While some may associate creatine supplements solely with bodybuilders and athletes, this natural compound plays a vital role in energy production within our bodies. It offers numerous benefits specifically tailored to enhance the well-being of women over 50, including increased muscle mass, better bone health, improved cognition and potentially better sleep.
What is Creatine?
Creatine is a naturally occurring amino acid compound that is mostly stored in skeletal muscle (95%) but also in the brain. It plays a crucial role in energy production and muscle contraction. It is made from three amino acids: arginine, glycine, and methionine. In the body, the liver, pancreas, and kidneys convert these amino acids into creatine, which is then stored in the muscles and used as a source of energy especially during high-intensity activities, such as weightlifting or sprinting. Think of creatine as a fuel source that helps power our muscles and enables them to perform at their best. It’s like the spark that ignites the engine, allowing us to push through physically demanding tasks.
When we engage in activities that require quick bursts of energy, like running up stairs or picking up heavy objects, our muscles rely on a molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to fuel these movements. Unfortunately, our muscles can store only a limited amount of ATP, which is where creatine steps in. Creatine helps replenish ATP stores, allowing our muscles to sustain high-intensity efforts for longer periods. By assisting in ATP regeneration, creatine acts as a valuable ally in boosting muscular strength, power, and endurance.
While our bodies naturally produce creatine, we can also obtain it through certain dietary sources. Foods like meat (especially red meat and fish) and poultry are rich in creatine.
Compared to men, women naturally have significantly lower creatine stores, typically 70 to 80% less. Additionally, our dietary intake of creatine is often considerably lower since animal-based foods like beef are the primary sources of dietary creatine, and women tend to consume lower amounts compared to men.
Vegans and vegetarians would have even lower stores as there are no rich plant-based sources.
Is creatine good for women over 50?
As a dietitian, I prioritize a food-first approach and generally do not heavily promote additional supplements. Like many others, I hadn’t paid much attention to creatine supplements, as they were commonly associated with the bodybuilding community. However, as emerging research sheds light on the benefits of creatine use for women, especially during menopause, my perspective has shifted. Consequently, I now find myself routinely recommending creatine supplementation to most of my clients.
Increased Lean Muscle Mass:
During the menopause transition and beyond, women experience an increased loss of muscle, known as sarcopenia. The loss of estrogen means we have a much harder time building muscle mass. Creatine supplementation has been shown to improve muscle protein synthesis, improve muscle fiber quality, and overall muscle function. Creatine supplementation needs to coupled with resistance training to ensure muscle growth. By maintaining muscle mass and strength, women can enhance their physical performance, functional independence, and overall quality of life.
Enhanced Muscle Strength and Power:
Supplementation has shown promising results specifically in improving muscle strength and power in women over 50. By increasing the availability of ATP, creatine enables muscles to generate more force during exercise, leading to significant increase in strength gains. This can be particularly beneficial for activities that require explosive movements, such as lifting weights, climbing stairs, or engaging in sports.
It is important to note that in order to have the increase in lean body mass and muscle gains in strength and power, creatine must be must combined with strength training.
Improved Bone Density:
Maintaining healthy bone density becomes increasingly important for postmenopausal women. Research suggests that the use of creatine supplementation may have a positive impact on bone health by stimulating osteoblast activity, which helps in bone formation. By supporting bone density, creatine can potentially reduce the risk of osteoporosis and fractures, contributing to overall skeletal health.
Enhanced Cognitive Function:
Creatine is not only beneficial for muscles but also for brain health. Studies have indicated that creatine supplementation may enhance cognitive function, memory, and mental processing speed. These cognitive benefits can be particularly relevant for women over 50 who may be experiencing menopausal brain fog or wish to support their cognitive well-being.
Research suggests that creatine supplementation may have positive effects on mood regulation and mental health. One hypothesis is that creatine may enhance the availability of energy substrates in the brain, potentially influencing neurotransmitter activity and supporting brain function. This, in turn, may contribute to mood stabilization and alleviate depressive symptoms.
For women in the menopause transition, fluctuating hormone levels can often lead to mood disturbances and an increased risk of depression. Creatine supplementation may offer a complementary approach to managing these symptoms. However, more studies are needed to fully understand the extent of creatine’s impact on mood and depression in menopausal women.
