Aspartic Acid

Nonessential Micronutrient

OVERVIEW


Summary

Aspartic acid, a fairly controversial amino acid, appeared on the sports nutrition market as an endurance enhancer. Unfortunately, while the preliminary research suggested aspartic acid could significantly reduce exercise-induced fatigue, most studies have shown that as far as athletic performance goes, this isn’t a top dog. Nonetheless, this nutrient shouldn’t be completely discounted: it may help improve muscle recovery and help protect the central nervous system.

Other names for Aspartic Acid

aspartates (potassium and magnesium-L-aspartates), L-aspartic acid

Where to find Aspartic Acid

Aspartic acid is found abundantly in plant proteins, especially sprouting seeds.

PERFORMANCE BENEFITS


Why athletes use Aspartic Acid

Ammonia is a nasty, toxic substance. And the more we work out, the more it builds up. By helping remove the extra junk from our muscles and livers, aspartic acid may help enhance recovery. And as most athletes know, recovery is key to optimal performance and health.

Ways that Aspartic Acid can enhance Muscle Gain & Recovery:
  • Reduce blood ammonia levels after exercise to help improve recovery
Ways that Aspartic Acid can enhance Energy & Endurance:
  • Theoretically help increase resistance to fatigue by aiding energy production
  • Possibly produce energy from carbohydrates to increase cellular energy and promote stamina

HEALTH BENEFITS

Signs of Aspartic Acid deficiency

No deficiency conditions are known to exist.

Potential uses for Aspartic Acid

Research indicates that Aspartic Acid may be useful in the treatment of:

  • Neuritis
  • Fatigue/Weakness
  • Depression

DISCUSSION

More about Aspartic Acid

This fairly controversial nonessential amino acid began showing up a few years ago as an endurance enhancer. Unfortunately, while the preliminary research suggested aspartic acid could significantly reduce exercise-induced fatigue, most studies have shown that as far as athletic performance goes, this isn’t a top dog. In fact, some sources even go as far as calling it “useless” for this benefit.

Still, athletes use aspartic acid (especially the potassium and magnesium-L-aspartate forms) just before an athletic event because preliminary research indicated it may increase available energy levels, diminish fatigue, improve stamina and endurance, as well as stimulate focus and concentration by supporting nerve functioning. As previously stated, the later research didn’t support these benefits.

Nonetheless, this nutrient shouldn’t be completely discounted… used at lower levels, aspartic acid has been shown to help reduce ammonia levels in the blood, which are increased after intense exercise. Getting rid of ammonia, a toxic substance, not only may help improve muscle recovery, it may also help protect the central nervous system.

Also worth noting, aspartic acid is often paired with minerals such as potassium, calcium, or magnesium. Because aspartates are absorbed easily, scientists theorize that these minerals will likely also be better absorbed and transported to where they’re needed to be used by the body for energy production, muscle contraction, or bone building, for example. In fact, aspartic acid is now being included in some ZMA formulas and is the subject of great interest for athletes because of recent positive research results.

Other uses

Aspartic acid is found in high levels throughout the body, especially in the brain where it acts as an excitatory chemical messenger. In the body, aspartic acid helps produce the ribonucleotides RNA and DNA. And it appears to be a mild immune booster because it enhances the production of antibodies and immunoglobilins as well as affects the thymus gland. This nutrient is also important for optimal health because it seems to help clean out one of our hardest working organs — the liver — again, by removing ammonia.

Therapeutic uses

Aspartic acid is also believed to help treat depression and chronic fatigue. Some experts suggest that chronic fatigue syndrome is caused in part by low levels of aspartates in the body, though research has not yet fully supported those claims. It may also help protect the liver from drug toxicity in some cases.

In truth

While this nutrient doesn’t appear to be the endurance enhancer it was first hoped to be, it doesn’t deserve to be completely discounted. Ammonia is a nasty, toxic substance. And the more we work out, the more it builds up. By helping remove the extra junk from our muscles and livers, this nutrient may help enhance recovery. And as most athletes know, recovery is key to optimal performance and health.

NOTES ON USAGE

Amount


Typical amounts for optimal health are 500 mg.

For athletes, 4,000 to 8,000 mg taken during the 24-hour period before an event may help increase athletic capacity. However, long-term supplementation at these amounts is not recommended.

Timing

Aspartic acid can be taken up to three times daily with juice or water. (Although aspartic acid is found in protein foods, when used for increasing athletic performance, it is reportedly more beneficial when taken as a supplement without protein.)

Synergists of Aspartic Acid

Aspartic acid works with the other amino acids to remove toxins from the bloodstream.

Aspartic acid is combined with the amino acid phenylalanine to form the sweetener aspartame.

Toxicity of Aspartic Acid

Although aspartic acid is nontoxic, it is not advisable to supplement with high amounts for long periods of time. It simply appears to be more beneficial when used for brief times before an event.

Bans and restrictions

None reported.

RELATED RESEARCH

  • Balch, J.F., and Balch, P.A., Prescription for Nutritional Healing (Avery, New York, NY, 1997) 36.
  • Bucci, L.R., Nutrients as Ergogenic Aids for Sports and Exercise (CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, 1993) 45-7.
  • de Haan, A., et al., “Effects of Potassium + Magnesium Aspartate on Muscle Metabolism and Force Development During Short Intensive Static Exercise,” Int J Sports Med 6.1 (1985) : 44-9.
  • Denis, C., et al., “Effect of Arginine Aspartate on the Exercise-Induced Hyperammoniemia in Humans: A Two Periods Cross-Over Trial,” Arch Int Physiol Biochim Biophys 99.1 (1991) : 123-7.
  • Haas, E.M., Staying Healthy with Nutrition (Celestial Arts, Berkeley, CA, 1992) 48.
  • Maughan, R.J., and Sadler, D.J., “The Effects of Oral Administration of Salts of Aspartic Acid on the Metabolic Response to Prolonged Exhausting Exercise in Man,” Int J Sports Med 4.2 (1983) : 119-23.
  • Mindell, E., Vitamin Bible for the 21st Century (Warner Books, New York, NY, 1999) 131.
  • Tuttle, J.L., et al., “Effect of Acute Potassium-Magnesium Aspartate Supplementation on Ammonia Concentrations During and After Resistance Training,” Int J Sport Nutr 5.2 (1995) : 102-9.