What does alcohol, marijuana, and over the counter prescription anxiety drugs all have in common? They relax you by raising levels of a depressive neuroamine called Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA). Sadly these all have other side effects that can negatively affect you. Luckily it is now possible to supplement with GABA directly.

Actually that isn’t quite accurate, if you took GABA directly it would have no effect on you. It needs to be taken with other ingredients so that it can cross the blood-brain barrier.

Only in very young people can GABA cross the blood-brain barrier directly [1]. Because of this, supplements that aim to boost GABA also include Nitric Oxide, which increases the permeability of the blood-brain barrier (allowing GABA to pass through and affect the brain).

Benefits of GABA Supplementation

GABA is often used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as it can calm down over-working neurotransmitters and soothe the sufferer. It is also used to treat insomnia, and as such you will find it in a lot of sleep supplements. For this to work you need to take it around 30 minutes before going to bed.

GABA can also be used to treat stress or anxiety, which might also explain how it treats insomnia (which is often caused by either stress or anxiety).

What’s interesting is that there seems to be mounting evidence that people suffering from anxiety or depression have lower levels of GABA than they should have. Which is why supplementing with GABA can be effective (in the same way that supplementing with testosterone can help men who suffer from low t).

Bodybuilders tend to take GABA supplements as a way to increase Growth Hormone levels. Studies indicate that when combined with resistance exercise (which increases Nitric Oxide release) GABA can cross the blood-brain barrier and lead to an increase in growth hormone release [2].

Increased growth hormone levels can help increase strength, recovery, and muscle mass in men. While having a number of other huge benefits to mood and cognition.

Should you take GABA?

There are two reasons why you should be seeking out GABA supplements.

1) You are suffering from anxiety, depression, stress, or insomnia – in which case you should take GABA spread out throughout the day (and 30 minutes before bed).

2) You are looking to boost growth hormone and therefore muscle building during a workout. If this is the case then you should make sure that your supplement contains high doses of Nitric Oxide.

There are no downsides to taking GABA, but if you are looking for muscle gains then you must ensure that you are working out to a sufficient intensity.

Exercise hard, burn calories, and then concentrate on your recovery afterwards. Take sufficient protein, and get a good amount of sleep, then you will see the benefits.

 

 

References

[1] Al-Sarraf, H. 2002. Transport of 14C-gamma-aminobutyric acid into the brain, cerebrospinal fluid and choroid plexus in neonatal and adult rats. Brain Research. Developmental Brain Research 15;139(2): 121-9

(link) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12480126

[2] Powers, M., Yarrow, J., McCoy, S., Borst, S. 2008. Growth hormone isoform responses to GABA ingestion at rest and after exercise. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 40(1): 104-10

(link) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18091016

 

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