In the ongoing search for a supplement that can help people lose some weight and burn off some body fat, pyruvate has demonstrated some potential. While results of the research done to date are not especially remarkable, there is evidence that pyruvate may have a role to play. If you would like to know more about pyruvate, its heath benefits and how much weight it can really help you lose, read on.
What is Calcium Pyruvate?
Calcium pyruvate gets made naturally in the body and plays an important role in metabolism and digesting carbohydrates. In its unstable form called pyruvic acid becomes stable with the addition of calcium or sodium. There are several natural sources of pyruvate including apples, red wine, cheese and dark ale.
Pyruvate is formed from blood sugars during a process called glycolisis and is essentially the end product when sugar metabolizes with starch. Glycolisis is a vital energy generating pathway used by our bodies every moment of the day to produce adenosine triphosate or ATP – the energy molecule.
This ATP molecule gives us the energy we need to perform every task from trimming the hedge to washing the dishes to simply reading this article.
In effect when your body produces energy through glycolysis, you begin with blood glucose, it gets run through several steps and you are left with pyruvate. At some stage in the process, our energy source – ATP is formed.
How Calcium Pyruvate Works
Calcium pyruvate helps start the citric acid cycle also known as Krebs cycle where the bodies produce energy or ATP (adenosine triphophate) during aerobic respiration. Pyruvate is transformed into a different molecule which sets the Krebs cycle underway but this reaction only occurs when oxygen is present. (1)
By this I mean that the reaction will only occur during an aerobic activity like running, walking or cycling. When there is not enough oxygen present within the cells like during anaerobic activities such as sprinting and weight lifting, pyruvate does not enter into the Krebs cycle. In such a situation, pyruvate is transformed into yet another type of molecule – in this case lactic acid.
As any runners will no doubt be aware, lactic acid is largely responsible for that uncomfortable burning feeling you get in the muscles when you work out too hard. It is also responsible for fatigue you feel during exercise.
According to research, pyruvate may be especially useful for people looking to burn fat especially accompanied by exercise.
Who Could Benefit from Pyruvate Supplements?
The most common use of pyruvate supplements s for people looking to burn excess body fat. According to research, they are especially effective for eliminating fat in the belly area and the thighs. Pyruvate supplements are more effective when they are taken by people who work out regularly and watch what they eat. Pyruvate is believed to help convert your food to energy and boost metabolism.
Athletes of any level may benefit from pyruvate supplements since they help to build muscles and improve energy levels and endurance.
Although a number of natural foods contain calcium pyruvate, it is not found in the levels necessary to have an impact. Apples, red wine and cheese all contain pyruvate but to get just 5 grams of the stuff, you would have to eat around 70 apples a day.
Health Benefits of Pyruvate
There is a growing body of research into the effects on the body of pyruvate supplementation. Many of the studies to date have focused on fat loss, weight control and endurance. Results so far have been admittedly mixed but more research is expected to clarify the picture.
1) Fat Loss
I have seen plenty of lofty claims that pyruvate can be used to help people burn fat and lose weight. In theory this makes sense; pyruvate being a raw material of cellular respiration should also help increase the energy you burn and allow for greater fat burning. But does the evidence back this up?
In the mid 1990s, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh found that supplementing with calcium pyruvate did indeed help the fat burning process. In the study, obese volunteers were put on a strict 1000 calories a day diet for the 21 day duration of the study. The women were also given either a 30 gram a day pyruvate supplement or a placebo. By the end of the study, the women given the pyruvate supplement experienced a 48% greater fat loss and 3.2 extra lost pounds. (2)
The dose of 30 grams a day used in the trial are very large and much higher than the recommended daily dose of 5 grams. There is also the matter of cost. The expense of a 30 gram a day supplementation regime may not be worth the marginal results.
There is still a lot of controversy regarding pyruvate and weight loss and the studies done to date have been inconsistent with some not detecting any positive effects. Much of the research was done back in the 1990s and the results are probably not impressive enough to warrant taking this supplement for weight loss purposes alone.
2) Energy, Stamina and Endurance
Apart from fat burning and weight loss, most of the research has centered on the ability of pyruvate to improve endurance and produce more energy.
According to research, pyruvate may help endurance athletes by helping provide more of the necessary ATP. But the emphasis here is on the word ‘may’. The few studies done so far have had mixed results.
Theoretically, pyruvate works by helping transport glucose and preserving glycogen in the muscles which prolongs the time before glycogen exhaustion occurs. This would mean an athlete could perform at higher levels for longer before fatigue set in.
Studies done on humans using very large doses of pyruvate have found that it helped increase the amount of time an athlete could exercise before exhaustion. A 100 gram dose enhance glucose extraction reducing the perceived rate of exertion. (3)
However, studies done with smaller doses did not have any beneficial effects on aerobic exercise or blood sugar levels in athletes. (4)
3) Heart Health
A single study published in the early 1990s found that pyruvate supplements had a positive effect on overweight patients consuming diets high in fat and cholesterol. Patients given pyruvate in a dose of between 36 and 53 grams a day experienced a reduction in total cholesterol and LDL compared with the placebo group. Researchers also found that blood pressure and heart rate dropped in the pyruvate group. (5)
How to Use Pyruvate
Calcium pyruvate is usually sold in capsules with a 750 mg dose but is also available in tablet, liquid or powdered form. The typically recommended dose is 2 capsules taken twice each day.
One review noted that there were no significant side effects associated with pyruvate supplements but there have been no long-term clinical studies to prove it has no adverse effects.
Studies have revealed a number of common but relatively side effects from taking pyruvate. Loose stools are the most commonly seen side effect. In one study, 58% or the patients who took pyruvate experienced loose stools.
Other common side effects of pyruvate supplementation include flatulence and gurgling in the stomach.