Congress pushes DOD to consider adding creatine to military rations

In an annual report on military funding, the U.S. House of Representatives recommended adding creatine to MREs (meals, ready to eat) to support troop health and performance. The document spoke to the widespread popularity and well-established potential benefits of creatine for muscle, recovery and injury prevention.

Nick Collias

June 14, 2024

4 Min Read

At a Glance

  • Congress asked DOD to examine the potential benefits of creatine for soldiers, including reducing concussion severity.
  • Experts shared with Congress creatine’s ability to boost performance, recovery and injury prevention.
  • Over 400,000 military personnel have suffered traumatic brain injuries since 2001.

On May 31, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Armed Services released its annual report on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2025. Buried among the health care provisions 213 pages deep in the 660-page document, a small paragraph revealed an important advance in sports and health supplements.

In the report, House appropriators called for the Department of Defense to study the possibility of adding the supplement creatine monohydrate in MREs, the packaged meals that armed service personnel eat in the field.

“This was something that was an NPA priority for 2024,” explained Kyle Turk, director of government affairs for the Natural Products Association (NPA). Turk said NPA and experts in the field of sports supplements worked with the Armed Services Committee to craft the language, which was approved by the House of Representatives.

As of June 10, Turk said NPA was making the rounds with the Senate and is confident that the creatine language will be in the final package sent to President Joe Biden.

The full relevant text of the NDAA report reads: The committee recognizes that creatine is a popular nutritional supplement because of its long history of improving strength and muscle health. A broad body of clinical research has shown that creatine can enhance muscle growth, physical performance, strength training, post exercise recovery, and injury prevention. The committee encourages the Department of Defense to consider including creatine supplementation by the Defense Logistics Agency in Meals Ready to Eat.

The language above speaks strategically to two major parts of creatine’s appeal for military personnel: the decades of science supporting its safety and benefits, and the likelihood that many military personnel are already taking it.

A 2016 study found that 27% of military members who used supplements were taking creatine, but no published studies have followed up specifically on military use since then. Among competitive athletes, creatine use has consistently grown and has been reported as high as 40%, while the supplement has seen dramatic growth among the general population as well. Creatine’s popularity has increased as it has been linked to nonathletic benefits like longevity, cognition and even protection against long Covid.

Armed Services personnel are currently able to purchase creatine supplements in commissaries, and according to Turk, there’s good reason to believe that larger societal trend extends to the military as well.

“A significant portion of our Armed Services members are already taking this when they’re at home,” Turk said. “In the field, they should absolutely be able to supplement their diets with creatine. We looked at what are the available options, and MREs seemed like the most natural fit.”

He pointed to the hydration beverages included in MREs as the most likely place where creatine monohydrate could potentially be added to the meals.

Why creatine is beneficial for armed services personnel

The specific benefits cited in the NDAA report were carefully chosen, according to Richard Kreider, Ph.D., a researcher at Texas A&M University who has been involved in much of the foundational research into creatine monohydrate over the last 30 years.

Kreider said “injury prevention” in particular is crucial because it speaks both to musculoskeletal injuries and brain injuries like concussions and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). According to a 2021 study from DOD, over 400,000 military members have suffered some type of TBI since 2001.

“We did a briefing to Congress about concussions, where I was one of a number of people speaking about creatine,” Kreider explained. “I was pretty blunt when I spoke to them, and they asked for recommendations. I said, ‘First of all, don’t listen to politics. Follow the actual science, not the pseudoscience you read online. There’s no doubt it can improve performance, training and help reduce injuries.’”

Even at a time when state governments are limiting access to certain supplements like creatine, Kreider said he found many open ears in DOD.

“Military RDs (registered dieticians) and others have been wanting the U.S. government to provide creatine supplements to soldiers as a prophylactic method of reducing the severity of concussions, as well as fish oil,” he stated.

Kreider also pointed to a number of studies gathered in the International Society of Sports Nutrition’s position stand on creatine. It concluded athletes using creatine experience less muscle cramping, fewer strains and fewer practices lost to injury than non-users.

Kreider said some of the other “wheels moving behind the scenes” with the appropriations committee included a possible large joint study of U.S. football players at major universities reviewing whether creatine can reduce the severity and recovery time of concussions. He said he is also part of a study involving DOD and the National Pork Board looking at adding more pork to military meals, since pork is higher in creatine than other meats.

But Kreider said even without additional studies, the research showing creatine’s benefits for soldiers is clear and compelling.

“We’re ready to do this,” he said. “This is the recommendation, and we don't want to wait two more years to study it. We need to find ways to get this to the military now, without them having to pay for it out of pocket.”

About the Author(s)

Nick Collias

Nick Collias is a writer and editor with over a decade of experience working in the health and fitness industry. From 2016 to 2021, he was the host of the Bodybuilding.com Podcast, interviewing elite athletes and training thought-leaders on a wide range of exercise, nutrition and lifestyle topics. Additionally, he has worked for the last 20 years as a longform print and online journalist, as well as a book author, ghostwriter and editor. 

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