Creatine is the number one supplement among athletes and bodybuilders.
However, with the rising number of health and environment-conscious people, a very important question arises — is creatine supplementation vegan-friendly?
The answer isn't simple so keep reading to find out everything you need to know and get the most for your vegan gains!
What is Creatine Monohydrate?
Creatine, also known as creatine monohydrate, is one of the essential amino acids produced by your body, but it’s also found in animal meat and fish.
However, the human body only has about 80–130 grams of creatine, which is just half of what you need.
Your body also spends 2–4 grams of creatine per day, and that’s just with regular activity; high-intensity exercise requires even more creatine.
This is why you have to take creatine supplementation.
Why is It So Popular?
Creatine is the key to creating, storing, and transporting energy in your muscle cells. It's processed by the kidneys and liver, like any other supplement.
Even though many fear using it due to some widespread myths, creatine supplementation is well-loved by many athletes because of its incredible benefits.
Even science has proof that creatine is the most effective supplement for high-intensity exercise, weight lifting, explosive activities, baseball, football, sprinting, and other sports that require short bursts of energy .
“There is substantial evidence to indicate that creatine supplementation during resistance training is more effective at increasing muscle strength and weightlifting performance than resistance training alone, although the response is highly variable.” — Eric S Rawson, Jeff S Volek, Effects of creatine supplementation and resistance training on muscle strength and weightlifting performance.
Improved exercise performance and endurance, bigger muscle mass, and more power are the main benefits of creatine monohydrate.
But let's see how it comes to that:
- Creatine boosts the workload and allows for more total work or volume in a single training session. This leads to more ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which is the energy stored in your muscle cells. It's also an essential source of energy for intense training and heavy lifting. To put it simply — creatine will give you power for more reps during your workout, which will result in bigger muscles.
- Creatine monohydrate helps post-workout muscle repair and enhances the creation of new and bigger muscles.
- Using creatine raises your levels of anabolic hormones, which also results in bigger muscle mass.
- Creatine increases cell hydration, which means that when you take the supplement, the water content in your muscle cells grows, enlarging your muscles.
- Increased levels of creatine reduce protein breakdown, which again results in bigger muscles.
- Creatine also lowers your myostatin levels, which allows for new muscle growth.
Besides all these benefits, scientists have discovered that using creatine supplements also improves strength in the elderly and improves brain function, which may prevent neurological disease and improve the overall health of your brain .
Does Vegan Creatine Exist?
Yes, certain types of creatine are vegan.
If you practice a vegan diet but want to boost your exercise performance with some creatine, you should look for powdered creatine, as this type is mostly vegan-friendly.
You may want to stay away from capsules, as they typically contain bovine gelatine, which isn’t suitable for vegans.
See the best vegan-friendly creatine brands.
Do Vegans Need to Take It?
The world is obsessed with vegans not getting enough protein that they forget about creatine.
Yes, vegans need to take creatine.
As I mentioned, our bodies make only half of the muscle creatine we need while we get the other part from our diet: meat and fish.
Since vegans don't consume those foods, they need to get the creatine from supplements.
However, no supplement will give you more muscles and strength without you putting in some effort.
Yes, supplements help, but only in a small percentage; you’re responsible for most of the work.
The overall quality of your nutrition, good sleep, and intense training are essential to building your athletic performance.
However, adding creatine monohydrate to this equation will help you bring that performance to some new levels.
On the other hand, vegetarians and people switching to vegan diets who work out a couple of days per week won't need performance creatine.
And there's the catch. Switching to veganism to improve your health and protect the planet will mean you have less creatine, but it won’t mean you’ll need a creatine supplement.
But if you’re switching your nutrition and want to maintain your athletic performance and strength, then you’ll probably need some creatine supplementation.
4 Major Advantages for Vegans
Creatine supplements are beneficial for (almost) everyone, but it provides even more advantages to vegetarians and vegans.
Besides the standard advantages of biggest muscles, more power, and strength, both vegetarians and plant-based nutrition practitioners can also experience:
1. Ergogenic effect
A couple of studies have discovered that using creatine supplementation can increase your muscle availability of creatine and PCr while improving the capacity for exercise, which I already mentioned.
Both men and women can benefit from using creatine, even though the same studies have revealed women can't gain as much strength and muscle mass as men.
However, both vegans and vegetarians can experience some other advantages of creatine, including:
- Greater training tolerance
- Possible enhancement of aerobic capacity
- Increased single and repetitive sprint performance
- Enhanced glycogen synthesis
- Increased work performed during sets of maximal effort muscle contractions
- Increased anaerobic threshold
- Increased muscle mass and strength adaptations
- Increased work capacity
2. Enhanced Recovery
Besides providing the ergogenic effect, higher creatine levels can help your muscles recover faster from high-intensity training.
Scientists have discovered that adding creatine loading in a glycogen loading protocol before starting an intense exercise can promote greater glycogen replenishment than just glycogen loading.
This is essential for vegan and vegetarian bodybuilders and athletes whose bodies use large quantities of muscle glycogen during training or competition because glycogen restoration is a critical factor in enhancing recovery.
3. Injury Prevention
Researchers haven't found proof that using creatine increases your chances for cramps, dehydration, or injuries.
However, the available data suggests that athletes who supplement with creatine typically notice a reduction in injuries compared to athletes who don't use creatine.
Hence, creatine supplementation for vegans and vegetarians could effectively prevent different injuries without causing side effects.
4. Improved Brain Function
Even though more than 90% of your body's creatine levels are located in skeletal muscle, researchers have discovered that the creatine system in the brain has a vital role in your overall brain health.
Scientists found that higher resting creatine levels can improve short-term memory, reasoning, and intelligence and improve the brain's performance in a wide range of different cognitive tasks such as recognition memory.
These results also show that vegetarians and vegans who use creatine supplementation could experience some important cognitive benefits, such as improved cognitive performance in different occupational and athletic settings.
Should You Take Vegan Creatine? The Final Verdict
The answer isn’t as simple as yes or no.
Whether you should take vegan creatine depends on many factors, but mainly on your workout type and routine.
Yes, switching to veganism will lower your natural creatine levels, but if you don't work out hard and don't need weight or muscle gain, you won't need to supplement.
However, if you want to maintain or increase your endurance, strength, muscle mass, and power, you should think about using a vegan creatine supplement. Have you used vegan supplementation? Share your experience in the comments!