If you work out, know someone who works out, or watch people working out on TikTok, then you know of creatine. This sports supplement has been around for many years, but only recently became a social media superstar for men and women alike.
“Creatine is an amino acid that the body can use to create more ATP, which is the most readily available energy source during intense physical and mental activity,” explains Kim Yawitz, RD, a registered dietitian and gym owner in St. Louis, Mo. “The liver and kidneys produce creatine at a rate of one gram per day, and omnivores can double their creatine stores by eating animal sources of protein,” she says.
“The best way to boost creatine levels is to supplement, which can increase the amount of creatine in the body by up to 30 percent,” says Yawitz.
But what about plant-based eaters? We’re glad you asked.
why plant-Based eaters should consider supplementing with creatine
Creatine definitely isn’t just for meat-eaters. Plant-based eaters can benefit from supplementation just as much, if not more, than omnivores.
Creatine & Fitness
“You don’t need to eat meat to train hard,” says Yawitz. “Studies have consistently linked higher creatine levels with increased muscle mass and better performance in the gym, and taking five grams of creatine per day can increase creatine stores as much as 35 ounces of steak,” says Yawitz. In fact, that’s why Yawitz—who owns a CrossFit gym—often recommends creatine supplements to her vegetarian strength athletes.
Creatine & bone Health
Bone health may be of particular concern to people who adhere to a vegan or vegetarian diet. “According to one large study, vegans have a 43 percent higher risk of bone fractures than omnivores. In addition to getting enough calcium and vitamin D, there’s also some evidence that creatine supplements could help increase bone density, but only when combined with strength training,” says Yawitz. “The studies on creatine and bone mass haven’t looked at plant-based eaters, specifically. But it’s still another possible benefit of supplementing with creatine if you’re a vegan who lifts.”
Creatine & brain Health
Creatine may be a boon for your noggin, too. “Because vegan eaters don’t eat meat, fish, and animal products—and these are the main sources of creatine—levels of creatine in the muscles are lower in vegetarians,” says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, an inclusive plant-based dietitian and owner of Master the Media in Stamford, CT. “Thus, supplementing with creatine can positively affect brain function. In vegetarians, creatine supplementation led to better memory, according to a study in The British Journal of Nutrition.”
Echoing Gorin, Yawitz adds: “Your muscles aren’t the only parts of your body that use ATP for energy—the brain also uses up quite a bit when you’re engaged in mentally challenging tasks.” Simply put, creatine supplements help your brain to generate more ATP. Accordingly, “studies have shown that taking them can improve memory and cognition in vegetarians.”
Research shows vegetarians have better responses to creatine supplements
Another interesting thing to consider on the creatine front? People who abstain from eating animal products may fare better on creatine supplements. “Vegetarian eaters respond better to creatine supplementation versus omnivores, per a review study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health,” says Gorin.
What Kind of Creatine Should Plant-Based Eaters Buy?
Yawitz says that creatine monohydrate powder is the best option for plant-based eaters. “Most powders on the market are made without animal by-products, whereas capsules often contain gelatin,” she says.
Plant-based eaters interested in the health benefits of creatine can aim to drink five grams of creatine daily, Yawitz says. Mix it into your liquid of choice. “If you’re in a hurry to see results, however, ‘creatine loading’ can help you increase the amount of creatine in your muscles more quickly,” she says. “This consists of taking four-to-five grams of creatine five times per day for five-to-seven days, followed by maintenance doses of five grams per day.”