Creatine and vegetarian athletes: do we need it to reach peak performance?

Hey all!

Continuing to trudge through my semester- final stretch before exams, cannot wait until christmas!! Still loving my job and have found a new love with kale chips :p lol. I’ve been a little unmotivated with training over the past month but after not being able to compete this past weekend (work :() I’ve gotten a little inspiration and am back full force :). Did a pretty good workout today, I’m sure my shoulders will be wrecked tomorrow :p.

Also just trying to figure out the pictures on wordpress, if this works heres a pic of me climbing at the Red! :)

So on a related topic, and something I’ve been pretty interested in because I’m both a vegan and do a sport where power is important; todays post will be on creatine! Be warned, its a long one lol.

Vegetarians have been shown to have better or equal cardiorespiratory test scores but lower strength and explosive power test scores. Endurance does not seem to be a problem but there seems to be something missing that is necessary to build strength and power, this is seen by the domination of strength athletics at the elite level by omnivores. A reason for this may be due to the decreased levels of creatine in vegetarian and vegan muscles; endurance may not be affected since creatine aids more in anerobic and power exercises.

With the decreased concentrations that vegetarians and vegans have of creatine, are we doomed to always be restrained from reaching our peak athletic capacity? If we are athletes where power is vital for success, are we giving our omnivorous competitors a one up on us?

Once again, creatine stores in the muscles of vegetarians are lower than omnivores; dietary creatine is found in meats. Creatine supplementation can help correct this imbalance by increasing the content by about 30% (people with deficiencies are typically more responsive).  Vegetarian or vegan athletes are therefore more likely to see more gains through supplementation.

A lot of people have heard that creatine can be made in the body, why even bother for supplementing? Well your right, 50% of our creatine comes from endogenous sources and  is made with the help of the amino acids arginine, glycine and methionine (as well as the enzymes L-arginine:glycine amidinotransferase, guanidinoacetate methyltransferase and methionine adenosyltransferase) largely in the liver and kidneys (and also in the pancrease to a lesser degree). Endogenous synthesis provides about 1g/day, dietary intake also typically provides 1g/day so that there is a 1:1 ratio of endogenous and exogenous synthesis. Clearly, dietary intake is required to maintain normal creatine levels in our bodies.

About 90% of our creatine is located in the skeletal muscle as either free creatine or phosphocreatine; about 2/3rds of that creatine is in the storage form phosphocreatine. During intense exercise, phosphocreatine can be quickly broken down to release its phosphate (which is rapidly coupled with an ADP to produce energy)- it is broken down by an enzyme called creatine kinase.

Creatine plays an essential part in the transport of energy from the mitochondria. Since phosphocreatine is broken down so quickly, levels rapidly drop and ultimately results in fatigue. Increased concentrations of creatine can help increase the resynthesis of phosphocreatine during recovery.

Okay, so sure dietary creatine is important, but would supplements actually get into our muscles? Yes! Creatine is transported into cells and the mitocondira by Crea T1. As creatine levels drop, Crea T1 is activated in order to restore the balance. That’s why people who have deficiencies are more responsive to supplementation, therefore vegetarians and vegans will see greater improvements through supplements.

Now how would creatine help an athlete? Creatine supplementation enhances athletic performance, max strength, fat free mass and muscle hypertrophy when combined with resistance training. It is most effective for short duration exercises but there is some evidence to positive effects on endurance activities. It is effective for improving recovery, maintaining muscle creatine concentrations as well as acting as an antioxidant.

Creatine seems to have gotten a bad rep. throughout the years as so many gym rats take it in excess to get huge- water weight that will probably be lost after supplementation stops (which it should!). Creatine still remains to be one of the most powerful ergogenic aids on the market, you only need small doses to see a positive improvement in both muscle and power.

In a recent study on professional soccer players, after supplementation for only five days, there was a significant improvement in strength and power at the end of the trial (using a double blind randomised placebo-controlled trial). The difference between the placebo group to the creatine group was also staggering, while creatine muscle mass and power increased, the placebo group remained steady or dropped slightly. The fact that these results were seen only in five days is pretty crazy!

With all of that said, weight gain seems to be inevitable so if you compete in a weight dependent sport you should probably keep that in mind and tread cautiously if you’re considering supplementation. A good option would be making the doses much smaller and not doing the loading phase (studies indicate that creatine loading is not necessary). Expect to gain a few, but with that will come POWER!

Well that’s that, those are my thoughts on creatine supplements. Would I do that myself? I would definitely give it a try- but would 100% stop if I gained more than 5lbs. Body weights kindof important when you have to haul your body up a wall lol.

Hope you enjoyed :)

Jen

Cooper R, Naclerio F, Allgrove J, Jimenez A. (2012) Creatine supplementation with specific view to exercise/sports performance: an update. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 20;9(1):33.

Gouttebargea, V., Inklaarb, H., Hautierc, C.(2012) Short-term oral creatine supplementation in professional football players: A randomized placebo-controlled trial. European Journal of Sports and Exercise Science, 2012, 1 (2):33-39. 

