Gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, is a substance that bodybuilders and other athletes sometimes use when looking for a competitive edge. It is an amino acid that serves as a neurotransmitter in the brain. GABA is legal as a dietary supplement, though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers certain closely related compounds, including gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, or GHB, to be unapproved drugs.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
GABA acts on the pituitary gland, which controls synthesis of growth hormone and also plays a role in body temperature and sleep cycles, according to Iron Magazine. Makers of GABA supplements promote them as increasing growth hormone levels, facilitating muscle recovery, relieving anxiety and inducing sleep. The results that athletes hope for are more lean muscle tissue and lower body fat levels.
Can I Take L-Tryptophan With GABA?
GABA is of dubious value as a bodybuilding supplement, according to Iron Magazine. In order to act on hormone levels, it would need to enter the brain. But the supplements do not cross the blood-brain barrier. Thus, the magazine concludes that they "do not appear to be particularly effective in stimulating growth hormone synthesis/secretion or promoting relaxation."
- GABA is of dubious value as a bodybuilding supplement, according to Iron Magazine.
- Thus, the magazine concludes that they "do not appear to be particularly effective in stimulating growth hormone synthesis/secretion or promoting relaxation."
GABA generally does not produce serious side effects, according to BodyBuildingForYou.com 1. It can sometimes cause tingling in the face and neck area. A mild, transient increase in breathing rate and heart rate is possible. If you are not taking it to relax or help with sleep, then its sedative action can also be considered a side effect.
- GABA generally does not produce serious side effects, according to BodyBuildingForYou.com 1.
- If you are not taking it to relax or help with sleep, then its sedative action can also be considered a side effect.
GABA for Weight Loss
Athletes usually take GABA orally, though intravenous administration is possible, as well. They consume it on an empty stomach once a day before bedtime, according to Iron Magazine. Hardcore bodybuilders sometimes take 5 g per dose, but 1 g or 2 g is more common. In fact, the magazine notes, a typical, commercially available GABA tablet contains 250 to 750 mg -- well under 1 g.
- Athletes usually take GABA orally, though intravenous administration is possible, as well.
- Hardcore bodybuilders sometimes take 5 g per dose, but 1 g or 2 g is more common.
Use careful scrutiny when evaluating claims from supplement manufacturers. The FDA took one maker of GABA to task in March 2004 for stating that its products "stimulate the body's ability to secrete the powerful fat burning hormone hGH during sleep" and that "people taking GABA tend to lose excess body fat." In a warning letter, FDA officials informed the Clifton Park, N.Y.-based company Better Bodz that the statements about the InShape DreamShape products were "not supported by reliable scientific evidence."
Can I Take L-Tryptophan With GABA?
GABA for Weight Loss
How Do I Take ZMA Anabolic Testosterone Booster?
Sildenafil and Bodybuilding
Acetyl L-Carnitine & Weight Loss
Can I Take 5-HTP With Effexor?
Ingredients in BSN N.O.-Xplode
Gaba Supplements & Anxiety
How to Use 5 HTP With Rhodiola Rosea to Keep Serotonin for the Brain
Benefits of Acetyl L Tyrosine
- BodyBuildingForYou: GABA Supplement Information
- Anisman H, Merali Z, Poulte MO. Chapter 4: Gamma-aminobutyric acid involvement in depressive illness interactions with corticotropin-releasing hormone and serotonin. In: Dwivedi Y, editor. The Neurobiological Basis of Suicide. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2012.
- Sergeeva OA, Kletke O, Kragler A, et al. Fragrant dioxane derivatives identify beta1-subunit-containing GABAA receptors. J Biol Chem. 2010;285(31):23985‐23993. doi:10.1074/jbc.M110.103309
- Yuan CS, Mehendale S, Xiao Y, Aung HH, Xie JT, Ang-lee MK. The gamma-aminobutyric acidergic effects of valerian and valerenic acid on rat brainstem neuronal activity. Anesth Analg. 2004;98(2):353-8. doi:10.1213/01.ane.0000096189.70405.a5
- Wang ZJ, Heinbockel T. Essential oils and their constituents targeting the GABAergic system and sodium channels as treatment of neurological diseases. Molecules. 2018;23(5):1061. doi:10.3390/molecules23051061
- Streeter CC, Whitfield TH, Owen L, et al. Effects of yoga versus walking on mood, anxiety, and brain GABA levels: a randomized controlled MRS study. J Altern Complement Med. 2010;16(11):1145-52. doi:10.1089/acm.2010.0007
- Levinson AJ, Fitzgerald PB, Favalli G, Blumberger DM, Daigle M, Daskalakis ZJ. "Evidence of cortical inhibitory deficits in major depressive disorder." Biol Psychiatry. 2010 Mar 1;67(5):458-64. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2009.09.025
- Lin HC, Mao SC, Gean PW. "Block of gamma-aminobutyric acid-A receptor insertion in the amygdala impairs extinction of conditioned fear." Biol Psychiatry. 2009 Oct 1;66(7):665-73. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2009.04.003
- Weeks BS. "Formulations of dietary supplements and herbal extracts for relaxation and anxiolytic action: Relarian." Med Sci Monit. 2009 Nov;15(11):RA256-62. PMID: 19865069
Ranlyn Oakes is a business writer and journalist with more than a decade as either a staff writer or freelancer for a variety of regional and national publications, including newspapers and magazines. His specialties include health care, international trade, manufacturing and career advice. Oakes holds a Bachelor of Arts in print journalism from the University of Kentucky.