Creatine supplements have been popular among athletes since the nineties, and they have gradually become popular among bodybuilders and frequent gym goers. However given its muscle building nature, many women are afraid to approach this supplement in fear that it will make them gain weight. Even more troubling is the fact that there’s more than one type of Creatine supplement out there, making it hard to choose one.
What is Creatine?
Creatine is an organic acid that is found only on vertebrates; it provides energy to all cells in the body, mainly to muscles. Most of it is not naturally generated so it must come with the food we eat; particularly in meats and fish such as beef, salmon, and tuna (vegetarians often show lesser levels of creatine but these can be balanced through supplements). As with many supplements, there have been various types of creatines formulated and sold over the years, each with distinct benefits.
What’s the Difference?
The most commonly used form is Creatine Monohydrate powder. Usually mixed with water and swallowed, creatine monohydrate travels through the bloodstream to the muscle cells, absorbing water into them to increase the visible size of muscles. Creatine Monohydrate also serves to fill the body with energy so that users are capable of doing more repetitions of an exercise, thus hardening the muscle faster.
During the first week or so of use many report rapid weight gain, usually about 5 lbs or so of water weight, but this usually doesn’t last too long and lean muscle follows soon after. For men, it usually has no side effects other than possible dehydration; however, some women have reported to have a swollen belly right after the first intake alongside reported dehydration. Fortunately there is no reported risk of permanent damage to the renal system due to the sudden bloating.
A possible alternative to creatine monohydrate is creatine ethyl ester powder (CEE creatine), which allegedly prevents the bloating by attaching an “ester,” an organic compound used to increase the amount of creatine absorbed, reducing the bloating and dehydration that are sometimes attributed to the supplement.
CEE Creatine was developed as an alternative form of creatine as the body has trouble absorbing creatine monohydrate which means you generally need to take a larger amount to notice the effect. This is due to the semi-lipopholic nature of ester-less creatine which means that it uses fat inefficiently as a transport mechanism and causes the side effects of bloating and dehydration. Unfortunately there haven’t been any concrete studies which can prove or disprove this theory and as such it may depend on how each individual’s body reacts to the creatine.
A third type of creatine supplement has been recently gaining popularity is magnesium creatine chelate or MCC. This type is absorbed through a different pathway than monohydrate and ethyl ester; this way it should make the absorption faster and ensure that most of it is used and not discarded as waste by the body. Again, there have not been any conclusive studies that can prove that MCC is more effective than creatine monohydrate, though the different absorption method may be preferable to some.
One last alternative is Creatine HCL, one of the newest forms of the supplement. This form of creatine is highly concentrated, much like CEE which means there is no “loading period” required and smaller amounts remain as effective as larger amounts of creatine monohydrate. In addition, creatine HCL is water soluble which make for quicker absorption which helps reduce the possible bloating and dehydration issues.
To receive the best results out of creatine monohydrate, a “loading phase” of five to seven days is recommended in which you must take 20 g per day and then 5g per day for the rest of the cycle, usually another 5-7 days. A more precise approach to determining your ideal dose is to calculate the intake according to mass. This is calculated by dividing 0.3 grams over your body weight for the loading phase and 0.03 over your body weight afterwards. If you want the science behind enhancing your athleticism and strength, studies used 20 gram dose per day for 4-7 days. Other methods required a daily maintenance dose of 2-5 grams or 0.3 mg/kg of body weight. As for CEE and HCL creatines, only about 3-6 grams of CEE or 750mg of HCL are necessary for comparable results and no loading phase is needed.
Best Creatine for Women: Decisions, Decisions
So what is the best creatine for women? The answer is not entirely cut and dry. While CEE and MCC creatine claim to almost completely eliminate the bloating and dehydration issues, there is not a lot of research to prove that is the case. As with many supplements the best supplement may depend on a person to person basis. That said, basic creatine monohydrate is the most popular. It’s the cheapest variety and while it’s necessary to take a higher dose, it provides more bang for your buck. However, if you would prefer to take a smaller dose before your workout and find that you have issues with bloating, creatine HCL may be a better alternative.