What Is Micronized Creatine and How Does it Work?
Everything You Need to Know about Micronized Creatine Supplements
Creatine monohydrate is arguably the single most effective dietary supplement for improving athletic performance and building muscle mass. However, not all creatine is created equal, and many gym-goers are taking an interest in micronized creatine as of late.
But what is micronized creatine, exactly? Is it better than "regular" creatine monohydrate?
We'll bring you up to speed on micronized creatine supplements by answering these questions and more, along with a brief overview of what creatine is and how it works.
What Is Creatine?
First things first: Creatine is not a steroid; rather, it is a vital amino-acid-like molecule produced mainly by the liver, pancreas, and kidneys . In humans, the majority of creatine is stored in skeletal muscles and smooth muscles of the heart and brain.
As part of the phosphocreatine system, cells continuously exhaust creatine stores to help regenerate adenosine triphosphate (ATP) during times of increased energy demand (e.g. when exercising vigorously). Naturally, this means reciprocal amounts of creatine must be replenished for optimal energy production.
While the body synthesizes small amounts of creatine endogenously, we can more efficiently replenish creatine stores from dietary sources like red meat, fish, and supplements (e.g. creatine monohydrate). Unfortunately, creatine concentrations are scanty in plant foods (thus, a creatine supplement is especially prudent for those on a plant-based diet) .
Creatine is particularly important during short bursts of high-intensity activities that rely heavily on anaerobic metabolism (e.g. weightlifting and sprinting). For example, when pushing yourself through a grueling set of barbell squats, creatine helps quickly replenish ATP so you can crank out a few extra reps before reaching muscle failure. This is why creatine supplementation is often geared towards athletes and gym-goers who engage in resistance training and explosive movements.
However, the benefits of taking creatine (monohydrate) extend far beyond improving strength and increasing muscle mass. For example, creatine supplementation contributes to cellular hydration by drawing water into muscle cells, which can enhance performance for both strength and endurance athletes .
Micronized Creatine Explained
"Micronized creatine" commonly refers to creatine monohydrate powder that has undergone a "micronization" process to reduce its particle size. The resulting "micronized creatine monohydrate" powder has an ultra-fine consistency, with each particle being about 20 times smaller than those found in standard creatine monohydrate powder. This significant diminuition in particle size translates to a sizeable increase in surface area for creatine molecules to dissolve in liquid.
Hence, micronized creatine monohydrate powder is a more water-soluble form of traditional creatine monohydrate. The greater solubility of micronized creatine enhances absorption while minimizing the gastrointestinal upset some people experience with large doses of standard creatine monohydrate.
Technically, the micronization process could be applied to other forms of creatine, but it's quite rare in practice since solubility is less of an issue with non-monohydrate creatine compounds (such as creatine HCl).
Micronized Creatine vs. Other Forms
While numerous supplemental creatine variants exist, such as creatine ethyl ester, creatine HCl, and buffered creatine, pure creatine monohydrate remains unmatched in efficacy, safety, and cost-effectiveness. Alternative forms of creatine remain woefully under-studied, so it's hard to make a compelling case advocating for their use over tried-and-true creatine monohydrate (which includes micronized creatine monohydrate) .
Benefits of Micronized Creatine Monohydrate
The micronization of creatine monohydrate stands out as a practical improvement to a supplement with irrefutable benefits. The distinct physical properties of micronized creatine contribute to greater solubility and absorption than typical creatine monohydrate, which allegedly translates to less risk of gastrointestinal discomfort than regular creatine monohydrate.
Furthermore, the increased surface area of the micronized particles should theoretically increase the rate of absorption, but this probably doesn't make a big difference since creatine supplementation is most beneficial over extended periods (i.e. taken daily for several months).
When doses are matched, the overall benefits on performance and body composition are essentially the same between micronized creatine monohydrate and standard creatine monohydrate. (Remember, micronized creatine monohydrate is still the same form of creatine as its non-micronized counterpart.)
Potential Side Effects of Taking Micronized Creatine
The safety profile of micronized creatine monohydrate is identical to traditional creatine monohydrate. The micronization process does not alter the chemical structure of creatine; rather, it optimizes its physical properties for solubility and absorption. This refined form maintains all the physiological benefits of creatine monohydrate, including improved high-intensity exercise performance, increased power, and faster muscle mass accretion, with putative reductions in gastrointestinal side effects.
However, individuals with pre-existing renal conditions should exercise caution and consult a healthcare professional before taking a creatine supplement (even if it's micronized) since the kidneys are responsible for filtering creatinine, a byproduct of creatine metabolism, out of the blood.
How to Use Micronized Creatine
When comparing micronized creatine vs. standard creatine monohydrate, the former is probably most beneficial for the initial loading phase when large doses are consumed. While an initial loading phase is optional for creatine supplements, it can accelerate the process of saturating muscle creatine stores.
Following the loading phase, a maintenance dose of 3-5 grams of pure creatine monohydrate daily sustains saturated muscle creatine levels for most active adults. This dose range is modest enough that it's unlikely to cause gastrointestinal discomfort regardless if you use micronized creatine or non-micronized creatine.
Mixing micronized creatine with a carbohydrate-rich liquid, like TL Cluster Dextrin, can enhance its uptake by increasing insulin-mediated creatine transport into muscle cells. Lastly, when taking creatine, micronized or not, it's always best to drink ample fluids throughout the day to reduce the risk of muscle cramps and dehydration.
Micronized Creatine: Key Takeaways
Creatine is an undeniably effective sports supplement, especially in its monohydrate form. By enhancing solubility and absorption without compromising the integrity and benefits of creatine monohydrate, micronized creatine provides a practical option for those seeking to maximize their athletic performance and recovery.
That being said, traditional creatine monohydrate remains the most studied form of creatine and is still considered the gold standard for supplementation.