Creatine Ethyl Ester
The big hype behind CEE is that it has a special chemical structure that supposedly allows it to freely enter cells without the use of a transporter protein. Remember that normal creatine must have a specific protein sitting on the outside of the cell that grabs the creatine and brings it inside. Before we get to the scientific application, we really need to understand the pseudo-scientific implications of this theory.
If creatine really had all-access passes to the interior of our muscle, there'd be nothing to stop it from entering. Now because over-hyped CEE is like a spoiled celebrity, it would have to bring its entourage of water along with it ? and it's this water inside our muscles that normally gives us a more muscular appearance.
While this all makes sense, you have to stop and think about when this process would stop. I mean, if creatine can just freely jump into our cells, then the more creatine we consume, the more we'd have accumulating inside. Coupled with the increased water entering our cells, eventually we'd get so big that we'd literally explode. Clearly this doesn't happen.
And what of other tissues? Creatine is used by many tissues, not just muscle. So what's to stop this super-creatine from jumping into every cell in our body and causing hyper-swelling? This would first happen with our GI tract, our liver, and then our blood vessels. Sounds great, huh? Fortunately, we know that none of this happens.
While it scares the hell out of me that people actually thought it would be a good idea to have a creatine that freely passed into our cells without using a transporter, we need to look at where this theory breaks down.
Open Door vs. Full House
Ultimately the "problem" lies in the use of the creatine transporter, which can be seen like an open doorway into an otherwise impenetrable cell. While CEE might theoretically obviate this function, the transporter serves a second important purpose: transporting creatine into the cell against a concentration gradient!
What this means is that we actually have so much creatine already inside our muscles that it takes the transporter to force more in. This is analogous to stuffing 1000 people into a phone booth and then opening the door for another person to enter. Ain't gonna happen! So despite having an "open door," there's no real room for the creatine to enter the cell (13).
So if there's no way for CEE to work the way it's supposed to, it's crap, right? Well, maybe not. The one advantage that CEE has is that, unlike creatine monohydrate, it's highly soluble in water. Now this sounds frivolous and softcore until you consider that some people experience bloating from regular creatine. One potential reason for this side effect is that people consume undissolved creatine, which could actually pull water into our GI tract and lead to bloating (11).
CEE minimizes this potential by simple virtue of dissolving in water very well. This means that when we drink it, we're drinking a mixed solution rather than water and a bunch of undissolved creatine powder ? the latter of which may cause bloating.
To be completely fair, despite the vocal minority who may experience bloating, it's not as common as one might think. In fact, I don't know of a single person who has these effects, and they're virtually non-existent in the scientific literature. Most likely, people hear that creatine causes intramuscular water retention and psychologically transfers this effect to bloating out of sheer misunderstanding.
Having said that, if you think you have bloating and water retention from creatine monohydrate, then you may want to give CEE a try. While the cost of most supplements prevents the "give it a try" philosophy, CEE is pretty cheap.
One last point before you decide to try CEE: it tastes like ass. It's bitter enough to cause a reflexive wincing, and it ruins the taste of Surge. It's also very acidic and leaves your teeth feeling like they were freshly scrubbed by a Brillo pad, so be sure to thoroughly wash your mouth out when you're done drinking.
Other than that, there's really nothing worth mentioning about CEE. If you're happy with regular creatine monohydrate, then you may be better off with it. For those of you who want to try CEE, save your regular creatine because you may find yourself going back to it.