Gamma Aminobutyric Acid (GABA)
Dwayne N. Jackson, PhD
Gamma Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) is an inhibitory amino acid neurotransmitter that plays a number of important roles in the central nervous system. When taken as a supplement, it’s been scientifically noted to support increased growth hormone (GH) release—which promotes increased muscularity and fat loss. However, up to recently, there is little known of the effects of GABA on muscle building. On the other hand, whey protein has been unequivocally shown to boost protein synthesis and muscle building, especially when taken immediately after training.
Recent work, conducted by Japanese researchers and presented at the latest American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) meeting in Boston, sought to quantify the effects of low dose GABA and whey protein on muscular hypertrophy during a 12-week resistance training program in healthy men. In their study, males who took a stack of GABA (100 mg) and whey protein (10 g) had over 43% higher plasma GH levels at week 4 and gained 9x the lean mass (by the end of week 12; measured by DXA) compared to those who took whey protein only.
ACTION POINT: This study provides the first evidence that taking low dose GABA + low dose whey significantly boosts GH responses to resistance training. Most intriguing is that lean mass gain was so dramatic in the GABA + whey group (1340 g vs. 146 g), which was likely due to the remarkable increase in GH. Although we tend to recommend much higher daily doses of GABA and whey, we suggest giving this stack a try at 100 mg GABA and 10 g whey protein taken immediately after training. For a more advanced stack, you may want to work toward 2 g of GABA and 20-40g of whey protein immediately after training.
Sakashita M1, Nakamura U, Maru I, Harada S, Kim JW, Horie N, Kim M, Yokoyama Y, Fujita S. Combined Oral Intake of GABA with Whey Protein Improves Lean Mass in Resistance-trained Men: 241 Board #78 June 1, 9: 30 AM – 11: 00 AM. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2016 May;48(5 Suppl 1):54.
High intensity interval training (HIIT training) is one of the hottest and effective new trends in physical fitness and fat burning. However, progressive HIIT bouts are extremely fatiguing due to the build-up of metabolites— this is where the benefits of beta-alanine supplementation come in.
Beta-alanine combines with the amino acid histidine in the body to form carnosine, which raises muscle carnosine levels. The main mechanism by which elevated muscle carnosine levels increase muscle function and performance is through its ability to buffer skeletal muscle pH (acidity) during prolonged high intensity exercise. Recent work presented at ACSM 2016 (Boston) illustrated that taking 6.4 g of beta-alanine per day for 24 weeks improved time to exhaustion from week 4 to 24 by up to 11%, where the placebo resulted in negligible improvements and even decreases in time to exhaustion at some time points (e.g., -7.1% at week 20).
ACTION POINT: During HIIT style training, increasing time to exhaustion is a hallmark of training success. But, beyond time to exhaustion, research has shown that subjects who completed a 6-week HIIT program (without weight training), while supplementing with beta-alanine, gained more than 2 pounds of muscle after 3 weeks!
For best results, we recommend taking 2-3 g of beta-alanine 30 minutes before training and again immediately after training— if you are looking for an extra strength boost take 2-5 g of creatine monohydrate with both doses of beta-alanine.
Saunders B, de Salles Painelli V, Silva VE, de Oliveira LF, da Silva RP, Sale C, Harris RC, Roschel H, Artioli GG, Gualano B. Effect Of 24 Weeks β-alanine Supplementation On High-intensity Cycling: 244 Board #81 June 1, 9: 30 AM – 11: 00 AM. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2016 May;48(5 Suppl 1):55-6.