Is creatine right for you if you’re in your 50s, 60s, or beyond? As a Certified Nutrition Coach, I’ll break down the current research and discuss what you need to know to ensure creatine is safe, how much to take, and why you should consider it.
- Creatine supplements are safe, effective, and recommended for adults of all ages, including older adults.
- Creatine supplementation may be even more beneficial for older adults than younger adults to offset sarcopenia (age-related muscle loss), improve muscle and bone mass, decrease the risk of falls, and enhance cognitive function and mental health.
- Creatine supplements should be discussed with your healthcare provider, taking into consideration your personal health history and current medications.
Aging & Muscle Health: What Changes?
As you age, you lose muscle mass, strength, and function, making daily life activities more challenging, such as struggling to carry your grandkids or even your groceries or walking up a flight of stairs. Plus, the risk of injury is higher.
Some of this decline comes from a more sedentary lifestyle than your younger years. It’s a “use or lose it” scenario.
Suppose you start devoting more time to desk jobs and becoming a spectator for your kids’ or grandkids’ activities rather than participating in physical activities yourself. In that case, you can lose muscle mass simply because you’re not as active as you once were.
But even if you maintain a physically active lifestyle, there can still be a gradual natural decline in muscle and bone mass – a phenomenon known as sarcopenia. Older adults’ muscles do not respond as well to the same stimulus regarding protein intake and anabolic (muscle-building) signals from resistance training.
It’s a case where we must try even harder to maintain what we have compared to what a younger version of ourselves would need to do (this probably doesn’t seem fair, but hey, no one ever said life was fair).
The good news is that a higher daily protein intake can overcome the lack of muscle responsiveness to lower doses of amino acids (the building blocks of protein we consume and use to build our muscle tissue when we eat protein-rich foods).
Additionally, strength training is highly effective for delaying and minimizing the effects of sarcopenia.
In this meta-analysis, older adults (age 65 or older) engaged in a progressive resistance training program for at least eight weeks saw improved strength and function, increased lean body mass (muscle), and decreased fat mass.
These results indicate that progress is indeed possible at any age.
So, what does creatine have to do with all of this?
Creatine & Older Adults: What The Science Says
Since I’ve already established that resistance training is critical for maintaining and even improving strength and muscle mass into older age, it’s exciting to find out that creatine supplementation in older adults significantly increases the strength and muscle mass gains from resistance training compared to resistance training alone.
This evidence suggests that creatine supplementation enhances exercise capacity and training adaptations in older adults, meaning when paired with resistance training, it can slow age-related muscle loss and improve the quality of life of older adults.
“Creatine monohydrate is well-tolerated and is safe to consume in healthy untrained and trained individuals regardless of age”– International Society of Sports Nutrition.
Plus, creatine supplementation can provide benefits beyond the gym.
Creatine supplementation can improve cognitive function and enhance memory and shows promise for treating or preventing conditions such as Alzheimer’s, depression, and other mental health disorders.
Examples Of Older Adults Supplementing With Creatine
“It’s made strength gains easier, recovery faster, and definition better…without trying harder. In other words, it’s the same routine and effort with improved results.”
Another YouTuber, Nicholas B, shares that he started taking creatine at 65, getting roughly 3-5 grams daily for the last five years. At age 70, he has 12 lbs more lean mass but a trimmer waistline.
I was also incredibly impressed with Xjet’s story:
“Almost four years ago I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease…so I started supplementing with [creatine] to see if it made any difference. At the same time I began resistance training using some old dumbbells…The results have been fantastic. I gained significant muscle and I went from 91 kg with high body fat to 78 kg with far less body fat.
I’m not a gym junkie, in fact I haven’t been to a gym in over 40 years, but the combination of creatine and regular exercise in my home has boosted my strength and vitality immensely. My cognitive performance also seems to have improved with better memory and only a very limited progression of my Parkinson’s symptoms.”
Beyond personal anecdotes, you can also listen to experts Stuard Phillips, Ph.D. and Rhonda Parker, Ph.D., discuss “Brain and muscle effects of creatine” in this YouTube episode (skip ahead to 6:56 for the conversation on creatine specifically).
Creatine Dosage Recommendation For Older Adults
The creatine dosage recommendation for older adults is 0.1 grams of creatine per kilogram of body weight (this is 0.045 grams of creatine per pound of body weight).
This recommendation is slightly higher than the usual “standard” recommendation of 3-5 grams of creatine daily, consistent with the higher protein requirements for older adults.
As mentioned earlier, older adults’ muscles are less responsive to amino acid intake and, therefore, need a larger dose of protein. In the same way, older adults need a higher dose of creatine to reach muscle saturation levels to experience the benefits of creatine.
