At this point, you probably already know how creatine can help produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP) for muscular energy production and assists with athletic performance.
But now, after doing some research, you may be asking, “Which type should I take?”.
You’ve likely come across the original creatine monohydrate powder supplement which is among the most scientifically proven effective supplements in existence.
Although, you’ve probably heard about the micronized form and wondered whether it was worth it.
This article will show you the difference between monohydrate vs. micronized creatine to know which is best for you.
- Both forms are actually creatine monohydrate
- Micronized creatine monohydrate is turned into smaller particle through the manufacturing and production process
- Both types are as effective as each other
- Micronized creatine monohydrate benefits include increased solubility and mixability in liquids and potentially fewer gastrointestinal side effects (but this may be due to dosing, rather than creatine type)
- Regular creatine monohydrate is cheaper, more accessible, and just as effective
What Is Creatine Monohydrate?
When talking about creatine supplements, it’s most common to hear about it in creatine monohydrate form.
It has many forms and this is by far the most popular and common, which makes it easy to find on the market, and also makes it cheap.
It has been the subject of most creatine research and is the base form of micronized creatine.
The particle size of your creatine greatly depends on the form you’re taking.
It’s commercially available as a pill, capsule, or powder.
While creatine is naturally produced by three amino acids in our body, the manufacturing process of creatine monohydrate is done a little differently and is produced using sacosine and cyanamide.
These are combined into a reactor along with other catalyst compounds.
They are then heated and pressurized, forming the creatine crystals which is your creatine monohydrate (and may then be further processed to create its other form, like micronized.)
It has become one of the most studied and sought-after supplements in sports nutrition, especially with how affordable, effective and accessible it is to the normal gym goer.
This is your bog standard, original creatine monohydrate. But, it just works – period!
However, some users taking standard creatine monohydrate have reported small side effects, commonly gas, general stomach discomfort, muscle cramps, and more.
Though there is no definitive evidence that these side effects happen due to creatine supplements (1)
This is where micronized comes in and MAY alleviate some of these negatives.
- Increases muscular size, endurance, and muscle strength
- The most studied (2) safe-for-consumption supplement on the market
- Readily available
- Weight gain through intramuscular water retention (a positive for most creatine users, as it’s intramuscular water which makes the muscles appear bigger and fuller. This is often confused with unwanted subcutaneous water) but those who need to cut weight for a sport may not want this)
- Some may experience bloating or stomach cramping, especially in high doses like the loading phase (20 grams a day for the first 5 days)
What Is Micronized Creatine?
In layman’s terms, micronized creatine has the same chemical formula as creatine monohydrate, but made smaller.
Its pure creatine particles are 20 TIMES smaller than the normal creatine monohydrate ones.
This form allows your body to quickly absorb the creatine phosphate compound to give you adenosine triphosphate or energy.
Its size allows for faster absorption into liquid and the human body (this is the claim, but I haven’t seen any evidence to back this up yet).
Micronized creatine also dissolves faster in liquids which helps your muscles with that absorption and lessens the negative effects of creatine monohydrate when taken in the right amounts.
Its compression also increases the surface area of the creatine, which adds to the ease of absorption.
Taking micronized creatine may negate some of the side effects in some users of regular monohydrate.
The most common ones are gastrointestinal and include gas, bloating, dehydration, general stomach discomfort, and muscle cramps.
Though, as I mentioned above, there is no definitive evidence to show this is due to creatine and may be dose or individual dependent.
- Highly water soluble
- Increased metabolism
- The purest form of the supplement
- Doesn’t sediment
- More expensive
The Key Differences Between Monohydrate and Micronized Creatine
Creatine has the same chemical formula, no matter whether you’re taking it in regular monohydrate form or in micronized form.
People may prefer creatine monohydrate supplementation over its micronized form, or vice versa for different reasons.
Let’s talk about these differences.
These are the key differences between monohydrate creatine and micronized creatine.
A creatine molecule has the chemical formula C4H9N3O2. This molecule can be presented in different sizes in monohydrate and micronized creatine.
Given its intake form, its particle size is bigger, even if it’s powder.
You may consume slightly less overall creatine monohydrate, especially if it’s in powder form.
