Arachidonic Acid: Benefits of Inflammation

Your body knows how to use the training-induced inflammation as a springboard for muscle growth. Before you is a drug that will fully disclose the potential of this process. Learn about arachidonic acid and enjoy progress, as in the good old days!

Author: Jacob Orms

Once upon a time there were strongmen who trained up to the seventh sweat and never parted with the right flask filled with a magic elixir. Wherever they went, there was a drink in their bag, and only with him the athletes felt completely safe.

It was not juice. Not whey protein and not creatine. These were NSAIDs – non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, you could meet them under different names.

Then, at the turn of the century, everything turned upside down. Scientists have found out that the "muscle building" response of our body to training stimuli is suppressed to a greater or lesser extent by the regular use of anti-inflammatory drugs.

It became clear that for growth our bodies really need acute inflammation, and without it the body's ability to build up a dry mass is very limited. And although many power athletes and their colleagues working for endurance, periodically take these medications in our time, the days of NSAID-bodybuilding are already numbered.

The moral of this tale is not only that it's time for weight-lifters to cross out analgesics from their lives. She also raises the following question. What if there was a way to intentionally, for example, with the help of food additives, induce the type of inflammation that leads to muscle growth? This would be an ideal solution for those inevitable periods when your progress rests on an invisible wall, forcing you to use profanity.

Such a nutrient exists, and its name is arachidonic acid (ARA or AK). Science has already proved that AK has a colossal potential and can become a new potent tool in the arsenal of the modern bodybuilder.

In a nutshell, arachidonic acid is the most important fatty acid responsible for inflammation in the muscle tissue. Omega-6 fatty acid with 20 carbon atoms is part of the membrane of muscle cells known as sarcolemma. When your muscles are damaged by lifting weights, certain enzymes rush to the affected area and "free" the ARA from the membranes.

When this happens, the liberated arachidonic acid breaks up into pieces, from which small hormones of local importance are formed, called prostaglandins. It is they that cause inflammation and pain that bothers us after training. It seems that there is little good in this, but, on the other hand, these mediators of inflammation signal the body that it is time to start restoring the muscle tissue. In addition, they play a key role in increasing the number of nuclei of muscle cells, which in turn dramatically increases the synthesis of muscle protein.

Taking NSAIDs, you are violating the natural course of things. But even without NSAIDs, these processes quickly deplete the reserves of AK in muscle tissue. Without arachidonic acid, you almost completely lose the short-term inflammation, so necessary for the creation of a new muscle tissue. Therefore, some scientists are in favor of the hypothesis that a low level of AK is one of the key factors in the development of the effect of the "plateau" during power training.

I'm sure the lion's share of the readers of this article came across this phenomenon. When you first get acquainted with strength training, or when you return to the hall after a long break, you feel pain after training, and as you adapt to training stimuli, this feeling goes away. Over time, the results also disappear. Reserves of arachidonic acid can be the central link of these processes.

Arachidonic acid is not considered an essential fatty acid, because your body can synthesize it from linoleic acid in the liver. However, such a synthesis can not be called effective, and a simple increase in the ration of linoleic acid – this happens when you eat more useful fats and vegetable oils – does not always lead to an adequate replenishment of AK reserves. And although you get some amount of arachidonic acid with chicken, eggs, beef and fish, experiments prove the obvious benefit of taking food supplements.

Recently, my colleagues from the University of Tampa conducted a double-blind 8-week study on AK. The key in this study was the use of a monotonous (without periodization) training program, which fundamentally distinguishes it from other works that studied the action of ARA.

A monotonous program is considered a weak point of any research, but in our case it was a conscious choice. Other works devoted to arachidonic acid were built around training with a progressive increase in training stimuli. We wanted our subjects to have every chance of encountering a training plateau.

What happened? At the end of eight weeks, a significantly higher dry weight and strength than the placebo group was achieved in the AK group. Admission of AK prevented training adaptation, opening the way for muscle growth, induced by inflammation, and this growth lasted longer than usual.

At this stage, the question may arise: "How does this help me, a person who constantly increases the load?" The question is fair. Increasing loads is an integral part of an effective training program, but even it does not guarantee that you can progress forever.

In fact, having achieved significant success in training and muscle development, athletes often find themselves in a dead end and use any tricks to achieve the slightest additional progress.

For this reason, AK seems to be the most promising nutrient for three categories of athletes:

  • Athletes who can not break through the plateau even with the periodization of the training;

Have you ever heard how the veterans of the strength training regretfully recall the "progress of the newcomer"? The main purpose of taking ARA is to help your body get a huge stimulus for growth, the key to which, as you previously thought, is only for beginners.

How to accept and with what to combine

Based on the results of the latest research, we can say that 1,5 g of arachidonic acid per day is sufficient to improve the performance and improve the compositional composition of tissues. However, considering that previous experiments did not demonstrate similar ergogenic properties when using 1 gram per day, we make the correction that the effective dose depends on individual characteristics. Many ARA products contain only 250 mg of nutrient per serving, so think about an adequate dose increase.

To date, little is known about how AK interacts with other nutrients. However, it seems logical that you should combine it with other nutrients that stimulate recovery, for example, with hydroxymethylbutyrate (HMB) and BCAA. Thus, using AK, you can cause a greater response to muscle damage and at the same time raise the body's ability to rebuild the damaged tissue.

The combination of ARA with fish oil seems promising. Experiments show that omega-3 fatty acids of fish oil help to "release" AK, which is part of phospholipids, and this allows the body to use it faster in the area of ​​muscle damage. In general, omega-3 is increasingly being used because of their anti-inflammatory properties, so they are an organic addition to ARA.

By the way, the newest preparations of arachidonic acid already contain in the composition average doses of fish oil.

Although arachidonic acid is considered a pro-inflammatory nutrient, its effect is evident only during and after training. It is noteworthy that the intake of AA is accompanied by a decrease in markers of inflammation at rest. Moreover, the scientists did not find any negative effect on the health of people on the course of ARA administration in the dosage of 1,5 grams for 50 days.

And, nevertheless, it is better to avoid products based on ARA if you have chronic diseases or traumas that can worsen due to inflammation. There are also reports of single cases of increased intensity of delayed muscle pains on the background of AK administration. Use ARA with caution if soreness becomes too strong, or if you have any kind of injury.

For the final confirmation of the ergogenic properties of arachidonic acid, more experiments are needed, but the results already obtained look promising. They prove that taking AK can be an excellent way to enhance the body's natural response to training stimuli, which will allow you to overcome obstacles and get the maximum result from each ruthless exercise!


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