Essential amino acids are not a medicine that you take for a little while until the condition that spurred you to seek them out has been resolved. Rather, they are called essential because we can’t live without a regular intake of these miraculous, protein-building nutrients. It is, therefore, advisable to incorporate essential amino acid supplements into your daily dietary routine.
We’re all for keeping life exciting, so why shouldn’t the essential amino acids you ingest have a little variety? Shaking things up (pun intended) with different flavors and ingredients in your essential amino acid drink is a great way to maintain enthusiasm for your daily supplement routine. Read on for five pieces of expert advice on how to tweak the flavor of your essential amino acid drink.
The Benefits of Essential Amino Acid Drinks
The draw of essential amino acid drinks, for many, has to do with their ability to support muscle mass gains and speed up muscle recovery times. Because of those benefits, it's common for individuals to schedule their essential amino acid drink consumption around their training sessions. In fact, people often down essential amino acid drink mixes both pre-workout and post-workout because these dietary supplements can improve exercise performance as well as minimize muscle soreness capacity.
The Role of Amino Acids in the Human Body
Amino acids have earned themselves the nickname "the building blocks of protein" due to the crucial role they play in muscle growth. Three specific amino acids—leucine, isoleucine, and valine—known as branched-chain amino acids, have an especially significant impact on muscle tissue. But branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and the entire cadre of essential amino acids (EAAs) have numerous benefits that go far beyond helping the human body build muscle and preventing muscle damage.
Take branched-chain amino acids, for example. Leucine—considered the most significant of the BCAAs—initiates muscle protein synthesis. When the rate of protein synthesis outpaces protein breakdown, muscles can recover between workouts and new muscle growth can occur. So, clearly, an adequate intake of leucine is a vital prerequisite for anyone striving to build muscle. However, the branched-chain amino acids also contribute to energy production and even fat loss. There's evidence, too, that they stabilize balance blood sugar levels and enhance blood sugar metabolism.
To learn more about the overall health benefits of amino acids, check out this article.
Understanding the Link Between Taste and Smell
We all have certain foods or drinks that we love. Some of us scream for chocolate ice cream while others crush on freshly squeezed orange juice. To some degree, these preferences for certain tastes and textures may be innate. Familiarity also plays a role in shaping our palates. Plus, some tastes can be acquired. This process often transpires naturally as we grow older. Children often find strong flavors like liver or blue cheese to be off-putting, but as we age, our tastes mature. Sometimes the very foods you disliked strongly when you were young become favorites in adulthood.
The way we respond to a food's flavor is informed by its aroma. The smells of foods originate from their chemical components and can be enhanced and even altered with cooking. Interestingly, the individual molecules of food can have a very different smell than the intact food. Whole grains, for instance, contain rich stores of vitamin B yet have a far more appealing aroma than a jar of B vitamins does! This is because food is a mixture of ingredients that are chemically bound together, changing the characteristics of each molecule.
How Does This Relate to Essential Amino Acid Drinks?
Amino acids derived from intact proteins provide a very good example of this phenomenon. High-quality dietary protein sources such as milk or fresh uncooked meat typically give off very little odor. Go ahead, take a whiff…we’ll wait for you…
Once you break that protein down into its constituent amino acids, however, it begins to emit a different and quite distinct aroma, one that may not be considered pleasant by everyone. Free amino acids also have a distinct taste that may include some bitterness depending upon the particular amino acid.
Each amino acid contains nitrogen paired with a unique side chain. For example, methionine and cysteine are two of the sulfurous amino acids, therefore, their side chains contain sulfur. Sulfur has a very strong taste and smell, as anyone who likes hard-boiled eggs can attest to.
The branched-chain amino acids—leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which we discussed earlier—get their name from the somewhat large, branched structure of their side chains. This structure makes them hydrophobic, a fancy way of saying they do not mix well in water. So if you are trying to blend pure leucine crystals into a beverage, it’s going to require some shaking!
If you have previously tried a commercially available essential amino acid blend, you may have thought it tasted just fine, or you may have found it to be somewhat bitter. Individuals vary genetically in their sensitivity to bitter tastes and those with strong responses often dislike foods with bitter notes, such as cruciferous vegetables or coffee. Regardless of where you fall on the taste spectrum, there are a number of strategies to enhance the flavor of an amino acid drink.
Expert Advice on Mixing Up the Flavor of Your Essential Amino Acid Drink
The biggest taste issue most individuals run into with amino acid products is finding them to be overly bitter. Fortunately, there are a number of tactics you can try to balance out the innate flavor of essential amino acid drinks so that amino acid supplementation can be an enjoyable part of your day. Here are five tips for turning your essential amino acid drink into a concoction you look forward to.
1. Chill It Out
The temperature of a food or beverage influences the intensity of the flavor. Hot cocoa tastes very chocolatey and sweet, while ice cold milk with the same amount of cocoa tastes a bit bland. Ice cream requires a fair amount of sugar and flavoring for the taste to be intense once it is frozen solid. It follows that if you want to diminish a flavor, you should consume it ice cold. For this reason, amino acid drinks taste best with lots of ice.
2. Blend It Up
Even the most hydrophobic amino acids are no match for the power of a blender. Simply add your essential amino acid blend, the liquid of your choosing, and plenty of ice.
You can add essential amino acids to your favorite smoothie or slushy recipe, or even treat yourself to a good-for-you virgin margarita, salted rim optional.
3. Pour in Some Sweetness
Balancing components of taste is a common strategy used by food scientists and chefs. If something is bitter, add something sweet and just like that, you’ve offset the bitterness.
Natural fruit juice is one of the healthiest options for sweetening up an essential amino acid drink. Keep in mind that certain flavors are stronger than others. Grape, pomegranate, and cherry juice are very rich in color and have a bold taste that can mask less desirable flavors. Apple juice, on the other hand, is rather neutral and adds just a hint of sweetness.
4. Make It Mouth-Puckering
Adding tart or tangy notes also effectively diminishes a bitter taste. Splashing in some fresh-squeezed lemon or lime juice can dramatically change the final taste of an amino acid drink.
Even a small amount of citrus—roughly half a lime or lemon, or a full orange since the flavor is more mild—can temper bitterness.
5. Tweak the Ratios
Most amino acid supplements come pre-flavored, usually with a natural low-calorie or non-calorie sweetener. The manufacturer usually suggests a ratio of powder mix to water but this is by no means a hard and fast requirement. Using different volumes of water, or water and juice combinations, allows you to create a whole spectrum of concentrations. As long as you stick to the recommended serving size, you will get the same effective dose of essential amino acids regardless of the concentration.
For those who find the taste of essential amino acid drinks simply do not agree with your palate, the best strategy could be to mix the powder in a very small volume of water. While this “shot" of essential amino acids will be intensely flavored, it can be consumed in one gulp.
I should note, too, that it's possible to take some essential amino acid supplements in capsule form. If you would prefer to swallow pills (the dose is usually five or six fairly large capsules), then you can skip the culinary creativity altogether.
Hopefully these tips—which you should feel free to mix and match—will show you that there are endless options you can use to create your favorite essential amino acid drink. The idea is not just to love the benefits of a daily essential amino acid supplement, but also to love the taste of your essential amino acid drink.