On this Monday morning I’m reading a meta-analysis on the impact of creatine (Cr) on resistance training outcomes in older adults (over 44 yrs) just published in Medicine and science in sports in exercise (Devries and Phillips, 46 (6): 1194-1203). For those unfamiliar with a meta-analysis, this is a method of research where authors review all of the published literature then choose the “best” papers on a topic using a rigorous and published criteria of inclusion and exclusion. They then pool the results of those studies, effectively creating one large study. It is generally viewed as one of the best ways to draw overall conclusions on an area of study by eliminating poorly designed/executed studies, while pooling the best.
In this paper the authors looked at studies using apparently healthy older adults who took part in a creatine supplementation studies combined with at least 2 days of resistance training. Each study needed to have specific criterion measures pre and post to quantify actual changes. A total of 10 studies were included in the final analyses. As the authors later point out, this is a relatively small number of quality studies using a total of 357 subjects, so final conclusions cannot be taken as definitive, but they are compelling. The age of all subjects was just under 65 yrs, performing just over 12 wks of resistance training (RT) on average. Some studies used a loading period, others did not, but the average maintenance does was about 5 g/day.
Salient Results of Creatine Supplementation
Compared to resistance training alone, Cr:
* increased fat-free mass more than RT alone
* increased bench press and squat 1 rep max strength
* increased 30-s chair stand test; number of stands in 30-s
* a strong trend toward decreased body fat
Creatine is one of the most studied supplements on the market; probably a distant second to caffeine. There is overwhelming evidence that creatine is both safe and effective for improving resistance training and explosive sprint sports in younger adults, including athletes. This study is the first to examine to overall impacts on older adults. The authors conclude that the current literature supports the combined role of Cr and RT in older adults to reduce the loss of muscle mass and function. While the results of this analysis are not conclusive due to the relatively small number of overall studies, it is clear that Cr supplementation is safe and not detrimental; not to mention it costs pennies per day. The authors indicate that for the greatest impact, RT programs should be progressive and Cr be ingested with carbohydrate.