Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) Part 2!

Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) has been getting a lot of attention lately. Making more and more people try it. From what I read and what other people have told me, ALA sounds like a great supplement.

Before we get into ALA, let's take a look at what happens to food when it enters the body.

A normal meal:

  1. Food is consumed.
  2. This food is converted into glucose for energy.
  3. Insulin is released by the pancreas to shuttle the glucose into muscle and fat cells (assuming liver glycogen levels are full). Once the muscle cells are full, all excess glucose is shuttled to fat cells.

Now let's look at a meal taken with ALA:

  1. Food is consumed.
  2. This food is converted into glucose for energy.
  3. Insulin is released by the pancreas to shuttle the glucose into muscle and fat cells. Once the muscle cells are full, all excess glucose is shuttled to fat cells.

Now this is where ALA comes into play. In order for glucose to be carried into cells, it must be attached to insulin. ALA is shown to have an insulin mimicking effect. So then more glucose would be shuttled to fat cells because the muscle cells are full, right? Wrong! Studies show that ALA increases Glut-4 transporters on the outside of muscle cells. This means more glucose can be shuttled into muscle cells and away from fat cells. Studies show that the amount of glucose shuttled to your muscles can increase from 50-60%. For those who are not that good in math: This means if you ate 100 carbs and originally without ALA, 40 grams of glucose went to your muscles cells and the rest, 60 grams, went to fat cells. Now, by supplementing with ALA, you have the power to send 60 grams of glucose and only 40 to fat cells. That is a big difference! How you ask.

Insulin Effect

ALA has an insulin like effect. It does not take the place of insulin, only mimics it. (To learn about insulin and its effects you can read my Insulin article). ALA has been shown to increase glucose uptake by mimicking insulin and shuttling it to Glut-4 receptors as mentioned above. Because ALA has increased the number of Glut-4 receptors on the outside of the muscle, more glucose can be absorbed.

Effects of Increased Glucose Uptake

This increase of glucose does many positive things. These include:

  1. Increased pump
  2. Less fat accumulation
  3. Increases Amino Acid transport
  4. Increases creatine
  5. Increased insulin sensitivity

Increased Pump

The increased pump is due to the increase in glucose uptake. Not only does this feel great, but it also contributes to muscle growth. By increasing the muscle cells volume, but nutrients are able to be shuttled to the muscle. Hence increased muscle growth.

Less Fat Accumulation

Again, due to the increase in glucose uptake by muscles cells, less glucose is stored as fat. ALA also lowers one's blood sugar levels, creating a more suitable atmosphere for fat burning.

Increased Amino Acid and Creatine Uptake

This comes back to the increased pump. Because the muscle cells are in an enlarged state, more amino acids and creatine can reach them. Insulin increases amino acid and creatine uptake. Remember, ALA mimics insulin, which means it also increases amino acid and creatine uptake. There are a ton of creatine products on the market that are loaded with sugar. This is because sugar causes an insulin spike, which carries the creatine to muscle cells. The problem with this is an excess amount of sugar with cause you to gain fat. By supplementing with ALA you can carry more creatine to muscle cells without swallowing 75+ grams of sugar. I still recommend taking a simple sugary carb after your workout, but ALA can increase creatine uptake while you take a lower amount of sugar. This is very important for those who are cutting. They can get the same effects post workout without having to worry about storing excess carbs as fat.

Increased Insulin Sensitivity

This is great news for bodybuilders! When I go on a bulking cycle. I find that about after two months, my gains slow drastically. One way to combat this is to go on a brief cutting cycle to and your insulin sensitivity rebuild. Supplementing with ALA could allow you to add more mass as a result of your insulin sensitivity not reducing.

Results During Cutting vs. Bulking

Results will differ depends on your diet. If you are bulking, you can expect to less fat and more muscle gain because of ALA nutrient partitioning effect.

Results from cutting are increased fat loss and a muscle sparing effect. Because your muscles are storing more glucose, your muscles will not become as depleted as they usually do when cutting. This helps you look full and not flat.

Dosage (per day)

200-600 mg will increase insulin sensitivity and lower blood glucose levels. Lower than 200 mg won't give you noticeable effects, except for ALA antioxidant properties. 600 mg-1200 mg will give you an increase in #1 1200-2000 will give you an increase in #1 and more noticeable fat loss. 3000 mg is "said" (Not a fact, just what has worked best for ALA users) to be the ideal dose to assist in massive fat loss, increase in insulin sensitivity, and increasing glucose.

I got these doses from experienced ALA users and other information I've read. They are a general ranges. It is best to divide you dosages up throughout the day. For example, if you are taking 1000 mg a day. You could take:

  • 300 mg with breakfast
  • 200 mg with a carb meal
  • 300 mg post workout
  • 200 mg with last meal
  • Buying ALA

When buying ALA, you have to be careful. ALA is very unstable and rapidly degrades when exposed to the outside atmosphere. Some people think that as long as it is not exposed to atmospheric conditions for extended periods of time, it will be fine. But even a brief period of time can cause massive degeneration of the product. That is why it is not wise to buy ALA in powder form. It is most likely useless. An especially big no-no is buying creatine products with ALA already in them. The only thing you are paying for is the creatine, because there isn't any ALA in those tubs. The solution, buy ALA in capsules! Most companies are very careful when capping their ALA. AST, for example, uses ALA that is vacuum packed in UV protected plastic. Therefore, I do not recommend buying ALA from no name companies. I'm not saying their ALA is not quality ALA, but it's your money and I know I'd rather play it safe.

Well there is what ALA can do for you. In my next article, we will look at different tests and scientific data that backs up what is stated above.

Part 1 | Part 2