Amino Acids for Skin Tightening

Amino acids for skin tightening, anti aging, collagen building, and hydration: find out which amino acids are effective to have in your skin care products.

When searching for an anti-aging advantage, many people will turn to cosmetic and skin care products for replenishment and support. Whether it’s a moisturizer to cut down on redness or eye wrinkle cream meant to tighten the skin back up, the question is what substances actually work? When it comes to skin health, collagen production is key, and this article explains which amino acids for skin tightening and rejuvenation can help on the outside (from topical products) and within (for nutritional support).

What Is in Most Wrinkle Creams?

Let’s quickly review which ingredients in topical creams are meant to reduce wrinkles and prevent or reverse the symptoms of aging on skin. The following ingredients have been shown to be effective in improving the appearance of wrinkles.

  • Vitamin C: This antioxidant is known to protect your skin against sun damage when applied to the skin in a topical cream.
  • Retinol: Vitamin A, or retinol, is an antioxidant compound that helps to fight against free radical damage and oxidative stress that breaks down your skin cells.
  • Hydroxy acids: Alpha, beta, and poly hydroxy acids work as exfoliants to help remove dead skin cells and encourage new, smoother skin cell growth.
  • Coenzyme Q10: This enzyme helps to protect against sun damage and reduce finer wrinkles around the eyes, making it a regular ingredient in eye wrinkle cream.
  • Grape seed extract: Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and promoter of wound healing, grape seed extract is sometimes included in skin cream.
  • Peptides: Peptides can help ameliorate stretch marks, encourage wound healing, and reduce wrinkles.
  • Niacinamide: This antioxidant similar to B3 (niacin) promotes hydration and skin elasticity.
  • Tea extracts: Black, oolong, and green tea extracts have plant compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Green tea extracts specifically are commonly found in topical wrinkle creams.

Amino Acids for Skin Tightening

Now that you know what’s usually in skin care cream, what about amino acids? These building blocks of protein in the body do more than just build muscle—they regulate your hormones and create necessary chemical substances that help keep you alive and healthy.

But what about aminos as components of skin care products? Do amino acids do better inside or outside the body, and are they effective in wrinkle creams? Here are the amino acids that have the greatest impact on your skin’s health, and how they are best applied.

What Are Amino Acids?

There are 20 main amino acids in the human body, and they are divided into two categories: essential and nonessential. Essential amino acids are the 9 aminos you need to consume from outside sources, while the remaining 11 nonessential amino acids can be synthesized by your own body so long as it has the right ingredients.

  • The essential amino acids include: Leucine, isoleucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, histidine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. They can be found in animal meat (poultry, seafood, beef), animal products (eggs, dairy), and in certain high-protein plant foods (soy products, legumes, beans, and nuts).
  • The nonessential amino acids are: Alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine. Each of these aminos are made by the natural bodily functionings of most healthy adults.

Amino acids for skin tightening and anti aging.

Amino Acids for Collagen and Skin

Amino acids are a natural part of the skin, keeping it hydrated, supple, and alive. Amino acids are also what make up our collagen molecules, collagen being one of the most abundant proteins in our bodies. Collagen makes up the connective tissues in our bodies like our muscles and tendons, it’s in our hair and our fingernails, and it’s also about 70% of our skin’s protein content. Collagen is a peptide because it has between 2 and 10 amino acids that make it up. Those amino acids are:

  • Arginine: The “anti-aging” amino acid that can repair visible skin damage.
  • Glycine: The simplest naturally occurring amino acid we have, glycine improves moisture retention, increases our collagen production, and promotes skin regeneration.
  • Proline: The producer of cartilage and the collagen that aids wound healing.
  • Hydroxyproline: Made from proline and lysine, this amino acid derivative makes up a good portion of fibrillar collagens.

The other amino acids that contribute to healthy skin are:

  • Histidine: An antioxidant that can help soothe skin.
  • Methionine: Works by eliminating the damaging substances that can harm our skin.
  • Lysine: Helps firm skin’s surface by aiding its supportive structures.
  • Leucine: Diminishes wrinkles and fine lines on the skin.

How Do Amino Acids Work for Skin?

One way amino acids improve skin health is by working with aquaporins, which transport water throughout the body and provide moisture for our skin. Aquaporins can also encourage hydration when applied to the skin’s surface with a cosmetic product.

While some amino acids serve as antioxidants, others help the skin create its own antioxidant supply, including the antioxidant glutathione, which helps fortify the skin when applied topically, preventing the signs of aging that are caused by environmental damage.

Synthetic amino acids in skin care products have been shown to be just as effective and sometimes better than plant- or animal-derived aminos. Great news for those who are conscientious about leading a vegan lifestyle, because you can avoid animal products and still enjoy the benefits of amino acid skin-tightening support.

How Do Amino Acids Work with Other Ingredients?

The amino acids in collagen peptides and the amino acids that support skin health and hydration in other ways work in concert with one another. High-quality skin care products may contain additional ingredients that help facilitate that dance, and those substances include:

  • Hyaluronic acidA key molecule in aiding skin moisture, hyaluronic acid has a unique capacity for retaining water.
  • Omega fatty acids: The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil can help treat skin disorders with dermatological application.
  • Glycerin: Glycerin has been shown to help improve skin hydration, especially when combined with hyaluronic acid.
  • Ceramides: These are lipids that help shield the skin from damaging environmental influences, and can be used topically as a therapy for dermatoses.
  • Other collagen-like peptides: Anti-aging collagen-like peptides have significant effects on reducing wrinkles.

Aging Gracefully and Scientifically

Amino acids help make up our skin, and consuming the correct proportions of essential amino acids can contribute to anti-aging, as can applying certain amino acids as skin treatments. Amino acid need is universal in humans, and amino acid skin-tightening treatments can work for all ages and all pigments of skin.

Collagen Amino Acids: Where They Come From and How They Work

Collagen amino acids: which are they and how do they come together to form collagen? Discover the dietary and supplemental support you can give to your body’s collagen supply.

Collagen has become synonymous with youthful skin. To go further than skin-deep when it comes to what this protein is and does, read on for details about your collagen amino acids, as well as the various types of collagen supplements and how they work.

What Is Collagen?

First things first: collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies, making up a solid 30% of all the protein we contain. It’s also 70% of our skin’s protein, which makes collagen the main structural protein present in our skin, but it’s in our other connective tissues too (muscles, bones, and tendons).

Certain types of collagen fibrils are stronger than steel, while other collagen molecules keep our skin supple, and are sometimes used in medical wound dressings to draw new skin cells to the area. Our collagen production declines as we age, which leads to (among other things) signs of aging like wrinkles and a loss of skin elasticity. This is why collagen is often applied in cosmetic and dermatological treatments.

There is collagen in your hair, your nails, and the ligaments that string the human body together. It’s collagen that allows us to bend and stretch, and it’s collagen that makes the difference between a strong, glowing outer appearance and a brittle, faded facade. Long story short: collagen is important, so what makes up collagen, and how can we be sure we’re getting enough of those ingredients?

What Is Collagen Made Of?

Collagen is made up of amino acids, which are known as the building blocks of all proteins. Actually, there’s one term in between you should know about: collagens are classified as peptides due to their amino acid composition. To understand the terminology:

  • Peptides: Compounds that consist of at least 2 amino acids.
  • Polypeptides: Polypeptide chains consist of 10 or more amino acids.
  • Proteins: Peptides that consist of 50+ amino acids.

So, as all squares are rectangles but not all rectangles are squares, all proteins are peptides, but not all peptides have enough amino acids to be called proteins. Collagen is a peptide because it has between 2 and 10 amino acids.

What amino acids are in collagen? There are four different amino acids that make up the structure of collagen.

  • Arginine: Also known as the “anti-aging” amino acid, this semi-essential amino acid is a constituent of most body proteins.
  • Glycine: The simplest naturally occurring amino acid and the second most common one we have, glycine makes up a third of our overall collagen supply.
  • Proline: Proline is responsible for the production of cartilage and the collagen that benefits wound healing and heart health.
  • Hydroxyproline: An amino acid derivative made from proline and lysine, hydroxyproline makes up about 13.5% of fibrillar collagens.

These are classified as nonessential amino acids: because they can be synthesized within our bodies, we don’t vitally need to get them from outside sources. However, some people want more collagen than their bodies naturally produce, especially once the damage done by environmental factors, UV light, and aging slow down production. Our skin gets weaker, our joints get stiffer, and our nails, hair, and bones get more brittle. For more on sources of collagen and collagen supplements, read on.

The facts about collagen amino acids.

Collagen Amino Acids: Where Do They Come From?

The question now is: how do you get more of these amino acids so important for the formation of collagen? There are two ways, either from dietary sources or from collagen protein supplements. Let’s start with dietary sources.

Dietary Support of Collagen Amino Acids

1. Bone Broth

Bone broth is made by simmering animal bones to extract the collagen from them and their connective tissues. Because bones are full of other nutrients like calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous, people consume bone broth in the hopes of ingesting these minerals along with the relevant amino acids, though the science is a little shaky on this topic.

2. Chicken and Egg Whites

Many collagen supplements are derived from chicken because of the abundance of connective tissue in poultry. Studies have shown that neck and cartilage tissue from chickens may have application in collagen treatments for the signs of aging.

While chicken eggs don’t have connective tissue, the whites of eggs are full of proline, one of the four necessary ingredients for collagen synthesis.

3. Fish and Shellfish

Just like in land animals, fish bones and shellfish ligaments are made out of collagen, and marine collagen is a particularly popular form of collagen supplement because of its potentially higher absorbability. Though we tend not to eat the bones and tendons of fish (let alone the scales and eyes where collagen peptides are most concentrated), fish skin is nevertheless studied for its potential aid in collagen production.

4. Citrus Fruits and Dark Berries

Fruits and berries make the cut due to vitamin C’s role in stimulating collagen synthesis. Though they don’t give the key ingredients for collagen, they do provide the means to make it. These foods include lemons, limes, grapefruit, and oranges, plus raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries.

5. Beans

This plant protein source can provide many of the amino acids needed for protein synthesis, including those used in collagen formation. Beans also provide your body with copper, another nutrient (like vitamin C) needed for collagen production.

Supplemental Support of Collagen Amino Acids

If you’re thinking about supplementing with collagen powders, here are some quick tips:

  • Make sure the product says it contains hydrolyzed collagen or collagen peptides—”hydrolyzed” means the collagen is already partially broken down, increasing its bioavailability during digestion.
  • Look for proline, glycine, and hydroxyproline specifically listed on the label.
  • Choose sustainably sourced products from either wild-caught fish or grass-fed cows.
  • Avoid added dyes, flavors, or preservatives and instead opt for 100% pure collagen.

