Loss of muscle and bone mass is an alarming concern for aging women, as it poses a significant threat to their vitality and independence. As women go through menopause, there is a decline in ovarian estrogen, resulting in substantial changes in muscle and bone. This decline leads to a decrease in muscle mass and strength, as well as a loss of bone density, which can lead to an increased risk of falls, fractures, and various medical conditions like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, depression, and cardiopulmonary disease. However, the impact is not limited to muscles and bones alone. Mid-life women also frequently struggle with sleep deprivation, brain fog, depression, and mood swings.

Let’s explore the science behind creatine supplementation and explore its potential benefits for active, older women that extend beyond just muscles and bones. Creatine is a naturally occurring compound synthesized in the human body by the kidneys and liver from amino acids like glycine and arginine. It plays a crucial role in muscle movement by being stored as phosphocreatine, which acts as an energy source. Besides being produced in the body, creatine can also be found in animal proteins like red meat, fish, poultry, and organ meats.

The phospho in phosphocreatine is essential for the production of adenosine tri-phosphate (ATP) found within cell components called mitochondria. Mitochondria can be thought of as the batteries that power cells in our tissues, while ATP serves as the charge. When ATP is used up, it is converted to ADP (adenosine diphosphate), similar to how a cell phone’s battery bars decrease. To recharge the cell phone battery (ATP) to its full potential, it needs to be plugged into an electrical outlet. Similarly, creatine serves as the energy source to charge the mitochondria fully and replenish ATP stores in our cells.

Athletes have been using creatine supplementation for years to enhance performance, and it is one of the safest and most well-studied supplements within the sports industry. While most research has been conducted on young male athletes, attention has turned towards investigating the potential benefits of creatine supplementation to preserve muscle mass and function in older individuals, especially menopausal women. A review of various studies and randomized control trials examining creatine supplementation in older women has revealed some important findings:

  1. Women have significantly lower creatine stores (70-80% lower) and consume lower amounts of creatine in their diets compared to men.
  2. Declining estrogen levels during menopause contribute to increased inflammation and oxidative stress, leading to a reduction in protein synthesis and response to anabolic stimuli. Creatine supplementation has been suggested as a way to counteract the inflammatory effects of declining estrogen.
  3. Creatine supplementation without resistance training has minimal impact on muscle mass, strength, function, and bone density parameters in menopausal women.
  4. However, when combined with a consistent, long-term strength-training program (3 months or more), daily supplementation of 5g of creatine has shown improvement in muscle strength, function, and bone density parameters in menopausal women aged 50-65+.
  5. Multiple studies have demonstrated no significant adverse effects of creatine supplementation in menopausal women.
  6. Clinical evidence suggests that creatine supplementation can positively affect mood by restoring brain energy levels and balance. It may also have favorable impacts on the dopamine and serotonin systems.
  7. Creatine supplementation consistently enhances cognitive performance and brain function, especially in cases of sleep deprivation and mental fatigue, which are common challenges for mid-life women experiencing vasomotor symptoms (hot flashes) and disrupted sleep.

Based on the findings from these studies, there are some recommendations for mid-life women who want to maintain their muscle mass, strength, and overall health:

  1. As part of your long-term workout regimen, engage in a consistent resistance/strength training program at least 2-3 times a week.
  2. Consider daily supplementation of creatine monohydrate to improve muscle strength, mass, function, bone density parameters, and body composition. A loading dose is not necessary, and a daily dose of 5g/day, ideally in a shake, beverage, or with food, over time will achieve appropriate tissue saturation levels. Vegetarians may require a higher dose of 5-10g daily.
  3. If you have chronic kidney or liver conditions, it’s essential to consult with your doctor before incorporating creatine into your nutrition plan.

Creatine supplementation holds great potential for active, older women, offering benefits beyond muscles and bones. With the guidance of pioneering experts like Dr. Carla DiGirolamo, women can effectively incorporate creatine into their fitness and wellness routines to maintain muscle mass, strength, and overall health as they age. Contact us today and empower yourself to lead a vibrant and independent lifestyle well into your golden years!