What is Arachidonic Acid?
Arachidonic acid is a polyunsaturated fat with the chemical structure 20:4(ω-6). Arachidonic acid plays an essential role in the growth and repair of skeletal muscle tissue. It is an essential dietary component in the muscle hypertrophy process.
Whenever you lift weights, the damaged muscle cells signal enzymes to flock towards the damaged tissue to free arachidonic acid from the intercellular membranes. The freed arachidonic acid is used to create localized enzymes called prostaglandins.
Prostaglandins regulate in the inflammation processes that stimulates the growth of skeletal muscle cells. These are the same enzymes that cause the inflammation and pain you feel post-training.
Post Workout Pain? Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness?
I know what you’re thinking. At first, this might all sound negative, but prostaglandins are the inflammatory mediators that signal the building response in muscle tissue. Additionally, they play a critical role in increasing the number of nuclei in our muscle cells, ultimately boosting exercise endurance and performance.
Under normal conditions, weight training quickly depletes the levels of stored arachidonic acid in muscle tissue. Without arachidonic acid, you lose the short-term inflammation essential for building new muscle tissue. For this reason, many researchers theorize that low arachidonic acid levels are one of the primary factors contributing to the “plateau” effect in resistance training.
You have probably experienced this phenomenon. Remember the first time you ever lifted weights or how you felt after returning to the weights after a long hiatus? You felt extreme soreness and inflammation after those workouts, but as you adapt to the training stimulus, those sensations decrease. Over time, so do your results. Arachidonic acid levels appear to be the central mediator to this process.
Researchers at the University of Tampa put Arachidonic acid to the test with a double-blind, eight-week clinical trial. The group supplementing with ARA displayed significantly greater lean body mass, strength, and power over the placebo group after eight weeks of training. The researchers speculated that the ARA supplement was able to prevent training adaptation from happening, allowing inflammation-induced growth to continue beyond traditional levels.
The study used a daily dosage of 1,500mg/day. The prevailing view of researchers is that a daily dosage of 1,000-3,000mg/day is optimal, depending on body weight. A smaller female would use a daily dosage of 1,000mg/day. An extremely large bodybuilder could usage a dosage up to 3,000mg/day.