Creatine for Aging Cyclists: How it works and how to take it



By Jim Rutberg,
CTS Pro Coach,
co-author “The Time-Crunched Cyclist”

Creatine supplementation is a safe, effective, and wise choice for aging cyclists looking to improve performance and build or retain muscle mass and strength. Although many people associate creatine with strength and power athletes, it can also be beneficial for endurance athletes. Aging cyclists face challenges when it comes to mitigating age-related declines in muscle mass and strength, and there’s evidence that creatine supplementation could tip the balance for older athletes (Candow et al., 2014). Here’s how, along with guidance on how and when to consume creatine monohydrate.

Although we generally prefer to minimize supplementation, creatine monohydrate is one of the safest and most researched substances available. And if you choose to take any supplements, including creatine monohydrate, we recommend only supplements certified by NSF International or Informed Sport. But what is creatine and why would you want to consume it?

What is Creatine?

The chemical reaction that converts adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to adenosine diphosphate (ADP) releases the energy we use for bodily functions, including muscle contractions. The resulting ADP needs to be “recharged” by reattaching the free phosphate group to make ATP again. ATP is produced in mitochondria from the breakdown of carbohydrate and fat, but for immediate energy it can also be produced through the ATP-CP system. For this to work, creatine phosphate in the cell’s cytoplasm provides the phosphate group necessary to convert ADP to ATP.

The supply of creatine phosphate is limited by the amount of creatine in muscle cells. The goal of supplementation is to increase this amount and provide more opportunity to leverage the ATP-CP system for quick bursts of energy (about 5-15 seconds). Increasing creatine consumption – through food or supplementation – enables the ATP-CP system to run longer and reduces the time required for the system to “recharge”.

Sources of Creatine

Creatine is an amino acid we naturally produce in our bodies, and we can consume it in meat, fish, and poultry. Omnivorous athletes struggle to fully saturate muscles with creatine through dietary sources, and supplementation can increase muscle stores by about 20%. Vegan and vegetarian athletes face even greater challenges and often have lower levels of creatine in their muscles. All athletes can increase creatine stores with supplementation, and it may be even more important for vegans and vegetarians (many supplements are vegan-friendly).

For more on the topic of creatine supplementation, you can also listen to Episode 161 of “The Time-Crunched Cyclist Podcast”

Benefits of Supplementation

The ATP-CP system is not a major energy contributor for endurance performance, which is why cyclists and other endurance athletes generally eschew creatine supplementation. However, this is probably short-sighted. The figure below a December 2023 narrative review from Forbes et al., illustrates the mechanisms by which creatine improves athletic performance:

creatine supplementation


Highlighted benefits of creatine supplementation

Here are some highlights from the review and the figure above:

Increased muscle strength: By increasing muscle stores of creatine phosphate and free creatine, supplementation increases the capacity of your muscles’ ATP-CP system for short, high-intensity efforts. This increases muscular force during workouts, which can lead to greater gains in muscle strength and power. A number of studies cited in Candow’s meta-analysis showed that creatine supplementation with strength training increased strength, muscle mass, and muscular endurance for male – and female! – athletes between 55-77 years old (Candow et al., 2014).

Enhanced glycogen storage: Multiple recent studies have shown increases in the rate of muscle glycogen replenishment when creatine monohydrate was consumed with carbohydrate (Roberts et al. 2016; van Loon et al. 2022). Not only does co-ingestion accelerate post-exercise glycogen replenishment, but elevated creatine levels with a carbohydrate-rich diet may increase power output for late-stage accelerations, even after about 3 hours (Tomcik et al., 2018). These findings suggest creatine supplementation can improve sport-specific performance for cyclists in events where repeated surges and accelerations factor into the outcome (e.g., mass start road and gravel races, criteriums, MTB, cyclocross, some track events). It is unclear whether this benefit changes with age.

Enhanced buffering capacity: During exercise you use all mechanism to provide energy, and elevated muscle stores of creatine phosphate means the ATP-CP system can contribute more energy to that total. This may reduce the reliance on the glycolytic system, reducing lactate production during high-intensity efforts (Oliver et al., 2013). It is unclear whether this benefit changes with age.

Creatine Supplementation, Cognition and Concussion Recovery

Outside the findings described in the narrative review above, there is also recent evidence that suggests creatine supplementation may have positive effects on cognition (including for older individuals) and concussion recovery.

Free Cycling Training Assessment Quiz

Take our free 2-minute quiz to discover how effective your training is and get recommendations for how you can improve.

The brain uses a lot of energy, and as with muscles, the contribution from ATP-CP increases during periods of high demand. Research shows creatine monohydrate supplementation increases levels of creatine in the brain. A 2019 review study from Dolan and colleagues said, “The effects of creatine supplementation on brain function appear to be larger under stressful conditions that lead to acute (e.g. mental fatigue, exhaustive exercise) or chronic (e.g. aging, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder) depletion of brain creatine, whereas no or minimal effect is shown in healthy individual under unstressed conditions.” (Dolan et al., 2019)

Concussions and other brain injuries lead to reduced creatine concentrations in the brain. According to the same review, supplementing with creatine after mild traumatic brain injuries resulted in “improvements in cognition, communication, self-care, personality, and behavior, and reductions in headaches, dizziness, and fatigue in children with TBI (Sakellaris et al., 2006; Sakellaris et al., 2008).” The authors point out that more research is needed, but that “the benefits of creatine supplementation could include reduced severity of, or enhanced recovery from, mild traumatic brain injuries.”

