Man scooping out a creatine powder into a tumbler as his friend looks on

Creatine Monohydrate or HCL

You are probably familiar with creatine if you are a gym enthusiast or are into working out. For newbies to advanced athletes, creatine is a versatile supplement that helps boost performance during workouts. It comes in multiple forms with two popular versions being creatine monohydrate and creatine HCL. There has been a lot of debate about whether HCL is better than monohydrate, so if you were wondering which type of creatine to add to your daily routine, then you will find the answer here.

Creatine Monohydrate or HCL Overview

Creatine monohydrate and creatine HCL are popular supplements that help gym goers use to boost their performance. Both are purported to help provide energy during high-intensity exercise while playing a vital role in muscle recovery and increasing lean muscle mass. Creatine also plays an essential role in body composition making it a highly important part of any strength athlete’s supplement stack.

Man giving a bottle of Creatine Mono gummies to his friend in the gym

So, how do these two types of supplements work? Monohydrate and hydrochloride are both forms of creatine that get into the muscles to perform functions that aid in recovery and growth. 

When you take creatine (monohydrate or HCL), it is stored as amino acids (glycine, arginine, and methionine). It then provides energy that boosts performance during high-intensity workouts and helps with muscle growth.

Remember that the body also produces its own creatine through the liver, kidney, and pancreas. Half of the creatine your muscles can store is manufactured in the body. 

However, creatine is excreted daily. Therefore, to curb the depletion of creatine stored in your muscles, you must take supplements or consume foods that provide it (creatine). Foods containing creatine include red meat, fish, chicken, cheese, and milk. But most will find supplementation necessary to achieve max creatine stores in the body. And that is why you need to know which form of creatine is best for you.

What Is Creatine Monohydrate?

Creatine monohydrate is a naturally occurring compound that is a type of amino acid (which are the building blocks of protein). It is produced through the pancreas, kidneys, and liver and then is stored in the body’s muscles and brain cells. Creatine is also available as a dietary supplement in capsules, energy bars, powder, and even protein mixes. 

Creatine monohydrate works well in helping build lean muscle mass. Creatine provides the body with energy that is utilized to contract and flex your muscles. It is often started by utilizing a loading phase to maximize the body stores quickly. 

A loading phase involves taking a high creatine monohydrate dose of 20 to 25 grams daily for five to seven days. The loading phase helps saturate the muscle cells quicker, so you reap the benefits of creatine sooner. After seven days, you must take the lower dose to maintain the saturation.

While a loading phase may help reach saturation levels quicker, it is not necessary to reap the bodybuilding and strength training benefits of creatine. 

The best time to take your creatine monohydrate dose is when you are about to work out or immediately after it (30 to 45 minutes pre-workout or 30 minutes post-workout). Taking it with foods rich in carbohydrates and protein is also advisable as some studies show it may improve creatine’s benefits. Monohydrate is available without a doctor’s prescription at supermarkets, nutrition stores, and drug stores.

Woman lifting a barbell over her head during her workout session

Pros of Creatine Monohydrate

  • It replenishes adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to provide strength and increase muscle mass during a workout or performing physical activity.
  • Creatine monohydrate supplementation is the most trusted supplement due to its versatility in providing energy during workouts. 
  • It may improve exercise performance, particularly during short-term, high-intensity activities like weightlifting and sprinting.
  • It may prevent injuries by repairing the damaged cells created during workouts.
  • It has neuroprotective mechanisms that protect the brain and improve cognitive performance.

Cons of Creatine Monohydrate

  • It can cause gastrointestinal discomfort in some people, leading to bloating and diarrhea.
  • Creatine monohydrate may increase weight gain due to its ability to retain water in the muscle cells.
  • It leads to dehydration by drawing and retaining water in the muscle cells, making you feel thirstier.
  • Taking creatine monohydrate when you have kidney problems may worsen the situation. So, knowing your health condition before consuming this supplement is ideal.

What Is Creatine Hydrochloride (HCL)?

Creatine hydrochloride is a newer version of creatine that is molecularly bound with hydrochloric acid with a goal of enhancing its performance. The addition of hydrochloric acid may improve the solubility and overall absorption rate, making it easy to provide energy to the muscles quickly.  This type of creatine was introduced to curb the side effects of water retention common in other types of creatine supplements.

Some studies show that creatine HCL has an absorption rate of over 40 times more than that of creatine monohydrate. This feature makes it ideal since you only need a smaller amount to see muscle growth results and increased strength during workouts, but more studies are needed. The infused HCL may make the creatine molecule more stable, leading to faster strength and lean muscle gains.

The best time to take creatine hydrochloride is 30 minutes before a workout. You can also include it in your post-workout shake. Taking it during your post-workout helps to repair the damaged muscles. It also helps in the growth and building of the muscles. Creatine hydrochloride is available in various forms including powder and tablets. You can purchase it at supermarkets, nutrition, and drug stores.

