Creatine for Vegan Life
If there is one really important supplement for vegans who train, our choice may surprise you – creatine monohydrate.
While protein really isn’t a problem for vegans – protein is still most important, but much easier to get in our diets – creatine levels could actually be a little low.
Even if they’re perfectly normal, adding a little extra can be quite beneficial!
So what is creatine?
Creatine is a substance that is found naturally in muscle cells. It helps your muscles produce energy during heavy lifting or high-intensity exercise.
Chemically speaking, it shares many similarities with amino acids. The body can produce it out of the amino acids glycine and arginine.
Several factors affect your body’s creatine stores, including meat intake, exercise, amount of muscle mass and levels of hormones like testosterone and IGF-1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor)
About 95% of the body’s creatine is stored in muscles, in the form of phosphocreatine. The other 5% are stored in the brain, kidneys and liver.
When you supplement, you increase your stores of phosphocreatine. This is a form of stored energy in the cells, as it helps your body produce more of a high-energy molecule called ATP. (ATP is often called the body’s energy currency. When you have more ATP, your body can perform better during exercise.)
Benefits of creatine
Getting your creatine up to and above normal level has four main benefits:
Anaerobic endurance. Creatine works as an energy buffer for your muscles in the form of phosphocreatine. With an increased level of it you’ll see an improvement when doing repeated high intensity efforts, like lifting weights with a relatively high number of repetitions (10-15), and when sprinting repeatedly, like in many team sports. However, the greater your anaerobic ability the lesser boost you’ll receive from creatine.
Increased strength. One review took 22 studies and found that creatine supplementation on average increased the subjects’ strength by 8%. Not only that but they also got twice the strength gains from their continued resistance training! However, the review does note that the response is highly variable, so it could differ a lot from person to person.
Manages glucose. Supplementing creatine helps improve your glucose tolerance, which could prevent diabetes. Creatine also offsets the decline in muscle GLUT4 that normally happens when you can’t move your muscles for a while, making it interesting also for the injured (and the couch potato).
Sharpens your cognitive abilities. Should you ever be deprived of sleep (don’t – it’s terrible for your gainz!) you’ll be much better off if you’re supplementing creatine.
The first two make creatine a perfect supplement for strength sports, such as CrossFit!
So how do we take it?
Many people who supplement start with a “loading phase.” This strategy leads to a rapid increase in muscle stores.
To load with creatine, take 20 grams per day for 5–7 days. This should be split into four 5-gram servings throughout the day.
Absorption may be slightly improved with a carb or protein-based meal due to the release of insulin.
Following the loading period, take 3–5 grams per day to maintain the elevated levels within the muscle. There is no benefit to cycling creatine, so you can stick with the 3-5 gram dose for a long time.
If you choose not to do the loading phase, you can simply consume 3–5 grams per day. However, it may take three to four weeks to maximize muscle stores.
As creatine pulls water into the muscle cell, it is also advisable to take it with a glass of water and stay well hydrated throughout the day.
Creatine is fine with caffeine – many, many studies show this – such as..
Creatine is one of the most thoroughly researched supplements and no negative side effects have been found. Creatine helps you gain muscle in several different ways. It gives your muscles more energy and leads to changes in cell function that increase muscle growth.
Supplementing with creatine can lead to significant increases in muscle mass. This applies to both untrained individuals and elite athletes.
Most creatine is synthetically created and 100% vegan.
Creatine doesn’t dehydrate you.
You won’t get muscle cramps from creatine.
Taking creatine is no problem for your liver or kidneys – unless you have an kidney injury or high risk of developing kidney problems (diabetes for example).
No other variant has proven to be more beneficial than creatine monohydrate (including creatine magnesium chelate, creatine pyruvate, creatine citrate, creapure (micronized creatine), buffered creatine (kre-alkalyn), creatine hydrochloride (con-cret), creatine hydrochloride, creatine ethyl ester).
Creatine is a perfectly fine supplement even when “cutting” (losing fat).