Creatine For Runners: What It Does + 3 Recommended Supplements

Unlock a myriad of performance benefits if you take the right dose!

Welcome to our guide on creatine for runners!

Creatine is climbing the ranks of popular ergonomic aids and performance supplements for everyday runners – somewhat surprising as creatine has traditionally been marketed toward power athletes and body builders rather than runners.

But creatine does boast some surprising benefits from distance running performance to sprinting times, aiding in athlete recovery and overall strength.

Creatine for runners featured image of creatine molecule.

What Is Creatine?

Put simply, creatine is a naturally occurring compound formed by two amino acids: L-arginine and L-glycine. It is stored in our muscles and brain, and helps to deliver responsive energy release in high-intensity situations (like running, weightlifting, etc.).

Creatine is used primarily by our energy system in our muscle cells to generate quick-acting energy. Research shows1 Cleveland Clinic. (2023, April 26). Creatine. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/17674-creatine that 95% of the creatine in the body is stored in skeletal muscles, with the remaining 5% in the brain. 

The human body produces just one gram a day on average. A balanced diet without creatine supplements then provides another gram per day.

High-intensity activity, such as interval training or strength training, depletes our creatine stores at a faster rate than we can replace it – which is where creatine supplements come in.

Why Do Athletes Use Creatine As a Performance-Enhancing Supplement?

As an athletic supplement, creatine is primarily used to help build muscle and fuel resistance training workouts or high-intensity exercise.

A scoop of creatine powder.

This is because creatine provides the substrate (the substance on which enzymes act) for the most rapid energy-production pathway in the body. 

The scientific reasoning2 Tarnopolsky, M. A. (2010). Caffeine and Creatine Use in Sport. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism57(s2), 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1159/000322696 is as follows:

By ensuring an ample supply of readily available creatine in the muscles, ATP (adenosine triphosphate / cellular energy) can be generated more rapidly via the phosphocreatine pathway3 DrBruce Forciea. (2015). ATP Phosphocreatine System Overview (V2.0). In YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BhJtogLY0e4 by preventing any delay for more creatine to be synthesized or shuttled to the muscles for use.

Put simply, creatine increases the rate and quantity of energy production, enabling athletes to work harder and perform better during strength or power exercises – ultimately leading to faster gains and improvements.

How Much Creatine Do You Need?

Unlike nutrients such as calcium and potassium, there isn’t a specific Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) for creatine. 

Your creatine needs depend on your activity level.

A scoop of creatine powder.

The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) reports that larger athletes who train vigorously and intensely may need 5-10 grams of creatine per day, while people of a lower body weight and sedentary individuals will need considerably less. 

The International Society of Sports Nutrition’s position4 Buford, T. W., Kreider, R. B., Stout, J. R., Greenwood, M., Campbell, B., Spano, M., Ziegenfuss, T., Lopez, H., Landis, J., & Antonio, J. (2007). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: creatine supplementation and exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition4(1), 6. https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-4-6 on the use of creatine supplementation for exercise performance is the following:

Consuming approximately 0.3 grams/kg/day of creatine monohydrate for at least 3 days and then following this with 3–5 g/day thereafter is the quickest method of increasing and maintaining muscle creatine stores.

The International Society of Sports Nutrition

Power athletes have the highest demand, as they are more likely to use up their stores of creatine daily. Additionally, individuals with certain muscular disorders, such as muscular dystrophy, may have even higher needs.

It can also be difficult for vegetarians and vegans to consume enough creatine directly in the diet since it is mainly found in animal protein.

However, consuming an adequate amount of foods containing methionine, arginine, and glycine can supply the body with the building blocks for creatine synthesis.

Older male runner runs on a road.

Dietary Sources of Creatine

1. Animal Products

Creatine can be obtained in the diet through certain foods that contain creatine, such as red meat, poultry, pork, and fish. Since creatine is found predominantly in muscle fibers, nearly every dietary form of creatine is some form of animal protein.

2. Vegetarian + Vegan Sources

However, creatine can also be synthesized in the liver from its constituent amino acids: methionine, arginine, and glycine, and there are many vegan and vegetarian sources of these amino acids. 

Vegetarian sources of methionine include eggs, milk, and ricotta cheese, while vegan sources include tofu, brazil nuts, white beans, and quinoa.

Arginine can be obtained from dairy products, or plant-based foods like pumpkin seeds, sesame, walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, beans, peas, and seaweed.

Finally, vegetarian sources of glycine include milk, cheese, and other dairy products, while vegan sources include sesame seeds, pumpkin, pistachio, spirulina, seaweed, watercress, and spinach.

A scoop of creatine powder being put in a cup.

