In this months Monthly Guide we’re going to explore some of the most effective cognitive enhancers that will also improve one’s physicality: Alpha-GPC, Phosphatidylserine, Reishi & Cordyceps Mushrooms, and Creatine Monohydrate. . .
Alpha-GPC (α-Glycerophosphocholine) is a biosynthetic precursor for choline. Alpha-GPC delivers choline to the brain faster than any other choline source, which makes it extremely beneficial for athletes striving to keep their body healthy and properly energized. Choline is a phospholipid precursor for acetylcholine, a neuromuscular signaling agent that is extremely important to cognition and learning.
Alpha-GPC supplementation prevents exercise induced reduction of choline levels and increases athletic performance as quickly as 60 minutes after administration. Alpha-GPC also increases growth hormone levels and helps the body burn fat more effectively. A study conducted in 2012 found that a single 1,000mg dose of alpha-GPC significantly increased GH release, and actually increased the rate at which fat is burned post-workout (by way of hepatic fat oxidation).
A 2015 study demonstrated that alpha-GPC can offer considerable benefits to physical strength. The study was double-blind and placebo-controlled, and included 13 healthy college-aged males. Test subjects were given a single 600mg dose of alpha-GPC on day 1, after which their baseline athletic performance was measured and recorded. The subjects were then given alpha-GPC or placebo supplements to take home, with instructions to take half their dose in the morning and half later in the day.
The alpha-GPC group showed considerable improvements in strength and endurance. alpha-GPC supplementation resulted in a significantly greater isometric mid-thigh pull peak-force change from baseline compared to placebo.
While the study may seem to indicate that alpha-GPC increased lower-body strength and endurance more considerably than in the upper body, it goes on to state that this is likely the result of different, uncontrolled for variables unique to each test subject’s specific physiology.
Nevertheless, the results are clear: Alpha-GPC supplementation had a proven and irrefutable positive impact on every subject’s athletic performance and strength.
Phosphatidylserine is an essential phospholipid (a type of fat cell which brain-cell membranes are made of). Phosphatidylserine supplementation is a proven way to reduce the effect of stress because it blunts the physical and mental effects of cortisol.
Cortisol is a catabolic hormone that reduces protein synthesis and prevents tissue growth. It will increase inflammation and disrupt digestion, and is a primary causal factor for brain fog, depression, memory loss and more. Cortisol in excessive amounts will lead to a catabolic state where muscle is broken down and excess fat is stored. Cortisol has even been shown to have a significant negative impact on testosterone biosynthesis.
It’s possible that phosphatidylserine keeps cortisol levels down by counteracting the effects of stress-induced hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activation. The HPA axis is a signaling system that links the pituitary gland, hypothalamus, and adrenal cortex. When the body and mind experience stress the HPA axis acts to regulate endocrine levels system-wide in response.
Because of this phosphatidylserine demonstrates a unique ability to reduce exercise-induced stress on the body. Studies have shown that phosphatidylserine reduces the perception of muscle soreness, and also protects against the harmful effects of overtraining — properties that allow athletes to recover faster and more effectively.
Phosphatidylserine is typically ingested via meat sources (like kidney, liver, and brain) or from fish. Supplementation of phosphatidylserine is one way to ensure adequate intake — the average person’s diet doesn’t come close to satisfying what the body needs to function optimally!
REISHI AND CORDYCEPS
Reishi (ganoderma lucidum) is a mushroom known for its remarkable cardiovascular and anti-inflammatory health benefits. Reishi is rich with beneficial compounds including triterpenes and beta-glucans as well as adenosine monophosphate and superoxide dismutase. It’s these compounds (and more) that make Reishi a powerful natural tool to reduce blood pressure and protect against cardiovascular disease.
Cordyceps (ophiocordyceps sinensis) has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine. Cordyceps can be used to reduce symptoms of respiratory disorders, colds, and even liver damage. Studies have also shown that cordyceps offer protection to cellular mitochondria, as a scavenger of reactive oxygen species.
When supplemented together, Reishi and Cordyceps work in unison to inhibit cortisol levels and raise testosterone. In a double-blind clinical study, researchers from Pavia University (Italy) demonstrated that Reishi and Cordyceps significantly boosted performance and recovery in cycling athletes. After three months of supplementation with Reishi and Cordyceps, athlete’s testosterone to cortisol ratio had been dramatically improved, leading to a variety of whole-body performance benefits. By boosting testosterone and lowering cortisol, athletes were effectively protected from overtraining syndrome and post-exercise oxidative stress.
Reishi and Cordyceps are a nutritious food, too! 100g of Reishi mushroom will contain over 15g protein, about a day’s worth of B vitamins, essential minerals like selenium, potassium, and copper and a whopping 60g of fiber!
Everybody knows that muscles require energy to function, and creatine is integral to regenerating that energy once it has been spent. Creatine is a naturally occurring substance and can be obtained through dietary sources like steak, fish, and pork. In the body it’s produced from the amino acids arginine, glycine, and methionine by the liver, pancreas, and kidneys.
Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the chemical energy used by muscles to function. ATP is available in limited amounts though, and as it’s spent it must then be regenerated. Upon depletion of ATP muscles switch to an alternate, on-demand energy source: phosphocreatine.
Creatine supplementation provides muscles with reserve energy to call upon during high-intensity physical activity. By supplementing creatine, muscles are able to expend ATP and switch to a well-supplied secondary energy source to recover.
When creatine levels are low, muscles will switch from ATP to poorly-supplied phosphocreatine — and once that is exhausted muscles will begin burning glucose for energy. This switch to glucose is not ideal. The byproducts of burning glucose as muscle energy are hydrogen ions and lactic acid, which are major contributing factors to physical fatigue and muscle discomfort.
When phosphocreatine is well-supplied, high intensity training can be maintained for longer periods of time. This means an increased amount of reps or longer sprinting distances, and also an increased rate of protein synthesis as a result of higher-intensity training.
The first 5 days of a creatine cycle are conventionally called a “loading phase”. During this time it’s suggested to supplement 0.3 grams of creatine per kilogram of body weight, ingested over the course of a day (not all at once!) with at least 16oz of water per loading dose
After the loading phase, a daily maintenance dose equaling 0.03 grams of creatine per kilogram of bodyweight is a healthy guideline. This maintenance dose can be taken at once (unlike the loading phase), and a good time to take it is subsequent to a meal. The increased insulin released by eating will help deliver creatine directly to muscle cells.
Creatine can enhance cognition, too — when the brain is engaged, levels of phosphocreatine can drop rapidly even as ATP levels remain normal. Creatine improves brain function by acting as a backup generator, primed for bursts of highly creative or analytical thinking — just as it does for muscles.
Vegetarians in particular experience significant cognitive results from creatine supplementation — an Australian study (in which subjects were either vegetarian or vegan) showed that creatine supplementation had a statistically significant positive effect on both working memory and mental processing speed compared to subject’s baseline faculties. This is likely because the bulk of dietary creatine is acquired from meat sources!