Creatine for All: Exploring its Benefits for Non-Athletes and Fitness Enthusiasts

Benefits of creatine for older people and people who have been inactive for a long time

Imagine a supplement that can supercharge your workouts, sculpt your physique, and sharpen your mind. You might think it’s only reserved for professional athletes, but think again.

In this article, I want to prove that it’s very useful not only in athletes, but in older people or people who’ve been in bed and want to recover faster to start training again. I’ve recently written about how we passed through a period of all kinds of flu and Covid in about 2 months. So me and my husband got very low in shape and respiratory capacity.

My idea with this research is to find evidence that we can start recovering even before hitting the gym.

So fasten your seatbelts and let’s discover how creatine can help us get a stronger body, a sharper mind, and an overall better us. It’s time to unleash the power of creatine for all!

However, what follows is not a medical advice nor dietetics. It’s a summary of current nutrition and exercise research, and my interpretation. I recommend you to always consult with a licensed professional before using any supplements.

Understanding creatine

Let’s start by understanding what creatine is and how it works before we dive into the benefits.

Creatine is a naturally occurring compound found in our bodies, primarily in the muscles, where it plays a crucial role in energy production. It’s an amino acid, and that’s great, according to Alexandra, a food scientist. She explained it really well in this article in In Fitness and In Health:

“The main core is special too. No matter which amino acids you pick, you will always have an amino group and carboxylic acid group (that’s the reason for the name: amino acid). What’s special about these two groups is that they make the molecule react both as an acid and as a base. Which is a big deal if you want to be flexible!”

Now, getting back to creatine, as medlineplus.gov states “About 95% of it is found in skeletal muscle.” And that’s why we can find the most “natural” creatine supply in meat and seafood. For example, according to Lisa Booth, a registered dietitian nutritionist, 100 grams of salmon contain 0.9 grams of creatine.

When we engage in high-intensity activities, such as lifting weights or sprinting, our muscles rely on adenosine triphosphate (ATP) for energy. Creatine helps replenish ATP stores (as Robert Cooper’s study states here). It allows muscles to sustain high levels of effort for longer periods.

Types of creatine

Now that we know we want to supplement with creatine, the next question is “Which one?” There are several types of creatine available on the market.

These days, although creatine monohydrate is the most researched (over 30 years of studies), there are still some organizations and companies which want to “sell” us that the novel forms of creatine are more effective.

So before enumerating the common forms of creatine, I want to refer to the most recent critical review on creatine monohydrate. It explains all about the bioavailability, efficacy, safety and regulatory status of creatine.

Later I’ll continue my line of ideas using the creatine monohydrate as the one me and my husband use.

Now, let’s see some of the most common forms of creatine:

1. Creatine Monohydrate (CrM)

This is the most widely researched and commonly used form of creatine, as I mentioned before. It comprises creatine molecules bonded with a water molecule.

2. Creatine Ethyl Ester (CEE)

CEE is a modified form of creatine that is claimed to have better absorption and bioavailability than creatine monohydrate. However, there is limited scientific evidence supporting these claims.

3. Creatine Hydrochloride (HCL)

Creatine HCL is another form of creatine that claims to have enhanced solubility and absorption compared to creatine monohydrate. Companies often market it as a more concentrated form of creatine. However, similar to CEE, scientific research supporting the superiority of creatine HCL is lacking.

4. Buffered Creatine

Buffered creatine, also known as Kre-Alkalyn, is a pH-buffered form of creatine monohydrate. Supporters assert it exhibits enhanced stability, and a decreased tendency to convert into creatinine, a waste product that is linked to certain side effects of creatine supplementation. However, scientific evidence supporting the superiority of buffered creatine is inconclusive.

5. Micronized Creatine

Micronized creatine refers to creatine monohydrate that has been processed into smaller particles, resulting in improved solubility and mixing properties. They often highlight it for its ease of use and ability to dissolve more readily into liquids.

Is creatine safe for our health?

There are so many studies involving the effects of creatine on human beings. But is it healthy for us when it’s not naturally ingested through food?

I found a detailed study by scientists from the USA, Canada, and Brazil, about “Common questions and misconceptions about creatine supplementation”. And I mentioned before some studies which offer even more links to research from 30 years ago. So it’s been a long path of proving and trying to find side effects, and they are still on the go.

That’s why, as with any supplement, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before starting creatine supplementation.

What I’m missing in studies about the use of creatine is how it works with other “pills”. I mean, what happens if you have used ibuprofen for a long time as we did for more than a month? Or even other treatments, like post-cancer treatments?

I’m sure it’s safe in lab conditions when you add nothing else. But we are a huge mix of chemistry inside ourselves with a lot of treatments. So scientists should research more on what happens with these mixtures.

Benefits of creatine for non-athletes and fitness enthusiasts

I was researching if a non-athlete could benefit from creatine. Just like that, doing no exercise while still recovering from illness. Well, yes, and here is my conclusion:

Improved body composition

I read an original extended research on the effects of creatine on body composition carried out by a Memphis University’s team. The subjects of that study were soccer players who supplemented their diet for 28 days. But they also studied effects on older people and non-athletes. One of these results states:

“…long-term supplementation (8-wk) of creatine in older individuals not participating in intense training also has been associated with moderate increases in CK concentrations.”

Here, CK is creatine kinase, which is an enzyme found in our skeletal muscle, heart muscle, and brain. So Richard Kreider and his team found CK increases even in older people who are not training hard in the gym.

Increased energy levels and exercise performance

I’ve already provided evidence linking some studies which have shown that creatine supplementation leads to improved exercise performance and increased physical activity levels.

Whether it’s lifting weights, going for a run, or taking part in group fitness classes, creatine can provide that extra edge.

Cognitive benefits

We already know the benefits of creatine for our physical health. However, its potential goes far beyond our shape.

Recent studies suggest this supplement helps brain function, memory, and mental performance, particularly in non-athletic populations.

Aging and overall well-being

Creatine holds promise as an aid for healthy aging. As we grow older, maintaining muscle mass and bone density becomes increasingly important.

Research suggests that supplementing with creatine can aid in preserving muscle mass, enhancing bone density, and mitigating age-related muscle decline. Also, it may contribute to overall well-being, regulating mood and supporting brain health.

Dosage: practical considerations

If you consider creatine supplementation, first consult with a healthcare professional who can adapt dosage to your case.

Usually the recommended dosage for non-athletes is lower (around 3–5 grams per day) than for people who train hard.

Make sure you don’t mix it with other supplements which may metabolize in the same way such as HMB (β-Hydroxy β-methylbutyric acid), for example. An overdose of these supplements causes an upset stomach and even diarrhea or nausea.

My husband suffered that a year ago when doctors told him to use both supplements to prevent sarcopenia because of his cancer diseases.

Conclusion

Creatine is not just for elite athletes. We still have to research on how we can use it safely with other medicines and supplements. What we know now is there are significant benefits that extend to non-athletes and fitness enthusiasts. We all can benefit from it.

However, make sure you have informed decisions and consult with healthcare professionals before starting any new supplementation regimen.

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