Alpha-GPC: Benefits & side-effects
Last Updated: 27 Nov, 2023
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Alpha-GPC (also known as choline alfoscerate or alpha-glycerophosphocholine) is a choline supplement that supports cell function and helps prevent cognitive decline.
Your body creates small amounts of Alpha-GPC on its own.
Around 40% of Alpha-GPC is choline, which your body needs to produce acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter that affects mood, muscle function and memory.
Choline is essential but your body cannot produce enough to meet the amount needed for optimal health .
Because your body can’t make enough choline, you must obtain it through your diet or supplementation. For people with folate deficiency, the need for dietary choline is higher as folate and choline metabolism are linked.
How does the brain age?
The brain is responsible for managing organ function and maintaining whole body metabolism.
As a result, the brain demands an extremely high energy consumption and rate of metabolism that can lead to an accumulation of errors .
Like a car that has been driven for too long, your brain needs regular servicing.
These errors manifest as mitochondrial DNA mutations, reactive oxygen species and misfolded protein aggregates.
These defects in the mitochondria may lead to neurodegenerative and metabolic disease.
To clear these errors that can result in oxidative stress, the mitochondria employs certain mechanisms or ‘chaperones’.
These chaperones help to maintain a low steady-state level of misfolded proteins.
These chaperones shift and refold the misfolded proteins; without them, we become susceptible to neurodegenerative disease.
Promising Alpha-GPC supplementation studies have been shown to improve mitochondrial health and neurological outcomes.
1. May improve strength
Proponents of Alpha-GPC have long used it for the purported physical benefits.
The literature has shown that Alpha-GPC can increase the release of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine which facilitates learning and memory – however the physical benefits are becoming increasingly evident in studies.
In a double-blind randomised controlled trial, 200mg of Alpha-GPC led to an 8% increase in vertical jump power.
Interestingly, a 400mg dose led to a reduced increase in vertical jump power. This means that there is an optimal dose – likely related to weight.
Alpha-GPC led to a far greater increase in peak power in comparison to caffeine, which had a 2.0% increase compared to placebo .
In young healthy men, Alpha-GPC has been found to improve lower-body strength in 6 days of supplementation .
Specifically, extreme force production in the lower body significantly improved as measured by an isometric pulling exercise.
2. Delays cognitive decline
In the elderly, progressive cognitive decline is a major issue that lowers life quality.
Those with Alzheimers, stroke and MS have impaired mitochondrial citric acid cycles.
Mitochondrial dysfunction plays an important role in neurodegeneration and aging.
Alpha-GPC has been shown to conserve growth factor receptors and maintain neuron health in the brain .
3. Improves cognition in dementia/Alzheimer’s patients
In Alzheimer’s patients, depleted acetylcholine levels are often observed .
Alzheimer’s symptoms are possibly reduced through Alpha-GPC supplementation as Alpha-GPC can impair the function of acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme responsible for breaking down acetylcholine.
And acetylcholine is a powerful neurotransmitter required for our brain health and declines as you age.
In one clinical trial, supplementation of 400 mg, three times a day for 180 days led to cognitive gains in dementia patients .
Evaluation of thirteen clinical trials of 4054 patients revealed that supplementing Alpha-GPC significantly improved cognitive symptoms (memory and attention) .
It appears these benefits were seen in those with stroke and Alzheimer’s.
Therefore, these trials suggest that Alpha-GPC may aid functional recovery for those with stroke and dementia.
Side effects & Safety
Symptoms of excess dosage can include heartburn, headache, insomnia, dizziness, skin rash and confusion.
Alpha-GPC is possibly safe at doses of up to 1200mg per day.
How to take
Alpha-GPC is commonly dosed at 300-600 mg, however studies have used around 800-1200 mg without major issue.
For cognitive benefits, a dose of 1,200 mg can be taken – divided into three doses of 400 mg per day.
This level of dosage has been shown to consistently benefit cognition.
Lower dosages can also benefit, but 1,200 mg is the typical dose used in studies.
Using Alpha-GPC for strength benefits, the typical dose is 400-600 mg before activity (around 90 minutes prior).
400-600mg has been shown in the literature to lead to peak bench press force gains of 14% vs. placebo and increase peak GH by 44-fold compared to placebo (2.6x) .
Common brands range from 240-750 mg, with 300 mg being the most common quantity.
Citicoline (CDP-Choline) is a similar compound to Alpha-GPC that comes in capsule form.
Alpha-GPC also comes in capsule form.
Many powder forms are sold in concentrations of 50% or 99% Alpha-GPC.
As Alpha-GPC is hydroscopic, meaning it absorbs moisture from the air around it – it needs to be left in a cool, dark place. In our experience, the hassle of dealing with powder is not worth the trade-off and a large percentage of the powder is rendered unusable. Usually the powder begins to clump with small levels of humidity, however powder is feasible if you live in a dry climate.
Alpha-GPC is relatively higher priced than other nootropics but it has proven to be worth the price.
For a cheaper option that is also beneficial, try citicoline.
In the brain, Alpha-GPC can enhance acetylcholine levels, a powerful neurotransmitter which helps maintain memory and brain function. In those with dementia, Alpha-GPC reduces symptoms associated with reduced acetylcholine levels. Alpha-GPC can also conserve neuron health in the brain.
PHYSICAL strength: Preliminary studies indicate that Alpha-GPC has tremendous benefits for vertical jump power, bench press max and lower body strength in healthy young men. These benefits were evident as soon as 2 hours after first ingesting Alpha-GPC. Compared to caffeine, alpha-gpc had a greater increase in peak power, however caffeine may be more beneficial for cardiovascular endurance.
The Bottom Line
Alpha-GPC can be beneficial due to its positive effects on our brain health.
In athletes, Alpha-GPC temporarily boosts growth-hormone 44x and bench press power by 14%.
However more evidence is needed for its strength benefits and it is possible that other forms of choline including citicoline can induce similar strength effects.
Older adults may want to supplement as Alpha-GPC can slow cognitive decline associated with aging.
Alpha-GPC is safe at dosages of up to 1,200 mg per day however this is on the higher end.