Venderley AM, Campbell WW. (2006) Vegetarian diets : nutritional considerations for athletes. Sports Med.;36(4):293-305.

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56 comments on “Creatine and vegetarian athletes: do we need it to reach peak performance?

  1. Evan Pavan says:

    Hey Jen, fun post. Good insight on the loading phase. It’s just another way supplement companies get you to ingest more of their product =P

  2. rnovak57 says:

    Interesting stuff Jen! Love the pic too!

  3. sexdate says:

    Hi you have a fantastic website over here! Thanks for sharing this interesting information for us! If you keep up this good work I’ll visit your blog again. Thanks!

  4. This is a nice weblog over here. I think I’ll visit your website more if you post more of this kind of specific information. Many thanks for posting this information.

  5. bubblechild says:

    Interesting concept. Though I am not a vegetarian or vegan, I am very cautious with the meat I eat, and eat it rather infrequently. I worked for Neuro Drink in its start up stages, doing marketing, and its drinks are infused with l-arginine. I noticed the gals that frequently consumed the beverages gained a bit of weight, whereas the girls who did not, did not put on the few pounds. It did provide energy, and I like how you phrased it as what it is, and can be: a supplement. Thank you for the educated post. Happy holidays!

  6. melisscioust says:

    Reblogged this on MELISSATRAYNORSWORLD and commented:
    While I am not vegan or vegetarian per se, I wanted to share this great blog post from a fabulous girl who is ;)

  7. WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

    FANTASTIC photo!

    I was always curious about creatine, actually… you seem to know a bit.

  8. Thanks for visiting and liking my blog. I found your post interesting. I have only just started working out in the past six months or so, after oohhhh – 20 years of sitting on my couch. My coaches want me to eat meat to increase my protein, but I’ve been a been a veg for 35 years. No way. This will help give me ammo for them!

    • Hello! Thanks for checking out my blog, glad you liked it! You deffinitely do not need meat to meet your protein requirements, there are plenty of ways you can get enough through a vegetarian or vegan diet. Have you thought of trying hemp hearts or chia seeds? Theres also a lot of great vegan protein supplements on the market if you really wanted to up your protein consumption. Keep in mind, your personal trainer isnt a dietician or nutritionist :p.

  9. theblacktoe says:

    thanks for swinging by theblacktoe. i’m a vegetarian and distance runner (half marathons) in the early stages of cutting out wheat products after reading William Davis’s Wheat Belly. I have been wondering about building my strength lately, so your post was dead on for me.
    hope your final exams go/went well

    • Hey! Thanks for the comment! Something you should keep in mind is that creatine is best used for strength and explosive based sports, not much is known about it’s effects on endurance (although that is generally not an issue for vegan athletes because it doesn’t use creatine in the way that creatine is used for power sports). I think you could deffinetly build enough strength without supplementation if your focus is on endurance :).
      Thanks for stopping by!
      Jen

  10. fitnessgroan says:

    Reblogged this on Fitnessgroan's Blog and commented:
    As I’ve written in the past, creatine supplementation can be very useful for many kinds of athletes and exercisers. Read this post for an excellent, thoughtfully researched examination.

  11. drybredquips says:

    Thanks for liking one of my posts. Hope you like something else, and that something supports your concerns and lifestyle.

  12. Thanks Jen for the good information, I know ALL this is a really healthy lifestyle…I have not really reached that disciplined stage as yet. Thanks so much for visiting “prescriptiongetup” Love, love the breath taking pictures…CLIMBING. Good luck in your endeavors!

  13. Thanks for the great information. Have been working out with some regularity for about 24 months and playing with some of the mainstream protein, creatine and bcaa sups. Great to have some unbiased detailed info on them, wish there was more out there! Thanks again! Keep climbing!!

  14. I’m not vegetarian or vegan but feel infinitely better when I don’t eat meat. I struggle with the same thing as you, not for myself so much as for my husband, who runs marathons, particularly during the training period. Thank you for the article, very informative x

  15. aynjele says:

    Interesting. I knew too much creatine was linked to kidney problems due to increased output of creatinine, a by product of a chemical chain of reactions. This is good info :-)

  16. Tawny says:

    Thank you for liking my post. I am excited to find your blog… I have 3 kids and have let my activity level get lower than I like. I’ve been struggling with how to get everything I need from a vegetarian or vegan diet and get everything I need for the energy and body type I want. I’ve started incorporating lots of amino acids and just found vegan Shakeology as an added protein source. Love all your info. Happy blogging!!

  17. Must Love Foods says:

    Great article. I will consider it when training for future events. And thanks for the references too !!

  18. bracysarah says:

    I just recently started taking creatine and have noticed intense improvements! Great post and killer blog!

