Creatine and Menopause

Published on: 06/25/2024
woman's hands holding a scoop of white powder over a drinking glass with water

Creatine is a natural powerhouse in your muscle cells, helping them crank out energy during high-intensity exercise and heavy lifting. But did you know that women’s muscle creatine stores are typically 70 to 80 percent lower than men’s? (1) And if you’re vegan, vegetarian, or don’t eat much meat, your levels might be even lower. (2)

Creatine is an amino acid primarily found in muscles and the brain. It’s also naturally produced in the body from other amino acids and is present in foods like meat, eggs, and fish. Creatine is crucial for producing cellular energy by helping create ATP, a molecule essential for intense exercise and powering the heart and brain. (1) 

In this blog, we’ll dive into how creatine supplementation can boost your health and wellness, especially if you’re navigating the wild ride of menopause. Last month, we discussed Pre Pro and Psycho Biotics. Although I don’t often write about supplements, especially in back-to-back blogs, they’ve been a hot topic in recent client discussions—and for good reason. Could this be your body’s new bestie to help you muscle through hot flashes, mood swings, and weight changes? Or is that asking too much😊? It never hurts to ask!

So, what is creatine?

Creatine is a compound formed in protein metabolism and is present in many living tissues. It supplies energy for muscular contraction. Creatine itself is remarkable because it constitutes about 1 percent of the total volume of our blood. This small but mighty compound significantly affects our energy production and overall health. So, whether lifting weights or just getting through your day, creatine is there, working its magic behind the scenes to give your muscles and brain the energy they need. Sounds pretty amazing, huh?! 

You can find creatine in foods like red meat, seafood, chicken, fish, eggs, and dairy. Plenty of creatine options exist if you’re up for trying a new supplement. We’ll talk about those a bit later.

Common Myths About Creatine and Women

“Creatine is only for men” is not a thing. There is more and more scientific evidence supporting creatine use in women. During menopause, the drop in estrogen levels significantly contributes to the age-related loss of muscle, bone mass, and strength (yikes!). While scientists are still figuring out exactly how estrogen, muscle mass, and strength are connected, there’s strong evidence that low estrogen levels lead to increased inflammation and oxidative stress. (11) So, maintaining healthy estrogen levels is crucial for keeping muscles and bones strong during and after menopause. (1)  

And the excellent news? After a thorough review of research studies involving women, it’s official: creatine is safe for women of all ages. (1,4) Before we go any further, let’s define menopause and why we are always searching for support!

Menopause and Its Challenges

Menopause is a natural milestone that officially begins 12 months after a woman’s last menstrual period. The years leading up to menopause, known as perimenopause or the menopausal transition, are when you might notice changes in your menstrual cycles and other symptoms. This transition typically starts between ages 45 and 55. So, if you’re in this age range and noticing some shifts (to put it mildly), you’re likely experiencing the journey toward menopause! 

Common issues during menopause include muscle loss, bone density reduction, mood changes, hot flashes, sleep, and bladder control, to name a few…🙃 (5,11) So, let’s fix this shit if at all possible!

How does creatine work in the body to make such a powerful impact?

Let’s keep this scientific phenomenon as simple as possible:

  • For your muscles: If you have read anything about creatine, you have likely read how creatine is beneficial for your muscles. So how does it work? ATP is the energy your cells use when you exercise. Creatine helps keep this energy flowing to your muscles during intense workouts. Besides giving you more energy and helping with muscle growth, creatine also speeds up muscle recovery. So, creatine can be a great ally in your fitness journey, whether lifting weights or doing high-intensity exercise! (1,3,7)
  • For your bones: Creatine can also benefit your bones. During menopause, your body undergoes changes that can lead to increased bone breakdown and weaker bones, making them more fragile and prone to fractures. Bone cells use creatine for energy, and studies have shown that creatine can boost the activity of the cells responsible for building bones. So, creatine supports muscle and bone health, making it a valuable supplement for overall wellness. (1,3,8,11)
  • For your brain function: Creatine isn’t just for muscles and bones; it’s great for your brain, too. Your brain needs a lot of energy (ATP) for tough tasks. Creatine supplements can help your brain produce more ATP by boosting energy stores. Plus, creatine can improve brain function by increasing dopamine levels and enhancing how your brain’s powerhouses (mitochondria) work. So, creatine can give your brain a helpful energy boost! (1,3,9,11)

Yup, it is a lot of information and powerful possibilities. Let’s dive into how we should take creatine supplements if we choose to do so (and always, always, after you discuss it with your physician!)

