Updated: Aug 15
Arachidonic acid (ARA) is a polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid that is generated in the body from linoleic acid and is also found in meat and eggs.
The body relies on arachidonic acid to produce inflammation, and some evidence suggests that reducing ARA-derived inflammation may reduce the effects of resistance training.
Arachidonic acid plays a key part in the muscle growth process. One human study noted an increase in muscle growth and strength with its supplementation. However, one study is not enough to conclude anything.
In this article, I'll discuss the importance of arachidonic acid in muscle growth and also see whether supplementing with it can help build muscle.
ARA is an extremely significant and prominent fatty acid in cell membranes, despite its lesser-known position in the nutrition sector.
It is found in neural membranes at a level comparable to DHA, notably in the brain, where it accounts for 10-12% of total fatty acids. (1)
ARA may make up about 15-17% of total fatty acids in skeletal muscle.
The Importance of Arachidonic Acid
Inflammation is a normal and required immunological reaction to repair injured tissue, and the body relies on arachidonic acid to do so.
ARA is the precursor to a variety of eicosanoids, which include leukotrienes, prostaglandins, and thromboxanes.
ARA is thought to play a key role in the adaptive response to strength training, according to scientists.
After all, strength exercise triggers an immediate inflammatory response, which is important for muscle growth. (2)
How It Works
Resistance training induces inflammation within the muscle, inflammation is a critical component in muscle growth and repair.
Arachidonic acid causes the release of two prostaglandins; PGE2 and PGF2α.
PGE2 enhances protein breakdown while PGF2α stimulates protein synthesis, according to test tube research involving skeletal muscle fibres. (3)
PGF2α has also been shown to increase skeletal muscle fibre development. (4)
Skeletal muscle protein breakdown is actually part of the process of muscle growth and repair, protein synthesis and breakdown are in a constant balance between positive and negative.
Arachidonic acid plays a key part in this protein balance.
Anti-Inflammatory Drugs Reduce ARAs Effects
NSAIDs, on the other hand, have been demonstrated to improve strength and size increases in older adults in response to resistance training by suppressing various types of inflammation in addition to the favourable PGF2α. (7, 8)
Regardless of the conclusion, this study clearly shows that ARA-derived prostaglandins play a role in the adaptive response to exercise.
If blunting ARA-derived prostaglandin synthesis reduces resistance training adaptations in young adults, it's possible that the opposite is also true, that enhancing prostaglandin creation improves resistance training adaptations.
Effect of Arachidonic Acid on Muscle Growth
Trained men underwent an eight-week long resistance training program while supplementing 1.5 grams (1,500 mg) per day of arachidonic acid or corn oil placebo.
Before and after the intervention, the participants' body composition, muscle strength, and muscle power were measured.
In addition to this human trial, rats were given either plain water or arachidonic acid dissolved in water for eight days before being stimulated in their right hind leg to simulate strength training.
The anabolic and inflammatory signals in muscle tissue from both legs were then examined.
ARA supplementation increased lean body mass, bench press 1-rep max, and power output substantially more than placebo. When ARA was paired with exercise in rats, it resulted in a significant reduction in AMPK and GSK-3 activation when compared to the other groups.
It is well known that AMPK activates in response to a lack of cellular energy, resulting in suppression of protein synthesis and the anabolic mTOR pathway.
GSK-3 inhibition enhances insulin action and glucose absorption in skeletal muscle tissue.
Other anabolic and catabolic markers were unaffected by ARA supplementation, but were altered by exercise.
Does It Help Build Muscle?
According to one study, ARA supplementation may assist men who undergo resistance training by increasing lean body mass, muscular strength and power.
However, with only one other study evaluating these outcomes in relation to ARA supplementation so far, it's difficult to draw clear conclusions, especially since the other study only indicated a boost for muscular power, not body composition or muscular strength.
Arachidonic acid is a fatty acid that has an important function in both generating and resolving inflammation.
When paired with resistance training, men supplementing with 1.5 grams (1,500 mg) daily for eight weeks had increases in lean body mass, upper and lower-body strength and power.
Although ARA seems to increase muscle growth, the dosage of arachidonic acid utilised in the study is much higher than what most people would ingest naturally in their diet.
Concerns about the long-term implications of arachidonic acid supplementation also exist, this concern arises from evidence associating inflammatory disorders to an elevated omega-6 to omega-3 ratio.
Long-term research on various health effects is clearly required.
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This evidence based analysis of arachidonic acids effect on muscle growth features 9 references, listed below.
1. Makrides M, Neumann MA, Byard RW, Simmer K, Gibson RA. Fatty acid composition of brain, retina, and erythrocytes in breast- and formula-fed infants. Am J Clin Nutr. (1994, Aug) ✔
2. Calle MC, Fernandez ML. Effects of resistance training on the inflammatory response. Nutr Res Pract. (2010, Aug) ✔
3. H.P. Rodemann, A.L. Goldberg. Arachidonic acid, prostaglandin E2 and F2 alpha influence rates of protein turnover in skeletal and cardiac muscle. J Bio Chem. (1982, Feb)
4. Horsley V, Pavlath GK. Prostaglandin F2(alpha) stimulates growth of skeletal muscle cells via an NFATC2-dependent pathway. J Cell Biol. (2003, Apr 14) ✔
5. Trappe TA, White F, Lambert CP, Cesar D, Hellerstein M, Evans WJ. Effect of ibuprofen and acetaminophen on postexercise muscle protein synthesis. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. (2002, Mar) (Clinical Trial) ✔
6. Trappe TA, Fluckey JD, White F, Lambert CP, Evans WJ. Skeletal muscle PGF(2)(alpha) and PGE(2) in response to eccentric resistance exercise: influence of ibuprofen acetaminophen. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. (2001, Oct) (Clinical Trial) ✔
7. Trappe TA, Carroll CC, Dickinson JM, LeMoine JK, Haus JM, Sullivan BE, Lee JD, Jemiolo B, Weinheimer EM, Hollon CJ. Influence of acetaminophen and ibuprofen on skeletal muscle adaptations to resistance exercise in older adults. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. (2011, Mar) (Randomised Controlled Trial) ✔
8. Trappe TA, Standley RA, Jemiolo B, Carroll CC, Trappe SW. Prostaglandin and myokine involvement in the cyclooxygenase-inhibiting drug enhancement of skeletal muscle adaptations to resistance exercise in older adults. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. (2013, Feb) (Randomised Controlled Trial) ✔
✔ Citations with a tick indicate the information is from a trusted source.
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