Take any bodybuilder from a gym and give him a bottle of capsules containing arachidonic acid. Get him to take 1500 mg a day of this fatty acid and ask him to come back after two months. Fair chance that he’ll have gained 1.5 kg muscle mass.
Arachidonic acid [structural formula shown above right] is an n-6-fatty acid that the body makes from linoleic acid, but that is also found in small quantities in food. It’s a precursor of prostaglandins such as PGE-2 and PGF-2-alpha [formula bottom right], inflammatory factors that are released from muscle tissue after training and which play a key role in the growth and development of muscles.
William Llewellyn came up with a theory years ago that arachidonic acid supplementation could help strength athletes to develop muscle mass. He filed a patent for his idea [US 20040102519 A1]] and launched arachidonic acid as a sports supplement on the market. For more on the muscle strengthening effect of arachidonic acid click here.
Researchers at the University of Tampa recently presented a poster at the annual meeting of the National Strength and Conditioning Association in Las Vegas on the effects of arachidonic acid on 15 strength athletes who took 1500 mg arachidonic acid daily for a period of 8 weeks. An equal-sized control group took a placebo. The average age of subjects was 20.
The subjects all followed the same workout schedule, training 3 times a week.
More muscle, more strength
The subjects who took arachidonic acid gained 1.5 kg lean body mass during the experiment. The athletes in the placebo effect experienced virtually no change.
Scans showed that the quadriceps of the subjects in the arachidonic acid group grew 0.47 cm thicker. The figure for the placebo group was about half this.
The combined maximal weight that the subjects in the arachidonic acid group could shift in bench presses and leg presses increased by almost 110 kg. The figure for the placebo group was just under 76 kg.
“These results suggest that this arachidonic acid can positively augment adaptations in strength, and skeletal muscle hypertrophy in resistance-trained men”, the researchers conclude. “Athletes and everyday individuals looking to maximize their body composition, strength, and power could use arachidonic acid as an ergogenic aid.”
Jacob Ormes, Matthew H. Sharp, Jordan M. Joy, Ryan P. Lowery, Sean A. McCleary, Kevin Shields, Jeremy Silva, Jacob Rauch, John Georges, Michael D. Roberts, Jacob M. Wilson. Effects of Arachidonic Acid Supplementation on Skeletal Muscle Mass, Strength, and Power. Poster, presented at NSCA National Conference 2014, Las Vegas, July 9-12.