I hate proprietary blends. When I walk into a GNC or FitRx and see piles of bottles with 15 ingredients in each one under the name of “proprietary blends”, and can’t help but just feel a little sorry for the poor saps spending $60 on that junk.
Supplement companies rarely, if ever, have special knowledge that they use to create a product that has “the proper ratios of ingredients based on independent trials”. Much more likely, they just think that a bunch of these ingredients have been shown to have some benefit (regardless of how small the magnitude of that benefit is), so putting a bunch of them into their product will make their product look awesome. This isn’t a good thing for the consumer, as the products often end up underpowered with the ingredients that actually work. This is one reason why I tend to buy all of my supplements in bulk and mix them myself: I save a buttload of money, and can actually take an effective dose.
Today we’re going to talk about a pre-workout that’s purpose is not to jack you up with stimulants until you’re bouncing off the walls, but is to actually make you stronger and more focused in the gym.
Basically, cholinergics are substances that increase acetylcholine levels. Acetylcholine is important for cognitive function and the movement of muscles. When taking a cholinergic, you will generally feel an increase in motivation, possibly mood, and focus. There are many different types of cholinergics, but the two most popular ones are precursors to acetylcholine. They are Alpha GPC and Citicoline. While citicoline might have the strength-boosting effects we are going to talk about, there is no research done on it for this purpose yet. Thus, we will be focusing on Alpha GPC.
Alpha GPC is a source of choline that readily crosses through the blood-brain barrier and enters the brain. This is important, as its strength increasing effects are probably mediated by the central nervous system.
One study noted that Alpha GPC increased growth hormone and peak force production when given 600 mg of Alpha-GPC 90 minutes prior to exercise. Specifically:
“Compared to baseline (pre) values, peak GH increased 44-fold during A-GPC (from 0.19 ± 0.06 to 8.4 ± 2.1 ng/mL) vs. 2.6-fold during placebo (from 1.9 ± 0.8 to 5.0 ± 4.8 ng/mL, P < 0.03) (Figure 1). Peak bench press force was 14% greater in A-GPC (933 ± 89 N) vs. placebo (818 ± 77 N, P < 0.02). Trends toward higher peak bench press power (P < 0.13) and lower post-exercise RER (P < 0.12) were noted in the A-GPC trial.”
Figure 1: Growth hormone at various time points from participants who took Alpha-GPC and those who took placebo (Ziegenfuss, 2008).
While the increase in growth hormone is nothing to get excited about (acute increases in growth hormone do not correlate with muscle mass or fat loss), the increase in peak force in the bench press might be something to consider.
At this time, the is the only study that has tested cholinergics for increased performance in the gym. I would venture to guess that you will see more trials like this one in the future, as cholinergics and racetams increase focus and motivation so much, that they might help you get a better lift. When more studies become available, you will know where to look!
Ziegenfuss, T., Landis, J., & Hofheins, J. (2008). Acute supplementation with alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine augments growth hormone response to, and peak force production during, resistance exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, P15-P15.