Likely you are familiar with the effects of creatine–enhanced exercise performance, increased muscle strength, etc.

Maybe you are hesitant about creatine supplements because you do not want to take another supplement or wonder if it is worth the money.

The good news is that most of us can get enough creatine in food. However, depending on your lifestyle and goals, it might require some dietary tweaking.

The first thing you will notice in the list of natural food sources below is that meat dominates, especially red meat. A striking exception is that herring is the absolute winner among creatine-rich foods.

Creatine occurs most abundantly in muscle tissue, which includes the heart, cheek, and tongue, as well as the more commonly consumed skeletal muscle cuts.

Other foods on the list are processed meats. Yes, they have a reputation for being unhealthy, and this is still true. Still, their meat content (and the accompanying protein and creatine) is perhaps a redeeming quality of these beloved foods.

Cranberries are a surprise–a seeming exception among all these animal products. However, they are not a good source; they are only creatine-rich relative to other fruits and vegetables. (Remember that natural foods like these are otherwise excellent for your overall health.)

The list below uses 100-gram portions, which, conveniently, is the recommended serving for most meats. However, realize that many people habitually consume larger portions.

Baby formulas might seem irrelevant here, but body-weight-appropriate amounts of creatine offer health benefits for some infants and young children.[1]

*Creatine per 100 grams of the food indicated


Grams of Creatine*





Lamb, Top Round








Dry cured ham


Herring Fillet (raw and dried)




Chicken breast


Beef Steak Gravy (juice cooked from meat)


Bovine Tongue


Beef Patties (raw)


Beef Cattle heart


Fish Sauce




Black Pudding (blood sausage)


Beef Cattle Cheek






Rabbit Meat




Ox Heart


Falun Sausage








Nestle Good Start






Creatine Levels Found In Common Foods

Beef (Steak, Ground)

For most people, red meat is the easiest way to consume more creatine, and fortunately, the most popular preparations–hamburgers and steaks–have the most creatine. If culinary knowledge is your main obstacle, peruse the New York Times Cooking section (subscription needed for whole recipes) or The Spruce Eats.[2]


If you like fish, you have an advantage. While most fish do not have as much creatine as beef, herring, salmon, tuna, and cod are contenders, with herring being the best overall.

Healthy Meal Of Fish And Veggies


Poultry offers a moderate amount of creatine. The health-conscious are comfortable eating more turkey or chicken breast, as they are relatively low in saturated fat.


Pork is also a moderate source. However, its fat content, especially in the many processed meats (sausage, bacon, ham, lunch meats), is prohibitive for those seeking health benefits.


Mutton and lamb provide some creatine with moderate fat. So, if you like these meats, these are more natural food sources.

Game Meats

While creatine content could vary with species, individuals, and parts–you are guaranteed to get some of that animal body’s creatine stores. If you have access to fresh game, then you have great, relatively low-cost natural food sources.

Dairy Sources

Creatine is not naturally found in milk at a high level, but many cheeses are relatively good sources.

Wild Berries

Unsurprisingly, these are not foods with creatine. They are, however, a fantastic source of other nutrients (e.g., vitamin C, antioxidants) that are so good for the human body.

What About For Vegetarians and Vegans?

Since creatine only occurs in animal products, vegans do not consume any foods with creatine. Consequently, they tend to have lower muscle creatine stores. Vegetarians suffer from the same phenomenon, albeit to a lesser extent.

To make matters worse, some creatine supplements are not vegan, so it is potentially more challenging for a vegan to take creatine supplementation.

Vegans and vegetarians can, however, eat foods that give them plenty of the component amino acids of creatine so that their liver, kidneys, and pancreas have what they need for creatine synthesis. Legumes (e.g., white beans), nuts, seeds, and grains are foods with creatine components.

Factors That Affect The Creatine Content In Food

While cooking is known to reduce creatine content, dry-curing seems instead to preserve it: this partly explains why dry-cured ham is among the best dietary sources.[3]

Different meats vary in creatine content and amounts of other healthful compounds (e.g., dietary taurine). Taurine, much like creatine, is known to have various health benefits and is sold as a supplement.[4]

Therefore, it is best to eat a variety of meats, fish, and dairy products as part of a balanced diet. Do not stress too much about consuming creatine itself.

Creatine Benefits Explained

Strength & Muscle Mass

Most current research suggests that taking creatine especially helps young people engaging in a training regimen to build muscle. Still, it is unclear how helpful it is for the elderly or those with muscle disease.[5]

However, it could help with musculoskeletal stress/injury recovery, showing promise as a way for older women to achieve bone and muscle gain.

