One of the latest crazes to have swept through the supplement industry like the shockwave of a giant explosion is Phosphatidic Acid – or PA – and more specifically a trademarked version called Mediator. This was filed for patent in 2012 by Chemi Nutra and the stuff has since been added to several of the pricey capsule-dose muscle supps on the shelves (and websites).
The explosion metaphor could be attributed to the recent 2014 report from a study at the University of Tampa which involved actual resistance trained men. That’s essentially the holy grail of test subjects when it comes to ergogenic substances as far as scientific peers are concerned; if a significant link with the supplement and muscle growth (or whatever parameter is being monitored) then the reaction is quite obvious in the industry that manufacture the end-user products: every company starts making it immediately and plastering the results from the clinical trial all over the packaging.
Which is fair enough, right? Whatever you are marketing, if you conduct a placebo-controlled-double-blind clinical trial using the most elite test subjects possible, and it gives you significant proof of the product’s efficacy, you’re going to get some of that action.
What Did the Study Find?
The clinical trial involved a resistance training program, including movements like leg press and bench press for a 3 day a week schedule. What they found was that over an 8 week period, the lean muscle mass built by the experiment group (those taking Mediator) was at 5.3 lbs (2.4 kg) more than the placebo group. Also, leg press strength increased by 114.4 lbs (51.9 kg) when completing to a one-rep-max. In terms of fat loss, the experiment group lost 2.9 lbs (1.3 kg) of fat compared to 1.1 lbs (0.5 kg) in the placebo group [same study with fat loss info: source]
On the face of it, that is a significant result. Some of the changes are over 100% when compared with the control group, which to guys who want to build muscle is like saying they can double their gains. It’s not quite that simple in reality.
During the study, the subjects were given a controlled diet and even a protein shake of exact measure. Other than that, neither group had any access to supplements save for either the phosphatidic acid or the rice flour placebo. Also, they could not take a supplement like creatine for one month prior to beginning the trial. Protein and multi-vitamins were allowed up until then.
Without adequate pre-workout, intra-workout and post-workout supplementation, there was bound to be some difference between the experiment group and the placebo group because the experiment group were the only ones getting anything at all to build muscle beyond the standard protein and carb requirements.
How Does Phosphatidic Acid Work?
The truth is, scientists have not determined the exact nature of phosphatidic acid’s ergogenic mechanism. However, they do know that it pertains to an effect on the mTOR pathway. The mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) is a protein, which amongst other duties, acts as a master controller for protein synthesis. One of it’s stimuli is the mechanistic action of loading muscles with resistance (i.e lifting weights), which is believed to be where PA comes into the process. As muscles are loaded, they release phosphatidic acid which may act as a signal along the mTOR pathway for the initiation of protein synthesis.
To give an idea of its importance, the mTOR pathway mediates and integrates the actions of several upstream pathways into cellular growth, proliferation, motility and even survival. Those pathways include those related to the actions of insulin, growth factors (IGF-1 and IGF-2) and amino acids (spec. leucine).
So as phosphatidic acid is somehow an important component within the context of a much larger system, the upshot of these significant clinical trial findings is along the lines of a little is good, so more must be better.
At about $80 (£53) for a month’s worth of a supplement containing Mediator PA, it had better be good!
What About Leucine
Briefly mentioned above is the other pathways which may trigger mTOR activity, thus directly or indirectly promoting protein synthesis, insulin sensitivity and ultimately muscle growth. Leucine – the primary Branched-Chain-Amino-Acid – is known to also potently activate the mTOR pathway [ref: NCBI article PMC4271592].
BCAA supplements are a lot more affordable than PA products are at the moment, but if you’re a determined sort of person, the two probably wouldn’t contradict each other like many ingredients that fight for the same receptors would. These two use independent signal paths by the looks of it, so if money is no issue then stack away.
Note: There is currently one supplement I know of that includes the Mediator PA, Leucine and even HMB (a metabolite of Leucine). If mTOR signalling is the aim of the game then this should a good crack at it. MaxxTOR by Max Muscle is the product. The levels of leucine seem quite low though, so whether the company is just playing lip service to people like me by including it and hoping for the best, I don’t know.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Once in a while, the big giant research engine spits out a gem called a clinical trial using resistance trained men as subjects. For all of us that are in anyway tied to the supplement industry, it’s big news. Sometimes, they lead to nothing more than echoes of hype caused by a more than strangely coerced scientific study, funded by people with their fingers in too many pies.
Sometimes, they lead to a creatine, or a beta-alanine; solid, proven and worth their weight in muscle.
We’ll have to wait and see whether Phosphatidic Acid gets added to the ergogenic hall of fame, but in the meantime, this study is going to do the rounds on the shelves full of shiny little canisters and bottles.
Alternative Ergogenic Supplements
Otherwise please, don’t hesitate to head over to our Best Testosterone Booster section, or finest Cutting Supplements reviews to read about the products we think are a cut above the rest.