Alpha-lipoic acid

(Known as Lipoic acid, Thioctic acid, Lipoate, Dihydrolipoic acid, ALA, Alpha-lipoic acid)

tickMuscle Builder
tickAids definition & fat loss
tickHormone control
tickControls carbohydrate
How does it work?
Alpha-lipoic acid is an antioxidant that is manufactured in the human body. Antioxidants are substances that work by attacking "free radicals," waste products created when the body turns food into energy.

Who is it used for?
Alpha lipoic acid is very popular with bodybuilders wanting to lose fat while building muscle. It's also used extensively by competitive bodybuilders prior to a competition to put the "finishing touch" to their physiques. Because of its unique properties as an antioxidant, alpha-lipoic acid is also used by people who are healthy and want to stay that way.

How does it work?
Alpha lipoic acid is an enzyme found in the mitochondria - the energy producing structures found in our cells. As a dietary supplement, alpha-lipoic acid acts as a powerful antioxidant, where it works in synergy with other antioxidants like vitamins C and E.

Alpha-lipoic acid has several potential benefits for bodybuilders. Studies shown that alpha-lipoic acid speeds the removal of glucose (sugar) from the blood, and drives it into muscle rather than fat cells [1]. This also lowers insulin levels. Not only does insulin stimulate fat storage, it also inhibits the action of hormone sensitive lipase, the enzyme responsible for breaking down stored fat and preparing it for use as energy.

In a four-week study, 74 subjects were given either a placebo or lipoic acid in doses of 600 milligrams once daily, twice daily, or three times daily [4]. There was a 27% increase in glucose disposal among subjects given lipoic acid. Single doses of 1000 milligrams have been shown to increase glucose clearance by about 50% [3]. This means that supplementation with alpha-lipoic acid has the dual effect of increasing muscle size (in both the short- and long-term) while minimising fat gain.

In the late 1980s, scientists realized that alpha-lipoic acid possessed potent antioxidant properties that could prevent healthy cells from getting damaged by unstable oxygen molecules called free radicals. It has proved to be many times more potent than antioxidants such as vitamins C and E. It even recycles C and E (as well as other antioxidants), enhancing their effectiveness.

The unique ability of alpha-lipoic acid to be active in water and lipid compartments of the body is important because most antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, are effective in only one area or the other. Alpha-lipoic acid can reach tissues composed mainly of fat, such as the nervous system, as well as those made mainly of water, such as the heart. Adding to the importance of alpha-lipoic acid is its role in the production of glutathione, one of the chief antioxidants produced directly by the body. In addition to functioning as an antioxidant, this hard-working nutrient assists the B vitamins in producing energy from the protein, carbohydrate, and fat in the diet.

Because alpha-lipoic acid can pass easily into the brain, it has protective effects on brain and nerve tissue and shows promise as a treatment for stroke and other brain disorders involving free radical damage. Animals treated with alpha-lipoic acid, for example, suffered less brain damage and had a four times greater survival rate after a stroke than the animals who did not receive this supplement.

Good food sources of alpha-lipoic acid include spinach, broccoli, beef, yeast (particularly Brewer's yeast), and certain organ meats (such as the kidney and heart). However, in order to get the concentrated doses needed to replicate the amounts used in research, many experts recommend supplements.

How do I use it?
For great training results take 200 milligrams 15-20 minutes before training. For muscle growth and general antioxidant support, the recommended dose of alpha-lipoic acid is 100 milligrams 2-3 times daily.

What results can I expect?
Bodybuilders generally report greater feelings of muscle "fullness" when approximately 200 milligrams of alpha-lipoic acid is taken 15-20 minutes before exercise or a competition.

What can it be combined with?
Some bodybuilders also combine alpha-lipoic acid with nutrients such as vanadyl sulphate and chromium and use it before exercise or a contest to enhance vascularity and muscle hardness.

1. Packer L, Witt EH, Tritschler HJ. (1995). Alpha-lipoic acid as a biological antioxidant. Free Radical Biology and Medicine, 19, 227-250
2. Burke, D.G., Chilibeck, P.D., Parise, G., & Tarnopolsky M. (2001). The effect of alpha lipoic acid supplementation on resting muscle creatine during acute creatine loading. FASEB Journal, 15, A649
3. Jacob, S., Henriksen, E.J., Schiemann, A.L., Simon, I., Clancy, D.E., Tritschler, H.J., Jung, W.I., Augustin, H.J., & Dietze, G.J. (1995). Enhancement of glucose disposal in patients with type 2 diabetes by alpha-lipoic acid. Arzneimittelforschung, 45, 872-874
4. Jacob, S., Ruus, P., Hermann, R., Tritschler, H.J., Maerker, E., Renn, W., Augustin, H.J., Dietze, G.J., & Rett, K. (1999). Oral administration of RAC-alpha-lipoic acid modulates insulin sensitivity in patients with type-2 diabetes mellitus: a placebo-controlled pilot trial. Free Radical Biology and Medicine, 27, 309-314

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