Especially since it can form sediments at the bottom of your glass.
Though this is insignificant and due to the miniscule cost per dose, not even worth being bothered about.
This form of creatine is 20 times smaller than the normal creatine particle and mixes better in liquids, giving you an insignificant amount more creatine per serving.
It’s slightly more efficient than regular monohydrate.
Monohydrate and micronized creatine dissolve differently. Their solubility affects how your body absorbs the supplement.
In its pill or capsule form, monohydrate creatine isn’t absorbed as quickly as the powdered form but again, this makes no real world difference to your results.
While creatine monohydrate is absorbed more quickly in its powder form, it still tends to form some leftover sediments.
As a result, you won’t be able to get the full dosage of the supplement, but you already know what I think. Worrying about this is majoring in the minors.
This form of creatine is easily soluble, given its smaller particles. It results in faster absorption.
Does this make a real world difference? I’m yet to see a study showing it does.
Absorption of monohydrate and micronized creatine in the human body are practically the same.
You get a 99% absorption rate into the muscles with regular creatine monohydrate (5)
I haven’t seen any evidence that micronized creatine can provide better absorption than this, but even if it could, that extra 1% absorption would make no practical difference to your results.
Monohydrate and micronized creatine can be consumed differently, depending on your preference.
However, each form does have its limits.
The intake of this type of creatine is usually a dose of 3 to 5 grams daily, with three dosing schedules or phases to choose from.
LOADING PHASE: During the first 5 days, you will have the loading phase. You will take 20 to 25 grams daily, usually split into 4-5 doses. In this case, you can take creatine in intervals of 3 hours with a 5-gram dosage each.
MAINTENANCE PHASE: You can either start with this or do it after a loading phase. will need to consume 5 grams once daily. (don’t worry about missing a day, your creatine stores will remain topped up – you can take 10 grams every other day, for example, with no differences)
DE-LOADING: Some people like to take a break from creatine for 4 weeks or so. There is no scientific reason to do this and you can safely remain on creatine.
Micronized creatine would be taken in exactly the same way as monohydrate creatine but you’ll just get better solubility with micronized creatine in your preferred liquid.
Creatine generally affects body weight by drawing water into your muscles contributing to the energy your muscles produce during a workout, and therefore indirectly increasing muscle mass.
Creatine monohydrate is the most studied form of creatine supplement and has mountains of clinical evidence that it’s highly effective in boosting ATP for muscle contraction and improving performance in near maximal exercise intensities.
Given its effectiveness, it has been highly sought after by athletes and gym-goers alike.
This form of creatine has the exact similar effects to creatine monohydrate (are you noticing the pattern yet?)
NOTE: It’s important to consume creatine mixed in liquid by the end of the day. If it’s dissolved for a prolonged period, it can break down and become unstable. Though this process takes longer than previously thought. Creatine degraded by only 5% in acidic orange juice after 8 hours.
You can easily find and buy both types of creatine, depending on your location.
Creatine can also come in more than just these two forms, but these more recent versions aren’t as effective i.e. Kre-Alkalyn, CEE, HCl and others.
However, when it comes to monohydrate and micronized creatine, one is more available than the other.
You can purchase creatine monohydrate in powder, capsule form or pills for 5 grams each.
Creatine monohydrate powder is the most common, usually sold in tubs or bags.
You can find them in as low as 100 grams and often as high as 1000 grams options.
You can purchase this too in both powdered or capsule form.
However, the downside is that it’s more difficult to find micronized creatine monohydrate than it is creatine monohydrate.
Difficult is maybe too strong a word, but there are certainly fewer options on the market than the regular creatine monohydrate.
Supplement manufacturers usually base the price of creatine supplements on the processes involved in producing them (and sometimes, they base it on nothing at all!)
This crude form of creatine makes it more affordable and easily available in the market.
Its price makes it more popular, especially for the effectiveness.
For gym-goers and those who simply want to improve their physical performance, it’s a no-brainer.
This pure creatine has to go through more processes to turn it into fine particles that help with solubility. As a result, it costs more to produce.
While this form of creatine is slightly more expensive, some athletes and bodybuilders still prefer taking micronized creatine because of the better solubility and if they’re experiencing any gastrointestinal side effects of the regular version.
