The Secret Supplement for Vegan Athletes: Creatine Supplements
The vegan diet and lifestyle are growing in popularity. There are more vegan people now than ever in places all over the world. Whether you’re new or you’ve been vegan for years, you likely made the switch from an omnivore diet for one of three reasons
- Ethical reasons—for the animals
- Health reasons—for your heart
- Environmental reasons—for the planet
Quite possibly, you’re vegan for some combination of these three reasons, but unless you saw that one documentary, your reasons behind going vegan probably weren’t to perform better in your sport or at the gym. While there are countless benefits to your body, the animals, and our planet, the vegan diet isn’t typically credited for better athletic performance. In fact, if you’re a vegan athlete, you’re probably tired of being asked, “But where do you get your protein?” from well-meaning fellow gym-goers.
Vegan Athletes 101
For our purposes, let’s define a vegan athlete.
- An athlete is someone who has been regularly exercising several times a week for several consecutive years.
- A vegan is someone who does not consume animal products, including eggs, dairy, and honey.
So, a vegan athlete is someone who follows a vegan diet and who also exercises several times a week.
Vegan Athletes 101: But Where Do You Get Your Protein?
Chances are, if you are a vegan athlete as defined above, you know how to get your protein, or else you’d probably feel terrible and give up on the lifestyle. Protein is an essential macronutrient used by the body to build and maintain organ structures and muscles. Most people who follow a traditional western diet automatically think “meat” when they hear the word protein. Hence the dreaded vegan protein question. Luckily, there’s an abundance of plant-based foods that provide more than enough protein for the average person, and the active vegan athlete needs only to add a protein shake to ensure they’re meeting their body’s needs.
There are, however, some nutrients that are difficult to consume on a vegan diet.
Some of those nutrients include:
- vitamin B12
- vitamin D
- DHA and EPA omega fatty acids
These are the well-known micronutrients that vegans typically supplement to keep the levels within their bodies high enough. However, there’s one supplement that we’re continually shocked to see omitted from every vegan supplement list: creatine for vegans.
Wait, Creatine for Vegans?
Yes. Creatine. The organic compound naturally occurs in animals’ muscles, including humans, and provides that initial burst of energy when you first take off in a sprint. The body also stores creatine in the brain, and research shows that increased levels of creatine in the brain correlate with better memory recognition and less mental fatigue.
We always recommend people get their nutrients from food first, and that goes for vegans as well. The problem for vegan athletes is that whole food sources of creatine are mainly animal products. Meats and dairy products are the main ways humans consume creatine. The exception is cranberries. For reference, when you use a creatine supplement, you take 5g per day. You can get 5g of creatine from cranberries…if you consume 226.8g of them.
Adequate levels of creatine for vegans can be achieved through food by strategically consuming specific amino acids. Arginine, glycine, and methionine are amino acids, which help your body naturally synthesize creatine, but keeping track of these particular amino acids on top of your typical protein consumption can be a bit overwhelming.
Why Creatine for Vegans?
People often make some stereotypical assumptions about creatine supplements—mainly that they’re unsafe and only used by big meatheads who solely care about packing on muscle. However, the question of creatine supplements’ safety has been debunked time and time again. Creatine is one of the most well-researched, safest, and most effective sports supplements available.
Experts also noticed something important in the abundant research done on creatine supplements and their safety and effectiveness.
Well maintained creatine stores in the muscles and brain mean:
- improved cognitive function
- reduced mental fatigue
- reduced age-related cognitive decline
- increased muscle mass
- bigger individual muscle fibres
- better athletic performance
- regulates blood sugar levels
All of these are amazing and desirable effects, but in their findings, researchers discovered most vegetarians have reduced creatine stores. Results were even lower for vegan athletes.
Low creatine for vegans might look like:
- muscle weakness and fatigue
- mental fogginess
- feeling tired
- difficulty focusing
- low muscle mass
- liver problems
- kidney problems
If you are a vegan athlete and this list is resonating with you, you’re probably ready for a way to increase your creatine stores. The recommended fix is adding creatine for vegans!
Creatine Supplements: Is it Vegan?
Now for the burning question: are creatine supplements vegan? The answer is as equally shocking as the vegan supplement list omission, given where you can naturally find creatine. Yes! Certain types of creatine supplements are vegan.
There are several kinds of creatine supplements on the market, but the most common is creatine monohydrate. Creatine monohydrate is also the version that all the creatine supplement research is conducted with. So, while some supplement companies might make claims that their version is better, there’s probably not much research behind that claim.
Creatine monohydrate is created by combining sarcosine, an amino acid, and cyanamide, a crystalline organic compound. This means that creatine supplements are vegan friendly if you ensure it’s not in a bovine gelatin capsule.
Supplement Recommendation: Creatine for Vegans
When you’re searching for vegan supplements, it’s always helpful to have a product recommendation. You can trust that this product is safe creatine for vegan athletes:
Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine for Vegans: This creatine supplement contains 100% synthetic creatine monohydrate. It’s free from nasty fillers, flavours, and animal products, and it’s from one of the most reputable supplement companies around.
Studies have shown that natural creatine for vegans is low, which means you might be struggling with mental fog and weak muscles and not even realize it. Luckily, synthetic creatine supplements are vegan-friendly, safe, and effective for raising creatine stores in the muscles and the brain. Vegan athletes can feel great and crush fitness goals while still sticking to a diet and lifestyle that matches their values and priorities.