N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine (NALT): Why Is It So Unique and What Is The Actual Science?
Amino Acids are extremely popular within performance enhancing supplements due to their ability such highly efficient abilities to enhance natural processes in the body. Amino Acids are unique as they are organic compounds that contain a severely limited resource for our bodies; nitrogen. The nitrogen bases amino acids contain is why our bodies require proteins to function normally and build muscle. When protein is consumed, it is broken down into it’s amino acid profile (all proteins are made up of a series of amino acids. So when protein is ingested, your body will break down and isolate the amino acids that make up that protein. Once the amino acids have been isolated, they will then use them to construct new proteins/molecules by varying the amino acid sequence) However, all amino acids don’t just contribute to building and repairing muscle tissue; the nitrogen groups contained in amino acids are used to build almost everything we’re made of. This includes monoaminic (1 NH2 group) neurotransmitters which is what the performance enhancing compound of N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine is linked to.
Why Does N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine Have A Different Type Of Name Than Other Amino Acids I’ve Heard Of?
Before we get into the details of how NALT works and why we’re such big fans of it we want you to know why it’s name sounds so unique for an amino acid. That’s because it is a varied version of the amino acid L-Tyrosine. As we have discussed before in previous blogs, most notably the Beta-Alanine one, there are different versions of amino acids. For example, Beta-Alanine is the an isomer of L-Alanine except it contains it’s functional group on the beta carbon. L-Tyrosine comes in many different forms, the “para” form is the one used in dietary supplements while the “meta” and “ortho” forms do exist. However, the “para” form is what is able to be used by the body to produce the performance enhancing effects we’ll get into. These pre-fixes address the position of the functional groups on the L-Tyrosine molecule and are significant due to the result of the reactions when the different versions are oxidized within the body. These prefixes refer to the position of the functional groups on the aromatic ring of the L-tryosine molecule and when oxidized change the location of the functional groups on the aromatic ring in what is known as an Electrophilic Aromatic Substitution (EAS) reaction. Looking at the image below, the para version is able to by oxidized by the enzyme phenylalanine hydroxylase while the other two versions are oxidized by free radicals.
So while L-Tyrosine is usually always used as the para version there is another part of the compound NALT that causes it to be so unique; the addition of the N-Acetyl side chain. The (N) meaning that the acetyl side chain is attached to the nitrogen group on L-tyrosine and the acetyl part means that the side chain is actually acetic acid (CH3COOH). What makes this so unique is that the addition of the acetic acid on the L-Tyrosine molecule greatly improves its bioavailability. Since L-tyrosine is used to generate neurotransmitters, its access to the brain is critical but in the way is the blood-brain barrier (BBB) which is a selective permeable barrier that many compounds cannot cross efficiently (to help protect brain tissue). However, the addition of the acetic acid group not only helps protect the molecule from enzymes that will degrade it before it exerts its wanted effects but also increases it’s ability to cross the BBB and be stable at blood ph. The acetic acid group is an acid so it regularly donates a hydrogen group so a hydrogen is not abstracted from the NH2 group needed for the effects on neurotransmitters. The structure can also undergo resonance once a hydrogen is abstracted to remain a stable structure (resonance is the shifting of electrons around a double bond to stabilize a charge).
What Does This Mean and How Does NALT Produce It’s Effects?
Okay, so now we understand that NALT is:
- 1.The Amino Acid L-Tyrosine that exerts focus/energy effects by influencing neurotransmitters
- 2.This version contains an acetic acid group on the Nitrogen functional group to increase stability and ability to cross the Blood-Brain Barrier
Now we will run over how this leads to enhancing your performance. Once L-Tyrosine moves through the BBB it has access to the cells in your brain which are responsible for the actions of certain transmitters. There are cells in your brain that are known as dopaminergic, which means they contain the enzyme tyrosine hydroxylase (yes similar to the other hydroxylase enzyme we talked about, this oxidizes the l-tyrosine molecule). This enzyme oxidizes L-tyrosine to become L-DOPA which is where the performance enhancement begins to come into play as L-DOPA is an amino acid compound that is directly responsible for the synthesis of two very vital neuromodulators; dopamine and adrenaline. Through different enzymatic reactions pictured below, your body is able to take this L-DOPA and naturally synthesize dopamine, norepinephrine, and eventually epinephrine (adrenaline). These compounds are the most effective in performance enhancement as they lead to:
- Increased Mood
- Increased Drive
- Increased Energy
- Increase in ATP production in Muscle Tissue
- Extreme Focus
- Dilated Airways For Increased Oxygen
- Increased Bloodflow to Muscles
Picture showing how L-Tyrosine is oxidized to L-DOPA and the corresponding enzymes that lead to the synthesis of the various hormones responsible for the performance enhancing effects. The picture starts at Phenylalanine as your body can naturally synthesize L-Tyrosine from L-Pheynlalanine. However, when supplementing with NALT your providing your body with the nutrient needed for the process to start at L-Tyrosine.