GABA

(gamma-aminobutyric acid)

Nonessential Micronutrient

OVERVIEW

Summary

GABA is an amino acid that appears to stimulate the release of dopamine in the brain. While some “experts” have claimed this leads to increased levels of growth hormone and leap right to growth hormone’s benefits of increased lean mass and reduced fat, this theory has been pretty much shot down by recent research. Nonetheless, GABA shouldn’t be completely overlooked. It does appear to help the body relax and encourages muscle recuperation as well as possibly fighting the many negative effects of stress.

Other names for GABA

gamma-aminobutyric acid

Where to find GABA

GABA is formed in the body from another amino acid — glutamic acid. There are no other known sources.

PERFORMANCE BENEFITS

Why athletes use GABA

While GABA has turned out to be far from the purported “fountain of youth,” take solace because it has another quite wonderful effect. GABA has an ability to exert a relaxing effect on the mind and body — it won’t knock you out, but it can be beneficial for healthy sleep patterns and encourage your body to recover after intense exercise.

Ways that GABA can enhance Muscle Gain & Recovery:
  • Possibly enhance muscle recovery and growth by stimulating growth hormone release
  • Promote relaxation, aiding in deep sleep and post-workout recovery
Ways that GABA can enhance Fat Loss:
  • Potentially promote moderate fat loss, again by encouraging the release of growth hormone

HEALTH BENEFITS

Signs of GABA deficiency

No deficiency conditions are known to exist.

Potential uses for GABA

Research indicates that GABA may be useful in the treatment of:

  • Insomnia/sleep disorders
  • Attention deficit disorder (ADD)
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Alcohol withdrawal

DISCUSSION

More about GABA

The amino acid gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is known as the most prevalent “inhibitory neurotransmitter” for our central nervous systems. What this means in the real world is that it simply has a relaxing effect on our bodies. With increasing levels of stress caused by modern living, many folks are turning to natural sources, like GABA, to help them relax.

Greater growth hormone release?

Because GABA has been shown to help stimulate the release of the chemical messenger dopamine in the brain, there have been many claims that it can stimulate growth hormone (GH) release. While numerous amino acids have been reported to increase the release of GH within the body, unfortunately, much of these claims are hype or, at least, slight mis-reading of the truth. GH release is caused by a complex cascade of chemical reactions, and while the research may support this claim to a degree, in many instances, such as with GABA, the amounts actually used to produce the desired effects far exceed what manufacturers want to recommend.

Promote restful sleep

While GABA has turned out to be far from the purported “fountain of youth,” take solace because it has another quite wonderful effect. GABA has an ability to exert a relaxing effect on the mind and body — it won’t knock you out, but it can be beneficial for healthy sleep patterns and encourage your body to recover after intense exercise. When we train, we are basically breaking down muscle tissue. As our muscles heal from training, they become stronger and larger — building muscle. If our muscles haven’t healed before we train again, we’re not aiding that process and are actually lowering our ability to put on muscle.

In conclusion

The bottom line: never underestimate the value of a good night’s sleep. Its ability to aid in recuperation and positively impact muscle growth and mental performance is one of the most overlooked secrets to success. Excuse us if you have heard this, but it’s worth repeating: your muscles grow after workouts, while at rest, not during exercise.

The use of supplemental GABA may help reduce recovery time by allowing our muscles to relax more efficiently. So while its potential to stimulate growth hormone release has been shot down, GABA still appears to have at least some use.

NOTES ON USAGE


Amount

Use ranges from 200 to 500 mg. The powder is often mixed with a little water or placed under the tongue. Higher amounts, up to three grams, have been used. Start at lower doses until you reach a level you are comfortable with.

Timing

GABA is often used before going to sleep at night and again in the morning on an empty stomach.

Synergists of GABA

Used with niacinamide and inositol, GABA may more effectively help prevent anxiety and stress.

GABA is made in the brain from the amino acid glutamate with the aid of Vitamin B6.

Safety of GABA

Extremely high doses, over four grams, can cause anxiety, shortness of breath, numbness and tingling in the extremities and around the mouth in some individuals.


Toxicity of GABA

GABA is FDA approved and has no known toxicity.

Bans and restrictions

None reported.

RELATED RESEARCH

  • Cavagnini, F., et al., “Effect of Acute and Repeated Administration of Gamma Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) on Growth Hormone and Prolactin Secretion in Man,” Acta Endocrinol 93.2 (1980) : 149-54.
  • Cavagnini, F., et al., “Effect of Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid on Growth Hormone and Prolactin Secretion in Man: Influence of Pimozide and Domperidone,” J Clin Endocrinol Metab 51.4 (1980) : 789-92.
  • Koulu, M., et al., “Effects of Some Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA)-ergic Drugs on the Dopaminergic Control of Human Growth Hormone Secretion,” J Clin Endocrinol Metab 51.1 (1980) : 124-9.
  • Steardo, L., et al., “Evidence for a GABAergic Control of the Exercise-Induced Rise in GH in Man,” Eur J Clin Pharmacol 28.5 (1985) : 607-9.
  • Waagepetersen, H.S., et al., “The GABA Paradox: Multiple Roles as Metabolite, Neurotransmitter, and Neurodifferentiative Agent,” J Neurochem 73.4 (1999) : 1335-42.