Creatine may be thought of as a supplement tailored for young athletes but there are many anti-aging benefits for average men over 30 years old especially for those on low T or TRT treatments. Creatine can be a great tool for those on low testosterone treatment because it helps improve the bodies response by aiding in energy production critical for a healthy heart, brain, and organ tissue. Creatine helps in muscle recovery and reducing inflammation, but there is a more meaningful use than performance or gains at the gym.
First and foremost, let’s cover some misnomers on creatine.
Creatine does not increase testosterone levels.
Many bloggers and sites misinterpret published research with comments that creatine increases testosterone, but this is inaccurate. While creatine does elevate DHT (Dihydrotestosterone) and growth hormone (GH) during physical activity, creatine does not improve resting hormonal concentration.
DHT is the active form of testosterone and is mainly used by the body to grow hair and skin cells but it does play a role in muscle activity. Simply put, DHT helps your muscle “fire” or “flex” then it flushes away never to be seen again. During physical movement, free testosterone converts to DHT when the muscle activates but that’s it. Creatine “indirectly” works with testosterone from the activation of muscle (DHT) to the recovery and growth of the muscle (IGF-1 to growth hormone).
Insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-1) stimulates growth hormone but does not have a direct impact on testosterone levels.
There are many more physiological complexities as it relates to muscle activity and creatine but these are basics.
Americans spend more than $2.7 billion a year on sports supplements, most of which contain creatine.
If you were a high school or collegiate athletic, you are probably familiar with creatine. “Back in the day” creatine may have been talked about in the same breath as “performance enhancing” (PEDs) by young minds. We used to eat 5 PB&Js or two chipotle burritos searching for anything to gain muscle. Most athletes were worried that creatine was simply “water weight” and unnatural, but enter adulthood.
With the widespread use of creatine among high school and colligate sports, there are tons of studies observing the effects and benefits creatine has on young adults, but this begs the question – why aren’t more adults taking creatine for healthier energy and muscle health?
60 of the 500+ studies are listed throughout this article.
What Is Creatine?
Creatine is a combination of three amino acids and is used by the body to make energy for muscles and for areas of the body that require high energy input, such as skeletal muscle and the brain.
The liver, kidneys, and pancreas produce at 1-gram of creatine per day while the rest comes from food. In some cases, creatine supplementation for average people that are not physically active or vegetarians may be necessary.
- ATP is considered the “universal energy molecule.”
- Creatine helps convert adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to adenosine di-phosphate (ADP) creating usable energy.
Creatine works by recycling adenosine diphosphate (ADP) into adenosine triphosphate (ATP). This recycling is called phosphocreatine. Basically, Phosphocreatine plays an essential role in body tissues that have high, fluctuating energy requirements such as muscle and brain tissues. Keeping this process primed is crucial for general health and brain activity.
- L-arginine [ahr-juh-neen] helps build muscle, rebuild tissue, and releases nitric oxide in the bloodstream. Nitric oxide acts to widen blood vessels which may help improve blood circulation. The body naturally produces L-arginine but foods like red meats, fish, dairy, and eggs help replenish a small amount of the amino acid. L-arginine production issues come up as people age so supplementation is common.
- L-arginine assists testosterone during muscle hypertrophy (growth) by kicking off the muscle protein synthesis process.
- Glycine [glahy-seen] is the building block for certain proteins like collagen found in skin, ligaments, muscles, bones, and cartilage. The amino acid helps the central nervous system by regulating nerve impulses from the spinal cord to the retina. As a neurotransmitter, the amino acid processes impulses like motor and sensory information (movement, vision, and audition).
- Glycine signals the pituitary gland to release growth hormone during physical activity to help muscles recover.
Enter Low testosterone (hypogonadism). As men age the pituitary gland stops signaling for hormones to be produced leading to decrease in testosterone production. There are two types of low testosterone – Primary or Secondary hypogonadism.
- Primary occurs in the testicles where the testes stop production sperm and testosterone.
- Secondary occurs when the pituitary gland stops signaling the testicles to produce testosterone.
These two conditions can occur together and usually influence each other as primary imbalances begin to impair secondary signals when the body attempts to produce growth hormones. Reference, Reference
- L-methionine [me-thahy-uh-neen] is important for the growth, repair and protection of organ tissue. This amino acid slows cell aging by improving the tone and flexibility of skin, hair, and strengthens nails. Methionine helps absorb essential minerals, like zinc and magnesium, and protects the body from harmful metals from clogging up the liver.
