Should Vegans Take Creatine?

Dietary supplements can be confusing, and creatine is no different. As a vegan, you may be wondering whether you’ll be able to build muscle without creatine, whether you’ll become deficient if you don’t take a supplement, or whether creatine is actually effective. 

As a vegan registered dietitian and certified personal trainer, I’m here to help! I’ll discuss the role of creatine in the body, its effectiveness for building muscle and improving athletic performance, and whether I believe vegans should take creatine or not.

Container of creatine next to a scoop of creatine powder on a countertop

What is creatine?

Creatine is an organic acid produced naturally by the liver, kidneys, and pancreas from three amino acids: arginine, methionine, and glycine. 

Once produced by the body, creatine is converted to its storage form, creatine phosphate. Also known as phosphocreatine, this form is stored primarily in the muscle and in smaller amounts in the brain and testes.

Omnivores get additional creatine from animal-based foods like red meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood. Since vegans avoid these foods, their creatine stores are based purely on how much their own bodies produce.

Creatine is available as a dietary supplement. It’s often taken by athletes and fitness enthusiasts to help them work harder in the gym and train more efficiently. It’s most commonly taken to build lean muscle more quickly. 

Is creatine supplementation effective?

In the sports nutrition world, many supplements have dubious claims attached to them. Creatine, however, has a plethora of scientific research backing its effectiveness for improving athletic performance and is recommended by many credible health and fitness organizations.

Why is it effective? To answer this question, let’s dive a little deeper into the rationale behind creatine supplementation and the evidence-based benefits it offers.

How creatine works

Without creatine supplementation, the amount of creatine phosphate that can be used for energy production during high-intensity exercise is limited. 

High-intensity, anaerobic activities like heavy weightlifting or sprinting primarily rely on a compound called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) for energy. The longer you engage in these activities, the more ATP gets used. 

Creatine is used to replenish ATP. The more creatine you have stored in your muscles, the faster you’ll be able to replenish ATP and the more energy you’ll have during high-intensity activities requiring short bursts of power. 

Practically speaking, this translates to the ability to perform a few more reps when lifting weights or performing multiple sprints more efficiently.

RELATED: The 11 Best Vegan Energy-Boosting Foods

Benefits of creatine

According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition1 position stand on creatine supplementation, creatine is associated with the following benefits:

  • Increased muscle mass and strength. This is an indirect benefit that comes as a result of being able to work harder in the gym and perform more reps when lifting weights. The greatest benefits will come when taking creatine in combination with resistance training.
  • Improved sprinting performance. There’s some evidence suggesting that creatine could help with cardiovascular endurance, but it’s likely most helpful for high-intensity activities like sprinting which rely more on anaerobic energy systems.
  • Enhanced recovery after exercise. Recovering faster after a workout can help you put more work in during the week and increase your overall training volume, leading to greater gains over time.
  • Better tolerance to training in hot environments. This may be related to the fact that creatine holds on to water and improves hydration status.
Photo of a man about to perform an Olympic style barbell lift

Should vegans take creatine?

If you’re a physically active vegan and your goal is to build muscle and strength or optimize recovery after workouts, creatine supplementation is an effective way to do this. You’ll be able to do these things without creatine, but it can help you meet your goals more quickly.

Vegans naturally have lower muscle creatine levels compared to omnivores since, although their bodies produce some creatine, they aren’t getting additional creatine from food. 

Vegans shouldn’t be alarmed by this – our bodies produce enough to meet our needs, so there’s no risk of becoming deficient in creatine. It’s simply that supplementation increases the amount of creatine stored in the muscle, which makes it easier to perform high-intensity activities like lifting weights and sprinting.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any studies that have evaluated creatine supplementation specifically in vegans. 

In a 2020 systematic review2 of studies analyzing vegetarians, researchers found that creatine supplementation can increase muscle creatine stores to levels even greater than in omnivores. Vegetarians also experienced greater muscle gains, muscle strength, and muscle endurance when taking creatine.

Interestingly, vegetarians receiving creatine versus placebo also experienced improvements in brain function, including memory and intelligence.

RELATED: Vegan Creatine Sources for Optimal Performance

How to take creatine

There are a couple different supplementation strategies you can use when taking creatine:

Option 1: Loading & Maintenance Phases

The most common way to take creatine is by completing an initial loading phase followed by a maintenance phase. 

The goal of the loading phase is to completely saturate, or “load”, the skeletal muscles with creatine. This is done by taking 0.3 grams of creatine per kilogram of body weight 4 times a day over a period of 5 to 7 days. For most people, this equates to 5 grams taken 4 times a day for a total of 20 grams per day. 

At this point, the muscles should be optimally saturated with creatine phosphate. To keep muscle creatine at this level, a maintenance phase is recommended after loading is complete. Maintenance involves taking 3 to 5 grams of creatine a day for as long as you want to maintain elevated creatine levels.

Larger athletes may need upwards of 5 to 10 grams of creatine a day to maintain creatine stores.

Note: Because vegans start out with lower muscle creatine stores than omnivores, it may be best to take the whole 7 day period to maximally load the muscles and to use at least 5 grams of creatine a day during maintenance.

Option 2: Consistent Dosing

A simpler yet still effective way to increase muscle creatine is to take 3 grams of creatine per day for at least 28 days. 

This will effectively increase the amount of creatine phosphate in the muscle, but it will probably take longer to see improvements in training/athletic ability since this doesn’t happen as quickly as it does when using the loading/maintenance strategy.

Additional Considerations

The most well-researched and effective form of creatine is creatine monohydrate, so this is the form I recommend. 

Taking creatine monohydrate with a source of carbohydrates and/or protein has been shown to increase the amount of creatine taken up into the muscle compared to taking creatine on its own, so many people like to take it with a snack, carbohydrate-rich beverage, or protein shake.

However, it may not actually translate to better exercise performance than taking creatine alone.


Vegans looking to build muscle size and strength or otherwise improve their ability to perform high-intensity anaerobic exercises will likely benefit from creatine supplementation when taken in conjunction with a well-planned exercise program.

Vegans have less creatine stored in their muscles compared to omnivores, so supplementation is particularly helpful (although not required) for people following plant-based diets low in creatine. 

That said, there’s no need for vegans without these fitness goals to take creatine since the human body produces enough to meet its own needs. 

Looking for other ways to meet your fitness goals as a vegan? Optimize your protein intake with these resources:

The scientific information in this article was accurate at the time of publishing but may change over time as new research becomes available.


  1. Kreider RB, Kalman DS, Antonio J, et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017;14:18. Published 2017 Jun 13. doi:10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z
  2. Kaviani M, Shaw K, Chilibeck PD. Benefits of Creatine Supplementation for Vegetarians Compared to Omnivorous Athletes: A Systematic Review. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020;17(9):3041. Published 2020 Apr 27. doi:10.3390/ijerph17093041

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