Certainly, if there’s a supplement that has lots of scientific data to back the claims of its effectiveness, it’s creatine. Creatine supplementation in combination with resistance training can increase muscle fiber size, lean body mass and strength—but how long does that effect last?
Based on some of the animal research data, it appears that creatine supplementation alone leads to muscle hypertrophy in young animals but does not seem to affect it in aging muscle.1 In older mice that get creatine, the effects are quite interesting.
For example, in the calf muscles, muscle carnosine, taurine and total creatine concentrations decreased quite a bit from ages 10 to 60 weeks. At 25 weeks but not at 60, oral creatine supplementation significantly increased carnosine (by 88 percent) and anserine (by 40 percent) compared to age-matched, control-fed animals.
Taurine and total creatine content were unaffected by creatine supplementation at any age, which suggests that intramuscular creatine is already saturated in mice muscle. Creatine-treated mice showed less fatigue and better force recovery than the control group at 25 weeks but not at 60 weeks.
So it appears that oral creatine supplementation can temporarily but potently increase muscle carnosine and anserine, which coincides with improved resistance to contractile fatigue.2 But with old age, nada.
Now, hold on a minute. Let’s check out what happens in humans. In studies of older adults taking both creatine monohydrate and conjugated linoleic acid, it seems that the combination may make a nice duo.3 Men and women over the age of 65 completed six months of resistance training while getting five grams of creatine and six grams of conjugated linoleic acid or a placebo. Training improved all measures of functional capacity and strength, with greater improvement for the supplement group in most measurements of muscular endurance, isokinetic knee extension strength, fat-free mass and lower fat mass.
Plasma creatinine, but not creatinine clearance, increased in the supplement group, but there were no changes in serum creatine kinase activity or liver function. So it’s entirely possible that the creatine alone may not be as effective for the elderly; however, when you combine it with conjugated linoleic acid, the results are impressive. It’s safe and it’s effective for boosting gains in muscle, strength and aiding bodyfat loss.4
Bottom line: Adding six grams of CLA to creatine is an effective way to improve body composition. Moreover, the timing of supplementation is absolutely critical to achieving the best results. According to research out of Canada, “protein or creatine ingestion proximate to resistance-training sessions may be more beneficial for increasing muscle mass and strength than ingestion of protein or creatine at other times of the day, possibly because of increased blood flow and therefore increased transport of amino acids and creatine to skeletal muscle.”5
Editor’s note: Jose Antonio, Ph.D., is the CEO of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (www.theissn.org) and is a sports science consultant to VPX/Redline. IM
1 Brooks, N.E., et al. (2009). Aging attenuates muscle responsiveness to creatine supplementation, but not overload, in rat plantaris muscles. J Appl Physiol. In press.
2 Derave, W., et al. (2008). Creatine supplementation augments skeletal muscle carnosine content in senescence-accelerated mice (SAMP8). Rejuvenation Res. 11(3):641-647.
3 Tarnopolsky, M.A., et al. (2008). The potential benefits of creatine and conjugated linoleic acid as adjuncts to resistance training in older adults. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 33(1):213-227.
4 Tarnopolsky, M., et al. (2007). Creatine monohydrate and conjugated linoleic acid improve strength and body composition following resistance exercise in older adults. PLoS One. 2(10):e991.
5 Candow, D.G., and Chilibeck, P.D. (2008). Timing of creatine or protein supplementation and resistance training in the elderly. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 33(1):184-190.