Do Vegans Need Creatine? The Low-down
Most vegans have heard about the importance of taking vitamin B12 to maintain their health, given that this is an essential micronutrient that’s nearly impossible to obtain from plants in high enough quantities.
Creatine is an under-the-radar nutrient that vegans also lack. But do vegans need creatine like they do B12?
No, creatine isn’t as essential for vegans since the body produces some of it naturally. However, carnivores and vegetarians have higher creatine levels from eating animal products, so it’s helpful for vegans to supplement with creatine, particularly those trying to build muscle mass.
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What Is the Purpose of Creatine?
Creatine is a naturally occurring substance that the liver and kidneys produce. It’s critical to support your body with the following functions:
- Increased endurance
- Faster muscle recovery
- Building muscle mass
- Improve brain functioning
- Lower blood sugar
- Improve strength and exercise performance
Researchers need to do more studies on the impact of creatine on lowering blood sugar and improving brain function. But based on approximately 300 studies that they’ve performed on creatine supplements, about 70% show it’s effective for muscle growth, strength, and recovery.
That’s because when you ingest creatine, it turns into creatine phosphate. Creatine phosphate plays a critical role in making adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a form of energy that powers muscle contractions.
The good news is that since scientists have performed many studies on creatine, they largely view it as a safe supplement. In some cases, you might experience a small amount of weight gain resulting from more water retention in your muscles. That’s a natural and healthy process, though.
In addition to the body producing creatine, you can also obtain it from red meat, seafood, and dairy products. Of course, these options aren’t available for vegans, leading many people eating plant-based diets to wonder whether they need creatine.
In short, it’s almost always a good idea to supplement with creatine, particularly if you exercise a lot and want to build muscle mass. We’ll explore the reasoning for this in more detail shortly.
Do Vegans Intake Enough Creatine in Their Diet?
No, vegans don’t usually get enough creatine intake in their diet. Healthy adults need one to three grams of creatine per day, but the body can only produce about half this amount.
For this reason, carnivores and vegetarians have a higher concentration of creatine in their muscles than vegans. But even vegetarians struggle with having high enough creatine levels, as indicated in a 26-day study.
During that study, researchers had participants switch to a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet. By the end of the experiment, the creatine concentration in their muscles “significantly decreased.”
So, do vegans need creatine? Yes, they absolutely do, and most vegans who exercise regularly aren’t getting enough of it.
Luckily, it’s easy to take a vegan-friendly supplement. Unlike some powdered supplements with off-putting flavors, creatine is flavor-free and dissolves quickly into water.
Although the concept of taking creatine to improve athletic performance has been around since the 1970s, it wasn’t until the 1990s that athletes began embracing creatine. Since then, creatine has become a popular supplement among professional athletes and casual gym-goers.
Should Vegans Supplement Creatine?
Vegans should supplement creatine, given that the body only produces about half the amount of creatine it needs to thrive. Supplementing with creatine becomes especially important if you work out frequently and intensely.
The advantages of taking a creatine supplement when exercising include:
- Improved insurance when lifting weights
- Faster lean muscle building
- Quicker muscle recovery
There’s a chance that vegans who begin taking creatine supplements will see more noticeable improvements in their physical performance and cognitive function compared to carnivores who start a creatine regimen. That’s because carnivores can often—though certainly not always—get enough creatine from the food they eat.
Here’s the good news: Many vegan-friendly creatine supplements exist, and they’re relatively inexpensive.
The most researched and economical type of creatine is creatine monohydrate. However, you can choose from a variety of other creatine variations, including:
- Creatine hydrochloride
- Creatine ethyl ester
- Buffered creatine
If you’re interested in incorporating creatine into your vegan diet to improve your overall muscular health but aren’t in a rush to make it happen, feel free to take anywhere from two to five grams per day.
Creatine powders typically come with a 5-gram scoop, so you can estimate the amount you need relatively easily.
Otherwise, if you want faster results, ideal for people who lift or do high-intensity exercise, you can do a creatine loading phase.
Supplementing a Creatine Loading Phase for Vegans
A creatine loading phase involves quickly saturating your muscles with creatine so that you can take advantage of this supplement’s benefits sooner.
To start your creatine loading, you’ll consume 20 grams of creatine for five to seven days. Since such large amounts of creatine at once can cause stomach discomfort in some people, experts recommend dividing the 20 grams into four 5-gram servings.
So, set your alarm for four intervals throughout the day and mix five grams of creatine into some water.
After you’ve completed five to seven days of creatine loading, there’s no need to go overboard and keep this up; your muscles can only store so much creatine. Once they become saturated, you’ll excrete all excess creatine in your urine.
However, it’ll be important to continue taking your vegan creatine supplement each day to ensure you keep your muscles saturated in it. So, taking a two to five-gram serving of creatine daily will help you achieve this.
If you’re using creatine to improve your strength training performance, taking this supplement shortly before or after your workout is best.
So, do vegans need creatine?
A creatine supplement is helpful for vegans who exercise a lot and want to build muscle. It can also support improved memory and may help lower blood sugar levels.
But vegans can live without creatine supplements since the body produces small amounts. Therefore, it’s up to you to decide if incorporating a vegan supplement into your diet is the right fit for your lifestyle and exercise goals.