Endurance athletes will likely synthesize higher levels of EPO if they take 1200 mg alpha lipoic acid daily versus no supplements. Researchers at the University School of Physical Education in Poznan, Poland, uncovered this when they did an experiment. Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) seems to mimic the effects of high altitude training. EPO effect on performance is quite well known these days thank to Lance Armstrong.
EPO Effect On Perormance: The Experiment
EPO is an acronym for erythropoietin. The kidneys secrete the hormone EPO. It stimulates red blood cell (RBC) production in the bone marrow. Athletes have known for years that training at altitudes will raise RBC counts via EPO production being elevated. German scientists published the results of an in-vitro study in 1994 that showed that the concentration of hydrogen peroxide(H2O2) diminish in an oxygen-deprived state, and that this leads to an elevation in EPO synthesis. The researchers had 16 male students participate in the study. 8 of the males did a 1200 mg dose of Alpha lipoic acid while the other group ingested a placebo. After 10 days, the 16 subjects were asked to jog on a treadmill for 90 minutes at a casual pace at roughly 60% of VO2 max. They were then asked to run 15 more minutes on a 10 degree slope.
EPO Effect On Performance: The Result
Both groups saw a rise in EPO levels subsequent to their exercise session, but the ALA groups response in EPO release was much higher.
Using an ALA supplement led to elevation in the H2O2 concentration before the running session, but also resulted in a lower level after the exercise bout. This would suggest that there was a hormesis effect( where low doses proved beneficial).
There was a relationship between both NO and H2O2 and the EPO level. Elevations in nitric oxide(NO) and the decrease in H2O2 in the blood, their EPO level increased.
There was also an increase in protective effect on the muscles. Less creatine kinase(CK) and other biomarkers of muscle damage were found, perhaps due to ALA’s anti-oxidant properties.