Introduction to GABA
Having depression, anxiety, or sleep trouble? Our modern world isn’t short of these, so no doubt you have experienced some or all of these.
Fortunately for us, nature has provided ways to overcome these problems through substances produced naturally in our bodies. One of the key ways it does this is through a molecule called GABA or gamma-aminobutyric acid, which is produced by your brain.
It is not a very common word you will hear of in everyday talk, but GABA is sending the medical research world crazy because of its potentially huge benefits.
However, your body’s GABA doesn’t always stay up to the required levels.
As a result, we now have GABA supplements that have been produced by companies to make sure you don’t miss out on the great benefits that this substance can give.
What are these benefits provided by supplements, and are they real and proven? In this article, I help you answer the various questions about GABA and whether it can be a suitable product for you.
It was not until the 1950s that Eugene Roberts and Jorge Awapara independently discovered GABA in animals. They also found that the amounts were quite generous —1 mg per gram—and they were only found in the nervous system and in no other place in the body.
GABA, your key ally to many of your emotional states, is an amino acid.
Most amino acids you will meet are used by the body to make protein.
Well, not GABA.
GABA, which is also an amino acid, is made in the brain for a very different purpose. It acts as a neurotransmitter whose job is to produce a calming effect that acts to counter over-excitation in neurons which are produced by other neurotransmitters.
There are other neurotransmitters in your body which lead to excitation. They include adrenaline, dopamine, and noradrenaline.
GABA may not be found in enough amounts in your diet so you may not be able to overcome a body deficiency of it through your diet. This is the reason supplements have been suggested as a way to correct any deficiency in your body.
So what are the benefits of GABA? The benefits of GABA can be listed in the following way:
- Can bring about relaxation feelings
- can promote your brain health
- Could benefit autism patients
- May help with the treatment of Epilepsy
- Can improve your focus, concentration, and attention
- Can help you respond better to stress
- Can be important for the proper functioning of your nervous system
- Can relieve pain
- Can benefit bodybuilders and fitness people because it can enhance the production of HGH, or human growth hormone, which can help you gain great muscle growth as well as enhance strong mental focus. It can also help you cut fat
- Hypertension or high blood pressure can be brought under control
- Can stop you having panic attacks
- Can also help with muscle tone
How GABA works
Even though your body produces its own GABA, sometimes its levels can drop far too low, and you will start to suffer conditions such as anxiety or depression.
The body relies on this special amino acid because it is its chief neurotransmitter that has an inhibitory effect on the body. It does this by helping the brain produce endorphins, which is a special type of compounds that creates feelings of happiness and calmness.
Beta waves vs. Alpha waves
Your brain produces two types of waves: beta waves and alpha waves.
Your state of mind can be affected by which of these is produced more. For example, more beta waves will give you anxiety, restlessness, and irritability, while more alpha waves induce relaxation and an uplifted mood.
GABA works to reduce beta waves and increase gamma waves. For this reason, it is used by people with anxiety disorders to reverse their conditions from excess beta waves to excess alpha waves.
Alpha waves have been shown in studies to have huge benefits such as clear thinking and focus.
The recommended amount to be taken depends on which supplement you are taking. Each has its own recommended dosage, so read the label carefully.
Also, the dosage can depend on which condition is being treated in the following ways:
- General stress relief – for this, you can take 250 mg 2 or 3 times a day
- Anti-anxiety – take 3 times a day, each of which is 250 mg. You may have to increase this to 650 mg.
- ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) – the effective dose is 250 mg taken 3 times a day, but you may need to increase this to 400 mg while making increments of 50 mg
- Insomnia –take between 500 to 700 mg about half an hour before sleep. This can be increased to 1,000 mg should the need arise
Preferably, the amino acid should be taken in an empty stomach. Do not take it with any protein as this can interfere with your digestion.
Some people take the amino acid all in one go, but others may split it into smaller amounts to be taken over the day.
GABA supplements can have some side effects. Most of this is connected to poor interactions with other drugs which you be are already taking. So if you are under any medication, it is advisable that you don’t start using it before seeking a doctor’s advice.
Excess dosage can also have bad side effects.
These are some of the side effects you may see while using this supplement.
- Can cause high blood pressure
- Increased rate in your heartbeat
- May compromise the gut’s immune system so users with already weak immune systems may be affected adversely
- The supplement is inferior to butyric acid which could be a better alternative for uses that are confined to the gut
- Who should not use the supplement
- If you are using other medicine. Find out with your doctor first
- If you are pregnant with a child or are suckling one
- Don’t use it if you are driving or operating heavy machinery
A good GABA supplement doesn’t actually contain GABA since the substance cannot cross the brain blood barrier (BBB) into the brain from where it can become functional. Therefore an effective supplement should have other ingredients that stimulate the brain to produce its own GABA. These could include
- Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
- Green tea extracts (L-theanine)
- Valerian root powder
Some of these ingredients stimulate the production of GABA such as glutamate and vitamin B6, but others only play a supporting role in producing calmness or relaxation.
Price and availability
The supplements are made and sold by many bodybuilding companies. For example, you can order your supplement from
- Universal Nutrition
- Ultimate Nutrition
- Infinite Labs
The price can range from as low as $15 to $60.
- Supplements give you a natural alternative to conventional ones which can reduce risks to your health
- Can be bought over the counter as it does not need to be prescribed
- Not much research done to establish the effectiveness of GABA supplements
- Many not to be effective
- Low bioavailability because relatively less of the supplement can cross the blood-brain barrier and get into the brain to act.
Conclusion on GABA
GABA can be a good supplement to take for anyone experiencing stress, anxiety, and depression. It can also be an excellent choice for bodybuilders to keep them in the right mental and emotional state to work out effectively.
It goes without saying that you can’t work out when you are depressed, sad, or stressed! Working out needs you to have a great concentration to succeed. This is where GABA can come in handy.
But the supplement does more than this because it also helps in building muscle by activating muscle building hormones such as HGH (human growth hormone). In addition, the supplements can contribute to great muscle tone. The most attractive feature about the supplements is that they are made of natural ingredients and so they’ll in minimal to zero side effects.
Despite all these benefits which you can obtain from such supplements, choose your supplements carefully because some may be useless and won’t provide these benefits. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) advises to always check for the Facts label that comes with the supplement before you buy it.
This label will answer many questions about the product. For example, what active ingredients are included for each serving of the product? What are the added ingredients like flavorings, binders, and fillers?
Another question to ask is whether the product has been approved by an independent party (that is, a third party organization) which offers to test for the product’s quality and purity.