We’ve talked about GABA before. GABA, for the unfamiliar, is the common acronym for the neurotransmitter gamma aminobutyric acid. The molecule does not diffuse across a healthy blood-brain barrier, and it isn’t actively transported across either, so the brain needs to make its own GABA. That means that GABA supplements shouldn’t do much to improve the general levels of GABA in your brain. If they do, it’s time to look for information on blood-brain barrier repair on OVitaminPro.com or QOLcast.com.
There is one exception to the brain taking up GABA – the pituitary. The pituitary gland – often called the “master gland” – coordinates so much hormone activity throughout the body, including the thyroid, adrenal and reproductive glands. The pituitary functions in concert with the hypothalamus and, from these connections, we get something we call the HPA axis (Hypothalamus Pituitary Adrenal axis). This is the primary system that helps your body maintain balance in a world full of stressors.
Scientific inquiry into the connection between GABA and the pituitary goes back to the early 1980s in Italy, where research articles began to appear describing these connections. Like most novel research, this went mostly ignored, with an article or two being published every decade by the few people interested in the topic.
I can’t say that hundreds of studies have proven that GABA supplements can increase your HGH (human growth hormone), but the few placebo-controlled trials involving blood testing have been very promising.
So why might you care? If you are a bodybuilder, you already know about the benefits of increasing your HGH. We’re more interested in overall health than bodybuilding, but we do learn from whatever source is giving us good clues as to what we might to do improve our health.
That brings us to sarcopenia. If you’re over 40, you are beginning to feel its effects. Sarcomere is the active unit of the skeletal muscle you might find in your arms or legs. As we age, more and more of these sarcomeres are replaced with fat and connective tissue. This process is sarcopenia (not to be confused with sarcasm syndrome, which also increases with aging).
To slow the effects of muscle loss with aging, you’ll need a multi-pronged approach including regular weight-bearing exercise, healthy levels of vitamin D like Metagenics D-5000, increasing amounts of quality protein like Designs for Health Whey Cool, and now maybe GABA such as Pure Encapsulations GABA.
We are going to experiment with about 2-3g of GABA before exercise to see if we notice anything. Based on the growing body of research, this might be a good approach for anybody working to slow the loss of muscle with aging.
If your blood-brain barrier isn’t quite up to snuff, you might have to postpone trying this as you might feel either too calm or too agitated (depending on your particular physiology) to even exercise effectively. If you take GABA and don’t notice anything in particular in your energy level, you just might have a healthy enough blood-brain barrier to get the beneficial pituitary effects that can lead to an increase in HGH and muscle mass.
Since this approach is new to us, we would be interested in your feedback. Of course, this is all anecdotal but if you find an increase in leg strength and endurance with the use of GABA before your workouts, that will no doubt be good enough for you. If any of you have a few million dollars and some interest in these topics, you can help us fund a study that will look for changes in serum HGH and healthy changes in muscle mass of mature adults over time.