According to Robert T. Stanko, M.D., of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, “Pyruvate enhances the oxidation, or burning, of fat. It also stops the synthesis, or formation, of fat.” Sounds good so far.
Chemically, pyruvic acid is a three-carbon keto acid manufactured by the body in the end stages of glycolysis—that’s the enzymatic breakdown of glucose, a form of carbohydrate, by chemical agents known as phosphates. Phosphates produce pyruvic or lactic acid and energy stored in the high-energy molecule known as adenosine triphosphate, or ATP.
Simply put, pyruvate is formed during the metabolism, or digestion, of sugars and starches. It’s a key compound that jump-starts the metabolic pathway known as the Krebs cycle, in which chemical and enzyme actions produce ATP and/or its direct precursors to power your workouts. In practical terms, pyruvate can be compared to the key that starts your car.
Stanko found that pyruvate dramatically increased endurance and had a profound effect in reducing exercise-induced muscle fatigue. Its ability to increase endurance, stamina and exercise performance is directly related to its ability to facilitate the transport of glucose into the muscle cell by a process known as glucose extraction.
Pyruvate also spares the use of muscle glycogen. As you may know, glycogen is stored in skeletal muscle tissue and the liver to be used as a backup fuel source. That action helps extend workout time and improves performance for bigger gains. Studies indicate that whether you’re running or lifting weights, pyruvate promotes the use of immediate or stored energy.
One of the most significant findings concerning pyruvate is its ability to decrease the reaccumulation of bodyfat without decreasing protein levels. In fact, when pyruvate was administered for three weeks, subjects lost 48 percent more fat than those not taking the supplement. In a related six-week double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 26 overweight individuals were assigned to a placebo group or a pyruvate-supplemented group. All of the participants exercised 45 to 60 minutes three days a week—including both aerobic and powerlifting routines. At the conclusion of the six weeks, there were statistically significant decreases in bodyweight and bodyfat in the pyruvate group, -1.2 kilograms and -2.5 kilograms, respectively.
It’s important to find ways to minimize the oxidation of muscle tissue to preserve lean tissue and speed up recovery. Exercise and sportsmedicine experts recommend the use of antioxidants like vitamins C and E and selenium, CoQ10, alpha lipoic acid, glutamine—and now pyruvate. Pyruvate can help prevent and reduce the inflammation that occurs as a result of exercise-induced muscle oxidation, thus reducing muscle tissue breakdown and soreness.
While pyruvate as a single compound has shown some remarkable results, when combined with creatine, it packs a powerful punch. Recently, researchers at Appalachian State University in North Carolina reported that subjects who were given calcium pyruvate and creatine monohydrate showed significantly greater increases in body mass, lean body mass and repetitions maximum on the bench press and squat than subjects in a placebo group. The researchers also reported that the group receiving pyruvate and creatine had more significant gains in mass and body composition and better increases in maximum strength than groups that got pyruvate and/or creatine alone.