Ageing in sport: can creatine prevent muscle reduction?

Research suggests creatine can improve an ageing athlete's performance

Can creatine stave off the reduction in muscle performance that accompanies ageing? That is the question a team of French researchers set out to answer with a study examining the effects of short-term doses of oral creatine on healthy elderly men.

Forty-two healthy volunteers were divided into three groups, as follows:

1. 14 elderly sedentary men with a mean age of 70.1 years;
2. 14 elderly trained cyclists (mean age 66.4 years);
3. 14 young sedentary men (mean age 26).

Half the people in each group were treated with creatine (three 5g doses per day) and the other half with placebo for five days. Before and after the study period all the subjects performed five all-out 10s sprints on a cycle ergometer, separated by 60s intervals of passive recovery. Power output, work performance and heart rate data were recorded during each sprint.

Those treated with creatine in both sedentary groups showed significant improvements in maximal power and work performed in the subsequent tests compared with those given placebo. But no significant change in pedalling performances was seen in the trained elderly subjects. However, power outputs were always greater in the trained than the sedentary groups, confirming the difference in fitness between them.

'Our study suggests,' conclude the authors, 'that creatine given by mouth increases the anaerobic power and work capacity of sedentary people of different ages during maximal pedalling tasks. However, the level of physical activity seems to be a determinant of the ergogenic effect of creatine in older subjects.'

These results accord with those of a number of studies on younger adults, with an ergogenic effect generally reported in untrained subjects not always replicated in highly trained or ³lite subjects.

Eur J Appl Physiol 2001 Jun 84(6), pp533-9

Isabel Walker

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