Vegetarian diets can easily provide enough protein and most amino acids to meet the average person's needs, including creatine and creatinine. The latter is the major waste product resulting from your body's use of creatine; however, athletes performing high-intensity, short-term exercises tend to use much more creatine than the average person. Because there are no major vegetarian sources of creatine, a vegetarian diet can result in low creatinine levels among athletes such as bodybuilders and sprinters.
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Creatine and Creatinine
Creatinine is a byproduct of the breakdown of creatine in your body. This process occurs primarily as a result of the use of phosphocreatine, the main form in which your body stores creatine. Phosphocreatine is stored in your muscles and serves as a major source of energy for short-term, high-intensity exercise, such as weightlifting and sprinting. Although no vegetarian foods contain large amounts of creatine, your liver, kidneys and pancreas generally produce enough of this amino acid to meet your body's needs.
Creatine in the Vegetarian Diet
Insufficient amounts of amino acids and protein are common concerns for those following vegetarian diets. As a result, you might worry about low creatinine levels arising from too little creatine in your diet. Fortunately, the official position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is that most people who eat a balanced vegetarian diet can obtain enough protein and amino acids to meet their body's needs. Athletes, though, such as sprinters and bodybuilders tend to need more creatine than the average person, so the academy says that vegetarian athletes might benefit from taking creatine supplements.
Low Creatinine Levels
Your kidneys filter creatinine from your blood, and it is then typically excreted in your urine. This indirect pathway from creatine to creatinine excretion results in a number of potential causes of low creatinine levels. For vegetarian athletes whose bodies use more creatine than average, low dietary creatine can result in low creatinine excretion. A more common cause for most people is low muscle mass, as creatinine excretion is an indirect measure of total muscle mass in your body. As a result, vegetarians can boost their creatinine levels by taking creatine supplements and increasing their muscle mass with the help of weightlifting and other resistance exercises.
The amount of creatinine in your bloodstream is a common measure of kidney function. If you have low creatinine excretion and high levels of creatinine in your bloodstream, this can indicate your kidneys are not effectively filtering creatinine from your blood. This can be a result of relatively minor issues, such as a blocked urinary tract, dehydration or minor damage to your kidneys. However, it can also be a sign of kidney infections, kidney failure, poor blood flow and muscle-wasting conditions that result in abnormally high levels of creatinine in your blood. As a result, you should always explore all possible causes with your doctor if you have concerns about low creatinine levels.
- Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease, Tenth Edition; Maurice E. Shils et al.
- Journal of the American Dietetic Association: Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Creatinine Blood Test