If you have a regular course of supplements to take, you might have heard about supplement “stacking”—taking a series of complementary supplements to increase their effectiveness and help you achieve certain goals. If alpha GPC isn’t part of your supplement stack, it might just be the key ingredient you’re missing.
Here’s what to know about this nutrient and how it can benefit you.
What is alpha GPC?
Alpha GPC is short for alpha-glycerophosphocholine, also known as aGPC. It’s a phospholipid that has been isolated from soy, and contains choline. Choline is “an essential nutrient that is naturally present in some foods…[it’s] a source of methyl groups needed for many steps in metabolism….[Choline] is needed to produce acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter for memory, mood, muscle control, and other brain and nervous system functions…[it] also plays important roles in modulating gene expression, cell membrane signaling, lipid transport and metabolism, and early brain development.”
In turn, alpha GPC can help increase your cognitive function, releasing growth hormone and increase your strength. That’s because this molecule incorporates itself into neuronal cells, which can help your body and brain get the nutrients it needs to thrive. The choline is especially important to memory formation, which occurs in the hippocampus.
Therefore, if you want to improve your memory and athletic performance at the same time, alpha GPC can help you get there faster. While your body does create alpha GPC in the liver, you’ll still need more from your diet or supplements.
Benefits of alpha GPC
When you regularly take alpha GPC, you’ll notice that your memory will improve. Studies have been conducted to test its effect on memory dysfunction and age-related memory decline. (That’s great news for anyone who is startled to find out they can’t remember what they had for breakfast this morning.)
Scientists have been examining the effect of alpha GPC when used in conjunction with memory drugs like huperzine. The molecule not only enhances memory-related benefits, but it also stimulates the production and release of growth hormone. This is a positive effect on athletic performance. In one study, supplementing with alpha GPC improved college athletes’ strength in just six days. The study above showed that the students who added alpha GPC to their routine increased their lower body strength by three percent, a “significant” increase.
Side effects and supplements
Alpha GPC can be found in supplement form as well as natural food sources. The standard dosage is 300 to 600 milligrams. If you want to improve your strength and power output, 600 mg is a good dose for athletes. If, however, your main goal is to improve your memory and prevent cognitive decline, you’ll want to take 1,200 mg daily, divided into three doses. Fortunately, when you take a higher dosage, you’ll also reap its strength-improving benefits.
As always, consult with your medical doctor before you take a supplement. Otherwise, start with the lowest dose (300 mg) and gradually increase as needed. Alpha GPC is generally safe, but if you have any health conditions you may want to consult a doctor to confirm. People with hypertension especially need to talk to a doctor before adding this to their supplement stack. Pregnant people should avoid it as well.
The supplement does come with some side effects, although they’re not common. Some users have reported headaches, fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, nervousness and other gastrointestinal issues.
Natural food sources
Alpha GPC is also available in food. Good sources include:
- Beef liver
- Dried celery flakes
- Dried shiitake mushrooms
- Fried egg
- Raw soybeans
- Skim milk powder
- Smoked salmon
- Soy flour
- Sundried tomatoes
Depending on the food, cooking can affect the choline content. For example, cooking removes 30 percent of choline from raw chicken. Your body may absorb and process choline differently, too, depending on the specific type of food you’re eating.
The bottom line
Alpha GPC and choline can help protect your memory function, slow or prevent cognitive decline and improve your strength by stimulating growth hormone. This makes it a great addition to supplement stacks for strength and cognitive function. While you should always consult a medical professional before adding new supplements to your diet—especially if you have health issues—this supplement can be an effective way to improve physical and mental performance.