ALA cuts muscle damage, boosts recovery in study

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

©Getty Images - Ridofranz
©Getty Images - Ridofranz

Related tags alpha-lipoic acid Sports nutrition sector Sports Nutrition Summit USA

Supplementation with alpha-lipoic acid helped a group of healthy young male athletes maintained muscle strength following hard training, a new study has found.

The research was published recently in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition​. It was conducted by researchers associated with the German Sports University in Cologne.

The researchers noted that ALA has been studied in relation to a number of chronic disease states.  It has also been used as a sports nutrition ingredient for a number of years, but evidence specifically linking ALA to performance benefits is limited, they said.

The group recruited 17 young participants familiar with strength training for their trial. The goal was to see if supplementation with alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) would attenuate the muscle breakdown and soreness that accompanies hard training.  The researchers also measured parameters of oxidative stress.

Study included short and longer-term portions

The protocol of the placebo controlled, doubled-blinded, crossover study called for a hard set of strength exercises followed by one administration of 150 mg of ALA.  Following 72 hours of rest, during which the test group took 150 mg/day of ALA, the subjects then did a 6-day training protocol with ALA supplementation morning and night, for a total of 300 mg/day.

Whether the athletes lost power after the initial hard set of exercises was measured with a one time maximum weight repetition with the back squat exercise, which was performed the day after the initial hard training set.  In the six-day portion of the trial, the one time squat was 30 minutes after completing the training protocol on the last day.

The researchers built in a 4-week washout period between the two arms of the study, in which the placebo and test groups crossed over.

The results of the trial found that more of the ALA group either increased or maintained the maximum amount of weight they were able to life in a single back squat than was true for the placebo group. No such effects were observed in the one day protocol. And in both cases no antioxidative or anti-inflammatory effects for ALA were observed in the various blood draws performed during the trial.

“Our data indicate possible effects of ALA supplementation, during intensive training periods result in a reduction of muscle damage, inflammation and an increase of recovery. Whether ALA supplementation in general may enhance performance and the exact training / supplementation scenarios needs to be investigated in future studies,” the researchers concluded.

ALA during the pandemic

The research comes at what might be a propitious time for ALA.  According to Colorado-based retailer Natural Grocers, ALA will be one of the ingredients that will be in demand in 2021 because of its possible beneficial effects during the current pandemic.  Emerging evidence that patients with diabetes may be at heightened risk from the disease. ALA might benefit, the retailer’s survey shows, because it is known to support insulin sensitivity and glucose utilization.

Source:Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition
17​, Article number: 61 (2020)
The effects of alpha lipoic acid on muscle strength recovery after a single and a short-term chronic supplementation - a study in healthy well-trained individuals after intensive resistance and endurance training
Authors: Insenmann E, Trittel L, Diel P

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