Is Creatine Vegan-Friendly?

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Creatine is naturally produced in your body from amino acids, the building blocks of protein.

It’s also a natural component of animal foods, including meats, poultry, and seafood.

Many people supplement with creatine to gain muscle and improve exercise recovery.

However, because creatine is found only in animal foods, you may wonder whether creatine supplements are vegan-friendly.

This article explains whether creatine is vegan-friendly and the benefits of supplementing with creatine if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet.

is creatine vegan

What is creatine?

Creatine is naturally produced in the body and found in animal foods.

Humans produce an average of one gram of creatine daily, which is stored primarily in skeletal muscles (1).

Because only animal products, especially red meat and fish, contain creatine, vegans and some vegetarians tend to have lower muscle creatine stores compared with their omnivorous counterparts (1).

In either case, the body has much larger stores of creatine than what most people can get through an omnivorous diet.

This makes creatine supplementation a popular strategy to increase muscle creatine stores.

With optimized muscle creatine stores, you’re able to lift heavier weights and tire less quickly during high-intensity exercise (1).

This is why creatine supplements are widely popular among bodybuilders and athletes.

Beyond its role in improving exercise performance, supplementing with creatine may support cognition, healthy aging, and mental health (2, 3).

Summary

Creatine is naturally produced in the body from amino acids. It’s also present in animal foods. Optimizing the body’s creatine stores improves exercise performance and offers other benefits related to cognition, healthy aging, and mental health.

Are creatine supplements vegan?

Fortunately, most creatine monohydrate supplements are vegan-friendly.

In the United States and Europe, creatine monohydrate is commonly produced commercially through a chemical reaction involving sarcosinate and cyanamide (4, 5, 6).

Sarcosinate is formed by the breakdown of creatine in the body, and cyanamide is widely used in the agricultural industry and to manufacture other chemicals, including creatine (7).

Neither sarcosinate nor cyanamide is derived from animals, making most forms of creatine monohydrate vegan-friendly (8).

Eastern countries like Japan and China usually rely on different compounds to produce creatine monohydrate, but these compounds are also usually non-animal-based.

In either case, if you want to be sure that the creatine monohydrate you’re buying is vegan-friendly, look for products that contain Creapure.

Creapure is the brand name for pure creatine monohydrate that is manufactured in Germany using no materials of animal origin.

It’s one of the most widely-studied and pure forms of creatine.

Outside of it being vegan-friendly, choosing Creapure also ensures that your creatine is free from harmful impurities like dihydrotriazine (DHT), which may be present in unsafe amounts in creatine monohydrate products that are produced by companies with poor manufacturing practices and quality control (9).

Many compounds with chemical structures similar to DHT are cancerous.

Poor manufacturing practices can also increase the creatinine content of creatine monohydrate products.

Creatinine is a byproduct of creatinine breakdown. It isn’t generally harmful, but the more creatinine present, the less creatine you’re getting per serving (9).

Products that contain Creapure will say so on the label.

Here are several high-quality products that contain vegan-friendly Creapure:

Creatine monohydrate usually comes as a powder but you can also find it in pill form, but very few products, if any, contain Creapure in a vegan capsule.

Summary

Most creatine supplements are vegan. However, if you want to be sure, look for supplements that contain creatine as Creapure, a well-studied and pure form of creatine.

What about other forms of creatine?

The most common and cost-effective form of creatine is creatine monohydrate, but there are several other forms as well.

Other forms of creatine include:

  • creatine hydrochloride (HCL)
  • creatine ethyl ester
  • creatine citrate
  • creatine malate
  • creatine furmate
  • creatine tartrate
  • creatine pyruvate
  • creatine magnesium chelate
  • buffered creatine (Kre-Alkalyne)

These alternative forms are likely vegan-friendly, and many products that use these forms are marketed as such, but it cannot be said with the same certainty as Creapure.

Many of these forms are claimed to be superior to creatine monohydrate, offering better absorption, superior mixability in water, and fewer purported side effects, like bloating.

However, based on the totality of the current evidence on creatine, creatine monohydrate remains the most effective form and what nearly all studies demonstrating its benefits are based upon (1, 10).

You can also find creatine alongside other supplements like in a pre-workout but the other ingredients that are present may not be vegan-friendly.

