Science and technology have changed how athletes train and recover. What they put into their bodies has also changed dramatically. These developments go hand-in-hand, as medical advances and new research discoveries drive nutrition innovation, and vice versa.
Creatine supplements, primarily creatine monohydrate, have been around for decades, and research is ongoing. A late 2016 publication noted creatine supplementation (5 g four times daily for six days) in “explosive" male athletes who performed an exercise regimen for four weeks increased muscle strength but not performance or body composition, compared to placebo (Med Sci Sport Exer. 2016 May;48(5S):991-992).
The latest trend in creatine supplements is to bond creatine to nitrate. This may slightly improve absorption and add improved blood flow and muscle “pump" (swelling) to the regular benefits of creatine monohydrate.
A recent study conducted at Texas A&M University, College Station, found supplementation with either creatine monohydrate (5 g) or creatine nitrate (3 g) significantly increased muscle creatine stores after one week, but only the creatine nitrate group saw significantly improved performance compared to placebo (6.5 g of dextrose)( J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2016 Mar 31;13:12).
Despite the evidence, there is still some debate on the legality of creatine nitrate as a dietary ingredient. While creatine monohydrate is “grandfathered’ as having been marketed before 1994 (EAS brought creatine monohydrate to market in 1993), the nitrate form of creatine may have to undergo the new dietary ingredient (NDI) process.
The argument that creatine nitrate is not an NDI requiring notification hinges on its reported separation into creatine and salt in the digestive tract; FDA’s draft guidance stated a process that makes new bonds is considered “chemically altered" and needs a notification unless the bonding is reversed in water or during ingestion. FDA has not acted against companies selling creatine nitrate or other amino acid salts, and research continues on whether taking creatine and nitrate in one ingredient provides more benefits than taking each separately, if they separate before absorption.
For an in-depth look at ingredient research for sports nutrition, check out and download INSIDER’s Digital Magazine, The Science of Sports Nutrition.