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Optimum Performance: Creatine plus resistance training enhances muscle gain, strength in older people

West Palm Beach, Florida – In my mind, the phrase, “aging gracefully,” sounds like it’s time to be put out to pasture. I’m a long way from that at the young age of 63.

In fact, this week Serena Williams told me during one of our training sessions that she thinks she will finally be able to beat me sprinting (multiple sprints with short recovery), when I am 90. I said, ” maybe 95.”

Statistics demonstrate, however, that muscle strength hits its peak in your 30’s, and stays constant through the fifth decade of life. Then, it starts to decline, such that there can be as much as a 15 percent decrease in muscle strength (dynapenia) in each subsequent decade.

Loss of muscle mass (myopenia) for adults between the ages of 20 to 50 years can be five to 10 percent accelerating and 30 to 40 percent between the ages of 50 to 80 years of age.

In 2011, people ages 65 and older represented 15 and 13 percent respectively of the population in the U.S. and Canada.

So what’s a senior going to do in order to increase muscle strength, mass and functional performance with age? “Creatine Supplementation During Resistance Training in Older Adults – a meta – analysis (many similar studies),” which appears in the June issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, may hold the key to this question.

Creatine, according to Vanderbilt University is, “A metabolite that is produced naturally by the human body… is found mainly in the red muscle tissue, but it is also present in the heart and brain. However, when dietary intake is low, creatine can be produced from natural amino acids such as glycine, arginine, and methionine in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas. Creatine monohydrate is the synthetic form of creatine,” which is available over the counter.

Resistance training (weights, tubing, hydraulics, etc.) can increase muscle mass and strength in both young and older populations. We also know that, “Both protein consumption and resistance training independently stimulate MPS (muscle protein synthesis), but when protein is consumed near resistance exercise, MPS is increased to a greater extent than either stimuli alone.”

In 2007, my book, “Lean and Hard – the body you’ve always wanted in 24 workouts,” outlined a six week specific diet, resistance exercise, sprint training, and supplement protocol, that included the use of creatine monohydrate, whey protein, and a maltodextrine (carbohydrate) to increase muscle mass, strength, and performance.

My book was targeted to adults with the caveat that a medical clearance from the reader’s personal physician was a prerequisite before starting the program.

Researchers from the Exercise and Metabolism Research Group from the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada evaluated ten studies from 12 published reports including 357 subjects, which were chosen, “If they were randomized, placebo – controlled trials investigating the effects of creatine supplementation on body composition, strength, and/or functional performance in middle aged /older adults (>45 years) during a period of RT (resistance training),” greater than six weeks.

The McMaster researchers concluded that, “this meta – analysis supports a role for creatine supplementation paired with RT in attenuating (thinning or weakening) adverse sarcopenia – related changes (loss of muscle mass with age).” The researchers added that, “Notably, we show that creatine supplementation during RT (>6 weeks) favorably influenced body composition, strength, and functional performance to a greater extent than RT alone in older adults.”

Now before you jump up and go run out to buy creatine monohydrate, let’s put things into perspective. First, the 10 studies involved middle aged to older adults – not adolescents.

Next, there was, at minimum, six weeks of supervised resistance training with multiple sessions per week. And, most importantly, these adults were medically cleared for participation.

Let common sense be your guide, when it comes to “aging gracefully.”

Mackie Shilstone, a regular contributor to | The Times-Picayune, has been involved in the wellness sports performance industry for nearly 40 years. He is currently the fitness coach for Serena Williams, has trained numerous other professional athletes and consulted a litany of professional sports franchises. He is St. Charles Parish Hospital’s Fitness and Wellness expert. Contact him at

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