The unrivalled potential of fulvic acid to improve endurance, decrease recovery time, and protect against injury in sport has been well documented. Yet, little seems to be known about this remarkable nutrient. As a supplement for sports people it is second to none. Here’s why:
What is fulvic acid?
Fulvic acid is a naturally occurring, organic compound which is formed during the decomposition of plant material (composting) over millions of years. The microbes responsible for the process of decomposition release oxygen into the soil with the result that fulvic acid contains approximately 45% oxygen (See Fig 2). This oxygen is highly bioavailable and readily absorbed by the cells of the body.
Element % in fulvic acid:
- Carbon 45.8
- Hydrogen 5.4
- Nitrogen 2.1
- Oxygen 44.8
- Sulphur 1.9
What role does fulvic acid play in the physiological and biochemical processes of sport?
Aerobic vs Anaerobic Metabolism
Metabolism is the process by which the body converts food and drink into energy and metabolic rate is the speed at which this process occurs. ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) is the chemical that makes this conversion possible and is often referred to as the “molecular currency” of energy transfer; in other words it is able to store and transport energy within the cell.
The type of metabolism we use depends on the type of exercise we do. When exercise is aerobic (happens in the presence of oxygen) as is the case with jogging, a different metabolic pathway is followed and different by-products produced than when it is anaerobic (exercise in the absence of oxygen) as is the case with sprinting. Much more ATP is produced during aerobic exercise which is the reason why we can jog for longer than we can sprint.
During anaerobic exercise lactic acid is the by-product formed, whereas during aerobic exercise carbon dioxide (CO2) is the by-product formed. This is important as the different types of metabolism have different implications for performance and recovery. Both can be remedied with oxygen, however. This is where fulvic acid comes in, but more about that later.
Lactic Acid Buildup
Although the body prefers to generate most of its energy using aerobic methods (with oxygen) there are circumstances – such as lifting heavy weights or sprinting – during which the body can’t deliver oxygen fast enough and has to revert to anaerobic methods to deliver energy. This is done by producing lactic acid. Working muscles can continue this lactic acid method of energy production at high rates for only about one to three minutes during which lactic acid levels can accumulate to high levels. This causes the burning sensation often felt during extreme exertion. The painful sensation during lactic acid production acts as a kind of natural defense system and gets the muscles to stop overworking, thus forcing a recovery period during which the body clears the lactate and other metabolites by re-introducing oxygen. During a sprint or heavy weight lifting there is not much we can do to prevent lactic acid building-up but we can take measures to prevent a prolonged accumulation. One of these measure is to ensure that a high concentration of oxygen is present in the cells before and during anaerobic exercise.
Due to the fact that fulvic acid contains approximately 45% highly bio-available oxygen, it has the ability to deliver oxygen directly to the muscle cells and, thus, may reduce the detrimental effects of lactic acid and CO2 build-up. It is this characteristic of fulvic acid that makes it so useful in sport. If fulvic acid is taken regularly over a period of 2–3 months the problems associated with lactic acid and carbon dioxide build-up may be reduced.
Carbon Dioxide Buildup
In the same way, by delivering oxygen directly into the muscle cells, fulvic acid can help to counteract the negative effects of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) build-up during aerobic exercise. This build-up is the main reason why we run out of steam during aerobic exercise such as jogging. Maintaining a balance between CO2 and oxygen in the cell is a constant battle during exercise, and when the amount of CO2 via aerobic metabolism outweighs the amount of oxygen we are able to breathe in we run into oxygen debt. The way we repay this debt is by re-introducing oxygen into our cells through heavy breathing. If the point at which this oxygen debt becomes too much can be improved and the length of time it takes for us to repay the debt can be decreased, in theory, we can train for longer and recover quicker.
To achieve this, we need an extremely efficient exchange between oxygen and CO2 in our cells, an increased lung capacity, or a way of ensuring that oxygen levels in the muscle cells remain as high as possible.
Although further research on this topic is needed, testimonials have shown that when fulvic acid supplements are taken for a sufficient period of time, muscle soreness after exercise is decreased and the ability to train for longer is noticed.
