During exercise, especially during high-intensity exercise (interval training and cross-training) and prolonged endurance events, the anaerobic, glycolytic, and aerobic energy pathways are going to be taxed,
Eventually, they will be overwhelmed by metabolic waste products and free radical spill over.
The addition of alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), n-acetyl cysteine (NAC), and acetyl L-carnitine (ALC) can mitigate metabolic waste and maximize the energy potential of the cell. The combination allows more efficient energy production via mitochondrial and metabolic pathways, and quicker recovery due to enhanced glutathione regeneration.
All three nutrients play key individual, and synergistic roles in boosting mitochondrial function, the powerhouse of the cell, and recharging glutathione, the body’s most powerful antioxidant.
Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is a potent antioxidant that functions in aqueous and fatty tissue environments, allowing widespread benefits both intracellularly and extracellularly. ALA also recharges other antioxidants such as vitamins C and E to their active states, acts as an essential cofactor for mitochondrial enzymes, and stimulates glutathione synthesis.
Without sufficient ALA the mitochondria would be unable to breakdown alpha-keto acids and free amino acids that are needed to produce acetyl-coenzyeme A (CoA), and provide important intermediates that supply the citric acid cycle, as well as protect the electron transport chain from free radical damage so maximum energy production can take place.
ALA has also been heavily studied for its benefits of glucose utilization, which has a direct benefit in delivering the most valued energy source to muscles and improves endurance and strength in athletes who are low or depleted of ALA.1-4
N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is also an antioxidant, and has been shown to increase glutathione and attenuate muscular fatigue via multiple cellular mechanisms. Cysteine is the rate-limiting amino involved in glutathione formation. When sufficient amounts are available glutathione’s antioxidant capacity is not limited.
Essentially NAC assists glutathione’s free radical buffering capacity after intense exercise by quenching excess radical oxygen species (ROS). Another mechanism of muscle fatigue is the depletion of key electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium.
A portion of electrolyte depletion is due to the decreased activity of the Na+/K+ pumps. NAC was found to preserve plasma K+ concentrations during exercise and improve K+ regulation, delaying fatigue. NAC showed improvements on muscular performance in both endurance and short sprint-type exercises.5-8
Acetyl L-Carnitine (ALC) is an amino acid which is formed from the combination of lysine and methionine. The primary function of ALC is to shuttle fatty acids into the mitochondria for energy production. ALC has been found to increase fatty acid oxidation, exhibit muscle glycogen sparing effects, and convert acetyl-coenzyme A (CoA) into acetyl-L-carnitine and CoA.
The benefit of an increase in CoA availability is twofold in that it is essential for optimal function of the Kreb’s cycle, and it may prevent the pyruvate dehydrogenase stimulation, which increases glucose oxidation and lactic acid production. The buffering system is a key factor in allowing maximal oxygen uptake, decreases in plasma lactate, and contribute to mild improvements in VO2max. ALC has also been shown to decrease lipid peroxidation and muscle damage markers after exercise and increase beta oxidation of fatty acids in the mitochondria.9-14
So how do you apply this in practice? Start by educating your patients on the importance of mitochondrial health and the benefits that reach far beyond energy and exercise benefits. Next find an effective product that provides quality doses of the three nutrients, preferably together to get the maximum benefit.
Ideally, look for doses in the range of n-acetyl-L-cysteine 600mg, alpha lipoic acid 200mg, and acetyl L-carnitine 500mg.
Frank Bodnar is 2010 graduate of Palmer College of Chiropractic with a M.S. degree in Human Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport and is certified in sports nutrition through the International Society of Sports Nutrition (CISSN). He practices in Racine, WI where he lives with his wife and two children. He is passionate about using nutrition to improve patient outcomes, and enhance lifestyle changes through counseling and education. He can contacted through firstname.lastname@example.org, 262-930-2188, follow him on twitter @drfrankbodnar or connect on LinkedIn.
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2756298/ – ALA overview.
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21187189 – ALA essential cofactor for mitochondrial enzymes and role in weight loss.
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19617657 – ALA enhancing glutathione and reducing oxidative stress in trained men.
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7575750 – ALA enhancing glucose utilization.
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15194675 – NAC attenuates fatigue in endurance-trained individuals.
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24576857 – NAC improves sprint performance on cycle ergometer.
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27974950 – NAC decreases exercise-induced inflammation.
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16840514 – NAC delays fatigue via by improving potassium regulation.
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2075186/ – ALC’s role in the regulation of fuel metabolism in skeletal muscle.
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2328258 – ALC stimulates pyruvate dehydrogenase activity, and buffering capacity.
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2127744 – ALC increases oxygen uptake, CO2 production, while reducing pulmonary ventilation and plasma lactate levels.
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3110804 – ALC benefits on elite athletes.
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4043038 – ALC loading improves aerobic and anaerobic exercise performance.
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25834706 – ALC alleviates effects of lipid peroxidation muscle damage markers following acute bouts of exercise.