Benefits of Monohydrate and Micronized Creatine Supplementation
Creatine is a subject brought up in many gym conversations and in forums online. There’s a reason why this supplement always makes it into people’s daily routines.
Taking either creatine monohydrate or micronized creatine monohydrate has been proven to show benefits in a person’s physical performance, especially in maximally intense exercise programs.
While factors such as solubility can vary depending on the form you take, both forms of creatine will provide you with the following benefits:
#1 Increases Athletic Performance During High-Intensity Exercises
Adding any form of creatine monohydrate to your workout routines can enhance your sports performance in a maximum intensity setting.
The rate of your ATP resynthesis improves, and you can continue to perform high-intensity exercises, where you’d normally not have been able to push out the last few repetitions.
The increased performance will help you indirectly build muscle strength and muscle mass as a result of creatine monohydrate use.
#2 Improved Muscle Recovery
Many evidence exists that monohydrate creatine is one of the supplements that help with muscle recovery, not only intraworkout (during) but also post-workout. (6)
Creatine monohydrate was found to improve strength recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage from one workout to the next, though this study was done on people recovering from injury.
Creatine kinase was also significantly lower in the creatine group (by 84%). CK is one indicator of muscle damage.
What we do know for sure is that creatine monohydrate DOES speed up recovery time and muscle endurance during a workout, in between bouts of high intensity exercise.
#3 Development of Lean Body Mass
Creatine helps you build lean body mass through water absorption into the muscles and increased muscle energy during your high-intensity workouts.
When balanced with a proper, scientifically sound workout split, this performance increase from your creatine monohydrate supplementation will indirectly help with your muscle building efforts.
There is often a myth that creatine increases body fat. However, this isn’t true since creatine is basically calorie free.
It helps your body with fat-free muscle development, which you can gain through proper resistance exercise and lifting heavy weights.
Again, it’s the most studied effective muscle building and sports nutrition supplement in existence.
#4 Increased Athletic Performance
Adding creatine to your routine has also shown an increase in muscle power and strength when it comes to athletic performance (9).
This is what creatine is best known for – and it works like gangbusters!
#5 More Muscle Growth Through Water Absorption
As a result of consuming either forms of creatine, your muscles appear bigger because of the water retention that goes with the absorption.
Creatine monohydrate helps boost the natural creatine levels in your body to help your muscle grow and draw more water into the cells (this is beneficial).
#6 Protects Brain Cells From Mental Fatigue
One of the unknown effects of creatine is how it helps your brain. This organ stores about 5% of the creatine(10) in our bodies.
You’re increasing a neuroprotective substance that assists this energy-hungry muscle by taking monohydrate or micronized creatine.
It also improves memory and slows down cognitive decline.
It’s one of the reasons why it is recommended that some elderly consume monohydrate or micronized creatine.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
You may have more questions on creatine supplementation.
I’ve gathered the most common questions to help you understand this supplement better.
Which Form of Creatine Is Best for Muscle Gains?
It is recommended to stick with regular creatine monohydrate unless you’re experiencing some gastrointestinal side effects or if water solubility bothers you. In which case, go for micronized creatine powder.
Creatine monohydrate and micronized creatine, are both as effective for muscle gain.
There have been numerous studies on the supplements effectiveness for strength, size, and power.
It’s especially effective for those following a vegetarian diet or vegan diet, replacing the creatine provided by meat products.
The benefits of creatine, which have been scientifically proven, are almost all based on studies with regular creatine monohydrate.
What Is the Healthiest Type of Creatine?
As mentioned, MOST of the known creatine research is based on creatine monohydrate.
That means claims on the positive effects of creatine are based on this type.
In terms of safety, creatine monohydrate is the most proven safe form, especially when taken in its recommended dosage.
By extension, this would also include micronized creatine which is also still a monohydrate form of creatine.
They’re both safe and creatine contributes positively to most people’s health in many different ways.
Does Our Body Naturally Produce Creatine? Do I Even Need to Take it?
Our bodies naturally produce creatine through our phosphocreatine stores to improve our energy and muscle function.
It is a derivative of an amino acid, and the human body produces it from the amino acids glycine and arginine.
