Think pumping iron is all you need to do to combat the muscle depletion that accompanies us into old age? Well, it will help, but you may want to add a creatine supplement to your routine as well. A recent study found an association between taking creatine supplements and increased muscle mass among older men who participate in strength training exercises.
What is creatine?
Creatine is a protein stored (as phosphocreatine) and used primarily in muscle tissue. Creatine can be obtained from meat and fish in the diet, from supplements, and it is also made endogenously from other proteins.
How will it make me stronger?
During high-intensity, short-burst exercises, such as weight lifting, phosphocreatine can be used for energy. So the theory goes that if you have more creatine stores, you will have more energy thereby increasing strength and subsequently muscle mass. Keep in mind that creatine alone will not make you stronger — you have to put in your time at the gym too.
How much should I take?
In this study, participants exercised three days per week and took 8 grams of creatine on training days. The best results were seen in the men who took creatine with protein. How much you should take should be determined in light of your diet and exercise regimen. For example, vegetarians may need a higher dose of creatine as a plant-based diet will be lower in creatine. But be careful not to overdo it as there are side-effects associated with creatine supplementation.
Are there any risks?
Consuming too much protein can put a strain on the kidneys. It has also been associated with increased calcium loss, so make sure you get adequate calcium and vitamin D to ensure bone health.
What’s the bottom line?
In this study, even participants who received a placebo increased their lean muscle mass, although those who took creatine saw greater increases. Creatine supplements may be particularly helpful, then, for combating age-related muscle loss…or for those wishing for a muscle-bound beach body.