Creatine HCL vs Monohydrate: Which Form Is Best?

Author: Jacek Szymanowski (M.Sc.Eng. Biotechnology, Sports Nutritionist)

Interested in taking creatine but don’t understand the difference between Creatine HCL and Monohydrate? 

With both products having very similar names, it’s difficult to make the decision between Creatine HCL vs. Monohydrate. In this article we’ll be going in-depth on these 2 supplements so you can make an informed decision on which one is right for you. 

If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between Creatine Monohydrate vs. HCL, then keep reading to have all your questions answered.

The difference between Creatine HCL vs Monohydrate is a slightly different chemical structure. Creatine HCL is simply produced from Monohydrate. HCL is meant to be more soluble, although this doesn’t mean higher bioavailability. It is typically much more expensive than Monohydrate. The 2 supplements appear to deliver nearly identical results.

Creatine HCL vs. Monohydrate: Which is Best for You

What Is Creatine Monohydrate?

Before getting into what to mix with creatine, let’s quickly cover the purpose of this popular supplement. Creatine is a nutrient naturally produced by the body and found in the diet through meat. 

Most people maintain creatine stores at around 60-80% of their maximum capacity from consuming 1-2g creatine from a normal diet. By fully saturating the body’s creatine stores, there are significant benefits including increased high-intensity exercise performance, reduced fatigue, and better recovery. 

Saturating your creatine stores is most easily achieved through supplementing with 3-5g of creatine a day. Full saturation will occur within 2-4 weeks, at which point you can carry on taking the same amount of creatine everyday. Virtually all athletes will benefit from creatine supplementation. 

Also, although these are our recommendations for mixing creatine, it’s worth noting that this comes down to a matter of personal preference. 

While these tips will help creatine mix smoothly and be absorbed by the body better, they won’t make a major difference in the effects creatine has on you. 

So, what can you mix creatine with?

What Is Creatine HCL?

Before getting into what Creatine HCL is, keep in mind that it’s difficult to explain without mentioning Monohydrate. As you’ll see, HCL is a product of Monohydrate, so its effects are largely identical. 

The difference between Creatine Monohydrate and HCL are subtle – mainly solubility, and price – which we’ll be covering more in-depth down below. So, what is HCL Creatine?

Creatine HCL (or Hydrochloride) is created for example by using Creatine Monohydrate and Acetyl Chloride as reactants with ethanol as a solvent. It is designed to be more soluble than regular creatine monohydrate. 

It does appear that HCL is more soluble, being shown to be 38 times more soluble than Monohydrate, although this doesn’t appear to affect bioavailability. 

Because of its increased solubility, it was thought that somebody could potentially take less Creatine HCL to receive similar effects to Monohydrate. This could be useful for somebody who is looking to avoid some of the side effects associated with Creatine Monohydrate use, such as gastrointestinal issues. 

It’s worth noting that despite the difference in solubility, Creatine Hydrochloride vs Monohydrate appear to have nearly identical effects on performance. Despite this, Creatine HCL is significantly more expensive than Monohydrate. 

If someone is especially concerned about potential side effects of Monohydrate, Creatine HCL may be an effective, albeit more expensive, alternative.

The effective dose of Creatine HCL has not been researched as in-depth as the effective doses of Creatine Monohydrate. While you may assume you need to take less HCL for similar effects, current studies to this effect aren’t fully conclusive due to their small sample sizes and short time horizons. 

Creatine hmb

Creatine HCL vs. Monohydrate

If you’re taking either Creatine Monohydrate or Hydrochloride, you can expect fairly similar effects. The main differences lie in the solubility, potential side effects, price, and research.
CriteriaCreatine HCLCreatine Monohydrate
Training EffectsWill increase high-intensity exercise performance and improve recovery (probably identical to monohydrate). The differences in chemical structure do not give HCL any real advantages over monohydrate.As HCL is derived from monohydrate, they have the same basic training effects.
SolubilityDesigned to be significantly more soluble than monohydrate, although it looks like the bioavailability is the same between the 2 supplements.Does not have the same solubility as HCL, leading to more monohydrate being needed for the same effects.
Potential Side EffectsHCL is thought to have less side effects than monohydrate, including upset stomachs. It’s worth noting this is still debatable.Potential side effects include some stomach discomfort, although these are often very mild.
PriceDespite requiring less HCL for the same effects as monohydrate, it is up to 3x as expensive as monohydrate.Monohydrate is relatively affordable as a supplement, typically costing less than a dollar per serving.
ResearchHCL is a relatively new creation, meaning it has not been researched as thoroughly as monohydrate.Monohydrate is one of the most well-researched and clinically-backed sports supplements of the past century.

1. Training Effects

These 2 supplements appear to deliver nearly identical results. This is to be expected considering that Creatine HCL is derived from monohydrate, and does not necessarily include any additional ingredients that are known to boost performance. 

The main difference lies in the solubility of Creatine HCL, meaning you may be able to take less HCL to get the same effects of Monohydrate. However, HCL being significantly more expensive balances this out. In terms of effects on training, these 2 supplements can be considered the same.

