Background: Creatine monohydrate (CrM) has been consistently reported to increase muscle creatine content and improve high-intensity exercise capacity. However, a number of different forms of creatine have been purported to be more efficacious than CrM. The purpose of this study was to determine if a buffered creatine monohydrate (KA) that has been purported to promote greater creatine retention and training adaptations with fewer side effects at lower doses is more efficacious than CrM supplementation in resistance-trained individuals.
Methods: In a double-blind manner, 36 resistance-trained participants (20.2 ± 2 years, 181 ± 7 cm, 82.1 ± 12 kg, and 14.7 ± 5% body fat) were randomly assigned to supplement their diet with CrM (Creapure® AlzChem AG, Trostberg, Germany) at normal loading (4 x 5 g/d for 7-days) and maintenance (5 g/d for 21-days) doses; KA (Kre-Alkalyn®, All American Pharmaceutical, Billings, MT, USA) at manufacturer's recommended doses (KA-L, 1.5 g/d for 28-days); or, KA with equivalent loading (4 x 5 g/d for 7-days) and maintenance (5 g/d) doses of CrM (KA-H). Participants were asked to maintain their current training programs and record all workouts. Muscle biopsies from the vastus lateralis, fasting blood samples, body weight, DEXA determined body composition, and Wingate Anaerobic Capacity (WAC) tests were performed at 0, 7, and 28-days while 1RM strength tests were performed at 0 and 28-days. Data were analyzed by a repeated measures multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) and are presented as mean ± SD changes from baseline after 7 and 28-days, respectively.
Results: Muscle free creatine content obtained in a subgroup of 25 participants increased in all groups over time (1.4 ± 20.7 and 11.9 ± 24.0 mmol/kg DW, p = 0.03) after 7 and 28-days, respectively, with no significant differences among groups (KA-L -7.9 ± 22.3, 4.7 ± 27.0; KA-H 1.0 ± 12.8, 9.1 ± 23.2; CrM 11.3 ± 23.9, 22.3 ± 21.0 mmol/kg DW, p = 0.46). However, while no overall group differences were observed (p = 0.14), pairwise comparison between the KA-L and CrM groups revealed that changes in muscle creatine content tended to be greater in the CrM group (KA-L -1.1 ± 4.3, CrM 11.2 ± 4.3 mmol/kg DW, p = 0.053 [mean ± SEM]). Although some significant time effects were observed, no significant group x time interactions (p > 0.05) were observed in changes in body mass, fat free mass, fat mass, percent body fat, or total body water; bench press and leg press 1RM strength; WAC mean power, peak power, or total work; serum blood lipids, markers of catabolism and bone status, and serum electrolyte status; or, whole blood makers of lymphocytes and red cells. Serum creatinine levels increased in all groups (p < 0.001) with higher doses of creatine promoting greater increases in serum creatinine (p = 0.03) but the increases observed (0.1 - 0.2 mg/dl) were well within normal values for active individuals (i.e., <1.28 ± 0.2 mg/dl). Serum LDL was decreased to a greater degree following ingesting loading doses in the CrM group but returned to baseline during the maintenance phase. No side effects were reported.
Conclusions: Neither manufacturers recommended doses of KA (1.5 g/d) or KA with equivalent loading (20 g/d for 7-days) and maintenance doses (5 g/d for 21-days) of CrM promoted greater changes in muscle creatine content, body composition, strength, or anaerobic capacity than CrM (20 g/d for 7-days, 5 g/d for 21-days). There was no evidence that supplementing the diet with a buffered form of creatine resulted in fewer side effects than CrM. These findings do not support claims that consuming a buffered form of creatine is a more efficacious and/or safer form of creatine to consume than creatine monohydrate.