Simply put, the dietary supplement alpha GPC is a brain booster. It’s a chemical that is released from the breakdown of fatty acids found in soy and other plant foods, and it may have an application for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. It also has positive physical effects when taken in combination with other nootropics for brain function. Find the details on how this supplement works and why it’s used by those on the keto diet for improved results.
L-alpha-glyceryl-phosphorylcholine or alpha GPC also goes by the names L-alpha-glycerophosphocholine and choline alphoscerate. Alpha GPC is known as a phosphatidylcholine. It’s a lecithin phospholipid with choline attached to it. Choline is the ticket that allows the substance to cross the blood-brain barrier and quickly access the brain and central nervous system. It is a rich source of choline, but should not be confused with choline itself or CDP-choline.
In simpler terms, alpha GPC is a cholinergic, a compound that can increase levels of choline (and then acetylcholine or ACh) in the brain. Alpha GPC is also referred to as a nootropic, a word that means “towards the mind” in Greek. Nootropics are compounds that either directly or indirectly boost cognitive potential.
Though alpha GPC is already in the body in trace amounts, it is also available as a supplement derived from purified soy lecithin, sold to help increase the amount of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the brain. This leads to enhanced cognitive function and improved cellular health throughout the body and helps keep the neurochemicals of the brain in balance. Specifically:
There are other natural dietary sources of alpha GPC (organ meats, wheat germ, dairy—read on for a full list in this article), though the scientific findings only appear with higher doses at supplemental levels. Alpha GPC can be had over the counter in Canada and the United States as it’s deemed generally considered safe by scientists and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but some European nations restrict it as a prescription drug for application with Alzheimer’s patients. Seek medical advice from a health care professional if you have any concern before adding a dietary supplement to your routine.
Whether taken alone or alongside other nootropics, alpha GPC has shown evidence of cognitive improvement and enhancement. This is attributed to it being a cholinergic precursor, but it also has the ability to promote muscular health and physical strength, which is why it’s used as a fitness supplement. Here is the science behind these claims.
The main draw of alpha GPC has to do with its impact on brain health.
By increasing choline levels and the production of acetylcholine, alpha GPC is effective in treating memory loss, as shown in clinical trials for the treatment of vascular dementia, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and other age-related cognitive decline disorders.
This is not exclusive to elderly patients or to age-related forms of memory loss, though that is where the bulk of the research lies. However, one study found that alpha GPC restored the memories of young participants with temporarily induced memory loss and amnesia (via the drug scopolamine).
Outside of clinical settings, there are many anecdotal reports that taking alpha GPC improves mental energy and focus. Within the lab, there are correlations between low choline levels and symptoms of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), as well as an observation that ADHD children have lower levels of the acetylcholine receptor.
Those without ADHD have also shown increased brain function while supplementing with alpha GPC, specifically improved reaction times and a better ability to focus on fatigue-inducing mental tasks.
Alpha GPC can protect your brain health by boosting the creation of new brain cells and repairing damage done to existing cell membranes. Data includes improving the neuroprotection of animal subjects with vascular dementia and displaying anti-aging abilities.
Increasing choline levels in the brain via alpha GPC supplementation also benefits the body.
Alpha GPC can improve athletic performance by increasing the body’s growth hormone secretion almost immediately (within one hour). By taking alpha GPC as a pre-workout supplement, you can temporarily boost growth hormone secretion by up to 290%, which leads to higher returns on muscle building.
Increased amounts of growth hormone also help with post-workout muscle recovery and strength. One study from 2008 found that taking 600 milligrams of alpha GPC 90 minutes before participants engaged in bench pressing increased their power by 14%. Another shows that growth hormone plays an important role in post-resistance-exercise muscle recovery.
Taking alpha GPC increases fat oxidation, which is a fancy way of saying fat burning. This is beneficial in workout and recovery arenas for performance energy and weight loss, but since alpha GPC is released during fatty acid breakdown, there is an extra link to the body’s other metabolic pathway: ketosis.
Ketosis is a state in which the body relies more heavily on fat-derived energy (from ketone bodies) instead of from the sugar in carbs (glucose). This metabolism exists to aid humans in times of famine, to allow animals to hibernate and migrate, and to provide women the extra energy it takes to undergo labor and childbirth. Upon discovering this mechanism in humans, the keto diet has also been utilized to help people lose weight quickly and safely.
Alpha GPC keto studies include a clinical trial of men under 25 years of age, which found that taking a dose of alpha GPC increased hepatic (liver) fat oxidation, which is not only directly linked to improved energy and muscle recovery, but also enhances ketogenic efforts by helping to quickly and efficiently access body fat. When transitioning to a state of ketosis, there is an uncomfortable “keto flu” stage that most people try to hurry along by using exogenous (from outside the body) ketones like MCT powder and BHB oil. Including alpha GPC in a keto diet regimen may help you achieve your weight-loss goals faster.
Not on a keto diet? Alpha GPC may help anyone access fat stores for workout energy.
Supplemental doses of alpha GPC vary according to your health aim.
Though food sources of alpha GPC have much lower levels than concentrated supplements, you may want to prioritize your diet towards certain foods like:
Though alpha GPC is safely tolerated up to 1,600 milligrams per day, some people experience mild side effects from large doses.
Alpha GPC should be avoided entirely by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and by those taking antihistamines or anticholinergic (which block acetylcholine). If you take scopolamine for motion sickness or irritable bowel syndrome, or have any issues with blood pressure or are on medications to lower blood pressure, consult with your doctor first.
Alpha GPC in low and high doses can be as safe as the food on your plate. Almost universally well-tolerated, alpha GPC is known to be medicinal and beneficial for your brain and your body. Unlike many natural supplements, alpha GPC has a wealth of scientific information behind it that can help you decide if it’s the right boost for you, your workout, and your mind.