2. Solubility

Arguably the main difference between how the body uses these 2 supplements is the solubility. With Creatine HCL being more soluble than Creatine Monohydrate, it appears that you can take significantly less Creatine HCL to get the same effects. 

Although this may seem like a major pro, with Creatine HCL being much more expensive than Monohydrate, this doesn’t make much of a difference in the cost per serving.

athlete taking creatine in the gym

3. Potential Side Effects

One of the other reasons to consider HCL over Monohydrate is that there are supposedly less side effects with HCL. This likely has to do with HCL being more soluble, even though its bioavailability is most likely the same as monohydrate. 

Side effects of Monohydrate include reported increased water retention (which is actually a GOOD thing! - intracellular swelling is important for muscle growth) and stomach discomfort. It’s worth noting that these side effects are fairly mild, and most people taking Creatine Monohydrate either don’t experience them, or aren’t bothered by them.

4. Price

A major difference between HCL and Monohydrate, and perhaps the main reason to go with Monohydrate is the price difference between the 2. Because HCL is more soluble, you likely only need to take about half as much per day to get the same results as Monohydrate. 

While this may seem like the more budget friendly option, HCL can be up to 3 times more expensive than Monohydrate. Although a larger amount of Monohydrate is needed, you will likely be paying much more for the equivalent amount of HCL.

Transparent Labs

5. Research

Another factor to consider when deciding between Creatine HCl and Monohydrate is how much research has been done on the 2 supplements. While Creatine HCL appears to have some major pros over Monohydrate, it has been around for a much shorter time period. 

With significantly more research having been done on Creatine Monohydrate, you can be more confident you’re getting an effective, safe and high quality supplement with Monohydrate instead of HCL.

Creatine HCL vs. Monohydrate: Summary

Creatine HCL and Creatine Monohydrate are very similar supplements that will deliver identical results. Overall, for most people Creatine Monohydrate will be the better choice because it is more budget friendly and has been researched for decades. 

With that being said, Creatine HCL benefits include reduced side effects. This means if someone is put off by the potential side effects of Monohydrate, but still wants all the benefits of Creatine, HCL is a viable second choice.

Pros/Cons of Creatine HCL

Positives:

  • Will improve high-intensity exercise performance

  • Significantly more soluble than Monohydrate

  • Provides the same benefits of Monohydrate at a lower serving size

  • May not cause side effects such as upset stomachs

Could be better:

  • Much more expensive than Monohydrate

  • Has not been researched as in-depth as Monohydrate

Pros/Cons of Creatine Monohydrate

Positives:

  • Will improve high-intensity exercise performance

  • One of the most well-researched sports supplements available

  • Comes at a very affordable price, and is significantly cheaper than HCL

Could be better:

  • Serving size necessary for performance-improving effects is higher than HCL

  • May cause some unpleasant side effects in higher doses

rogue training

Creatine HCL vs Monohydrate: When to Use Each?

Almost all athletes can benefit from incorporating Creatine supplementation into their life. Not only does it improve exercise performance, it also helps with recovery and injury rehabilitation. 

For the vast majority of people, we recommend Monohydrate instead of HCL. This is because it is a more affordable and well-researched version supplement that delivers the same effects. 

There is one case where we may recommend HCL over Monohydrate, and that’s if you’ve tried Monohydrate and experienced some unpleasant side effects. If you’re still interested in the benefits of creatine, it may be worth trying HCL instead. 

Jacked Factory Creatine Monohydrate

Our pick for the best basic Creatine is Jacked Factory’s Creatine Monohydrate. There’s nothing fancy about this product, but it is absolutely an effective, high-quality Creatine Monohydrate supplement. 

At 5g per serving, Jacked Factory offers the recommended daily amount of creatine so you’re getting an effective dose in each scoop. It also promises great mixability, being able to be used with any liquid, or combined with other supplements such as pre-workout.

 jackedfactory

One of the main benefits of Jacked Factory’s product is its affordability, with each serving of their creatine only being around $0.41. Especially with Creatine being taken daily, price should play a major role in which product you decide to buy. 

Overall, if you’re looking for an excellent, basic Creatine Monohydrate supplement, Jacked Factory is one of your best options. 

Best Deluxe Creatine - Transparent Labs Creatine HMB

Transparent Labs Creatine HMB

If Jacked Factory is too simple for you and you’re looking for a creatine supplement with a few more bells and whistles, then we recommend Transparent Labs Creatine HMB supplement. 

Just like Jacked Factory, Transparent Labs offers 5g of Creatine Monohydrate per serving, giving you an optimal dose with each scoop. One of the ingredients in this product is HMB. 

While some studies show HMB to improve strength and lean body mass when used alongside resistance training, other studies show that it has no real effects on performance

A more science-backed ingredient found in this supplement is Vitamin D. Transparent Labs also features a solid 63% of your daily Vitamin D, which helps with bone health, muscular strength, and disease prevention. 

