In recent years, there’s been a rise in the number of supplements containing a unique ingredient called Alpha Glycerophosphocholine, otherwise known as Alpha GPC.
However, if you try to read about it on the internet, chances are you’ll stumble across a bunch of inaccurate, misleading information. Most of it is propagated by supplement companies who are clearly just trying to sell you their products.
It’s really hard to find accurate information with a sound scientific basis about this unique and potentially useful supplement. Don’t worry though…
In this article, we’ll answer questions like:
- What Is Alpha GPC?
- Why Do People Supplement With It?
- What Are The Proven Benefits?
- How Much Should You Take?
- Is It Safe?
And a whole lot more as well, so let’s just dive right in…
What Is Alpha GPC?
Alpha GPC is a choline-containing phospholipid. It is naturally found in eggs, meat, and various organ tissues. Unfortunately, natural sources typically don’t provide enough, so supplementation is required.
In the body, Alpha GPC can easily cross the blood brain barrier. In the brain, the Choline portion is used to produce Acetylcholine.
Acetylcholine, if you’re not familiar, is a neurotransmitter which is closely tied to mental processes such as:
- muscle contraction
It’s produced by combining Choline with Acetyl CoA. Here’s a visual of how that works:
There are a few ways to potentially increase Acetycholine levels in the brain, but providing an efficient Choline source (like Alpha GPC) is of course the most direct way to go about it.
Alpha GPC is 40% Choline by weight. It’s considered to be the most potent Choline precursor available in terms of it’s ability to contribute Choline for the production of Acetylcholine. No other Choline-containing supplement is as efficient.
Why Do People Supplement With It?
Over the years, Alpha GPC has gained popularity as both a brain-booster as well as a performance enhancer.
These may seem like very different uses, but they both stem from the fact that Alpha GPC increases Acetylcholine levels. Remember, Acetylcholine controls memory, learning, and muscle contractions. It’s all connected.
What Are The Benefits?
Despite a growing body of research in support of its use as an Acetylcholine-booster, Alpha GPC remains relatively under-used by mainstream supplement companies.
This is because it’s relatively expensive compared to other (inferior) Choline-sources, so it often gets left out of nootropic and pre-workout formulas in favor of a cheaper (less effective) alternative. If it is included, it’s usually at a sub-clinical dose…But more on that later.
Let’s talk about what Alpha GPC is really capable of…
The cognitive enhancing effects of Alpha GPC are believed to be the result in increased activation of Protein Kinase C (PKC), a molecule which plays a critical role in memory formation.
In mice, oral intake of Alpha GPC has been shown to increase PKC activity to a similar extent as other cognitive enhancement supplements, Oxiracetam and Aniracetam.
Improved learning capabilities have been observed in mice with cognitive impairments.
Alpha GPC FOR TREATING Cognitive Decline
Naturally, the cognitive enhancement properties of Alpha GPC are of interest to those looking to treat Alzheimers. For that reason, much of the research on it is geared toward treating Alzheimer’s.
In subjects with mild Alzheimer’s, Alpha GPC has been shown to improve measures of cognitive ability. A review of 17 different studies concluded that the cognitive benefits seen with Alpha GPC appeared to be fairly consistent across multiple different studies, so there’s probably something to it.
What About people with normal, healthy brains?
Unfortunately, more research is required to determine whether it can improve aspects of cognitive function in healthy individuals, as opposed to just those who are experiencing some sort of cognitive decline or disease state.
Currently, we have one study in which Alpha GPC was combined with other nootropics, including Phosphatidylserine and Caffeine.
Unfortunately, even though there were clearly some cognitive benefit here, they can’t be attributed to Alpha GPC alone. That makes this particular study pretty much useless for evaluating the efficacy of Alpha GPC alone.
Another study found that Alpha GPC supplementation appeared to improve certain aspects of cognitive function, but due to extreme variation between subjects, the results were deemed insignificant (in the eyes of science, that is).
It may very well be effective for normal people, but until studies confirm it, we just don’t know…
physical performance enhancement
Unlike the nootropic benefits of Alpha GPC, studies on the performance enhancement end have been performed in initially health human subjects.
A 2008 pilot study, published in the Journal Of The International Society Of Sports Nutrition, found that subjects consuming 600mg of Alpha GPC prior to exercise experienced a 14% increase in peak bench press force, with a trend toward increased power as well.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this study was that subjects only consumed 1 acute dose of Alpha GPC. There was no build-up time, as is the case with other performance enhancing supplements like Creatine and Beta-Alanine.
Until recently, however, no one even tried to replicate these findings…
In 2015, researchers at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette investigated the physical performance enhancement of 6 days of constant Alpha GPC supplementation.
Using a double blind, placebo controlled, cross-over design (the holy grail of study designs), the researchers had subjects perform
Subjects performed two exercises:
- Isometric Mid Thigh Pull
- Upper Body Isometric Test
Initial measurements were taken for peak force and power output. Then the subjects consumed 600mg of Alpha GPC for 6 days before performing the same exercises again.
