Creatine is probably the best and the worst product ever to emerge from the supplement industry. About 15 years ago this supplement single handedly revolutionized and rejuvenated a rather impotent market place.

Thanks to creatine the sports nutrition supplement industry received a much needed shot-in-the-arm. Among the ocean of benign, useless, fraudulent products that was the 1980s (and still is today), at last one supplement shone-through like a beacon with compelling research on its safety and effectiveness. 

Creatine monohydrate (the only research-proven form of creatine) works fantastically for enhancing strength and lean muscle mass gains during resistance exercise. It also improves power output, work capacity and delays fatigue under an array of exercise conditions. Heck, it’s even shown in research to make you smarter! Best of all, it’s safe, inexpensive and readily available. Hey, problem solved, jobs done – the holy grail had been found!

So why is creatine also the worst supplement?

For the exact same reasons.

Ever since the science-based evidence on creatine monohydrate started accumulating, supplement companies have taken advantaged of restored consumer faith and renewed interest from sports/athletic communities. Ever since the benefits of creatine monohydrate started stacking up in the sports science journals, supplement companies started trying to make us believe there was something better.

The market flooded with pseudo science –based products  such as myostatin blockers, ectydystenoes, liquid creatine, 1-testosterone and then.....dah dah!! Creatine ethyl-ester.

When Creatine ethyl-ester was launched to consumers it was done on the back of University Faculty press releases, alleged scientific reports of higher potency and bioavailability. These are highly specific claims.

 “10 times more effective”, “by-passes creatine transporters in muscle”, “doesn’t degrade in the stomach”, “works for creatine non-responders”...... these are some of the very specific claims made by the companies that sell creatine ethyl-ester. Claims such as these can only be validated with clear scientific data. To date, there is not one published report that substantiates any claims made by supplement companies that sell creatine ethyl-ester.

On the other hand, now there is clear evidence that directly refutes the claims about creatine ethyl-ester.

MP Advisory Board Members, Dr. Matt Cooke and Dr. Darryn Willoughby based at the Human Performance Lab at Baylor University, Texas in the United States, were part of the research team that published the ground-breaking study that completely refutes all of the beneficial claims made about creatine ethyl-ester. 

This study examined the effects of creatine ethyl-ester supplementation in combination with heavy resistance training for 47 days compared to supplementation with creatine monohydrate and a placebo.  I won’t go through all the specifics of the study design  – you can read for yourself at the free-access Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition web site (http://www.jissn.com). The study is there published in full for all to see.

Here are the key findings of this study.

• Even at twice the recommended dose creatine ethyl-ester did not raise blood creatine levels.

• After a 5 day loading phase creatine ethyl-ester did not raise muscle creatine concentrations any better than a sugar placebo!

•  Serum (blood) creatinine is a by-product of creatine degradation. This study showed that creatine ethyl-ester significantly increased creatinine levels compared to the placebo and  creatine monohydrate.

•  In fact, this increase in degradation was 3-fold higher after the loading phase and continued to be elevated above normal values throughout the study. So much for creatine ethyl-ester not degrading in the stomach. It appears to degrade three times faster than regular creatine!

•  For the record, creatinine levels for creatine monohydrate group did elevate, but stayed within the normal range of 0.8–1.3 mg/dL.

• Body composition assessment revealed no differences in body mass gains (lean or other).

• Ditto for the strength measurements.

• As this resistance training study used previously untrained participants – the finding of no physiological changes (strength and muscle mass) in this relatively short term study is not surprising. However, the fact is, creatine ethyl ester didn’t provide 10 times better gains in muscle or strength – it didn’t provide any better gains at all.  

The Baylor team also measured total, intracellular and extracellular body water. This was of particular interest as the claims by the manufactures of creatine ethyl-ester have stated a difference in the retention of body water compared to other forms of creatine, specifically creatine monohydrate. That is, “no bloating” with creatine ethyl-ester as compared to creatine monohydrate.

• Collectively, changes in total, intracellular, and extracellular body water were not significantly different between the supplement and placebo groups.

• However, the mean increases for intracellular body water (water inside the cell) were greatest for the creatine monohydrate group!  Extracellular water increases (water outside muscle cells) were actually largest for the creatine ethyl ester!

Therefore, the “no-bloat” claim turned out to be a “big bloat”. Plus three times faster degradation to boot! 

Bloating and 3 times faster degradation! I wonder if the manufacturers of creatine ethyl-ester will use these “research-proven” claims in their marketing material?

The bottom line is creatine ethyl-ester did not show any benefit regarding muscle and strength gains during training. It definitely wasn’t any better than pure creatine monohydrate. Increases in body water were similar across the board with creatine ethyl ester showing a tendency to increase water outside the cell – exactly the opposite of marketing claims.

In this study, supplementation with creatine ethyl-ester showed a large increase in serum creatinine levels with no significant increase in blood or muscle creatine content, based on these important findings the scientists concluded that a large portion of the creatine ethyl-ester was being degraded within the GI tract after ingestion. Therefore supplementation with creatine ethyl-ester provides much higher levels of degradation and was nowhere near as effective as creatine monohydrate at increasing muscle creatine levels.

Okay, hopefully you’ve got the idea – yet another supplement scam has come and gone. However, as consumers I would like all of us to bare in mind the supplement companies that boldly lied about the benefits of creatine ethyl ester.

Every single supplement company that sells creatine ethyl-ester knows there is absolutely no research-based information to support the very specific claims made about this product. And these companies have made a lot of money from fraudulently marketing an inferior product.

Before you even consider purchasing another supplement from any company that sells creatine ethyl-ester, ask yourself one very important question "if they lie about creatine ethyl-ester how could you trust them about any other product they sell?

Source:  Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 6:6 2009.