DISCLAIMER: Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new routines, programs, or nutrition plans to ensure you receive the best medical advice and strategy for your specific individual needs.
Every day we hear or read about another miracle supplement claiming to improve our health or athletic performance. From vitamins and minerals to melatonin, probiotics, and fish oil, each one is advertised as the best on the market, oftentimes with no substantial evidence to support such claims. Creatine, however, a supplement long used by bodybuilders and athletes, may offer some real benefits. And it’s not just sportspersons and musclemen that creatine makes sense for. Women can also benefit from supplementation, especially near and after menopause.
Besides muscle growth and performance, creatine supports bone health, improves focus and cognitive function, boosts energy levels, and fights fatigue, helping midlife women feel healthier and fitter during menopause.
So, let’s look closely at how creatine benefits women over 40. But first.
What Is Creatine Supplementation?
A naturally occurring compound found in fish and meat, creatine promotes muscle growth and improves athletic performance. For exercising individuals, especially during high-intensity activities like jumping, sprinting, and weightlifting, supplementation can be highly beneficial.
When taken as a supplement, creatine provides the muscles with energy, resulting in gains in power and endurance. Additionally, creatine helps reduce muscle soreness and damage, thus speeding up recovery. As well as fueling the muscles and helping with recovery, creatine supplementation has been studied for its potential benefits in areas like brain health and cognition, injury prevention, and blood sugar control.
Available in a variety of forms, including tablets, capsules, powder, and premixed liquids, creatine is popular with bodybuilders, athletes, and exercising individuals looking to improve their performance. Supplementing with creatine is generally considered safe.
As always, it’s best to talk to your doctor, especially if you have any preexisting conditions or take medications such as diuretics and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Additionally, creatine is not recommended for breastfeeding, pregnant women, and people with liver and kidney disease.
Also, if you consider taking creatine, it is important to stay properly hydrated, follow the recommended dosage, and cycle your use.
How Does Creatine Help with Muscle Growth?
Synthesized by the pancreas, kidneys, and liver from amino acids, creatine is transported to the muscle cells and stored in the form of a high-energy molecule called phosphocreatine. This amino acid plays a role in producing adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the main energy source for muscle contraction.
The demand for ATP increases during high-intensity exercises like sprinting and weightlifting. Supplementing with creatine speeds up the synthesis of ATP, which, in turn, allows you to perform more reps and sets of exercises and build muscle over time.
In addition, creatine draws water into the muscle cells, resulting in an increase in volume and size. This muscle volume growth allows for greater strength and endurance during exercise, leading to improved athletic performance.
Third, creatine may increase the synthesis of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), a hormone that plays a role in muscle repair and growth. A number of studies have investigated the role of IGF-1 in muscle development, both in humans and animals.
In animal studies, insulin-like growth factor-1 has been shown to increase muscle protein in rats. In humans, research suggests that muscle fuel supplementation augments IGF-1 response to heavy resistance exercise, significantly improving the number of repetitions performed and vertical jump power output.
How Does Creatine Help Women Over 40?
While the bulk of research has involved male athletes, some evidence suggests that creatine could be important for women over 40.
In fact, a recent study published in Nutrients shows that creatine supplementation benefits women from peri- to post-menopause because of the hormonal changes that affect its synthesis. In postmenopausal women, in particular, creatine supplements are shown to improve skeletal muscle function, size, strength, and athletic performance when combined with exercise. This is so because supplementation helps reduce oxidative stress and inflammation which cause damage to the muscle tissue.
As well as increasing muscle strength, creatine is known to improve bone mineral density and health, which is particularly important for women after 40 who are at an increased risk for osteoporosis.
One recent study among postmenopausal women, for example, found that when combined with resistance training, creatine supplementation helps improve hip bone mineral density.
Another study involving postmenopausal females indicates that supplementing with creatine, along with resistance training, results in a decrease in mineral density loss and significant improvement in bone bending strength.
Additionally, clinical evidence suggests that creatine positively affects cognition and mood and can improve symptoms of depression. Low dietary intake is positively associated with depression, with a 31% higher likelihood in adults with low creatine levels.
Research further indicates that creatine administration can help improve reasoning and intelligence. This hypothesis is supported by studies among patients with intellectual disabilities and severe developmental delays, which show improvement in their neurological status after creatine administration.
In addition to genetic disorders affecting mental function, creatine supplementation has been found to reduce the risk of age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Studies suggest that creatine can positively affect patients with Alzheimer’s, slowing down the progression of the condition.
With evidence of its role in cellular bioenergetic processes, creatine is also studied as a leading candidate in treating long-term memory impairments, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and Huntington’s disease.
Likewise, creatine has been investigated for its efficacy in treating conditions such as chronic musculoskeletal pain disorders, congestive heart failure, stroke, and post-stroke depression.
That said, while creatine is effective and generally safe, with multiple physiological and psychological benefits for women in their 40s, it is important to talk to your doctor before starting any new supplement regimen, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking medications.
Loss of bone and muscle mass can be a serious health concern near and after menopause. Many midlife women are also struggling with depression, brain fog, low energy, and fatigue, making menopause feel like a challenging and distressing experience.
While hormonal therapy can help alleviate menopausal symptoms, it is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, and deep vein thrombosis. Many women choose not to take hormonal therapy. This is where supplements come in, and creatine is, by far, one of the most widely studied and well-researched supplements out there.
Combined with a well-balanced diet and regular exercise, creatine has been shown to benefit women over 40 in a number of ways. From healthy bones and stronger muscles to improved cognitive performance and energy levels, creatine can help improve your overall health and quality of life near and during menopause.