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Fact checked by Andrew Lenau, ISSA CPT & Sports NutritionistFACT CHECKED
Updated On: August 03, 2023
The world of sports nutrition is ever-evolving, and researchers and companies are constantly striving to make our favorite products more obtainable and convenient. Interestingly, this passion for eliminating inconveniences of any kind actually led to the creation of today's article topic: creatine pills. Yes, you heard us correctly. The same creatine powder you know and love so much now comes in pill form.
Thankfully, you no longer need to be burdened with scooping some out of a container and mixing it into your water. Whew.
Jokes aside, you're likely wondering what the differences are between creatine pills and powder, and if one is better than the other. This article will break down the differences between the two, as well as the benefits to each.
Creatine is a non-proteinogenic amino acid, a group of amino acids that aren't involved in protein synthesis. It's found within the body's muscle tissue, with 95% stored in your muscle cells, and the remaining 5% stored in the brain and testes.
The primary role of creatine is its role in the synthesis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) through the ATP-CP metabolic system. In other words, creatine increases energy production for high-intensity activities such as weightlifting, sprinting, and HIIT.
Because of this, the creatine levels of athletes and fitness enthusiasts can have a major impact on their performance, amount of lean body mass, muscle building abilities, and overall composition. This includes any body recomposition goals you may have. It even improves the health and basic life function of the general population.
When not taking a supplement, the majority of a person's stored creatine is readily absorbed through their food intake, primarily red meat and fish. In addition, a smaller amount is synthesized within the body from three amino acids: arginine, glycine, and methionine.
If our bodies synthesize it naturally, why take a creatine supplement? Good question.
Your body has a finite amount of creatine that can be stored for use. Studies show that average creatine storage is usually only 60-80% full depending on a person's diet¹. This means you're likely not close to reaching your maximum absorption of creatine.
By taking one of the best creatine supplements, we can raise those levels to 100%. As a result, your muscles have the extra energy needed for performing more work in resistance training. Less muscular fatigue equals your ability to workout harder and longer.
Listen up, fitness enthusiasts. We've got a saying that summarizes our thoughts on this superhero supplement: "If you're not taking creatine, you're doing it wrong." That's because of all the benefits that come from daily supplementation.
These benefits come from the extra energy allowing the muscle to perform more work and function better. Specifically, studies show a 5-15% increase in work output as a result of taking creatine supplements¹.
This extra work then results in greater adaptations, including greater muscle size and faster sprint times. When added to fitness workouts, you can expect to see performance enhancement backed by conclusive evidence, including:
Studies have shown that taking creatine with strength style workouts will increase strength by 5-15% in the short term. The better news is in the long-term, these gains remain around the 5-15% mark¹.
Just about everyone wants to build more muscle mass. As of now, the best way to do this is by getting more volume and progressive overload in your exercise program. Because creatine provides the extra energy by way of ATP, you can knock out more volume. This helps you build muscle.
You’ll sometimes hear about muscle fluid retention, as if it’s a bad thing or doesn’t count. Considering the muscle is 79% water and a hydrated muscle is more anabolic, it really doesn’t seem so bad anymore, does it²? In the world of strength training, gaining body weight is not a bad thing. It means you're growing!
Due to its ability to improve muscle recovery and repair and promote muscle growth, studies have found that it can help to retain your muscles without or without exercise. For example, studies show that creatine supplementation mitigates muscle loss due to being immobilized³.
This makes it effective for a wide range of people, anyone from the bodybuilder following a clean bulk workout and diet plan to a gym goer trying to put on serious weight.
Your workout will become a lot more fun! Studies show that athletes taking creatine have a 5-15% increase in performance in the long term¹. This includes things like improved power production, top speed, and vertical jumps.
Get ready for this: Creatine pills are creatine put in capsules. That's it.
The capsules contain a pre-measured amount of powder and are usually made from a gelatin material that dissolves upon eating. As far as creatine use, it’s literally the same as powder.
Short answer: Yes.
While new forms continue to be introduced to the market, as of now, a monohydrate form of creatine is still king.
To begin with, out of all forms, creatine monohydrate is easily the cheapest. You can go to Amazon and easily find a creatine supplement for $10/month (check out Bulk Supplements!).
Creatine is one of the few substances on this earth whose price doesn't indicate its effectiveness. In other words, you're getting one of the best dietary supplements for sports performance for dirt cheap. Just make sure you don't buy so much at one time that you let your creatine expire.
Second, it's effective. Keep in mind that the vast majority of studies used to illustrate creatine's effectiveness were done with creatine monohydrate.
Last, while it's often claimed other forms are absorbed better, the evidence is not so clear. Check out our article on creatine monohydrate vs. hydrochloride for more details on this.
We'll dig into this answer in far more detail below, but the straightforward answer here is both creatine pills and powder work really well and will provide you with the same results. It comes down to personal preference. To help you determine which is best for you, we're about to get into the pros and cons of creatine pills, and the advantages that both forms offer.
Because creatine pills use the same powder form, they provide the same benefits. In other words, taking a pill will provide no unique physiological benefit. That said, your muscles still get all the benefits of the powder form.
