Creatine is a quintessential sports supplement. It has decades of research proving its worth as an ergogenic aid, boosting energy production during high-intensity exercise, plus has the added benefit of being affordable and very easy to use. It is basically the Bee's Knees, Oxygen Crew. But did you know if you follow a plant-based diet, you may benefit from it more than most?
Creatine is a compound which we produce in our body and get from food. It is made up of three amino acids- arginine, glycine and methionine, and 90% of it is stored in muscle cells for use during muscle contraction.
At any one time, there is approximately 120g of creatine held within the cells of our muscles and the other cells which use creatine, such as the brain and eyes.
Each day we use about 1-2g of creatine in these tissues, and if following an omnivorous diet (a diet that includes both plants and animal products), we consume about this much from foods such as meat, fish, pork and dairy.
However, research shows that people following both vegan and vegetarian diets are less likely to be able to achieve adequate intakes of creatine. So, if you are a plant-based athlete and aiming to optimise your performance, supplementing with creatine is something you need to consider.
Eating an omnivorous diet, at any point, a saturation of muscle cells with creatine is at about 60%, so although we get some creatine from food, and can produce it ourselves in the liver, supplementation helps boost stores and have a performance-enhancing effect.
Specifically, creatine can increase performance by driving faster replenishment of energy within the cells between efforts and increase cell volume when undertaking both strength-based and power/sprint-based sports.
In less than 30 days of not eating meat, which is a source of dietary creatine, stores of creatine can be significantly depleted, which in turn may impact energy production in plant-based athletes.
The good news is that studies have found that supplementation with creatine by those on a plant-based diet can readily replenish creatine stores up to the levels seen in those on an omnivorous diet.
So how do you start with creatine supplementation?
Creatine can be taken daily and is not a time-critical supplement like caffeine is. Commonly, creatine is dosed at 3-5g daily to load it into the muscles over weeks. Shorter weeklong loading protocols using higher doses of around 20g have been trialled, however, this approach may cause stomach upset in some people, making the slower loading period more favourable.
There can be a lot to think about when it comes to supplementation and managing a plant-based diet, especially if training and fitness are your thing.
However, this is one thing you probably don't need to think too hard on- if you are following a plant-based diet and want to hit more reps, recover faster between sets and increase muscle mass, creatine should be on your shopping list.