A good collagen supplement could provide you with the following scientifically proven benefits.

1. Improved Skin Health

Skin care studies have revealed that supplemental collagen peptides may help slow aging, reducing skin dryness and the presence of wrinkles. Collagen supplementation may also boost the production of elastin and fibrillin, two other proteins important for healthy skin.

2. Bone Loss Prevention

As bones are made of collagen, maintaining a strong collagen supply will help protect them. The collagen deterioration in bones due to aging could lead to the development of osteoporosis, while collagen supplements and treatments have been shown to inhibit bone breakdown and loss. One year-long study of women taking collagen supplements (5 grams per day) for a year found that those consuming collagen had up to a 7% increase in bone mineral density than the control group.

3. Promotion of Joint Health

The loss of collagen in your joints can lead to degenerative conditions like osteoarthritis. There are studies that have found collagen supplementation may improve osteoarthritis symptoms and relieve overall joint pain. In a 2008 study on athletes with activity-related joint pain, those who consumed 10 grams of collagen each day over 24 weeks reported a significant joint pain decrease over the control group. For the young and the old, collagen can improve joint function.

4. Enhanced Heart Health

Collagen provides the structure for your arterial walls and blood vessels, and without it your arteries could weaken, contributing to the risk of suffering from atherosclerosis and heart attack. In one 2017 study on atherosclerosis in healthy human adults, consuming 16 grams of collagen per day over 6 months resulted in notable reductions of arterial stiffness. They also happened to see an increase in “good” HDL cholesterol levels by 6%.

5. Increased Muscle Mass

Around 10% of your muscle tissue is made up of collagen, and collagen supplements may help increase muscle mass in those with sarcopenia, which is a decrease of muscle mass due to age-related loss. This 2015 study of elderly men showed that 15 grams of collagen taken alongside a 12-week daily exercise program led to significantly more muscle mass and strength than what was gained by the control group.

Calling All Collagen

For a good portion of our lives, we are able to generate the type of collagen production that keeps us youthful. After that, our bodies need more help in new collagen creation. Making sure you have sufficient amino acid supplies to make the collagen you need is step one in fighting aging and maintaining healthy skin, muscles, bones, and joints.

Natural Treatment of Osteoporosis: How to Naturally Boost Bone Density

What is osteoporosis, what causes it, and what are the traditional and natural treatments to help combat associated bone loss? This article provides a comprehensive look at osteoporosis and its treatment options. 

Osteoporosis has a silent onset, as it’s a disease that develops over many years, often going unnoticed because there are not obvious symptoms or discomforts—you cannot “feel” the weakening of your bones until they are so vulnerable you experience a bone fracture. The International Osteoporosis Foundation says that in the U.S. alone, 44 million men and women over the age of 50 are affected by low bone mass and osteoporosis. That is a startling 55% of all individuals age 50 and older living in the U.S., making the problems associated with low bone mass a major public health concern. Many people who face osteoporosis treatment are searching for the best and safest therapeutic, and the natural treatment of osteoporosis can be highly effective.

Natural osteoporosis treatments include addressing certain hormonal imbalances, getting enough exercise (especially via resistance training), preventing a vitamin D deficiency, and eating what’s considered an “osteoporosis diet.” The osteoporosis diet supports bone health by providing you with enough vitamins, minerals, and protein, especially minerals like calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, all of which play a key role in bone formation. For details on the nature of osteoporosis and the natural remedies you can embrace to regain bone strength, read on.

What Is Osteoporosis?

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, the definition of osteoporosis is a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both. Osteoporosis translates to “porous bones.”

This disease is generally found in women over the age of 50, although it can develop in younger women and men as well. About one in two women and up to one in four men over the age of 50 will suffer a broken bone due to osteoporosis at some point—that’s 25% of men and a concerning 50% of women.

When observed microscopically, osteoporotic bones reveal abnormal tissue structure. The disease occurs when small holes or weak spots are formed in the bones, which can then lead to bone fractures, bone pain, and other side effects and complications such as what’s called a Dowager’s hump, an abnormally outward spinal curvature in the upper back or thoracic vertebrae that appears as a humpback.

Osteoporosis vs. Osteopenia

Osteoporosis is distinct from osteopenia, a condition that is also associated with bone loss and bone weakness but is less severe than osteoporosis. According to the Harvard Medical School, both conditions involve various degrees of bone loss as measured by a bone density test, a marker for the level of risk there is that a bone might break.

Thinking of bone mineral density as a slope, a healthy skeleton would be at the top of the slope, and advanced cases of osteoporosis would be at the bottom. Osteopenia affects about half of all Americans over 50, and it falls somewhere in the middle of the bone density slope.

The natural treatment of osteoporosis.

The Signs and Symptoms of Osteoporosis

The loss of healthy bone density is an incredibly serious condition that should not be taken lightly. Broken bones, especially in older adults, can be difficult to recover from completely, and may lead to a decrease in overall life enjoyment or worse (like chronic pain, long-term hospitalization, or even premature death). Broken bones and the surgeries needed to fix them can sometimes lead to life-threatening complications, permanent disability, limited mobility, and, of course, the emotional toll that such circumstances take, which could lead to feelings of hopelessness and depression.

Recognizing the symptoms of osteoporosis before a serious injury occurs could save your life. The most common symptoms include:

  • Osteoporotic bone fractures: Breaks and fractures most commonly occur in the hip, spine, or wrist bones, but may also affect the knees, feet, and various other parts of the body.
  • Limited mobility: Increased difficulty getting around or completing everyday tasks could be a sign of weakening bones, and many elderly adults who do break a bone require long-term in-home nursing care or need to take up residency in an assisted living facility.
  • Bone pain: Intense or persistent bone pain is another clear sign of bone weakening.
  • Loss of height: Becoming shorter as you age is not so much a natural occurrence as it is a sign of loss of bone strength and density.
  • A hunched or stooped posture: Remember the Dowager’s hump associated with osteoporosis? An abnormal curve of the spine is more than a slouch, it could be a sign of weakening bones.

Feelings of isolation and depression are also symptoms that stem from this loss of vitality. About 20% of seniors who break a hip die within a year of the fracture, making osteoporosis a contributing factor for increased risk of death.

Osteoporosis: Causes and Risk Factors

Not everyone over the age of 50 develops osteoporosis, so what are the risk factors that make the difference? Low bone mass and the risk of osteoporosis are often caused by a combination of different factors, including age, surrounding health conditions, and nutrient deficiencies due to eating an insufficient diet. The most common causes of osteoporosis include the following.

  • Inactivity: Too little exercise can contribute to a loss of muscle and bone mass, while regular exercise helps to strengthen the skeletomuscular system.
  • Aging: The fact of the matter is aging leads to progressive decline in all our body’s faculties, including bone health.
  • Hormonal changes or imbalances: Particularly low estrogen levels in postmenopausal women, one of the main symptoms of menopause, can lead to a decrease in bone mass. The same can occur in men with low testosterone levels, though due to the changes inherent in menopause, women remain more at risk.
  • A history of certain medical conditions: Autoimmune disorders, kidney or liver disease, and pulmonary disease can put you at an increased risk for osteoporosis.
  • A vitamin D deficiency: Vitamin D is needed for bone health and maintenance, and low levels of it can lead to skeletal weakness.
  • Other nutritional deficiencies: A lack of calcium or vitamin K can lead to osteoporosis, as they are two other key building blocks for your bones.
  • Stress: High amounts of stress or depression can alter your body’s chemistry and health and contribute to conditions like osteoporosis.
  • Weight loss: Whether intentional or unexplained, significant weight loss that involves severe calorie restriction or malnutrition can lead to weakening bones.
  • Long-term medication use: Certain serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), fertility drugs or hormonal medications, aromatase inhibitors, anti-seizure medications, steroids (glucocorticoids or corticosteroids), and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) can contribute to the development of osteoporosis.

On top of the previously listed symptoms, being a woman and/or being over 70 are two more significant risk factors, as are a number of other health problems that can deplete the body’s supply of minerals and lead to low bone density over time. Those conditions include but aren’t necessarily limited to:

Osteoporosis Diagnosis

Doctors typically use a bone mineral density (BMD) test to confirm osteoporosis. The BMD test involves a specifically designed machine like a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry scan (a DEXA scan), which measures the amount of bone mineral present in certain areas of your skeleton, usually the high-risk areas like your wrists, fingers, and forearms, your spine, your hips, and your heels.

Diagnosis is also confirmed by performing a physical exam, evaluating a patient’s medical history, administering blood and urine tests to discern whether there are underlying causes or contributing conditions, taking biochemical marker tests, and conducting vertebral fracture assessments (VFAs)—decreases in height are often due to loss of bone mass causing tiny fractures in the spine.

While osteoporosis is not life-threatening in and of itself, the prognosis can be worrisome for those who are diagnosed, because the longer the disease progresses, the more at risk they are of dangerous bone breaks. It’s possible to live many healthy years if you’re able to slow the progression of osteoporosis with weight-bearing exercises each day, for example, which can help build up bone mass.

While a case of low bone density can be stabilized or even improved in a matter of 6-12 weeks, once full osteoporosis is diagnosed, the patient’s bone mass usually does not return to normal. Once you have a diagnosis, the goal is to protect the strength you have and to rebuild density as much as possible to prevent your bones from becoming weaker and more at risk of fracture.

Conventional Osteoporosis Treatment

Conventional approaches to treat osteoporosis often involve prescribed medications, exercise recommendations, and dietary changes. There are many medications used to treat aspects of the condition and to help stop progressive bone loss, but not all of these medications are advisable for every patient. Factors include considerations like gender, age, medical history (like if you’re a cancer survivor or have a chronic autoimmune disease), and your lifestyle (your diet and activity level).

Available medications for osteoporosis include:

  • Bisphosphonates: This class of drugs is made up of alendronate (Fosamax), risedronate (Actonel), ibandronate (Boniva), and zoledronic acid (Reclast). Some of medications are suitable for both men and women, though others like Boniva are designed exclusively for women.
  • Rank Ligand inhibitors: Suitable for both men and women, Rank Ligand inhibitors aim to reduce bone absorption.
  • Parathyroid hormone-related protein agonistsThis osteoporosis treatment aims to increase bone mass.
  • Hormone replacement therapy: Most of these treatment options are designed for women only, and can include selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM) or tissue specific estrogen complex.

The Natural Treatment of Osteoporosis: 7 Alternative Treatment Options

If you’re looking for a natural cure for osteoporosis, you may need to temper your expectations, because osteoporosis is a condition that will most likely need to be managed indefinitely. However, if you’re unable or unwilling to take the pharmaceutical drugs meant to treat this disease and you want an alternative natural treatment of osteoporosis, here are some steps you can take to manage your symptoms and help halt the progression of bone loss.

