Effect of age, diet, and tissue type on PCr response to creatine supplementation

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2017 Aug 1;123(2):407-414. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00248.2017. Epub 2017 Jun 1.


Creatine/phosphorylcreatine (PCr) responses to creatine supplementation may be modulated by age, diet, and tissue, but studies assessing this possibility are lacking. Therefore we aimed to determine whether PCr responses vary as a function of age, diet, and tissue. Fifteen children, 17 omnivorous and 14 vegetarian adults, and 18 elderly individuals ("elderly") participated in this study. Participants were given placebo and subsequently creatine (0.3 g·kg-1·day-1) for 7 days in a single-blind fashion. PCr was measured through phosphorus magnetic resonance spectroscopy (31P-MRS) in muscle and brain. Creatine supplementation increased muscle PCr in children (P < 0.0003) and elderly (P < 0.001), whereas the increase in omnivores did not reach statistically significant difference (P = 0.3348). Elderly had greater PCr increases than children and omnivores (P < 0.0001 for both), whereas children experienced greater PCr increases than omnivores (P = 0.0022). In relation to diet, vegetarians (P < 0.0001), but not omnivores, had significant increases in muscle PCr content. Brain PCr content was not affected by creatine supplementation in any group, and delta changes in brain PCr (-0.7 to +3.9%) were inferior to those in muscle PCr content (+10.3 to +27.6%; P < 0.0001 for all comparisons). PCr responses to a standardized creatine protocol (0.3 g·kg-1·day-1 for 7 days) may be affected by age, diet, and tissue. Whereas creatine supplementation was able to increase muscle PCr in all groups, although to different extents, brain PCr was shown to be unresponsive overall. These findings demonstrate the need to tailor creatine protocols to optimize creatine/PCr accumulation both in muscle and in brain, enabling a better appreciation of the pleiotropic properties of creatine.NEW & NOTEWORTHY A standardized creatine supplementation protocol (0.3 g·kg-1·day-1 for 7 days) effectively increased muscle, but not brain, phosphorylcreatine. Older participants responded better than younger participants whereas vegetarians responded better than omnivores. Responses to supplementation are thus dependent on age, tissue, and diet. This suggests that a single "universal" protocol, originally designed for increasing muscle creatine in young individuals, may lead to heterogeneous muscle responses in different populations or even no responses in tissues other than skeletal muscle.

Keywords: adults; brain; children; elderly; phosphorylcreatine; skeletal muscle.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Child
  • Creatine / administration & dosage*
  • Diet
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy / methods
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / drug effects
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Phosphocreatine / metabolism*
  • Single-Blind Method


  • Phosphocreatine
  • Creatine