Creatine with Protein Helps Strength Training for Older Men

Creatine is naturally present in vertebrates and provides energy to muscles. This study examines if inclusion of small amounts of creatine and protein in the diet of older men during resistance training will improve muscle quality and function. Three groups of older men were given protein plus creatine, just creatine, or a placebo on training days. The sizes of different muscles and their strength were measured before and after training. Urine samples were tested for signs of adverse effects of creatine consumption. All volunteers, except the placebo group, showed increase in body and muscle mass. There was an increase in muscle strength in those who received protein and creatine. The experimental groups also showed decreased protein and bone breakdown.

Aging is associated with a decrease in muscle mass and strength. Resistance training helps rebuild muscle. High amounts of creatine (21 grams a day) in diet increase muscle rebuilding. However, it also creates formaldehyde, which is thought to cause damage blood vessel linings. Previous reports on young adults had showed that low doses of creatine (8 grams a day) together with protein were beneficial to muscle. This study tested if the same was true in aging people. The researchers in this study expected the reduced amount of creatine to reduce the production of formaldehyde. The study also tested its effect on the breakdown of muscle proteins and bone matter.

* Forty men in the 59 to 77 age group, with no history of having received creatine supplementation, participated in this study. They trained three days a week for 10 weeks, and were divided into groups to test the effect of just creatine, or creatine and protein, or a placebo.
* Muscle thickness in different parts of their bodies (elbows, knees etc.) was measured before and after the experimental period, using ultrasound. Muscle strength was determined using bench and leg-press.
* Urine was tested regularly for degradation products of protein and bone, and for formaldehyde, using previously described techniques.

* Training itself increased lean tissue mass in all groups, but it was the highest in the group on creatine plus protein diet, and the least in placebo group.
* Body mass and muscle thickness increased the most in the creatine plus protein group, and the least in placebo group. Muscle strength was the also highest in the creatine plus protein group.
* Formaldehyde quantity did not change for any of the groups; however, bone and protein degradation products reduced in the groups that received creatine.
* The increase in lean muscle mass was comparatively higher for strength in bench press than for leg press.

Shortcomings/Next steps
A part of the increase seen in muscle mass could have been because of water retention. It was impossible to check it without surgical intervention. Inconsistencies on the increase in lean tissue mass after a creatine diet are seen in this study and in previous reports, possibly an error caused by different experimental setups.

Though there is a higher loss of muscle mass and strength with age, small amounts of creatine added to the diet are beneficial to older men, as it is in younger men. In fact, the improvement is markedly more in the older men. Muscle mass and lean tissue mass improve further when creatine is taken in combination with a protein supplement. Creatine consumption in small amounts, only on training days, brings down the production of harmful byproducts like formaldehyde to safe levels. Creatine also reduces catabolism or breakdown of muscle protein and bone tissue. In older men as in younger men, creatine helps preserve muscle health.

For More Information:
Low-Dose Creatine Combined with Protein during Resistance Training in Older Men
Publication Journal: Medicine & Science In Sports & Exercise, 2008
By Darren G. Candow; Jonathan P. Little; University of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada and University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.