Summary

Creatine monohydrate is the most common form of creatine but there are several others that exist. These alternative forms are likely vegan but are not superior to creatine monohydrate in terms of their effectiveness or safety.

Benefits of creatine for vegans

Supplementing with creatine offers numerous benefits if you follow a vegan diet.

Vegans and some vegetarians generally have lower creatine stores due to avoiding animal products, the only dietary source of creatine.

In fact, vegans and vegetarians have total creatine stores that are up to 26% lower than omnivores (8).

For this reason, supplementing with creatine can offer several benefits for vegans and vegetarians.

Increased exercise performance

Due to lower creatine stores, vegans and vegetarians tend to experience greater gains in muscle, size, and strength after supplementing with creatine (1).

Creatine works by increasing the available fuel in your muscles to power adenosine triphosphate (ATP) — the energy currency of the cell.

This increased fuel allows you to perform more repetitions, lift heavier weights, and tire less easily, leading to improvements in muscle size, strength, and power.

Anti-depressant effects

Along with its performance-enhancing benefits, taking creatine may also improve symptoms of depression.

Creatine is stored primarily in the skeletal muscles, but small amounts are also stored in the brain.

Here creatine is thought to enhance energy metabolism, reduce oxidative stress, and regulate brain chemicals called neurotransmitters involved in mood regulation like dopamine (11, 12).

Through these actions, creatine is believed to offer protective effects against depression with lower brain creatine concentrations having been associated with depressive symptoms (11).

Although creatine concentrations in the brain appear to be similar between vegetarians and omnivores, one study found that people with little to no dietary creatine intake were 31% more likely to have depression compared with those with the highest creatine intakes (13).

These results may explain why some vegans are more likely to experience depressive symptoms compared with omnivores (14, 15).

However, this link may also be explained by low intakes of other nutrients that have anti-depressant effects that are primarily found in red meat and seafood, such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and zinc.

It’s also possible for depression to develop before someone adopts a vegan or vegetarian diet.

Still, results from small randomized controlled trials have shown improvements in depressive symptoms with creatine supplementation (12).

Improved brain function

Because the brain is depending on creatine for energy, supplementing with it may enhance brain function.

In one study, vegetarians and omnivores supplemented with 20 grams of creatine for five days, but only the vegetarians experienced enhancements in memory (16).

In another study, vegetarians who supplemented with 5 grams of creatine for six weeks experienced improvements in measures of memory and intelligence compared with a placebo (17).

Summary

Vegans and certain vegetarians have lower creatine stores than their omnivorous counterparts and can experience improvements in exercise performance, depressive symptoms, and brain function with creatine supplementation.

How to supplement creatine

The minimum amount of creatine that you would need to supplement to prevent a decline in creatine stores is around 1 gram daily (18).

However, to experience creatine’s benefits on exercise performance or brain health, you should supplement with 3-5 grams daily (10 grams if you have more muscle mass).

It takes several weeks of supplementing with creatine to optimize your stores and experience these benefits using this dose range.

You can decrease the time it takes to experience creatine’s benefits by following a loading protocol.

The loading protocol involves taking 20–25 grams of creatine daily for 5–7 days followed by a maintenance dose of 3–5 grams.

Both methods are effective for optimizing creatine stores but the latter allows you to experience creatine’s benefits 3-4 times faster.

The time in which you take creatine doesn’t matter as long as you take it daily.

Summary

You can supplement creatine through a loading protocol or by taking the 3–5-gram maintenance dose daily. Both methods are equally effective but you can experience creatine’s benefits quicker with the loading protocol.

The bottom line

Creatine is naturally produced in your body. It’s also a natural component of animal products, namely red meat and seafood.

Most creatine on the market is vegan-friendly, but if you want to be sure, look for products that contain Creapure, a high-quality and pure form of creatine monohydrate.

Vegans and vegetarians have lower creatine stores compared with their omnivorous counterparts and can experience significant improvements in exercise performance by supplementing with creatine.

Creatine may also offer anti-depressant effects and improve brain function.

You can supplement with 3-5 grams of creatine daily or take 20-25 grams daily for 5–7 days to experience creatine’s benefits faster.

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