1. A Healthy Diet

When it comes to osteoporosis foods, you’ll want to prioritize foods that contain the essential nutrients for bone health, like magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, vitamin K, and sources of calcium. Protein is important, as nearly half of our bones’ structure is made up of protein, and a high-protein diet may be extremely valuable to your health if properly balanced.

A mineral-rich diet to help combat osteoporosis includes the following.

  • Raw cultured dairy: Yogurt, kefir, amasai, and raw cheese all contain calcium, vitamin K, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamin D.
  • Foods high in calcium: Calcium-rich foods include all dairy products, green vegetables (like kale, broccoli, okra, and watercress), almonds, and sardines.
  • Foods high in manganese: Manganese can be found in whole grains like brown rice, buckwheat, rye, teff, oats, and amaranth, as well as beans and legumes, macadamia nuts, and hazelnuts.
  • Wild-caught fish: Osteoporosis may be exacerbated by chronic inflammation, and the omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish can help reduce inflammation in the body. The best sources include anchovies, sardines, mackerel, wild salmon, and halibut.
  • Sea vegetables: Sea vegetables like nori, agar, wakame, algae, and kombu can provide critical minerals for bone formation and antioxidants for overall health.
  • Green leafy vegetables: For both vitamin K and calcium, green leafy vegetables like kale, mustard greens, spinach, Swiss chard, watercress, collard greens, dandelion greens, and escarole can provide valuable vitamin and mineral content.
  • Quality proteins: Diets low in protein can impair bone health in the elderly. The recommended daily amount of protein for adults is between 0.8-1.0 grams per kilogram (~2.2 pounds) of body weight. Foods high in protein include wild-caught fish, grass-fed meat, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, fermented cheese and yogurt, as well as pastured eggs and poultry.

Foods to Avoid

Here are some foods and practices that could worsen your bone loss or contribute to overall bad health if you are at risk of osteoporosis.

  • Too much alcohol: Osteoporosis and alcohol don’t mix. Alcohol increases inflammation and can lead to calcium being leached from your bones.
  • Sweetened beverages: The high phosphorus content in soda can also remove calcium from your bones, and the sugar content of sweetened beverages can increase inflammation.
  • Processed red meat: A high intake of red meat and sodium may result in increased bone loss.
  • Caffeine: Though the risk is small, an excessive intake of caffeine without enough calcium ingestion to counteract it may result in bone loss.
  • Smoking: You should also discontinue smoking or avoid being around active smokers, as smoking can worsen many chronic health conditions including osteoporosis.

2. Physical Activity

Exercise of almost any sort can be beneficial for those with osteoporosis: yoga, strength training, swimming, you name it. Physical activity can help build bone mass, relieve stress, improve flexibility and balance, reduce inflammation, and more. However, there are some exercises that you may want to avoid if the intention is to protect increasingly fragile bones, such as activities that require too much twisting of the spine, bending from the waist, or jumping up and down. Instead, consider some of these other options for strength training.

  • Brisk walking
  • Lifting weights
  • Swimming
  • Bodyweight exercises
  • Tai chi
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • The elliptical machine

Gentler exercises are ideal, and using equipment like bands, light weights, chairs, and walls to assist you is encouraged. In fact, one study showed that the low-impact practice of tai chi can provide as much as a 47% decrease in the likelihood of falls for the adults who practice it.

If there is any lingering pain or soreness after trying a new exercise, consult with your doctor on whether there isn’t a better form of fitness more suited to your needs. Weight-training exercises are especially important for improving bone density, but always defer to your doctor’s advice when it comes to your specific health needs.

3. Help Prevent Dangerous Falls

The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that about 1/3 of all people over 65 will fall each year, and many times this results in fractured or broken bones. One serious break like a hip fracture could irrevocably damage an elderly person’s life or even cause their death, so here are important steps you can take to reduce your risk of falling.

  • Get up slowly from sitting or lying down positions.
  • Use a cane or walker for increased support.
  • Use a flashlight in the dark or keep your home well lit to avoid objects that may trip you up, especially in stairwells.
  • Wear comfortable, sturdy shoes that help you keep your balance (low-heeled shoes with rubber soles, boots, flats, sneakers, etc.).
  • Utilize handrail supports as you climb stairs or walk on inclines.
  • Be extra cautious in slippery conditions like rain or snow.
  • Avoid slippery walking surfaces like tile, highly polished marble, or floors that have recently been mopped.
  • Make sure paths are cleared in and around your home, including keeping clutter out of your driveway, off your porch, and up from the floors as much as possible (wires, cords, loose floor rugs).
  • Keep often-used items within reach, use assistive devices to avoid straining while reaching, and be sure to use a sturdy stepstool when needed.
  • Install support bars and non-slip items in your shower, tub, and bathroom.
  • Place non-skid mats and rugs in your kitchen and throughout your house.
  • Try not to move too quickly, as being in a rush makes falling more likely.
  • Consider using a personal emergency response system (PERS), and wear it on your person if you live alone, in case you need to call for assistance.

4. Essential Oils

Applying essential oils on affected areas of the body or consuming them may help aid bone repair, increase bone density, or relieve osteoporosis-related pain. Sage has been observed to help prevent bone absorption, and aroma-massage therapy with ginger and orange essential oils has shown short-term pain relief.

Other essential oils for osteoporosis relief include rosemary and thyme oils, peppermint, cypress, fir, helichrysum, eucalyptus, wintergreen, and lemongrass oil. Acupuncture may help to reduce stress as well—explore these therapies to find out which one works best for you.

5. Sunshine for Boosting Vitamin D Levels

As little as 20 minutes of sun exposure on your bare skin each day can help prevent a vitamin D deficiency. To gain enough vitamin D, it’s necessary to expose large areas of your skin to sunlight without sunscreen, but not for long periods of time (for those who are cautious about skin cancer). However, the darker your skin tone, the more time you will need to gain enough vitamin D from sunlight.

Studies suggest that older adults have a more difficult time making vitamin D than younger people do, even with the same amount of time spent in the sun. Likewise if you live in a cold, overcast climate (Chicago, Seattle, London, etc.) or are above the age of 60, you may want to take vitamin D3 supplements to ensure you get enough of this vital vitamin.

6. Osteoporosis Supplements

Here is a list of assorted supplements that may help you maintain bone health.

7. Discuss Medication Use with Your Doctor

If you require steroids to treat another health condition like asthma, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, or lupus, you may need to take even more strenuous precautions to protect your bones, including regular exercise, a mineral-rich diet, and immediate cessation of smoking. Common steroidal medications include dexamethasone (Decadron), cortisone, methylprednisolone (Medrol), and prednisone. Taking these medicines for longer than 3 months has been shown to increase your risk of losing bone mass and developing osteoporosis, so talk to your doctor about whether there are any possible alternative treatments or extra precautions you can take if they are indeed necessary.

Natural Sources of Strong Bones

Incorporating these natural treatments for osteoporosis can be the dietary and lifestyle change that saves you. The causes of osteoporosis include poor diet, lack of exercise, aging, hormonal changes, certain medications, medical conditions, and nutrient deficiencies, and while all of these factors can’t be avoided or cured, you have control over your diet and activity levels. Treatment for osteoporosis may involve medications, but natural supplements and remedies alongside your doctor’s treatment may help alleviate your symptoms and strengthen your bones to their maximum potential.

Muscle Atrophy: Causes, Treatment and Prevention

Learn about what causes muscle wasting or muscle atrophy, and how best to prevent and treat this condition, including through the use of physical therapy, medical intervention, and staying active. 

Muscle atrophy is essentially muscle wasting: it’s what happens when your muscles waste away, frequently as a result of a lack of physical activity. This article will explore the causes and symptoms of muscle atrophy, as well as preventative steps people can take if they’re immobile or bedridden due to illness. Loss of muscle mass or muscle strength can be particularly devastating for those who are already in positions of compromised health, and so in an effort to help you maintain your quality of life, we’ve compiled the relevant information here.

Muscle Atrophy: Definition

Atrophy of the muscles occurs when a person is inactive for so long that their skeletal muscles (these are the muscles attached to your bones which literally make your skeleton move) begin to break down, and the muscle protein is cannibalized by the body. This can happen in small instances or large, catastrophic instances.

Muscle atrophy of the hand or forearm may occur if you spend weeks in a cast to heal a broken arm, which is why people in casts are given exercises to do while they’re immobilized to prevent protein degradation in their muscles and muscle wasting. Muscle atrophy of the legs or muscle atrophy of the thighs can happen on a much larger scale to those who become wheelchair-bound, either temporarily or due to becoming permanently paraplegic. In even more extreme cases, those who have been held as prisoners of war may have full-body muscle wasting due to confinement and malnutrition for significantly long periods, sometimes years.

Muscle atrophy is a decrease in muscle mass, either partial or complete, which is most commonly suffered when a person becomes disabled or their movements severely restricted. This makes it difficult or impossible to move the part of the body where the muscle has atrophied, and medical advice should be sought for solutions.

Muscle atrophy: causes, treatment, and prevention.

Muscle Atrophy: Causes

Significant decreases in activity levels can lead to muscle atrophy, and there are many situations where that can occur, causing what’s known as disuse atrophy. There are also instances of muscle atrophy due to medical conditions that inhibit the use of a body part, and even rarer causes like the muscle atrophy experienced by astronauts after relatively short periods (a few days) of weightlessness. Muscle atrophy in situations of being bedbound or ceasing intense physical training can come on in as little as 2 weeks. Some of the other causes of muscle atrophy are as follows.

  • Lack of physical activity
  • Advanced aging
  • Malnutrition
  • Stroke
  • Alcohol-associated myopathy
  • Burns
  • Temporary disabling injuries (broken bones, torn rotator cuff)
  • Permanently disabling injuries (severed spinal cord, peripheral nerve damage)
  • Prolonged corticosteroid therapy

Some of the diseases and medical conditions that can disrupt or restrict movement, thus leading to muscle atrophy, include:

  • Spinal muscular atrophy: A hereditary wasting disease of the limbs.
  • Osteoarthritis: Degeneration of bones and joint cartilage that leads to decreased movement.
  • Polymyositis: An inflammatory disease of the muscles.
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease): Compromises the nerve cells of the spinal cord.
  • Muscular dystrophy: A hereditary disease that causes muscle weakness.
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS): An autoimmune disease that destroys the protective sheathing of brain and spinal nerves.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): A chronic inflammatory disease of the joints.
  • Dermatomyositis: Inflammation of the skin and underlying muscle tissue.
  • Polio: A virus afflicting muscle tissue, which can lead to paralysis.
  • Cancer cachexia: The weight loss, lack of energy, and loss of appetite in someone undergoing cancer treatment.
  • Guillain-Barré syndrome: An autoimmune disease and form of polyneuritis, which leads to paralysis of the limbs.
  • Neuropathy: Nerve damage that results in loss of sensation or functioning.

