Creatine has become one of the most popular and best selling sport supplements and with good reason - it works. In my book Griffiths's Sport Supplement Review I give creatine a five star rating for effectiveness, the highest rating possible. Study after study has shown that creatine is effective for packing on muscle mass and improving performance.
Recently a number of new formulations of creatine have come onto the market which all claim to be better than the traditional creatine monohydrate used in all the studies.
One of these is creatine ethyl ester or CEE.
What is CEE ?
CEE is creatine which has been esterified. Esterification is a process used by pharmaceutical companies to increase the bioavailability of prescription drugs with low bioavailability. Esterification of creatine decreases its hydrophilicity which CEE manufacturers claim enables CEE to bypass the creatine transporter on the muscle cell surface and be absorbed directly into the cell.
What are the claimed benefits of CEE ?
CEE manufacturers claim that this has two effects, firstly that it causes higher muscle creatine levels compared to creatine monohydrate and that this helps creatine non responders who don't benefit from traditional creatine. Secondly that CEE causes less muscle water retention than creatine monohydrate and so reduces the bloated look that some creatine users can experience.
As I explain in Griffiths' Sport Supplement Review the muscle water retention caused by creatine acts as an anabolic signal and is one of the ways in which creatine works. So reducing water retention isn't a good idea, but anyway does CEE really cause less water retention and is it really better at raising muscle creatine levels than standard creatine monohydrate?
What does the science show ?
One study which compared CEE with creatine monohydrate (CRT) randomized 30 young men to receive either CEE, CRT or placebo. The creatine groups received a loading dose of 20g/day for 5 days followed by a maintenance dose of 5g/day. All groups also undertook a 4 times a week resistance training program.
On days 0, 6, 27 and 48 muscle and serum creatine was measured together with body composition, body water and muscle strength.
The results for CEE were disappointing. CRT caused higher muscle creatine levels than CEE and also caused them to go up faster. CRT caused a statistically significant increase by day 6 while CEE only managed to produce a significant increase by day 27.
PLA = placebo, CRT = creatine monohydrate, CEE = creatine ethyl ester
Also CEE produced much higher blood levels of the creatine breakdown product creatinine which suggests that a large part of the CEE was being broken down in the stomach. It is known that CEE is unstable in the acid conditions of the stomach.
With regards to total, intracellular and extracellular body water there was no statistical difference between CEE and CRT but extra cellular water increases were actually largest for CEE. This effectively debunks the claim that CEE causes less water retention.
Finally there were no differences between CEE and CRT in body composition or strength.
In conclusion CEE has no proven benefit over creatine monohydrate and given it is more expensive and has a less proven safety profile than monohydrate I recommend you save your money.
Spillane M et al. The effects of creatine ethyl ester supplementation combined with heavy resistance training on body composition, muscle performance, and serum and muscle creatine levels. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2009 Feb 19;6:6 Click here to read study