Ever since creatine came out, it has been pushed as the next best thing after steroids, and for good reason: It is one of the only supplements that has a substantial amount of research behind it backing it up. Now, of course creatine will in no way, shape, or form, be comparable to anabolic steroids, it is a supplement that I recommend you at least try because it is pretty darn cheap and can actually make your workouts a little bit better.
Creatine is a little bit misunderstood. Many people think that all creatine does is add water weight, which will make you look a little bit bigger but won’t really do anything for you. Creatine does add some water weight initially, and the amount of water weight will vary person to person. Some people might notice a big increase in water weight while others might not notice much of a change at all. One of the reasons that this can happen is if one person routinely eats steak or other red meat, then he might already be getting in enough creatine from his diet alone, so adding more won’t really benefit him much more. However, most people do not eat red meat every day which is why I recommend buying the powder.
Also, after the initial water weight gain, if you keep taking creatine your body will get accustomed to it and a lot of the water weight will eventually come off. Again, this doesn’t happen for everybody, but it does occur in the majority.
The most prevalent form of creatine is the powdered form of creatine monohydrate. Creatine also comes in pill form, but generally these are inferior to the powder and a lot more expensive.
Today, I am going to see how creatine monohydrate stacks up against the “new and improved” form: creatine ethyl ester. There are other forms, but this one receives the most attention and is one of the most popular at the moment besides monohydrate. (Kre-alkalyn will be in a future article.)
CREATINE ETHYL ESTER
For those of you who need to brush up on your chemistry, creatine is a polar molecule, and it is easily dissolved in water. Esterification is thought to help absorb the creatine by making it less polar, and thus more available in your body for use. The manufacturers of creatine ethyl ester is that it will bypass the creatine transporter because of the increased permeability of the membrane in the muscle cell.
There is one problem, though: This is just a theory; it has not actually been demonstration to be true. Nevertheless, the manufactures pushed out this product based on these claims.
Well, at least until this study came out by Child and Tallon: Creatine Ethyl Ester Rapidly Degrades to Creatinine in Stomach Acid:
This study assessed the availability of creatine from three commercial creatine products during degradation in acidic conditions similar to those that occur in the stomach. They comprised of two products containing CEE [creatine ethyl ester] (San CM2 Alpha and CE2) and commercially available CM [creatine monohydrate] (Creapure®). An independent laboratory, using testing guidelines recommended by the United States Pharmacopeia (USP), performed the analysis. Each product was incubated in 900ml of pH 1 HCL at 37± 1oC and samples where drawn at 5, 30 and 120 minutes. Creatine availability was assessed by immediately assaying for free creatine, CEE and the creatine breakdown product creatinine, using HPLC (UV).
After 30 minutes incubation only 73% of the initial CEE present was available from CE2, while the amount of CEE available from San CM2 Alpha was even lower at only 62%. In contrast, more than 99% of the creatine remained available from the CM product. These reductions in CEE availability were accompanied by substantial creatinine formation, without the appearance of free creatine. After 120minutes incubation 72% of the CEE was available from CE2 with only 11% available from San CM2 Alpha, while more than 99% of the creatine remained available from CM.
So the creatine ethyl ester group doesn’t actually get to demonstrate it’s super-duper effects on the muscle cells. Before it has a chance to even get to the muscle, it has already degraded into creatinine, a completely useless molecule.1
The next study done on creatine ethyl ester was: “The effects of creatine ethyl ester supplementation combined with heavy resistance training on body composition, muscle performance, and serum and muscle creatine levels” by Spillane et al.:
In a double-blind manner, participants were randomly assigned to a maltodextrose placebo (PLA), creatine monohydrate (CRT), or creatine ethyl ester (CEE) group. The supplements were orally ingested at a dose of 0.30 g/kg fat-free body mass (approximately 20 g/day) for five days followed by ingestion at 0.075 g/kg fat free mass (approximately 5 g/day) for 42 days.
Results showed significantly higher serum creatine concentrations in PLA (p = 0.007) and CRT (p = 0.005) compared to CEE. Serum creatinine was greater in CEE compared to the PLA (p = 0.001) and CRT (p = 0.001) and increased at days 6, 27, and 48. Total muscle creatine content was significantly higher in CRT (p = 0.026) and CEE (p = 0.041) compared to PLA, with no differences between CRT and CEE. Significant changes over time were observed for body composition, body water, muscle strength and power variables, but no significant differences were observed between groups.
The greatest thing that we can extrapolate from this study was that the creatine monohydrate group had the greatest increase in thigh mass and greatest loss in fat mass, while the ethyl ester group actually gained fat. However, the fat gain was probably due to the differences in each person’s diet, not because the creatine slowed down fat loss or anything like that.
In the end, creatine monohydrate outperforms creatine ethyl ester in serum creatine concentrations and, from the previous study, is more bio-available.1,2 Creatine ethyl ester has never outperformed creatine monohydrate.
Thus, ethyl ester is not one of those supplements that “might be better, and if you have the cash, go for it”. No, creatine monohydrate outperforms creatine ethyl ester to a significant degree, and there is no reason that anyone should buy creatine ethyl ester over monohydrate.
As a side note: If you are going to buy creatine monohydrate (which, if you are lifting, I recommend you do), make sure you buy one that uses Creapure(tm). Creapure is one of the purest forms of creatine monohydrate available, so you know there is nothing else added (unlike some of the creatine that comes from China). Furthermore, you can get Creapure in micronized monohydrate form.
- Child R, Tallon M. “Creatine ethyl ester rapidly degrades to creatinine in stomach acid.” Abstract presented at 4th annual conference of the ISSN 2007.
- Spillane, Mike, Ryan Schoch, Matt Cooke, Travis Harvey, Mike Greenwood, Richard Kreider, and Darryn S. Willoughby. “The effects of creatine ethyl ester supplementation combined with heavy resistance training on body composition, muscle performance, and serum and muscle creatine levels..” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 6 (2009).