Creatine helps provide the energy your muscles need for everyday activities. It also supplies the extra spurt of energy that sustains and boosts muscle power during high-intensity exercise. Meat is a good choice for adding to your stores of creatine.
If you don't eat meat, seafood such as herring and tuna are another good source of creatine. In addition to containing natural creatine, these foods have the amino acids — building blocks for all cells — your body needs to produce its own supply.
Understand the Role of Creatine
Your body produces creatine from three amino acids — arginine, glycine and methionine — then it's stored in muscles, where it can be converted into phosphocreatine and used for energy, according to Mayo Clinic. In addition, oral creatine supplements have also been used to treat congestive heart failure and certain diseases that affect the brain.
The amount of creatine you can store depends on your total muscle mass. About half of your daily requirement for creatine is produced in the body, while the other half comes from food sources.
When you increase the amount of dietary creatine, you can boost the levels of phosphocreatine in your muscles, which helps improve athletic performance, according to a review in the October 2014 issue of Sports Medicine. To boost performance, athletes often use supplements and follow a creatine-loading regimen.
Count the Creatine in Meat
Meat is one of the primary sources of creatine. Beef has about 1 gram of creatine for every 1 to 2 pounds of meat, according to Quinnipiac University. You'll also get about the same amount of creatine in pork. One 3-ounce serving of beef has about 0.2 gram of creatine.
Beef and chicken lose about 5 percent of their total creatine when they're cooked, unless they're boiled or stewed. When the meat is braised for an hour, you may lose as much as 30 percent of the creatine.
Creatine in Tuna
Beyond beef, chicken and pork, your other choices for creatine-containing foods are wild game and fish. The amount of creatine in fish varies.
Creatine in tuna, salmon and cod have about the same amount of creatine as you'll get from beef. Herring is a better choice because it can have up to double the amount as other fish and meat, according to Quinnipiac University.
Follow Intake Guidelines
A typical American diet that includes meat provides 1 gram to 2 grams of creatine each day, according to a 2017 review published by Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. With this daily intake, muscle stores of creatine are between 60 to 80 percent. Individuals who follow a vegetarian diet often have lower amounts of creatine in their muscles.
Since creatine is found in the same animal proteins that also supply the amino acids needed to synthesize the compound, the best way to be sure you get the amount you need is to consume your recommended daily protein from lean meat, poultry and fish.
For women, that means getting 46 grams of protein daily, while men need 56 grams, according to the National Academies of Sciences.
- Sports Medicine: "Muscle Energetics During Explosive Activities and Potential Effects of Nutrition and Training"
- Quinnipiac University: "Creatine in the Body"
- Mayo Clinic: "Creatine"
- National Academies of Sciences: "Macronutrients"
- ISSN: "International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine"