Have some ATP

If, a little while back, someone had told me I should ingest more ATP to improve my performance I certainly would have reacted with disbelief. It sounds like eating chlorophyll in order to give my cells more oxygen (it is not how it works). After some smaller studies and some theorizing in media and science journals, a member over at Paleohacks asked the following question in 2012:

PEAK ATP…? Total Marketing Hype or the Next Big Performance Supplement?

Well, to answer the above question, it seems like it might just be the next big thing. Just recently a wonderfully interesting study was published in Nutrition and Metabolism where the effect of ATP supplementation was examined.

The company, TSI has marketed a supplement with ATP for a while. ATP, as most of you know, is an energy substrate, or the energy substrate which drives all energy demanding processes in our body. In addition to driving processes within the cell, ATP also has important extracellular functions. Most importantly via purinergic (P2Y and P2X) membrane receptors. ATP plays many important roles such as relaxing smooth gut muscles, affecting neurotransmission and also modifying muscle excitability by modifying ion gradient across muscle cell membranes. 

Once ATP enters the body it is readily used. If injected into the blood it is undetectable in a matter of seconds. Once in our blood, ATP is taken up by our red blood cells. This in turn enables them to more efficiently transport oxygen to the parts of the body in need of oxygen.

When oxygen demands of muscle cells increase, this is sensed by red blood cells, which in turn deforms and releases ATP. The result is dilated blood vessels that can supply more blood with more nutrients and oxygen to the working musculature.

So in this study 21 healthy, trained young men were either given daily doses of ATP (the supplement was TSI’s PEAK-ATP (ATP-disodium) TSI partially sponsored the study) or a placebo (maltodextrine). What makes this study particularly interesting is its rigid design which makes the results obtained less likely to be affected by errors. Both participants and researchers were blinded to what supplement was used, until all results were in.

The study was also divided into three phases: Phase one consisted of a three times per week non-linear periodized resistance training for 8 weeks. Phase two consisted of a two-week overreaching cycle. Phase three consisted of participants tapering for weeks 11 and 12.

Researchers measured a whole lot of factors ranging from muscle strength (back squat, bench press, and deadlift), vertical jump power, Wingate peak power (anaerobic test on ergometer cycle), creatine kinase, C-reactive protein, free and total testosterone, perceived recovery, protein breakdown (urinary 3-methylhistidine) and body composition determined by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry.

What perhaps most are interested in is what happened to strength and muscle mass. Well, both groups increased strength but the ATP-group experienced a significantly greater increase. ATP caused a 12,9% and 16,4% strength increase in deadlift and back squat respectively. In the placebo group the corresponding results were 4,4% and 8,5%. Total strength increase with ATP was 12,6% and 5,9% in the control group.

During the overreaching cycle the placebo group experienced a 22,6kg average decrease in strength while the number in the ATP-group was only 12kg. The vertical jump power test showed that the ATP-group had a significantly higher power output compared to controls (15,7% vs. 11,6%). During the overreaching cycle ATP subjects reduced power output by 2,2% while controls reduced it by 5%.

In addition the ATP-group increased lean body mass by 4kg versus only 2,1kg in control group.

In sum this study shows that ATP supplementation can be considered an ergogenic aid with quite considerable effects on muscle strength, volume, power production and recovery. ATP also seemed to cause higher training volume tolerability and reduced muscle breakdown. These results should be of interest for both competition athletes as well as recreational athletes with a considerable time spent exercising.

It should be considered though that this is just the first study to show these effects and it needs to be replicated. No test has yet been done on females or older participants. But considering the above results, more studies of ATP supplementation should pop up soon.