have shown that as much as 40-50% of the creatine powder you take is lost before it ever reaches your muscles.
Finally the powder tends to absorb more water – which can lead to an upset stomach and possible dehydration. If you drink enough water – these should not be major problems.
All that being said – creatine powders still remain the most popular form for supplements. Some of the main reasons are that it is relatively cheap and easy to make creatine powder. If you are looking for the best value – powder is the way to go. In addition, most of the studies were done using powder – so it is very well tested.
Creatine Liquid or Serum
You can also take creatine in liquid or serum form. In theory there are many advantages to liquid creatine over powder. It is a more effective delivery mechanism so much more creatine is absorbed. This means you can take less creatine in liquid form and still get the same results. In addition, you don’t need to leave as much time between when you take your creatine and when you can start working out.
The major down side to liquid creatine is it is very hard to make. If creatine is just mixed in a liquid it starts to breakdown into a waste product (creatinine) after about 20 minutes. So, to make liquid creatine effective the creatine must be stabilized. If the creatine is stabilized it will not break down into a waste product – and it will remain as creatine monohydrate.
The idea behind the creatine gum is that as you chew the gum the creatine is released. The fact that it is absorbed in your mouth should yield better absorption rates. We don’t have any real experience with the gum and it is not that popular among athletes.
Effervescent Powder Form
This is the stuff that drop into a glass of water and it fizzes up. In the end it works on the same principle as the liquid – trying to increase absorption rates. There have been some preliminary studies that show that effervescent powder may be an effective delivery mechanism. The down side is that they come in pre-measured individual packets – so it is very hard to vary the dosage.
So what is the best form?
You know there is no easy answer to this right? If price is your prime concern we would go with the powder. If ease of use and maximum absorption are most important you may want to look at the serum. Whatever form you choose – make sure you are getting pure creatine monohydrate.