Why can’t I just eat a diet high in meat to get creatine. Who doesn’t like meat?
I can’t agree more with the second question and in particular after coming off the 4th of July holiday with barbeques and whatnot. In all actuality, you can eat what many people would consider to be a rather excessive level of meat in your diet and end up getting enough creatine to increase (and eventually saturate) the level of creatine in your muscle. You may think you are up for this carnivorous task, but read through this entire article and you may find yourself getting a little weak in the knees thinking about the cost and sheer amount of flesh you will have to consume daily.
The human body typically produces around 1 to 1.5 grams of creatine per day primarily inside the kidneys and brain. Research has shown an ability to saturate intramuscular creatine levels with an additional two to three grams of supplemented creatine each day (Buford, Kreider et al. 2007); common daily doses of creatine historically have been around five grams each day. Below is a table I produced a while back that outlines and estimates the daily amount of common creatine containing foods that must be consumed to get the amount of creatine shown to be beneficial for strength and power performance.
Let’s discuss beef because I feel that most for most people this is the type of meat most commonly consumed in our society. I will be the first to say that on any given day it is possible (and to some degree may be very enjoyable) to consume enough beef to meet the daily need. But for someone to say that they can consume 1.5 to 3.33 pounds of beef each day with no problems have an ego issue or they belong on the professional eating circuit. Even if you can accomplish this task, it presents two other issues. The first is cost. Even if you consume modestly priced sources of beef at $10/pound, you would be eating $15-$33 worth of beef each day. Do this every day of the week these numbers become $105-$231/week. That’s ridiculous! One kilogram of creatine, a six month supply, is often $25 – $40.
The other issue relates to other nutrients and the long-term impact on your cardiovascular health of consuming this amount of beef each day. Unless you only purchased 93% lean ground beef and filet or other super leans cuts of beef, the amount of saturated fat consumed is problematic. Increased consumption of saturated fat is tightly linked to elevated levels of cholesterol, triglycerides and other risk factors that will make your physician and especially a cardiologist a little uneasy (Puska 2009; Vartiainen, Laatikainen et al. 2010). You may be in your twenties now and not care about these things, but you will later on in life when the health of your heart has been driven downhill by such a diet.
An additional relevant issue that you young folks do likely care about is how you look in the mirror or how much fat you have on your body. While eating lean cuts of meat will help reduce caloric load as well as your overall intake of fat, eating massive amount of meat to meet your performance needs of creatine will certainly increase your intake of fat and also drastically increase your overall daily intake of calories. And when more calories are consumed each day than are burned, the accumulation of fat on the body is something we all know too much about.
It is worth mentioning that eating fish may be a better bet as this does a nice job to circumvent the health concerns of eating massive amounts of beef. Recent studies have shown that risk for cardiovascular disease can be reduced simply by replacing saturated fats with polyunsatured fats (which are commonly found in high concentrations in various types of fish such as salmon, tuna, herring, etc.) (Mozaffarian, Micha et al. 2010). Fish, however, is typically priced higher so the cost concerns of daily fish consumption are even greater than beef.
In closing, it is possible for someone to eat enough food and get enough creatine in their diet, but other issues come to the surface. For starters, the cost of food will be immense. The amount of calories you will need to consume will likely get out of hand and won’t do good things for your body composition. And depending on the type (and cut) of meat the amount of saturated fat consumed may get too great and end up putting your body at increased risk for cardiovascular disease. A six-month supply of creatine is cheap ($25-$40) and super easy to administer as you could just take with any meal. Which route you choose is up to you, but many arguments can be made for why supplementing with creatine may carry the greatest practical sense.
Buford, T. W., R. B. Kreider, et al. (2007). “International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: creatine supplementa of saturated fat: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” PLoS Med 7(3): e1000252.
Puska, P. (2009). “Fat and heart disease: yes we can make a change–the case of North Karelia (Finland).” Ann Nutr Metab 54 Suppl 1: 33-38.
Vartiainen, E., T. Laatikainen, et al. (2010). “Thirty-five-year trends in cardiovascular risk factors in Finland.” Int J Epidemiol 39(2): 504-518.
J Int Soc Sports Nutrtion and exercise. 4: 6.
Mozaffarian, D., R. Micha, et al. (2010). “Effects on coronary heart disease of increasing polyunsaturated fat in place