Phosphatidic Acid Summary:

  • Phosphatidic acid (PA) is a fat molecule that stimulates a process known as mTOR.
  • mTOR activation is what is responsible for muscle growth and recovery.
  • PA can be found in small amounts of foods such as cabbage and radish leaves. However, supplementation is the only way to get an efficacious dose.
  • Claimed benefits are increased muscle mass, greater strength, faster recovery, and reduced stress. However, most studies involving PA have been relatively small and more research is needed to verify results.
  • To supplement, take 450mg of phosphatidic acid thirty minutes before training and another 300mg immediately after. Take on an empty stomach and without any food.
  • PA has no known side effects.
  • The best phosphatidic acid supplement is PA(7) by High Performance Nutrition.

From time to time I like to research and write about supplements that are on the fringe and relatively unknown compounds in the world of exercise and fitness.

Some of these supplements can be a little sketchy and do not necessarily have a lot of research to support their use. That does not, however, mean they don’t work.

One such supplement is phosphatidic acid (PA)…the topic of this article.

PA has been around for awhile and has mostly been used by body builders to increase muscle mass and strength.

At first glance this supplement seems like a lot of hype but upon further investigation it could possibly work.

Keep on reading and I’ll let you be the judge if PA is beneficial or bunk.

What is Phosphatidic Acid?

what is phosphatidic acid

PA is a type of fat molecule that is made up of glycerol, two fatty acids, and a phosphate group. In the body phosphatidic acid plays a big role in activating mTOR (we’ll discuss this more in depth in a minute) which helps protein synthesis regulation and cell growth

PA can also:

  • Acts as an agent to create other lipids
  • Influence membrane curvature
  • Recruit cytosolic proteins
  • Gate ion channels

Now if that made your head spin let’s talk about what you really want to know. How does phosphatidic acid help your GAINZ? It all starts with mTOR.

What is mTOR?

mTOR stands for mammalian target of rapamycin and phosphatidic acid might signal this pathway and tell our muscles to grow.

When PA is taken in supplemental form is tells our body to fire up muscle protein synthesis while also reducing muscle protein breakdown.

What does this all mean? It means PA, like whey protein, might be a useful supplement to help you pack on muscle, super charge strength, and enhance recovery.

In fact, one study found PA supplementation led to double the mass gain and double the fat loss in subjects participating in a weight training program.

Sound too good to be true?  Keep reading.

What foods contain Phosphatidic Acid?

foods that contain phosphatidic acid

While PA can be found naturally in some foods it is usually in such low amounts that it will not have any positive benefits. It is found in the greatest quantities in cabbage and other types of vegetables. Other foods that include phosphatidic acid are:

  • Radish leaves
  • Mallotus japonicas (an edible herb)
  • Root vegetables
  • Soy

Phosphatidic Acid Benefits

Most benefits are surrounding PA’s positive effects on increasing muscle mass and strength. However, phosphatidic acid may also:

We will take a closer look at these claimed benefits in the next section of this article to see if they are true are just a bunch of bunk!

Research on Phosphatidic Acid

Now to the juicy details on PA. Let’s take a brief look at the research.

Phosphatidic Acid’s Effects On Lean Body Mass, Muscle Thickness, And Strength

In a 2012 study conducted by Hoffman et. al, 16 resistance trained men were assigned to either take 750mg of PA or placebo while participating in an 8-week resistance training program (4 days of strength training per week).

Before and after the study all subjects were tested for:

  • 1 repetition max bench press
  • 1 repetition max squat
  • Body composition

Upon completion of the study the researchers discovered:

  • Subjects who took phosphatidic acid increased squat strength by 12.7% compared to placebo who increased by 9.3%. No significant differences.
  • Subjects who took PA increased lean body mass by 2.6% compared to placebo increase lean body mass by 0.1%. No significant differences.
  • Subjects who took PA increased bench press strength by 5.1% while placebo increased by 3.3%. No significant differences.

