Definition: "An ergogenic aid is any substance or phenomenon that enhances performance "

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Alpha lipoic acid combined with training boosts EPO levels

Endurance athletes probably synthesise much more EPO if they take 1200 mg alpha lipoic acid daily. Sports scientists at the University School of Physical Education in Poznan, Poland, discovered this when they did an experiment with 16 students. It seems that supplementation with alpha lipoic acid imitates the effects of doing altitude training.

EPO & alpha lipoic acid
EPO – short for erythropoietin – is a hormone that is produced by the kidneys. It stimulates the production of red blood cells in the bone marrow. Athletes' bodies make more EPO if they train at high altitude, where there is less oxygen in the atmosphere. In 1994 German scientists published the results of an in-vitro study that suggest that the concentration of H2O2 decreases in an oxygen-deprived atmosphere, and that this leads to an increase in EPO synthesis. [Biochem. J. 1994;303: 507-510.]

In 2013 Egyptian researchers reported that people with anaemia who are given EPO often need lower doses of the hormone if they also take 600 mg alpha lipoic acid every day. [Int J Nephrol Renovasc Dis. 2013 Aug 27;6:161-8.] That is why the Poles were curious to know whether alpha lipoic acid supplementation might be beneficial for endurance athletes – and whether alpha lipoic acid might imitate the effects of training at altitude.

Alpha lipoic acid combined with training boosts EPO levels

Alpha Lipoic Acid
The researchers did an experiment with two groups of 8 male students. They gave one group 1200 mg alpha lipoic acid daily and the other group a placebo. The product the Poles used is shown on the right: Thiogamma, made by Wörwag Pharma. [Webstek] Wörwag Pharma did not finance the study by the way. The study was financed by the Polish government and the university where the researchers worked.

After ten days, the students had to jog for 90 minutes at a gentle pace on a treadmill, at 60 percent of their VO2max, and then run for 15 minutes on a 10-degree slope. Before and after the session the researchers analysed the students' blood.

The EPO level rose in both groups after the session, but the rise was noticeably bigger in the subjects who had taken alpha lipoic acid.

Alpha lipoic acid combined with training boosts EPO levels

Alpha lipoic acid supplementation led to an increase in the H2O2 concentration before the running session, but also resulted in a lower increase after the running session. This would suggest that there was a hormesis effect.

Alpha lipoic acid combined with training boosts EPO levels

Alpha lipoic acid combined with training boosts EPO levels

The effect of alpha lipoic acid on the concentration of NO was less clear.

The Poles did discover a relationship between NO and H2O2 on the one hand and the EPO level on the other. The more NO and the less H2O2 in the subjects’ blood, the higher their EPO level.

Alpha lipoic acid combined with training boosts EPO levels

Last but not least, alpha lipoic acid supplementation protected the muscles. At the end of the running session the researchers found less creatine-kinase, fewer 8-isoprostanes, less lipid peroxide and less protein carbonyl in the blood of the experimental group members than in the blood of the placebo group members. All the above are indicators of muscle breakdown.

"The current results confirm the antioxidative properties of alpha-lipoic acid, and indicate a possible use of alpha-lipoic acid to improve EPO production and skeletal muscle regeneration through changes in the RN/OS ratio at rest and after exercise", the researchers concluded.

Hmm. What about if you combine alpha lipoic acid with beetroot?

Biol Sport. 2014 Aug;31(3):179-85.

Alpha-Lipoic Acid boosts effect of creatine 07.02.2014
Weight loss faster with alpha-lipoic acid 07.09.2012
Alpha-Lipoic acid has positive and negative effects on body composition 03.11.2010

Endurance Supplements

Astragalus membranaceus boosts EPO synthesis
In vitro research.

Rhodiola, the EPO herb
Another in vitro study.

Chinese herbal preparation Danggui Buxue Tang boosts EPO
Yet another in vitro study.