Amino Acids: Gamma Aminobutyric Acid (GABA)

Muscle levelGABA (gamma aminobutyric acid) is a neurotransmitter that is naturally produced in the body. GABA has been claimed to boost levels of growth hormone and act as a sedative and vasodilator. It is important to note that supplemental GABA may not have the same physiological effects as endogenously produced GABA. Supplemental GABA is said to not cross the blood-brain barrier in any significant amount. This limits the access of supplemental GABA to the GABA receptors located within the brain, so that it can not act on those specific receptors whereas endogenously produced GABA can.

Perhaps the most useful benefit of GABA is as a relaxant and sleep aid. Anecdotal evidence strongly supports the ability of GABA to relax the CNS, giving a calming or sleepy feeling. Some users find that taking GABA pre-workout does indeed lead to better blood flow and bigger muscle pumps, but the sedative effect of GABA can make pre-workout dosing an issue as only small doses may be used without experiencing this sedative effect during the workout. As far as the growth hormone boosting effects that many companies selling GABA claim, there is some evidence supporting this effect of supplemental GABA. In real life situations, however, GABA doesn’t seem to do much of anything for muscle building or growth hormone boosting, probably because of its limited ability to cross the blood-brain barrier. GABA is useful for relaxation and as a sleep aid, but I would not count on it as a muscle builder.

GABA dosages typically vary in the range of 500mg – 5g depending on individual tolerance and how strong of an effect that the user desires. At the higher end of this dosage range, GABA powder can be easily measured with a measuring spoon. GABA is available in both powder and capsules.


1. Cavagnini F, Invitti C, Pinto M, Maraschini C, Di Landro A, Dubini A, & Marelli A. (1980). Effect of acute and repeated administration of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) on growth hormone and prolactin secretion in man. Acta Endocrinologica. 93(2), 149-54.

2. Powers ME, Yarrow JF, McCoy SC, & Borst SE. (2008). Growth hormone isoform responses to GABA ingestion at rest and after exercise. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 40(1), 104-10.

3. Krantis A. (1984). The involvement of GABA-transaminase in the blood-brain barrier to radiolabelled GABA. Acta Neuropathologica. 64(1), 61-7.

4. Knudsen GM, Poulsen HE, & Paulson OB. (1988). Blood-brain barrier permeability in galactosamine-induced hepatic encephalopathy. No evidence for increased GABA-transport. Journal of Hepatology. 6(2), 187-92.

5. Nauli SM, Pearce WJ, Amer A, Maher TJ, & Ally A. (2001). Effects of nitric oxide and GABA interaction within ventrolateral medulla on cardiovascular responses during static muscle contraction. Brain Research. 922(2), 234-42.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cassie is a chemistry major and national level bodybuilder. Questions or comments? Talk to Cassie on the FORUM or on FACEBOOK.

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