If you’re unable to get the most out of your workouts and your performance is underpowered, you could be experiencing a choline deficiency. Choline is considered an essential nutrient required for multiple processes in the body.
However, it wasn’t until the late 1990s that choline was classified as an essential nutrient after studies found that the body doesn’t produce enough choline on its own.
Choline is yet to be officially labeled as a vitamin, even though choline plays a vital role in healthy brain development, liver function, and muscle movement. Choline is also considered an essential nootropic for the brain.
7 Potential Benefits of Choline
- Improves Memory
- Reduces DNA Damage
- Aids Cognitive Function
- Improves Reaction Times
- Boosts Problem Solving Skills
- Increases Focus and Attention
- Improves Exercise Performance
You can avoid a choline deficiency by ensuring you get enough choline in your diet. Choline, which is organic and water-soluble, is found in many animal and plant-based foods, as well as choline-related supplements.
The National Institute of Health lists the following foods as excellent sources of choline:
- Beef liver; 3 oz. pan-fried liver contains 356 mg choline per serving
- Fresh cod; 3 oz. includes 248 mg choline per serving
- Chicken liver; 2.4 oz. 1 slice contains 222 mg choline per serving
- Eggs; hardboiled contains 113 mg choline per serving
- Soybeans; ½ cup and roasted contains 107 mg choline per serving
- Broccoli; ½ cup contains 31.3 mg choline per serving
Choline and Athletic Performance
A study by George Mason University discovered that it was rare for people older than 19 to get enough choline in their diet. In fact, researchers found that 90% of people have a choline deficiency.
The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition published an interesting study that investigated the effect of choline supplementation on male college athletes.
In the study, the male athletes completed a push-up style press as well as a mid-thigh pull on a force plate. At the end of the study, athletes showed significant gains in strength in the lower body with some improvements in strength in the upper body after taking 600 mg of Alpha GPC for six days.
The results of the study, however, weren’t conclusive enough to be statistically significant. In another trial, researchers gave 600 mg of the choline supplement, Alpha GPC, to men aged 30 years old.
The researchers wanted to measure the effect of choline supplementation on the men’s growth hormone response as they performed resistance training. Participants completed six sets of 10 squats at 70% of their one-rep max, followed by three sets of 10 reps on the bench press at 50% of their one-rep max.
Right after exercising, the participants’ growth hormone levels were tested, then tested again post-exercise after 5, 15, 30, 60, 90, and 120 minutes. After taking these measurements, the researchers discovered that the release of growth hormone after exercise peaked almost 50 times higher in men who supplemented with Alpha GPC compared to men who supplemented with a placebo.
Another study published in the journal Nutrition found that a single 1,000 mg dose of Alpha GPC led to significant increases in growth hormone levels after training.
Research indicates that Alpha GPC has a significant impact on the body’s anabolic hormone response during exercise. The release of growth hormone is responsible for many of the benefits the body receives, such as improvements in lean muscle mass and strength.
Choline and Cognitive Function
Choline can help support your brain’s hippocampus; this is why it’s vital to ensure you get enough choline in your diet, either through food or supplementation.
The University of Central Florida examined the effect of choline on 19 physically-active men and women over 4-weeks. Before exercise, each participant had to fill out a questionnaire that asked them to report how alert and focused they felt. Then, the participants performed a reaction time and quickness test that lasted 4-minutes.
After the test, the participants completed 10-minutes of exhaustive exercise. Once the participants reached a level where they felt tired, the researchers repeated the initial test to see how intense training affected the participant’s cognitive functioning.
The study lasted 4-weeks. During this time, the participants who consumed Alpha GPC were able to stay alert and maintain their reaction times to a much greater degree than the participants who just took a placebo.
As seen in various studies, choline plays a vital role in cognitive function by increasing acetylcholine production. This neurotransmitter helps to improve memory and problem-solving skills.
Studies show that choline can also improve short and long-term verbal memory in people aged 50-85 years. As a result, it’s essential to consider choline’s importance as a nootropic supplement.
Most dietary cholines are incapable of crossing the blood-brain barrier; hence, the need to consider potent cholinergic nootropics.
Due to a recent decrease in the consumption of choline-rich foods such as eggs and beef liver, there’s often a need to supplement to ensure you get enough choline in your diet.
The two most popular choline supplements are Alpha GPC and CDP Choline.
Alpha GPC contains 40% choline. Furthermore, Alpha GPC can cross the blood-brain barrier, which improves its effectiveness as a nootropic (cognitive enhancing) supplement. Alpha GPC is available as a synthesized supplement and as a natural nutrient found in red meat.
Research shows that Alpha GPC supplements can provide nutritional benefits to athletes and bodybuilders alike because Alpha GPC enhances fat oxidation, and encourages the secretion of anabolic hormones, which helps elicit positive training adaptations such as increased lean muscle mass and strength.
Further research indicates that Alpha GPC alleviates memory impairment in young, healthy individuals. Clinical trials show that Alpha GPC improves memory loss and impaired attention. These cognitive benefits make Alpha-GPC one of the best nootropic supplements available today.
CDP Choline can enhance attention and mental performance. CDP Choline provides both cytidine and choline, which makes it a powerhouse nootropic supplement.
CDP Choline contains 18% choline. This combination of cytidine and choline has been shown to enhance cognitive function and repair the brain.
Safety and Side Effects
If you stay below the safe upper limit of choline, which is 3,500 mg per day, choline is safe. Exceed this limit, however, and side effects can occur. These side effects include a drop in blood pressure, gastric discomfort, nausea, and vomiting accompanied by a fishy odor emanating from the skin.
Research shows that most people don’t get enough choline in their diet. A choline deficiency can be dangerous because it can, in some instances, lead to liver problems. People at increased risk of choline deficiency include endurance athletes, people who drink a lot of alcohol, and pregnant women.
According to the Institute of Medicine, the required daily intake for choline is 550 mg per day for men and 425 mg per day for women.
The tolerable upper limit for choline is 3,500 mg per day for individuals aged 19+ years, making choline overdoses rare.
Effectiveness of Choline
Choline is an essential macronutrient that plays a vital role in brain health and liver function. Choline also boosts acetylcholine levels in the body, which aids performance and recovery among athletes.
In addition, choline encourages the release of growth hormone, which supports increased strength, power, and muscle development. Although choline supplements are effective, it’s still better to get choline from food instead of supplements. You can do this by adding more broccoli, eggs, and beef liver to your diet.