Vegan strongman Patrik Baboumian and others like him are proof positive that building muscle on a plant based diet need not be problematic. But there does seem to be some confusion around the need to supplement with creatine. Today’s vegan question is: “Can I build muscle without creatine?” … let’s find out.
Can I Build Muscle Without Creatine, As a Vegan?Yes, even without creatine supplementation vegans can build just as much muscle as their meat-eating counterparts by focusing on the protein content of their diet and appropriate macro ratios. The myth that you need meat to build muscle has been well and truly discredited.
Watch: Heather Nicholds, the vegan nutritionist on macro balance:
(Heather keeps it really simple with no fluff and nonsense)
Related: The Best Vegan Creatine Supplements You Can Buy (5 minute read)
A Quick Look At Creatine – What Is It?
Creatine is produced in the body from the 3 amino acids, glycine, arginine and methionine and plays a critical role in the production of energy in our cells.
It’s known as a non-essential nutrient because we synthesise plenty of this compound naturally as long as we’re consuming enough of the 3 amino acid building blocks.
Without going all ‘white coat’ on you, the human body converts creatine into phosphocreatine, a compound that aids in the resynthesis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the primary energy source for muscle contractions.
All exercise depends on muscle contractions and therefore, by default, is dependent on the breakdown of ATP, releasing free energy for the cells.
By increasing phosphocreatine levels, creatine supplementation enhances the availability of ATP, which can lead to improved muscular strength and power output if the athlete pushes themselves just that little bit further.
Unless you like seaweed, a 100% plant based diet does not provide any extra creatine so vegans tend to respond well to creatine supplementation, especially when engaged in intense physical exercise like weightlifting or short distance sprints like the 100m.
The rate of ATP demand during high-intensity exercise can be up to a thousand times more compared to a resting state . The regeneration rate of ATP needs to match this demand in order to sustain those muscle contractions, thereby optimising performance.
But to be very clear, vegans do not need to supplement with creatine on a day to day basis as long as enough plant based protein is consumed.
Meat Doesn’t Contain Very Much Creatine
The anti-vegan brigade like to make a big deal out of the fact that plant based diets contain very little creatine but they usually neglect to mention that it is not an essential nutrient.
They’re even less likely to shout from the rooftops that meat actually doesn’t contain very much creatine at all. In fact, according to ‘Chicago Strength & Conditioning’ you’d need to eat at least 2 pounds of beef every day to get 5g of creatine in the diet.
In reality, it’s not even 5g because some creatine is lost during the cooking process … as much as 30% is lost through some cooking methods.
So unless you really love your meat and devour the stuff like some kind of human carnivore then to see those extra gains, creatine supplementation can be a good option.
But if you’d rather not supplement with creatine, for whatever reason, then don’t despair because you really don’t need to if you want to build muscle and get ripped!
How To Build Muscle Without Creatine Supplements
While it’s true that supplementing with creatine can help you break your top limits of performance, it’s also true that you can build muscle very effectively without using this popular supplement.
A well-balanced diet is essential for muscle growth and paying attention to your macronutrient ratios, or ‘macros’, plays a significant role in muscle development.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to your macro ratios but a good starting point for most is the 40-30-30 rule … so 40% carbs and 30% each of protein and fat.
We don’t have the scope in this article to go into detail so for a much more specific look at how to calculate your optimal macro ratio take a look at this post from Crazy Bulk – some really great info there.
For vegans it’s important to ensure you’re consuming a varied mix of plant-based protein sources which provide you with a complete protein profile. This simply means your diet will provide you with all 9 essential amino acids (EAAs).
Meat eaters don’t need to worry so much because mammalian flesh contains all 9 EAAs. This is another angle for the rabid anti-vegan mob to latch onto in their quest to invalidate this compassionate way of life we call veganism.
But, that said, vegans do need to be a little more vigilant and learn some nutrition basics. Knowledge is power, after all. A plate of rice and beans, for example, provides you with all 9 EAAs.
Tofu, tempeh, quinoa, hemp seeds, buckwheat, chia seeds and spirulina all have a complete amino acid profile, essential for muscle protein synthesis and repair.
Plant protein supplements can help a lot in your quest for the perfect pecs and Vedge Nutrition is our #1 recommendation for high quality vegan plant based protein supplements. We reviewed their vanilla flavour offering and were mightily impressed.
Check it out here: Vedge Nutrition Organic Plant Protein Powder Review
Get Ripped Like Nimai Delgado!
While creatine can be a valuable supplement for many people, it is by no means a prerequisite for building muscle. With a diligent focus on nutrition, exercise, and recovery, us vegans can be confident that we can make effective gains without using creatine.
It’s entirely possible to achieve impressive results and build a body as ripped as Nimai Delgado’s or develop levels of strength like Patrik Baboumian. Patrik is quite possibly the strongest man in the world and he hasn’t touched meat since 2005.
We’ll finish with a quote from the man himself, published in ‘Great Vegan Athletes’ …
“Don’t listen to those self proclaimed nutrition gurus and the supplement industry trying to tell you that you need meat, eggs and dairy to get enough protein. There are plenty of plant-based protein sources and your body is going to thank you for stopping feeding it with dead food. Go vegan and feel the power!”
I hope today’s offering has helped to answer your question. Use the comments below to let me know what else you’d like to see covered. Your opinion really does matter to us so we always respond to your feedback. Social shares are always welcome too – use the icons top and bottom.
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Thanks so much for reading and have a peaceful day.
Rohan McAvee is just another vegan blogger trying to navigate the sometimes choppy waters of veganism and plant-based living. Based in the UK, for more than a decade he has been walking the vegan walk, trying to do the right thing for the animals. He’s never really wavered or been tempted to stray from the path and now feels he’s at the point where he can offer advice to new vegans and those considering making the switch. Vegan and loving it!
 Baker JS, McCormick MC, Robergs RA. Interaction among Skeletal Muscle Metabolic Energy Systems during Intense Exercise. J Nutr Metab. 2010;2010:905612. doi: 10.1155/2010/905612. Epub 2010 Dec 6. PMID: 21188163; PMCID: PMC3005844.
Bodybuilder photo by Sabel Blanco
Sunflower photo by Beyza Çekiç