Hardly anyone ever talks about pantothenic acid (also known as B5), but it’s one of the unsung heroes of physical performance – and you may not be getting enough.
Pantothenic Acid enables the testes to produce testosterone, so getting enough of it should be on the checklist of anyone who lifts. It also reduces stress, improves sleep, and accelerates repairs in connective tissue (tendons, achy joints) – it even speeds up the healing of wounds.
Think of it as the closest thing we’ve got to Wolverine’s Mutant Healing Factor.
While the average, couch-potato gets enough pantothenic acid through food, hard-training athletes require greater amounts and burn through it faster.
Athletes who grind in the gym and use a dietary strategy that is low carb or “keto” are particularly likely to benefit from topping off their pantothenic acid levels.
Deficiency in this vital nutrient can identified by feelings of restlessness, sleep problems, and a "pins and needles" sensation.
It’s no coincidence that the “pins and needles” symptom sounds like the familiar side effect of the common muscle-endurance supplement beta alanine. Beta alanine is structurally similar to pantothenic acid, and the more you feel the tingles from beta alanine, the lower your pantothenic acid levels likely are.
Tip: Try stacking beta alanine with pantothenic acid, or get a product that provides both.
Beta alanine’s effectiveness skyrockets when combined with pantothenic acid, AND pantothenic acid eliminates the itchy, tingling side effect beta alanine is famous for.
Not getting enough pantothenic acid can also lead to testosterone deficiency, because the testes require a steady supply to convert cholesterol into testosterone.
Recent research by Japanese scientists revealed that the combination of hard training and a high fat intake (common in low carb and keto diets) seriously reduces pantothenic acid levels.
The researchers noted that this decrease in pantothenic acid levels led to a notable decline in testosterone levels, making it even more critical that low carb/keto athletes supplement with pantothenic acid. Fortunately, the researchers went beyond identifying the problem and offered a solution.
Adding supplemental pantothenic acid significantly elevated the testosterone levels of the previously deficient athletes.
When athletes talk about recovery, nine out of ten times we think only of our muscles. But muscle isn’t the only tissue that keeps us strong, or that needs to recover between workouts. Most lifting injuries occur in connective tissues, like tendons and ligaments.
In fact, insufficiently repaired connective tissue signals muscle to reduce strength, in order to prevent injury.
Poor connective tissue recovery can hold you back as much, or more, than muscle recovery itself.
That’s why what follows is huge news for the tens of thousands of athletes who strain, tweak, tear, or otherwise abuse their tendons each year.
French researchers recently confirmed a long-standing theory that high doses of pantothenic acid accelerate connective tissue repair.
To test their premise, the researchers divided rabbits (sorry, Thumper) into three groups.
- A group given standard food
- A group given food with reduced levels of pantothenic acid
- A group given food plus supplemental pantothenic acid
They then operated on the bunnies, giving them incisions on their (probably adorable) tendons. :(
*Yes, experiments in injury recovery can be kind of dark. Just so we don't get caught up feeling bad for the cute test animals, here’s a picture of a wild bunny absolutely wrecking somebody’s poor cat:
Feel a little less bad about the French testing on rabbits? Great. Back to the study.
In the days that followed, the high pantothenic acid group exhibited markedly faster wound healing; Significant improvement in tendon repair and durability was observed in as little as ten days.
The take-away: High pantothenic acid levels will strengthen your tendons and joints between workouts. And if you're sidelined due to an injury, they'll get you back to slaying weights faster.
While small amounts of pantothenic acid occur in a wide range of foods, the best whole food sources of pantothenic acid are organ meats; particularly beef heart and liver. Not feeling the weird meats section of the grocery store? You’re not alone.
In that case, you can add a pantothenic acid (or “B5”) supplement. Taken as a standalone ingredient, these tend to be a little pricey, but the benefits may be worth it.
Want more bang for your pantothenic-acid-buck? We included the ideal dose of pantothenic acid in our pre-training product, Untapped™, alongside clinically effective dosages of 6 other ingredients scientifically proven to improve workout performance, results, and recovery.
Tip: Try the at-home Leg Day exercise that’s so good you’ll do it even when the gym opens up.