Antioxidant alpha lipoic acid promotes energy production, but may not necessarily boost energy levels.
Naturally made in the body, the antioxidant alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is a fatty acid known to facilitate biochemical processes in the mitochondria. It may have potential energy uses such as:
- Promoting energy production. ALA plays a crucial role in energy (adenosine triphosphate) metabolism.
The fatty acid alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is an inherent part of every cell in the human body and can be acquired from multiple food sources, including spinach, broccoli, carrots, potatoes, yeast, red meat, and liver and kidney meat.
Unlike most antioxidants, ALA is a “universal antioxidant,” meaning that it is both fat and water soluble and thus has access to all organs inside the body. Subsequently, health practitioners have offered it as a supplement to care for symptoms of diabetes and eye complications. Other popular uses of ALA include fat loss and improvement of mental performance.1
These days ALA is also used to increase energy levels due to its function as a coenzyme in the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the body’s main energy molecule.
How Alpha Lipoic Acid Might Help With Energy
ALA is one of the primary coenzymes required to convert dietary carbohydrates into energy in the body.2
ALA is capable of warding off harmful free radicals both inside and outside of cells, which is critical for maintaining effective energy production.3
ALA’s antioxidant activity has two additional components:
- Increasing glutathione (GSH) levels. By increasing GSH (a key antioxidant), ALA not only protects cells4, but has also been reported to challenge the onset of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) as well as exercised-induced fatigue.5
- Regenerate antioxidants. ALA is capable of regenerating energy-boosting antioxidants, such as vitamin E and vitamin C.6
Alpha Lipoic Acid Benefits & Uses for Energy
ALA is frequently taken for boosting energy levels and other related uses such weight loss and improved brain function. There is some early research evidence that ALA can help battle fatigue and improve related cognitive parameters7, but high-quality clinical trials are needed to confirm its effectiveness as an energy booster.
Research indicates that ALA may be able to:
- Improve cognitive function9 and performance10 in mice.
- Maintain mitochondrial function (energy production) in rats.11
- Reverse the negative effects of aging in rats.12
- Protect against the negative effects of oxidative stress on energy metabolism in rats.13
Clinical studies concerning ALA and energy are sparse but collectively shed a positive light on ALA’s beneficial contribution to energy.
In this review, various antioxidants, including alpha-lipoic acid, were found to offer a beneficial effect in cases of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
- The study concluded that “the use of antioxidants in the management of CFS specifically, the dietary supplements glutathione, N-acetylcysteine, alpha-lipoic acid…may be beneficial.”14
In this review, alpha-lipoic acid was found to display protective (anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, metabolism-regulating, anti-depressant) and possibly cognitive-enhancing effects in people with mood disorders.
- The study concluded that “alpha-lipoic acid are pleiotropic agents capable of offering neuroprotective and possibly cognitive-enhancing effects for neuropsychiatric disorders in which cognitive deficits are an integral feature.”15
In this review, a handful of supplements, including ALA, were shown to reduce fatigue caused by chronic health issues by restoring the function of mitochondria and related energy production.
- The study concluded that “combinations of these supplements can reduce significantly the fatigue and other symptoms associated with chronic disease and can naturally restore mitochondrial function, even in long-term patients with intractable fatigue.”16
Dosage for Energy
- Research studies use from 300 – 1200 mg of alpha lipoic acid
- Typical supplement capsules range from 100 – 600 mg
- ALA should be taken 1 hour before or 2 hours after a meal
Supplements in Review Says
- Alpha lipoic acid 300 – 600 mg for energy.
ALA shows early promise as an energy booster, but research is limited. There is certainly a solid scientific basis to suggest that ALA can fight fatigue; however, we’d like to see high-quality clinical trials before recommending it outright.
Take ALA as R-alpha-lipoic acid. ALA supplements in the form of R-alpha lipoic acid may be much more effective than S-alpha lipoic acid.
- Vallianou N, Evangelopoulos A, et al. Alpha Lipoic Acid and Diabeteic Neuropathy. The Review of Diabetic Studies. Vol. 6 (4). 2009. ↩
- Beitner H. Randomized, placebo controlled, double-blind study on the clinical efficacy of a cream containing 5% alpha-lipoic acid related to photoaging of facial skin. Br J Dermatol 2003;149:841-9. ↩
- Packer L, Witt EH, et al. Alpha-Lipoic acid as a biological antioxidant. Free Radic Biol Med 1995;19:227-50. ↩
- Packer L, Tritschler HJ, et al. Neuroprotection by the metabolic antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid. Free Radic Biol Med 1997;22:359-378. ↩
- Singh A, Naidu PS, et al. Effect of natural and synthetic antioxidants in a mouse model of chronic fatigue syndrome. J Med Food. 2002 Winter;5(4):211-20. ↩
- Biewenga GP, Haenen GR, et al. The pharmacology of the antioxidant lipoic acid. Gen Pharmacol 1997;29:315-31. ↩
- Farr SA, Price TO, et.al. Effect of alpha lipoic acid on memory, oxidation, and lifespan in SAMP8 mice. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. 2012;32(2):447-55. ↩
- Mayr JA, Zimmermann FA, et al. Lipoic acid synthetase deficiency causes neonatal-onset epilepsy, defective mitochondrial energy metabolism, and glycine elevation. Am J Hum Genet. 2011 Dec 9;89(6):792-7 ↩
- Sharma M, Gupta YK. Effect of alpha lipoic acid on intracerebroventricular streptozotocin model of cognitive impairment in rats. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2003 Aug;13(4):241-7. ↩
- Suchy J, Chan A, Shea TB. Dietary supplementation with a combination of alpha-lipoic acid, acetyl-L-carnitine, glycerophosphocoline, docosahexaenoic acid, and phosphatidylserine reduces oxidative damage to murine brain and improves cognitive performance. Nutr Res. 2009 Jan;29(1):70-4. ↩
- Hagen TM, Moreau R, et al. Mitochondrial decay in the aging rat heart: evidence for improvement by dietary supplementation with acetyl-L-carnitine and/or lipoic acid. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2002 Apr;959:491-507. ↩
- Savitha S, Tamilselvan J, et al. Oxidative stress on mitochondrial antioxidant defense system in the aging process: role of DL-alpha-lipoic acid and L-carnitine. Clin Chim Acta. 2005 May;355(1-2):173-80. ↩
- Obrosova I, Cao X, et al. Diabetes-induced changes in lens antioxidant status, glucose utilization and energy metabolism: effect of DL-alpha-lipoic acid. Diabetologia 1998;41(12):1442-50. ↩
- Logan AC, Wong C. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Oxidative stress and dietary modifications. Altern Med Rev. 2001 Oct;6(5):450-9. ↩
- Soczynska JK, Kennedy SH, et al. Acetyl-L-carnitine and alpha-lipoic acid: possible neurotherapeutic agents for mood disorders? Expert Opin Investig Drugs. 2008 Jun;17(6):827-43. ↩
- Nicholson GL. Mitochondrial Dysfunction and Chronic Disease: Treatment With Natural Supplements. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2014 Aug;13(4):35-43. ↩