3. Supplements

Alternatively, creatine can be ingested as a popular supplement. Studies5 BURKE, D. G., CHILIBECK, P. D., PARISE, G., CANDOW, D. G., MAHONEY, D., & TARNOPOLSKY, M. (2003). Effect of Creatine and Weight Training on Muscle Creatine and Performance in Vegetarians. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise35(11), 1946–1955. https://doi.org/10.1249/01.mss.0000093614.17517.79 indicate that non-meat eaters tend to have less creatine stored in their muscles as creatine phosphate. Research6 Rogerson, D. (2017). Vegan diets: practical advice for athletes and exercisers. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition14(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017-0192-9 thus proposes that creatine supplementation may be of particular use for vegan athletes.

10 Benefits of Creatine for Runners and Athletes

Is creatine good for runners? According to research studies7 Kreider, R. B., Kalman, D. S., Antonio, J., Ziegenfuss, T. N., Wildman, R., Collins, R., Candow, D. G., Kleiner, S. M., Almada, A. L., & Lopez, H. L. (2017). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition14(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z, the following are the potential benefits and positive effects of creatine for athletes of different sports:

  • Boosting high-intensity exercise performance, particularly in HIIT workouts
  • Increasing muscle strength and power
  • Increasing muscle mass
  • Decreasing muscle soreness after workouts
  • Speeding up muscle damage recovery
  • Reducing muscle cramping
  • Reducing fatigue
  • Faster muscle recovery after exercise
  • Faster recovery from injury
  • Increasing training tolerance
Female runner sitting and drinking water.

Overall, creatine is primarily used to enhance high-intensity exercise performance (sprinting, jumping, lifting) and build muscle mass.

With that said, there is some evidence8 Wax, B., Kerksick, C. M., Jagim, A. R., Mayo, J. J., Lyons, B. C., & Kreider, R. B. (2021). Creatine for Exercise and Sports Performance, with Recovery Considerations for Healthy Populations. Nutrients13(6), 1915. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13061915 that creatine supplements can increase aerobic capacity needed during endurance performance by shuttling more ATP from the mitochondria to the muscles to ensure continued energy supply and a resultant reduction in fatigue.

Safety Precautions For Creatine Supplements

Although creatine supplements have yet to be cleared by the FDA, they are widely used and generally considered safe.

Creatine supplements are also approved for use9 Buford, T. W., Kreider, R. B., Stout, J. R., Greenwood, M., Campbell, B., Spano, M., Ziegenfuss, T., Lopez, H., Landis, J., & Antonio, J. (2007). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: creatine supplementation and exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition4(1), 6. https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-4-6 by athletes competing under the International Olympic Committee (IOC) or the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

However, at high doses, there is potential for adverse effects to the liver, kidney, pancreas, or heart, along with side effects such as stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, and muscle cramping. 

High doses of creatine can also cause short-term water retention (which can look like weight gain) and bloating.

Male runner running fast in a deserty environment.

Pregnant runners, and those with kidney disease, hypertension, or diabetes are advised not to take creatine supplements. If you have concerns, it’s a good idea to discuss your situation with your doctor to decide if creatine supplements are a good idea for you.

Should Runners Take Creatine Supplements?

Most distance runners and endurance athletes likely don’t need to take a creatine supplement regularly for running performance, as creatine is more tailored to rapid, max-effort workouts. 

However, if you’re a sprinter, looking to put on mass as a bodybuilder, or striving for big strength gains in the gym, a creatine supplement has the potential to be beneficial. Creatine may also be beneficial as a pre-workout supplement before interval workouts or hill-sprints.

If you eat a lot of red meat or fish, you may be getting enough creatine in your diet; however, vegan and vegetarian runners may have more to gain by taking a creatine supplement.

Creatine molecular structure.

Studies show10 Kaviani, M., Shaw, K., & Chilibeck, P. D. (2020). Benefits of Creatine Supplementation for Vegetarians Compared to Omnivorous Athletes: A Systematic Review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health17(9), 3041. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17093041 that creatine supplementation increased total creatine and phosphocreatine concentrations in muscles, plasma, and red blood cells in vegetarian participants to a greater degree than it did for omnivores. 

The same study demonstrated that creatine supplementation increased lean tissue mass, type II fiber area, insulin-like growth factor-1, muscular strength, muscular endurance, and power output on the Wingate test.

These results were particularly significant in vegetarian participants, and to a less significant degree with omnivores.

This isn’t to say that creatine supplementation didn’t improve exercise performance in omnivores. Creatine supplementation improved performance in participants regardless of dietary practices, though it increased body stores more significantly in vegetarians.

The 3 Best Creatine Supplements for Runners

Not all creatine supplements are created equal because they are not well-regulated. Some are much higher quality and more effective than others.

When choosing the best supplement of creatine for runners, it’s paramount to look for something as pure as possible – not blended with caffeine, ephedra11 Ephedra: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Dosage, and Warning. (2019). Webmd.com. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-847/ephedra, or other potentially dangerous substances.