Improved Peak Power

This is creatine’s claim to fame, but dietary supplements must be accompanied by high-intensity exercise and resistance training to achieve a noticeable improvement in athletic performance.


Creatine promotes muscle contraction by facilitating restoration of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the body’s basic energy currency. Therefore, unsurprisingly, taking creatine also improves the athletic performance of endurance athletes.[6]


Some studies suggest that creatine improves memory, especially for the elderly. This makes sense because the brain has creatine stores to support its metabolism, much like skeletal muscles do.[7]


The International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand is positive about the impact on brain health of taking creatine supplements. In the future, a creatine supplement might be a common add-on in traumatic brain injury care.[8]


A rich dietary creatine intake seems to have antidepressant power, especially for women.[9]

Creatine Supplements Vs Foods: Which Is Better?

A 2022 New York Times article summarizes current knowledge of what the supplement does and does not do, which I’ll summarize here.[10]

There is considerable hype, much of it misleading, about creatine supplementation. Experts assert that it gives athletes engaged in intense exercise a slight edge but will not do much for a normal person just having a workout.

That said, creatine is harmless to most people, but experts confirm that, at higher-than-recommended doses, it might cause indigestion and water retention.

It seems to make the greatest muscle mass gains in vegetarians, vegans, the elderly, and those with neurological or muscular problems (e.g., muscular dystrophy).

However, these creatine-related muscle gains will only happen with exercise.

Creatine is made primarily in the liver, but the kidneys and pancreas synthesize it to a lesser extent before storing it in the skeletal muscles.

So while you do not need creatine specifically, you need to eat sufficient protein for these organs to be able to make creatine.

An amino acid derivative, creatine is synthesized from three amino acids: glycine, arginine, and methionine.

Most people, even those seeking high sports performance, can't get enough creatine (and its component amino acids) with a healthy diet.

Plus, dietary creatine, compared to supplements, presents less risk: the FDA does not robustly regulate nutritional supplements, and FDA interventions are limited in effect.[11]

So, unless a reliable third party assesses or certifies a supplement, there are no guarantees.[12]

Does Cooking Reduce the Creatine Content?

Cooking reduces creatine content; the more cooked meat is, the more creatine it loses.

The good news, though, is that the creatine seeps into meat drippings. So, having your meat au jus or with homemade gravy is a way to get back some of the lost creatine.

shirtless man with an orange towel around his neck and a plate of food

Frequently Asked Creatine Food Questions

How much creatine do you need to consume per day?

Maintenance supplements are usually 3-5 grams of creatine per day (or 0.1 g/kg body mass), but loading doses (intended to quickly increase muscle creatine levels) are as much as 25 grams of creatine per day. Because it is not an essential nutrient, there are no official dietary guidelines.

What foods with high creatine levels should you avoid?

It would be best if you avoided all processed meats that have unhealthful components: preservatives, saturated fat, cholesterol, and salt. They are not the healthiest ways to increase muscle creatine.

Can you get too much creatine?

Yes. In those with kidney disease, even dietary creatine can contribute to high creatinine levels. Taking creatine supplements in excess increases the risk of adverse effects (and there is no demonstrated benefit for athletic performance or health.)

What diet is best for creatine?

Being a meat eater and open-minded to all meats makes it much easier to consume creatine naturally.

How can I increase creatine naturally?

Eat herring–it is the single best natural source of creatine. Otherwise, just eat meat, especially red meat. If you cannot do this as a vegan or vegetarian, be sure to get a full complement of plant-based amino acids.

Can you add supplemental creatine to food?

Yes. Creatine monohydrate is a common supplement added to shakes and smoothies. While some other creatine supplements might have slightly better solubility, creatine monohydrate seems to be the most effective.

Does creatine have calories?

By itself, no, creatine does not have calories.

Do eggs have creatine?

Yes, eggs have creatine, but not enough to be worth noting. However, they are a great source of the amino acids the body needs to increase muscle creatine levels.

Does creatine help you lose weight?

No. In fact, you might experience weight gain in muscle cells due to water retention and stored creatine, but you will not gain weight from fat cells.


Most of us can boost our creatine stores with natural sources, simply by being mindful of a diet rich in high-creatine foods.

Both eating more creatine-rich foods and using measured creatine supplementation show promise in improving human nutrition and athletic performance.


Miloš Lepotic

Miloš Lepotic

Miloš loves three things - science, sports, and simplicity. So, what do you get when you put the three together? A no-BS guy that's all about efficient workouts and research-backed supplements. But he also thinks LeBron's the greatest ever, so...