Should Vegans Take Creatine?

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Creatine is an important acid in the body when it comes to gaining muscle mass and performing better as a high intensity vegan athlete (or any athlete in general).

Dietary creatine comes entirely from animal products.

That’s why it’s not surprising that vegans receive no dietary creatine.

The question is whether or not that’s dangerous to our health as vegans, and whether or not we can and should supplement creatine.

That’s what I’ll answer in this post.

Do Vegans NEED Creatine?

First, let’s start off with the necessity of creatine in the diet.

Humans definitely need creatine in their bodies to function well, but we can produce some of it ourselves from amino acids.

In the vast majority of cases, we produce more than enough endogenously (internally) to suffer no health issues.

There is one rare case where a person is unable to synthesize creating due to mutations in gene encoding. The specifics are over my head, but you’d probably know if you had this very rare mutation.

So do all vegans need to supplement creatine in order to be healthy? The answer is simply no. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t benefit from supplementing creatine, as I’ll explain shortly.

Dietary Creatine vs. Endogenous Creatine

As mentioned before, humans can produce some creatine themselves (endogenous), or get it through their diet.

Endogenous Creatine Explained

About half of the creatine stored in our bodies (mostly in muscles) can be produced endogenously.

Studies have shown that endogenously produced creatine first goes to the brain. Then it will be stored in muscles once the brain has had a minimum amount to function.

The body produces its creatine from 3 amino acids:

  • Glycine
  • Arginine
  • Methionine.

It’s a simple series of reactions that can be replicated in a lab, as we’ll soon see.

creatine synthesis

Dietary Creatine for Vegans

Since vegans don’t eat animal products, we can’t get any creatine from our normal diet.

Studies have shown that while vegans and vegetarians have less creatine stored in muscles, and that on average, vegetarians have less creatine in their brains as well, which can impact performance.

However, creatine can be synthesized in a laboratory easily and cheaply, so vegans can use creatine supplements to get dietary creatine.

In fact, most (but not all) creatine supplements are vegan friendly.

I’ve written more specifically about this before in a post about creatine supplements that are vegan friendly.

How Creatine Helps Athletic Performance

Just because you don’t need creatine, doesn’t mean that it’s not a good idea to supplement it, especially for vegans who don’t get any in their diet.

When you perform any type of high intensity exercise, your energy is derived from ATP (adenosine triphosphate).

Those molecules lose phosphate groups in this process, and turn into ADP (adenosine diphosphate), and AMP (adenosine monophosphate).

In order to continue getting energy for your high intensity exercise, those ADP and AMP molecules need to be turned back into ATP. Creatine’s purpose is to do this exact thing.

Thinking about this in practical terms, creatine allows you to sustain your energy levels during high intensity exercise for longer.

If you are a high intensity athlete, whether it’s lifting, football, or whatever, creatine will improve your performance.

Being able to perform under those conditions for longer not only improve your performance, but will give you better results by letting you work harder (e.g. more quality sets when weight lifting).

Should Vegans Take Creatine?

Vegans certainly don’t need to take creatine to be healthy.

However, if you have are a high intensity athlete, you should take creatine in most cases.

You will benefit from creatine supplementation more than the typical omnivore athlete because you have no creatine coming from the diet.

Additionally, creatine may improve cognitive function, although it may vary on an individual level:

Creatine supplements have additionally been shown to enhance working memory in vegetarians, who typically have lower levels of creatine than omnivores (Rae et al., 2003), and to improve performance on tests of verbal and spatial memory in elderly individuals (McMorris et al., 2007).

It’s a cheap supplement that’s easy to find, so it may be worth a try to see if you feel any different.

About the author

Dale Cudmore

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. Chemical engineer turned semi-professional soccer player and freelance nutrition writer. I've been vegan for years and try to make life easier for others by sharing what I've learned.

2 comments

  • Hello Dale,
    I was reading your article and am interested in creatine in the brain. You claim that vegans do have the same creatine levels in the brain, but you don’t reference a study. Could you please provide this? I think it is critically.

    • Hi Maarten, that’s a good question.

      This post was originally written many years ago, so I’m not sure where that came from. I’ve done some more digging now and it actually appears to be different, so I’ll update the post to reflect those changes.

      For your question, it appears that vegetarians can have lower levels of creatine in the brain, according to this: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK209321/

      I’m referring specifically to:

      Creatine supplements have additionally been shown to enhance working memory in vegetarians, who typically have lower levels of creatine than omnivores (Rae et al., 2003), and to improve performance on tests of verbal and spatial memory in elderly individuals (McMorris et al., 2007).