Similarities with Creatine
Creatine is a substance that is found naturally in muscles cells. It helps the muscles to produce energy during heavy lifting or high-intensity exercise and also to increase muscle mass.
Creatine works by allowing the muscles to recycle the body’s prime energy currency, ATP, thereby making it available for further use and allowing muscles to work harder. Usually, during exercise, ATP is broken down into ADP and, in the process, releases energy. However, once in the ADP form, it takes a while for it to be converted back into ATP and once again be available as energy source.
The presence of high concentrations of creatine allows the cells to regenerate ATP from ADP much quicker than normal, allowing the cell to work for longer periods. According to the Mayo Clinic creatine, when used orally and at appropriate doses, is likely to be safe to take for up to five years. However, there is concern that creatine taken in high doses can be unsafe and could damage the liver, kidneys or heart. Also, creatine should not be taken if there is a history of kidney disease or diabetes that increase the risk of kidney problems.
Fulvic acid is an ideal replacement for creatine as this nutrient will offer all of the benefits of creatine. Not only that, it will also work for endurance athletes. Creatine has been shown to be effective only for high intensity sports and will, therefore, not work for endurance sport such as football, cycling and running. Furthermore, fulvic acid will not cause any of the side effects mentioned above.
Electolytes are minerals such as sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium that carry an electric charge. They balance the amount of water in the body, move nutrients in and waste out of cells, and have important roles in the way nerves, muscles, and the heart function. Without electrolytes in sufficient quantities muscle weakness, cramping and, in more severe cases impaired judgement, mental confusion, and fatigue, can occur. It is common knowledge that prolonged exercise leads to progressive water and electrolyte loss as sweat is secreted to promote heat loss. The question, therefore remains how best to compensate for loss of electrolytes during heavy exercise?
Many sports drinks contain a very limited number of electrolytes and use mineral ingredients which are known to be very poorly absorbed. Fulvic acid is one of nature’s most powerful electrolytes as many research articles have proven. The reason why it is so powerful is that it naturally contains around 75 different minerals and are able to deliver these on a cellular level. The other remarkable thing about fulvic acid is that it is, at times, available as electron donor and, at times, as electron acceptor, based on the cell’s requirements. It is therefore able to maximise the electrical chemistry of the cell.
When electrolytes are lost through the skin during intense exercise, fulvic acid will immediately replace these and prevent loss of performance. It is the only known substance with this ability.
Prevention and recovery from injuries
Another characteristic of fulvic acid is its ability to dissolve vegetable silica into a form easily utilised by the body. Silica is one of the 13 trace minerals the body needs to improve bone strength and density. It is also a key ingredient in collagen creation. Collagen is a key component of connective tissue such as ligaments and tendons and is, therefore, important in sport. It goes without saying that, if ligaments and tendons are kept strong, sports injuries are less likely to occur. A good source of bio-available silica is also important when injuries do occur as it helps with the healing process. Sportspeople can get the maximum effect from taking vegetal silica if they take it in combination with fulvic acid.
During exercise oxidants, which can cause damage to the body’s cells and tissue, are produced by the body’s own metabolism. As sportspeople have a faster average metabolic rate than non-sportspeople, their requirements for antioxidants are higher.
An oxidant is a very unstable molecule that basically wants to become stable and can do so only by ‘stealing’ from other molecules. If those other molecules are not anti-oxidants, oxidants can cause damage. The importance of preventing this is highlighted by the fact that, under certain conditions, oxidants can attack DNA. Therefore it is vital, especially for athletes, to consume a regular amount of antioxidants. Well known antioxidants include vitamins A, C and E, but the complex structure of fulvic acid makes it far more powerful an anti-oxidant than any other nutrient known.
In a nutshell: except for fulvic acid there is no other nutrient known which can:
- Reduce the impact of carbon dioxide during sport
- Reduce the impact of lactic acid during and after sport
- Provide optimal protection against the increased production of oxidants
- Provide the most powerful electrolyte known
- Dissolve silica to maintain strength of joints and connective tissue
- Provide usable oxygen directly to the cells to accelerate the healing process and increase endurance.
Should you decide to try fulvic acid, it is important to take it consistently for at least two weeks to a month for it to realise its full potential in your body and as always: don’t try anything new on race day.
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