Muscle Atrophy: Symptoms

Regardless of the cause, these are the symptoms that may alert you to possible muscle atrophy, after which a trusted medical professional should be sought for advice.

  • One of your limbs (arms, legs) appears markedly smaller than the other one.
  • You’ve spent a long time physically inactive (bedridden, hospitalized).
  • You’re experiencing noticeable weakness in one limb.

Not to be flippant about the subject, but there is some truth to the phrase “use it or lose it” when it comes to muscle. If you cannot move your muscles with regular physical activity, you will start to lose them.

Muscle atrophy pain may or may not be a symptom, as that depends on the cause of the atrophy. Many people will begin to lose muscle before they are aware it’s happening, and will have to rely on visual muscle size to realize they need medical attention.

Muscle Atrophy: Diagnosis

Once you’ve gotten in contact with a medical professional, the diagnosis may involve your full medical history, a review of any previous injuries, as well as an evaluation of your symptoms. Diagnosing the atrophy may also involve diagnosing the underlying medical condition, which may require blood tests, X-rays, MRIs, CTs, a nerve conduction study, or a muscle and/or nerve biopsy to find out what could be causing muscle atrophy if it’s not readily apparently (as it would be if you’d suddenly become bedbound).

Can Muscle Atrophy Be Reversed?

Depending on the cause, yes. There are some cases where a proper diet, exercise, and physical therapy can not only reverse muscle atrophy, but also prevent it from recurring. However, this will not be the case in some disease-related forms of atrophy, and it is important that you consult your doctor on what your expectations for muscle atrophy recovery should be in restimulating protein synthesis and rebuilding your muscles.

Muscle Atrophy: Treatment

Again, this will depend on the diagnosis of the cause, and also the severity of your muscle loss, but the treatments for reversible muscle atrophy may be as follows.

  • Physical therapy
  • Exercise
  • Ultrasound therapy
  • Dietary changes
  • Surgery
  • Electrical stimulation

If a lack of movement caused this condition, regaining movement will go a long way towards fixing it, and moderate exercise like walking, along with physical therapy, may be a way to regain muscle strength without needing surgery to fix skin, tendons, or ligaments too tight to begin moving again (as in cases of contracture deformity that could be caused by malnutrition or burn injury scar tissue).

Muscle Atrophy: Prevention

There are ways to prevent muscle atrophy before it happens, and ways to guard against it if you were fortunate enough to recover your musculature after one instance of muscle loss. If preventing muscle atrophy is in your control (and, of course, sometimes it will not be), here are a few ways to maintain muscle strength in adverse circumstances.

Stay Active

If you’re in recovery from a severe illness or have just come home from the hospital after a debilitating accident, it’s not as if you’ll take up jogging right away. However, movements as small as walking to your mailbox each day, or around the block, or up and down a single flight of stairs, can truly make the difference in the long run when it comes to maintaining your mobility.

Stay Nourished

Depending on your condition, this may be difficult, but when your body lacks the proper nutrition to stay running, it will start to catabolize your muscles for its needs, which is a form of self-cannibalization or destructive metabolism that literally eats away at your muscles. Make sure you’re getting proper protein, if not from whole foods, then in the forms of protein shakes or supplements, as every little bit may help.

In fact, supplementing with amino acids has been proven to help accelerate muscle recovery in times of sickness and illness and can help boost your muscle-building gains. To learn more about amino acid therapy for muscle atrophy, give this informative article, written by one of the world’s foremost amino acid researchers, a read.

Seek Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is particularly valuable for those with severe injury recovery (such as a car crash survivor) or a neurological condition, as therapists provide professional guidance on what, and how, and how often to stretch your body to build strength.

Try Passive Movement

Another way physical therapy can help you even before you have the strength to help yourself is with passive movement. Passive movement requires the therapist to gently move your legs and arms for you. This is how you can begin to recover from a very deep muscle deficit and build up strength and muscle again.

Preventative Measures

Not only will the above advice help prevent muscle atrophy, but it can also help discourage bedsores in those who are bedridden due to illness, and reduce the chances of developing dangerous blood clots in the limbs. Likewise, these movements may prevent muscle stiffness, retraction, and nerve damage. Consult a medical professional or licensed physical therapist for more advice.

Eliminate Atrophy

If you are in danger of muscle atrophy, take steps to make sure your protein intake and nutrients are sufficient, including the use of a supplement if necessary, like Amino Co.’s essential amino acid supplement, which contains all of the essential aminos required to build new muscle cells and structures. Also, make sure that you stay active, no matter in how small a way, to preserve your muscle function and prevent your muscles from falling into complete disuse. You cannot always control your body’s condition, but if the type of atrophy you fear is the type that’s preventable, it’s well worth the effort to maintain the quality of life and movement you’ve come to expect.

When Is the Best Time to Take Protein?

The best time to take protein supplements depends on your activity level, your personal goals, and the types of workouts you engage in. This article will provide you with specific, scientifically backed recommendations, and the reasoning behind that advice.

When taking protein supplements, people often wonder when exactly is the best time of day to consume them. Pre-workout? Post-workout? Is it okay to drink a protein shake before bed? Protein supplements can help people lose weight, build muscle, and recover from tissue damage due to injury or surgery. Because they’re so effective, most people want to be sure they’re utilizing protein the right way. So when is the best time to take protein? Short answer is: that depends on your health goals and the kinds of workouts you’re doing. For the longer answer and more detail, read on.

The Different Types of Protein Supplements

Protein is a source of energy for the body, essential for muscle growth, repairing damaged tissue, and preventing certain infections and diseases. Normal dietary protein comes from foods like meats, eggs, fish, dairy, grains, legumes, and seeds. Though animal products contain the most amount of protein, vegetables are sources of protein too, a fact well-known by those living a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. Of the most popular protein powders on the market in fact, a significant portion are plant-based.

Plant-based proteins include:

  • Soy protein containing all nine essential amino acids.
  • Rice protein, which is lower in the essential amino acid lysine.
  • Pea protein, which has lower levels of the essential amino acid methionine and nonessential amino acid cysteine.
  • Hemp protein, which is low in lysine but high in fiber, and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, both of which are essential, meaning your body can’t make them on its own, and needs to gain them from the foods you eat.

Dairy-based proteins include:

  • Whey protein, which is absorbed relatively quickly and contains all nine essential amino acids.
  • Casein protein from milk curds, also containing the essential amino acids, and with a slower digestion rate than whey (which is why people often take casein before they sleep, so it will digest throughout the night… more on that timing below).

Animal-based proteins include:

  • Egg protein powder made from pure egg white protein.
  • Creatine, which is not found in plants but can be synthetically created. Though it is an animal protein, depending on its origin source, it may nevertheless be possible for vegans to use creatine as a supplement.

These are among the most commonly known protein powders available to buy, but we here at the Amino Co. have also developed an essential amino acid (EAA) blend that isn’t lacking or low on any of the amino acids required for protein synthesis and new muscle growth. It also blends free-form amino acids with whey protein and creatine, a nonessential protein that nevertheless has great value as a supplement. These forms of protein are used to help those who want to build muscle rapidly, and can even benefit those with muscle, neurological, or neuromuscular diseases.

The Varied Uses of Protein Supplementation

From muscle building to weight loss, here’s a quick look at all that supplemental protein can do to benefit your body.

Exercise Performance and Recovery

Added protein has been shown to increase endurance during training and workouts, as well as reduce soreness and speed up post-workout recovery. The timing of your protein intake matters here, whether you’re eating high-protein foods or taking supplements. Read on to learn about workout-specific timing recommendations.

Muscle Building

Muscles can only be built when you have the proper amount of amino acids for protein synthesis, and when you’re consuming more protein than your body breaks down during workouts. Taking a protein supplement, especially one that contains all the necessary EAAs for muscle growth, can make a huge difference. Finding the right anabolic window, the period of time when the protein you take in will go directly to your muscles, is something the International Society of Sports Nutrition has done extensive research on, and we, too, will provide specific scientific reasoning below.

Muscle Loss Prevention

Muscle mass is lost not only during intensive workouts, but also naturally as we age. Each decade you live after the age of 30 brings with it a higher risk of losing muscle (anywhere between 3-8% per decade). Proper protein intake is not only valuable to athletes, bodybuilders, and anyone who works out regularly, but it’s also important for each and every one of us as we age. Most Americans reserve their protein more for dinner than breakfast (3 times the amount on average is the difference between the two meals), and could use a supplemental boost of protein first thing in the morning to shore up their protein stores and help prevent the loss of muscle mass due to aging.

Fat Loss Facilitation

Protein is filling enough to help curb hunger pangs and chemically contributes to appetite suppression by reducing the “hunger hormone” ghrelin. A high-protein diet raises your metabolism and increases levels of appetite-reducing hormones like peptide YY (PYY) and glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). More satiety means fewer calories consumed throughout the day, which quickly leads to safe, maintainable weight loss and the reduction of dangerous body fat.

The Enduring Power of Protein

Popular because they’re convenient and effective, protein powders and supplements are here to stay and can offer you a wide variety of options, from self-mix formulas and powders to ready-to-drink protein shakes. If you’ve got your preferred protein supplement ready to go, then it’s time to wonder: when should you drink protein?

The Best Time to Take Protein Depending on Your Workout

Depending on your goals and activities, there are recommended times to take protein for the greatest effectiveness for your energy levels and muscle-building needs. Here are specific recommendations based on different types of workout activity.

The best time to take protein supplements.

Aerobic/Cardiovascular Exercise

Best time to take protein: Pre-workout and post-workout

The amino acid leucine is one of the three branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), and it promotes muscle recovery after workouts. Not only that, it activates protein synthesis, prompting new muscle to be built. One might think that due to leucine’s ability to boost endurance and stamina, one should take a BCAA supplement before a workout, but the science contradicts that idea. Not only are BCAAs only three of the nine essential amino acids needed to construct new muscle, leucine and the other BCAAs (isoleucine and valine) experience oxidative degradation during aerobic activity.

BCAAs are Insufficient Pre-Workout

Adding these limited amino acids before your workout, especially in the unbalanced form of BCAAs instead of a complete EAA formula, means that a greater percentage will be oxidized and used for energy instead of muscle building. Your body does not want to be out of balance, so a sudden overabundance of a few amino acids will cause the body to clean up and reduce them in order to maintain equilibrium.