Our organs such as the liver, kidneys and pancreas can produce around a gram of creatine every day.
However, our body produces far less than you could have by taking this popular sports nutrition supplement.
People who follow a meat-free diet may have even more trouble reaching effective creatine levels and should supplement with creatine.
What Are Creatine Ethyl Ester and Micronized Creatine Monohydrate?
Creatine ethyl ester is another form of creatine that claims to increase absorption into your muscle tissue.
It’s creatine molecule membrane is permeable, apparently making it easier for your muscle cells to absorb the creatine.
The ethyl ester attached to the creatine makes the substance more soluble in the liquid. That means less sedimentation when mixed into liquids..
That’s the claim anyway. In reality, the claims fall flat on their face.
Studies show that CEE is NOT as effective(11) as creatine monohydrate.
Attaching ethyl ester to creatine is expensive, making it less accessible.
On the other hand, micronized creatine monohydrate has all the benefits of creatine monohydrate. It’s micronized 20 times to make it more soluble and help reduce stomach issues.
If given the choice, it’s better to take creatine monohydrate or micronized creatine over creatine ethyl ester.
Final Verdict: Monohydrate vs. Micronized Creatine – Which Should You Use?
Your choice of creatine supplement will be based on your goals, the availability of the supplement, any side effects you experience with one or the other, and good old personal preference.
Monohydrate and micronized creatine have their pros and cons (with far more pros than cons) but overall, I recommend standard creatine monohydrate for its cost and effectiveness.
The potential benefits of micronized creatine aren’t worth the extra expense, unless you suffer from side effects of the regular monohydrate or are overly bothered by water solubility.
You aren’t getting more energy, better absorption or effectiveness for the extra cost though.
Anyway, these are the main things to consider when choosing the best for you:
Use Monohydrate Creatine If:
- You’re on a budget
- You’re looking for readily available and accessible supplements
Use Micronized Creatine If:
- You don’t mind spending a bit extra on creatine
- You want to experience better solubility and less “chalkiness” when mixing your creatine into liquid
- You get an upset stomach from the regular version
Monohydrate vs micronized creatine is a bit of a misnomer. Whatever one you take, you’re getting the same benefits of creatine monohydrate. Both versions are just as effective.
Taking creatine will not only help you get the body you want if you pair it with a solid training and nutrition plan, it has neurological, energy and physical performance benefits that go far beyond aesthetics.
As always, it should be known that relying on a dietary supplement alone won’t work.
But as far as creatine goes, it’s about the most effective natural sports nutrition supplement you can use.
(1) Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2000 Mar;32(3):706-17. doi: 10.1097/00005768-200003000-00024.
American College of Sports Medicine roundtable. The physiological and health effects of oral creatine supplementation
(2) J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017
Published online 2017 Jun 13. doi: 10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z
International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine
(3) Efficacy of Alternative Forms of Creatine Supplementation on Improving Performance and Body Composition in Healthy Subjects : A Systematic Review
Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research ():, February 11, 2021. | DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000003873
(4) J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012
Kre-Alkalyn® supplementation does not promote greater changes in muscle creatine content, body composition, or training adaptations in comparison to creatine monohydrate
(5) Published: 08 February 2021
Common questions and misconceptions about creatine supplementation: what does the scientific evidence really show? Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition
(6) Published: 02 June 2009. Creatine supplementation enhances muscle force recovery after eccentrically-induced muscle damage in healthy individuals. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition
(7) Effects of creatine supplementation on aerobic power and cardiovascular structure and function. October 2005. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport 8(3):305-13
(8) J Strength Cond Res. 2009 Sep;23(6):1663-9. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181b1fd1f.
Effects of four weeks of high-intensity interval training and creatine supplementation on critical power and anaerobic working capacity in college-aged men
(9) Mol Cell Biochem. 2003 Feb;244(1-2):89-94.
Effects of creatine supplementation on performance and training adaptations
(10) Brain Res Bull. 2008 Jul 1;76(4):329-43. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresbull.2008.02.035. Epub 2008 Mar 24.Functions and effects of creatine in the central nervous system
(11) J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017; 14: 18. Published online 2017 Jun 13. doi: 10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z PMCID: PMC5469049 PMID: 28615996
International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine