Choline, also known as vitamin B7, is a water-soluble vitamin, and is an essential nutrient you should be consuming every day. It’s said that 550mg/day is adequate and 3500mg/day is the upper limit. Although it is shown that even when people consume 550mg/day, the body still has to make some extra choline in the liver, which indicates that consuming 550mg/day of choline is inadequate for daily needs, especially if you are active and do intense exercise.
When one is deficient in choline, the body can make it itself – from it’s own cells, where it is stored. After a while this can cause major problems as you can image, because when cells are deprived of choline, they lose integrity and they die by apoptosis.
Choline has three main functions: TMG formation (which is important in methylation), conversion to acetylcholine as neurotransmitter and also to phosphatidylcholine. Other functions of choline include, reducing the risk of neural tube defects and fatty liver disease (by transporting fats away from the liver), lipid and cholesterol transport and metabolism, cell membrane integrity and signalling, transmitters and brain health (attention, focus, learning, memory forming, cognitive performance etc).
Choline is also known as a lipotropic, and lipotropics help catalyze the breakdown of fat during metabolism in the body, which makes it one of the best fat burners out there (together with the other lipotropics of course).
Cell membranes, mTOR & hormone regulation
Inside cells are where everything happens, so it’s very important to have your cells as healthy as possible, else they lose integrity, suffer damage, die and get destroyed. You don’t want malfunctioning cells, only perfectly functioning cells.
Choline is a precursor for the synthesis of phospholipids. Phospholipids generally consist of a phosphate group, two alcohols, and one or two fatty acids. A phospholipid is the primary lipid forming all cellular membranes, whereas cholesterol contributes to the fluidity and stability of all membranes. The phospholipid that choline is synthesized into is lecithin (phosphatidylcholine).
Lecithin is very important for building muscle and burning fat. Lecithins are a mixture of glycerophospholipids and one in particular is phosphatidic acid (PA).
PA is formed in three ways:
- Phosphatidylcholine is hydrolyzed by PLD enzyme to produce choline and PA
- Diacylglycerol (DAG) is phosphorylated by DAG kinase (DAGK)
- Lysophosphatidic acid is acylated by lysoPA-acyltransferase (LPAAT)
Mechanical stimuli can induce an increase in the intracellular levels of PA through the three pathways mentioned above and the increase in intracellular PA contributes to the activation of mTOR which leads to enhanced hypertrophy.
Choline and its metabolites provide cell integrity, stimulate mTOR and help burn fat.
Lecithin also stimulates bile circulation which enhances estrogen’s excretion from the body.
Neurotransmitter, muscle protein synthesis & hormone booster
Choline is the precursor molecule for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, so when ingested, choline is converted to acetylcholine.
Muscle fibers are recruited by nerve impulses. By exercising, you increase the number of muscle fibers being recruited, thus increasing strength and size of the muscle. Acetylcholine is the neurotransmitter that sends impulses to a muscle to contract. With inadequate neurotransmitters, maximal muscle contraction will not occur and optimal hypertrophy and strength will not be obtained.
Acetylcholine is the chief neurotransmitter of the parasympathetic nervous system (a.k.a rest and digest), the part of the autonomic nervous system that activates muscles (smooth and striated), dilates blood vessels, increases bodily secretion of glands (hypotalamus, pituitary, thyroid, adrenals, salivary, gonads, etc.), and slows heart rate. Acetylcholine also plays an important role in arousal, attention, memory, motivation and learning.
Muscle growth occurs when the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, then your body can digest food properly as well as utilize nutrients properly. This is also when tesosterone and growth hormone levels are able to increase and aid in building muscle.
Acetylcholine binds to acetylcholine receptors called muscarinic acetylcholine receptors (mAChRs), present on vascular endothelium (cells in the arteries), which respond by increasing the production of nitric oxide, which then leads to vasodilation. When arteries dilate, nutrients can better travel to necessary tissue, and waste products can be effectively transported out.
