1. What Is It?
Choline is an essential nutrient that is required by the body to maintain our health.
There are many forms of Choline supplements on the market such as:
CDP Choline (Citicoline)
While each of these ingredients does have unique characteristics, they all share the same purpose of supplementing choline into the body. Choline can be found in foods such as animal liver, eggs, beef, soybeans, chicken breast, fish and mushrooms. Although Choline is found in quite a wide variety of common foods, the amount of choline provided by these sources is generally not enough for the average adult to consume their daily requirements.
2. What Does It Do?
No matter which form of choline you supplement with the main outcome we are trying to achieve is increased levels of choline in the body. Increased levels of choline then trigger the body to increase the production of acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that is used in many processes in the body and increasing acetylcholine production is the key to cholines benefits. A neurotransmitter is a chemical message that is released by nerve cells to communicate signals to other cells in the body such as neurons, gland cells and muscle cells.
Receptors in the body that respond to acetylcholine are referred to as cholinergic receptors. There are two main receptors that are considered cholinergic; they are Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors (nAChR’s) & Muscarinic Acetylcholine Receptors (mAChR’s).
The nAChR’s are the receptors you will use to voluntarily contract muscles. They are found at the Neuromuscular Junction, which is where Motor Neuron meets Muscle Fibre, and nAChR’s are also found in the Central Nervous System (CNS), Somatic Nervous System (SNS) and in both parts of our Autonomic Nervous System (Sympathetic and Parasympathetic). nAChR’s have a short and fast response to Acetylcholine. Acetylcholine activation in nAChR’s is vital for us to contract muscles when training.
mAChR’s are the receptors we don’t control voluntarily. They are found in both parts of our Autonomic Nervous System (Sympathetic and Parasympathetic) as well as our Central Nervous System (CNS). mAChR’s are responsible for the function of the smooth muscle in the body. Smooth muscle is the tissue found around your stomach, intestines & blood vessels. mAChR’s have a much longer and slower response from acetylcholine when compared to nAChR’s.
Choline supplements are generally marketed as focus & cognitive enhancers, smart drugs or, the more common term of, nootropics. This again ties into the ability of choline to increase the production of acetylcholine a key neurotransmitter for the ability to learn and focus. Deficiencies of choline in the body have been linked to poor memory, poor concentration, mood changes and especially cognitive impairments as someone ages.
Choline also plays a vital role in maintaining the structural integrity and health of cell membranes, in particular, the cholinergic receptors. This again ties into improved memory, mental clarity, concentration and the ability to focus. Studies have shown improved cognitive performance in healthy individuals through supplementation of choline.
More studies need to be conducted but there have been links made between Choline and Alzheimer’s disease. People with Alzheimer’s disease have been shown to have low levels of the enzyme that converts choline into acetylcholine in the brain. This ties into the neuroprotective benefits of choline; with studies showing that higher choline intake has resulted in improved cognitive function and health later in life.
To fully understand how acetylcholine is involved in not just brain fucntion and day to day movements but all forms training & exercise, we need to understand how the body contracts a muscle.
How Do We Contract A Muscle:
1. Nervous System Generates a signal from a motor neuron
(The signal is an impulse called an action potential)
2. The impulse travels along nerve until it reaches the Neuromuscular Junction
(Muscle Tissue is made up of cells called Muscle Fibres)
3. At the Neuromuscular Junction, a chemical message is released
(Chemical message is the neurotransmitter called Acetylcholine)
4. Acetylcholine then binds to the ion-channel receptors on the muscle cell membrane
(Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors (nAChR’s) are the ion-channel receptors)
5. This binding causes the ion channels to open
6. Sodium ions then flow through the open channel into the muscle cell
7. We then contract our muscle.
The scary thing is, this isn’t the complete process and that complete process happens hundreds of thousands of millions times per day. Acetylcholine is the neurotransmitter vital for activating the skeletal muscle. Increased levels of acetylcholine have been shown to help improve muscular strength in human studies. A particular study, focusing on the form Alpha-GPC, found lower body strength was significantly greater after 6 days of supplementation with Alpha-GPC.
Just as important as increasing and activating the acetylcholine, is breaking it down. Acetylcholinesterase is the enzyme the body naturally produces to breakdown acetylcholine that has been released after it has served its purpose as a neurotransmitter to allow for a new signal to trigger more acetylcholine. If the acetylcholine is not broken down it can have severe side effects such as blurry vision, mental fogginess, cramps, muscle weakness & even paralysis.
It is a true testament to the saying of ‘more is not always better’. The body is consistently working behind the scenes to maintain the balance that is essential for our health.
3. How Much Do I Need To Take?
As we mentioned at the start, there are numerous forms of choline that can be supplemented with outside of dietary sources. Those forms include:
CDP Choline (Citicoline)
Each one of these sources does come with its own recommended daily intake that is based on a number of factors such as bio-availability, how much choline is being yielded and, of course, clinical studies.
A dose between 300 – 1,200 mg per day is ideal for Alpha-GPC
CDP Choline (Citicoline)
A dose between 200 – 900 mg per day is ideal for CDP Choline
A dose between 500 – 2,000 mg per day is ideal for Choline Bitartrate
A dose between 200 – 2,000 mg per day is ideal for Phosphatidylcholine
4. When Do I Take It?
Typically forms of Choline will be used in formulas such as Pre-Workouts, Fat-Burners and Nootropics. Supplementing with choline before any kind of task that requires an cognition or any form of exercise involving muscular contractions (yes, that literally means ANY form of exercise) will benefit from supplementation of Choline.
Times to supplement with Choline.
First Thing In The Morning
Midday / Afternoon Pick-Me-Up
Before Any Cognitive Task
We don’t suggest consuming Choline too late in the day due to potentially having a cognitive enhancing effect and potentially interfering with your sleep.
5. How Long Does It Take To Work?
Different forms of Choline will yield different rates of absorption and therefore go to work at different rates. Generally speaking, you will notice the effects of Choline supplementation with the first 15 – 30 minutes after consumption. Increased mental clarity, mental alertness, cognitive function, focusing ability and improved mood can all be experienced from a single serve of Choline when dosed appropriately.
Consistent supplementation will yield the best results especially in regards to the neuroprotective benefits of Choline. Single, once-off doses are still very effective for cognitive enhancement and can be utilised when needed.
6. What Are The Top Products?
The top products containing a form of Choline are: