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Fact checked by Andrew Lenau, ISSA CPT & Sports NutritionistFACT CHECKED
Updated On: October 03, 2023
A dietary supplement making waves in the "brain food" world is L-Alpha glycerylphosphorylcholine, better known as alpha-GPC. It's reported to have multiple health benefits while improving cognitive function. In addition, due to its reported benefits in athletics, alpha-GPC has gained popularity in the world of weight lifting and sports performance, more so than other brain-boosting supplements.
However, its mechanisms are outside traditional sports nutrition supplements, so we're going to break it down for you to help explain how it may help you in the gym. Whether you call it alpha-GPC, l-alpha glycerylphosphorylcholine, or alpha glycerylphosphorylcholine, one thing is for certain: It'll help boost your gym performance.
This article will educate you on:
Let's see how alpha glycerophosphocholine can strengthen your brain cells.
A quick note before we get into alpha-GPC, and why you need it (especially in combination with other ingredients to create an insane pump pre-workout supplement!). There are many different names for alpha-GPC, so when reading up on the supplement, it may be labeled as any of the following:
You may see various choline supplements use different names, but they're all the same thing. Don't let it confuse you.
Alpha-GPC is one of the more promising nootropics that be found easily on the market. If you've never heard of nootropics, this is a relatively new brand of "brain" supplements and compounds that are taken to improve brain health and function. As a whole, some commonly reported reasons to take nootropics include:
This list includes a vast array of other cognitive benefits as well. In addition, there are also multiple reports of its ability to improve physical performance, like when you're tackling your favorite workout split. The best way to think of nootropics? Consider them to be brain supplements.
As mentioned, Alpha-GPC is a dietary supplement and one of the leading forms of nootropics. To understand its importance, there is a chain of information you must follow to understand why people love it so much - both for mental clarity and achieving muscle hypertrophy.
The first step in understanding the importance of Alpha-GPC begins with realizing it is the most bioavailable form of choline. In fact, you can actually see this when you break down the full name: alpha glyceryl phosphorylcholine.
Choline is a water-soluble nutrient found in humans and plays several key roles in processes that affect brain function, muscle contraction, and performance, giving you that extra oomph to progressive overload every time you're in the gym. While we can synthesize small amounts of choline within the body, the amount is generally not enough for optimal function.
To ensure adequate amounts, we must consume choline in our diet. This is why it's designated as an "essential nutrient."
When present, choline acts as a precursor for several other functions (the human body truly is amazing). In terms of cognitive improvement, the one we're interested in is choline's role in synthesizing and increasing acetylcholine levels.
Again, you are able to see "choline" in the name acetylcholine.
So here we are: Production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine is the main reason so many people are taking alpha-GPC. But what exactly does acetylcholine do?
Acetylcholine plays a crucial role in the transmission of information from the brain. When a motor neuron wants to activate a muscle, acetylcholine is the neurotransmitter released at the neuromuscular junction to make that happen. The mind-muscle connection is important here.
In addition to playing a role in muscular performance, it plays equally important roles in the central and automatic nervous system As a result of its wide array of duties, having increased levels of acetylcholine can have a direct effect on numerous mental performance tasks, including:
The first question that may come to mind is: If acetylcholine is so important, why not just produce it for consumption, rather than alpha-GPC?
Unfortunately, the only way to increase the amount of acetylcholine in your body is by synthesizing it through choline. The main issue with skipping those extra steps and consume acetylcholine directly is that it cannot penetrate lipid membranes.
As a result, it's unable to pass through the blood-brain barrier. This means that you can consume all the acetylcholine you want, but it's not going to do anything to help you crush your upcoming leg workout.
Notice that we said alpha-GPC is the best form of choline, implying there are other forms you could choose from. At the end of the day, alpha-GPC is just one choline supplement on the market.
With this in mind, let's look at other forms of choline and how they compare to alpha-GPC. More importantly, we'll see why alpha-GPC is the superior form, and the best version to help you bring everything you've got for your 7-day workout split.
