Creatine monohydrate has been one of the most popular sports supplements since it’s inception in the early 1990s when supplement brand EAS introduced the first creatine supplement under the name Phosphagen. The rest is history. Creatine’s primary role is to create and generate Adeno-triphosphate [ATP] our body's natural energy source. Studies have shown that creatine supplementation can improve performance measures in fast-twitch muscle fibers which are recruited for movements that require quick bursts of energy such as weightlifting, sprinting, and functional training. Yet despite the clinical evidence in support of creatine monohydrate as an ergogenic aid, there are a few cons that everyone should be aware of before deciding whether it's right for them.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of creatine monohydrate, so you can make a better and more informed decision before you hit the buy it now button.
What Is Creatine?
Creatine is a naturally occurring molecule within the human body. Creatine is synthesized primarily in the liver from the amino acids glycine, arginine, and methionine and obtained from eating foods such as red meat and fish. Creatine is stored within the skeletal muscles as phosphocreatine and used for energy during high-intensity training or quick burst movements. Consistently one of the most popular ergogenic aids, studies have indicated that creatine supplementation increases muscle creatine and phosphocreatine levels approximately 15-40% within skeletal muscle tissue which enhances anaerobic training capacity and improves performance outcomes [R].
Creatine Monohydrate Pros
Strength & Muscle Mass
Several studies have investigated the effects of creatine on strength. In a study published in the journal Metabolism 30 male study participants were randomly divided into three groups, [creatine (Cr) creatine + resistance training (CR-RT), placebo + resistance training] (PL -RT)]. Creatine groups dosed 20g days 1-5 and 10g on days 6-28. After 28 days of creatine supplementation CR and CR-RT groups showed significant increases in body mass and body water. CR-RT also showed significant improvements in strength after 28 days of supplementation.
Long-term adaptations when combining creatine supplementation with training programs efficiently increase muscle creatine and creatine availability, which increase lean body mass and strength. Investigative studies show that gains in muscle mass and strength are a result of improved athletic performance and ability to perform high-intensity exercise via increased creatine availability and ATP synthesis, resulting in harder and better training performance [R].
It's important to note, that only after creatine loading, do ergogenic effects take place. Meaning that you will need to supplement 20g per day for 5-7 days before phosphocreatine levels are high enough to improve performance.
Studies suggest that creatine supplementation can increase maximum power and performance especially amongst high-intensity training modalities, such as CrossFit, and HIIT which require constantly varied movements, with repetitive periods of work and rest by 5-15% [R].
The literature which covers the effects of creatine supplementation on peak power performance is vast. Short term adaptations show that creatine can increase cycling power, total work capacity, and as well as time trials in swimming and sprinting [R, R, R, R].
Creatine Monohydrate Pros In Summary
- Muscle Force
- Total Work Capacity
- Muscle Mass
Creatine Monohydrate Cons
Now that we all know the pros of creatine monohydrate, its time to look at the cons.
Loading Phase [Bioavailability]
Taking creatine monohydrate does require what’s called a “loading phase" or creatine load. Studies show that 5g of creatine monohydrate taken four times per day for a total of 20g per day, resulted in a 20% increase in total muscle creatine stores after 6 days. It has also been shown that a 3g dose taken four times daily for a total of 12g per day for a total of 28 days will also elevate muscle creatine levels. [R]. Elevated concentration of creatine can be maintained thereafter with 3-5g taken per day[R].
Since creatine monohydrate has a loading period, there are a couple of things to be aware of.
- Performance will not be enhanced until the loading phase has been complete and your muscle tissue is completely creatine saturated [R].
- Since creatine monohydrate requires a loading phase, of 20g for 6 days, that means you will have wasted 120g of creatine before it even starts working.
If creatine supplementation stops for more than 4 weeks, muscle creatine concentration will return to baseline [R].
Creatine needs to be loaded, because of it’s poor bioavailability. Creatine converts into a toxic by-product called creatinine. Creatinine is a corollary of creatine metabolism and can cause negative side effects such as water retention, bloating, and muscle cramps.
In a head-to-head study published in the International Journal of Pharmacology, pH and stability testing were conducted to see how Kre-Alkalyn (a ph corrected form of creatine) compared to creatine monohydrate, in regards to creatinine conversion. Both real-time and accelerated testing were conducted to determine shelf-life stability. Only after 150 days or the equivalent to 5 years of real-time during the accelerated testing was there a diminutive amount of creatine converted into creatinine and 0.1% after 180 days, which is equivalent to 6 years in real-time. Creatine monohydrate has a pH between 2-3 as soon as it is dissolved in water, resulting in a highly acidic environment. Since the environment is more acidic, it immediately converts to creatinine, which causes side effects such as bloating, water retention, and poor bioavailability. This means your body needs more creatine monohydrate since it’s less bioavailable, hence why it needs to be loaded. [R]
Responders VS Non-Responders
In a study conducted at the School of Human Kinetics at the University of British Columbia, 20g of creatine supplemented for a period of three days increased total creatine levels for some individuals [responders] and did not increase creatine levels for others [nonresponders]. Response was greatest amongst individuals who have the lowest initial total creatine, such as vegetarians [R].
In translation, this means that creatine supplementation is greater in individuals that already have low creatine concentration within muscle tissue. Those who eat a protein rich diet, filled with red meat, fish, and poultry do not respond as well as those who are plant-based, since their muscle creatine concentration is greater.
