Monday, September 30, 2013

Orally Administered ATP (400mg) Increases Muscle Mass, Size and Performance Gains in Complex 12-Week Study With Previously Strength-Trained Subjects

Training till you drop? Well with some ATP 30 minutes before your workout it may take a couple of minutes / workout sessions more to "drop" ;-)
If you drive a Porsche that runs on super you would not put crude oil in the tank, would you? Well, why do you eat carbohydrates and fats then, when ATP, i.e. adenosine triphosphate, is the "fundamental energy unit" in our bodies? Why don't we guzzle ATP all day to run with the speed of light and lift with the force of an elephant? When? Well before, during and after a workout - sounds right, hah?

Ok, ok, we are not "meant" to do so, I know... but even if you managed to keep the "paleo logic" out of the equation for once, there would be another stumbling block. Oral ATP is - supposedly - not bioavailable, at least that's what many people think.

"ATP supplements are not orally bioavailable."

In fact, Arts et al. even used the words in the subheading of this paragraph as the title to the paper in which they describe the results of their 2012 randomized, placebo-controlled cross-over study that involved eight healthy volunteers who received 5,000mg of oral ATP per day (Art. 2012). In order to make sure that they did not simply use an inappropriate delivery route Art et al. even used three different delivery routes: Two types of pH-sensitive, enteric-coated pellets (targeted at release in the proximal or distal small intestine), and a naso-duodenal tube. Increases in ATP were not measured with any of the preparations, though.

In previous studies even 5,000mg of ATP were "in and out" in 2x30 min and the 1250mg dosage (top) did not leave any significant impression, the only sign. effect was an increase in uric acid (not shown; Coolen. 2011)
Being aware of both this and a previous study on the effects of chronic oral ATP administration (5,000mg/day) by researchers from the same research group that concluded
"On the basis of these findings, we seriously question the claimed efficacy of oral ATP at dosages even lower than that used in the present study" (Coolen. 2011),
I was pretty surprised, when I hit upon a recent study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition that says: Oral ATP supplementation works! ATP does - at least this is what the study suggests - "enhance muscular adaptations" and "prevent  decrements in performance following overreaching".

That certainly sounds like something ATP could do - if it actually made it to the muscle cells. So is it possible that the previous studies were flawed? Are we missing something? I guess so. Firstly, the results of any ATP measurements will depend on the ATP pool you chose to analyze or as Wilson et al. rightly point our:
"[T]he biological pool where ATP is measured will determine the results of bioavailability analysis. If sampled in venous portal blood, oral ATP is indeed bioavailable" (Wilson. 2013) 
Now exactly this, i.e. an analysis of the venous portal blood was what Coolen et al. didn't do. It is still interesting that there was a minor systemic increase with the highest dose of ATP in the Coolen, though. After all this tells us something about the absorption kinetics and thus the ideal time to ingest ATP supplements, which should accordingly be ~30min before a workout. And indeed, 30min is exactly the timespan between the ingestion of 400mg of ATP (in the form of ATP disodium) and the first set of the resistance training sessions in the Wilson study.

Overreaching tapering and ATP supplementation

Apropos, resistance training, the 24 subjects (3 dropouts during the study, so that N=21) were resistance trained men with a mean age of 23.4  ±  0.7 years and an average one-repetition maximum of 1.71 ± 0.04, 1.34 ± 0.03 and 2.05 ± 0.04 times their own bodyweight for squat, bench presses and deadlifts, respectively. Obviously none of them was taking steroids, other performance enhancing supplements, smoking pot ... you know the rest of the list ;-)
Contrary to strategic overreaching, which can be highly productive, there is nothing beneficial about overtraining. Unfortunately, it is pretty difficult to objectively determine where one ends and the other begins. Learn more about useful, less useful and totally useless markers I suggest you surf over to this previous SuppVersity article.
"The protocol was divided into three phases. Phase one consisted of a three times per week non-linear periodized RT program for weeks 1–8, modified from Kraemer et al. (2009). Phase two consisted of a two-week overreaching cycle during weeks 9–10. Finally, phase three consisted of participants tapering for weeks 11 and 12. Muscle mass and body composition were measured at baseline and at the end of weeks 4, 8, and 12. Muscle strength, vertical jump power, Wingate peak power (PP), creatine kinase (CK), C-reactive protein (CRP), free and total testosterone, and perceived recovery were measured at baseline and after weeks 4, 8, 9, 10 and 12." (Wilson. 2013)
I know that (at least some of) you are not really interested in these details, at least not before they have not had the following questions answered: "Ho much more muscle?", "How how much less fat?" and not just as popular "How much stronger?". I guess figure 1 should answer all these questions, doesn't it?

