Supplemental Creatine, Not Dietary Creatine, Appears to Improve Exercise Performance in Individuals Following Omnivorous or Meat-Free diets: A Narrative Review
Keywords:creatine, exercise performance, lean body mass, plant-based, vegetarian, vegan
Eating a high-quality diet and engaging in regular physical activity are fundamental components of lifestyle medicine that can reduce the risk of morbidity and mortality. Increased interest in plant-based eating may lead to questions about whether meat-free diets lack certain nutrients, such as creatine, which support vigorous exercise. Creatine supplementation has been consistently shown to improve exercise performance, especially during high-intensity efforts, in individuals following omnivorous and meat-free (vegetarian and vegan) eating patterns. Only foods of animal origin contain dietary creatine, however, leading some to speculate that people eating omnivorous diets may gain a performance advantage relative to their meat-free counterparts. Research revealing dis-
crepancies in creatine storage between those eating omnivorous and meat-free diets has not found lower lean body mass, type I or II muscle fiber area, 1-repetition maximum, power output, VO2max, or time to exhaustion. Creatine supplementation augments exercise performance for individuals of all dietary patterns studied but improvements resulting from supplementation have not been consistently greater in subjects who follow meat-free versus omnivorous diets, indicating that their lower baseline creatine stores are unlikely ergolytic. Additional research finds no performance disadvantage for individuals who follow unsupplemented meat-free diets compared to those following unsupplemented omnivorous diets despite their differing creatine stores. These findings
indicate that the discrepant creatine contents of omnivorous and meat-free diets are not associated with differences in lean body mass and exercise performance.