The benefits of creatine on a plant-based diet
There are many supplements available on the market claiming to enhance exercise performance or body composition alongside exercise. It can be confusing and a lot of the claims made are not backed up by much scientific evidence. However, this does not seem to be the case with creatine.
There has been hundreds of research studies conducted to investigate whether creatine supplementation can work as an ergogenic aid (performance-enhancing substance). Overall, research indicates that supplementation of creatine can improve maximal strength, muscle hypertrophy (increase in size of skeletal muscle) and short-term high-intensity exercise performance.
Creatine plays a major role in energy metabolism, with over 90% located in skeletal muscle. About two thirds of the total creatine in muscles is stored as creatine phosphate to serve as an energy source during exercise.
During intense exercise, muscles use creatine phosphate to rapidly produce ATP (energy source for cells) helping to provide a steady source of energy for muscle contraction. The depletion of creatine phosphate is a major cause of muscle fatigue, which can have a negative impact on sporting performance.
Therefore, elevated creatine levels can help replenish creatine phosphate stores. This in turn can enhance exercise performance and aid in muscle recovery particularly during maximal exercise.
It is thought that athletes with low pre-existing creatine stores may experience the greatest benefit from creatine supplementation. Studies show that muscle creatine stores may be lower in athletes following a vegetarian or vegan diet. Foods such as meat, fish and poultry are the main sources of dietary creatine. Consequently, vegans and vegetarians rely solely on the creatine that the body naturally produces.
A study by Burke et al, reported a greater increase in fat free mass, maximal strength and type 2 muscle fibres in vegetarians compared to omnivores, when taking a creatine supplement. Such evidence suggests that creatine could be an important ergogenic aid for both vegan and vegetarian athletes.
Dosages and optimal uptake
To gain the most out of its benefits, it is important to follow creatine dosages recommendations to meet muscle creatine saturation. Common practice suggests starting at 20g a day for 3-7 days and 3-5g a day thereafter.
It is also possible to reach creatine saturation by smaller doses of 3-5g a day taken over a 4-week period. Studies indicate that administration of creatine alongside protein and carbohydrate may increase creatine retention.
There are vegan-friendly creatine supplements available. The majority of synthetic creatine in power form is suitable for vegans, whereby the capsule form may contain bovine gelatine.
It is also recommended for athletes to use supplements that have been verified by informed sport to ensure it does not contain any banned substances by LGC’s world-class sports anti-doping laboratory. Look out for their logo on certified products and
see their website for more details.
Click here for an example of a creatine powder, which is suitable for vegans and has been verified by informed sport at myprotein.com.
Any questions drop me an email - firstname.lastname@example.org
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Burke DG, Chilibeck PD, Parise G, Candow DG, Mahoney D, Tarnopolsky M. Effect of creatine and weight training on muscle creatine and performance in vegetarians. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2003;35(11):1946–55.
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Lukaszuk JM, Robertson RJ, Arch JE, Moore GE, Yaw KM, Kelley DE, et al. Effect of creatine supplementation and a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet on muscle creatine concentration. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2002;12:336–48.
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