Creatine hydrochloride (HCL) or creatine monohydrate– which one should you choose?
The debate around creatine HCL vs monohydrate is going on for some time in the fitness world.
If you look up Google, you are bound to be confused. Some sources say creatine HCL is better, while others say creatine monohydrate is the deal.
We thought of taking up the topic and explore it from a different angle.
In this post, we will find out which form of creatine is best for muscle growth and strength.
We decided to choose this angle as this is what every bodybuilder or athlete wants- more energy and more muscle mass.
We will take the matter in detail and provide a thorough creatine HCL vs monohydrate comparison. In the end, you will be able to decide for yourself which one to choose!
Types of Creatine
- Creatine monohydrate
- Creatine hydrochloride
- pH-buffered creatine
- Creatine citrate
- Creatine malate
- Creatine gluconate
- Creatine pyruvate
- Creatine alpha-ketoglutarate
- Creatine ethyl ester
Now, you don’t need to confuse yourself trying to remember every name! Out of all the forms of creatine that exist, creatine HCL and creatine monohydrate are most common.
Most creatine supplements either use creatine HCL or creatine monohydrate.
Creatine HCL and creatine monohydrate are the only two forms that researchers have studied.
However, most of the research revolves around creatine monohydrate and its results. It’s not very common to come across a study or clinical trial that has used creatine HCL.
We could only find the mention of one unpublished study that only tested the solubility of creatine hydrochloride.
So, if we are doing a creatine monohydrate vs. HCL comparison based on research, then monohydrate wins! Creatine hydrochloride doesn’t have any research on it.
However, does that make creatine monohydrate better than Creatine HCL?
We will find out soon!
But before that, let’s discuss a bit about Creatine HCL and Monohydrate.
What is Creatine HCL
The creatine molecule in creatine HCL is bound with hydrochloric acid to improve solubility. As a result, creatine HCL dissolves easily in water. According to Healthline, creatine HCL dissolves 38 times better compared to creatine monohydrate.
Better solubility allows you to take smaller doses of creatine, which might reduce any side effects of creatine. Some sources also claim hydrochloride makes the creatine hydrochloride more stable.
You will find hydrochloric acid in many food products like canned food, corn syrups, and sauces. Leafy vegetables like spinach and kale also increase hydrochloride production by our stomach. As you might know, hydrochloride acid releases digestives enzymes and help us digest food.
Manufacturers use hydrochloric acid to increase acidity and improve the flavor of products. So the addition of hydrochloride to creatine HCL may help us absorb the supplement better.
Let us tell you that there are many claims about creatine hydrochloride’s benefit over monohydrate. We will discuss them in a little while in our creatine monohydrate vs. HCL comparison. Before that, let’s share some words on creatine monohydrate.
What is Creatine Monohydrate
Creatine monohydrate is the most popular form of creatine. Most creatine supplements use the monohydrate form because it’s safe and effective.
Creatine monohydrate is the monohydrate form of creatine. It is very identical to the creatine that our liver and kidneys produce. Supplement manufacturers synthesize creatine monohydrate in the lab using sarcosine and cyanamide.
As we already mentioned, most of the research on creatine is on the monohydrate form. Maybe this is the reason most of the supplements use creatine monohydrate.
Another reason is the affordability of creatine monohydrate vs. HCL. Creatine HCL is way more expensive than creatine monohydrate.
Creatine HCL Vs Monohydrate: Which is Better
We can confidently say that both forms of creatine lead to almost the same results- research has that proof. So why would someone choose creatine HCL over monohydrate, or vice-versa?
Let’s do a creatine HCL vs. monohydrate on some important metrics-
As it turns out, the main buzz around creatine HCL has to do with its solubility.
The creatine HCL study we mentioned earlier tested only the solubility of creatine HCL vs. monohydrate. You can take a look at the study and check for yourself. As per the study, creatine HCL dissolves 38 times better than the monohydrate form.
Just because it dissolves better, some people think your body also absorbs it better than monohydrate. That is one logic people use to claim creatine HCL to be superior to monohydrate.
Now, this is just an educated guess and doesn’t have any scientific proof. Just because creatine HCL dissolves better in water doesn’t mean it is better than monohydrate. Also, there is no published study or trial that tests this theory.
In fact, there is no published experiment that tests the effects of creatine HCL on humans, according to Healthline.
This means we can’t say conclusively creatine hydrochloride is better absorbed by our bodies. So, all those sources fighting on this point to show creatine HCL in a better light are unfounded. There is no proof to prove the point.
However, there might be one advantage. You will be able to mix your creatine in cold water too!
Creatine in any form may lead to a little water retention in your muscles cells. There is no way around it! Some articles claim creatine HCL eliminates any concerns about water retention. Again, that is not true. Any form of creatine will lead to water retention in your cells.
However, water retention in your cells is not a bad thing. You see, water in our cells trigger anabolic actions and result in muscle hypertrophy. Or, in other words, it leads to the growth of muscle mass.
You may gain 2 -4-pounds of water retention in the first week of taking creatine. That’s what famous nutrition counsellor Carolyn Brown, R.D., says. He also says this is a good thing, as your muscles become bigger and fuller.
After the initial phase, water retention becomes minimal. Then all you add is lean and strong muscles.
Now, some people make creatine hydrochloride the winner in creatine HCL vs. monohydrate comparison. Why?
Because they think creatine HCL doesn’t cause water retention. What is the basis of this conclusion?
Again, we go back to the solubility claim. Some manufacturers say creatine hydrochloride doesn’t cause water retention as we absorb it better than creatine monohydrate. However, this is also based on assumptions, and there is no research or proof.
