GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid): Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, & Dosage

GABA Summary:

  • GABA is one of the most depressive neurotransmitters in the brain.
  • It acts to counter glutamate, which is an upper neurotransmitter.
  • Natural source of GABA are teas, beans, nuts, and berries.
  • Low levels of GABA can cause mood disorders and anxiety.
  • Benefits of GABA include reduced anxiety and stress, improved sleep, and increasing feelings of well-being.
  • GABA should be dosed at 3000-5000mg daily although benefits have been seen at lower doses.
  • GABA is a safe supplement with very few side effects.
  • GABA can be found in EndurElite SleepElite X.
  • The best standalone GABA supplement is Nutrakey GABA.

The old saying goes, what goes up must come down. When it comes to your brain the same holds true. The two neurotransmitters in your body largely responsible for the ups and downs are glutamate (upper) and GABA (downer). Both mediate brain activation in an old kung fu ying yang manner.

In this article, we will cover what GABA is, what it does, the benefits it can provide to your gray matter, some of the research behind it, correct dosage, and so much more.

Before we get to that we need to answer one particularly important question. That is:

What does GABA stand for?

GABA stands for Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid. For sake of ease we will just refer to it as GABA for the remainder of this article.

What exactly is GABA?

Scientifically speaking, Gamma Aminobutyric Acid is a type of neuroactive peptide in the brain that has some potent depressive (i.e. sleepy/stress reducing) effects.

It interacts with the parasympathetic nervous system to regulate a wide range of suppressive and depressive activities.

More simply put GABA facilitates the communication of brain cells and has the biggest role in reducing the activity of neurons. For example, if you are mind is spinning out of control due to anxiety, GABA can help counteract that feeling.

For a 2-minute explanation of what GABA is, watch this video:

Can you increase GABA naturally?

It is possible to enhance GABA levels in the body by eating/drinking certain foods. These are:

  • Green, black, and oolong tea
  • Fermented foods like yogurt and tempeh
  • Whole grains
  • Beans, soy, lentils
  • Almonds, walnuts, and sunflower seeds
  • Shrimp and halibut
  • Tomatoes, spinach, and broccoli
  • Berries

How is GABA as a supplement made?

Get ready for some geek speak. GABA is made from its counterpart glutamate via an enzyme glutamate decarboxylase with an active form of vitamin B6 as a cofactor. This fancy process converts glutamate into GABA.

Is having low levels of GABA bad?

Simply put, yes! Low levels of GABA have been associated with

  • Anxiety
  • Mood disorders
  • Epilepsy
  • Chronic pain

A simple spit test can determine if you have low levels of circulating GABA.

GABA benefits

GABA supplement benefits

Briefly, here are the main benefits of GABA supplementation. We will go more in-depth on these benefits in the research section of this article:

  • Reduces anxiety
  • Improves sleep
  • Mitigates stress
  • Enhances feeling of well being
  • May reduce pain
  • Higher tolerance to exercise
  • May burn fat
  • May help blood pressure
  • Improves symptoms of ADHD and PMS

Research on GABA

Below we will highlight 1 study for some of the benefits GABA can provide

GABA for anxiety

Two 2006 studies conducted by Abdou et al. discovered that subjects who supplemented with GABA were more relaxed when presented with a stressful situation compared to placebo and another group who took L-Theanine.

Interestingly, the researcher also discovered that GABA might also be able to enhance immunity when people are placed in prolonged, stressful situations where anxiety is high.

GABA for sleep

A small 2018 study conducted by Byun et al. took 40 subjects with insomnia and gave them 300mg of GABA daily (before bed) for 4 weeks.

They discovered that the subjects who supplemented with GABA were able to decrease sleep latency by 7-8 minutes and increased sleep efficiency by a whooping 13%.

GABA for stress

GABA for stress

A recent study in Japan inspected the impacts of a drink containing either 25 mg or 50 mg of GABA on 30 subjects. The two drinks were connected to decreased proportions of mental and actual exhaustion while doing a critical thinking task. In any case, the drink containing 50 mg gave off an impression of being somewhat more effective.

Another study from 2009 found that eating chocolate containing 28 mg of GABA decreased pressure in subjects playing out a critical thinking task.

In another investigation, taking capsules containing 100 mg of GABA reduced stress in individuals finishing an exploratory mental errand.

GABA for blood pressure

A 2003 randomized, placebo-controlled study conducted by Inoue et al. found that 39 hypertensive subjects who supplemented with GABA for 12 weeks were able to significantly decrease blood pressure (~17 mmHG) compared to placebo.

Additionally, 1 2009 study found that subjects with borderline hypertension who supplemented with GABA twice daily were able to significantly reduce blood pressure.

GABA dosage

According to the body of research, a daily dose of 3000-5000mg of GABA will provide the benefits listed above. However, more research is needed to determine the optimal dose.

When to take GABA

The best time to take GABA is:

  • 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • 15 minutes before stressful situations.
  • Anytime for health benefits

GABA does not need to be taken with a meal.

How long does it take to work?

After consuming GABA, it takes about 15-30 minutes to cross the blood brain barrier to exert its beneficial effects.

Side effects

As a whole GABA is a very safe supplement. At the time of this article no research has noted any detrimental effects when GABA is taken at the correct dosage for up to 12 weeks.

However, some people have experienced:

Who should not take GABA?

Women who are pregnant of breast feeding should not take GABA as not enough is known of the possible interactions with a fetus or baby. It is best to play it safe and avoid use.

Drug interactions

Currently, there are no known negative drug interactions with GABA. It is always best to consult your physician before using GABA if you are also taking prescription medications.

Best GABA supplement

When considering what the best GABA supplement is you need to make sure it is clinically dosed and is high grade. My recommendation is the unflavored GABA powder made by Nutrakey. It has 3000mg of GABA per serving and can easily be mixed with other powders or juices.

Where to buy GABA

EndurElite SleepElite X

You can either buy a standalone GABA supplement on Amazon or it is included as an ingredient in EndurElite SleepElite X. A premier and clinically dosed sleep supplement that contains natural relaxants and anti-stress compounds to help you fall asleep fast and stay asleep all night.

About the author

Matt Mosman (MS, CISSN, CSCS) is a research scientist, endurance athlete, and the founder and Chief Endurance Officer at EndurElite. Matt holds his B.S. in Exercise Science from Creighton University and his M.S. in Exercise Physiology from the University of California.  Matt and his family reside in Spearfish South Dakota, where they enjoy running, mountain biking, camping, and all the outdoor adventures Spearfish has to offer.

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