Creatine Supplementation and Menopause

Creatine supplements can help women going through menopause by addressing muscle and bone loss, as well as mood and brain function. (1) Here’s how it works: 

  • Reduces Inflammation and Stress: Creatine helps lower inflammation and oxidative stress, which can contribute to bone and muscle loss. (1,11,12)
  • Supports Bone Health: It reduces markers that indicate bone breakdown and boosts the activity of cells responsible for bone formation. (1,11,12)
  • Improves Muscle Health: Creatine increases the activity of cells and factors involved in muscle growth and repair. Lifting weights helps to enhance this improvement, especially in post-menopausal women. (1,3,7,11,12) 
  • Creatine and Mood: Higher levels of creatine in the spinal fluid are associated with better levels of dopamine and serotonin, which are vital for mood regulation.
    • Creatine Supplementation: Taking creatine supplements helps your brain quickly make more ATP, which can improve cognitive functions like thinking, attention, and memory.(3,9,11)
    • Variable Brain Creatine: The amount of creatine in your brain can vary based on age, lifestyle, diet, and other factors. This variability is essential when considering creatine supplements for women at different stages of life. (1,9,11)

These benefits are beneficial for post-menopausal women who experience changes in estrogen levels, making creatine a potentially effective supplement for maintaining muscle and bone health during and after menopause. (1,2,11) Why not just eat foods high in creatine? You could also try to get more creatine through food—by eating lots of beef, salmon, herring, or pork. But here’s the catch: to hit 5 grams of creatine daily, you’d need to chow down on about a kilogram of meat or fish (that’s 2.2 pounds!).😬 Needless to say, the easiest way to get your daily dose is with creatine monohydrate.

How to Use Creatine

  • What are the recommended dosages for women in menopause?
    • The general recommendation is to take 3 to 5 grams of creatine daily. A loading dose of approximately 20 grams daily can speed up results, but it’s unnecessary. Without loading, your muscles will be fully saturated after about a month. 
    • An average healthy person loses about 2 grams of creatine daily, so a 3-gram dose ensures you replace this and boost muscle creatine. (1,12)
  • Are there brands just for women?
    • The idea that women shouldn’t take the same creatine supplements as men is a myth. Scientific evidence shows that creatine, a naturally occurring compound in muscle cells, benefits both men and women. (1,11,12) So, ladies, don’t shy away from creatine—it can be just as effective for you!💃🏽
  • How do I incorporate creatine into my daily routine?
    • Creatine doesn’t dissolve in cold water, which can cause some people to get an upset stomach. It works best when dissolved in warm water or decaffeinated coffee or tea. If you are making a smoothie with juice or milk, you could also add creatine there. It does not have any flavor, so you will not taste it. Starting on a low dose and splitting the doses throughout the day is helpful. You could start by splitting the 3-5 mg dose into four times a day to get started, followed by just once a day. 
  • What about those potential side effects?
    • Some people (especially us menopausal women generally trying to lose weight and manage weight) worry about weight gain, water retention, bloating, or gut issues with creatine. In men, weight gain from creatine is often due to fluid retention during the loading phase, but this is not typically seen in women. (1,2,3,4,7,8,10,13)
    • Side effects may include stomach upset, diarrhea, dizziness, muscle cramps, and temporary raises in blood pressure. According to studies, creatine is the most researched supplement out there, and no studies have shown it to harm the kidneys, even at doses eight times the recommended amount. (1,6,8,9,10)
  • Who should consult a healthcare provider before starting creatine?
    • You should always consult your physicians or healthcare provider before starting a new supplement. 
    • People with kidney disease, high blood pressure, or liver disease should not take creatine.

Thinking about getting started?

  • As mentioned, discuss this with your physician first.
  • Creatine monohydrate is the form of creatinine you would want to take, as this form helps you to absorb more of the nutrients. (1,3,4,8,9,10)

Which brands are best?

Standard essentials:

  • The brands I am recommending are all 100% creatine monohydrate with a suggested 5-gram daily serving. 
  • All brands must contain safe, high-quality ingredients and have clear labeling. Brands should also confirm that their products are free of pesticides, heavy metals, and mold.
  • All recommendations for creatine supplements have undergone third-party testing for contaminants by an ISO 17025-compliant laboratory.
  • Be sure to only use brands that recommend safe dosages.
  • Why a powder versus a capsule? In pill form, creatine must first be digested before it can be used by your body. As a powder, it can be more readily absorbed. 

