One of the most interesting training supplements to come out of mid-late 2014 is Phosphatidic acid (PA). Currently it is being included in capsule-based products developed to help the user put on some lean body mass and increase their strength. Another advantage implied by the clinical trial supporting the ergogenic efficacy of the ingredient is fat loss. And all from a 750 mg dose a day.
Most of the companies that are using PA in their products are using a trademarked, soy-derived version called Mediator, manufactured by Chemi Nutra. An initial study was conducted in 2012, which showed a positive correlation between their PA and the beneficial body composition gains from resistance training. A further study was conducted on the basis that the initial one was underpowered and not monitored with enough scrutiny.
The second study resulted in even more significant findings, and it is likely from this springboard that many inside the supplement industry have launched their product design and marketing strategies.
The (Basic) Science of Phosphatidic Acid
Anyone that reads the ads in a muscle mag will have heard of the infamous mTOR pathway by now (mammalia target of rapamycin). For those who this is an alien term – mTOR is basically the business end of many of the important functions related to cell growth and proliferation. One of those functions is protein synthesis, and in fact mTOR is seemingly responsible for interpreting signals of such crucial agents as insulin, IGF-1 and 2 growth factors and amino acids.
Back to protein synthesis; that’s the production of proteins from other molecules and compounds we take on via our diets. It’s the foundation of muscle growth, and it’s a bodybuilder’s best friend. One of the ways we initiate protein synthesis is by lifting weights in the gym. That’s the stimulus, and once activated, we start building muscle mass, mostly during out rest and sleep periods. Phosphatidic acid plays a key role at the outset of this process.
Phosphatidic Acid is released by the muscles at some stage during their contraction or when they are under load. Scientists believe that PA then acts as a messenger to the mTOR protein, telling it to initiate protein synthesis. The theory behind supplementing more of this natural compound is that it will signal to the mTOR more, thereby stimulating more protein synthesis than would otherwise occur.
Clinical Study Effect
Clinical trials, or studies, are hallowed ground in the sports supplement industry. Which each level of depth to the study comes an added level of trust in the results. The scientists generally start in the laboratory with test-tube level investigations, and can work all the way up to studies involving resistance trained men split into a double-blind placebo controlled setup.
While the products will be manufactured no matter what, a degree of scientific proof as backup is the first thing to get plastered all over the packaging that will be read by the user. What customer would not appreciate the vindication of the all-trustworthy and completely objective forum that is scientific research. So, yes, the company will use a test-tube study as backup, even if it has no real world application to human beings. They’ll paraphrase and smokescreen as much as possible to make sales, of that you can be sure.
It is then inevitable that if the most revered of all studies – at least as far as training supplements are concerned – the clinical trial, involving experienced resistance trained men, supports the initial claims put forth then every man and his dog is going to make the product and sell it. Of course there’s even a race to be the first to get one on the shelves, in order to say ‘no-one else makes this.’ Then when everyone else makes it, they can say ‘we were the first to make it.’
This happened with Phosphatidic Acid.
Mediator Phosphatidic Acid
Experienced resistance trained men are the best study subjects because some ingredients can be effective on sedentary people but not on those who are already training a few days a week. The average guy trying to put on some muscle who goes to the gym 3 or 4 days out of 7 – and has done for a while – wants to know if this or that product is going to help him add some lean muscle and strength, whether or not it does for couch potatoes and inactive people.
During the most recent and most quoted study, twenty eight men were observed during the study and half received 750mg of Chemi Nutra’s Mediator PA and the other half took a rice flour placebo.
Results in a Nutshell
Well, what’s so exciting about Phosphatidic Acid? The answer is being a little inflamed, but there are still some significant findings.
Test subjects taking the PA experienced the following effects over the placebo group during an 8 week program:
- 5.3 lbs (2.4 kg) additional lean muscle mass, which was about double that of the placebo group
- 114.4 lbs (51.9 kg) added to one-rep-max leg press more than the placebo group
- 2.9 lbs (1.3 kg) of fat loss, which was over twice as much over the placebo group
Significant, yes. However, the results from similar studies using creatine monohydrate are still more impressive than that in my opinion. And creatine goes for a lot less money. Still, if you’re taking that already and want more mass, more mass and even more mass you have to embrace the cost of stacking the old favourite, more economical supplements with the cutting edge and expensive ones. Basically, it’s still an exciting development.
Cost and Availability
Many companies have made a PA product but there are fewer using the clinically trialled version called Mediator, trademarked by Chemi Nutra.
The average price of the top three products employing Mediator is about $80 for 20 to 30 days dosage. Another product that uses its own type that they have trademarked Actvator goes for $30. Which is a big difference, to say the least. How you interpret the message from the $80 companies is up to you, but they are basically implying that Mediator is the only PA that is worth a damn, and by the way it’s expensive to manufacture.
Currently, GNC have a couple of its franchises making PA supps with Mediator and Jay Cutler is churning out his own trademarked type for way less money. A lot of high street and online stores are selling it.
We’ll just be on the lookout for developments.