Alpha-lipoic acid is prescribed for many diseases and widely used by athletes due to its natural beneficial properties. What kind of substance is it, what are its effects and influences on the human body and how should it be taken correctly to achieve the intended goal?
Alpha-lipoic acid: what it is, characteristics, features
Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA, thioctic acid) is a replaceable fatty acid that belongs to the group of vitamin-like biologically active substances. It is an organic derivative of sulfur, is a pro-glutathione and has insulin-like effects. Nutritionists and nutraceuticals call it vitamin N and rightly consider it an ideal natural antioxidant. ALK was opened in 1951. It was discovered in the liver tissue of a bull during the creation of hepatoprotective drugs, and the antioxidant uniqueness of ALA became known in 1988.
The functions of alpha-lipoic acid in the human body are:
- Participation in the work of enzyme systems as a coenzyme.
- Transportation of molecules of other fatty acids, regulation of carbohydrate-lipid metabolism.
- Production of ATP, enhancement of glycolysis (conversion of glucose into energy), maintenance of the condition and work of mitochondria.
- Protection against the negative effects of all types of free radicals and detoxification of all cells of the body, including cells of the liver, gray and white matter of the brain, as well as nervous tissue.
- Lowering the level of inflammatory markers.
- Protection of the skin from the harmful effects of ultraviolet rays.
- Supporting the work of the immune system by regulating the activity of the intestinal microbiota.
The term ” amino ” acid indicates that the human body produces ALA independently. But the deficiency of alpha-lipoic acid can be definitely avoided if the diet includes red meat, liver products, rice, broccoli, and spinach.
The uniqueness of alpha-lipoic acid does not lie in the miniature size of its molecules, thanks to which it quickly penetrates inside cells. Unlike other vitamin-like substances and vitamins, ALA is simultaneously a fat-, alcohol-, and water-soluble substance. Therefore, it is effective against all types of free radicals, and at the same time, it deactivates them well both inside cells and in the extracellular space. Alpha-lipoic acid is one of the few antioxidants that overcome the blood-brain barrier and protect brain cells from free radicals.
The features of alpha-lipoic acid include its anabolic and insulin-like effects, the ability to enhance and prolong the biochemical activity of vitamins C, D, E and other antioxidants, cleanse the blood of heavy metals, restore the structure of oxidized proteins and nitric oxide molecules, and convert the inactive form of coenzyme Q10 from active to active, reduce the speed of transmission of nerve impulses, improve sensitivity.
Benefits of alpha-lipoic acid
The beneficial effects of alpha-lipoic acid studied in numerous studies allow its use in the treatment and prevention of certain diseases and conditions, to normalize body weight, as well as in sports and fitness.
Use of alpha-lipoic acid in medicine
Today, alpha-lipoic acid is actively used:
- for the prevention of obesity, weight correction and treatment of metabolic syndrome;
- in the control of the condition of type 2 diabetics — to increase the sensitivity of skeletal muscle cells to glucose, without increasing its consumption by subcutaneous and visceral adipose tissue, in the treatment of diabetic neuropathy and retinopathy, in order to prevent diabetic cataracts, to suppress the feeling of hunger;
- with frequent episodes of viral colds;
- for hepatoprotective restoration of liver cells, including in cases of cirrhosis, dystrophy, obesity;
- in complex therapy of strokes, arterial hypertension, vascular and coronary atherosclerosis, ischemic heart disease;
- to prevent progression of vascular diseases;
- after surgery to remove glaucoma in the complex of drug treatment of cataracts;
- in the treatment of diseases of the thyroid gland;
- with problems with the peripheral nervous system;
- in order to support brain activity during high mental workloads, for the prevention of memory impairment and senile dementia, in the treatment of early stage multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease;
- in the treatment of physical overwork, heat stroke, concussions and contusions of the brain;
- to slow down skin aging and improve the condition of nails and hair;
- to increase cellular resistance to pathologies associated with oxidative stress.
