Arachidonic acid (AA) is a naturally occurring polyunsaturated fat, belonging to the Omega-6 family of fatty acids and is found in cell membrane phospholipids. It’s formed in the human body from the essential fatty acid Linoleic Acid (LA) or ingested pre-formed in various foods, with highest amounts found in red meat, egg yolks, and other animals based foods. From AA, highly unsaturated biologically active compounds such as prostaglandins, prostacyclin (PGI12), leukotrienes, and thromboxanes are formed.
What is it supposed to do?
The metabolism of AA is extremely complicated and far beyond the scope of this section. The many biologically active downstream metabolites of AA mentioned above are still under investigation with new roles for each being discovered all the time. Relating to the issue that concerns the reader (e.g., effects on strength, performance, and body composition), AA plays a role in the inflammatory response which appears to have direct effects on protein synthesis. In particular, the prostaglandin PGF2alpha has been identified as an important mediator of protein synthesis. In theory, an increase in the tissue levels of PGF2alpha (via ingestion of AA) might alter the anabolic to catabolic balance which would increase muscle mass. Other lines of evidence that support AA metabolites as being essential for protein synthesis come from studies that found the cox-1 enzyme inhibitors ibuprofen and acetaminophen greatly diminish the anabolic response to resistance exercise by inhibiting the normal post-exercise increase in levels of PGF2alpha. As these OTC drugs exhibit their anti-inflammatory actions by inhibiting the synthesis of prostaglandins, and it’s been found they reduce protein synthetic rates in response to weight training, it’s been seen as additional support for the concept that prostaglandins play an essential role in the anabolic response to exercise. Again, that’s a generalization of an extremely complicated system. The essential take home of the above is, prostaglandins are derived from dietary and in vivo conversion of AA and appear up-regulate recovery mechanisms including: inflammation and protein synthesis within skeletal muscle in response to resistance training.
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