How important is ATP production to your workout? Well, without it, you won’t be doing a single rep. If you want to maximize athletic performance, you want to maximize ATP availability and re-synthesis. Until recently there wasn’t much you could do, from a supplemental nutrition standpoint, to support ATP availability. Now that situation is starting to change. Before we get to that exciting story, let’s take a look at how your body generates the cellular energy necessary to sustain peak athletic performance.
How Your Body Uses ATP to Fuel Performance
ATP, or adenosine triphosphate, is the molecular currency of intercellular energy transfer. It is a complex compound of an adenosine molecule bonded to three phosphate groups and it is present in all living tissue. When your body needs energy to facilitate muscle contraction, it breaks down ATP by removing the phosphate groups from the molecule, which unleashes a significant amount of energy. This energy is used to transport protein and fats into and out of cells, support intercellular communication, facilitate DNA and RNA synthesis, and trigger muscular contraction.
Unfortunately, your body keeps very little ATP in reserve to accommodate the demands of intense physical activity. In fact, stored ATP can support only about 12 seconds’ worth of high-power, short-duration exercise such as a short sprint or three or four reps on the bench press. In the short term, phosphocreatine also serves to recycle ATP, releasing more energy. After that, fatigue begins to set in and your body must synthesize more ATP to continue to function.
To accomplish this, muscle tissue turns to glycolysis, a process in which glucose stored in the muscle and carried in the bloodstream is broken down to create more ATP. Finally, your body will resort to the oxidative breakdown of fats and protein into glucose and subsequent ATP to provide energy at a greatly reduced and slower rate. In each stage of the process, ATP availability is the key factor in the maximization of performance.
The Evolving Science of ATP Supplementation
You would think, given the essential role that ATP plays in athletic performance, that scientists would have long been hard at work seeking out supplemental strategies for augmenting ATP stores in muscle tissue. In reality, experts long believed that since the body places strict limits on how much ATP can be stored for use inside the cell, that extra ATP supplementation would serve little purpose. The sports nutrition focus instead centered on creatine supplementation, which would provide phosphocreatine for ATP recycling, consequently supporting strength and endurance in the short and medium term.
Recently, however, scientists have turned their attention and investigations to the benefits attendant upon increasing ATP availability outside the cell via precisely timed dosing of ATP before workouts. Specifically, they wanted to see if transient rises in extracellular ATP availability would act as a signal for positive physiological outcomes that would allow muscles to perform more work with less fatigue. The results of various studies have been encouraging.
In a 2012 double-blinded, placebo-controlled study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, sixteen participants received either supplemental ATP (400 mg/day) or a placebo for 15 days. The researchers found that subjects who supplemented with ATP for 15 days experienced reduced muscle fatigue and improved ability to maintain a higher force output at the end of an exhaustive exercise bout. The authors speculated that supplemental ATP may provide cumulative benefits in strenuous, repetitive, and exhaustive exercise activities, which could lead to improved strength and lean body mass gains.
In another study, published in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism in 2013, researchers conducted a 3-phase randomized, double-blind and diet-controlled intervention with 21 subjects supplementing with ATP or placebo. Phase 1 was a periodized resistance-training program, Phase 2 consisted of a two-week overreaching cycle in which volume and frequency were increased followed by a Phase-3 two-week taper. Muscle mass, strength, and power were examined at weeks 0, 4, 8, and 12 to assess the chronic effects of ATP; assessment performance variables also occurred at the end of weeks 9 and 10, corresponding to the mid and endpoints of the overreaching cycle.
Researchers found that supplementation with ATP resulted in significantly greater increases in the 1RM for the squat, deadlift, and total strength compared with placebo over the 12-week study. The ATP supplementation resulted in strength increases of 12.9% and 16.4% for squat and deadlift, respectively.
During phase 2, the overreaching cycle, the placebo-supplemented group had a 22.6 ± 5.1 kg decrease in total strength, while the ATP-supplemented group decreased only 12.0 ± 2.5 kg in total strength during the same test period. They concluded that oral supplementation with ATP in combination with high intensity, periodized resistance training, increased muscle mass, strength, and power compared with a placebo-matched control. Moreover, when faced with greater training frequencies, oral ATP may prevent typical declines in performance that are characteristic of overreaching.
In a more recent study conducted at the University of Tampa and published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 42 healthy trained males were given either 400 mg of a specific form of ATP trade-named Peak ATP® or placebo for 2 weeks prior to the sprint protocol testing. The sprinting bout was performed before and after supplementation to allow for comparison prior to and after treatment. During the sprint bout, muscle activation and excitability and Wingate test peak power were measured. The researchers found that oral ATP administration increased post-exercise ATP levels and improved repeated sprint ability. Muscle excitability increased in the ATP group during early bouts, and ATP supplementation prevented the decrease in muscle excitability observed in the placebo group during later bouts. The researchers concluded that athletes looking to enhance sprint ability may see beneficial effects in power and muscle excitability from supplementing with oral ATP.
Finally, in another study specifically involving Peak ATP® and conducted at Sao Paulo State University and published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 11 trained male subjects were given placebo or a single dose of Peak ATP® (400 mg). Each subject completed 3 experimental trials testing half-squat and muscular failure with a load. Blood lactate, oxygen consumption, heart rate and blood pressure were all collected and analyzed. The study concluded that an acute dose of ATP supplementation improved performance, oxygen consumption and energy expenditure during lower body resistance exercise in trained males. Researchers concluded that supplementing with ATP prior to a fatiguing, high volume lower body training session can enhance total weight lifted.
One Advanced Form of ATP Emerges as Superior
You’ll notice that the last two studies were conducted with a brand-specific source of ATP. High-quality sources of supplemental ATP were once virtually nonexistent. Now, however, patented nutraceutical sources of ATP such as Peak ATP®, identical in structure to actual human ATP, are available to athletes seeking to expand their power, endurance and performance potential. This technology is just beginning to appear in advanced, cutting-edge pre-workout supplements such as CellDyne’s VyoCore. VyoCore, of course, contains Peak ATP® in a clinically validated dosage of 448 mg, among its super-comprehensive matrix of performance-enhancing co-factors.
Scientists are just beginning to discover the performance benefits of ATP supplementation. As ongoing research is published and new clinical studies are undertaken, you can expect supplemental ATP to become an important tool for helping athletes achieve their goals in training and sports competition.
Rathmacher, J. A., Fuller, J. C., Baier, S. M., Abumrad, N. N., Angus, H. F., & Sharp, R. L. (2012). Adenosine-5-triphosphate (ATP) supplementation improves low peak muscle torque and torque fatigue during repeated high intensity exercise sets. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 9(1), 48.
Wilson, J. M., Joy, J. M., Lowery, R. P., Roberts, M. D., Lockwood, C. M., Manninen, A. H., … & Rathmacher, J. A. (2013). Effects of oral adenosine-5′-triphosphate supplementation on athletic performance, skeletal muscle hypertrophy and recovery in resistance-trained men. Nutrition & Metabolism, 10(1), 57.
Purpura, M., Rathmacher, J. A., Sharp, M. H., Lowery, R. P., Shields, K. A., Partl, J. M., … & Jäger, R. (2017). Oral Adenosine-5-triphosphate (ATP) Administration Increases Postexercise ATP Levels, Muscle Excitability, and Athletic Performance Following a Repeated Sprint Bout. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 36(3), 177-183.
Frietas et al. A single dose of oral ATP supplementation improves performance and physiological response during lower body resistance exercise in recreational resistance trained males. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2017.
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