So, what’s the bottom line on this study. First, it was small so the results should be taken with a grain on salt. Second, there were no significant differences between the group that took phosphatidic acid and placebo.

PA may have led to small increases over placebo in the variables that were tested but more than likely it was the structured strength training program that was responsible for the positive changes that were observed.

Phosphatidic Acid Enhances mTOR Signaling And Muscle Growth

phosphatidic acid for muscle growth

This 2014 study conducted by Joy et al. was conducted in two phases.

  1. The first phase examined the mechanism by which PA stimulates mTOR.
  2. In phase two, 28 resistance trained subjects took either 750 mg PA daily or placebo and each took part in an 8 week periodized resistance training program.

Off the bat this was a well conducted study with solid testing protocols. Let’s get to what you really want to know. The results.

  • In phase one it was discovered that soy PA stimulated mTOR to a greater degree than egg-PA (+636% vs. 221%).
  • In phase two, the subjects who supplemented phosphatidic acid increased lean body mass by 2.4 kg, muscle cross sectional area by 1 cm, and leg press strength by 51.9 kg over placebo.

The researchers concluded “PA significantly activates mTOR and significantly improved responses in skeletal muscle hypertrophy, lean body mass, and maximal strength to resistance exercise.”

Phosphatidic Acid’s Effects On The Psychological Responses To Mental Stress

In this 2009 three-week study conducted by Hellhammer et al., researchers took 20 subjects and had them take 400, 600, 800 of phosphatidic acid (PAS) or placebo and subjected them to a trier social stress test (tsst).

This test induces stress by requiring participants to make an interview-style presentation, followed by a surprise mental arithmetic test, in front of an interview panel who do not provide feedback or encouragement. 

Upon completion of the study and after the data was collected and reviewed the scientists discovered:

“Treatment with 400 mg PAS resulted in a pronounced blunting of both serum ACTH and cortisol, and salivary cortisol responses to the TSST, but did not affect heart rate. The effect was not seen with larger doses of PAS.

Regarding the psychological response, 400 mg PAS seemed to exert a specific positive effect on emotional responses to the TSST. While the placebo group showed the expected increase in distress after the test, the group treated with 400 mg PAS showed decreased distress.

In conclusion these data provide initial evidence for a selective stress dampening effect of PAS on the pituitary–adrenal axis, suggesting the potential of PAS in the treatment of stress related disorders.”

Phosphatidic Acid Dosage

Most studies that have shown a positive effect have used 750 milligrams of phosphatidic acid daily.

Ideally you want to take 450 milligrams thirty minutes before training and another 300 milligrams after training.

On rest days take 450 milligrams in the morning and another 300 milligrams in the afternoon.

How to take Phosphatidic Acid

how to take phosphatidic acid supplement

Ideally, PA should be taken on an empty stomach and WITHOUT any food. This is because taking phosphatidic acid with a meal or a protein shake can blunt its effects.

Phosphatidic Acid Side Effects

Currently no research had demonstrated any negative side effects when supplementing with PA daily for up to 8 weeks. More long-term studies are needed to determine if phosphatidic acid is safe to take beyond 8 weeks.

Interaction with other supplements or drugs

The only known interaction PA may have is with calcium supplements. When taken together phosphatidic acid could cause a rapid increase of the actin filament which in turn can increase intracellular calcium concentrations. This could lead to spasmodic muscular contractions.

What’s the best Phosphatidic Acid supplement?

Probably the best PA supplement is Mediator® Phosphatidic Acid. This branded and patented form of PA has been demonstrated in several studies to increase muscle mass and strength while also reducing fat mass.

However, it should be noted most studies have had a relatively small number of subjects. More research is needed to solidify the positive results.

Where to buy Phosphatidic Acid?

The easiest place to pick up a quality PA supplement that is dosed in the correct amounts is on Amazon. My top pick is PA(7) by High Performance Nutrition. Give it a try and see if it works for you.

