Creatine Monohydrate vs. HCL - What’s the difference and which is better?

Creatine monohydrate in powder form

Creatine is a well-known and thoroughly studied supplement in the field of health and athletic performance. Creatine monohydrate is by far the most common. However, many other forms of creatine exist, HCL for example.

When it comes to resistance training and strength gains, creatine is, arguably, right up there with whey protein for must-haves on your shelf. Creatine has been proven time and time again to be effective for strength gains and extremely safe.

What does creatine do?

Supplementing creatine increases your muscle’s phosphocreatine stores. Phosphocreatine helps form adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is a key molecule your body uses for energy. During high intensity training, your body synthesises ATP for energy, so having a larger store in your muscles is extremely beneficial. Creatine also pulls water into your muscles, increasing protein synthesis. Your body then uses this energy during short high intensity exercise, such as weightlifting or sprinting.

Creatine has been the subject of over 1,000 studies. It is extensively researched and makes it the number one most supported health and dietary supplement.

However, the wonderous supplement comes in more form than one. So, what is the difference, and which is better?

The Difference Between Creatine Monohydrate vs. HCL

While there are others, the most common form of creatine is monohydrate while the second most common is HCL (hydrochloride).

Both forms of creatine are ultimately used for the same end purpose. However, the primary difference is the solubility.

Creatine HCL, or hydrochloride, is molecularly bound with hydrochloric acid, lowering the pH level, making it more acidic. This means it will increase the absorption rate in the human body. By entering your muscles faster, HCL therefore produces less side effects such as cramps, diarrhea, bloating, and/or water retention. It is said to be broken down faster in your body and absorbed easier in your cells.  

Benefits of Creatine HCL

1.     Higher solubility means faster absorption

2.     Supposedly produces similar effects as monohydrate

3.     Little to no side effects

4.     Smaller dosage required

Sounds great, right?

Why would anyone take monohydrate then?

Well, there is sort of a problem. HCL is much less researched. Like, significantly less researched. Therefore, many of the superiority claims that stand behind HCL, I would take with a great assault until further research proves otherwise.

So, What Does The Research Say?

As mentioned previously, early studies of HCL suggest that it absorbs significantly faster within the body resulting in little to no side effects. A second study looked at whether it was more effective in combination with strength training than monohydrate.

The results? Measly.

CRM is Creatine Monohydrate while CHCL is Creatine Hydrochloride.

There was no significant difference between the groups who took monohydrate vs. HCL.

Therefore, with such little research available, the safe and proven road is to simply go with Monohydrate. It has been proven time and time again to help increase strength, improve recovery and assist with muscle building.

Cost

While HCL absorbs faster in the body with smaller dosages, you will actually get a better bang for your buck with Monohydrate. It has a lower price per serving and comes with more in each container.

Safety

While we know for a fact that creatine monohydrate is safe on human body through rigorous studying, the same cannot yet be said about HCL. To be clear, we know through over 25 years of research that monohydrate has proven benefits when taken orally between 3-5g daily with no adverse effects over the long term. We don’t know whether this is true of HCL yet.  

Is It Worth It?

Let me ask you a question first.

Are you open to risk or uncertainty?

For a potential miniscule gain?

Over something that is already proven to work well?

This should give you your answer.

But in case it doesn’t…

Creatine HCL might potentially show some advantages over Monohydrate, but with such little research to back up these claims, there are too many unknowns at play. HCL has no real proven advantages besides faster absorption. It also costs more and is researched less. To me, it’s simply not worth it.

The only situation where I would recommend HCL over monohydrate is if the latter gives you side effects like an upset stomach.

But for the rest of you, if you’re looking for something to give you that small extra edge in the gym, and is proven to work, stick with the good ol’ creatine monohydrate. Perhaps in the future once more research is published on HCL, we can give it a fair shot.

Until then, stick with what is cheap and what works!

Take Away

Creatine HCL (Hydrochloride)

-Far less researched supplement

-Smaller, but more expensive servings

-Quicker absorption rates in the body

-Reduced side effects such as diarrhea, stomach cramping, muscle cramping, stomach pain, etc.

Creatine Monohydrate

-Far more researched

-Cheaper cost per serving

-Loading phase recommended

-Some side effects may be present as mentioned above

-Proven to work

Marshal McKenzie

Marshal is the original Founder of Everfit in 2019. With over 8 years of training and nutrition knowledge, Marshal has excelled in helping thousands of people around the world transform their body and live a happier, more fulfilling life.