Also when acetylcholine binds to mACHrs, it then forms G protein-receptor complexes in the cell membranes of certain neurons and other cells. Five sub-classed of these G proteins have been identified and when 3 of the subtypes are activated they increase intracellular levels of PLC, IP3 and then intracellular calcium. This increase in intracellular calcium is then able to stimulate satellite cells, enhance recovery from injury and stimulate muscle protein synthesis. (Note of cation: when PLC cleaves IP3 and calcium rushes into the cells, spikes prolactin) More on lowering prolactin here…
Having adequate acetylcholine will ensure proper nerve impulses into the muscles, help with muscle protein synthesis and increase nitric oxide production.
Methyl donors, estrogen elimination & boost IGF-1
Choline, including folate, are powerful methyl donors, which help with the methylation of methionine from homocysteine. Choline is converted to trimethylglycine (TMG), and TMG is involved in the methylation of homocysteine to methionine. Homocysteine is an amino acid and a product of the breakdown of protein. You shouldn’t have to worry about eating protein if your methylation is working correctly and if you are consuming enough methyl donors to help methylate homocysteine to methionine. However, if these methyl donors (folate and TMG plus co-enzymes) are low, homocysteine levels rise and can cause blood clots, high cholesterol, dementia, deep vein thrombosis, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, overall inflammation and much more…
Elevated homocysteine directly impairs insulin signaling by reducing insulin receptor substrate-1 (IRS-1) activation and thus inhibiting Akt-phosphorylation. Insulin and IGF-1 are both anabolic hormones and both binds to insulin receptors. Elevated homocysteine will actually blunt muscle protein synthesis response from exercise.
That’s one of the reasons people supplement with betaine, to lower homocysteine, increase insulin sensitivity, increase methionine and SAM levels and to stimulate muscle protein synthesis through the IGF-I/Akt/mTORC1 pathway (3). A choline rich diet will elevated TMG levels to help with this transmethylation of homocysteine to methionine and aid in muscle protein synthesis. Is extra betaine supplementation necessary if adequate choline is consumed through the diet? Find out in my betaine article…
But when sufficient methyl donors are available, homocysteine can be methylated to methionine, which can then go on to form SAM (S-Adenosyl methionine) and act as a methyl donor for methylation of DNA and many other processes. As we all know, DNA is the master blueprint of our bodies, and in order to build muscle optimally, we want our DNA and DNA duplication to be in tip top shape. And in order to do that, we need to keep our methylation running perfectly.
When choline is deficient, even with sufficient folate, SAM production is reduced and DNA formation suffers for it.
Methionine, just like lecithin, stimulates bile circulation which enhances estrogen’s excretion from the body.
What every guy, who is interested in building muscle, needs is proper sleep. This is the period your body is able to build the muscle, repair and recover. Acetylcholine has also been shown to promote REM sleep. Acetylcholine binds to M2 (a mACHrs subtype), which plays a key role in the generation of REM sleep and acetylcholine release in the basal forebrain is highest during REM sleep.
L-Alpha glycerylphosphorylcholine (alpha-GPC) is a biosynthetic precursor of acetylcholine found in the brain. Alpha-GPC is being used at 1000mg/day to improve cognitive function in individuals with Alzheimer’s, cognitive disorders and who had a stroke with significantly great results.
Apart from boosting your brain’s capacity as a nootropic, it’s been found that growth hormone is significantly increased after 1000mg GPC administration (4).
Best sources of choline include, raw beef liver (333mg/100g choline), egg (294mg/100g) and wheat germ (179mg/100g, will be higher for wheat germ oil). Keep in mind that heat degrades choline, so it’s best to eat your foods raw and get cold pressed wheat germ oil.
How do I get my daily dose of choline? Eating 12+ raw eggs a day with raw liver and wheat germ oil extract supplementation. I believe in taking the whole food for the optimal benefit as everything in food works better together than just one nutrient on it’s own. Just be sure to get organic free range beef liver and egg sources.