Creatine HMB

Transparent Labs’ Creatine HMB is also one of the few creatine supplements on the market that comes with flavored options. There are a solid 11 options to choose from including blue raspberry, orange, and fruit punch. 

Keep in mind that at around $1.50 per serving, it is more than 3 times as expensive as Jacked Factory. The main downside here is the fact that HMB likely won’t have a major effect, and the price. 

If you want a more deluxe Creatine supplement, this is a fantastic alternative to a more basic Monohydrate. While the inclusion of HMB may be debatable, the extra Vitamin D, as well as all the different flavor choices still make this a great overall supplement.

FAQ

Is Creatine HCL better than Monohydrate?

No. Creatine HCL and Monohydrate deliver essentially the same effects. While Creatine HCL is more soluble than Monohydrate, and potentially has fewer side effects, it is also significantly more expensive, and not as well researched. 

While some people may prefer Creatine HCL, the vast majority of people are better suited to saving some money and going with Monohydrate instead. 

Is Creatine HCL or Monohydrate Safer? 

Creatine Monohydrate is likely a safer choice yet because it has been studied more deeply than Creatine HCL. While HCL may potentially lead to less stomach discomfort, this can be regulated by simply taking a smaller dose of Monohydrate instead. 

Overall, while HCL is likely safe, Monohydrate is the more well-researched and trusted version of the supplement. 

Is Creatine Hcl Worth It?

For the vast majority of people, the additional cost associated with HCL is not worth it. You can get the same basic effects for less money per serving with Creatine Monohydrate instead. 

However, if you are bothered by the potential side effects caused by Monohydrate, it may be worth it to use HCL instead. 

Conclusion

Overall, Creatine and HCL are very similar products that deliver similar effects. The main differences between the 2 supplements lies in their solubility, cost, and the research done on them. 

While the benefits of Creatine are undeniable, it doesn’t appear there’s much of a reason to go with HCL over Monohydrate. If you’re looking for a basic, high-quality Creatine Monohydrate supplement, we recommend Jacked Factory Creatine Monohydrate. However, if you want a more deluxe Monohydrate, we recommend Transparent Labs Creatine HMB instead. 

Let us know if you’ve tried Creatine HCL and Creatine Monohydrate, and what your thoughts on the 2 supplements are! We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Also read:

References:

  1. Richard B. Kreider, Ralf Jäger, Martin Purpura, Bioavailability, Efficacy, Safety, and Regulatory Status of Creatine and Related Compounds: A Critical Review (Department of Health & Kinesiology, 2022), 14(5), https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/14/5/1035.
  2. Richard B. Kreider, Douglas S. Kalman, Jose Antonio, Tim N. Ziegenfuss, Robert Wildman, Rick Collins, Darren G. Candow, Susan M. Kleiner, Anthony L. Almada & Hector L. Lopez, "International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine" Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition volume, http://surl.li/kupzy (accessed June 13, 2017).
  3. Richard B Kreider 1, Douglas S Kalman 2, Jose Antonio 3, Tim N Ziegenfuss 4, Robert Wildman 5, Rick Collins 6, Darren G Candow 7, Susan M Kleiner 8, Anthony L Almada 9, Hector L Lopez, "International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine" National Library of Medicine, (Jun 13, 2017), 23(3):827-35.
  4. Daniel McDonough, ORAL CREATINE HYDROCHLORIDE SUPPLEMENTATION: ACUTE EFFECTS ON SUBMAXIMAL, INTERMITTENT BOUTS OF BENCH PRESS AND VERTICAL JUMP EXERCISES (Boise State University, 2017), http://surl.li/kupvh.
  5. Naylor, K., Albright, C., Liggitt, C., Kolenc, A., Robinson, R., Braun, W., Sanders, J. Shippensburg, University, Shippensburg, PA , Effects of Creatine Monohydrate vs. Creatine Hydrochloride on Muscle Endurance Performance, http://surl.li/kupyu.
  6. Jasmine S Thomson, Patricia E Watson, David S Rowlands, "Effects of nine weeks of beta-hydroxy-beta- methylbutyrate supplementation on strength and body composition in resistance trained men" National Library of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19387396/ (accessed May 13, 2009), 23(3):827-35.
  7. Javier Sanchez-Martinez, Alejandro Santos-Lozano, Antonio Garcia-Hermoso, Kabir P Sadarangani, Carlos Cristi-Montero, "Effects of beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate supplementation on strength and body composition in trained and competitive athletes: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials" National Library of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29249685/ (accessed Jul, 2018), 21(7):727-735.
  8. "Vitamin D" Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-d/ (accessed March, 2023).


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Jacek Szymanowski

M.Sc.Eng. Biotechnology,
Sports Nutritionist

Experience: 20 years

With my 30 years fighting experience, specialization in nutrition coaching for athletes, expertise in metabolic health and dietary strategies, I bring a comprehensive approach to optimizing your performance and well-being. Backed by a master's of science degree in biotechnology, I stay at the forefront of scientific advancements, ensuring that my coaching is always evidence-based and up-to-date.


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