Our blog post on creatine ethyl ester led naturally to the question of how other forms of creatine stack up to creatine monohydrate. A relatively recent introduction is magnesium creatine chelate which is a patented form manufactured by Albion Labs. Magnesium creatine chelate chemically bonds the creatine to magnesium. Creatine monohydrate on the other hand bonds the creatine to a water molecule. This difference is important to understanding the rationale behind using magnesium creatine chelate (MCC) as the process of bonding magnesium to creatine means it is absorbed via a different pathway compared to regular creatine monohydrate.
The idea behind MCC is that by using a different transporter to get the creatine to the muscle cells, less is lost in transport and broken down into the waste product creatinine. As such, the theory goes that using magnesium creatine chelate can lead to greater absorption of creatine into muscle cells with less bloating and side effects associated with creatine monohydrate.
You might be wondering why use magnesium to bond with the creatine. The reason is two-fold. First, magnesium is an alkali compound which counteracts the acidic environment in the stomach which can otherwise lead to creatine being degraded into creatinine. In addition, magnesium plays a role in a variety of physiological functions including those involved in anaerobic exercise. In particular, it plays a crucial role in the resynthesis of ATP where it is required along with creatine.
ATP powers all human muscle contractions which is why when we provide extra creatine, we get a performance benefit from its use. It is not any direct effect of creatine but the increase in the body’s creatine stores that allows for greater ATP synthesis which is the cause of creatine’s performance enhancing effects. ATP synthesis requires magnesium also though so by supplying magnesium with the creatine, magnesium creatine chelate could potentially lead to a greater anabolic effect from MCC compared to regular creatine monohydrate.
Couldn’t you just combine creatine and magnesium separately?
This is the obvious answer you would reach based on the theory presented above. In other words, why not supplement creatine monohydrate and magnesium separately? This question and the one of whether it is even effective in reality, as opposed to just theory, is what we will cover next.
1. Brilla et.al (2003): Magnesium-creatine supplementation effects on body water
Methods: Brilla’s group performed a detailed two week review comparing the following supplement regimens and their impact on body water and quadriceps torque:
Magnesium Creatine Chelate (MCC)
Maltodextrin Placebo (P)
Magnesium Oxide + Creatine (MOC)
Each one was taken at a dose of 800mg of magnesium and 5g of creatine daily for two weeks. They were provided to 35 subjects in a randomly assigned, blinded study. Pre and post study measures of total body water (TBW), extracellular water (ECW) and intracellular water (ICW) were assessed as well as using an isokinetic device to test knee extension torque (T), total work (W), and power (PWR).
Results: Body weight increased for both creatine groups but significant pre-post differences in ICW an ECW were only noted for the MCC group. The MCC group had a significant increase in peak T (124.5 v 135.8) while the other groups showed a smaller improvement. Both creatine groups had increased PWR.
Conclusion: The supplementation of only the magnesium creatine chelate resulted in significant performance advantages and increases in cellular water levels. The increase in cellular water could be due to increased protein synthesis but cannot be stated for certain as it was not measured.
Our Comments: This study could really have done with dosing the creatine higher as its short duration would likely lead to not all the performance gains associated with creatine use materialising.
2. Selsby JT et.al (2004): Mg2+-creatine chelate and a low-dose creatine supplementation regimen improve exercise performance.
Objective: Test the hypothesis that compared to placebo or creatine groups, a magnesium creatine chelate group would show greater improvements in 1RM for bench press and able to perform more work at 70% of 1RM for the bench press.
Methods: Thirty-one men with a background in weight training were randomly assigned in a double blind manner to a placebo (maltodextrin), a creatine monohydrate group (2.5g of creatine daily) and a MCC group who also consumed 2.5g of creatine daily. Initial measurements for bench press performance were taken. Following just ten days of creatine supplementation, follow-up tests were performed.
Results: Both creatine groups had significantly larger increases in work compared to placebo. The creatine and MCC groups were similar on performance tests.
Conclusion: Regardless of how it is administered the creatine showed the same improvement. The authors conclude that a low dose of creatine can effectively enhance performance after short term use.
Our Comments: A big drawback with this study was the lack of time provided to track the results of creatine. At just ten days of supplementation it was a surprise to see that creatine had any effect but the length of this trial was not long enough to truly compare the relative merits of magnesium creatine chelate to regular creatine monohydrate. The study did confirm that the pathway through which MCC is transported into the body is different to that of creatine monohydrate. This does lay open the possibility that by using both in combination, you may experience greater performance and muscle mass gains by allowing for greater storage of creatine via the use of a dual transport pathway. At this stage more research needs to be done to test this hypothesis.
To date there have only been two studies conducted which have been published on magnesium creatine chelate and both suffer from shortcomings. However, there has been more work done on this compound which compared the MCC to a creatine and magnesium stack, which we will report on next.
Brilla’s group, who performed the 2003 study on magnesium creatine chelate, had earlier run a two week trial involving 36 men which showed greater body weight gains and intracellular and extracellular water in the chelate group compared to creatine monohydrate. In contrast, there was a lack of significant difference shown on fitness tests.
A follow-up two week trial to the 2001 one involving 44 men showed similar results but this one also showed greater mean power in the chelate group (14.5%) versus 1.4% in the creatine + magnesium group.
The 2009 trial by Brilla lasted over four weeks so is the first to examine the effects of MCC over a longer period of time. In this trial there were no significant differences in weights between the different treatments (with an alkaline creatine rather than creatine monohydrate serving as the control) although they observed a trend for increased intracellular water storage in the MCC group. Both treatments showed increases in mean power which were significantly greater for the chelate group (12% versus 2.4%). Peak power increased by 7% in the chelate group while the alkaline creatine and placebo groups were unchanged.
The research to date suggests that magnesium creatine chelate is a promising way of boosting intracellular water stores. This could be indicative of increased muscle accretion although even a cell volumizing effect without a muscle increase would please most bodybuilders. There is a less assured connection between magnesium creatine chelate and performance outcomes although there is some support for the notion it could potentially improve power and torque in weight trained subjects.
For users who have not experienced much benefit from creatine monohydrate or who experience discomfort when dosing it, the magnesium creatine chelate represents a genuine, study backed alternative with the added advantage that it does not require the use of carbohydrates to facilitate storage which, for low carb dieters in particular, represents a definite advantage.
Author: Reggie Johal
© 2012, Reggie Johal. All rights reserved.