Pros of Creatine HCL

  • Creatine HCL may have a higher absorption rate, making it easier to achieve performance benefits within a short time.
  • It helps form adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and phosphocreatine, which help transfer energy to the cells. This makes it easier for cells to have energy during high-intensity exercise.
  • Its potentially higher absorption rate may enhance faster muscle recovery after a workout.
  • It does not require a loading phase like other supplements, such as creatine monohydrate.
  • It requires a lower dose than creatine monohydrate. This makes it pocket friendly since you will only purchase smaller quantities.
  • It does not require a doctor’s prescription and is readily available at your local supermarket, nutrition, and drug stores.
Woman wearing a sports bra and leggings while holding a water bottle and yoga mat in each hands

Cons of Creatine HCL

  • Studies on the benefits of creatine HCL are conflicting, and more research is needed to validate some of the claims made about this type of creatine. 
  • Creatine HCL can lead to weight gain since it draws and retains water in the muscle cells.
  • It can cause stomach discomfort, leading to bloating, diarrhea, and Irritable bowel syndrome.
  • It may lead to dehydration if not consumed with enough water.
  • Creatine HCL can also (on rare occasions) cause muscle strains.

Creatine HCL vs Monohydrate Solubility Test

Solubility and absorption rate play a vital role as far as energy transportation is concerned. A more soluble supplement is easily absorbed in the bloodstream, making it easy for the muscles to gain more strength during the workout. However, a higher solubility and absorption rate do not necessarily mean that the supplement is more effective than the other.

In this case, creatine HCL has a higher soluble rate than monohydrate. The hydrochloric acid in creatine HCL provides stability to the molecules, increasing their solubility. This high solubility allows you to consume a smaller quantity than monohydrate. 

Comparison Between Creatine Monohydrate and HCL

Now that you know what creatine monohydrate and HCL are, you must understand their similarities and differences. This will make your work easier when choosing one that works well with your body. Here are the similarities and differences:


  • Both are supplements that help provide energy to the muscles during high-intensity exercise.
  • Both can lead to body dehydration if not consumed with plenty of water.
  • Both should be taken with protein and carbohydrate-rich foods to reap the full performance benefit.
  • Both can be purchased without a doctor’s prescription at supermarkets, nutrition, online, and drug stores.
  • Both can cause gastrointestinal discomfort, leading to bloating and diarrhea.
  • Both help replenish adenosine triphosphate(ATP), an energy-providing molecule that helps repair and build worn-out muscle cells.
  • Both come in tablets, capsules, powder, and energy bars. This makes it easy to make one that matches your preference.
  • Both can lead to weight gain since they draw and retain water in the muscles, making them(muscles) grow bigger within a short time.


  • Creatine HCL requires a lower dose than monohydrate since its molecules are stable, making it provide energy quickly.
  • Creatine HCL has a higher absorption rate (41 times) than monohydrate.
  • Like the creatine monohydrate, Creatine HCL does not require a loading phase to saturate the muscle cells.
  • Creatine monohydrate has more research supporting its effectiveness than creatine HCL.
  • Creatine HCL is more expensive than monohydrate.
Man scooping out a creatine powder into a tumbler as his friend looks on

The Major Distinguishing Factor

The primary distinguishing factor between creatine monohydrate vs. HCL is that HCL may have a higher solubility and overall absorption rate. This might make it easier for this type of creatine to quickly provide energy to the muscles when taken as a pre-workout supplement.

When to Consume Creatine Monohydrate

The best time to take a creatine monohydrate supplement is when you want to retain more water in the muscle cells. When more water is retained in the cells, the muscles grow more prominent, increasing the body weight.

Consider taking creatine monohydrate when you want to consume more creatine within a short time (five to seven) days before lowering the dosage. This technique works well when using a loading phase to strengthen your muscles during the workouts.

When to Consume Creatine Hydrochloride(HCL)

The best time to use HCL is when you want to take a supplement that has a higher solubility and absorption rate. The higher absorption rate makes it easier for you to achieve performance benefits quickly. It also enhances faster muscle recovery after a workout.

Which Is Better: Creatine Monohydrate or HCL

The better choice between the two is creatine monohydrate. This is because it has a more extended history of use and extensive research supporting its effectiveness and safety. Creatine monohydrate also gives you a grace period (five to seven days) to understand whether it works well in your body.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Creatine Monohydrate a Steroid?

No, creatine monohydrate is not a steroid since it is a naturally occurring substance manufactured in the body or taken as a supplement to provide energy. On the other hand, steroids are synthetic substances that emulate the effects of testosterone in the body.

Is Creatine HCL the Same as Monohydrate?

Creatine HCL possesses the characteristics of monohydrate since both are taken as supplements. The only difference is that creatine HCL uses hydrochloric acid instead of water. 

Is Creatine HCL or Monohydrate Better for Muscle Growth?

Yes, both creatine supplements are ideal for muscle growth. However, creatine monohydrate has a slight edge over HCL regarding effectiveness and safety. Monohydrate has been studied extensively. It has a better track record in safety and efficacy than HCL.


Creatine Monohydrate and HCL are effective supplements for increasing muscle mass, strength, and endurance. These two supplements are available in tablets, energy bars, energy mixes, liquids, and powder. They can be purchased without a doctor’s prescription at supermarkets, drug stores, and nutrition stores.

Jack Kelle

Jack is an entrepreneur, outdoorist, and animal lover with a background in philosophy, psychology, and business. He enjoys music, friends, and family. At RAVE, Jack works as the manager of marketing and content development.