Creatine is extremely hydrophilic (meaning it attracts water), and draws water into the muscle tissue. Muscles may hold onto water, resulting in bloating or puffiness around your arms, legs, or abdominal region [R]. An increase in fat-free body mass of up to 1–3 kg tends to occur with creatine monohydrate supplementation.
While there have been many anecdotal reports and claims that creatine supplementation can cause cramping, there is no clinical evidence at this time that supports this claim. While athletes who are taking creatine may experience these symptoms, there is no evidence which suggests their risk for cramping is greater with or without creatine supplementation.
Considering study design and duration, some side effects may only appear after prolonged supplement protocols. Although a number of published studies have refuted these claims, a recent position statement by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) in 2000 advised individuals who are managing their weight and exercising intensely or in hot environments to avoid creatine supplementation. While there is only anecdotal evidence of cramping, if creatine is not taken with enough water, it may cause dehydration, especially during hot weather or high-intensity training. Consume ample amounts of water and electrolytes with creatine supplementation to avoid any chance of cramping.
What’s The Best Form Of Creatine?
Backed by dozens of peer-reviewed journals and clinical research, creatine has proven to increase strength and muscle mass, by improving power and force, through the stimulation of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP), the body’s natural energy source for intracellular energy transfer. Despite the clinical research however, creatine monohydrate does contain attenuated effects such as bloating, anecdotal events with cramping, water retention, and poor bioavailability. Because of these negative drawbacks, other forms of creatine have been created to address these side effects, in order to deliver a more potent dose of creatine, as well as improve performance measures. That’s why at Swolverine we offer Kre-Alkalyn.
What Is Kre-Alkalyn?
Kre-Alkalyn is a patented pH correct form of Creatine phosphate. Kre-alkalyn was created to address the negative side effects of creatine monohydrate, namely the toxic conversion to the by-product creatinine. Creatinine is a corollary of creatine metabolism and can cause negative side effects such as water retention, bloating, and poor bioavailability.
By adding an alkaline powder such as (soda ash, magnesium glycerol phosphate, bicarbonate) to ordinary creatine monohydrate, it stabilizes the acidity level between 7-14, making it more bioavailable and inhibiting the process of creatinine conversion.
Therefore Kre-Alkalyn does not require a loading phase, since it’s more bioavailable and does not convert to creatinine. Without loading, you'll be able to increase performance from day one. It also means more value, since there is no creatine wasting.
What Do The Studies Say?
Endurance & Work Capacity
In an FDA guided, head-to-head control study to assess the endurance and stamina differences between Kre-alkalyn and creatine monohydrate, 12 subjects were administered either 1.5g of Kre-alkalyn or creatine one-hour pre-workout. Each subject was placed on a cycle and increased the level of difficulty for a total of 14 steps every 15 seconds.
The creatine group cycled for an average of 55 seconds with an average heart rate of 150, compared to the Kre-alkalyn group, who cycled for an average of 120 seconds at an average heart rate of 145.
The results indicate that supplementing with Kre-alkalyn able to sustain greater endurance and increased stamina than the creatine group by 118.2% [R]. It also indicates that there is no therapeutic window for loading.
In a clinical trial comparing Kre-Alkalyn to Creatine Monohydrate by a panel of physicians, at Greenberg Medical Center in Bulgaria, 24 male Olympic level soccer players were divided into two test groups. Group one ingested 750 mg of Kre-Alkalyn, while group two ingested 750 mg of Creatine Monohydrate for a test period of 16 weeks.
The results indicated that despite a negligible difference between the two groups in lean muscle mass and muscle strength, there was a significant increase in VO2 Max within the Kre-Alkalyn group [R].
With a higher maximal oxygen consumption, you can dramatically improve running, rowing, and cycling capacity.
Bigger Strength Gains
Research also indicates that Kre-Alkalyn improves greater strength gains than compared to creatine monohydrate. In a double-blind controlled study, 24 male Olympic weightlifters were administered 5g of Kre-alkalyn or creatine monohydrate per day for 8 weeks. Performance measurements were taken at 1RM for squat, snatch, clean and jerk, and high snatch.
After 8 weeks, the results showed that the Creatine Monohydrate group displayed an average increase over baseline of 8.39% for the snatch, clean & jerk, high snatch, & back squat. The Kre-Alkalyn group displayed an average increase over baseline of 10.76%.
By comparison, the average increase in total lifts for the Kre-Alkalyn group in the snatch, clean & jerk, high snatch, & back squat was 28.25% over the Creatine Monohydrate group. [R]
In summary, Kre-Alkalyn provides
- Better bioavailability
- No loading or cycling
- No bloating or water retention
- Improved endurance and VO2
- More strength
- Improved work capacity
- Better value
If you're really wondering how Kre-Alklayn stacks up compared to creatine monohydrate, check out this non-biased review from the RX Review.
Pros And Cons Of Creatine Monohydrate
With over 500 research studies, creatine monohydrate has proven to enhance power and strength amongst high-intensity training. Yet despite the pros, there are a few cons such as water retention, bloating, poor bioavailability, and loading associated with creatine supplementation. Studies indicated that Kre-Alkalyn is a superior source of creatine to help not only improve strength, power, and force, but also endurance while providing more convenience and value.
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