Creatine does not work for men at middle age and older

The sudies from March 2014 bring quite shocking data – as it turned out, creatine doesn't have to work for men at middle age and older. In the experiment monohydrate was used – which, according to research, is the best form of creatine. For example, once it was inclined that, according to adverts, “tens times more efficient form of creatine” (CEE – creatine ethyl ester) appeared to be of worse efficiency than monohydrate [4]. Buffered creatine (e.g. kre-alkalyn) also turned out to be ineffective. The study didn't show that malate or any other form was better than monohydrate, too. In more than ten of studies done in the years 1996-2003 it was proven that creatine doesn't have to work, e.g. for swimmers (short distances), Wingate tests, cycling (sprint), running on treadmill and outdoors (sprint) – or even during resistance training! [5]

There were 28 healthy men at the age of 55-70, who took part in the experiment in 2014. 8 of them were not able to finish the test (too big load for 4 of them, 2 had to undergo a biopsy, 2 injuries). 20 men finished the test. The men had recreational physical activity (1-2 times a week), but they were not well-trained from the strength point of view (they didn't do regular resistance training within previous year). Men who smoked, used supplements or androgenes within the last 6 months, those who use statins, suffered from cancer, neurological disease, arrhytmia, heart or kidney disease, etc., were also excluded from the experiment.

They were randomly divided into the following groups:

  • creatine monohydrate + carbohydrates (20 g of creatine monohydrate in the saturation phase + 5 g of carbohydrates, for 7 days; then 0.1 g / 1 kilogram of body mass of monohydrate with 5 g of carbohydrates; averagely 8.8 g on training days)

  • placebo (identical dosage of 20 g of glucose for 7 days, then 5 g of glucose on training days).

The creatine was produced by Alschem (Degussa Inc., Atlanta, GA) and glucose (DGC AST Sport Science, Golden, CO). Creatine was supplied in the loading phase in 4 portions by 5 g. The volunteers were provided with doses of supplements and a shaker.

Training:

  • the volunteers did bench press lying, lat pull down, biceps curl, triceps extensions, leg press, leg curl and leg extensions sitting (kind of FBW),

  • 3 sets with 10 repetitions of each exercise with 75% of the maximal load,

  • the workouts were 3 times a week for 12 weeks,

  • during first 7 days of experiment the volunteers were supposed to use the supplement 60 minutes after finishing the training.

The following factors were measured:

  • body composition,

  • muscle strength,

  • blood (testosterone, IGF-1),

  • vastus lateralis (biopsy).

The measurements were done before, after 4, 8 and 12 weeks.

Dietetic conditioning:

  • in the creatine with carbohydrates group the men supplied: 2,127 +/- 423 kcal (at the beginning) and 2,024 +/- 490 kcal (at the end of experiment),

  • in the placebo group the men supplied: 1,889 +/- 374 kcal at the beginning and 2,432 +/- 680 kcal at the end of the experiment.

Results:

  • the scientists observed increase of strength in bench press and leg press,

  • body mass and lean body mass (LBM) increased,

  • there was the increase of amount of type II fibres (strength), compared to type I (endurance),

  • for the carbohydrates and creatine group body weight was measured in the first week, and it was: 88.2 +/- 12.4 kg, at the end of the experiment it was 89.9 +/- 11.8 kg,

  • for the placebo group it was: 94.4 +/- 15.3 kg (beginning), 95.1 +/- 15.5 kg (the end of experiment),

  • the amount of fatty tissue increased in minute degree,

  • lean body mass (muscles) in the creatine group: at the beginning: 56.6 +/- 7.1 kg; at the end of the experiment: 58.6 +/- 7.9 kg,

  • lean body mass (muscles) in the placebo group: 58.9 +/- 11.2 kg at the beginning and 59.4 +/- 10.7 at the end,

  • unfortunately, there were no significant differences between the groups with creatine and placebo – in any area (increase of total mass, muscle circumference, strength in particular exercises, hormonal profile, etc.),

  • testosterone was in the normal range of 29.9 – 269.2 pg/ml,

  • IGF-1 also wasn't far from normal level: 180 – 810 pg/ml,

  • after 12 weeks there were no changes in the level of testosterone or IGF-1.

Discussion

Poor diet is a very significant factor – the volunteers provided little protein and used low supply of calories in general. Despite that, creatine should give any kind of result. Unfortunately, there was no specific effect, compared to the placebo group. Resistance training itself occurred to be efficient. From other studies we already know, that creatine may not work for about 30% of people (Greenhaff, 1997). If you belong to the group of unlucky ones – even large doses of creatine will not give you any results.

What's interesting, from other studies we learned that the process of getting old is connected with the following:

  • worse quality of muscles; sarcopenia (among others, the amount of myosin decreases, just like the amount of proteins important for the process of electromechanic coupling in the ryanodine receptor and in Ca-ATPase [3]),

  • the disfunction of the mitochondria (muscle atrophy),

  • decrease of the level of testosterone and GH/IGF-1 (decrease of hormonal production; testosterone – shutting down the Leydig cells in testicles) [3],

  • increased amount of fat (stronger aromatisation, decrease of muscle mass, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome),

  • degeneration of neuro-muscle synapses [3],

  • the loss of motoneurones from the L-S part of spinal cord [3].

The most troublesome problem is another hormonal response even for pharmaceuticals! It was stated that in case of men at the age of 59-75 the supply of enanthate testosterone (even in the dose of 600 mg per week), is not as efficient as in case of young people (at the age of 19-35). It was proven that the aromatisation is higher by 40% among old men – with the same dose of testosterone – which is connected with higher level of body fat at older age [2]. What does it mean? More estrogens – it means more fat in the “women areas”, less muscles, higher water retention and many other problems.

Final conclusions?

Creatine doesn't have to be efficient in supplementation of people at the age of 55 and over. But it remains the most important supplement for sports people based on muscle strength. It is not good for every kind of work (e.g. endurance). The matter of forms of creatine available on the market is also controversial.

Sources: “Creatine supplementation post-exercise does not enhance training-induced adaptations in middle to older aged males” Eur J Appl Physiol. 2014 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4019834/ 2. “The Effects of Injected Testosterone Dose and Age on the Conversion of Testosterone to Estradiol and Dihydrotestosterone in Young and Older Men” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2913038/ 3. „Sarkopenia wieku podeszłego”Adrian Strzelecki, Robert Ciechanowicz, Zbigniew Zdrojewski Katedra i Klinika Chorób Wewnętrznych, Chorób Tkanki Łącznej i Geriatrii Gdańskiego Uniwersytetu Medycznego 4. “The effects of creatine ethyl ester supplementation combined with heavy resistance training on body composition, muscle performance, and serum and muscle creatine levels” http://www.jissn.com/content/6/1/6 5. “Review article CREATINE SUPPLEMENTATION AND EXERCISE PERFORMANCE: A BRIEF REVIEW” Stephen P. Bird