Female runner stretches near the beach.

We recommend that you start with just a little creatine and slowly work up to the full dose to see if you find it helpful and compatible with your body.

The International Society of Sports Nutrition Position12 Buford, T. W., Kreider, R. B., Stout, J. R., Greenwood, M., Campbell, B., Spano, M., Ziegenfuss, T., Lopez, H., Landis, J., & Antonio, J. (2007). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: creatine supplementation and exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition4(1), 6. https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-4-6 on the use of creatine supplementation for exercise performance states that creatine monohydrate is the preferred supplementation source of creatine and that the absorption of creatine is enhanced when it is consumed alongside carbohydrates or carbohydrate and protein together. 

Here are a few specific creatine supplements we recommend: 

#1: Thorne Research Creatine

Creatine For Runners: What It Does + 3 Recommended Supplements 1

This creatine supplement is ideal for runners because it is NSF Certified For Sport, which means that it’s gone through rigorous testing with athletes to ensure its safety and efficacy for athletic performance. 

Each scoop contains 5 grams of creatine monohydrate, the oft-cited ideal dosage, and is dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free, and best of all, filler-free.  

#2: Myprotein Creatine Monohydrate

71zTv8lk5OL._AC_SY879_.jpg (570×879)

Myprotein is a leading sports nutrition brand – and for good reason.

This is an ultra-clean, ultra-pure creatine monohydrate powder that is nearly tasteless and dissolves easily in water or your post-run protein shake or smoothie.

Offering over 200 servings per pot, it’s also vegan, gluten-free, and properly regulated. A perfect source of creatine for runners!

#3: Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine Monohydrate Powder

61Oi8E1n-nL._AC_SX679_.jpg (679×1136)

Optimum Nutrition is known for its high-quality sports supplements, and this Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine Monohydrate Powder is no exception. 

The pure creatine monohydrate powder is micronized, which means the particles are made smaller to enhance absorption. It also means the powder dissolves easily, so you don’t have to deal with a chalky taste or texture. A win-win.

Male and female do low lunge stretches.

What other Supplements Should Runners Take?

Now you know all about creatine for runners – what’s next?

References

  • 1
    Cleveland Clinic. (2023, April 26). Creatine. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/17674-creatine
  • 2
    Tarnopolsky, M. A. (2010). Caffeine and Creatine Use in Sport. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism57(s2), 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1159/000322696
  • 3
    DrBruce Forciea. (2015). ATP Phosphocreatine System Overview (V2.0). In YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BhJtogLY0e4
  • 4
    Buford, T. W., Kreider, R. B., Stout, J. R., Greenwood, M., Campbell, B., Spano, M., Ziegenfuss, T., Lopez, H., Landis, J., & Antonio, J. (2007). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: creatine supplementation and exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition4(1), 6. https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-4-6
  • 5
    BURKE, D. G., CHILIBECK, P. D., PARISE, G., CANDOW, D. G., MAHONEY, D., & TARNOPOLSKY, M. (2003). Effect of Creatine and Weight Training on Muscle Creatine and Performance in Vegetarians. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise35(11), 1946–1955. https://doi.org/10.1249/01.mss.0000093614.17517.79
  • 6
    Rogerson, D. (2017). Vegan diets: practical advice for athletes and exercisers. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition14(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017-0192-9
  • 7
    Kreider, R. B., Kalman, D. S., Antonio, J., Ziegenfuss, T. N., Wildman, R., Collins, R., Candow, D. G., Kleiner, S. M., Almada, A. L., & Lopez, H. L. (2017). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition14(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z
  • 8
    Wax, B., Kerksick, C. M., Jagim, A. R., Mayo, J. J., Lyons, B. C., & Kreider, R. B. (2021). Creatine for Exercise and Sports Performance, with Recovery Considerations for Healthy Populations. Nutrients13(6), 1915. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13061915
  • 9
    Buford, T. W., Kreider, R. B., Stout, J. R., Greenwood, M., Campbell, B., Spano, M., Ziegenfuss, T., Lopez, H., Landis, J., & Antonio, J. (2007). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: creatine supplementation and exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition4(1), 6. https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-4-6
  • 10
    Kaviani, M., Shaw, K., & Chilibeck, P. D. (2020). Benefits of Creatine Supplementation for Vegetarians Compared to Omnivorous Athletes: A Systematic Review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health17(9), 3041. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17093041
  • 11
    Ephedra: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Dosage, and Warning. (2019). Webmd.com. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-847/ephedra
  • 12
    Buford, T. W., Kreider, R. B., Stout, J. R., Greenwood, M., Campbell, B., Spano, M., Ziegenfuss, T., Lopez, H., Landis, J., & Antonio, J. (2007). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: creatine supplementation and exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition4(1), 6. https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-4-6
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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