By Dr. Joseph A. Debé
The never ending quest to find substances to give a competitive edge and build muscle more easily has recently led athletes to a naturally occurring compound called phosphatidyl serine. This supplement is being used with the hopes of minimizing muscle breakdown in order to achieve greater strength and overall muscle growth. Although this supplement may produce such results, the decision to use it or not should be made after learning a little bit about it.
Phosphatidyl serine taken prior to a workout can reportedly lower the body's production of the hormone cortisol by 50 to 70 percent. The importance of this to the athlete is that cortisol causes muscle breakdown. Muscles continually undergo a process of breakdown and repair. By minimizing catabolism or breakdown through suppression of cortisol release, the athlete may experience greater net muscle growth. Sounds good, doesn't it? But there is a downside to all this. It is possible to lower cortisol levels too much. What are the consequences? They include increased inflammation in the body, hypoglycemia, headache, cognitive impairment, fatigue, and possible arthritis. If you are still interested in trying phosphatidyl serine read on and I will give you the information you need to choose the right supplement.
First of all, what you don't want is a sublingual formula. Phosphatidyl serine is very poorly absorbed sublingually. Don't waste your money on this type of delivery system.
You may have noticed that the title of the article referred to phosphorylated serine but all along I have been discussing phosphatidyl serine. Here's why:
Phosphatidyl serine is a phospholipid composed of one glycerol, two fatty acid, and one phosphorylated serine molecules. When one consumes phosphatidyl serine, the digestive process cleaves the glycerol and fatty acids from the phosphorylated serine before it is absorbed. When the body needs phosphatidyl serine, it adds fatty acids and glycerol to the phosphorylated serine. Fatty acids and glycerol are available in abundance from body fat and from dietary sources. The rate-limiting step in the body's production of phosphatidyl serine is the phosphorylation of serine. By consuming phosphorylated serine, the body is stimulated to manufacture phosphatidyl serine. Supplementing preformed phosphatidyl serine offers no advantage, as it is broken down to its component parts and reassembled in the body using tissue-specific fatty acids. A reason not to use it is that the unsaturated fatty acids it contains are likely to be rancid. What's more, phosphorylated serine works more quickly and permanently. One final reason to opt for phosphorylated serine is that it is much cheaper. Phosphatidyl serine is currently more popular but it is an inferior supplement.
My advice to any athlete considering phosphorylated serine supplementation is to have a salivary cortisol analysis performed. If it reveals elevated cortisol levels then phosphorylated serine use makes sense. Otherwise, you may be playing with fire.