Creatine is one of the most widely used workout supplements all around the world. It gives you the boost that you need for a long, intense workout session, fuelling your fitness goals.
So, creatine is perhaps a go-to supplement for anyone looking to go further in their fitness journey.
For several decades, there was only one major kind of creatine supplement, the creatine monohydrate! But it just wasn’t enough for some explorers in the fitness industry, and they went looking for modified versions of the supplement.
One such result of those studies was creatine HCL or creatine hydrochloride.
Of course, there are even more types of creatine, including buffer creatine. But these two versions drew by far the most attention. Creatine Monohydrate, an established and widely used supplement, and creatine hydrochloride creatine, claiming to be a new revolution!
But is the latter actually a revolutionary idea? Is creatine HCL any better than creatine monohydrate? Which one should you choose?
You will find the answer to all these questions through this article. So, read along!
Difference between Creatine Monohydrate & Creatine Hydrochloride
Although the ultimate goal of using creatine monohydrate and creatine HCL is to get that pump along with better growth of muscle and strength, both do have their own differences.
Given below is how both these popular creatine versions compare.
Recommended daily dosage
3-5 g (maintenance phase)
5-20g (Loading Phase)
Weight gain chances
Major Side effects
Dehydration, Bloating, Weight gain, diarrhea, headache
Almost same side effects, but lesser chance
Long term health risks
Yet to know
Proven to be safe
Yet to be proved
Besides all these factors, the effect of your creatine supplement will also depend on your body type, diet, workout intensity, etc.
Creatine monohydrate is not only the earliest form of creatine supplement but also one of the earliest supplements in the fitness industry. It is also one of the most widely used supplements all around the globe.
Creatine monohydrate has a chemical composition of C4H11N3O3; and has a greater affinity to water. In technical terms, creatine monohydrate is hydrophilic in nature.
Also, the monohydrate version promotes increased water retention by muscle cells, leading to increase in overall muscle mass.
Given below are the major pros and cons of monohydrate creatine:
- Scientifically proven to be safe
- Highly effective
- Helps in lean mass and weight gain
- Improves metabolism
- May cause dehydration
- Chances of bloating
- Slower activation/ Needs loading phase
Compared to creatine monohydrate, creatine HCL is a newer innovation. In fact, it was discovered accidentally while a group of scientists were researching alternatives to monohydrate creatine.
Some researchers also claim creatine HCL to be more effective than the previous creatine versions; in terms of performance-boosting and faster results.
Due to these claims, this latest creatine version is gaining increased popularity all across the globe.
However, along with all those pros, creatine HCL also has a number of cons which you should be aware of.
Given below are the major pros and cons of hydrochloride creatine.
- Highly effective
- Lesser water absorption; Fewer chances of weight gain and dehydration
- Needs only in smaller doses
- Faster activation
- Relatively costly
- Yet to be proven to be completely safe
Creatine Monohydrate vs Creatine Hydrochloride: Head-To-Head Comparison
Creatine monohydrate: Creatine monohydrate has a chemical formula of C4H11N3O3 wherein a molecule of C4H9N3O3 binds with a water molecule (H2O)
Creatine hydrochloride: Creatine HCL has a chemical formula of C4H10CLN3O2 wherein a molecule of C4H9N3O3 is binding with a molecule of hydrochloric acid or HCL.
Creatine monohydrate: Creatine monohydrate is highly effective. In fact, it is proven to be one of the most effective workout supplements to take as a pre workout, post workout, or intra workout supplement (given, you drink enough water).
Creatine hydrochloride: Creatine HCL is also effective. In fact, the creators of creatine hydrochloride claim it to be even more effective than creatine monohydrate.
However, there isn’t sufficient evidence to prove so, and some recent studies even suggest that both are equally effective.
But anyway, it is one of the most effective workout supplements for energy boost and long term muscle growth.
Creatine monohydrate: Creatine monohydrate does not have a great reputation when it comes to mixability. Although monohydrate creatine itself is a hydrophilic (water-loving, chemically) substance, it won’t readily mix with water. Well, to be precise, it mixes with water, but not as good as hydrochloride creatine.
Creatine hydrochloride: Creatine HCL mixes better with water or other liquids, as compared to creatine monohydrate.
Creatine monohydrate: Recommended daily dosage of creatine monohydrate is around 3-5 grams per day. However, this popular version will not start functioning from day one. First, you need to fill in your body’s creatine void before seeing any notable results.
For that, you will have to go for a loading phase wherein you will be taking somewhere between 5 grams and 20 grams of creatine powder per day. The more dosage you take in the loading phase, the faster will be your results.
Creatine hydrochloride: Creatine HCL has an upper hand here. Because, it can get into your system and start giving excellent results even within your first few days, if not on the very first day! Also, your daily recommended creatine HCL dosage is under 1 or 2 grams.
Creatine monohydrate: Creatine monohydrate has a big upper hand here. The reason is that this version has been around here for several decades. And, although there were some doubts about its safety in the initial days, it all cleared up in the last one or two decades.
Several studies show that creatine monohydrate is completely safe if you take it in the right dosage along with proper water intake. Of course, there may be some random side effects like dehydration, bloating, and migraine.
Creatine hydrochloride: The biggest concern about hydrochloride creatine powder is perhaps its safety. While there are not many notable findings that prove creatine HCL to be harmful, we are yet to get a clear picture.
These years, there are a number of studies going on about the safety of creatine HCL, and only after we see those results, can we truly confirm creatine HCL’s safety.
Creatine monohydrate: Creatine monohydrate once again has the upper hand here. It is not only the cheapest creatine supplement, but also among the cheapest workout supplements out there.
You can buy a 500 gram tub of creatine monohydrate for just around $30, and it can last for around 100 servings.
