Blog Post

Alpha-GPC – Everything You Need To Know

Alpha GPC everything you need to know title page.

α-GPC (also referred to as Choline alphoscerate or L-alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine) is a natural choline compound found in the brain.

It is considered a parasympathetic agent and is commonly taken as a supplement for its potential cognitive and performance-enhancing effects.

Cognition

Activity in a persons brain.

When ingested, it is easily absorbed and crosses the blood-brain barrier which is then metabolized into choline. Choline is a precursor to the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, which facilitates learning, memory, and focus.

Neurodegenerative Disease

Most of the research in humans regarding its effect on cognition is on those with neurodegenerative diseases or some degree of cognitive decline.

A 2023 systematic review on this topic found that those who took α-GPC in combination with donepezil (a common medication used to treat dementia) had significant positive effects on cognition, functional and behavioral outcomes compared with just taking donepezil alone.

It also showed that those who received α-GPC alone had significantly greater cognition as measured by the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and other markers such as verbal memory compared to those who received either placebos or other medications.

In these studies, one used a daily dose of 1200mg per day for 3 years, another used 800mg morning and 400mg afternoon for 6 months, and the other had 400mg spread out 3 times across the day each day for 180 days.

General Population

There are only a limited number of studies looking directly at α-GPC and cognition in the general population though.

A randomized controlled trial had 20 participants take either 200mg α-GPC, 400mg α-GPC, 200mg caffeine, or a placebo in a crossover trial and tested various markers of mood and cognitive function, 30 minutes after consumption.

Serial subtraction test scores were 18.1% and 10.5% faster in the group who were taking 200mg α-GPC, compared to the caffeine and placebo respectively.

For the other behavioral tests, no significant differences were found between any of the groups.

Although not directly looking at α-GPC, one study found that higher dietary choline intakes were associated with greater cognitive performance, such as verbal memory and learning, visual memory, and executive function.

Athletic Performance

People in gym deadlifting.

Acetylcholine also plays are role in the communication between nerve cells and between neurons and skeletal muscle. Subsequently, alpha-GPC has been explored as an ergogenic aid in performance.

One of the previous studies also tested markers of power, speed, and agility. It found that those taking α-GPC had the greatest outcomes in verticle jump peak power compared with 200mg caffeine and placebo. 200mg of α-GPC also outperformed 400mg of α-GPC.

Graph showing Alpha gpc supplementation increases vertical jump peak power compared to caffeine and placebo.
(Parker et al., 2015)

There were no significant differences between groups regarding reaction time, hand-eye coordination, power, speed, and agility though.

Another study randomly assigned 48 college athletes into different groups, taking either 500mg α-GPC, 250 mg α-GPC, 200mg caffeine, or a placebo each day.

After 7 days, countermovement jump, isometric mid-thigh pull, upper body isometric strength test, and psychomotor vigilance were compared to baseline measures.

Out of these, significant improvements were only seen in the countermovement jump, with the greatest improvements being in those taking 250mg α-GPC.

Looking at slightly higher doses, one study showed that 600mg α-GPC taken 90 minutes before completing one rep max testing on bench press had a 14% greater peak force compared to when they took a placebo.

Again though, there were no significant differences in other tests such as peak power and rate of force development.

Similarly, another study had 13 college male athletes take 600mg daily for 6 days vs a placebo. Those taking α-GPC had significantly greater isometric mid-thigh pull peak power.

For the upper body tests, they also trended towards greater change for force production, however it was not clinically significant. 

Another study done on trained cyclists showed that those taking 300mg α-GPC daily after 7 days had significantly greater peak power and time to fatigue compared to a placebo.

However, they were also taking L-citrulline so it is difficult to isolate where the benefits came from.

Food vs Supplements

Although not specifically Choline Alphoscerate, many dietary sources contain choline. This is important to keep in mind, as these can also increase plasma levels of choline.

Choline in dietary sources.

Most α-GPC supplements will typically contain anywhere from 100-300mg per serving.

Is Alpha-GPC Safe?

No significant side effects were observed in any of these studies and overall it seems well tolerated.

The ‘no-observed-adverse-effect level’ (NOAEL) is also set at 150mg per kg of body weight. To put this into perspective, this is 12,000mg per day for someone who is 80kg. This is 10 times greater than the highest doses used in the studies mentioned above.

There are some concerns about an increased risk for atherosclerosis. However, this has only currently been shown in rodent studies, therefore, human randomized controlled trials are needed to confirm these findings.

Dosing & Timing

For therapeutic effects used to treat cognitive decline, 1200mg per day split across 2-3 doses was the most common protocol seen in the research.

For general nootropic and performance-based outcomes, doses between 300-600mg about 30-60 minutes before the event seem to be the most effective at this stage.

Practical Summary

Overall, there is a pretty clear benefit in improving symptoms in those who are experiencing cognitive decline.

The effects of α-GPC on performance are pretty mixed though as some outcomes are improved whereas others are unchanged. More research is definitely needed, however, the general trend seems to favour supplementation for at least some aspects of performance such as force and power output. At this stage though, I wouldn’t opt for this as a first-line recommendation for improving performance.

As a nootropic for the general population, a lot more research is needed too. However, given the mechanism of action, the amount of anecdotal evidence, and the improvements seen in cognition and behavioral outcomes in those with dementia, it does seem promising.

For both aspects, given the minimal downsides, it could be worth trialing, particularly if you have low intakes of dietary choline.

By Josh Wernham

Josh is a Dietitian based in Brisbane who's passion for nutrition stemmed from an interest in optimising sports performance and body composition. He has a lot of experience in bodybuilding style training and also has a background in team sports, strength and endurance events. As he has grown in the field, this enthusiasm has extended beyond just sports and continuously immerses himself in the latest research to support those with general health conditions. He strives to help a range of individuals, from athletes to anyone seeking to improve the quality of their life.