Pyruvate is a derivative of pyruvate acid and plays a role in glycolysis, or sugar metabolism. While the human body naturally synthesizes this compound from glucose, it also occurs naturally in red wine, dark beer, red apples and other foods. Pyruvate is also available as a dietary supplement. It is reputed to reduce cholesterol, improve endurance and performance during aerobic exercise, and to promote weight loss. In fact, it is well known to bodybuilders, athletes, and others involved the sports nutrition industry.
The energy-producing benefit of this nutrient occurs through a mechanism called the Krebs cycle. First, it is converted into acetyl-coenzyme A, an event that triggers a series of biochemical reactions that begins with the oxidation of glucose components into carbon dioxide during cellular respiration and results in the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which is used to fuel cells. This process is also known as the citric acid cycle, or the tricarboxylic acid cycle.
Although the process by which pyruvate increases energy in the body seems clear, scientific evidence to support claims that supplementation with this nutrient enhances athletic endurance and performance is inconclusive and, in some cases, contradictory. Several early trials with athletes showed that endurance and performance was enhanced, especially when this nutrient was combined with creatine. Yet, a 2005 study involving 23 previously untrained women that were introduced to a supervised exercise program showed that supplementation in the form of calcium pyruvate had no impact on performance or body composition during training.
Early studies conducted at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in the late 1990s suggest that this compound may be helpful in promoting and maintaining weight loss. For example, one study showed that pyruvate supplementation inhibited the regain of weight and body fat in obese women that were re-introduced to a high calorie diet after previously undergoing a weight loss program. In addition, the supplement permitted weight loss while without sacrificing protein reserves and muscle mass. It should be noted, however, that the supplement used in this study was a combination of pyruvate and dihydroxyacetone (DHA).
Clearly, more research is needed to substantiate some of the health claims made about this nutrient. From the studies that have been carried out so far, it also appears that better results are seen when this compound is taken with either DHA or creatine. In addition, a standardized dosage has not yet been established. It is known, however, that excessive dosages may cause gastrointestinal irritation.