Alpha GPC is a cholinergic compound which happens to be more bioavailable than any other choline source. Because choline is used in the synthesis of Acetylcholine, bioavailable cholinergic compounds (like Alpha GPC or Citicoline) are commonly found in Nootropic supplements for the purpose of enhancing cognitive function.
Alpha GPC has not been studied much in healthy human subjects for the purpose of cognitive enhancement, but it is effective in rodents and has been shown to preserve cognitive function in elderly human subjects with cognitive decline. It may be able to effective improve cognitive function in healthy human subjects, but the science just hasn’t gotten there yet (give it time!).
Fortunately, Alpha GPC has another unique application that should make it of interest to athletes, bodybuilders, and just about anyone who hits the gym and is looking for a safe effective performance enhancer.
Because Acetylcholine directly controls muscle contractions, Alpha GPC has also been studied in the area of performance enhancement, the underlying notion being that any compound that directly increases Acetylcholine production may also be able to increase the force with which our muscles contract.
In a 2008 pilot study (first study to measure performance enhancement), researchers sought to determine if Alpha GPC could increase power output with just one acute dose. Subjects, who each had at least two years of resistance training under their belts (not beginners), consumed either 600mg of Alpha GPC or a placebo. The subjects then performed bench press throws at roughly 50% of their 1 Rep Max (1MR) to measure peak power and force.
The results showed a statistically significant increase in peak force and a positive trend toward increased peak power and, interestingly, a profound increase in Growth Hormone (GH) secretion. The results are depicted in the graph below:
but until recently, this was the only study investigating the performance enhancing capabilities of Alpha GPC, so it couldn’t be considered entirely reliable. However…
In a 2015 study, researchers yet again sought to determine the effects of Alpha GPC on power output, but this time after 6 days of consistent supplementation at 600mg, the same dose as the first study.
Similar results were noted, with Alpha GPC achieving a statistically significant increase in peak force and the study design was the holy grail of study designs: a double-blind crossover, placebo-controlled study.
Here’s the graphical representation of the study design:
You don’t have to scrutinize this chart too heavily to recognize that it is certainly of sound design, and since it’s the second study to look at Alpha GPC in the context of performance enhancement, the results should NOT be ignored!
The chart below illustrates the difference between the subjects who received Alpha GPC and the subject who received nothing, in terms of upper body peak force.
Again, don’t be discouraged by the numbers. They’re super easy to interpret. Alpha GPC supplementation caused a notable increase in upper body peak force.
Like the chart above, the chart below illustrates the difference between the subjects who received Alpha GPC and the subject who received nothing, but this time in terms of LOWER body peak force.
It appear as though Alpha GPC was more effective for increasing peak force in lower body exercises, but such a difference could be attributed to mere chance and probably isn’t worth focusing on.
If we take a look at both studies which measured the impact of Alpha GPC on power output and peak force, not to mention the underlying hypothesis that enhanced Acetylcholine signaling would do just that, it’s pretty clear that Alpha GPC is an effective performance enhancer.
Understanding Explosive Force
Imagine you’re holding a moderately heavy dumbbell and you curl it taking about 3 seconds to complete the concentric portion of the lift (the curl part). Now imagine you perform the same movement taking just 1 second to complete the concentric portion of the lift. The weight stayed the same, but you exerted a greater amount of force over it in order to move it at a faster speed.
At a constant weight: the greater the speed, the greater the force.
In the above example, we used the speed of the movement to illustrate an increase in force, but speed isn’t what’s really important. When you’re training for explosive force, speed is the intent, but ideally you should be using a weight that actually challenges you to the point where it’s difficult to move too fast. Force is maximized when you’re TRYING to move the weight as fast as you possibly can, but how fast it’s actually moving doens’t really matters.
At a constant weight: the greater the weight, the slower the movement.
There’s a lot of so-called “experts” out there who claim that rep tempo is this magical hidden variable that most people never think to change, but that holds the key to shatering plateaus and making gains. While it is true that rep tempo is something you should play around with–as discussed by my close friend and colleague, Rob Girao, in this article–you can’t forget the fundamental principle of progressive overload.
Progressive Overload is a semi-fancy (often used by trainers trying to impress their clients) which simply means gradually adding more weight when your exercise. Regardless of what novel training techniques you incorporate in your training, don’t forget to push yourself harder and harder. I don’t mean you should go to the gym right now and try to bench 50 lbs more than you know you can, I’m just saying if you’re not continually increasing the amount of weight you lift, you won’t get stronger.
Alpha GPC And Explosive Force
If you’re not sure what to make of these studies, it’s actually pretty simple. Alpha GPC is one of the few (reliable) supplements that can increase explosive power, making it useful for anyone who cares about explosive power.
If you’re an athlete—especially a competitive athlete—this applies to you. When you’re evenly matched against an opponent that is as strong and skilled as you, power is often the deciding factor between winning and losing.
But training with an emphasis on explosive power isn’t just for competitive athletes. It’s important for anyone who wants to gain muscle, period. Research has confirmed that explosive training induces greater muscle hypertrophy than slow, controlled training, assuming a constant weight.
The Problem With Most Alpha-GPC Containing Supplements
At this point, it’s pretty clear that Alpha GPC is an effective performance ehancer and certainly something you should consider including in your pre-workout stack if your trying to get an edge in the gym. The problem with most supplements that contain Alpha GPC is that it is always under-dosed. According to the studies which have shown Alpha GPC to be both an effective short-term and daily supplement for enhancing performance have used 600mg, meaning anything less is not a clinical dose.
It’s possible that Alpha GPC is still effective at lower doses, but it’s far from a guarantee. That’s why we included 600mg of Alpha GPC in Catalyst, thereby making it the only pre-workout that contains a true clinical dose.
Take a look at your favorite pre-workout supplement. If it even contains Alpha GPC (which it should if the goal is to maximize performance), you’ll likely find less than half a clinical dose. We’ve seen anywhere from 150-250 or so mg per serving. Again, maybe it’s effective…but why not just go with the proven option.
Summing It All Up
Alpha GPC has been shown–in multiple studies at this point–to directly increase muscle contraction force and power output. This makes it worth considering for just about everyone who sets foot in the gym with the goal of getting stronger and more muscular. The only issue has to do with dosing, as Alpha GPC is almost always under-dosed, in some cases quite considerably.
So make sure you’re getting atleast 600mg of Alpha GPC and just be aware that any pre-workout supplement which contains less than that isn’t guaranteed to provide the benefits obtained in the studies.
Co-Founder of Momentum Nutrition. Supplement science enthusiast. Formulator of all Momentum Nutrition products. If you can't show me proof, I don't believe you...