Arachidonic Acid is the body’s core “anabolic fat”. More specifically, it is an omega-6 fatty acid that serves as the principle building block for the synthesis of dienolic prostaglandins (such as PGE2 and PGF2). These prostaglandins are integral to protein turnover and muscle accumulation, and have such important activities as increasing blood flow to the muscles (pumps), increasing local Testosterone, IGF-1, and Insulin sensitivity (corresponding receptor levels), supporting satellite cell activation, proliferation, and differentiation, and increasing the overall rate of protein synthesis and muscle growth. Arachidonic Acid release serves as the main thermostat for prostaglandin turnover in skeletal muscle tissue, and as such is responsible for initiating many of the immediate biochemical changes during resistance exercise that will ultimately produce muscle hypertrophy. Among the large variety of nutrients we take into our bodies each day, Arachidonic Acid is among the most integral to muscle growth, as it sits at the very center of the anabolic response. It is, likewise, one of the most important to pay attention to when it comes to diet and supplementation.
Arachidonic Acid begins to display its anabolic activity early during exercise. This nutrient is released from your muscle fibers as they are damaged during intense training, triggering a localized inflammatory and anabolic response. This is part of the same biological process that causes you to be sore a day or two following a good workout, and reminds us that the old adage “no pain, no gain” is a fundamentally true one. Arachidonic Acid liberation from damaged muscle fibers is, similarly, the very first anabolic trigger, in a long cascade that will control the rebuilding and strengthening of muscle tissue after exercise. Among other things, by increasing local Androgen, IGF-1, and Insulin receptor density, Arachidonic Acid allows Testosterone, IGF-I, and Insulin to increase protein synthesis rates and repair the damaged tissue. In this way, Arachidonic Acid supports the anabolic actions of these hormones not by increasing their levels, but by providing more local receptor sites to attach to (making the process both faster and more intense). As a crude explanation, Arachidonic Acid directs the body to where it needs muscle tissue repair, and opens the door for the anabolic hormones to do their job.
The availability of Arachidonic Acid, and our ability to liberate it during exercise, is vital to the anabolic productivity of our workouts. We also need to be aware of the fact that regular exercise significantly lowers the content of Arachidonic Acid in skeletal muscle tissue. Since dienolic prostaglandin synthesis is inextricably tied to the amount of available Arachidonic Acid, lower levels result in less Arachidonic Acid being release with the stretching and damage of exercise. This means a less dramatic increase in androgen/IGF-l/Insulin receptor density, and a lower rate of muscle protein synthesis. The depletion of Arachidonic Acid in skeletal muscle tissue is one of the key reasons we find it harder and harder to get sore the more regularly we exercise. With lower levels of Arachidonic Acid, you need to work more vigorously to receive the same level of release and anabolic stimulation. On the same note, when you change up your routine and hit your muscles from new argles, Arachidonic Acid is the reason you’ll find yourself more sore than usual. You have called upon new muscle fibers, which have higher (untapped) stores of this vital nutrient to work with. Dan Duchaine once said, “the best exercise is the one you are not doing”, and we believe this is exactly what he was talking about, even if he may not have understood the underlying mechanism at the time.
To support the anabolic actions of prostaglandins (with a focus on short term growth), Arachidonic Acid can be supplemented in high Ievels. Typically, one would take 750-1000 mg daily, which is administered for a period of 7-8 weeks (it is cycled on and off in the same way as anabolic steroids). Short-term diets very rich in Arachidonic Acid like this are well documented to cause a high retention of Arachidonic Acid in body tissues and also to significantly increase the output of prostaglandin metabolites. This will mean easier Arachidonic Acid liberation during exercise, greater prostaglandin output, higher tissue androgen, IGF-1, and Insulin sensitivity, and elevated protein synthesis rates. Such use has very consistently produced gains of 1-2 lbs of lean muscle per week. This is with nothing more that heavy training and a high protein/calorie diet to support its anabolic activities. When you load Arachidonic Acid like this, early on (before actual tissue gains accrue) you should be seeing an increase in pumps during your workouts. and an amplification of post-workout (Delayed Onset) muscle soreness. We often hear comments like, “I haven’t been this sore in years” or “I feel like I did when I first started training”. By the third or fourth week this should all start equating to very measurable and welcome increases in size and strength. These gains also tend to be associated with modest losses in body fat, making Arachidonic Acid a versatile “lean mass” building agent.
