What’s the Deal With Phosphatidic Acid?
You may have heard the term PA spoken in or around the gym, or maybe you just want to know a bit more about it. Well, phosphatidic acid (PA) is quickly rising in popularity with athletes, and for good reason. PA is a lipid messenger that is a key factor in achieving increased muscle mass and strength. Sounds great, right?
What are lipids?
Before we jump right into phosphatidic acid, it's important to know what a lipid is. Lipids are fatty compounds, highly insoluble in water, that are responsible for performing a variety of bodily functions including storing and transporting energy, regulating body temperature, absorbing vitamins, and making hormones . Although they function as a backup source of energy to carbohydrates (glycogen), your body can actually store more energy from lipids than carbs, so when it runs out of glycogen it taps into its lipid energy reserves. But consuming foods higher in fat to take advantage of the body’s ability to store so much lipid-based energy might not be an excellent idea for those watching their weight or who don’t live an active lifestyle.
Lipids are in every single cell in your body, the main types being triglycerides, phospholipids, and sterols.
Also known as triacylglycerols, these guys make up more than 95% of lipids in the diet . You’ll find naturally occurring triglycerides in foods such as avocados, olives, nuts, and corn. However, they are also found in cheese, butter, milk, fried foods, and certain meats. We commonly separate triglycerides into the terms “fats” and “oils'' because fats are solid at room temperature while oils are liquids.
Phospholipids make up a smaller percentage of the lipids we consume, only about two percent. Found in plants and animals, these guys are actually soluble in water and their purpose is to build the protective barrier, or membrane, around your cells. They also regulate what enters and leaves a cell. Our bodies synthesize phospholipids to use as structures that carry fats through the bloodstream.
These are the least occurring lipids, the most well-known sterol being cholesterol. The body produces most of its own cholesterol, which is responsible for creating sex hormones, vitamin D, and bile salts.
What is phosphatidic acid?
As its name suggests, phosphatidic acid falls under the phospholipid category. It’s an anionic (negatively charged) phospholipid made up of two fatty acids and a phosphate group bonded to a single glycerol molecule . One of the reasons phosphatidic acid is so important is that it’s an essential precursor to the natural production, or biosynthesis, of other lipids. A lipid mediator if you will. Under normal circumstances, PA levels in your body are maintained at a very low level, but studies are starting to show how an increase in phosphatidic acid can prove to be a game changer in the gym. Let’s get into how phosphatidic acid is going to help you step up your game and boost your gains.
What does PA do for the body?
In a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, sixteen men who had been training for over a year were given either 750mg of PA or a placebo a day for eight weeks. Researchers examined both strength and body composition. Those that got the phosphatidic acid saw a 12.7% increase in squat strength and a 2.6% increase in lean body mass. While the men getting the placebo only saw a 9.3% increase in squat strength and a 0.1% increase in lean body mass. Now the men taking PA may only have achieved a 3.4% improvement over the placebo in squat strength (which is still a nice gain!), but they saw a massive increase in lean body mass at 2.5% .
Although found in low abundance in the human body, PA plays an essential structural role and also acts to signal, amplify, and regulate several intracellular pathways and cellular functions. However, its most beneficial trait by far is its ability to act as a direct stimulator of muscle protein synthesis due to a signaling pathway called mTOR.
Studies have shown that phosphatidic acid is a “critical component” in the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). And mTOR is important because it controls the anabolic and catabolic cell signaling of skeletal muscle mass via protein synthesis in combination with resistance exercise. Skeletal muscle mass makes up a whopping 40% of your body’s muscles . These are the muscles connected to the tissue and bone that help you to do everything that requires any kind of movement. Doing some lifts? You’re using skeletal muscles. Squats? Same thing. Even lifting your phone to send a text requires the use of these essential muscles
What’s the big deal about mTOR? Why do we want it?
Besides regulating muscle mass which includes diverse cellular processes like cell growth, proliferation, survival, and autophagy, mTOR can also sense environmental and intracellular changes . This helps with regulating the metabolic process because mTOR can read signals from nutrients, growth factors, and more. All of this translates to the more efficiently mTOR works, the more muscle growth you’re likely to see. And PA is directly responsible for increasing mTOR’s ability to promote muscle protein synthesis.
Are phosphatidic acid supplements safe?
As we mentioned above, studies have shown that PA is safe in doses of 750mg to 1500mg a day which is what you’ll find in quality products like Nutristat Myoscript and Unbound Supplements BYLD. The phosphatidic acid infused in these is trademarked under the name Mediator® by Chemi Nutra.
Does PA affect testosterone levels?
We don’t always want to sacrifice something in place of something else. In this case, we’re talking about testosterone versus PA, which is a valid concern some people have. But you need not worry because higher PA levels aren’t associated with testosterone levels in a scientific study published in Andrology .
- Steeves, J. A., Fitzhugh, E. C., Bradwin, G., McGlynn, K. A., Platz, E. A., & Joshu, C. E. (2016, May). Cross-sectional association between physical activity and serum testosterone levels in US men: Results from NHANES 1999-2004. Andrology. Retrieved February 10, 2023, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5808848/#:~:text=Conclusions,but%20not%20in%20obese%20men.
- Green, S., & Shallal, K. (2020, August 23). Lipids. Nutrition Essentials. Retrieved February 10, 2023, from https://open.maricopa.edu/nutritionessentials/chapter/lipids/#:~:text=1
- SM; T. F. J. T. N. M. C. N. P. (n.d.). The effects of phosphatidic acid on performance and body composition - A scoping review. Journal of sports sciences. Retrieved February 10, 2023, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34706625/
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- Joy, J. M., Gundermann, D. M., Lowery, R. P., Jäger, R., McCleary, S. A., Purpura, M., Roberts, M. D., Wilson, S. M., Hornberger, T. A., & Wilson, J. M. (2014, June 16). Phosphatidic acid enhances mTOR signaling and resistance exercise-induced hypertrophy. Nutrition & metabolism. Retrieved February 10, 2023, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4066292/
- PMC, E. (n.d.). Europe PMC. Retrieved February 10, 2023, from https://europepmc.org/article/MED/29089899
- Steeves, J. A., Fitzhugh, E. C., Bradwin, G., McGlynn, K. A., Platz, E. A., & Joshu, C. E. (2016, May). Cross-sectional association between physical activity and serum testosterone levels in US men: Results from NHANES 1999-2004. Andrology. Retrieved February 10, 2023, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5808848/