Creatine HCl vs Monohydrate: A Comprehensive Guide

Orange scoop filled with white powder

Is monohydrate creatine the best, or is creatine HCl better? Creatine is one of the most popular supplements in sports nutrition to promote valuable enhancements in athletic performance, muscle growth, and recovery. This comprehensive guide evaluates the differences between the two most popular forms of creatine: creatine monohydrate and creatine HCl. 

Quick Takeaway:

  • Creatine monohydrate is a creatine molecule bound with a water molecule. It is also the most researched form of creatine. 
  • Creatine HCl is a creatine molecule bound with hydrochloric acid, which promotes better absorption and solubility than creatine monohydrate. 
  • The comparison of creatine monohydrate vs creatine HCl in supplements is that creatine HCl costs more and is less researched than creatine monohydrate, though it is more soluble and absorbent. 
  • Creatine monohydrate is less costly, less soluble, and more extensively researched than creatine HCl. 

What Is Creatine Monohydrate?

Creatine Monohydrate' formula

Creatine is a naturally occurring compound in the human body made from three amino acids. This compound’s job is to stimulate adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a source of fuel, which is then transferred to muscle cells. 

Creatine monohydrate is a form of creatine, specifically a creatine molecule bound to a water molecule. This is the most popular form of creatine used in sports supplements. It is also the most researched, with its health benefits backed by numerous studies. 

Pros and Cons of Creatine Monohydrate

Creatine monohydrate is prominently backed by research, hence its frequent usage in supplements compared to other forms of creatine. From supporting lean body mass to encouraging better cognitive performance, creatine monohydrate has many pros to take note of. 

Pros

When paired with resistance training, creatine monohydrate promotes various benefits for athletes and fitness enthusiasts. 

Whether it be to promote weight loss, maintain lean muscle mass, enhance athletic performance, or increase muscle growth efforts, creatine monohydrate in supplementation has been consistently proven to be a productive tool to drastically improve results and body composition. 

Pros of creatine monohydrate:

Cons

The only noteworthy risks of creatine monohydrate supplementation are the possible side effects of gastrointestinal discomfort symptoms like bloating, nausea, and diarrhea. Creatine pulls water into the muscle cells, causing water retention, which often comes across as weight gain initially, which is another temporary con of taking creatine supplements. 

Cons of creatine monohydrate:

  • Weight gain
  • Water retention 
  • Gastrointestinal discomfort 

What Is Creatine HCl?

Creatine HCL Formula

So, what is HCl creatine?

Creatine hydrochloride, or creatine HCl, is made by molecularly binding a creatine molecule with hydrochloric acid. This process is done to enhance solubility and absorption rates in the body for quicker and better benefits. 

Pros and Cons of Creatine HCl

Picking which type of creatine supplement you want can be difficult, whether it be creatine monohydrate or creatine HCl. That’s why we will go over the pros and cons of creatine HCl so you can better understand the differences between these two types of creatine. 

Pros

What does creatine HCl do benefits-wise for sports supplementation? In food and nutrition research, a study examined the differences in benefits of creatine HCl vs monohydrate in varying dosages given to lifters. 

The creatine HCl vs monohydrate study observed body composition and bench press performance and, after four weeks, found that both groups of lifters taking creatine supplements of HCl and monohydrate saw improvements in sports performance. Yet, only the group taking creatine HCl daily had improvements in lean muscle mass and body composition

Pros of creatine HCl:

Cons

Like creatine monohydrate, creatine HCl causes water retention and the risks of gastrointestinal (GI) discomfort. 

One of the biggest cons of creatine HCl is its lack of research. If more research backed creatine HCl’s benefits like it did creatine monohydrate, it would be a more verified alternative in supplements. It is also more expensive in comparison to creatine monohydrate. 

Cons of creatine HCl:

  • Water retention 
  • Stomach discomfort
  • GI discomfort 
  • Less research backing its benefits 
  • More expensive

The Differences Between Creatine HCl vs. Monohydrate

Though both versions of creatine boast benefits such as increased muscle mass and enhanced athletic performance, some noteworthy differences exist between creatine monohydrate and HCl. 