Rather than risk burning off the protein you put in because your body is only looking for energy sources, it’s better to take a full measure of EAAs within the hour after your aerobic workout, when your body is looking for supplies to rebuild. Leucine will be there to prompt muscle protein synthesis, and the rest of the essential amino acids will all be included in the ideal ratio for generating new muscle growth.

EAAs are Effective Pre- and Post-Workout

That being said, taking a complete amino acid protein supplement before an aerobic cardiovascular workout (like a high-intensity interval training or HIIT class), not only provides the necessary ingredients for muscle building, but also helps fight fatigue in a way that only taking BCAAs can’t, by fueling your body with the amino acids that help produce dopamine and serotonin in the brain.

Whether you’re walking, cycling, running stairs, or jumping rope, start by taking your EAA supplement 30 minutes before your workout session. The biggest benefit comes when you take your EAA supplement within an hour after your workout, when your blood flow is strong and active. Not only will the amino acids rush in to replace damaged muscle fibers with new muscle, EAAs can also help calm unnecessary inflammation. That will help quicken your recovery, allowing you to feel only the good side effects of working out, like increased energy and light euphoria, instead of soreness and fatigue.

Resistance Exercise

Best time to take protein: Pre-workout, during, and post-workout

Research has shown that EAAs given 30 minutes before a resistance exercise workout prompt muscle protein synthesis much more effectively than consuming EAAs afterwards does. Taking a protein supplement before this type of workout helps prevent the breakdown of muscle protein during the activity, and also increases blood flow to the muscles, thus getting the amino acids quickly into the muscle where they’re needed.

Consuming EAAs after a resistance workout is not harmful by any means, as that method, too, will prompt the stimulation of muscle protein synthesis, but it’s not ideal to leave the consumption of EAAs until after your resistance training is complete. Our recommendation is to first and foremost take a complete protein supplement before a resistance workout, and if possible take them throughout and/or after as well to get the most benefit.

Bodybuilding

Best time to take protein: Pre- and post-workout, and also before bed.

Immediately before and after a weight-lifting workout, we recommend that you take 15 grams of EAAs each. An EAA supplement has been shown to have a faster effect on muscle protein synthesis than either whey or casein protein alone. However, our Amino Co. blend of free-form EAAs with whey and creatine support ensures that you get a fast dose of EAAs and that the EAAs from whey will digest more slowly as you work out, offering a steady supply to help prevent muscle breakdown. Creatine helps prevent catabolism by supplying faster energy than your body can naturally generate from muscle cell mitochondria. This means more energy for more reps, which ultimately means more work put in and more muscle gained.

An hour after your post-workout dose of EAAs, we recommend another 15-gram dose. On off days, continue taking these same doses, measured between meals instead of surrounding your workout. Lastly, it’s also recommended you take another 15-gram dose before bed to keep your muscles fed as you sleep and to help prevent muscle breakdown as much as possible. You work hard to gain your muscles, and we encourage you to protect those gains at every opportunity. Set your alarm to take one more dose around 4 am if you know you won’t have a problem falling back to sleep, that way your muscles never go hungry for fuel.

It should be noted here that bodybuilders aren’t the only ones who benefit from taking extra protein before bed. One study of 16 elderly men showed that those who consumed casein protein (which digests slowly) before bed had increased muscle growth over those who took a placebo, despite being less active individuals. When you’re sleeping, it’s the protein that counts, and not the activity.

Is There Any Downside to Taking Protein Supplements?

The majority of scientific studies into how our bodies process high amounts of protein show that you can safely consume plenty of protein without risk of harmful side effects. Unless your doctor advises against protein supplements or you have a known kidney issue like rhabdomyolysis, there is no need to worry about excessive protein intake; merely take your products as recommended and spread them throughout your day.

Timing Is Everything

At the end of the day, it’s true that people who work out need more protein, but even those with a less active lifestyle benefit from consuming extra protein for strength, for maintaining healthy weight levels, and for preventing the loss of muscle mass we all experience as we age.

Make a protein shake for breakfast, have another to curb your appetite between meals, and make another as a beneficial treat before bed. Know that the more regularly you take in balanced forms of protein like Amino Co.’s complete EAA blend, the more good you can do for your body. Whether you’re working out or not, upping your daily protein intake is safe and smart. Bulk up, slim down, and stay strong with protein!

How Amino Acids Support Female Muscle Growth

Is it truly more challenging for women to build muscle? To answer that question, we first separate the myths about gender differences and muscle growth from the actual science. Then, we offer tips everyone can use to get serious muscle growth results.

Female muscle growth. It’s not a phrase you hear too often. However, whether you’re a man or a woman, muscle building benefits your overall health and well-being. Strong scientific evidence shows that increasing your lean muscle mass can help you stay healthy as you age, support fat loss by keeping your metabolism running at full capacity and prevent the development of chronic diseases.

If you’re born male, you’re coached from a young age to want to grow up to be big and strong. But if you’re born female, you receive the opposite message. With the emergence of ripped and toned female fitness influencers taking social media by storm, the tides appear to be shifting. Nonetheless, society still tends to instruct girls to train themselves to be as dainty as possible—in part, so they can grow up to be women who attract big, strong men.

But the health benefits of muscle mass apply to everyone, regardless of gender. However, it can be more challenging for women to build muscle for a variety of reasons.

In this article, we’ll explore the scientific realities behind the common belief that muscle building comes more naturally to men than to women. Plus, we’ll offer tips that everyone can use to increase their physical strength and get serious muscle growth results.

Do Men Build Muscle More Easily Than Women?

If you’re at all familiar with the resources out there for people interested in muscle building, you’ve probably noticed that the vast majority of it is written by male authors for male audiences. While that has begun to shift somewhat as more women get into powerlifting, bodybuilding, and sports science, these realms are still dominated by men.

In those realms, a concept that many take for granted is that muscle gains come more easily for men than for women. This concept is propped up by claims that men and women have significant physiological differences that give men an advantage when it comes to physical strength and performance.

 

How amino acids can maximize female muscle growth.

What Science Tells Us About the Differences Between Men and Women

Let’s begin by comparing the average metabolic rates—the calories you burn just by going about your day—for men and women. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, about 90% of the variations researchers identified in the baseline number of calories participants expended over a 24-hour period came down to differences in fat mass and muscle mass. Your age has a measurable impact too. Researchers found that participants between 50 and 65 years of age had baseline metabolic rates that were 4.6% lower than participants between the ages of 20 and 30.

Fascinatingly, they reported: “No sex difference in any energy expenditure measurement could be found.” However, women do tend to have slower metabolisms than men, but it’s not because they’re women, it’s because on average, women are smaller and have less muscle mass.

So, let’s look into muscle mass differences. Findings published in the Journal of Applied Physiology reveal that women have, on average, about 67% of the muscle mass men do.

Women lag further behind when it comes to the muscle groups of the upper body than those of the lower body. A research team from the departments of Physical Education and Medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada set out to determine how gender differences influence strength and muscle fiber characteristics. They found that female participants had approximately 52% of the upper body strength and 66% of the lower body strength of men.

These differences appear to have more to do with the likelihood that men will have larger muscles than with innate sex-based differences, though. A study published in Ergonomics sought to measure the extent to which differences in strength between men and women can be explained by muscle size. Researchers found that when they adjusted their findings to take into account overall muscle mass as well as the size of specific muscle groups, 97% of sex-related differences were in strength. The researchers state that their findings suggest muscle size “almost entirely” accounts for the differences we expect to see between a man’s physical strength and a woman’s. In other words, if a man and woman have comparable muscle mass, they should be equally strong.

It appears that the vast majority of the differences we attribute to sex actually have to do with body composition. A woman and man with similar previous experience in terms of physical activity and comparative amounts of muscle and fat will perform similarly on standard measures of strength.

However, there are some differences between the ways men’s bodies and women’s bodies tend to respond to strength-training regimens and individual workout plans.

How Hormones Affect Female Muscle Growth

Hormones tend to be the first factor people point to when talking about physiological differences between women and men. It’s only logical, given that men’s increased muscle mass results from higher testosterone levels. Hormone levels fluctuate from person to person and over time, but on average, women produce far less testosterone than men do—between 15 and 20 times less, according to data sourced from the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

However, the question of testosterone levels isn’t as clear cut as we tend to think. In fact, some men have lower testosterone levels than some women do. After a team of researchers from the U.K. analyzed the hormone levels of elite athletes, they found significant overlap between testosterone levels for male competitors and female competitors. It’s worth noting that the hormone profiles of elite athletes differ from those of average individuals. It’s also highly likely that women with naturally higher levels of testosterone are more likely to excel at the elite level in certain physical disciplines. The main takeaway is that the idea that men have higher testosterone levels and therefore build new muscle more easily doesn’t entirely hold up.

Furthermore, did you know that testosterone is not the only hormone involved in building muscle mass? Estrogen, which as you may know, women typically produce at higher levels than men do, has also been shown to have significant benefits for muscle growth.

Studies done with animal subjects and well-controlled studies with human subjects support the idea that estrogen can help to prevent the breakdown of muscle tissue that often accompanies the aging process. It appears that estrogen has an overall positive impact when it comes to maintaining and increasing your lean muscle mass.

And an article published in Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews presented experimental findings suggesting that estrogen may have an anabolic effect on muscles, meaning it supports muscle gain. It appears to do this primarily by lowering protein turnover, which slows the rate of catabolism (muscle breakdown), and enhancing the sensitivity of muscle tissue to resistance training.

Estrogen also boosts your metabolism, making it easier to cut your body fat percentage. While that doesn’t directly contribute to muscle growth, it does mean the new muscles you build will be more visible.

Women and Men Build Different Types of Muscles

We all have two general types of skeletal muscle fibers: slow-twitch, or Type 1, and fast-twitch, or Type 2. Type 1 muscles help power you through feats of endurance, like marathons. And the more Type 2 muscles you have, the better you perform on tests of explosive strength, like Olympic weight training.

There’s a clear divide between the average percentages of Type 1 and Type 2 muscle fibers that women and men typically have. According to Greg Nuckols, an experienced fitness writer who holds a BS in Exercise and Sports Science and three all-time world records for powerlifting, women typically have more Type 1 muscle fibers than men do, about 27% to 35% more. Women also tend to have greater capillary density.

Both give women an advantage in many ways. Greater capillary density means an increased ability to circulate blood through your muscle tissue to bring in fresh oxygen and clear out waste products. And having a higher percentage of Type 1 muscle fibers gives you an improved capacity for glucose and fatty acid oxidation, which translates to a decreased risk of chronic conditions linked to metabolic health, like diabetes and heart disease.

