Sarcopenia in the case of injury: how to deal with it and the role of creatine

The development of muscle mass is achieved through a combination of exercise and proper nutrition. It has the ability to counteract the decay processes associated with the aging process, although these processes can also be influenced by nutritional deficiencies and insufficient physical activity. From a clinical perspective, this condition is known as sarcopenia, a term derived from the Greek words σάρξ (“sarx”, meaning “flesh”, “muscle”) and πενία (“penìa”, meaning “loss”). Sarcopenia is diagnosed through specialized screening examinations and the patient’s medical history. As the patient ages, its effects can be counteracted to a degree by adopting a suitable diet and incorporating regular physical activity.

Post-injury recovery

Even an athlete in good health may experience a decline in muscle mass and compromised muscle metabolism. It can, for example, occur when a training interruption is caused by injury, even in the absence of full-fledged sarcopenia.
In their case, nutrition plays a preventative role, especially following situations (such as injury) that prevent them from continuing their training. In such cases, they may experience feelings of weakness and a reduction in endurance, coupled with a minor loss of muscle mass.
Hence, it is crucial to mitigate such a decline in muscle mass following an injury, to prevent the potential development muscle atrophy (a real possibility in extreme cases), which could result in the gradual replacement of contractile tissue with adipose and fibrous tissue.
Additionally, sarcopenia results in the disruption of muscle cell metabolism, which functions as a defense against oxidative stress via the production of free radicals.

Promoting muscle recovery

It is evident that when an athlete, particularly one of advanced age, encounters a situation in which they have ceased their training as a result of injury, it is imperative that they do not halt it entirely. It is indeed necessary for them to try to continue exercising the muscle groups that are unaffected by the injury, thereby promoting a gradual and steady return to their regular training regimen.
In addition, it is also necessary to adhere to a proper diet and avoid the consumption of excess calories to mitigate excessive weight gain, which can easily occur for individuals over the age of 30. Then there is the option of supplementation. Indeed, creatine is an invaluable ally in combating sarcopenia.

Creatine: what is it and what does it do?

Creatine is a naturally occurring substance that is found in both muscle cells and in the brain, serving as an intermediary compound of energy metabolism. It is synthesized in the liver and kidneys by three key amino acids: glycine, arginine, and methionine.
In food, creatine can be found in meat and fish. However, even when strictly adhering to a proper nutritional plan, we would never be able to raise plasma creatine levels. Doing so would require an excessive consumption of meat, which would itself lead to an exaggerated intake of fat and protein.
Consequently, it is recommended to supplement with creatine, specifically after the completion of training sessions and in accordance with the instructions provided by your physician, particularly during the muscle recovery phase following accidents, injuries, and after periods of reduced and less strenuous physical activity in general. This is due to creatine possessing the ability to reduce exercise-induced muscle damage by activating certain cellular mechanisms. Among these mechanisms are myogenesis, meaning the creation of new muscle cells, and heightened myosin synthesis, leading to increased fiber thickness.
Therefore, it is recommended to consider adding creatine supplementation, specifically after concluding training sessions and as per the instructions provided by your physician, particularly during the muscle recovery phase subsequent to accidents, injuries, and periods of decreased and less rigorous physical activity in general.

Which sports benefit from creatine supplementation?

Multiple studies have proven the efficacy of this approach, highlighting that creatine supplementation allows for increased muscle mass and strength while executing exercises such as bench press, squats, and deadlifts. Indeed, creatine benefits muscle endurance in explosive anaerobic training, such as weightlifting, but it can also aid the muscle recovery process for those that practice endurance sports.
Creatine supplementation is also recommended to those that practice running, cycling, as well as sports in which both muscle strength and endurance play a decisive role, as is the case with padel and tennis.

The role of minerals and arginine in muscle metabolism

It should be noted that creatine supplementation should be accompanied by an adequate supply of minerals valuable to muscle metabolism, such as magnesium and potassium, but also arginine. The latter amino acid is essential for glycogen synthesis and contributes to the detoxification of nitrogen waste originating in protein metabolism.
Additionally, it plays a beneficial role in the production of nitric oxide, a vasodilating substance that is important for muscle performance and for post-injury recovery.