It also acts as a lipotropic agent that helps “cleanse” the liver and arteries of excess fat build up, which could lead to harmful long-term conditions ranging from diabetes to liver disease.
See Lipo-B Metabolism injections to learn more about methionine.
People who do not eat a lot of meat or vegetarians clearly see the benefits of start taking creatine supplements more so than people with normal creatine levels.
The body can only hold so much creatine before it pees out the rest, so adding more won’t raise levels. Supplementing during physical activity is simply keeping the level sustained. It typically takes a few days before reaching the point where the body begins flushing out excess creatine.
When you supplement, you increase your stores of phosphocreatine. This is a form of stored energy in the cells, as it helps your body produce more of the high-energy molecule, ATP. Reference
It does not matter if your goals are physical or geared more towards general health – creatine helps you gain muscle in the following ways:
- Creatine helps you work out longer in a single exercise session, which helps the body safely develop healthy muscle growth.
- Aids in muscle repair and new muscle growth through efficient cell regeneration.
- Stimulates insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-1) to release growth hormone to help aid in muscle recovery.
- Increases cell hydration by allowing more water to enter muscle cells, which help play a role in muscle growth and healing during intensive physical activity.
- There is a belief that creatine causes dehydration but the shift in cellular water in the muscle is minor and short term. There is no research backing up those dehydration claims. One study monitored 10 patients for a month on dialysis, which can cause muscle cramps. Researchers found that creatine supplementation actually reduced cramping by 60%. Food for thought.
- Creatine helps create dense muscle more efficiently with proteins circulating throughout the body.
- Lowers myostatin levels, which allows the muscles to grow without the growth factor chemical from stopping the development of lean muscle.
Creatine can also help with general bodily functions like:
- Lower blood sugar levels by accelerating the function of glucose transporters in the bloodstream.
- Improve muscle function and quality of life in older adults by delaying muscle mass atrophy, increase bone strength, and improve endurance and strength. Creatine can help older people do the hobbies they enjoy.
- Help treat non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Ignoring the many studies performed on rats or mice, logically, if you have a healthy amount of essential amino acids found in creatine (L-arginine, L-methionine, Glycine) the liver and metabolism should aid in flushing out accumulating fatty acids.
It’s important to monitor vitamin and nutritional blood work as adults age to see where supplements can fill any gaps from a normal diet. Athletes and average joes alike use supplements to increase energy production, improve athletic performance, and to allow them to train harder. Creatine can be a useful therapeutic supplement for older adults to stop loss in muscle strength and help improve the ability to remain physically active either in sport or in daily chores.
The scientific term for loss of muscle mass is sarcopenia, which is derived from the Greek terms sarx for flesh and penia for loss. Muscle loss has many causes, including obesity, vitamin deficiency, being sedentary, but mainly low testosterone (hypogonadism).
Healthy aging: Cellular energy and recovery
Healthy production of cellular energy will naturally decline as adults get older losing the ability detox harmful metals like mercury, cadmium and copper. Healthy cell production helps defend against free radical damage, which is the theory of aging where organisms age because cells accumulate damage over time.
Compounding stress to cells (oxidative stress) along with a cell’s inability to produce ATP plays a big part in aging and the many cancers and diseases that develop overtime.
If you’re under 30 years old, young cells can efficiently meet these challenges head-on but older adult cells have lost their youthful defenses and are poorly equipped to fight the good fight. Reference
Over time, damage accumulates in older cells and cells begin to die off.
Younger adults rapidly regenerate new cells helping to repair or replace older cells, which slows the aging process. Reference
A decrease in muscle mass (sarcopenia) is the most prevalent factor that comes with aging. Aside from declining hormonal levels, a decline in cellular generation may be a factor as well. Loss in optimal energy generators widely used in every human cell not only impacts the cell but the entire body.
Research has shows that older adults tend to have lower levels of ATP in general and these studies reveal that cellular reserves don’t “refill” after exercise in older people.
In the aforementioned study, the researcher Debra Waters said, “Our data suggest that mitochondrial function declines with age in healthy, exercising elderly adults and that the decline appears to be influenced by the level of physical activity.” Even after the exercise, levels of important cell energy declined even more. This does not mean older adults should stop physical activity but they should consider supplementing creatine to help replenish and protect muscle recovery.
This study and many more shows that normal levels of creatine can help slow physiological decline that occurs with aging.