However, Type 2 muscle fibers are thicker, quicker to contract, and engage when your body nears maximum exertion. If you’re looking to increase your muscle mass and build strength so you can lift heavier and heavier weights, you need to recruit your Type 2 muscles. There’s no evidence that Type 1 muscle fibers can be transformed into Type 2 muscle fibers (or vice versa), which means there may always be a gap between the level of explosive strength an experienced female weight lifter can generate and the amount a male lifter at the same level can generate.

Maximizing Muscle Growth as a Woman

While men may have some innate advantages when it comes to building muscle mass, studies show that both men and women gain muscle at the same rate when they commit to workout routines like resistance training, weight training, and high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

Researchers from the University of Maryland Exercise Science and Wellness Research Laboratories conducted a study in which participants committed to a 6-month, whole-body strength-training program that worked for all the major muscle groups in both the upper and lower bodies.

They used MRI images to assess thigh and quadriceps muscle volume as well as mid-thigh muscle cross-sectional area before and after the strength-training program. Their findings showed that the thigh and quadriceps muscle volume increased significantly for all age and gender groups as a result of the strength-training program. The researchers found no significant differences related to either participant age or gender.

In some cases, women can make more significant strength and muscle gains than men. A study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine examined how men and women responded to weight-training and resistance-training approaches. The researchers found that after following the same short-term training program, female participants made more significant strength increases than male participants did.

For women interested in optimizing their body composition by decreasing their body fat percentages and increasing their muscle mass, there are certain strategies you can put in place to maximize your muscle-building potential.

Train Strategically

When it comes to building muscle, the first step is to institute a strength-training regimen. For those seeking to rapidly increase muscle growth who are comfortable and able to perform high-intensity workouts, the most effective strength-training approach will involve lifting increasingly heavy weights. That might mean using barbell, kettlebells, dumbbells, or other types of weights.

Incorporating weightlifting into your training sessions encourages muscle growth because of the strain it places on your muscles. This wear and tear breaks down the muscle tissues. Then, during the recovery process that takes place while you sleep and on rest days, your muscles rebuild themselves. Each time this process takes place, your muscles grow bigger and stronger.

Adding high-intensity interval training to your exercise routine can also increase your muscle gains. This method of training involves short burst of intense exertion—a great tactic for recruiting your Type 2 muscles.

Increase Your Protein Intake

As you know, your muscles are made up of proteins. In order for your muscles to successfully rebuild themselves after workouts, you need to provide them with an adequate supply of dietary protein.

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how much protein your muscles need to properly build and repair themselves. Factors like age, weight, activity level, and training goals will all influence the amount of protein an individual needs to consume.

Federal guidelines set the minimum recommended amount of protein consumption for adults at 17% to 21% of your daily calories, and that’s without taking weight training into consideration.

As Jim White, RD, ACSM, explained, resistance training increases the process of protein turnover. By eating proteins laden with all the essential amino acids, you’re providing your body with the raw materials it needs to build muscle.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, if you’re looking to build muscle mass, you should aim to consume between 0.5 and 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight. That means a 150-pound woman, for example, should set a protein intake target of 75-120 grams of protein each day. It’s also important to consider the percentage of your overall calorie intake that comes from protein.

White, as well as other experts, recommends prioritizing the post-workout window for protein consumption as this has the biggest impact on muscle growth. Findings published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition indicate that protein consumption before workouts can also be a key factor. Eating protein both before and after workouts can boost your performance, speed your recovery time, and increase your lean muscle mass.

Amino Acids Can Boost Female Muscle Growth

While it’s entirely possible to meet your body’s protein needs through diet alone, it can be helpful to add in high-quality supplements, including protein powders. Especially if you have a busy schedule that makes it challenging to consume enough protein during meal or snack times, it can be highly beneficial to provide your body with amino acids from other sources.

Researchers have found that certain supplements can be particularly helpful when it comes to building and maintaining muscle mass. If you’re wondering about the best amino acids for muscle growth, here are three to consider.

How amino acids can maximize female muscle growth.

1. Creatine

Creatine, an amino acid compound found naturally in the human body as well as in foods like red meat, has been the subject of hundreds of studies. If you’re lifting weights and looking to amplify your results, you may want to consider supplementing with creatine.

Media reports may have lead you to believe that creatine supplementation can adversely impact the health of your kidneys, but scientists have repeatedly and conclusively found that not to be the case.

After going over all available data on the short-, medium-, and long-term effects of creatine supplementation, researchers from the Higher Institute of Physical Education and Readaptation in Brussels, Belgium found no evidence that creatine causes liver dysfunction in healthy individuals (individuals with pre-existing kidney disease should avoid creatine). The researchers concluded that individuals who take creatine “do not report any adverse effects, but body mass increases.” They also noted that creatine may benefit the health of your heart and help reduce your risk of neurological diseases.

Studies show that supplementing with creatine can increase your lean body mass, enhance your anaerobic working capacity, and minimize the muscle damage caused by extreme exertion.

2. Beta-Alanine

This naturally occurring amino acid has also been the subject of extensive research.

One reason for this is that beta-alanine is the rate-limiting precursor of carnosine, an amino acid found in high concentrations in human skeletal muscle. One study on the effects of beta-alanine supplementation found that it can increase concentrations of carnosine in your muscles, which in turn helps to prevent muscular fatigue.

A separate study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found pairing beta-alanine supplementation with high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can substantially increase both endurance and aerobic metabolism. It also showed a clear and impressive impact on subjects’ lean muscle mass.

Plus, a third study that examined how beta-alanine impacted anaerobic power output by using tests of physical strength such as timed sprints and a 90° bent-arm hang found that supplementing with beta-alanine improved participants’ results across all categories. Participants who supplemented with beta-alanine were able to achieve simultaneous weight loss and lean body mass increases.

3. Citrulline

Supplementing with citrulline can significantly increase your blood levels of not only this important amino acid, but two other crucial amino acids as well: ornithine and arginine. This can have a wide range of health benefits.

According to findings published in the The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, even a single dose of citrulline can improve your physical performance as measured by a flat barbell bench press. It can also reduce post-exercise muscle soreness. Participants were able to complete approximately 53% more repetitions and reported 40% less muscle soreness at both 24 and 48 hours afterward.

A separate study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed that citrulline reduced muscular fatigue and improved muscle metabolism as measured by oxidative ATP production and the rate of phosphocreatine recovery after exercise.

All in all, it appears that this amino acid can improve endurance and speed up recovery time.

Greater Than the Sum of the Parts

Your muscles aren’t composed of single amino acids, but rather 20 separate amino acids. Building muscle mass requires a steady supply of all those amino acids. Nine of those are essential amino acids, meaning you must get them from the foods you eat or supplements you take.

While certain amino acids have been shown to have more dramatic results when it comes to muscle growth, your rate of muscle protein synthesis will be limited by whichever essential amino acid is in the shortest supply. That’s why some of the foremost experts on amino acids believe that taking an essential amino acid (EAA) blend is ultimately the most effective way to build your muscle mass. Using a supplement formulated to include all the required amino acid building blocks stimulates the production of new muscle tissue more effectively than any single amino acid could.

What to Look for in a Memory Test and 5 Healthy Ways to Boost Memory

Age-related memory loss affects millions of adults in the United States. In fact, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in three senior citizens die with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. If you have started to notice signs of memory loss in yourself or someone you love, you are likely looking for a memory test that can give you a definitive diagnosis.

The Internet is filled with websites offering an online memory test, and while these tests may help you identify a problem, you need to see a neurologist for a legitimate memory test that can give you the answers you are seeking. In the meantime, there are ways you can improve memory and overall cognitive function with dietary and lifestyle changes.

What Are the 3 Types of Memory?

The human brain stores and processes bits of information in three different ways. If you are struggling with memory and researching online, you will likely come across the questions “what are the 3 stages of memory” as well as “what are the 3 types of memory.” In truth, these are the same questions—there are three types, or three stages of memory in the human brain—sensory, short term, and long term. Let’s take a look at the differences.

Sensory Memory

This is the shortest-term memory responsible for buffering external stimuli received from one of the five senses. Information processed in sensory memory degrades rapidly—somewhere in the range of 200 to 500 milliseconds before it “released.”

Short-term Memory

Short-term memory is held longer than sensory memory. However, unless we consciously focus on retaining specific bits of information it will fade away. Short-term memory is also referred to as working memory because the data stored here is required for everyday activities and tasks. An initial memory test conducted by a neurologist will likely focus on short-term memory capacity and recall ability.

Long-term Memory

Long-term memory is where data is stored for long periods of time. When you think of your 2nd grade teacher or remember the first time you flew in an airplane, you are tapping into your long-term memory stores. Most neurologists and psychologists break down long-term memory even further into “conscious” and “unconscious” memory.

What Is Memory in Psychology?

Psychologists recognize that memory is what makes us who we are. The three types of memory are what allow us to function healthfully in everyday life. Sensory memories spur us to remove our hand from a hot stove. Short-term memories allow us to recall the name of a person we just met. And long-term memories can transport us back to a place and time in vivid detail.

Types of Age-Related Memory Loss

As we age, our short-term memory starts to degrade. We may begin to forget where we put our keys or where we parked at the mall, or have difficulty recalling a name. This is all a regular part of the aging process. Additionally, certain vitamin deficiencies, hormone disorders, head traumas, and medications can cause memory loss that is reversible.

However, when memory loss persists, worsens, and starts to affect our ability to manage our day-to-day lives, it is time to seek counsel and have a memory test. There are four diseases, separate from natural aging, that cause progressive damage to the brain.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common disease that causes memory loss. Early symptoms of this disease include changes in personality, depression, social withdrawal, loss of inhibitions, irritability, delusions, and wandering. It is essential to have a memory test conducted by a neurologist to determine if you have Alzheimer’s disease, as there are medications that can help slow its progression.

Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia is a general term that describes memory and thought problems caused by reduced blood flow to the brain. Vascular dementia symptoms can come on suddenly after a stroke or a series of mini-strokes and are generally more rapid than the gradual, but steady decline in memory for those with Alzheimer’s disease.

Frontotemporal Dementia

Frontotemporal dementia is a term used for a group of relatively uncommon disorders that affect the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. These disorders can physically cause certain areas of the brain to shrink, and a definitive cause is hard to find. Frontotemporal dementia causes more than memory loss—speech and behavior changes can be expected. Additionally, movement disorders similar to Parkinson’s disease may occur concurrently.

Lewy Body Dementia

Lewy body dementia is the second most common type of progressive memory loss after Alzheimer’s disease. This brain disease is caused by protein deposits called Lewy bodies that develop in nerve cells in the thinking, memory, and motor control regions of the brain. The symptoms of Lewy body dementia do worsen and can cause severe memory loss, aggressive behavior, unrelenting depression, and worsening of motor-related functions.