The truth is, creatine, in any form, will draw water into cells in the short-term. That’s how creatine works. So here too, creatine hydrochloride is in no way better than creatine monohydrate.
Now let’s check out the next metric in our creatine comparison.
Side Effects and Dosage
Some sources say creatine HCL doesn’t have any side effects. All those stomach cramps, discomfort, and pain come only from creatine monohydrate. Before we analyze the claim, let’s go over a few important points-
1. Creatine taken in safe doses is completely safe
2. Side effects of creatine mostly arise when you exceed the recommended dose
3. The side effects may go away in a few days as your body gets used to creatine
4. Always drink a lot of water throughout the day when you take creatine supplements
If you keep the above factors in mind, you are very less likely to suffer any adverse effects. In that way, both creatine HCL and monohydrate are safe.
Now, let’s come back to the claim with creatine hydrochloride. Some people say we need smaller doses of creatine HCL as we absorb it better. As a result, you have less chances of developing side effects.
As you might have guessed, this claim, too, is devoid of any proof. No research exists that says creatine hydrochloride is safer than monohydrate or has less side effects.
Note: If you experience side effects after taking creatine monohydrate, you can give creatine HCL a try. However, give your body enough time to get used to creatine if you are supplementing for the first time.
As you can see, all claims of superiority of creatine HCL is anecdotal. You will find no research or studies to prove the claims. Creatine monohydrate, on the other hand, has a massive amount of literature and research on it. All the positive effects of creatine are the result of creatine monohydrate supplementation.
The health benefits we discussed in “10 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Creatine” mostly use evidence from research on creatine monohydrate. And as evidence indicates, the monohydrate form of creatine is best for muscle gain, strength building, and energy.
However, this is not to say creatine HCL is without merits. You will get the same results whether you use creatine hydrochloride or creatine monohydrate. Some of them include-
Creatine supplements increase the energy in your muscles resulting in more strength. Studies also note improvements in sprint performance, muscle strength, and ballistic power. It also delays fatigue and helps you exercise longer and harder.
So the more you train harder, the more muscles you gain.
Creatine is one of the best muscle-building supplements, according to research. You can actually add muscle fiber and make your muscles look good. In the long run, creatine signals the key biological pathways of muscle growth and adds to muscle mass.
In one study, participants who trained and took creatine added 2 kg muscle mass.
Creatine also has healing effects on your muscles. Plus, it facilitates protein synthesis in your muscles leading to muscle growth. So you grow and maintain your muscles at the same time.
We have discussed how creatine adds muscle in detail. Take a look at “Secret Revealed: How Creatine Actually Helps You Grow Muscles” for more information.
Now, you have all the information you need to make your conclusion. But before that let’s consider a few things about creatine monohydrate-
- It is the most studied form of creatine
- Most studies noting positive effects of creatine use the monohydrate form
- Most supplements use creatine monohydrate
- It has no serious negative effects
So what do you want to go with?
Something that has scientific evidence to prove its claim?
Or, something that relies mainly on educated guesses?
Creatine HCL vs monohydrate- which one will it be?
We decided to go with creatine monohydrate because it has all the research and evidence in the world. All reputed sources like Healthline also put their trust in creatine monohydrate for the same reason. And most athletes and weightlifters go for the monohydrate form over HCL. Also, you can buy creatine monohydrate at half the cost of creatine hydrochloride.
Now, it’s time you take a stand and make your decision!
In the meantime, we will present a few reasons to choose creatine monohydrate over HCL.
Why You May Choose Creatine Monohydrate
Creatine monohydrate is by far the purest forms of creatine. It’s around 99.8% pure and is the best choice for supplementation. It also contains most creatine by weight.
You can safely take creatine monohydrate supplements without any worries. Both short-term and long-term studies show creatine to be completely safe, even in high doses (around 20 grams per day). People without pre-existing medical conditions hardly face any adverse effects from creatine monohydrate.
However, if you experience side effects from creatine monohydrate, you may try switching to creatine HCL. If your problems don’t go away, then monohydrate is not the culprit.
Creatine monohydrate is the most affordable supplement available in the market. You can get more creatine per serving and also buy bulk quantities at lower prices than creatine HCL.
The battle between creatine HCL vs. monohydrate is finally over. If you have read till now, you should be convinced which way to go!
Our choice, like all other experts, is creatine monohydrate. It’s the safest, cheapest, and most effective form of creatine you can get. All studies and clinical trials also point towards the positive aspects of the monohydrate form in muscle and strength building. If you want a safe bet, try creatine monohydrate and find out the results for yourself.
We will raise another point here in our creatine HCL vs. monohydrate differences. If you do take creatine hydrochloride, take it before working out. You will get the best results in this way.
If you would like to add any more points to our creatine comparison, feel free to comment.
What is the best form of creatine?
Creatine monohydrate is by far the most-researched and most effective form of creatine. You may also use other forms of creatine without any negative effects.
Does Creatine HCL make you gain weight?
Creatine HCL, like other forms of creatine, may cause a bit of fluid retention. However, that seldom causes any noticeable weight gain, and go away after you stop creatine. You will, though, gain weight due to the lean muscles you build with creatine.
Do I need a loading phase for creatine HCL?
Loading has no proven benefits other than saturating your muscle’s creatine stores. So, no, you don’t need to load creatine HCL. The choice is entirely up to you.
How should I take creatine HCL?
Take your creatine HCL before workouts for more power and strength. You may even take your supplement just before or after exercising for the most gains. On rest days, you can choose any time you like.
Does Creatine HCL cause hair loss?
No form of creatine causes hair loss, as far as scientific evidence grows. So, you will never go bald by taking creatine. Your hair loss is most probably due to other reasons, like an underlying health issue.