The major advantage of creatine pills is that they're convenient to take with you. Maybe you're going on a trip or need to hit the gym before heading home from work. Throwing a few pills in your gym bag is a lot easier than dumping powder in a baggie.
And, you still need to mix powder wherever you go. Having a bottle of creatine pills negates this.
Not a huge issue, but it does happen. Almost everyone has had that moment when it's time to take a protein shake. While making yours with a combination of protein powder and creatine, things get hectic, and the creatine tub gets knocked over.
This doesn't happen with creatine capsules. And we appreciate any product that can save us from making a huge powdered mess all over the locker room floor.
While you should be able to use a measuring spoon, people are prone to accidents. People making mistakes when measuring powders does happen from time to time. The good thing is that nothing overly bad happens if you take too much creatine, but a pill brings measuring certainty with it.
Now for the bad. Here are some of the reasons we think creatine capsules aren't all that great.
Easily the biggest downside of creatine capsules is the cost. Because of the extra processing and time it takes to shove powder into capsule form, you're going to have to pay more.
For example, let's compare the creatine powder from Bulk Supplements to their creatine pill product. You'll find that you get about 100 servings of powder creatine for the similar price of approximately 64 servings of creatine capsules.
When compared to other supplements, this is still pretty cheap. However, it still costs more.
Unlike powder form, creatine powder in pill form comes pre-measured. As a result, capsules limit the choices you have for dosing.
For example, one creatine capsule might come with 3 grams, yet when the time comes to take creatine, you want to take 5 grams. This means your creatine dosing will be over or under.
Obviously, you can just find a company that offers the right dose, but this isn't an issue with creatine powder.
If you're like us, we love combining creatine with the best protein powders and making protein shakes or smoothies.
Or, getting creative and turning it, protein powder, and java into a tasty protein coffee. While you can technically do this with pills, it completely defeats the purpose.
Swallowing a pill isn't a big deal. We can handle two or three fine. But once you start getting up past five, it stops being convenient. And when you need to take seven, like with Bulk Supplements, you wonder, "what's the point?"
When we think of taking creatine in pill form, we imagine grabbing a water bottle, throwing a pill in our mouth, taking a swig, and being done with it.
With seven, that's an entire process, not to mention you're going to count them out a few times to make sure.
Also, some people just don't like taking pills.
Creatine has had hundreds of studies that prove it is a highly effective supplement that improves performance, and that there are no major risks or negative side effects4. This includes long-term studies of 5 to 10 years. Regardless of whether you're taking creatine while cutting, bulking, or maintaining, one thing's for sure: This is a safe supplement that yields significant results.
When it comes to choosing the right supplement to complement the hard work you're putting in during your workout split, you want to look at a few things, including price, size, reviews, and purity.
You can use all of these factors to compare products and choose what's best for you. For example, one may be only $10 for a year's supply, but the reviews have horror stories.
The main thing you should look for when looking for a creatine supplement is if it's made with Creapure. Creapure is a creatine manufacturing company in Germany that has the highest quality of creatine and is the closest to pure creatine powder you’ll see.
The good news is it's readily available for purchase as they sell their product to different supplement companies who then sell it to you. And while there may be some differences, a lot of other brands are selling you the same powdered creatine wrapped up with fancy marketing.
This is a good thing because if your product has "Made With Creapure," you know it's good. Now you just need to look at the price. Here are a few supplements made with Creapure to check out:
When determining how to take creatine, proper dosing is relatively easy. Here's how to get best results.
1. Loading Phase:
The loading phase is a period in which you take a higher dosage of creatine to fill up your stores. The suggested time frame is 5-7 days, taking 20 to 25 grams a day.
That said, you don't have to use a loading phase. Doing so will just get you to gaining muscle weight sooner. Some people complain about gastric distress during this time due to the higher doses and would rather stick with 5 grams per day. The other option is taking a smaller "big" dose. For example, take 10 grams for 15 to 20 days.
The only difference is it will take a bit longer until your stores are full.
2. Maintenance Phase:
After the loading phase, you then enter what's called the maintenance phase. Here, you take 3 to 5 grams per day. Be sure to take plenty of water to ensure it's readily absorbed.
And, for those interested in learning about when they'll see results, check out our article: How Long Does Creatine Take To Work?
When it comes to recommending effective supplements, there are only a few we routinely recommend. These include creatine powder, pre-workout, whey protein, and caffeine.
Yes, you read that correctly: When it comes to powder or pill form, we recommend powder. As mentioned, the only real benefit of creatine capsules is being able to take your supply wherever you go, which let's be real, you can do the same with creatine powder as well. Aside from that, we think the other benefits are a bit of a stretch.
If you're a busy person whose daily life is hectic, creatine capsules may be helpful. If not, we just don’t believe the benefits justify the cost increase.
On the other hand, maybe you just prefer the pill form. In that case, it’s important to note that while there aren’t any benefits, there’s also no downside as far as performance benefits. Either form will certainly make your muscles happy.
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