5 Healthy Ways to Boost Memory

Diet, stress, exercise, sleep, and genetics all play a role in memory loss. Here are five ways to help boost memory and protect your brain from dementia.

1. Take an Amino Acid Supplement

Amino acids play key roles in protecting the brain. If your diet is deficient in amino acids, your brain may not have the fuel it needs for proper memory storage and recall. Amino acid supplements are a great way to combat a poor diet and help you get the nutrients your brain needs to thrive.

2. Avoid Medications Linked to Poor Memory

Specific medications, including those formulated to treat anxiety, depression, and insomnia, have been linked to an increased risk of cognitive decline and memory loss. Talk to your doctor about safe alternatives and potential natural remedies like amino acids for depression, insomnia, and anxiety.

3. Manage Stress

Chronic stress impacts the brain and can cause temporary memory loss. In fact, according to a recent report published in the journal Chronic Stress, stress causes an imbalance in the circuitry of the brain affecting cognition, anxiety, mood, and decision-making. It is important to find the right balance of lifestyle changes and natural supplements to help you reduce stress.

4. Exercise

Get moving—and stay moving. Regular exercise increases blood flood to your brain, which may boost both short-term and long-term memory. According to Harvard Medical School, regular exercise changes the brain and improves memory and thinking skills.

How rigorously do you need to exercise? You just have to walk at a good pace! Research shows that getting your heart-pumping 120 minutes a week is all that is necessary to improve memory.

5. Keep Your Brain in Gear

To keep your brain healthy and to support proper memory function and recall, you need to exercise your brain as well as your body. Find brain exercises you enjoy, and stick with them for at least 30 minutes every day. Here are some inventive ways to stretch your mind.

  • Learn a new language
  • Learn to paint or sculpt
  • Do a crossword puzzle
  • Crochet or knit
  • Put together a large puzzle
  • Do math in your head
  • Play memory games

What to Look for in a Memory Test

As mentioned above, there are many diseases, conditions, and medications that can cause poor memory and declining cognitive function. It is vital that you speak to your doctor about any concerns you may have.

The first step in determining the root cause of your memory loss will be a physical examination and some blood tests and imaging tests. If your medical team decides that your memory loss is caused by physical trauma, stroke, or medication, a treatment plan will be created.

Unfortunately, there is no definitive physical test for Alzheimer’s disease. If your physician believes there is a possibility you may have a form of dementia, you will likely be referred to a neurologist for a neurological examination, brain imaging, and a memory test.

The MMSE and the Mini-Cog are two main types of memory tests that are commonly administered by a neurological team. Both of these tests are short and will give your doctor a snapshot of your short-term memory and recall ability.

The MMSE tests mental skills and cognition. The test administrator asks a series of questions relating to everyday tasks and necessary cognitive skills. The Mini-Cog only requires you to complete two tasks. The first task is to draw the face of a clock with all 12 numbers on it. The second task is to remember and repeat the names of three ordinary objects repeated to you by the test administrator.

Yes, there are a ton of Alzheimer’s tests and memory tests online but none of them have been scientifically proven to be accurate. In fact, they may provide false-positive results according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Instead of risking a poor outcome, talk to your doctor if you are concerned about memory loss and cognitive decline.

Hyaluronic Acid Benefits More Than Just Your Skin!

Countless beauty products tout hyaluronic acid’s ability to fight acne, age spots, and wrinkles. Dermatologists use hyaluronic acid to plump lips and other tissue, and some in the industry refer to it as the “fountain of youth.” But hyaluronic acid benefits extend far beyond topical skin care.

In the human body, hyaluronic acid is found in joints and the eyes where it acts as a protective lubricant. The FDA has approved hyaluronic acid for use during cataract surgery, corneal transplants, and other eye surgeries to replace the eye’s natural fluids during these procedures.

What Is Hyaluronic Acid?

Hyaluronic acid is essentially a lubricant that plays a role in cushioning joints and surrounding connective tissues and keeping the eyes moist and hydrated. In research, hyaluronic acid is often referred to as hyaluronan. This naturally occurring lubricant binds to water molecules and creates a texture similar to gelatin.

Health Benefits of Hyaluronic Acid

3 Internal Health Benefits of Hyaluronic Acid

Anti-aging products may be the most well-known use for hyaluronic acid, but research proves it offers extraordinary health benefits, including in the fight against cancer.

1. Delivers Chemotherapy Drugs Efficiently

According to a study published in the Journal of Surgical Research, when hyaluronan is used as a drug delivery method in the fight against breast cancer, it effectively targets lymphatic metastases without damaging surrounding tissue in animal trials. The researchers of the study urge human trials to determine the full potential of hyaluronic acid as a chemotherapy drug carrier.

Supporting the above study, a recent study published in the journal Drug Delivery states that hyaluronic acid can act as a delivery vehicle for certain medications, including chemotherapy drugs. The researchers point out that hyaluronic acid has the ability to recognize specific receptors on tumor cells and that larger scale clinical trials are necessary. There are currently 44 clinical trials studying hyaluronic acid and its safety and efficacy in the treatment of a wide range of cancers.

2. Relieves Pain Associated with Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that affects an estimated 70% of people over the age of 65. Over time, this type of arthritis pain becomes more and more difficult to relieve, which leads to limited mobility and poor balance.

The human body’s production of hyaluronic acid slows as we age, causing the tissue around the joints to have less cushion and lubrication and resulting in pain. Hyaluronic acid injections are approved by the FDA for the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee, and research indicates hyaluronic acid injections can provide up to six months of pain relief.

Partnering hyaluronic injections with an osteoarthritis diet rich in healthy oils, cold-water fish, nuts and seeds, and green leafy vegetables may improve pain levels. The foods highest in hyaluronic acid include:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Jicama
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • Lemons
  • Oranges
  • Grapefruit
  • Tomatoes
  • Leafy greens
  • Bone broth

3. Supports Intestinal Wound Healing

Researchers from the Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute have found that hyaluronan fights inflammation and promotes healing of the intestines in multiple clinical trials. The author of the report points to chronic inflammation as being a “major predisposing factor to fibrosis in all organs including the intestine” and states that hyaluronan may promote natural healing processes in the gastrointestinal tract as inflammation decreases.

Hyaluronic Acid Benefits for Skin

Now that we’ve addressed what hyaluronic acid can do inside the body, let’s take a look at why many skin care companies use hyaluronic acid as a key ingredient in their products. A clinical study published in the journal Dermato-Endocrinology showed that hyaluronic acid exhibits different traits than other skin care ingredients.

The authors of the study indicate that hyaluronic acid demonstrates a unique capacity for retaining moisture and the ability to work within different layers of the skin. The study specifically notes that skin health and texture is affected by hormonal changes, exposure to ultraviolet radiation, and aging, and that further study of hyaluronic acid could lead to “novel treatments” in skin aging.

Take a look at hyaluronic acid’s benefits for the skin.

  • Hydrates dry skin: Hyaluronic acid may promote proper moisture in the skin—even oily skin—without causing acne.
  • Increases cell turnover: Hyaluronic acid is believed to increase cell turnover, leaving the skin smooth and vibrant.
  • Tightens saggy skin: Hyaluronic acid may tighten saggy skin and improve elasticity, thereby creating a better overall complexion and texture.
  • Diminishes fine lines and wrinkles: Hyaluronic acid helps to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by plumping up the areas with moisture.
  • Creates a smooth canvas: Hyaluronic acid in serum form smoothes out the skin, allowing makeup to glide over and not nestle into imperfections.

5 Signs of Amino Acid Deficiency and How to Treat It

You probably know that between 60% and 70% of the average human body is composed of water. But did you know that protein makes up approximately 66% of the non-water components of your body? As you may remember from biology class, amino acids form the building blocks of protein. In the same way that it’s vital to drink water to stay hydrated, it’s also absolutely necessary to provide our bodies with an ongoing supply of amino acids to make up for those used up rebuilding our tissues and carrying out other important bodily functions. Without an adequate intake of amino-rich foods, you’re likely to develop an amino acid deficiency.

Amino acid deficiency often gets overlooked, and when left untreated it makes it more likely you’ll develop a whole host of serious disorders. In this article, we’ll go over some basic facts about amino acids and then share five signs of amino acid deficiency as well as how to correct amino acid deficiency.

What Are Amino Acids?

Scientists have found that when we select food, our first instinctive priority is to meet our short-term energy needs. And right behind that comes the maintenance of our essential amino acids balance. When you eat food that contains protein, your body then breaks it down in order to access and utilize the amino acids.

Amino acids carry out a wide variety of vital functions inside the human body, from building muscles to generating neurotransmitters like dopamine. We need a steady supply of a balanced ratio of amino acids to maintain optimal levels inside our bodies. When we’re under stress, or dealing with illness or injury, we require an even higher intake to meet the increased demand.

There are 20 proteinogenic amino acids—”proteinogenic” means “protein creating,” and as you might be able to intuit, these amino acids form all biological proteins and all contribute to our overall health and well-being in different ways. For instance, research reveals that leucine, isoleucine, and valine, the three branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), work to build and repair muscle tissue. While there’s understandably a great deal of interest in determining the role of each individual amino acid, it’s important to keep in mind that they can only carry out those roles effectively when the proper balance and concentration of all the amino acids is in place.

Eleven of the proteinogenic amino acids are deemed nonessential. Since your body can produce these nonessential amino acids, it’s not essential that you derive them from your diet. The nonessential amino acids are alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine.

The remaining nine are essential amino acids that you must obtain either from the food you eat or supplements you take since your body cannot independently create them. The essential amino acids are histidine, isoleucine, leucin, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.

Some amino acids are considered conditionally essential. This category can be a bit confusing. Basically, when everything is going smoothly, your body can make these amino acids on its own without any difficulty. But if your health is compromised in some way, for instance, if your liver is functioning less than ideally, that can get in the way of amino acid synthesis. Poor diet can also cause problems, since certain minerals and vitamins play important roles in the amino acid creation process. Under those circumstances, your body can greatly benefit from an increased intake of the seven conditionally essential amino acids: arginine, cysteine, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine.

There are 11 nonessential amino acids that your body can produce, meaning there’s not a minimum recommended dietary intake.

How Do Amino Acids Work?

As we touched on in the previous section, amino acids do not work in isolation. It’s true that each has a specific function, but simply increasing your intake of one particular amino acid will not necessarily make that function happen more efficiently.

