BY STEVE BORN
Athletes should be particularly interested in maintaining the optimal functionality of the mitochondria, the energy producing powerhouses of the cell, for two primary reasons:
1.) Maintenance of high quality, consistent energy production, which is obviously key to athletic performance.
2.) Protection against deterioration of mitochondrial function, which results in increased free radical damage, which many experts feel is directly related to many age-related diseases.
The aging and/or decline in the productivity and integrity of the mitochondria directly affects both athletic performance and overall health. Mito Caps' two primary nutrients have been found to play an essential role in improving/optimizing mitochondrial energy production as well as providing protection for maintaining the integrity of mitochondrial functioning.
Acetyl l-carnitine - Energy Enzymes Essential
L-Carnitine is a derivative of the amino acid, lysine and it is synthesized in the body by five different enzymes involving the amino acids lysine and methione, iron, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and the reduced form of niacin (NAD). Small amounts - roughly 10-50 mg - of l-carnitine are synthesized daily, which is adequate for preventing deficiency problems. However, these amounts are most likely insufficient for athletes. Dr. Michael Colgan writes, Although the body makes l-carnitine, it may not make an optimum amount for athletes, because muscle carnitine levels are rapidly depleted even during moderate exercise.This would make supplemental l-carnitine essential for endurance athletes. Acetyl l-carnitine is arguably the premier form of this nutrient for two reasons:
1.) It provides l-carnitine, which is the key nutrient involved in the shuttling of fatty acids into the mitochondria for energy production.
2.) It also provides acetyl groups, which may be used in the formation of the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, which is involved in cognitive function.
In addition to its crucial role in how the body uses fatty acids for fuels, l-carnitine directly impacts energy production and the health of the mitochondria in other ways...
It is believed that the performance of the mitochondria to produce energy is largely dependent upon the composition and functionality of the lipids that make up the mitochondrial membrane. It is also believed that the decrease in cellular energy production that comes from the aging process is at least partially due to the alteration of the lipid composition and content of the mitochondrial membranes.
There are a variety of phospholipids that are biosynthesized and make up the membrane of the mitochondria; cardiolipin is one of them and when scientists studied the membrane makeup of old rats versus young rates they found no significant changes in the other phospholipids but they did see a one-third decline in the concentration of cardiolipin. The significance of this is that the optimal activity of Cytochrome C oxidase, which is a key enzyme complex in mitochondrial energy production (via the oxidative phosphorylation, a.k.a. electron transport chain cycle), is dependent on adequate levels of cardiolipin. When researchers gave the rats doses of acetyl l-carnitine they found an increase in cardiolipin levels and that the activity of the Cytochrome c oxidase enzyme system was restored to that of the younger rats.
Scientists also discovered that the activity of another enzyme - adenine nucleotide translocase (ANT) - also decreases with age. ANT is a carrier protein that exchanges Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) for Adenosine Disphosphate (ADP) across the inner mitochondrial membrane from inside the mitochondria to the cytosol (outside of the mitochondria, but inside the cell). When ANT activity decreases it results in reduced ATP available for cellular energy production. When the aged rats where fed acetyl l-carnitine the activity of ANT was increased and thus energy production was increased.
R-alpha lipoic acid - Multifunctional Antioxidant Powerhouse
Increased energy production comes at a cost… more free radical production. Fortunately, the body has a variety of antioxidant mechanisms that counteract and neutralize the negative effects of free radicals. Increased energy production, as well as longer-term high level energy production (such as what endurance athletes do) increases the volume of free radicals that are produced, which can easily overwhelm the body's built-in antioxidant defenses. This is the reason why we take a variety of antioxidants and perhaps none are stronger or provide a wider range of benefits than r-alpha lipoic acid.
First, r-alpha lipoic acid is intimately involved in the complex process of energy production. R-alpha lipoic acid is an essential cofactor for several multi-enzyme complexes (primarily the dehydrogenase complexes) that catalyze (increase the speed of a chemical reaction) critical energy metabolism reactions inside the mitochondria.
In addition, a portion of r-alpha lipoic acid is reduced to a substance called Alpha-dihydrolipoic acid (DHLA), which functions directly as an antioxidant, helping to neutralize reactive oxygen species (ROS) and nitrogen oxygen species (NOS) free radicals. In addition, DHLA helps to regenerate used up or oxidized antioxidants such as vitamins C & E, CoQ10, and glutathione. Tory Hagen at the Linus Pauling institute writes, When an antioxidant like vitamin C neutralizes a free radical, it becomes oxidized itself, and is not able to neutralize other free radicals until it has been reduced or regenerated. DHLA is a potent reducing agent, and has the capacity to regenerate a number of oxidized antioxidants to their active antioxidant forms. DHLA can be regenerated from alpha-lipoic acid through the activity of enzymes present in cells. By taking r-alpha lipoic acid energy production is optimized (especially when combined with acetyl l-carnitine) and the enormous amounts of free radicals produced from mitochondrial energy production are effectively neutralized, via both r-alpha lipoic acid itself as well as through the other antioxidants that r-alpha lipoic acid regenerates.
R-alpha lipoic acid also binds with excess free metal ions such as iron and copper, both of which can trigger a number of reactions that generate free radicals. R-alpha lipoic acid chelates (binds) with these ions in a way that prevents them from generating free radicals.
As mentioned earlier, r-alpha lipoic acid is involved in the regeneration of glutathione, which is arguably the most important antioxidant we have in our bodies. In addition to regenerating oxidized glutathione, r-alpha lipoic acid has been found to increase intercellular glutathione levels by increasing the uptake of cysteine by cells.
R-alpha lipoic acid is also believed to be involved in maintaining proper glucose metabolism by improving insulin sensitivity.