Creatine supplementation has shown potential benefits for cognition and sleep, particularly during periods of stress and sleep deprivation. Research suggests that females, who often manage stress differently and engage in multitasking more frequently, may be more susceptible to sleep disturbances.
Menopausal women often struggle with poor sleep due to symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, and increased anxiety. Lack of sleep can significantly affect cognitive function. However, creatine supplementation may help improve both sleep quality and cognitive function in these women.
Is creatine supplementation safe?
Creatine is one of the most widely studied supplements that consistently demonstrates positive effects without raising safety concerns. Extensive research has shown that creatine supplementation poses no significant health risks and is generally well-tolerated with minimal side effects. It offers numerous potential health benefits for individuals who regularly incorporate it as a dietary supplement. Adhering to the recommended dosages, which will be discussed below, can help minimize any potential side effects.
How much creatine does a woman need?
The human body naturally produces approximately 1 gram of creatine per day through the liver, pancreas, and kidneys. However, the body uses around 2 grams of creatine daily. To compensate for this shortfall, one can either increase consumption of animal proteins such as red meat and seafood or consider creatine supplementation.
I don’t generally recommend women increase their red meat consumption( the opposite actually, for heart health) so supplementation becomes important.
There are two approaches to supplementation: the loading phase followed by a maintenance phase or a daily consistent dose. Both methods effectively increase creatine levels in the body, but the loading phase provides quicker saturation of creatine in muscle and brain cells.
Here are the recommended guidelines for each approach:
Loading Phase: Take 0.3 grams of creatine per kilogram of body weight per day, spread out over four equal doses, for a duration of five days. This loading phase helps rapidly increase creatine levels in the body.
Maintenance Phase: After the loading phase, switch to a maintenance dose. Take 0.03 grams of creatine per kilogram of body weight per day, in one daily dose.
Alternatively, a common recommendation is to take a daily consistent dose of 3-5 grams of creatine right from the start without the loading phase.
Can creatine make you feel bloated?
Two reasons that women often shy away from starting creatine is fear of bloating and weight gain. The bloating feeling associated with creatine supplementation could be due to increased water retention in the muscles. Water is needed to store creatine in the muscle cells, leading to a temporary increase in water weight. This can lead to an increase on the scale as well but don’t be alarmed as ultimately being more hydrated is a good thing. Most women can avoid this temporary shift in fluid by using a consistent dose of 3-5 grams per day instead of the loading dose.
Can you take creatine before bed?
Creatine is not a stimulant so you can take it before bed without any issues. The best time of day to take creatine is when you are most likely to remember to take it. Taking it consistently is the key. You are looking to fully saturate your muscles before you will see your performance optimized. Typically that happens in 3-4 weeks if you are taking a dose of 3-5 grams per day.
What are the best creatine supplements to take?
Look for Creatine Monohydrate. This form of creatine has been extensively studied, is universally regarded as safe for all populations and is nearly 100% absorbed. It also tends to be the most economical.
It is a tasteless, odorless powder made in the laboratory and is generally vegan. The powder form can easily be added add to water or juice. You could look for micronized creatine which are smaller particles of creatine powder that makes mixing into liquids easier.
It is crucial when choosing any dietary supplements that they have undergone third-party testing to ensure purity and quality. Unfortunately, the supplement industry is prone to contamination issues. Look for certifications from trusted organizations such as NSF International, US Pharmacopeia, or ISHURA, to ensure the product meets rigorous standards of quality and purity.
Can creatine go bad?
Creatine, when stored properly, has a long shelf life, and does not typically go bad. The compound itself is stable and does not degrade under normal storage conditions. Studies have shown that it can remain stable up to 3 years. However, certain factors can affect the quality and effectiveness of creatine over time.
Exposure to moisture, excessive heat, or direct sunlight can potentially degrade the quality of creatine. It is best to store creatine in a cool, dry place, away from moisture and heat sources.
Creatine degrades into creatinine which won’t cause harm but will no longer give you the effects you are looking for.
Creatine is a well-studied and generally safe supplement that offers numerous potential benefits for women. From enhancing muscle strength and power to supporting cognitive function and mitigating age-related muscle loss, creatine can be a valuable addition to a woman’s health and fitness regimen.
If you have further questions or need personalized advice, don’t hesitate to reach out, I am happy to provide individualized guidance tailored to your specific needs.