By Gabe Sanders PhD, NSCA-CSCS
Creatine is a molecule that is naturally found in your muscles and your body uses it for short-term fuel and energy. Most people consume creatine every day since it is found in meat based proteins like chicken, beef, and fish. Creatine can also be taken as a supplement and whether you exercise or not, your muscles use creatine, primarily for immediate energy.
While most health food stores and creatine manufactures market creatine to young, weight lifting males, research suggests that almost everyone can benefit from a low dose of creatine supplementation. Yes, you read correctly! Creatine is safe and effective to supplement with and it can help you maintain or even increase your muscular strength.
How can creatine supplementation help me as I age?
First, creatine has been found to have a positive effect on patients with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Most importantly, research has shown that creatine can improve muscle function and performance without any adverse side effects.
By increasing the available creatine in your muscles, you have more immediate energy to lift weights and get stronger. In fact, creatine supplementation has been shown to enhance the amount of creatine available in aging muscle.
Research has found that older adults with more available creatine in their muscles seem to adapt more favorably to resistance and cardiovascular endurance training. You should also know that a regular strength training regimen is recommended to get the most out of creatine supplementation.
What forms of creatine should I buy?
The most widely used form of creatine is also cost effective and it is called creatine monohydrate. However, there are other forms that may be better to use such as creatine ethyl ester and micronized creatine.
The benefit of ethyl ester and micronized forms of creatine is that there tends to be fewer side effects such as gas and bloating. The draw back to ethyl ester and micronized creatine is that they are more expensive. While there are different forms of creatine, most are cheap, flavorless, and can be mixed with water, juice, or a sports drink or taken as a pill.
Lastly, you should also know that creatine manufacturers recommend to take a large daily dose but the actual dose that you need is much less than the recommended amount on the nutrition label.
As always, be sure to check with your physician and registered dietitian prior to beginning any supplementation regimen.
Buford TW, Kreider RB, Stout JR. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: creatine supplementation and exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2007; 4: 6.
Gotshalk LA, Volek JS, Staron CR, et al. Creatine supplementation improves muscular performance in older men. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2002.
Forbes SC, Little JP, Candow DG. Exercise and nutritional interventions for improving aging muscle health. 2012, 42: 29.