Arachidonic Acid may also be an important nutrient to consider in regular supplemental doses, particularly if you do not consume animal products (red meat, organ meat, eggs) on a daily basis. Studies have shown that given somewhat comparable amounts of protein, those who consume animal products will make more progress with resistance exercise than those that do not (vegetarians). Some people have long proposed that Arachidonic Acid was the missing component in such diets, too integral to the anabolic response for lower dietary levels not to be noticed. We have also seen a good deal of empirical evidence suggesting that an Arachidonic Acid deficiency exists in many experienced bodybuilders. On a number of cases, tissue tests for the content of phospholipids have revealed unusually low levels of Arachidonic Acid in highly trained athletes. The old time bodybuilders understood the need for red meat in the diet, and often looked at this food with a sort of anabolic reverence. Even if they did not understand things like Arachidonic Acid content and the role of this nutrient in the core anabolic response, they understood it was necessary for optimal growth. Those who find their intake of animal product inadequate, a single capsule of 250 mg daily should provide a sufficient supply of this essential omega-6 fatty acid.
Arachidonic Acid is a supplement that may be of interest to both steroid and non-steroid using athletes alike. Some people find it harder to get their muscles really sore when taking a lot of steroids, for example, and what comes doesn’t last as long as it did when off cycle. The body just seems to recover so quickly when taking hormonal anabolics, sometimes too quickly to feel like you are stimulating your muscles enough during training. The greater intake of Arachidonic Acid during a steroid cycle (even if you eat animal products) will allow for greater day-to-day stimulus from your training. Your body will be able to resent to the lifting as if you were putting in much more physical effort, or have not been training as long (haven’t depleted your Arachidonic Acid stores). Here, even a “supplemental” dose of only 1 capsule per day can make a big difference. For the non-steroid user, Arachidonic Acid can be a very effective anabolic agent in its own right-raking (again) 750-1000 mg per day in short cycles has consistently produced gains of 12 lbs of lean muscle per week with nothing more that heavy training and a high protein/calorie diet to support its anabolic activities. In a recent public trial of the supplement with 15 active non-steroid-taking bodybuilders, the average gain was 8.25 lbs over the course of 50 days. These are very significant numbers, making Arachidonic Acid by far most effective natural supplement for building muscle we have yet had the ability to work with, and of definite use as a standalone agent.
Although Aarachidonic Acid can produce androgenic effect by allowing tesstosterone to be more active in the body, this should not be significant to concern females about virilizing side-effects. At best, this effect usually causes mild oily skin in a small number of users. For most it is entirely unnoticeable. There is also no hormonal disruption with Arachidonic Acid supplementation, which means no “post cycle” crash. The retention of gains after the product is discontinued, likewise, seems to be extremely high. While gains stop somewhat abruptly when Arachidonic Acid loading is discontinued, they do not tend to dramatically reverse. In clinical studies involving the supplementation of 1,500-1,700 mg of Arachidonic Acid per day, general markers of health were also unaffected with 50 days of continuous use. This includes no notable change in HDL, LDL, or total cholesterol values, immune system response functioning, or platelet aggregation values. Provided that the individual cycling/loading Arachidonic Acid is in good health, the greater “inflammation” should present no more risk than a temporary Atkins-type diet high in animal products. This supplement can be used with high safety, a fact supported by the medical literature (not just empirical evidence).
That is not to say there are no risks with the high-dose loading and cycling of Arachidonic Acid. This is a “pro-inflammatory” supplement, and needs to be respected as such. To begin with, if you suffer from injury or inflammatory disease, the higher levels of Arachidonic Acid may exacerbate related symptoms. An individual with arthritis, for example, may notice more joint pain while loading this supplement. It is not damaging the joints, but simply amplifying the pain signals induced by prostaglandins. Patients with arthritis are commonly advised to limit intake of red meat for this very reason. There are other health conditions where the intake of omega-6 fatty acids should be limited as well, such as cardiovascular disease and/or high blood pressure. In the latter stages of such illnesses, inflammation and increased platelet aggregation can be important triggers/contributing factors to an adverse health event. Also, as a potent growth-promoting agent, Arachidonic Acid joins Androgens, Growth Hormone, IGF-1, Estrogens, and many other growth factors as potentially supporting the growth rate of certain cancer cells. Cancer cells are tissue belts after all, and are often responsive to growth promoting hormones just like normal cells. Dietary Arachidonic Acid intake has been generally eliminated as a causative factor in cancer, just as Testosterone level has been eliminated as predictive of prostate cancer risk. If you have prostate cancer, however, the last thing you want to start taking is a growth promoter like Testosterone. The same goes for Arachidonic Acid. The bottom line is that if you are in poor health, you should probably not be running out to take this supplement. If you are, you can probably use it with great safety.