Sunday, June 23, 2013

Phosphatidic Acid: A Rising Star on the Supplement Stage? +100% Lean Mass & Size Gains + Trend for Improved Fat Loss in Experienced Trainees w/ 750mg of PA Per Day

Let's face it, you cannot expect a supplement to build muscle on it's own but if there was a completely natural agent that promotes lean mass and strength gains by +100% that would be awesome, right? Well, what if phosphatidic acid was this agent?
It's actually quite unfortunate that the there is this big pond between me and the US, otherwise I would have left no stone unturned to make it to the ISSN conference past week. And if I had been there in person, there would have been one poster I would probably have scrutinized for hours the one on a recently conducted human trial from the The University of Tampa and the School of Physical Education and Sport in São Paulo (Joy. 2013). The study is in fact a follow up on a "likely underpowered" previous experiment, in the course of which the use of Phosphatidic Acid, or 1,2-diacyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphate, a phospholipid that makes up only a small percentage of the natural phospholipid pool and does not only act as a constituent of all cell membranes, but also as an intermediate in the biosynthesis of triacylglycerols and other phospholipids, has been shown to significantly augment the training induced increases in strength and lean mass gains.

"Strength & lean mass? Now, we're talking!"

Now that I got your full attention let's briefly take a look at the protocol, the intricate details of which - I must forewarn you - I am not yet familiar with, simply because a corresponding paper has not yet been published. Based on the summary that came with the poster, I can tell you, though, that we are dealing with something looking very similar to what some of you may be actually doing in the gym:
  • total length of the study: 8 weeks
  • training sessions per: 2x hypertrophy oriented, 1x strength
The subjects were 28 resistance trained men (21 ± 3 years of age, bodyweight of 76 ± 9 kg, and height of 176 cm ± 9 cm) and thus likewise representative of the main target group of Mediator™, which was the 750mg phosphatidic acid supplement from Chemi Nutra the scientists used in their study.

The changes in body composition were evaluated by DEXA scans, which were corroborated by measurement the circumference of the rectus femoris, the development of the one-repetition max strength (1RM) and the anaerobic power of the participants prior and following the 8 week training intervention.
Figure 1: Significant effects of the addition of PA (750mg/day) on muscle size, mass and strength (Joy. 2013)
The most significant changes Joy et al. observed in their study are summarized in figure 1. As you can see there was a significant group x time effect
  • for CSA, in which the EXP group increased (+1.01 cm², ES = 0.92) to a greater extent than the CON group (+0.61 cm², ES = 0.52)
  • for LBM, in which the EXP group (+2.4 kg, ES = 0.42) doubled the effects of resistance training alone (CON +1.2 kg, ES = 0.26), and
  • for leg press 1RM, in which the EXP group increased to a greater extent (+52.0 kg, ES = 1.2) than the CON group (+32.5 kg, ES = 0.78)
Moreover, the scientists observed "a trend group x time effect (p=0.06) for fat loss, in which the EXP group decreased body fat to a greater extent than the CON group (-1.3kg vs. -0.5kg)." (Joy. 2013)

"Ok, where are the 'on the other hands'? "

I see, as a "healthy skeptic" you are rightly asking yourself about the potential downsides. I mean, greater mass and strength gains and fat loss? Sounds like a dream come true... well, human research in this area is still in it's infancy, but according to poster #2 the scientists presented at the ISSN, ill health effects don't appear to be among the downsides, as there were
"[...] no differences at baseline in blood chemistry and hematology between the CON and EXP supplemented groups [...] no differences were observed in urinalysis values between the groups" (Dudeck. 2013)
Furthermore, the underlying mechanism, i.e. the potent stimulation of the mTOR pathway, was confirmed in an in-vitro analysis with human muscle cells (Gundermann. 2013) and the oral bioavailability was confirmed and quantified in study #3 (Purpura. 2013).

Table 1: Training protocol and amino acid content (in g/100g) of the post- workout supplement in the previous study (learn more).
So is PA the proven magic bullet we all have been looking for? No, certainly not - there is no "magic bullet", not even real gear works like the literal magic bullet, but it is certainly one of the most exciting supplements on the horizon.

Before you get all too psyched up, you should however keep in mind that the study at hand used a realistic training protocol and strength trained individuals, but it did not use what every trainee uses to boost his mTOR response after a workout: whey protein! In a conversation with one of the authors, I found out that the subjects ingested a collagen protein (amino acid composition see table from a previous study on the right) the researchers picked to isolate the effects of PA on mTOR independent of the mTOR boosting effects of leucine. Yet although it goes without saying that the results could well have been different and the impressive results would lose their significance, only a follow up study will tell whether this is going to be the case or not.

  • Dudeck JE, Joy JM, Lowery RP, De Souza EO, Jäger R, McCleary SA, Wilson SMC, Purpura M, Wilson JM. Safety of Soy-Derived Phosphatidic Acid Supplementation in Healthy Young Males.Poster presentation at the ISSN Conference 2013.
  • Joy JM, Lowery RP, Dudeck JE, De Souza EO, Jäger R, McCleary SA, Wilson SMC, Purpura M, Wilson JM. Phosphatidic Acid Supplementation Increases Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophy and Strength. Poster presentation at the ISSN Conference 2013.
  • Purpura M, Jäger R, Joy JM, Lowery RP, Moore JD, Wilson JM. Effect of Oral Administration of Soy-Derived Phosphatidic Acid on Concentrations of Phosphatidic Acid and lyso-Phosphatidic Acid Molecular Species in Human Plasma Poster presentation at the ISSN Conference 2013.