Creatine For Boomer Bodybuilders
Is It Safe And Effective For Over-40 Trainees?
Because of my 40-year history in weight training, including competition bodybuilding, training other bodybuilding champions, writing for web sites and magazines and more than a decade of owning my own health club, I've seen a plethora of supplements come and go. As I demand scientific evidence that a new supplement gets results before I'll accept nutritional claims, I'm always slow to incorporate new products into my program.
Long ago I found enough evidence of the safety and effectiveness of vitamins, minerals and protein supplements to use them religiously. Gradually, I've begun to acknowledge the benefits of some other supplements. For example, recently I became convinced that glutamine is an important supplement for athletes.
One product that gets a lot of attention is creatine. With sales estimated at $100 to $200 million, it obviously has a lot of believers, but is it something we boomer bodybuilders should be taking?
What Is Creatine?
Creatine is produced naturally in the human kidney, liver and pancreas from the amino acids arginine, glycine and methionine, and you can also get small amounts from eating meat and salmon. The body has approximately 100 grams of it, with 95 percent stored in the skeletal muscles and the rest in the brain, heart and testes. When taken orally, creatine combines with phosphate to create phosphocreatine, which is stored in muscle cells.
Phosphocreatine is involved in the ATP-PC system, in which the body uses adenosine triphosphate for energy. When it runs out of ATP, it uses phosphocreatine to convert adenosine diphosphate - ADP - back into ATP. In other words, having extra creatine gives you more ATP for energy for short, intense activities, like weight training.
In addition, creatine appears to buffer lactic acid by increasing the pH in cells during the conversion process, thus reducing the burning sensation from lactic acid as well as increasing work capacity by delaying the point of muscle failure. [Editor's note: That's the premier effect of beta-alanine, which studies show is a synergist to use with creatine.]
Creatine's Role In Bodybuilding And Exercise:
In addition to providing energy and buffering lactic acid, the anecdotal evidence that creatine is effective for accelerating size and strength gains seems to be supported by the scientific literature.
| Lactic Acid:
Lactic acid (IUPAC systematic name: 2-hydroxypropanoic acid), also known as milk acid, is a chemical compound that plays a role in several biochemical processes.
One complaint is that even though creatine helps produce a great pump that may last for days after training, any gains made are just water. In fact, when I first experimented with using creatine, I seemed to experience some water retention and stopped taking it. I wanted lean muscle, not water-bloated muscle. (I don't need to be reminded that muscle is 70 percent water, but if I want to retain water, I'll eat more salt!)
Editor's note: Richard Baldwin, Ph.D., 58, is a former Mr. USA and Mr. America class winner. IM