Intramuscular phosphagen status and the relationship to muscle performance across the age spectrum

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European Journal of Applied Physiology



To examine age-related differences in intramuscular concentrations of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), free creatine (FCr), phosphocreatine (PCr) and total creatine (TCr) and if these differences were related to muscle performance.


Forty-two healthy, non-sedentary, males between 20 and 76 years provided muscle samples to determine [ATP], [FCr], [PCr], and [TCr]. Maximal strength and endurance were assessed and correlated with intramuscular variables.


Intramuscular [ATP] decreased by 13.5 % (p = 0.013) in the older cohort (18.0 ± 0.6 mmol/kg dry wt) vs. the young cohort (20.8 ± 0.9 mmol/kg dry wt) and was significantly correlated to age (r = −0.38, p = 0.008). No other differences were observed between age groups for intramuscular [PCr], [FCr], [TCr], or [PCr]:[TCr] (p > 0.05). The older cohort consumed significantly less (p < 0.05) dietary protein when compared to the young cohort. Bivariate correlations were found for intramuscular [ATP] and lower body 1RM (r = 0.24, p = 0.066), leg press volume and free creatine (r = 0.325, p = 0.036) and leg press repetitions and free creatine (r = 0.373, p = 0.015). Partial correlations controlling for age eliminated the relationship between [ATP] and 1RM while intramuscular free creatine and leg press repetitions remained significant (p < 0.05) and leg press volume approached significance (p = 0.095).


These results expand upon previous observations indicative of age-related reductions in intramuscular [ATP] and dietary protein intake. The lack of change in other intramuscular PCr system markers are suggestive of dysfunctions at the mitochondrial level while the impact of neuromuscular changes, lean mass cross-sectional area and differences in physical activity are also important.


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