Take arginine. Research shows that arginine stimulates the production of nitric oxide, a signaling molecule that’s especially important for vasodilation. In simple terms, nitric oxide allows the inner muscles of your blood vessels to relax, which improves your circulation. You might think that the best way to boost your nitric oxide levels would be to take more arginine. But studies make it clear that taking arginine supplements doesn’t lead to significantly increased arginine concentrations. What’s more effective is to increase your intake of citrulline, which your body then converts to arginine your body can readily use for nitric oxide production and other purposes.

As you can see, amino acids work together to maintain your health and well-being. It’s very rare to develop a deficiency of just one amino acid. The most effective strategy is to focus on keeping your amino acid levels in balance by eating a protein-rich diet and supplementing with well-formulated amino acid supplements if necessary.

5 Signs of Amino Acid Deficiency

5 Signs You May Have an Amino Acid Deficiency

1. Muscle Loss

Our bodies have systems in place to compensate for a lack of dietary amino acid intake. One of the first things that happens is the breakdown of muscle tissues, which are assembled from amino acids. Amino acids are then sent where they’re most needed, for instance, to maintain heart function. As you may be able to guess, eating away at your muscle to fuel your heart is not a sustainable strategy and can have serious consequences.

No matter what, some degree of muscle loss, often (incorrectly) called sarcopenia, will accompany the aging process. A lack of amino acids, however, speeds up that process, which can begin as early as your 30s.

2. Increased Anxiety and Depression

There’s an intimate connection between your amino acid intake and your mental health. We rely on amino acids to produce brain chemicals like serotonin that balance our moods and emotions.

Tryptophan, an essential amino acid, is a precursor to serotonin. When serotonin levels drop, symptoms of depression increase. A 2016 study found that without an adequate supply of tryptophan, serotonin production is compromised, which can, in turn, compromise your mental health.

3. Difficulty Concentrating

If you’re feeling unmotivated, struggling to concentrate, finding it difficult to learn new information, or dealing with “brain fog,” you may have low amino acid levels. As we touched on above, you need amino acids to produce neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.

Without enough tyrosine, a conditionally essential amino acid, your brain struggles to produce dopamine. And without enough dopamine, your energy levels will flag and your overall cognitive function will decline.

4. Digestive Disturbances

In order for the digestive system to operate smoothly, we need a balanced intake of amino acids, which play crucial roles in enzyme production as well as muscle contractions in your gastrointestinal tract.

Amino acids have such a pronounced impact on digestion that they may even be used to treat certain gut-related diseases, according to a study.

5. Slowed Healing Time

Amino acids help our muscles recover from exertion, maintain the strength of our bones, and keep our immune systems running at peak capacity.

A 2009 study showed that amino acids help bone fractures heal more quickly, and findings published in the British Journal of Nutrition show that a deficiency in amino acids impairs immune function and increases your susceptibility to illness.

The Best Way to Correct Amino Acid Deficiency

Once you’ve realized you have an amino acid deficiency, there’s likely only one question on your mind: how to correct an amino acid deficiency. To stabilize your amino acid levels, you need to increase the amount of amino acids you’re consuming. It can be difficult to do this in a balanced way through diet alone, especially if you aren’t inclined to eat a diet high in animal protein.

And balance is absolutely key. The amino acid that we consume the least of, proportionate to recommended consumption levels, determines the degree to which our bodies can utilize the rest of the amino acids we take in.

Essential amino acid (EAA) supplements can help to fill any gaps you might have in your diet. If you’re already experiencing any of the signs of amino acid deficiency listed above, it can be highly beneficial to augment your amino acid intake with a high-quality EAA supplement.

Best Amino Acids for Muscle Growth

The best amino acids for muscle growth tip the balance in favor of muscle protein synthesis. And making a complete protein requires adequate availability of each of the amino acids. Read on to find out the formulation of amino acids that is best for building muscle.

Before we get into the best amino acids for muscle growth, let’s first review the makeup of muscle. Muscle tissue is composed of a variety of proteins that are in a constant state of turnover—proteins that are no longer functioning well are being broken down and new ones are being produced. Muscle growth occurs when the rate of synthesis of new muscle protein exceeds the rate of breakdown.

Muscle protein is composed of 20 different amino acids hooked together in a specific order. Nine of the amino acids are essential amino acids (EAAs) and cannot be produced in the body. The other 11 are nonessential (NEAAs) and can be produced in adequate amounts within the body.

Muscle protein synthesis (the building of new muscle protein) involves a series of molecular events that result in the component amino acids being linked together in a specific order. For this reason, amino acids are often called the building blocks of protein. Making a complete protein, therefore, requires adequate availability of each of the amino acids. In that sense, there is no individual best amino acids for muscle growth, because they are all required to produce muscle protein. Rather, there are formulations of amino acids that are “best” for specific circumstances, such as building muscle.

Where Do Amino Acids Come from for Muscle Protein Synthesis?

When protein is broken down during muscle protein turnover, amino acids are released into muscle cells. Most of these amino acids become the precursors for the synthesis of new muscle protein. However, some of the amino acids from protein breakdown are released into the blood and delivered to other tissues and organs, and still other amino acids from protein breakdown are irreversibly oxidized/damaged. Therefore, the rate of reincorporation of amino acids from protein breakdown into newly synthesized muscle protein will always be less than the rate of protein breakdown. Without other sources of amino acids, a reduction of muscle protein and subsequent muscle loss occurs.

There are two ways to get the additional amino acids you need for muscle protein synthesis.

  1. They are produced in the body. (NEAAs can be produced in the body, so only a minimal amount must be consumed in the diet to meet all demands.)
  2. EAAs, on the other hand, cannot be produced in the body and must be consumed in the diet.

Research shows that consuming EAAs stimulates muscle protein synthesis and helps build muscle, but eating more NEAAs doesn’t add any further stimulus. When EAAs are consumed, the additional NEAAs required for the production of complete proteins are produced in the body. Ingesting EAAs, either as dietary protein or as amino acid supplements, shifts the balance between synthesis and breakdown of muscle protein to favor the net production of new muscle protein, which defines muscle gain.

What Are the Best Amino Acids for Muscle Growth?

Muscle protein is composed of a specific amount of each amino acid, hooked together in a specific order. In that sense, all the amino acids are equally important, as a shortage of any of them will stop the process of synthesis.

The EAA in shortest supply is called the limiting EAA. The availability of the limiting EAA will limit the rate of muscle protein synthesis, regardless of the availability of all the other EAAs and NEAAs. Therefore, you could say that the limiting amino acid in any formulation of EAAs is the most important.

This is the major problem with supplements that only have the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Since the other essential amino acids are not provided, the rate of muscle protein synthesis is not improved. Because of this, BCAA supplements have been proven to provide a far smaller effect on muscle growth than a complete EAA formulation.

It is possible to gain insight into the amount of each EAA that is needed to avoid that EAA being the limiting EAA by looking at the requirements for the individual EAAs. By definition, NEAAs are not required in the diet, so when we talk about dietary requirements we are talking only about EAA requirements. The dietary requirement for each EAA differs. Here are the daily requirements for EAAs for adults as published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the World Health Organization (FAO/WHO).

Best Amino Acids for muscle growth

The requirements are based on a number of factors, including the composition of total body protein. From the requirements shown above, it is clear that all EAAs are not “equal.” The requirements for leucine and lysine are the highest, while the requirement for tryptophan is quite low.

It could be argued that the best amino acids for muscle building parallel the individual requirements of the EAAs. Indeed, that is the basis for the official FAO/WHO grading of protein quality, called the Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score (DIAAS). Indeed, an EAA supplement that closely parallels this distribution will be an effective stimulant of muscle protein synthesis in any circumstance. The bottom line is that you need all the essential amino acids to have any effect on muscle mass, and any nonessential amino acid need not be included in a dietary supplement.

Leucine for Muscle Growth

There has been considerable research over the past 15 years that indicates that alternative mixtures of EAAs may be more beneficial in particular circumstances. Most of the research has centered on the EAA leucine. In addition to being the most abundant EAA in body protein, under certain circumstances, leucine can function to regulate molecular processes within the muscle cell. In those circumstances, it can be called a “nutraceutical.”

Leucine can activate the molecule called mTOR, which gets muscle protein synthesis started. Various conditions associated with progressive muscle breakdown and loss of muscle strength, such as cancer, heart failure, and aging, can suppress the activity of mTOR and associated molecules. When mTOR activity is limited, it may be preferable to increase the proportion of leucine to as high as 35% to activate mTOR. At the same time, activation of mTOR and associated molecules in the muscle cell is not sufficient to increase muscle protein synthesis. You also need an abundance of all EAAs to produce complete proteins. Therefore it is necessary to limit the proportion of leucine in an effective dietary supplement to below 40% so that sufficient amounts of the other EAAs can be included.

If extra leucine is added to a dietary supplement such as whey protein powder to capitalize on its action as a nutraceutical, then the remainder of the supplement should provide the other EAAs in proportion to their contribution to the composition of muscle protein. It seems logical that this would be dictated entirely by the composition of muscle protein, but it is not quite so straightforward.

The absorbed ratios of the different EAAs will not be directly reflected in the EAAs inside the muscle cells because some amino acids are transported into the cell faster than others. Lysine, in particular, is transported sluggishly into the muscle. When lysine is consumed, less lysine will enter the muscle cell than would be expected from the profile of the consumed EAAs. Consequently, to increase the lysine concentration inside the muscle cell in proportion to the lysine content of muscle protein it is necessary that lysine comprise 20% or more of the total EAAs consumed to achieve the maximal muscle-building effect.

Different Strokes for Different Folks

The most effective EAA supplement for muscle growth will have all the EAAs and roughly parallel the requirements cited above. However, alternative formulations may be “best” in different situations. For example, while a high proportion of leucine may be best for older individuals with heart failure, a disproportionate amount of leucine may not be needed by a young athlete after a resistance workout. This is because the resistance workout will activate mTOR and associated molecules, and if the proportion of leucine is in line with the composition of muscle protein (around 23%), then relatively more of all the other EAAs needed to produce complete protein can be included in the supplement.

Even the optimal formulation for exercise might vary, depending on when the supplement is consumed and the type of exercise. For example, endurance training causes a selective increase in leucine oxidation, in which case a supplement high in leucine would be optimal as a post-workout supplement following exercise to speed up muscle recovery.

If the EAA supplement is meant to be consumed as a pre-workout supplement for exercise performance, it may be formulated to optimize the concentrations of neurotransmitter precursor availability in addition to providing EAAs for muscle protein synthesis.

Regardless of the specific circumstance it is meant for, the “best” formulation will include all the EAAs and not just the BCAAs or specific amino acids like beta-alanine or arginine. A complete formulation will more effectively stimulate the production of new muscle protein than any individual or sub-group of EAAs possibly can.