Creatine hydrochloride: Needless to say, creatine HCL is costlier than its competitors. The major reason here is that creatine HCL is a newer concept, and its production may also be costlier than creatine monohydrate. You can buy a tub of around 1.7 ounces (50 grams) for around $30.
When to Use Creatine Monohydrate?
If you do care about safety more than immediate result, creatine monohydrate is without any doubt, the pick for you. Unlike the counterpart creatine HCL, creatine monohydrate has been here for several decades and there are a number of studies that prove that it is safe.
Another factor to consider here is price. Creatine HCL, as it is a rather new invention and that it uses more costly components, is costlier. If you care about price, creatine monohydrate is obviously a better pick.
Thirdly, for skinny people out there- if you are too skinny and want to look bigger (at least in the short term), then creatine monohydrate might help you out. As the supplement draws in more water, you will gain more water weight without much contribution from fat.
When to Use Creatine Hydrochloride?
The only major drawback with creatine HCL is that it is a newer addition to the creatine family and as a result, is yet to be proven safe through research.
If you feel like this newer invention looks promising and are not worried much about those concerns, you can try creatine HCL. Remember, creatine monohydrate too faced severe backlash in earlier days but over time, it was proved to be safe and effective.
Another great reason to prefer creatine HCL to creatine monohydrate is if you don’t want that extra body mass. Creatine monohydrate, as we have stated already, causes water retention by muscle cells; and as a result, an increase in your body weight.
While this muscle mass increase is helpful to some, it may not be what some others want. In that case as well, creatine HCL may be an alternative.
But that being said, weight gain from creatine monohydrate is mostly short term, and the water content will come down as your body adapts to it.
What Is Cheaper Creatine Monohydrate or Creatine Hydrochloride?
Without any doubt, creatine monohydrate is way cheaper than creatine HCL. You can buy a 500 gram tub of monohydrate creatine for just 30 bucks in the United States.
So, the upper hand that creatine hydrochloride had in the dosage aspect, might actually nullify here. But you can’t think otherwise because even if we consider the cost of creatine monohydrate per serving, it is way lesser than that of creatine HCL.
On average, you can expect the ‘per serving’ cost of Creatine monohydrate to be somewhere around $0.20 and that of hydrochloride creatine to be $0.50; And that is quite a big difference.
What Is Better Creatine Monohydrate or Creatine Hydrochloride?
Well, that depends on a number of factors.
Creatine monohydrate has been around here for several decades, and has been proved safe and effective through extensive research. Creatine HCL on the other hand, is a newer presence among workout supplements, and we are yet to see how it does in terms of long term user safety.
However, one thing to consider here is that creatine monohydrate too faced backlash in the earlier days; one of the reasons was, of course, creatine monohydrate was too effective to be safe!
Speaking of effectiveness, both creatine monohydrate and creatine HCL are highly effective, and can give you excellent results. Also, the makers of creatine HCL claim that it is even more effective than creatine monohydrate.
However, we don’t have enough reasons to believe so.
Both the versions proved to increase the athletic performance of users significantly, and outperform several other workout supplements.
So, effectiveness wise, both are equally good.
Now comes an important aspect; side effects! Creatine monohydrate is well known to be a water absorbent. It triggers muscle cells to absorb more water and as a result, few things may happen.
One, increased body weight and muscle mass, two, certain discomforts like bloating.
While there is nothing particularly wrong with the increase in lean body mass, it might not be what some prefer; that being said, that extra muscle mass or ‘size’ may also give confidence to some.
But the bloating effect of monohydrate creatine in some, is a side effect worth mentioning.
Creatine HCL on the other hand, does not cause excess water retention by muscle cells. As a result, you won’t have to suffer from puffiness or bloating. That being said, some individuals may get these side effects by taking creatine HCL also.
Another aspect worth discussing is the daily dosage needed. Creatine HCL is stronger as a supplement than creatine monohydrate. Therefore, just between 0.75 and 2 grams is sufficient to see the result.
Whereas, in the case of creatine monohydrate, you may have to take 3-5 grams in the maintenance phase.
Also, in the initial days, if you want to see faster results, you will have to go through a loading phase when you will have to take a daily dosage of anywhere between 5 to 20 grams!
Why you need this loading phase for creatine monohydrate is, it first has to fill in the creatine voids within your cells before giving you the result. Creatine HCL on the other hand, thanks to its chemical composition, will directly start working rather than filling those creatine voids.
So, you can get the same effect from creatine HCL through a smaller dosage than creatine monohydrate. But does it make creatine HCL economic? Absolutely not!
Although you will be consuming more grams of creatine monohydrate per serving than creatine HCL, say two or three times, it is way cheaper than the latter.
500 grams of creatine monohydrate costs around $30 whereas a smaller 50 gram tub of HCL creatine also costs around $30.
Considering 5 grams of monohydrate creatine equivalent to 1.25 grams of creatine HCL, the former is just 2.5 times cheaper!
So, cost wise, creatine monohydrate clearly has an upper hand here.
To summarize, here is a simple guide on which one to pick!
Go for Creatine monohydrate, if
- You care about safety
- Okay with just the proven efficiency (which is higher), and not looking for an even more efficient alternative
- Okay with the weight gain, especially in earlier days
- Not very prone to bloating and other Intestinal discomforts
- Consider pricing
- Patient enough to wait a while to see results
Go for creatine HCL, if
- You have tried creatine monohydrate, but bloating is a regular side effect
- Okay with taking a little risk (not saying creatine HCL is proven harmful, but studies are going on to determine it’s safety)
- Don’t want to gain weight
Both Creatine monohydrate and Creatine HCL are great choices if you are looking for an athletic performance booster. Which one to choose, however, is all up to you, and we believe that we have given you sufficient insight here!