  19. Dan G says:

    This is a great Article. Food is fuel. I trained for my first 1/2 marathon and I was taught that if I switched to a vegan diet I would lose more weight, train better and recover from a workout faster. I’m all for it
    Dan

  20. banxietyfree says:

    I have mixed thoughts about Creatine, but I think your photo is inspiring to people who have a fear of heights–like ME. How do you do that?!?

  21. I enjoy your writing style! Keeping it concise and fun is a rare combo in blogs nowadays.

  22. Enjoyed the write up! Its rare to have concise yet fun writing all in one blog. Thanks!

  23. jend1229 says:

    I just started reading “Eat & Run” by Scott Jurick and he too promotes the idea of a plant based diet for endurance athletes. I’m still skeptical but your post was really informative!

  24. grimtorath says:

    Woa, from what I’ve read the creatine in supplements comes from crawfish or shellfish or something, which would make it decidely not-vegan. I remember seeing some of the people on Vegan Bodybuilding use it and that disgusted me. Do you have some info I may have missed or is it understood the supplements aren’t vegan? I didn’t know that our bodies actually synthesize it naturally. That parts reassuring at least. I suppose its possible to optimize this process. My other question is: do you only use vegan-friendly (synthetic) climbing shoes or does it matter to you?

    • You can get creatine through synthetic vegan sources actually. Why would that disgust you? Unfortunately, most climbing shoes available have leather… I’m a student and thus can’t afford them- Id rather suck it up and be able to climb…

      • grimtorath says:

        So i looked a lttle deeper and there appears to be a vegan-friendly form of creatine, as you suggest, which makes me feel much better about the vegan bodybuilders from that website. I had thought some of them were betraying their values for the sake of bigger muscles, my bad. As for the shoes, I appreciate the honest answer, though thats rough. I’d really like to have a bunch of money so I could send you some new no-suck-it-up shoes.

  25. Wonderful post. Absolutely amazing pictures!!

  26. [...] Creatine and vegetarian athletes: do we need it to reach peak performance?. [...]

  27. Midgerino says:

    Thanks for the post! I’m curious, where does the weight gain come from – fat, muscle, something else entirely? If it’s 5 lbs of muscle, that’s fine, but I’m not thrilled with the idea of 5 lbs of fat from a supplement. :)

  28. Thanks for the good info and views on creatine. I’m an triathlete and recently went through a creatine loading experiment.. Although there may be confounders, I saw an immediate 7lb weight gain within just 3 weeks of creatine loading. About 80% appears to be muscle. While there’s power behind those pounds, the weight gain is certainly detrimental to endurance sports performance…so no more for me

  29. Great post. I must admit, as an endurance runner, I hadnt really comsidered the creatine question. Does make me wonder whether I should think about it though!

  30. Andre says:

    Nice site and article, my girlfriend used creatine as well for her sports. she played handball back in the days and she got really stronger.

  31. Rob says:

    Hi Jen,

    Great stuff, thanks for such a thorough post! I was wondering if you have any advice/experience regarding dosage? Most packages recommend 5g/day, but I’m a vegan runner and would like to avoid weight gain as well.

    Thanks!

  32. […] Creatine And Vegetarian Athletes: Do We Need It To Reach Peak Performance? – Jennovafoodblog […]

  33. robbo90 says:

    Hi Jen,

    I am a keen blogger and have just written a blog post titled: The Top 5 Best Creatine Blog Posts On The Web.

    I am just contacting you to let you know that your creatine post made the #3 spot on my toplist of best creatine posts and I wanted to thank you for writing such great content and sharing it with everyone for free.

    You run a fantastic blog and I am a keen follower.

    View the top list here: http://bestcreatineinfo.com/best-creatine-blog-posts-on-the-web-all-the-best-creatine-info-in-one-place/

    Kind Regards

    Matt Robinson

    • Hey Matt! Thank you so much! I really appreciate all of the kind things you said about my blog! I work really hard to put a lot of content into my posts- Im so happy that people actually like what Im doing! Cheers! -Jen

  34. eduardo says:

    Hi, do you think a vegan person should take creatine non break or is it better to do pauses like 1 month on- 1 month off, or so?
    Thank you!

  35. Nice post! I use creatine in weight training. I’ve used it off and on for the past 15 or so years. I can’t point to a muscle gain and say it’s from creatine, but I’m sure it can’t hurt. I’ve read many studies that say it is one of the safest supplements for bodybuilders. Thanks for sharing this!

  36. bigfootmarty says:

    As a vegan and athlete this gives me stuff to think of-

    Now a recreational athlete- in the past as a football/basketballer I was not Veg so I wonder how it would have been…

    https://twitter.com/martyroddy

    http://www.cheapskategarden.wordpress.com

    Interesting thoughts- Though I do have doubts about creatine supplements

  37. Thanks for visiting my blog! Well done article on creatine and its value in training.

  38. Very well written. I take creatine. It’s really helped me in my workout sessions. I have nothing bad to say about it. I think everyone should try it for themselves and see how it works for them. I wrote a post about creatine here: for more info).

  39. I love this. Creatine is a great subject!

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