Choline bitartrate is a common form of choline that can be readily found. Even though it consists of 40% choline, it's the cheapest form you can buy. The low price is due to its inability to pass the blood-brain barrier efficiently.
As a result, it is unable to produce any of the beneficial cognitive effects alpha-GPC is known for.
CDP-Choline is able to pass through the blood-brain barrier quite easily. However, it only consists of around 18% choline. While it can provide some benefits, you don't get as much bang for your buck.
Now that you know a few different forms of choline have a look at our post the Best Choline Supplements that feature various forms.
As you noticed above, each alternative form has one benefit and one negative.
Alpha-GPC has both benefits and no negatives. It boasts a concentration of 40% choline and can easily pass through the blood-brain barrier. As a result, it's the greatest bioavailable form of choline with a high concentration. This means that whether you're hoping to give 110% to your strength training or have extra power and concentration for your HIIT workouts, alpha-GPC is the best form of choline to help.
Some other prescription medications are stronger, but you need an actual prescription to get them.
Even with the other choline-containing dietary supplements, Alpha-GPC has become the most popular nootropic as it's the best at producing more acetylcholine by way of choline.
It's clear that acetylcholine plays very important roles in the brain; however, can supplementing with Alpha-GPC actually provide added benefits? While the food and drug administration says it can't be used to treat, cure, or prevent conditions, there is quite a bit of evidence to suggest that it can help with everything from better focus to improved workouts to serving as an ingredient included in the best pre-workouts for weight loss.
Let's look at some of the more exciting potential benefits Alpha-GPC may provide you.
Note: Because this article is more focused on performance benefits, we will only briefly touch on unrelated cognitive improvements briefly.
Human growth hormone (HGH) is one of the most important anabolic hormones secreted by the body. Thereby increasing circulating levels would have a definite positive effect on our response to resistance training, whether it's for strength or muscular endurance.
If you were able to increase this hormone level, we'd expect to see numerous improvements in physical performance, including greater development of muscle mass and increases in strength and power.
A placebo-controlled trial published in 2022 proved the benefits we just listed. A group of men were put on a resistance training program with either an accompanying dosing protocol of 600mg alpha-GPC or a placebo1. In this study, the supplements were taken 90 minutes before training.
The subjects then performed 6 sets of 10 reps on a Smith machine squat with 70% load, followed by 3 sets of bench press throws with a 50% load. After, samples were taken and compared. The researchers found the growth hormone levels of the alpha-GPC group increased 44-fold compared to just a 2.6-fold increase in the placebo group. That's almost 17 times more anabolic goodness!
In addition, their peak bench press throw force was 14% greater, along with greater trends for peak bench press power and lower respiratory exchange ratio (fat used for fuel).
It's important to note this was an acute benefit. Similar results were seen in another study that found alpha-GPC increases growth hormone levels significantly as well as induces higher fat oxidation2.
Above, we already saw scientific evidence that Alpha-GPC supplementation improves physical performance. But there's more.
A study from 2017 looked at alpha-GPC supplementation in 48 college-aged males3. The groups were divided and placed in groups with different supplementation protocols, including 250mg of alpha-GPC and 500mg of alpha-GPC.
Even with these smaller doses (600mg seems to be optimal), significant increases in power were seen. This is one of the many reasons why we love alpha-GPC (especially in combination with other awesome supplements, like GlycerPump) as a pre-workout ingredient!
Alpha-GPC has also been found to increase strength (see the differences between training for strength vs. hypertrophy here), in addition to power and force development.
A study in 2015 examined isometric strength alteration by taking 600mg of alpha-GPC4. Their findings showed it can improve lower body strength by 3% after just one dose. However, in this study, there was no improvement in upper body strength.
And in 2021, a study found that grip strength was improved significantly in mice. Further, endurance and muscle mass was also increased5.
Studies still aren't conclusive, and there needs to be more conducted. However, combining the supplements with the bench press seems really promising. Also, keep in mind the increase in human growth hormone, which is significant. It's safe to say that over time, this would likely make a substantial difference.
To our knowledge, there are no known studies that look at the alpha-GPC effect on body composition and weight loss. However, it makes sense that you improve.
Weight loss is likely due to two variables proven by studies, including an increase in HGH and utilization of fat. Of course, you still need to follow a diet, like the Metabolic Confusion Diet, to lose weight. But if you were to follow the same regimen (training and nutrition) and only took alpha-GPC with one routine, there's a good chance you would see better results.
Because of acetylcholine's role in increasing alertness and focus, supplementation can potentially improve these variables as well. A university thesis explored this using a dosing protocol of 6mg per kilogram of body weight on 27 participants, examining reaction time, mood, power, and fatigue6.
After supplementation, all of these markers were improved with the greatest increase in reaction time (12%) and upper body power output (12%). With this increased alertness and mitigation of fatigue, many people claim it gives a clean energy boost as well.
Alpha-GPC has been shown to offer cognitive support in numerous functions. This includes processes such as thinking skills, memory, and learning ability7.
People who take alpha glycerylphosphorylcholine commonly report the absence of brain fog. Further, thinking skills such as recall and the ability to think quickly are commonly reported as the higher levels of acetylcholine seem to fuel the brain. Now, imagine emphasizing the importance of sleep at night paired with taking alpha-GPC - your brain would be functioning at top capacity!
There are numerous types of cognitive impairment that can affect us throughout our lifetime. Whether a result of injury or simply aging, life can be difficult when cognitive processes don't function properly.
While alpha-GPC can't diagnose, treat, cure, or fix any of these with a 100% success rate, evidence indicates it's an effective treatment.
For example, many animal studies have found that alpha-GPC decreases the effects of Alzheimer's disease8. Similar findings have been repeated in human studies as well with research showing that taking 1,200mg a day for at least 90 days produces significant improvements in amnesia-caused dementia9.
A large study found that supplementation given to recent stroke patients greatly improves their recovery10. Significant improvements were found in many cognitive processes such as learning, thinking skills, ability learning ability, and speech.
The proper dosing of alpha-GPC depends on why you are taking it. Below are the generally recommended dosing protocols, whether you're trying to treat a condition, improve your cognitive ability, or have the focus and energy to follow an insane routine, like bodybuilder Chris Bumstead's workout.
Follow these guidelines for proper dosing:
While generally safe for healthy individuals, if you are under health care or take other prescription drugs, seek advice from a healthcare provider.
That said, alpha-GPC's primary function is increasing the amount of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine that's produced in the body. As acetylcholine is synthesized within your brain naturally, it's well tolerated by most people.
If there are side effects, they are mild and minimal, similar to many of the best pre-workout supplements, and include things such as rashes, fatigue, headaches, anxiety, and GI issues. Again, if you remain in the safe dosing range, these shouldn't be an issue. However, always start with a smaller does the first time you try. This goes with anything - not just alpha-GPC.
The only significant concern that's been brought up is for people who are taking alpha-GPC long-term (10+ years). A recent study from 2021 reported an increased risk of stroke11. While an increased stroke risk is not ideal, the best way to avoid this is to not take it every day for 10 years.
If you are concerned or have cause for concern, seek professional medical advice prior to starting supplementation.
Based on all of the scientific evidence to back it up, we give alpha-GPC two thumbs up. This powerful acetylcholine precursor, choline alfoscerate, has been shown to improve both brain function and building muscle, helping a wide range of athletic skills and conditions.
From squats to the speech ability of stroke patients, Alzheimer's disease to the bench press, and anabolic hormone levels to cognition of those with vascular dementia, alpha-GPC can help.
And if you're looking to take it to improve your workouts, keep an eye out for pre-workout supplements that include it as an ingredient.
Take Transparent Labs BULK Pre-Workout, as an example: With clinically proven doses of alpha-GPC, BULK Pre-Workout is an insanely effective pre-workout that will significantly improve your gym performance. You'll get all the benefits of alpha-GPC in one delicious-tasting pre-workout formula. What could be better than that?
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February 20, 2024
February 20, 2024
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