No matter what diet you follow, it's important to make sure you're getting all your essential nutrients. One nutrient called creatine, a type of amino acid, is mainly found in animal products, leaving many vegetarians and vegans wondering if it's necessary to supplement creatine in other ways.
That said, is creatine vegan?
Before you stock up on creatine or other nutritional supplements, be sure to understand what's in them and how they can benefit you. Keep reading to learn all about creatine, if it's vegan, and if our bodies need it.
What is creatine?
If creatine first makes you picture bulked-up athletes, that's only one use for creatine. While many athletes use creatine to help improve their physical performance, it can have essential benefits for anyone's overall health. Per the Cleveland Clinic, creatine is a type of amino acid. Amino acids are known as the building blocks of protein.
If you consume vegan protein powders, you may have noticed the labels mention essential amino acids. Creatine contains three amino acids: L-arginine, glycine, and L-methionine, explains Treehugger. You can also get these amino acids from eating animal products, or by taking synthetic creatine supplements.
Creatine supplements are typically recommended to athletes, people who do not eat meat (vegetarians and vegans), and older adults, as per Healthline. However, it's important to note that the body's liver and kidneys actually produce these amino acids naturally — so taking creatine supplements is not necessary for everyone, even if they fall in one of the three above groups.
Here's why creatine is important: it builds proteins, which in turn help build muscle and bone and help repair damaged tissues, per Cleveland Clinic. Creatine helps supply energy to the muscles, which is obviously crucial to living a healthy and active lifestyle.
Is creatine vegan?
As the National Institutes of Health explains, some vegans and vegetarians may have "reduced creatine stores". Since creatine is found naturally in meat, fish, and poultry, vegans don't get as much creatine through their diets as those who eat meat products. But can vegans receive creatine in supplement form without resorting to use of animal products?
Fortunately, most creatine supplements are vegan, Treehugger explains. Creatine supplements are made synthetically and typically don't contain animal products, but you want to be careful about the form of creatine you choose. Powdered creatine is usually vegan, and you can easily look for the vegan-certified label.
However, vegans will want to avoid creatine in capsules, which often contain gelatin. Vegans likely already know, as The Humane League notes, that gelatin contains ground-up animal parts, so it's obviously neither vegan nor vegetarian.
These are the main pros and cons of taking creatine.
As Cleveland Clinic notes, some of the top benefits of taking creatine include: increased muscle mass, better performance, less dehydration, improved recovery, less cramping, and less muscle injuries.
Possible side effects include dizziness, nausea, weight gain, diarrhea or vomiting, and increased sweating, as per the Cleveland Clinic.
As with any dietary supplement, it's a good idea to consult your physician before taking creatine, and then monitor yourself for any reactions after starting a regimen including creatine.