Since its introduction to the supplement market about a decade ago, creatine not only has become one of the most popular and effective bodybuilding supplements, but it has also appeared in various forms. Thus, you have the original creatine monohydrate, a flavorless white powder, as well as creatine combined with various flavors and simple sugars. The latter supplements evolved from research showing that creatine is most effectively absorbed when accompanied by significant insulin release, which simple sugars promote.
The delivery systems have likewise evolved to maximize creatine absorption. These days it’s packaged with carbs and various proteins and other nutrients. We have micronized creatine, in which creatine is produced as tiny particles; effervescent creatine, which may prevent some gastrointestinal side effects; and highly water-soluble versions of creatine, such as titrated creatine, which may improve uptake. Creatine is even sold in chewing gum and candy forms.
One overlooked question is how the various supplements compare with food sources of creatine in absorption characteristics. A new study examined the comparative rates of creatine supplied as a drink, in meat and in solid form.1 There were five subjects, none of whom had ever used creatine. The meat used in the study supplied two grams of creatine, equal to 2.3 grams of creatine monohydrate. The researchers looked at blood plasma levels of creatine over six hours.
The creatine obtained from meat and from a drink were bioequivalent, but the results were not the same. While the subjects had lower peak creatine levels with the meat meal, they maintained them longer. The researchers then compared creatine taken as a lozenge to a water-soluble creatine-suspension solution. The lozenge led to a 20 percent lower peak blood level of creatine than the suspension drink. In other words, while all sources of creatine appear to increase blood creatine levels, levels are highest when it is provided in a highly water-soluble form.
Editor’s note: For more on water-soluble creatine, see page 134 of the August ’02 IRONMAN.
1 Harris, R.C., et al. (2002). Absorption of creatine supplied as a drink, in meat, or in solid form. J Sports Science. 20:147-51.