Creatine is one of those supplements that is proven (with long multi-year studies) to be one of the best supplements around. Creatine is a fundamental compound needed by the body during several metabolic processes, including the ones which relate to production of energy and muscle growth. One of the richest sources of creatine is red meat.
In fact, a recent study demonstrates the efficacy of Creatine on mental health
The influence of creatine supplementation on the cognitive functioning of vegetarians and omnivores.
Creatine supplementation did not influence measures of verbal fluency and vigilance. However, in vegetarians rather than in those who consume meat, creatine supplementation resulted in better memory.
Supplementing with creatine becomes much more important if you are a vegetarian. Here is an older study that compares muscle creatine levels in vegetarians vs non-vegetarians.
Effect of creatine and weight training on muscle creatine and performance in vegetarians.
Biopsy samples indicated that total creatine (TCr=free Cr + PCr) was significantly lower in vegetarians compared with non-vegetarians at baseline (vegetarians=117 mmol.kg(-1); non-vegetarians=130 mmol.kg(-1); P<0.05). For Cr subjects, there was a greater increase in PCr, TCr, bench-press strength, isokinetic work, Type II fiber area, and whole-body lean tissue compared with subjects on placebo (P<0.05). Vegetarians who took Cr had a greater increase in TCr, PCr, lean tissue, and total work performance than nonvegetarians who took Cr (P<0.05).
Now, the question might be that does supplementing with creatine any effective ? or is turning non-vegetarian the only way ? There is another 2005 study that shows people supplementing with creatine on lacto-ovo-vegetarians (no dairy, no eggs, 100% vegetarian) diet brings up creatine levels to be at par with non-vegetarians.
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Dietary advice should be provided to lacto-ovo-veg athletes that supplementation withcreatine may help to increase their muscle stores of creatine, and thus their ATP resynthesis capabilities, to levels similar to those of omnivores.
It is therefore very essential for individuals who are on a predominantly vegetarian diet, even if you are taking whey protein , to supplement with creatine.
When should you have creatine ?
A recent study answers this question :
The effects of pre versus post workout supplementation of creatine monohydrate on body composition and strength.
Creatine supplementation plus resistance exercise increases fat-free mass and strength. Based on the magnitude inferences it appears that consuming creatine immediately post-workout is superior to pre-workout vis a vis body composition and strength.
According to the study, you should supplement with creatine after a workout for maximum benefit. But even if you cant, supplement anyway.
Also, try to ingest some baking soda along with your creatine. Studies like the below have shown a synergistic effect of creatine when taken with 0.2gram/kilogram-bodyweight.
Effects of combined creatine and sodium bicarbonate supplementation on repeated sprint performance in trained men.
Combining creatine and sodium bicarbonate supplementation increased peak and mean power and had the greatest attenuation of decline in relative peak power over the 6 repeated sprints. These data suggest that combining these 2 supplements may be advantageous for athletes participating in high-intensity, intermittent exercise.