Alpha-lipoic acid is also good for food and other types of poisoning, including hangovers. Its preventive courses of reception are indicated for people who work hard and those who work in contact with poisonous substances.
Alpha-lipoic acid in sports
Taking supplements with alpha-lipoic acid is guaranteed to help the athlete:
- increase the total level of glutathione in the blood and liver, accelerate the metabolism of fast carbohydrates, amino acids, creatine and glycine;
- improve muscle endurance, extend the time before muscle fatigue occurs under physical exertion, improve the quality of training and increase its intensity;
- protect skeletal muscles and myocardial tissue from oxidative stress;
- build muscle mass;
- reduce the reserve of pyruvate, and inhibit the conversion of cytosol to lactic acid;
- counteract lipid peroxidation at rest and in response to physical exertion;
- raise the aerobic threshold, improve aerobic metabolism;
- reduce muscle recovery time after intense exercise.
Alpha-lipoic acid, helping to expend more energy, increases the production of heat, which helps to get rid of subcutaneous and visceral fat deposits more effectively. The fact that ALA reduces appetite and resists the feeling of hunger will also help to lose extra kg.
Alpha-lipoic acid: how to take it correctly
To get the proper effect, you need to drink Alpha-lipoic acid supplement following the recommendations:
- An effective dose of ALA for recovery, obtaining antioxidant protection, increasing cellular and humoral immunity, improving the work of the intestinal microbiota, expanding the lumen of blood vessels — 100 mg in the morning and in the evening.
- The scheme of taking alpha-lipoic acid for weight loss and during drying — 100 mg in the morning and 200 mg in the evening, on training days — 100 mg 3 times: before and after training (together with a small protein snack without sugar, but with complex carbohydrates ) + before the last meal.
- For the prevention of cardiovascular pathologies, aging, Alzheimer’s disease and elimination of inflammatory processes – 3 times a year, for 4 weeks, 100 mg in the morning, afternoon and evening.
- For people with metabolic syndrome in the state of prediabetes, when the level of glucose in the capillary blood in the morning on an empty stomach is steadily within the range of 5.9 – 6.9 mmol/l, ALA should be taken 4 times a day at 100 mg.
- The daily norm of ALA for bodybuilders gaining weight and for diabetics is 600 mg. Athletes on training days are recommended to take all 600 mg immediately after it ends with a carbohydrate food or drink, and on days off, divide it into equal parts according to the number of meals. It is not an increase in the dose of ALA that will help to increase muscle mass faster, but a parallel course of taking creatine . Diabetics should divide the intake of 600 mg into 3 times a day, and review the dosage of metformin and/or other hypoglycemic drugs.
- The body should be prepared for receiving large doses of ALA. To do this, you need to start drinking the supplement with a single dose of 50 mg, gradually increasing it once every 3-4 days.
- You need to drink alpha-lipoic acid immediately before the main meal or snack, as well as 30 minutes before and immediately after training.
- A single intake of ALA >2,500 mg causes a feeling of anxiety and rapid fatigue, and a regular overdose can quickly lead to migraine, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and urticaria.
- Everyone who takes ALA should stop taking supplements that contain high doses of iron, as well as abstain from alcohol. Iron and ethanol many times reduce the beneficial effects of ALA, and alcohol can cause the side effects listed above.
- Supplements with alpha-lipoic acid should be taken with caution in people with a tendency to gastritis with increased acidity, a healed stomach or duodenal ulcer. It is forbidden to take ALA supplement in the stage of exacerbation of gastritis and peptic ulcer disease of the stomach or duodenum, children under 16 years old, pregnant and lactating women.
- ALA reduces the effect of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, and chemotherapy drugs.
Attention to those who want to lose weight! High daily doses of alpha-lipoic acid will not help speed up the weight loss process. And if at the same time you do not limit the calorie content of the menu and it is enough not to load the muscles during training, then the body weight will not change, and the side effects listed above will start to bother you. But it is possible to help the body more effectively convert fat deposits into energy with the help of parallel intake of ALA and L-carnitine and/or a complex of B vitamins .