When it comes to maximizing your workout gains, it’s all about how you choose to fuel your body beforehand.
Get the right nutrients to support energy release and ramp up strength and stamina, and even the heaviest dumbbells will feel like your warm up weights.
It’s all about the pre workout.
In this article we take a look at huperzine A – not the most popular nutrient when it comes to pre workout supplements, but it does pop up in some products every now and then.
From chemical compounds to concerns over safety – here’s everything you need to know about this North American plant extract.
What is Huperzine A?
Huperzine is a naturally occurring plant compound extracted from the huperzia serrata – otherwise known as firmoss or club moss.
It grows in cooler climates such as North America and some parts of Canada, but can be found in a variety of places around the world.
A cognitive enhancer?
This compound is probably most well known for its cognitive benefits.
This is because it has an chemical effect on the body that leads to an increase in levels of the ‘learning‘ neurotransmitter acetylcholine.
As a brain booster, it has been used in traditional medicine for hundreds of years, with a focus on improving memory as well as reducing inflammation.
Treatment for neuronal illness
Technically, huperzine A is classed as a nootropic.
It can cross the blood-brain barrier easily and as such can effect the nervous system directly.
Huperzine A is currently under clinical trials as a potential drug for Alzheimer’s disease. However, most studies to date have been either poor in research quality or used small sample sizes.
This means that until more robust studies are released, it lacks sufficiency as an effective drug.
As a nootropic, huperzine A appears to show potential to:
- Enhance cognitive functions such as memory and mental function
- Improve motivation, focus and task specificity
- Protect from free radical damage
- Fight cognitive decline
Could Huperzine A Be an Effective Pre Workout?
Although it’s classed as a nootropic compound, huperzine A shows little evidence when it comes to being an effective pre workout supplement.
It’s not really added in that many pre workouts in the first place – and this is due to the fact that there’s just not that much evidence of its benefits in the context of exercise performance.
To date, the majority of evidence for its cognitive effects comes from animal studies.
And the human studies that are available are limited and not convincing.
Huperzine A might improve memory and cognition in school students
A study published in a lesser-known Chinese journal in 1999 suggested that when a group of middle school students were given 200 mcg tablets of huperzine a over an 8-week period, it improved their memory in learning tasks .
The problem here though is that the tasks were not exercise specific. And whilst similar nutrients such as rhodiola rosea have been found to improve cognitive function related to exercise performance, huperzine A hasn’t.
It was just a simple learning test that improved.
Alzheimer’s patients see an improvement in cognition using 400 mcg
In this study, a group of just over 200 Alzheimer’s sufferers were given a 400 mcg dose of huperzine A over a 12-week period .
The researchers aimed to test if the drug had any possible clinical efficacy.
Huperzine supplementation resulted in some ‘remarkable’ improvements in cognitive ability – behavior, active daily living ability and symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
It’s worth noting though that this study was conducted using patients with severe cognitive impairments and does not mean that the results would be transferable to the general public looking to crush a gym session or improve their 5 mile run time.
Is Huperzine A Safe Pre Workout?
The biggest concern over huperzine A isn’t just that it’s an ineffective pre workout – it’s that it hasn’t been tested on human for potential side effects.
Huperzine A safety and toxicity
There are an ever-growing number of case reports showing that this plant compound could cause both acute and severe side effects when taken in larger doses.
- Stomach cramps, pain and nausea
- Digestive discomfort and bloating
- Blurred vision and slurred speech
Very little human safety evidence
At present there are no formal safety trials for huperzine using humans.
Although currently classed as safe by federal bodies, the only evidence is from animal studies using low and controlled doses.
One study found that the dose needed to kill half of a cohort of rats (what’s called the LD50 or ‘lethal dose, 50%) was only 2-4 mg per kilogram of body weight when taken over a 180 day period .
Summary – Limited Benefits
All-in-all, huperzine A is a pre workout lacking some key features. If you’re after a pre workout to maximize your gym workouts you’ll be disappointed,
Although the small amounts of available research suggest that huperzine A might improve cognition, this doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll increase your physical output.
Memory recall, learning and reduced symptoms in Alzheimer’s disease won’t crossover to the gym.
Huperzine won’t improve the way in which you train for strength, or help you shave off a few minutes from your tough treadmill run.
A good pre workout supplement not only elevates focus, motivation and drive – it also helps you release energy, boost your heart rate and increase power, strength and speed too.
4 Gauge is an exhaustively researched, all-natural pre workout designed to rip the lid off your gym sessions, sports games or workouts.
Packed with performance-enhancing nutrients such as caffeine, L-theanine and creatine, 4 Gauge will take your training to a completely new level.
- Smash your workouts – feel your nervous system firing on all cylinders
- Cell-splitting muscle pumps – harness the power of vasodilation and deliver more nutrients to your muscle cells
- Determination like never before – feel unparalleled focus and motivation
- Relentless energy – train for longer without fatigue
- Sun, QQ et al. Huperzine A capsules enhance memory and learning performance in 34 pairs of matched adolescent students. Acta Pharmacol. 1999; 20(7): 601-603
- Zhang, Z et al. Clinical efficacy and safety of huperzine Alpha in treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimer disease, a placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized trial. Zhonghua Yi Xue Za Zhi. 2002; 82(14): 941-4
- Kozikowski, AP et al. Chemistry, Pharmacology, and Clinical Efficacy of the Chinese Nootropic Agent Huperzine A. Acc Chem Res. 1999; 32(8): 641-650