Is Creatine The Missing Ingredient For Older Adults?

Is Creatine The Missing Ingredient For Older Adults?

Question: What is the one supplement that can help you build muscle, improve brain function, and overcome the side effects of lack of sleep?

Answer: Creatine!

Creatine is an amino acid composite found in meat that serves as a short-term energy source, powering muscle contractions and brain function. It is the most researched sports supplement ever with thousands of studies showing its benefit and safety.

Now, a new review reminds us that creatine is not only for athletes. Older adults can benefit enormously from supplementing with creatine because muscular creatine stores decline with age (likely due to lower intake of creatine in diet). By combining creatine supplementation with strength training, older adults can slow the aging process, preserving muscle and physical function. Creatine may also help maintain memory and cognition that often declines with aging.

Creatine Preserves Muscle & Slows Aging

Many people accept the loss of muscle and physical function that occurs with aging as a given. In fact, the right nutrition and training program can largely prevent these problems. Strength training is considered the cornerstone in slowing the aging process, preserving muscle and bone while keeping you active and mobile.

Adding creatine supplementation to the mix has a therapeutic effect:

One meta-analysis of 19 studies found that older adults who supplemented with creatine in conjunction with strength training lost an average 0.5 kg more fat mass compared to a group that didn’t supplement.

Another meta-analysis of 20 studies found that creatine combined with strength training led to greater hypertrophy (muscle gains) in the lower and upper body in older adults. Creatine use increased lean mass compared to a placebo by an average of 1.2 to 1.3 kg across studies.

Creatine also helps prevent bone loss. In a study of healthy males over age 50, supplementing with creatine in conjunction with total body strength training program increased bone mineral content significantly more than a placebo. A second study done on older women who are at risk of rapid bone loss found that creatine with strength training decreased the loss of bone from the hip compared to a placebo.

How Creatine Protects Aging Bodies

Although creatine supplementation may be beneficial in the absence of exercise, it is most effective when combined with strength training. This suggests that creatine works because is enhances training volume and intensity, providing a greater stimulus to muscle fibers.

Scientists have identified several other ways creatine slows the aging process:

Improves Energy Production

Creatine serves as a short-term energy source and improves function of the glycolytic energy system. Creatine is a component of phosphocreatine, which is used in the ATP-CP energy system that lasts up to 15 seconds, to produce ATP, the body’s energy currency. Here, creatine

powers anaerobic energy metabolism, which dominates when you are doing strength training or other high-intensity forms of exercise such as sprinting or walking up the stairs.

Once the ATP-CP system is depleted, the glycolytic system that relies on glucose takes over. The glycolytic system runs on glucose from carbohydrates and lasts for up to 110 seconds. Creatine supports the glycolytic system by increasing glucose uptake and glycogen resynthesis.

Increases Muscle Contraction Speed & Strength

Another way creatine supports performance is by increasing calcium levels in the muscle. Creatine kinase facilitates calcium re-uptake into the muscle fiber, which may increase muscle contraction speed and strength.

Supports Muscle Maintenance

Creatine improves muscle protein synthesis by increasing the expression of muscle growth factors that impact hypertrophy. It stimulates the MTOR pathway, reducing muscle catabolism, which occurs in response to lack of physical activity and poor nutrition.

Has Anti-Inflammatory Effects

Creatine has anti-inflammatory effects, reducing cytokines and oxidative stress that lead to muscle atrophy. By reducing the loss of lean tissue, you can better preserve strength and help mitigate the deterioration from aging.

How To Get Enough Creatine

A diet containing a range of meat and fish will lay the ground work for muscle creatine levels while also providing the high-quality protein that optimally builds muscle in older adults. Supplementing will help saturate the muscles and support creatine brain stores for peak cognition and physical function.

One big question is whether creating “loading” is necessary. Originally, scientists believed creatine had to “load” into muscle with a high dose for about a week to saturate muscle cells. For this reason, many studies provide 15 to 20 grams of creatine for about a week and then reduce intake to a maintenance dose of 3 to 5 grams. Although this approach gets you faster results, it can lead to side effects, such as GI discomfort. Thus, everyone was happy when more recent research found that in younger adults, loading is not necessary.

For older adults, loading may be worth the effort: For the upper body, creatine loading followed by a maintenance dose of 5 grams a day led to greater gains in strength and muscle mass. For the lower body, following creatine loading, a higher daily dose of more than 5 g a day was necessary to maximize gains in leg press strength.

When To Take Creatine?

There’s no single rule regarding when to take creatine, but for older adults, scientists recommend taking creatine on training days within 60 minutes after a workout to take advantage of the fact that muscle contractions from a prior training session stimulate creatine uptake into muscle.

If remembering to supplement is an issue, benefits can be achieved from only supplementing on training days. In older adults, supplementing on workout days led to significant increases in lean mass and upper and lower body strength compared to a placebo. Naturally, daily supplementation could yield even greater outcomes.

When loading creatine, it’s recommended to take divided doses of about 5 grams. If you’re taking 20 grams, take it four times a day. Of course, remembering to supplement so frequently can be an issue, in which case, most important is to take it when you are able to. Lack of consistency with supplementation is one of the biggest reasons people have poor results from supplements.

Creatine should be taken with either carbs or protein in order to raise insulin to help with uptake into the muscle. Taking it with meals is an easy way to achieve this effect, but if you are avoiding carbs, you can pair it with any protein source that raises insulin, such as whey protein.

Take Aways:
  • If you’re starting to take creatine for the first time, try a 1-week loading dose of 20 grams daily. If you can divide your doses into four 5-gram doses, taking it throughout the day. For example, you could take creatine at each meal and immediately post-workout.
  • Following your loading period, switch to a maintenance dose. For older adults over age 50, try a dose of 0.1 g/kg of body weight. If you weigh, 160 pounds, this equals 73 kg, so take 7.3 g of creatine daily.
  • For younger adults, a daily dose of 3 to 5 g will likely be sufficient to maximize creatine stores, especially when combined with a diet containing meat.
  • Vegetarians have a deficit of creatine and a series of studies show that supplementation can improve performance, especially cognitive function, such as working memory.

 

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