How to Take Creatine

So, you’re a cyclist or endurance athlete looking to supplement with creatine. Here are some of the best practices, pulled from the cited research:

  • Loading dose + maintenance dose: Consume 20 grams/day for 5 days, divided into 5-gram doses throughout the day. This quickly increases muscle creatine levels. Continue with 3-5 grams/day to keep muscle creatine elevated.
  • Steady dose: Start and stick with 3-5 grams/day. It will just take a few weeks to achieve the same levels as the ‘loading + maintenance’ method.
  • Dosage for aging athletes is the same: Aiming for the upper end of the 3-5 g/day range may be beneficial. Overloading on creatine monohydrate is pointless because once muscles are saturated, more doesn’t help.    
  • Consume carbohydrates with creatine: Co-ingestion appears to increase creatine retention by about 25%. This increases the rate of saturation but may not be additive in terms of improving performance further.
  • Creatine can be taken long-term, but constant use may not be necessary. Research indicates that consuming up to 10 grams/day for 5 years is generally safe, but probably unnecessary. We’d recommend supplementing appropriately (3-5 g/day for most, perhaps 5-7g/day for older athletes) for a few months during periods of higher training load and competition. Consider taking a break from it during periods of recovery or low-intensity aerobic training.
  • No dosage information is unknown for brain health: The protocols above are well established and safe, but it’s unknown if there are specific dosages that would be optimal for preserving brain function or recovering from a concussion.

Candow, Darren G et al. “Creatine supplementation and aging musculoskeletal health.” Endocrine vol. 45,3 (2014): 354-61. doi:10.1007/s12020-013-0070-4

Dolan, Eimear et al. “Beyond muscle: the effects of creatine supplementation on brain creatine, cognitive processing, and traumatic brain injury.” European journal of sport science vol. 19,1 (2019): 1-14. doi:10.1080/17461391.2018.1500644

Forbes, Scott C et al. “Creatine supplementation and endurance performance: surges and sprints to win the race.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition vol. 20,1 (2023): 2204071. doi:10.1080/15502783.2023.2204071

Oliver, Jonathan M et al. “Oral creatine supplementation’s decrease of blood lactate during exhaustive, incremental cycling.” International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism vol. 23,3 (2013): 252-8. doi:10.1123/ijsnem.23.3.252

Roberts, Paul A et al. “Creatine ingestion augments dietary carbohydrate mediated muscle glycogen supercompensation during the initial 24 h of recovery following prolonged exhaustive exercise in humans.” Amino acids vol. 48,8 (2016): 1831-42. doi:10.1007/s00726-016-2252-x

Sakellaris, G et al. “Prevention of complications related to traumatic brain injury in children and adolescents with creatine administration: an open label randomized pilot study.” The Journal of trauma vol. 61,2 (2006): 322-9. doi:10.1097/01.ta.0000230269.46108.d5

Sakellaris, George et al. “Prevention of traumatic headache, dizziness and fatigue with creatine administration. A pilot study.” Acta paediatrica (Oslo, Norway : 1992) vol. 97,1 (2008): 31-4. doi:10.1111/j.1651-2227.2007.00529.x

Tomcik, Kristyen A et al. “Effects of Creatine and Carbohydrate Loading on Cycling Time Trial Performance.” Medicine and science in sports and exercise vol. 50,1 (2018): 141-150. doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000001401

van Loon, Luc J C et al. “Creatine supplementation increases glycogen storage but not GLUT-4 expression in human skeletal muscle.” Clinical science (London, England : 1979) vol. 106,1 (2004): 99-106. doi:10.1042/CS20030116


FREE Mini-Course: Learn How to Maximize Your Limited Training Time

Learn step-by-step how to overcome limited training time and get faster. Walk away with a personalized plan to increase your performance.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Comments 9


  2. Pingback: Beta-Alanine for Endurance and Time-Crunched Cyclists - CTS

  3. I am a 50+ year old athlete that mainly trains for cycling events/races. Earlier this year I started using a creatine supplement, as per the directions on the label (similar dosage as described in this article). Within days of starting the loading phase, I saw a spike in my blood pressure. The BP readings remained high until I stopped using creatine. Now, I’m not using this supplement and my BP is back to normal ranges. Any thoughts?

  4. I have been using creatine on and off for a few months, but have a problem with mild diarrhea and extra flatulence when taking it. No other changes in diet. Suggestions?

  5. Creating levels in blood and/or urine are an indication of kidney performance so pausing a week or so prior to blood work like annual physical’s is also wise or it will skew the results and possible require a retest (personal experience when I was using it).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *