Creatine is a well-known name for athletes and bodybuilders. It is thought to increase muscle bulk; however, it does much more than that.
This nutrient is an organic acid that is used during the metabolism of proteins. It is also produced by the liver and kidney inside the body. However, most of the creatine is taken from outside food sources. Red meat and seafood, for example, are rich sources of creatine.
Creatine resides mainly in muscles and is composed of three amino acids. Creatine has been studied extensively in the recent era and is found to have amazing potentials in treating and preventing many syndromes like Parkinson’s and muscle wasting.
Creatine is an important contributor to the body’s energy production. It donates a phosphate group for the production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which is the basic and sole energy unit required for all the vital functions of the body. Thus, creatine fuels the body for better functioning and longer sustainability.
Why do we age?
The process of aging has not been completely understood yet. However, many hypotheses have been proposed and accepted by medical experts regarding the aging process. The two main factors that need to be addressed and resolved are:
- Loss of muscle mass
- Loss of strength (wear and tear of tissues. In addition, genetic propensity and other biofactors also play a role in accelerating or slowing down the aging process. Hormonal variants are also crucial factors.
Loss of muscle mass and muscle strength is referred to as as sarcopenia, the main culprit for the aging process.
A balanced amount of muscle mass is required for a normal lifestyle and to perform routine activities. A decrease in strength leaves the person weak and impaired, major signs of aging.
Muscle mass is as important as bone mass and loss of any of these components leads to weakness and aging. Although physical inactivity is a big factor in causing sarcopenia, physically active people are also not excluded and their muscles, too, begin to waste in old age.
This process generally begins after 45 years of age. An average woman loses about 30% of her muscle mass until the age of 80. Lack of physical activity greatly accelerates this process.
Creatine effects on aging people:
Since most of the creatine resides in the skeletal muscles of the body, it naturally affects muscular changes. Regular aerobic exercises and muscular workouts exaggerate the effects of creatine and enhance its effects many times over.
In old age, people have a lesser amount of creatine and other related nutrients. This leads to fatigue and wearing of the muscle mass. Muscles are unable to derive the required energy to make repairs so they start to diminish.
Atrophy of the muscles ensues. It is more pronounced in aging women as low levels of estrogen cause muscle-wasting at a faster pace. Here, creatine is the magic nutrient that will do the work to retain muscle mass and power. It will supply the energy source to the muscle fibers so that they don’t lose their tensile components. Creatine supplementation will sustain your muscles and greatly reduce their wear and tear.
How does creatine play an anti-aging role?
Creatine exerts multifold effects on different body systems that culminate in reduced muscle mass and increased body strength. A number of studies conducted on creatine have established the fact that it can increase the short term power of muscle and has the capability to refill the energy stores after an intense exercise. Following are the main steps in the mechanism of anti-aging as per the role of creatine to slow down the aging process:
1. Maintenance of Cellular energy:
The cell is a basic component of our body and all of our organs are made up of cells. When cells are healthy, everything will be fine but decline in cells’ function will exert deleterious effects. A healthy cell is capable of producing an adequate amount of ATP, removing the cellular debris and renewing the impaired organelles. However, an aged cell will not be able to meet the oxidative stress and will lack in ATP production. Lack of ATP and excess of oxidants will lead the cell to death, resulting in atrophy of the whole organ. In this way, muscular cells start dying and muscle mass gets decreased. Creatine plays its role by facilitating the supply of ATP and strengthening the functions of cells.
2. A decrease in aging markers:
The wear and tear process continues all the time inside the body. If cells are healthy, they overcome the problem and body components are renewed. However after a certain limit or age, the wear and tear problem takes over the repair process and certain markers are produced. These body markers are indication for tissue damage. Lipofuscin is the main pigmented marker that indicates cellular damage. It has been shown that creatine reduces the accumulation of such markers including lipofuscin, hence leading to a slower process of aging.
3. Anti-inflammatory effects:
Inflammation is the basis for most cellular destruction. Inflammatory substances induce apoptosis (cellular suicide) in milder forms and necrosis (cellular killing) when intense. Inflammation is especially a problem for regular exercisers as exercise causes the release of some inflammatory substances.
Much research has been conducted on the role of creatine on inflammation. It was shown that creatine causes a decrease in inflammation, at least after an intense workout. People who were supplemented with creatine for a week before the exercise showed a lesser degree of inflammation in contrast to the people who were not supplemented with creatine.
4. Improved brain function:
Everyone is aware of the importance of the brain as the nucleus of our body and most important structure governing all body functions. The brain is also the most delicate part that needs a balanced amount of all the nutrients and gets atrophied in the absence of any nutrient even for seconds.
Creatine is a blessing in this regard, as studies have shown. The most striking effect of creatine is the stability of brain cells. It improves the functioning of the brain by providing cellular energy. Creatine strengthens the mitochondrial apparatus and helps to regulate the energy production within the brain cells. It improves the cognitive functions of the brain in young people too. This aspect of creatine is being studied more and more in order to seek a cure for brain problems like Alzheimer’s and Parkinsins.
Aging is a continuous, ongoing and unstoppable process. However, proper nutrition and understanding the role of each nutrient can slow down this process, resulting in a healthier and ‘younger’ body. Creatine is such a nutrient, and has shown promising results in controlling the aging process. It maintains the body at an optimum state and slows down the weakening effects of aging. In addition to improving and growing muscle mass, I have seen its benefits in Parkinson’s disorder and other neurological conditions as an adjunct therapy. I urge you all to take a minimum of 10 grams of creatine on regular basis to prolong the younger self full of energy and joy.
- Gotshalk LA, Kraemer WJ, Mendonca MA, Vingren JL, Kenny AM, Spiering BA, Hatfield DL, Fragala MS, Volek JS. Creatine supplementation improves muscular performance in older women.Eur J Appl Physiol 2007.