The results showed a significant increase in peak force was observed for the Isometric Mid Thigh Pull with a trend towards increased force for the Upper Body Isometric Test.
The researchers concluded that Alpha GPC is worth supplementing with for the purposes of performance enhancement, especially in competitive athletes who play sports in which a small improvement can make a massive difference.
Finally, a 2015 study conducted at Angelo State University in Texas pitted Alpha GPC against Caffeine (and a Placebo) and found that Alpha GPC supplementation, on average, increased vertical jump peak power by 7.5-8.5% compared to a 2% increase from Caffeine.
The graph below shows the results. (note there are 2 Alpha GPC groups. One took 200mg and one took 400mg.
Although Alpha GPC clearly made a difference, there were large individual difference between subjects that forced the researchers to label the increase as “statistically insignificant”. They did conclude, however, that “Alpha-GPC seemed to be beneficial for certain physical and mental performance tasks“.
When you take a step back and look at the results of all the studies pertaining to Alpha GPC and performance enhancement, it’s pretty clear that there’s something to it.
A 2012 study conducted at the Faculty of Sport and Health Science, Ritsumeikan University in Japan noted that Alpha GPC supplementation (1000mg) resulted in a subsequent increase in serum (blood) Free Fatty Acid levels. Additionally, serum acetoacetate and 3-hydroxybutyrate levels were increased, both indicative of Hepatic (liver) Fat Oxidation.
Because measurements were only taken 120 min post supplementation, it’s tough to say whether Alpha GPC is useful for burning fat. That said, the preliminary results from this study are certainly encouraging in that regard, so further studies are likely under way.
Alpha GPC And Growth Hormone
One of the primary focuses of Alpha GPC studies has been investigating its impact on Growth Hormone (GH). As you may know, Growth Hormone is heavily involved in things like:
- Building Muscle
- Burning Fat
- Insulin Sensitivity
- Glucose Metabolism
- General Vitality
While too much Growth Hormone (in the form of actual GH) will turn you into an actual giant, maximizing the impact of the GH you already have can benefit pretty much every aspect of your life.
That’s why the research involving Alpha GPC’s impact on Growth Hormone has received so much attention. There’s actually been a few studies upon which we can draw some basic conclusions.
In 1992, a study conducted at the University of Parma in Italy found that subjects who were given Alpha GPC in combination with Growth Hormone Releasing Hormone (GHRH) experienced an increase in GH secretion beyond what was obvserved in subjects who only received GHRH with no Alpha GPC.
Alpha GPC enhanced GH secretion in both older and younger subjects, with older subjects deriving more benefit (because of initially low GH levels).
For a while, this was the only study investigating the impact of Alpha GPC on GH secretion…
However, the same 2008 study from the Journal Of The International Society Of Sports Nutrition which measured peak bench press force also found an increase in exercise-induced GH secretion.
Peak GH increased 44-fold in subjects consuming the Alpha GPC supplement compared to 2-fold in subjects consuming the placebo.
Similar findings were observed in the same 2012 study out of Ritsumeikan University in Japan that I referenced above, this time using 1000mg of Alpha GPC.
If you step back and look at the research on Alpha GPC and Growth Hormone as a whole, clearly Alpha GPC is an effective GH secretagogue. What remains to be determined, however, is the long-term benefits that Alpha GPC could potentially offer in this regard.
Time will tell!
What’s The Clinical Dose For Alpha GPC?
The “Clinical Dose” for any supplement is simply the dose at which that supplement was shown to exert benefit in a scientific (clinical) setting. For Alpha GPC, this is between 600 and 1000mg, either taken acutely or over time.
Unfortunately, many supplement companies choose to use sub-clinical doses of Alpha GPC in their products because it can get fairly expensive to use effective doses like 600mg.
Many companies simply hide the dose of Alpha GPC in a proprietary blend in the hopes that customers won’t realize it’s under-dosed. To make matters worse, Alpha GPC is usually mixed with Silicon Dioxide and diluted to around 50%, so when Company A says they have 600mg of Alpha GPC in their formula, they really only have 300mg of actual Alpha GPC and 300mg of inactive (doens’t do anything) Silicon Dioxide.
AlphaSize® is a patented form of Alpha GPC produced by ChemiNutra. The most common form used in supplements is 50% Alpha GPC by weight, meaning 1200mg of AlphaSize yields 600mg of actual Alpha GPC.
So, if Company A listed the amount of AlphaSize in their Alpha GPC supplement at 600mg, there’s really only 300mg. This can be frustrating for end-users who want to make sure they’re getting a true clinical dose of Alpha GPC.
Ideally, you want the label for your Alpha GPC supplement to look something like this:
The image above is the Supplement Facts panel for Singular Sport Alpha GPC, which contains a true clinical dose of AlphaSize, yielding 600mg of elemental Alpha GPC in each serving.