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.

References:

  1. Gonzalez, A. M., Hoffman, J. R., Stout, J. R., Fukuda, D. H., & Willoughby, D. S. (2016). Intramuscular anabolic signaling and endocrine response following resistance exercise: implications for muscle hypertrophy. Sports Medicine, 46(5), 671-685.
  2. Hornberger, T. A., Chu, W. K., Mak, Y. W., Hsiung, J. W., Huang, S. A., & Chien, S. (2006). The role of phospholipase D and phosphatidic acid in the mechanical activation of mTOR signaling in skeletal muscle. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 103(12), 4741-4746.
  3. Tanaka, T., Kassai, A., Ohmoto, M., Morito, K., Kashiwada, Y., Takaishi, Y., ... & Tokumura, A. (2012). Quantification of phosphatidic acid in foodstuffs using a thin-layer-chromatography-imaging technique. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 60(16), 4156-4161.
  4. Avila-Flores, A., Santos, T., Rincón, E., & Mérida, I. (2005). Modulation of the mammalian target of rapamycin pathway by diacylglycerol kinase-produced phosphatidic acid. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 280(11), 10091-10099.
  5. Joy, J. M., Gundermann, D. M., Lowery, R. P., Jäger, R., McCleary, S. A., Purpura, M., ... & Wilson, J. M. (2014). Phosphatidic acid enhances mTOR signaling and resistance exercise induced hypertrophy. Nutrition & Metabolism, 11(1), 29.
  6. You, J. S., Lincoln, H. C., Kim, C. R., Frey, J. W., Goodman, C. A., Zhong, X. P., & Hornberger, T. A. (2014). The role of diacylglycerol kinase ζ and phosphatidic acid in the mechanical activation of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling and skeletal muscle hypertrophy. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 289(3), 1551-1563.
  7. Mobley, C. B., Hornberger, T. A., Fox, C. D., Healy, J. C., Ferguson, B. S., Lowery, R. P., ... & Wilson, J. M. (2015). Effects of oral phosphatidic acid feeding with or without whey protein on muscle protein synthesis and anabolic signaling in rodent skeletal muscle. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12(1), 32.
  8. Hoffman, J. R., Stout, J. R., Williams, D. R., Wells, A. J., Fragala, M. S., Mangine, G. T., ... & Purpura, M. (2012). Efficacy of phosphatidic acid ingestion on lean body mass, muscle thickness and strength gains in resistance-trained men. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 9(1), 47.
  9. Escalante, G., Alencar, M., Haddock, B., & Harvey, P. (2016). The effects of phosphatidic acid supplementation on strength, body composition, muscular endurance, power, agility, and vertical jump in resistance trained men. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 13(1), 24.
  10. Andre, T. L., Gann, J. J., McKinley-Barnard, S. K., Song, J. J., & Willoughby, D. S. (2016). Eight weeks of phosphatidic acid supplementation in conjunction with resistance training does not differentially affect body composition and muscle strength in resistance-trained men. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, 15(3), 532.
  11. Gonzalez, A. M., Sell, K. M., Ghigiarelli, J. J., Kelly, C. F., Shone, E. W., Accetta, M. R., ... & Mangine, G. T. (2017). Effects of phosphatidic acid supplementation on muscle thickness and strength in resistance-trained men. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 42(4), 443-448.
  12. Bond, P. (2017). Phosphatidic acid: biosynthesis, pharmacokinetics, mechanisms of action and effect on strength and body composition in resistance-trained individuals. Nutrition & Metabolism, 14(1), 12.
  13. Li, J., Gao, Y., Guan, L., Zhang, H., Sun, J., Gong, X., ... & Bi, H. (2018). Discovery of phosphatidic acid, phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylserine as biomarkers for early diagnosis of endometriosis. Frontiers in Physiology, 9, 14.

Matt Mosman, MS, CISSN, CSCS
Matt Mosman, MS, CISSN, CSCS



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