Supplementing creatine

One of the talks that caught my attention at the SDA Conference was Dr Tom Doering‘s work on creatine supplementation for master athletes. For those who are not into sports, the term “master” means old. The cut-off age depends on the sport; in my case (weightlifting) is 35.

As we age, we lose muscle mass and strength and creatine can be a useful supplement for older athletes, particularly those engaging in weightlifting and other power sports.

Dr Doering recommends taking creatine monohydrate with meals or a post-exercise snack containing carbohydrate and protein. The protocol is a 7-day loading phase (0.3g/kg/day) followed by a maintenance phase of 2g per day. I asked him if there would be any gender differences and he says there should be none as the dose is weight-based. I also asked if the loading phase should be matched with a more intense programming but once again the answer was no.

It’s well-known that creatine monohydrate can cause weight gain (gasp!) due to water retention. I was relieved to hear that this is about 1.8kg in men, which is not a lot. I decided the potential benefits were promising enough and started the experiment on Dec 3rd.

Creatine

I must say the loading phase was not very pleasant. The creatine I’m using has a mild orange flavour that makes its chalky texture more bearable. But 0.3g/kg (~17g for me) is a lot of creatine (2g = 1 tsp). I divided my daily intake into 4 doses to take with my 3 meals and 1 post-workout snack. I got some stomach upset (particularly when taking fewer larger doses) but it didn’t last long.

I took measurements at home and used the SiSU Wellness Station at my local Priceline to measure body composition (which is unlikely to be accurate but it’s a good indication). Below are the results.

Date Upper arm (cm) Waist (cm) Hip (cm) Right thigh (cm) Weight (kg) Fat %
2/12/17 (baseline) 27.8 69.8 87.8 50.5 58.3 13.10%
10/12/17 (post-loading phase) 27.8 71 88.4 51.8 59.1 11.20%
23/12/17 (maintenance) 28.6 71.2 89.8 52.1 59.3 9.81%
6/1/18 (maintenance) 27.5 69.8 88.9 51.5 58.8 14.10%
28/1/18 (maintenance) 27.5 71.5 91 52.9 59.9 11.80%

Yes, my weight has gone up but it’s hard to tell if it’s water or muscle mass. However, my thighs getting bigger while my body fat remaining low, could be an indication of true muscle gain. Subjectively, 10-rep sets of squats don’t suck as much as they used to.

Finally, I PBd in jerk off blocks heavy doubles and in the clean & jerk after 2 years. This happened in early January, during the maintenance phase. I feel stronger and I’m pretty sure I will get a PB in the snatch soon.

In summary, I think creatine can be a useful supplement, especially for “middle age warriors” (as my coach calls us) who would like to increase or maintain strength and muscle mass. Keep in mind that creatine won’t do miracles and that not everyone experience benefits from it, so try it and see how it works for you.

For more information about creatine, check Examine.com.

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