Another way to say it would be:
“1200mg of AlphaSize®, yielding 600mg elemental Alpha GPC”
If you look around at most Alpha GPC supplements, you’ll find that the actual amount of Alpha GPC in the product is only half what is implied on the label. Just be careful when it comes to dosing!
Are There Any Side Effects Of Alpha GPC?
No. Alpha GPC is entirely safe and no adverse effects have been reported.
The LD50 of a substance is the dose it takes to kill half (50%) of a population. The “LD” stands for Lethal Dose. In mice, the LD50 for Alpha GPC is about 10,000mg/kg. meaning Alpha GPC is not at all toxic.
The No Observed Adverse Effect Level (NOAEL) is considered 150mg/kg in mice which translates to about 24mg/kg in humans. In other words, a 175lb (79kg) person could consume over 1800mg without safely. Given that this is about 3 times the clinical dose required for Alpha GPC, there’s no reason to even approach that level…Although you could!
When it comes to supplements, source matters, but that’s especially true with Alpha GPC. You see, most supplement companies use cheap off-brand Alpha GPC because it’s cheaper than, say, AlphaSize®.
Unfortunately, it’s more or less impossible to tell whether these off-brand forms of Alpha GPC actually contain the amount of Alpha GPC they’re supposed to.
The benefit to using AlphaSize® is that it’s completely standardized. Assuming the manufacturer of the product is honest and actually puts the right amount of AlphaSize in the product, you can be sure that it contains the amount of Alpha GPC it’s supposed to.
Of course, manufacturers can be very shady, so it’s always a good idea to go with a Third Party Tested Alpha GPC supplement like Singular Sport Alpha GPC.
Not only does it contain AlphaSize® from ChemiNutra, but each batch undergoes chemical analysis by an independent lab so we (and our customers) can be absolutely certain their getting what they pay for.
You can roll the dice on synthetic Chinese Alpha GPC, but chances are you’re either:
- Getting less than you paid for!
- Getting heavy metals or other contaminants you don’t want!
I’m not huge on branded ingredients because the truth is most of them aren’t any better than the generic versions, but when it comes to Alpha GPC, it’s a MUCH better idea to go with AlphaSize®. Sure, it’s more expensive, but what’s a little extra money for complete peace of mind?
The Best Alpha GPC Supplements
Alpha GPC can be found in a variety of different supplements, from pre-workouts to nootropics. If you’re looking to get the performance enhancement benefits though, you need to take at least 600mg prior to exercise.
The dose needed for cognitive enhancement is less clear, but common doses range from 600mg/day to 1200mg/day.
If you’re looking for a pre-workout that actually contains a clinical dose, Momentum Nutrition Catalyst is the only one I’m aware of. I’m not just saying that because I formulated it. I just really don’t know of any other products that contain the same dose. In fact, it’s usually about half that dose or less…
The reason we can get away with using such an expensive dose is because we’re primarily a direct-to-consumer brand.
Most supplement companies have to keep their formulas as cheap as possible becuase they go through multiple channels of distribution before they reach the consumers hands. You see, everyone that touches the product takes a cut.
The typical model is something like this:
Manufacturer > Supplement Company > Distributor > Retailer > Customer
And if you just think about the fact that everyone is looking to make as much money as possible, you can understand why most supplement companies under-dose their formulas. If they didn’t, the distributors and retailers would eat up all the profit.
At Momentum Nutrition, the chain of custody goes something like this:
Manufacturer > Us > Customer
We can afford to use clinically effective doses of key ingredients because we don’t have to worry about leaving a high margin for distributors and retailers. We can offer clinically effective doses of key ingredients for a fair price and still make money. It’s really that simple.
Next time you go to GNC or Bodybuilding.com to buy a supplement, I’d urge you to consider the fact that for a supplement to be sold in those types of places, it has to be produced for 1/8th to 1/12th of the final cost. So, when you pay 40$ for that other pre-workout supplement, it really cost them $5 or less to produce…
Do you think there’s really going to be an effective dose of Alpha GPC in there? Not even close…
Of course, another way to go is simply to purchase a single-ingredient Alpha GPC supplement. That way you can either add it to your current pre-workout or simply take it by itself.
That’s why we offer Singular Sport Alpha GPC, made with nothing but AlphaSize®. Each serving provides 600mg of elemental Alpha GPC from 1200mg of AlphaSize®. Most competing supplements offer half that, and unless it’s Third Party Tested, you can’t even be sure.
The Bottom Line on Alpha GPC
Alpha GPC has become more and more popular of the years, and for good reason.
An ever-widening body of research indicates that it not only offers something in the way of cognitive enhancement but is one of the few performance enhancing supplements to be effective with one-time use.
Just make sure you’re taking at least 600mg, preferably from a trustworthy source such as AlphaSize® so you can be certain you’re getting what you pay for…