Creatine should always be combined with a progressive strength training regimen to maximize its benefits.
Are There Any Side Effects Of Taking Creatine As An Older Adult?
There are no unique side effects of taking creatine for older adults. Any side effects that older adults would experience are the same side effects that younger individuals can feel.
Some studies suggest that creatine may be associated with an increased risk of kidney dysfunction in people with a history of kidney disease or those taking nephrotoxic medications (medications that can impact kidney function, such as some drugs for treating high blood pressure or diabetes).
For those without kidney disease, this study states that “creatine does not appear to jeopardize liver or kidney function or lead to cytotoxicity…creatine supplementation (0.1 g/kg/day) for one year did not affect markers of liver or kidney function.”
The side effects of creatine supplementation that can happen at any age include:
- Water retention: usually temporary as the body adapts to higher creatine stores in the muscles, initially drawing more water into the muscle cells.
- Dehydration: this can be easily mitigated by simply drinking more water.
- Digestive issues: this is most common with large doses, especially if the creatine is not mixed correctly into water or other liquids.
- Fatigue: this side effect is related to being able to train harder and longer due to taking creatine, not from the creatine itself. One of the benefits of creatine supplementation is that it delays physical and mental fatigue.
- Increased appetite: Creatine supplementation can increase appetite in the same way that it increases fatigue because it allows you to train harder and longer. Over time, the increased training will result in higher muscle mass, which increases your metabolism, leading to more hunger.
What To Consider Before Starting Creatine
Before supplementing with creatine, consider the following factors:
Personal Health History
Before starting creatine, it’s essential to consider your personal health history.
As stated above, if you have a history of kidney disease or dysfunction or if you’ve had a kidney removed, it’s important to proceed with caution if you choose to include a creatine supplement.
If you have other underlying or past health conditions, consider these as well. Most studies on creatine supplementation have focused on reasonably healthy individuals without underlying health conditions.
For this reason, it’s difficult to say how those suffering from chronic conditions will respond to creatine supplementation. More research is required before we can form conclusions.
Like personal health history, you must consider your current medications and other supplements (if any).
Creatine is not recommended when you are taking medications that could impact kidney function (nephrotoxic), such as certain blood pressure and diabetes medications.
Review your medications and supplements (including creatine) with your healthcare provider.
Finally, you need to consider what your goals are concerning creatine supplementation.
Do you want to maintain or increase lean muscle mass? Are you more interested in impacts on cognitive function?
Whatever the case, remember the expression: “what gets measured, gets managed.” You must establish a way to see whether you are progressing in the desired area(s).
Create a list of what you want to improve, how you will measure it, and how often. Only this type of record-keeping will show you if your approach is working. Naturally, this is true of goals in any respect and applies at any age.
Research Gaps: What We Still Don’t Know
I mentioned above that there still haven’t been many studies about creatine supplementation in individuals with one or more underlying health conditions to see the effects and determine the safety of creatine for these populations.
More studies involving participants with underlying health conditions and on certain medications would improve knowledge in this area.
Next, studies have shown mixed results about creatine supplementation without resistance training. Some studies show that creatine supplements can still increase lean body mass without a training program, whereas others show no effect.
For people unwilling or unable to exercise, it’s worth knowing whether creatine supplementation would still be valuable without resistance training.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are There Other Supplements Or Dietary Changes That Might Offer Similar Benefits To Older Adults?
Adopting a dietary pattern that emphasizes minimally processed whole foods such as lean proteins, fruit & vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds is good for physical and brain health. Supplements for omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins B and E might offer similar benefits.
How Long Does It Take To See Benefits From Creatine Supplementation?
The benefits of creatine supplementation regarding physical performance can take 1 to 4 weeks to experience. However, cognitive improvements have been observed in studies lasting 1-7 days, suggesting the impacts on brain function are even faster.
Are There Specific Brands Or Types Of Creatine That Are Better For Older Adults?
No, as long as you get a reputable third-party certified brand, pure creatine monohydrate is all that is needed. Any extraordinary claims about certain brands being better for older adults are simply marketing hype.
Will Creatine Affect My Medications Or Existing Health Conditions?
As with any supplement, you should discuss creatine with your doctor to determine whether it is appropriate. Creatine may not be suitable if you have kidney disease, high blood pressure, or liver disease. Creatine may interact with NSAIDs, Tagamet, Probenecid, and any drugs that affect the kidneys.
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About The Author
Lauren Graham is a Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified nutrition coach. She focuses on helping busy professionals balance healthy eating and purposeful movement. Lauren has a background in competitive swimming and is currently competing as a CrossFit athlete. She has a passion for training, teaching, and writing.
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