Benefits of Phosphatidic Acid Supplementation on Lean Body Mass

Authored by Elliot Reimers, M.S.(C), CISSN, CNC

Phosphatidic Acid Supplementation: Does It Increase Muscle Mass?

Phosphatidic acid is a fatty acid, specifically a diacyl-glycerophospholipid, found in cell membranes. Despite being the minority of these fatty acids in the body, it serves an essential role as a precursor of other glycerophospholipids and a signaling molecule [1].

Research in recent years has uncovered the apparent muscle-building implications of phosphatidic acid ingestion through what appears to be the mechanistic/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling cascade [2]. mTOR complex 1 (mTORC1) is widely regarded as the "master regulator of skeletal muscle hypertrophy," and phosphatidic acid stimulates this protein by binding directly to it [3].

When we perform resistance training, the mechanical tension placed on skeletal muscle tissue provokes mTORC1 activation. Hence, some gym-goers and bodybuilders argue that extending "time under tension" when lifting weights will maximize muscle growth (though this supposition remains contentious) [4].

Back on point, scientists posit that a phosphatidic acid supplement can bolster mechanical stimulation of mTORC1. If this hypothesis holds, resistance trainees should experience greater skeletal muscle hypertrophy by supplementing with phosphatidic acid.

This article will highlight the key takeaways from relevant literature to determine the potential benefits of phosphatidic acid use. We will also clarify the popular notion that phosphatidic acid blunts muscle protein synthesis when taken with whey protein.

Skeletal Muscle Protein Synthesis and Phosphatidic Acid

Much like L-leucine, an essential amino acid, phosphatidic acid activates the mTOR pathway responsible for protein synthesis [5]. Research suggests that phosphatidic acid does this by binding to a specific subdomain of the mTORC1 complex, but there's also in vitro evidence that it modulates mTOR gene expression [6, 7].

While the exact molecular basis of lean body mass accrual is still somewhat nebulous, it's suggested that phosphatidic acid is an integral mediator of resistance exercise-induced hypertrophy [8]. Moreover, supplemental phosphatidic acid may promote mTOR signaling through a distinct pathway that ultimately converges with mechanical stimuli, creating a more pronounced muscle hypertrophy response after lifting weights [9].

Thus, it stands to reason that phosphatidic acid is most effective when taken as part of a resistance training regimen. (Let's be honest: most sports nutrition supplements are.)

Phosphatidic Acid and Lean Body Mass

Human studies of phosphatidic acid and its effects on body composition are relatively scarce but gaining traction in recent years. Several studies show that phosphatidic acid supplementation significantly increases skeletal muscle mass in healthy young-to-middle-age adults engaging in resistance exercise. But a recent meta-analysis notes some studies have less compelling results [10].

For example, a study of elderly adults found that phosphatidic acid supplementation did not enhance muscle protein synthesis after a bout of resistance training [11]. Other research indicates positive effects of phosphatidic acid use on muscle strength and body composition in strength-trained young adults [12]. Unfortunately, subjects were also taking additional ingredients known to affect hypertrophy, specifically hydroxymethylbutyrate (HMB), L-leucine, and vitamin D3, precluding an isolated effect of phosphatidic acid.

Furthermore, a few well-designed studies of active adults demonstrated significant differences in muscle thickness, lean body mass, and overall strength after eight weeks of phosphatidic acid use [13, 14]. Compared to placebo, subjects taking phosphatidic acid (750 mg per day) gained an additional 2 to 3 kg (~4.4 to 6.6 lbs) of lean body mass, 110 lbs on one-rep max leg press strength, and 10-20 lbs on one-rep max barbell squat.

Despite some equivocal data, phosphatidic acid is an appealing dietary supplement for increasing muscle mass and strength gains. It's also noteworthy that phosphatidic acid use is very well-tolerated and no adverse events/side effects were reported in the studies cited above.

Hopefully, more research will surface in the coming years to better our understanding of this unique phospholipid.

Benefits of Phosphatidic Acid

Phosphatidic acid (PA) supplementation may provide a handful of strength and body composition benefits by increasing muscle protein synthesis and, by extension, muscle growth when combined with diligent resistance exercise and proper nutrition. During a fat-loss phase, it's plausible that a PA supplement would also reduce muscle protein breakdown and allow trainees to retain more lean body mass.

Interestingly, phosphatidic acid ingestion has also been shown to improve cognitive function when taken with other phospholipids, notably phosphatidylserine [15]. It's clear that phosphatidic acid, like other lipid mediators, is an integral cell constituent and signaling molecule throughout the body.

However, there is no conclusive evidence that phosphatidic acid significantly alters the endocrine response to resistance training. Mechanistically, phosphatidic acid ingestion seems unlikely to increase anabolic hormone levels [16]. If that's your goal, there are better options.

Phosphatidic Acid Supplement and Whey Protein

A rodent study in 2015 examined the effects of feeding phosphatidic acid with or without whey protein on skeletal muscle protein synthesis [17]. Paradoxically, muscle protein synthesis was attenuated in rats given whey protein and phosphatidic acid versus whey protein or phosphatidic acid alone. mTOR pathway activity was nonetheless sharply elevated in the former group, indicating a temporal effect between phosphatidic acid and whey protein.

The researchers note that this outcome is likely a result of phosphatidic acid delaying the kinetics of muscle protein synthesis after ingesting whey protein. They advise splitting the doses of whey protein and phosphatidic acid by at least three hours to maximize the anabolic effects of each.

If you're taking or planning on using Transparent Labs GROWTH, we recommend taking three capsules (providing 750 mg phosphatidic acid as Mediator®) about 30-45 minutes before training on days you hit the gym. This protocol should allow enough time for resensitizing muscle protein synthesis before taking your post-workout whey protein shake.

And yes, TL GROWTH can be stacked with pre-workout formulas like BULK and LEAN for enhanced anabolic and anti-catabolic effects.

Why Transparent Labs GROWTH is the Best PA Supplement

Each serving of TL GROWTH provides the clinically studied dose (750 mg) of soy-derived phosphatidic acid. In addition, the product is formulated with patented Mediator® Phosphatidic Acid to ensure high quality and consistency (which can be hit or miss with generic formulations).

If you're an athlete, bodybuilder, or active gym-goer looking to improve body composition and muscle growth, a phosphatidic acid supplement like TL GROWTH is worth consideration. Given the intriguing preliminary data, we expect to see more research on the ergogenic, anabolic, and nootropic effects of phosphatidic acid supplements in the coming years.

Of course, you won't be building much muscle mass and getting stronger if you're not consuming plenty of protein as part of your resistance-training program. Our Macro & Calorie calculator makes it a breeze to determine how much protein you should eat to pack on lean body mass.

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