A few recommended brands:

  • Klean Creatine®
    • Non-GMO
    • Gluten-free
    • Dairy-free
    • Egg-free
    • Fish-free
    • Shellfish-free
    • Animal product-free
  • Thorne Creatine®
    • Gluten-free
    • Dairy-free
    • Soy-free
  • Designs for Sport: Creatine Monohydrate®
    • Non-GMO
    • Gluten-free
    • Dairy-free
    • Soy-free
    • Egg-free
    • Fish-free
    • Shellfish-free
    • Animal product-free

Tips When Taking Creatine Monohydrate:

  • Drink plenty of water when supplementing with creatine to prevent dehydration.
  • Creatine supplements are generally safe, but potential side effects may include digestive issues and weight gain due to increased water retention.

BOTTOM LINE 

For women going through menopause and beyond, research shows that creatine supplements can help counteract muscle, bone, and strength loss by reducing inflammation, oxidative stress, and markers of bone breakdown while promoting bone formation. It may sound too good to be true, but the science supports it. (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13) Creatine can help with muscle and bone loss and improve mood and brain function during menopause. Always consult with your physician or healthcare provider before starting any new supplement. And yes, after diving into the research for this blog, I’ve started taking creatine monohydrate myself!

Don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment to discuss whether creatine will benefit you and your health. Whether you’re facing challenges with your current diet or seeking a weight management refresher, I am here to provide the guidance and support you need to succeed.

**Note: I use Fullscript when working with clients who take or desire to take supplements, as this online dispensary simplistically provides quality products with discounted pricing. This is my affiliate link, which means if you purchase a product from here, you get a discount, and I may get a small commission at no cost to you! For any questions, feel free to contact me anytime at amy@rebelliousrd.com

References:

  1. Smith-Ryan AE, Cabre HE, Eckerson JM, Candow DG. Creatine Supplementation in Women’s Health: A Lifespan Perspective. Nutrients. 2021 Mar 8;13(3):877. doi: 10.3390/nu13030877. PMID: 33800439; PMCID: PMC7998865.
  2. Pasiakos SM, McLellan TM, Lieberman HR. The effects of protein supplements on muscle mass, strength, and aerobic and anaerobic power in healthy adults: a systematic review. Sports Med. 2015 Jan;45(1):111-31. doi: 10.1007/s40279-014-0242-2. PMID: 25169440.
  3. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/263269#what_is_creatine
  4. https://www.hudson.org.au/news/creatine-supplement-safe-for-women/
  5. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/menopause/what-menopause
  6. Clark JF. Creatine and phosphocreatine: a review of their use in exercise and sport. J Athl Train. 1997 Jan;32(1):45-51. PMID: 16558432; PMCID: PMC1319235.
  7. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/17674-creatine
  8. A High Dose of Creatine Combined with Resistance Training Appears to Be Required to Augment Indices of Bone Health in Older Adults. Ann Nutr Metab (2022) 78 (3): 183–186. https://doi.org/10.1159/000520967
  9. Rae C, Digney AL, McEwan SR, Bates TC. Oral creatine monohydrate supplementation improves brain performance: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial. Proc Biol Sci. 2003 Oct 22;270(1529):2147-50.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1691485/ 
  10. Risk of Adverse Outcomes in Females Taking Oral Creatine Monohydrate: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients 2020, 12(6), 1780; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12061780
  11. Mohamad NV, Ima-Nirwana S, Chin KY. Are Oxidative Stress and Inflammation Mediators of Bone Loss Due to Estrogen Deficiency? A Review of Current Evidence. Endocr Metab Immune Disord Drug Targets. 2020;20(9):1478-1487. doi: 10.2174/1871530320666200604160614. PMID: 32496996; PMCID: PMC8383467.
  12. Collins BC, Laakkonen EK, Lowe DA. Aging of the musculoskeletal system: How the loss of estrogen impacts muscle strength. Bone. 2019 Jun;123:137-144. doi: 10.1016/j.bone.2019.03.033. Epub 2019 Mar 28. PMID: 30930293; PMCID: PMC6491229.
  13. de Guingand DL, Palmer KR, Snow RJ, Davies-Tuck ML, Ellery SJ. Risk of Adverse Outcomes in Females Taking Oral Creatine Monohydrate: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients. 2020; 12(6):1780. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12061780

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With a longstanding dedication to healthy cooking and eating, I promote nutrition with a rebellious twist: the belief that perfection is not required for success on your wellness journey. 

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