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Your Brain Loves Alpha-GPC

Your brain is made up of numerous brain cells. Now when I say numerous, I mean 86 billion for the average 1.5kg male brain[1]. To put this in perspective, this is around the number of stars there are in our Milky Way galaxy. This gives us humans an amazing evolutionary advantage to become the number one species on the earth, despite numerous animals being bigger and more powerful than 1.8-meter, 80 kg humans. In other words, the brain is our greatest asset and our most important asset to look after all of our lives.

Because of the complex nature of the brain, when it comes to treating the brain, medicine can sometimes struggle. For example, Alzheimer’s disease is a tragic disease where the brain decays causing devastating memory loss and eventually premature death[2]. And while there are treatments that may help with the symptoms, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease[3].

Alpha-GPC may help the Aging Brain

Alpha-GPC is a potent nootropic, and according to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation, nootropics are known as ‘cognitive enhancers’, drugs that some people use in an attempt to improve memory, increase mental alertness and concentration as well as boost energy levels and wakefulness. Studies have found that Alpha-GPC can be used at the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia to improve cognitive recovery, neurological function and it may also help improve the memory of older individuals[4]. Alpha-GPC’s claim to fame is to increase the brain chemicals acetylcholine because it is super-rich in an absorbable form of choline[5]. In 1967, acetylcholine was firmly accepted as a neurotransmitter and a vital one in the brain[6]. Acetylcholine, as the name suggests, is made from choline and choline is found naturally in the diet. Choline is found in foods such as eggs, liver, seeds vegetables and legumes. It is also used as an important supplement to boost brain power, alertness and as you will learn later, growth and power.

Making Acetylcholine in the Brain

Once ingested, choline readily crosses the blood-brain barrier and is taken up by cholinergic nerve terminals via sodium-dependent uptake channels[7]. Once acetylcholine is formed in the brain, it is involved in the formation of memories, motivation, arousal and attention[8]. Of course, these four attributes are very desirable before you begin your 5 am workout. It makes sense to boost brain choline levels and more specifically consume choline-rich ingredients such as Alpha-GPC before you exercise. This is why Alpha-GPC is a popular ingredient in pre-workout drinks. It is often combined with other ingredients that activate the brain such as caffeine. It has been known that for over 30 years, Alpha-GPC has played a pivotal role in brain function[9]. But there is more to this brain food, Alpha-GPC at 600mg per day is also used in boosting physical performance.

The Effect of 6 days of Alpha-GPC on Isometric Strength

Sporting performance is intrinsically linked to extreme force production and power output[10]. Even if you are seeking muscle gain or toning your body, lifting more weight using agents such as alpha-GPC can result in more weight lifting and thus a great workout. This can lead to improved results in muscle mass and fat loss. In one study, 13 college-aged men (average age 22) were either given 600mg of alpha-GPC or a placebo in a double-blind placebo-controlled study. After 6 days of taking either the placebo or the alpha-GPC, the men’s strength was measured. In the group taking the alpha-GPC, the supplement treatment resulted in significantly greater isometric mid-thigh pull peak force change from baseline which led the researchers to conclude that alpha-GPC is a very effective supplement for increasing body force production after only 6 days[11].

Growth Hormone release is augmented by Alpha-GPC

There is no doubt that resistance exercise is the best way to improve muscle growth. Individuals are always seeking ways to improve their gym experience using supplements and alpha-GPC as mentioned certainly improves alertness and motivation in the gym and, as we have just learnt that it also increases the force your muscles can access. One of the most important natural hormones we can produce to build muscle is growth hormone. Gym goers have been seeking ways to boost this hormone to gain more out of every gym session.

Using a randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover design, trained men were given either a placebo or once again 600mg of alpha-GPC and then given 6 sets × 10 repetitions of Smith Machine squats at 70% of their pre-determined 1-repetition maximum. In both groups, blood growth hormone levels were measured every 10 minutes to determine the effects of just exercise or exercise plus 600 mg of alpha-GPC. In the placebo (just exercise group), growth hormone levels rose by 2.6-fold, demonstrating the importance of the effects of exercise on growth hormone levels. In the group exercising, plus taking 600 mg of alpha-GPC, growth hormone levels rose a staggering 44-fold from baseline[12]. The gym-goers also experienced a 14% greater peak bench press force in the group supplementing alpha-GPC. While this study highlights the importance of exercise for increasing growth hormone secretion, taking alpha-GPC amplifies this release while giving you more strength in the gym.

The Take-Home Message

We all should exercise daily and eat better. This involves keeping an eye on increasing choline-rich foods because you need choline to make the vitally important acetylcholine. Alpha-GPC is one of the better pre-workout supplements because it works in so many areas of the body. First of all, it increases mental focus and alertness, which is highly beneficial when hitting the gym. Once you get to the gym, you will be stronger as alpha-GPC increases muscle force by 14%. But probably the most astonishing feature of alpha-GPC is its ability to increase growth hormone release by 44-times when combined with exercise. The dose that has been found to work best for these benefits is 600 mg per day. So, consider alpha-GPC before you next hit the gym for a better experience.

 

References

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  5. Parker AG, Byars A, Purpura M, Jäger R. The effects of alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine, caffeine or placebo on markers of mood, cognitive function, power, speed, and agility. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015 Sep 21;12(Suppl 1):P41. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-12-S1-P41. PMCID: PMC4595381.
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  8. Sam C, Bordoni B. Physiology, Acetylcholine. [Updated 2021 Apr 17]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557825/
  9. Schettini G, Ventra C, Florio T, Grimaldi M, Meucci O, Scorziello A, Postiglione A, Marino A. Molecular mechanisms mediating the effects of L-alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine, a new cognition-enhancing drug, on behavioral and biochemical parameters in young and aged rats. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1992 Sep;43(1):139-51. doi: 10.1016/0091-3057(92)90650-5. PMID: 1409797.
  10. Testing strength and power in soccer players: the application of conventional and traditional methods of assessment. Paul DJ, Nassis GP J Strength Cond Res. 2015 Jun; 29(6):1748-58.
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  12. Ziegenfuss, T., Landis, J. & Hofheins, J. Acute supplementation with alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine augments growth hormone response to, and peak force production during, resistance exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 5, P15 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-5-S1-P15