Pyruvate is a relatively new supplement to the athletic and sports nutrition industry. Pyruvate is actually derived from pyruvic acid. Pyruvate is the compound which starts the Krebs cycle. The Krebs cycle is an energy cycle which is directly responsible for the production and precursors of ATP (Energy). Pyruvate is currently known for having numerous benefits which include: reduction of fatty mass, lowering of blood lipids, improved endurance during aerobic activity, increased ATP/energy production, and a decrease in the chance of regaining previously lost fat mass. It has also been hypothesized that pyruvate is most effective when combined with another supplement called dihydroxyacetone (DHA). Some evidence suggests that combined supplementation of these two products can influence metabolism.
It's apparent from several studies that moderate dosages of pyruvate may be somewhat ineffective, especially in enhancing endurance activities. However, when the supplement is taken in higher dosages and is also combined with DHA, improvements in upper and lower body endurance was visible (87). Pyruvate is naturally produced in the human body as a result of digestion and metabolism of starches and sugars. Pyruvate can also be found in foods or substances such as red apples, cheese, dark beer, and red wine to name a few.
Although there have been many favorable testimonials and claims regarding pyruvate, there has been less research to back up these positive statements. However, there are currently a select handful of studies which can shed light on this situation. One of these enlightening studies was done by Stone et al (40) in which they investigated the efficacy of two dietary supplements (pyruvate and creatine) on measures of body mass, body composition, and performance in 42 American football players for a period of 50 weeks. In this study, there were four groups: pyruvate, creatine, pyruvate and creatine combined, and placebo. There were several key results from this study. First of all, pyruvate alone seemed to have no significant effects on any physiological markers of performance or body measurements. Secondly, creatine alone seemed to have significant effects on body compositions and muscular strength. However, more noteworthy is the effects of the combined group of pyruvate and creatine in which there was the greatest increase in strength and power, decrease in body fat, and increase in lean muscle mass. Finally, the placebo group experienced no significant effects. In other words, the combined group using both pyruvate and creatine experienced the best results.
Another study of significance by Kalman et al (41) was done to ascertain the effects of pyruvate supplementation (6 grams a day) on body weight, body composition, and fatigue levels in healthy overweight men and women. There were two groups consisting of either a placebo or a pyruvate group. Quite simply, the results indicated that 6 weeks of pyruvate supplementation had a significant effect on decreasing body fat and overall body weight compared to the placebo group. Another study by Kreider et al (42) showed similar results as far as the effects pyruvate had on the reduction of body fat and overall bodyweight.
Another group of researchers in two small controlled trials reported that pyruvate and DHA together enhanced the endurance of certain muscles in untrained men compared to that in a placebo group (43, 44). In both studies, subjects were randomly assigned to either a pyruvate and DHA group or a placebo group. In all groups, subjects performed endurance activities at 70% VO2 to exhaustion. Both studies concluded that supplementation of 25 grams or more of pyruvate combined with DHA seemed to have a very positive effect on fighting exhaustion in both upper and lower body endurance. It also showed that muscle glycogen concentration, especially for the upper body study, were significantly elevated by pyruvate-DHA supplementation. Of further note, endurance times for the upper body endurance study were increased from 133 minutes to 160 minutes with the use of pyruvate-DHA. In the lower body study, the analysis showed that endurance times increased from 66 minutes to 79 minutes with the use of pyruvate-DHA. All in all, it appears that pyruvate-DHA supplementation greatly enhances endurance time to exhaustion with a given workload. It also appears that pyruvate is in a highly potent state when combined with dihydroxyacetone (DHA).
Summary and Recommendation
Pyruvate data seem to be fairly clear in regards to its positive effect on high performance athletes. Pyruvate seems to greatly reduce fatigue associated with exercise, improve aerobic endurance times, reduce body fat, and seems to increase muscle mass, power, and strength when combined with creatine. It also appears that creatine and pyruvate together work better than either one alone. It is also quite apparent that pyruvate must be combined with dihydroxyacetone (DHA) to be effective. However, this does not appear to be a problem since most products on today's market include DHA in their pyruvate supplement formula.
Dieting with a moderate decrease in caloric intake (10-15%) along with supplementation of pyruvate is also recommended. Although more studies need to be conducted to determine the exact dosage amount to take, a good rule of thumb is 1 gram of pyruvate supplementation per 10 pounds of body weight. However, consuming as much as 30 grams of pyruvate could possible lead to gastro-intestinal irritation therefore dosage amounts should be monitored by the individual consuming it. In any case, supplementing with pyruvate in moderate amounts seems to be totally safe and effective. Therefore, toxicity is not an issue. Pyruvate should generally be taken before meals and exercise for best results.
According to consumerlabs.com and other valid sources, some of the best pyruvate products include: BodyTech Pyruvate, Pinnacle Pyruvate 1000, Epic Nutrition 5-Tetra, Genesis Nutrition Pyruvate 1000, and NOW Pyruvate.
40. Stone MH, Sanborn K, Smith LL, O'Bryant HS, Hoke T, Utter AC, Johnson RL, Boros R, Hruby J, Pierce KC, Stone ME, Garner B. Effects of in-season (5 weeks) creatine and pyruvate supplementation on anaerobic performance and body composition in American football players. Int J Sport Nutr. 1999 Jun; 9(2): 146-65.
41. Kalman MS, Douglas RD, Carlon M. Colker MD, Ilene Wilets PHD, James B. Roufs MS, RD, and Jose Antonio PHD. The effects of pyruvate supplementation on body composition in overweight individuals. Applied Nutritional Investigations. 1999 May.
42. Kreider R, Koh P, Ferreira M, et al. Effects of pyruvate supplementation during training on body composition & metabolic responses to exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1998; 30: S62.
43. Stanko RT, Robertson RJ, Galbreath RW, et al. Enhanced leg exercise endurance with a high-carbohydrate diet and dihyroxyacetone and pyruvate. J Appl Phys 1990;69:1651-6.
44. Stanko RT, Robertson RJ, Spina RJ, et al. Enhancement of arm exercise endurance capacity with dihydroxyacetone and pyruvate. J Appl Phys 1990;68:119-24.
87. Kern, Mark. Pyruvic Acid. CRC Desk Reference of Sports Nutrition, San Diego State University. 144-145. 2005.