Daily Dose of Creatine from Meat?
Figure 1. Grilled Meat – It’s a natural source of creatine, right?
As shown in Table 1 Creatine is present in raw beef, pork and fish. In fact, I recall attending a State Level Dietetic Conference and having a presenter state that we could get all the creatine we needed for sports performance from our diets. Is it true? Can someone who eats a fair amount of meat get all the creatine they need to maximize performance from their diet? Of course not; aside from the fact that you would have to eat dang near two pounds of meat daily to reach supplemental dosages, most of us also cook our steaks. We all know that cooking meat virtually destroys all the creatine present within it … or does it?
Table 1. Creatine content of raw meat, fish, milk & cranberries. Image created by Sean Casey.
Unfortunately, there has been little research that has directly looked at this question. Research by Campo et al. looked at the amount of creatine in already “cooked” meat products that were purchased at a local market (Table 2). Thus, although we don’t know the original creatine content of each product. we can compare the creatine content they found in cooked meat, with that presented in table 1, to make some educated guesses.
Table 2. Creatine content of cooked meat. Image created by Sean Casey.
For instance, if we compare the creatine content of raw pork (Table 1) and that of the cooked ham (Table 2) we see that the former has 2.3g/lb whereas the latter has 1.3 g/lb.… If we go 1.3g/2.3g, we see that the cooked ham only retained 56% of its original creatine content. Again, this is a bit crude since we don’t have initial starting levels, but it goes to show that cooking meat (along with the curing process) does decrease the creatine content of food.
There have been a few direct comparisons of pre vs. post cooking on meats… Looking at the effect of heat on creatine levels in beef, Laser et al, found than when cooking beef to an internal temperature of 161ºF (72º C), the creatine content of raw beef decreased by ~ 50% (at least the crust of the meat) when cooked at 473ºF (245 º C) and 20% loss when cooked at 239 ºF (115 º C).4 Note – this was the outer crust of the meat, more than likely the deepest layers of the tissue would have experienced less loss due to reduced heat exposure.
A final study of interest for our conversation was that conducted by Mora et al. In their study, the research team examined the creatine content of a pork loin and ham pre/post being cooked via a water bath at 185ºF (85 ºC) until they reached an internal temperature of 161ºF (72ºC). With respect to the pork loin, very little losses were seen. Even in the outermost layer, 96% of its original creatine content was preserved. On the flip side, the ham had significant creatine losses. The innermost layers only retained 69% of their original creatine content; the surface layers were at 60%. For comparison purposes, keep in mind that the temperature at which this meat was cooked, 185ºF (85 ºC), is significantly less intense than that commonly done on a grill/oven/frying pan.
TRUE … Cooking meat DOES destroy the creatine content naturally found within it. The hotter the cooking method, the greater the breakdown of creatine. However, even if you eat your meat in the raw stage, it still takes significant amount to reach the 3-5g/d dose recommended by most individuals. That, combined with the fact that creatine monohydrate is dirt cheap, I think it’s a pretty easy call as to what is the best source of creatine!
- J1 Frettie. Grilled steaks turned by grill tongs in Czech Republic. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. Image accessed on June 5, 2013 from: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Grilled_steaks_turned_by_grill_tongs_in_Czech_Republic.jpg.
- Balsom PD1, Söderlund K, Ekblom B.Creatine in humans with special reference to creatine supplementation. Sports Med. 1994 Oct;18(4):268-80.
- Gloria del Campo, Beatriz Gallego, Iñaki Berregi, J.Alfonso Casado. Creatinine, creatine and protein in cooked meat products. Volume 63, Issue 2, October 1998, Pages 187–190.
- Laser Reuterswärd A1, Skog K, Jägerstad M. Effects of creatine and creatinine content on the mutagenic activity of meat extracts, bouillons and gravies from different sources. Food Chem Toxicol. 1987 Oct;25(10):747-54.
- Mora L1, Sentandreu MA, Toldrá F. Effect of cooking conditions on creatinine formation in cooked ham. J Agric Food Chem. 2008 Dec 10;56(23):11279-84.