The anti-inflammatory effects of creatine
The most common use for creatine is muscle recovery. Creatine can help reduce inflammation and soreness, especially after exercise. Runners and athletes alike use creatine primarily to speed up recovery and alleviate soreness after competition or a long run. In a 2004 study,
the researchers looked at inflammatory and muscle soreness in runners before and after a race.
One group of runners supplemented for five days before the race with 20 grams of creatine and 15 grams of maltodextrin (a complex carbohydrate formulated from corn) daily, while the control group received only the maltodextrin (the “superstarch” is fast absorbing fuel for the body).
There was an increase in recovery markers by nearly 45% when compared to the starch only group.
There were no reported side effects from creatine among the runners and researchers were able to validate that creatine supplementation can reduce cell damage and inflammation after an “exhaustive, intense race.”
If you think about it – to an extent, exercise can have a negative effect that the body without proper nutrient to help recover muscles and more importantly cells. Creatine can be beneficial in helping to reduce the inflammatory stress exercise puts on the body especially in aging adults.
Creatine improves brain function
Perhaps the most compelling use for creatine supplementation is its ability to help brain function and metabolism. Lots of research is being done in the space and there are promising results.
Supplementing creatine may help improve the following conditions:
- Alzheimer’s disease by aiding in the ATP to ADP recycling and regeneration. This cycle is reduced by as much as 86% in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.
- Parkinson’s disease by improving energy dysfunction and muscle strength increasing the bodies response to medication. Reference
- Huntington’s disease by reducing damage to DNA.
- Ischemic stroke by clearing the way for brain signals to trigger adequate amounts of glucose and oxygen to pass through the bloodstream.
- Epilepsy by reducing the rashness of the convulsions. Reference
Creatine supplementation is common for people that have suffered brain or spinal cord injuries or those who suffer from motor neuron disease.
It’s important to note that the listed improvements above all mention that more research is needed in the space but the positive outcomes with creatine supplementation are validate evidence.
Creatine improves brain function in healthy adults and researchers have found that it can improve cognitive function in adults that are deficiency or do not eat enough foods with creatine. Reference
Creatine stimulates the body’s ability to increase the cellular energy available to the brain. Naturally increasing brain activity. Even small changes in the ATP cycle has an impressive effect on brain tissues’ ability to function properly. Brain neurons, heart tissue and other highly active tissues are very sensitive to diminishing ATP levels. Creatine seems to be the effective nutritional supplements for maintaining or raising ATP levels.
Creating plays a role in protecting the nervous system against ischemic and oxidative stresses but these protective cells decrease or die off with age.
Researchers believe that adults can see and feel a benefit from creatine supplementation as the aging process takes a toll on the brain and cell regeneration.
How many grams of creatine should you take a day?
An average adult needs between 1 and 3 grams of creatine a day. Roughly half is ingested from food while the rest is created by the body. For reference, one pound of beef or salmon provides 1 to 2 grams of creatine. If you are an active adult, 5 or more grams of creatine is necessary.
According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), depending on your level of physical activity you “may need to consume between 5 and 10 g of creatine a day” to maintain the body’s stores.
People who cannot naturally convert food into creatine due to health condition may need to take 10 to 30 grams a day to avoid health problems.
Is creatine a performance enhancing drug (PED)?
Creatine is not on anti-doping agency WADA’s list of banned drugs but there are some people who think it should be. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) allow the use of creatine, and it is one of the most popular supplements used among athletes.
Athletes have been using creatine since the early 1900’s and it has a controversial reputation.
Anti-doping experts say that its presence in the body can vary greatly depending on an individual’s metabolism so there is no reason to ban the supplement.
“If you think of an athlete’s body as being like a car, things like carbohydrate or creatine are like changing the oil… On the other hand, anabolic steroids are like changing the architecture of the engine – the muscle.” said Paul Greenhaff, professor of muscle metabolism at the University of Nottingham.
Creatine has not been shown to be boost a competitors performance to the extent that it should be banned, nor has it been proven to benefit people who already have naturally high levels of creatine in their body.
“oral supplementation with [creatine monohydrate] has no long-term detrimental effects on kidney or liver functions in highly trained college athletes in the absence of other nutritional supplements” There is also no evidence that creatine harms the liver and kidneys in healthy people who take normal doses. That said, those with preexisting liver or kidney problems should consult with a doctor before supplementing.
Creatine is one of the most well-researched supplements available, and studies lasting up to four years reveal no negative effects.
What is creatine:
Cognitive improvement references:
Resistance Training and Gait Function in Patients With Parkinson’s Disease
Creating in older adults:
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