Figure 1: Changes in body composition and total strength after 4, 8 and 12 weeks (Wilson. 2013)
Now, of the changes Wilson et al. observed the slightly more pronounced increases in fat loss was clearly statistically non-significant. The rest of the parameters, on the other hand, showed statistically significant inter-group differences. Among these, I personally consider effect the ameliorative effects of the ATP supplementation had on the the strength decrements that occurred in the placebo group aver the overreaching most significant. Why? Well, only with the provision of ATP did the overreaching period lead to the strength (and thus performance) gains trainers and trainees expect.

Similarly beneficial effects were also observed for the protein breakdown. Despite being slightly increase in the regular training phase, the latter was significantly reduced by the ATP supplements, when the subjects were overreaching.
"We can speculate that under normal conditions of training, when glycogen levels are likely adequate those participants supplementing with ATP were able to maintain higher intensities, which would result in higher rates of protein breakdown. However, when exposed to greater training frequencies, glycogen levels are likely to be depleted, thus preventing higher intensities from being performed." (Wilson. 2013)
Against that background it should be obvious that the provision of ATP during phases of intense pre-season / pre-competition training could in fact boost the training outcome to new heights by bolstering the strength (and mass) increases during the taper after a typical pre-season overreaching phase.
If your training log tells you that you neither gained weight nor strength in the past two months, you'd just waste your money if you bought an ATP supplement before you fixed your broken workout and nutrition regimens. If you have no clue how to do that, I suggest you start with the Step-By-Step Guide to Your Own Workout Routine and set up a new routine that's in line with your social life, training status and current goals (open with IE or FF).
Bottom line: Irrespective of my initial (healthy ;-) skepticism, I must admit that the results Wilson et al. present in their most recent paper are not just impressive, they are also credible. With an excellent safety profile (none of the blood parameters Wilson et al. tested showed any abnormalities) and a mechanism of action that should offer synergies with the current staple supplements many of you are using, the provision of 400mg ATP ~30min before a workout (remember: In this case timing will probably matter) could actually produce visible changes to the figure and figures you see in the mirror and your training log, respectively.

If you are not pushing yourself hard enough, are chronically overtraining, don't have your diet in check, don't get enough sleep and have thus not made any gains in the past months, however, you better save your money and return to the drawing board to come up with a better training and nutrition plan, first.

  • Arts IC, Coolen EJ, Bours MJ, Huyghebaert N, Stuart MA, Bast A, Dagnelie PC. Adenosine 5'-triphosphate (ATP) supplements are not orally bioavailable: a randomized, placebo-controlled cross-over trial in healthy humans. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012 Apr 17;9(1):16. 
  • Coolen EJ, Arts IC, Bekers O, Vervaet C, Bast A, Dagnelie PC. Oral bioavailability of ATP after prolonged administration. Br J Nutr. 2011 Feb;105(3):357-66. 
  • Kraemer WJ, Hatfield DL, Volek JS, Fragala MS, Vingren JL, Anderson JM, Spiering BA, Thomas GA, Ho JY, Quann EE, Izquierdo M, Hakkinen K, Maresh CM: Effects of amino acids supplement on physiological adaptations to resistance training. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009, 41(5):1111–1121
  • Wilson JM, Joy JM, Lowery RP, Roberts MD, Lockwood CM, Manninen AH, Fuller JC, De Souza EO, Baier SM, Wilson SMC, Rathmacher JA. Effects of oral adenosine-5[prime]-triphosphate supplementation on athletic performance, skeletal muscle hypertrophy and recovery in resistance-trained men. Nutrition & Metabolism 2013, 10:57.