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Creatine 101

Know the in's and out's of creatine with this creatine primer

Creatine 101

Although creatine monohydrate is the tried-and-true form of creatine that most manufacturers sell, other types of creatine offer benefits that go beyond those of the mainstay. That's why many creatine products now contain a variety of different forms of creatine. In addition, some manufacturers are smartening up and adding supplements to their creatine that enhance its uptake. Learn how to select a mixed creatine product that delivers results.

1. Creatine used to come in one flavor--gritty. Today's powders are often flavored. This may make it taste better when you mix it by itself in water, but if you put it in a protein shake, the flavors may not work together. For example, lemonade-flavored creatine plus chocolate-flavored whey protein turns into a gross drink. Lemonade plus vanilla, on the other hand, is not so bad. Choose flavors wisely.

2. Many powders come in a couple of sizes, from roughly 1 pound to 2 pounds. Your best bet is to go with the larger size--you need at least a solid month's trial of any new creatine product to ensure that it works for you. Once you find the product you like, you might as well nab the savings on the larger size.

3. The sodium content comes from the sodium creatine phosphate matrix, which enhances both the solubility of the creatine in fluid and its uptake at the muscle cells, due to a creatine receptor on muscle cells that is sodium dependent. Some sodium also comes from disodium phosphate, which enhances the energy that creatine provides the muscle cells by increasing the creatine phosphate levels in muscles.

4. Creatine ethyl ester-beta-alaninedual action composite (CarnoSyn) is the creatine ethyl ester you may know, along with a patented, timed-release form of beta-atanine.

5. Cinnulin PF is a trademarked cinnamon extract, which boosts creatine uptake by mimicking insulin's actions on muscle cells (one of which is enhancing creatine uptake).

6. Creatine alpha-amino-n-butyrate is creatine with a metabolite of the amino acid leucine. This can help to increase muscle protein synthesis and decrease muscle breakdown.

7. Creatinol-o-phosphate-malic acid is a creatine analog that is reported to enhance endurance.