Creatine Monohydrate vs. HCL: Which One is Best for You?

If you've spent some time perfecting your supplement regime, you already know that adding creatine to the mix is a no-brainer. It's actually one of the most widely used fitness supplements on the market. 

However, it's not quite as simple as buying any of the creatine supplements you see on the shelf.

Many people assume that creatine is just creatine, but there are actually several types. If you're on the hunt for a creatine supplement, you can narrow it down to the two most popular: creatine monohydrate and creatine hydrochloride (also known as creatine hcl).

So, when it comes to creatine hcl vs monohydrate: which one should you choose? 

In this article, we'll deep dive into the differences between these forms of creatine supplements. We'll talk about everything from their safety, effectiveness, and the best way to use them.

Then, you can decide which one is best for you.

The Difference Between Creatine Hcl vs. Monohydrate 

You have to look closely to see the difference between these types of creatine supplements because the differences exist at a molecular level.

While these differences are physically small, they actually have a noticeable impact on how creatine is absorbed and utilized in the body. 

What is Creatine Monohydrate?

Creatine monohydrate is the most common creatine supplement you'll find. It's been around the longest in the fitness and sports nutrition world and has been studied extensively. 

This form is typically made with a creatine molecule plus a water molecule. However, manufacturers commonly process this form in slightly different ways. 

For example, some manufacturers use micronized creatine, which involves slightly more processing to improve the supplement's solubility. 

Other manufacturers leave the water molecule completely out of their creatine monohydrate supplements. This creates anhydrous creatine, or 100 percent creatine. 

Plenty of research supports the effectiveness of every variation of creatine monohydrate.

There is extensive evidence that shows how it increases energy, power, and stamina during workouts.

Creatine monohydrate supplementation is also known for bringing more water into the muscle, which is often responsible for the appearance of larger muscles when people start creatine supplementation.

Another key point about creatine monohydrate is the method for taking it as a supplement.

It's most effective to use a loading phase to build up stores in the muscle. Without this phase, the muscles and your workouts won't reap all of the benefits. 

What is Creatine Hydrochloride (Hcl)?

Creatine hydrochloride (HCL) is newer to the market, but quickly gaining popularity. This form is made up of a creatine molecule bound with hydrochloric acid.

One study found that this form of creatine is 38 times more soluble than monohydrate. This means that it's possible to take less creatine HCL and see the same results as creatine monohydrate. Faster absorption also means little to no water retention, which is a potential side effect of creatine monohydrate. 

The attached hydrochloric acid in this type of creatine supplement also makes the molecule more stable. It also means you may be able to skip the loading phase and still see results.

Which Creatine is Best for Muscle Mass?

Here's a little refresher on how a creatine supplement works for muscle growth.

First, remember that your muscles already store creatine from your diet. When it's released, creatine: 

  • Increases insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), a hormone that helps with muscle growth. 

  • Boosts energy, power, and endurance so you can get more out of your workout

  • Draws water to the muscles, which makes them appear larger.

  • Promotes better recovery after a workout.

Taking a supplement ensures that your muscles are storing the maximum amount of creatine possible.

Although any type of creatine will help you achieve results, each one will work a little differently. 

There is more research backing creatine monohydrate at this point, but the best thing to do is to try both monohydrate and Hcl and see which one works better for you. 

If you don't want to do that, just go with creatine monohydrate, which is more of a proven, science-backed option. 

Is Creatine Hcl or Monohydrate Safer?

First, let's talk about safety. In the past, there were concerns about the risks of taking a creatine supplement. There were claims that it worked like a steroid and caused a number of negative side effects like weight gain, hair loss and kidney problems. 

However, those claims have since been proven wrong through years of research. In fact, there are hundreds of peer-reviewed studies about the efficacy and safety of creatine. 

The International Society of Sports Nutrition is on board with using a creatine supplement as well. In their position stand, they state that long and short-term creatine use is safe and well-tolerated by generally healthy people. 

It should be noted however that their stance does not specify which type of creatine is most safe. Although creatine in general is one of those most widely researched fitness supplements, the vast majority of peer-reviewed studies use creatine monohydrate.

The safety of creatine HCL cannot be guaranteed until researchers study it more thoroughly. 

Which Form of Creatine is More Effective?

Okay, so between creatine monohydrate and creatine hcl, which is the more effective way to supplement creatine? 

Technically, creatine monohydrate and creatine HCL are equally effective.

Both forms of creatine supplementation facilitate increased muscle mass when taken appropriately. The difference between the two lies in how effectively they actually get into the muscle.

In theory, creatine HCL is more efficient when it comes to solubility and absorption.

You could say this makes this form more effective, because more creatine is getting into the cells, more quickly, with fewer side effects. 

Creatine Hcl vs Monohydrate: Which is Better Based on Scientific Evidence

The problem is, there isn't enough research to say for sure that creatine HCL is the better than creatine monohydrate as far as absorption.

Research that zeroes in on creatine hydrochloride is so limited, it's hard to say for sure that the benefits actually make it more effective. 

One recent study compared the effectiveness of these two forms of creatine supplementation. 

In this double-blind study, subjects were divided into four groups to compare the effects of creatine hcl vs monohydrate on athletic performance, plasma testosterone, and plasma cortisol. 

These hormones serve as indicators of muscle growth and lean body mass.

In the end, the results of this study showed no significant difference in effectiveness between the two forms, based on these indicators.

Other Forms of Supplemental Creatine

There are actually several forms of creatine beyond just creatine hcl vs monohydrate.

Although the others aren't quite as popular as the ones we're focusing on in this article, it's worth discussing the key differences between them.

Here are some other common forms beyond creatine monohydrate and creatine hydrochloride:  

Creatine Ethyl Ester 

some claim that this form of creatine is better absorbed in fat. However, the limited research on this form actually suggests that more is excreted, which could be hard on the kidneys. 

Buffered Creatine 

the addition of a slightly basic “buffer” is claimed to decrease creatine breakdown in the stomach and therefore enhance absorption in the muscle. 

Creatine Citrate 

Creatine bound with citrate. Although this form of creatine supplementation is more water soluble, it's not thought to be better absorbed. 

Creatine Magnesium Chelate 

This is simply creatine bound to magnesium. The magnesium may limit water retention.

Creatine Malate 

This form binds creatine and malic acid, which may improve stamina. 

Best Creatine Pre Workout

Based on what we've already discussed, let's look at whether it makes more sense for you to take creatine hcl or creatine monohydrate as your pre workout supplement for maximum endurance.

Creatine Monohydrate as a Pre Workout Supplement

Taking creatine monohydrate as a pre workout (or as a part of your pre workout drink) is a proven way to improve your performance at the gym.

Supplementing creatine in general increases the store of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) in your muscle cells, and that leads to increase stamina to lift more weights and do more reps.

But as discussed previously, one of the biggest benefits of creatine monohydrate is the large body of research backing it up.

You can be confident that you'll get results if you take the science-backed creatine monohydrate supplement and hit it hard in the gym or during your training session.

This is why we use creatine monohydrate in Naked Creatine, as well as in our pre workout supplement, Naked Energy.

Creatine Hydrochloride Before a Workout

Again, the biggest issue with creatine hydrochloride is the lack of research.

Theoretically, creatine Hcl can be just as effective (or even more) as creatine monohydrate when it comes to increasing adenosine triphosphate in your muscle cells, due to potentially being easier to absorb.

But unlike creatine monohydrate, you're taking a bit of a risk with your results when you roll the dice with creatine hcl.

But every person is unique, and you might feel and react even better with creatine hcl vs monohydrate.

The best thing could be to try both hcl and monohydrate and see for yourself what works best, and which gives you more energy at the gym, and also as far as side effects like water retention and GI discomfort.

Either way, whether you take creatine monohydrate or hcl, you're more than likely to see faster progress toward your goals.

The Best Way to Supplement Creatine 

So, when it comes to creatine hcl vs monohydrate, you can't ignore that creatine monohydrate is the most thoroughly-researched form

But no matter whether you choose creatine hcl, monohydrate, or when you decide to take creatine (pre/post workout), remember that quality matters.

Avoid fillers, sweeteners, and artificial ingredients as often as possible when shopping for fitness supplements. Pay for the supplement, not the unnecessary stuff.

When you go with a premium product like our Naked Creatine, you can be sure you're getting the best of what's out there and be confident about what you're putting in your body.

Finally, take your creatine as recommended by your nutritionist or physician.

But as a general guideline, if you decide on creatine monohydrate, it's important to start with a loading phase, followed by a maintenance phase. Following this technique will give you the best result. 

 Also, if it's a concern for you when it comes to creatine supplementation, be sure to check out our article on creatine and weight gain.

If you choose creatine HCL, a loading phase may not be necessary. Remember, consistency is key with either option.

Also, be sure to check out our in-depth guide on how much creatine you should take per day.