Creatine hydrochloride, compared to monohydrate, is more soluble and readily absorbed into muscle cells to promote quicker benefits like increased muscle growth. In comparison, creatine monohydrate is more extensively researched to back all the claims associated with its benefits, unlike creatine HCl. 

The two forms of creatine are also different in their structure. Creatine HCl is a creatine molecule bound to hydrochloric acid, while creatine monohydrate is a creatine molecule bound to a water molecule. 

Creatine Supplementation – Creatine Monohydrate vs HCl

Creatine boosts muscle growth survey
Survey showcases creatine's muscle benefits
Source: Everflex Fitness 2024

From our research, though 40% of randomly selected respondents had never used creatine before, of the 42 people who have used creatine, 60% (25 people) revealed that they noticed progress in muscle gains and performance using creatine supplements.  

There are many different forms of creatine, including creatine ethyl ester and creatine magnesium chelate, but the most commonly used is pure creatine monohydrate. 

These creatine monohydrate supplements are cheaper compared to creatine HCl supplements. Because more research supports this form of creatine, it can act as a more efficient way to consume more creatine and increase creatine stores to boost muscle mass, enhance athletic performance, and promote cognitive function. 

How To Take Creatine

There is currently not enough research on how to take creatine HCl or monohydrate to improve the benefits of these supplements. One study showed that consuming 50g of protein and carbohydrates along with creatine increased the effect of creatine retention and insulin release

Some other studies hypothesized the same as this study, so though there may not be enough research backing this claim, pairing creatine with carbs and protein may improve the effects of this supplement. 

When To Take Creatine

Determining the appropriate time when to take creatine HCl or creatine monohydrate supplements is another factor to consider with supplementation and can change depending on goals. 

For athletic performance, taking creatine supplements before exercise is the best option to encourage replenishment of creatine stores to be used for physical activity. Post-exercise creatine supplementation is best to promote recovery and muscle growth by replenishing depleted creatine stores after exercise. 

How Much Creatine To Take

Now that you know when and how to take creatine, it’s essential to understand how much creatine HCl to take.

Due to its increased solubility, creatine HCl requires less than creatine monohydrate in dosages. A general dosage of creatine HCl can range from 750mg to 2-3g per day. 

As creatine monohydrate is not as soluble as creatine HCl, it requires a larger dosage of 3-5g daily. 

Creatine HCl vs. Monohydrate – What the Research Says

In this comprehensive guide on creatine hydrochloride vs monohydrate, we’ve discussed the pros and cons of each form of creatine. We conclude that taking creatine monohydrate supplements is preferable over creatine HCl supplements, and provided reasons why creatine monohydrate is the best option. 

The primary reason for this is that creatine monohydrate has more scientific evidence backing it than creatine HCl, which does not have enough to properly cement the health claims around creatine HCl. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is creatine HCl better for cutting?

Neither creatine monohydrate nor creatine HCl is better for cutting. More research supports creatine monohydrate’s benefits, so we would lean towards using creatine monohydrate for supporting lean muscle mass and body recomposition efforts over creatine HCl. 

What is creatine HCl used for?

Creatine HCl is used for the same benefits as creatine monohydrate. These creatine supplements enhance athletic performance, speed up recovery, promote muscle growth, and support brain function. 

What is the difference between creatine and creatine monohydrate?

Creatine is naturally synthesized in the human body and can be consumed through animal proteins like beef and chicken. Creatine monohydrate is a creatine molecule bound with a water molecule. 

Why is creatine monohydrate the best?

Regarding which is best between creatine monohydrate and creatine hydrochloride, we recommend choosing a supplement with creatine monohydrate over HCl. The main reason for this is because much more research supports the claims of creatine monohydrate’s benefits and safety over creatine HCl. It is also a more economical supplement than creatine HCl.

Kaelyn Buzzo | ISSA CPT & Nutrition Coach

Kaelyn Buzzo | ISSA CPT & Nutrition Coach

I am an ISSA-certified CPT and Nutrition Coach with a BA in Creative Writing and a Minor in Nutrition.

Learn More About Kaelyn

More posts from Kaelyn Buzzo | ISSA CPT & Nutrition Coach

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