Amino Acids for Brain Repair and Cognitive Function

Amino acids are the precursors to neurotransmitters in the brain, including serotonin and dopamine, vital for mood and mental health. Even more important, the branched-chain amino acids may be able to help heal the brain after traumatic injury. Find out how amino acids impact brain repair and health.

The neurotransmitters in our brains are responsible for our energy levels, our memories, our moods, our learning abilities, and more. If these neurotransmitters are out of balance, our brains can’t function and our well-being is compromised. A disorder of serotonin levels can lead to anxiety and depression, an insufficiency of dopamine can lead to feelings of sloth and anger, and without GABA to help calm us down, we’re susceptible to panic attacks and stress. Amino acids both act as neurotransmitters and help stabilize levels of neurotransmitters, making them a key nutritional therapy for brain and mental health. Researchers are also applying amino acid therapy to traumatic brain injury. Truly, amino acids play a crucial role in our brain functions and more, and this article details how dietary amino acids for brain repair can help balance our minds.

How Brain Chemistry Works

Our brain cells communicate through a web of synapses. Each nerve cell has pre- and post-synaptic receivers that can communicate with the other cells using chemical signal molecules. Those molecules are our neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters travel through the tiny gaps between cells like untethered astronauts floating from ship to ship in space.

When enough neurotransmitters attach to one cell, that cell relays the signal to the next cell, creating a chain reaction of communication. Once the neurotransmitters have delivered their message, other enzymes come in to clean them up so the nerve cell isn’t permanently activated. The neurotransmitters are either destroyed or reabsorbed, which is known as reuptake.

Balance is key to avoid brain and mood disorders. For example, SSRIs are serotonin reuptake inhibitors designed to interfere with excessive serotonin uptake, increasing its signal strength so that happiness is felt more acutely and depression is subdued.

Any impairment in this process, whether due to imbalance or injury, can interrupt the entire nervous system. Amino acids play a vital role in the neurotransmitter dance. Let’s find out how.

How Brain Chemistry Works

Amino Acids for Brain Repair

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein in the body, making them crucial for creating and repairing muscle fiber. But they also work to synthesize the hormones we need for communication throughout the body, and they are the precursors to our most important neurotransmitters.

The aromatic amino acids tyrosine, tryptophan, and phenylalanine are the precursors for the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine (a hormone that functions as a neurotransmitter and works to regulate blood pressure). The branched-chain amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine have data indicating that they can help rebuild the brain after traumatic injury. Here’s how each of these amino acids helps to support cognitive function and brain activity.

The Aromatic Amino Acids and GABA

Tyrosine, tryptophan, phenylalanine, and GABA are crucial amino acids that may just help enhance neurochemical repairs and cognitive performance. Without the proper balance of aromatic amino acids, you may experience too low or too high levels of the following neurotransmitters.

1. Dopamine

Low levels of dopamine are associated with Parkinson’s disease, a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that interrupts balance, movement, muscle control, and other important bodily functions. Too high levels of dopamine have been linked to schizophrenia.

Disruption of your dopamine levels can manifest as a lack of motivation, unexplained feelings of dread or hopelessness, isolating behavior, and apathy towards family and friends. Without the proper balance of amino acids, your dopamine levels may be out of order.

2. Serotonin

Known as the “happy hormone,” serotonin is closely linked to mood and emotion, and insufficient levels can be behind feelings of social anxiety and depression. Serotonin helps shape our perceptions of reality, so much so that most psychedelic drugs that alter those perceptions operate on serotonin pathways in the brain.

Without enough serotonin, people feel unhappy, restless, and can no longer enjoy things they once did. These feelings can be life-threatening, especially in teenagers, young adults, and those going through major life changes.

3. Norepinephrine

Low levels of norepinephrine are linked to depression, ADHD, and low blood pressure. In health care instances, norepinephrine is sometimes prescribed specifically to help treat low blood pressure, but as both a stress hormone and neurotransmitter, norepinephrine plays a large role in cognitive function.

4. GABA

Gamma-amino butyric acid, abbreviated GABA, operates as a balance against norepinephrine, calming the nervous system when it’s time to rest or sleep. Without sufficient GABA, people experience panic disorders and symptoms like rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, sweating, shaking, restless thoughts, and excessive worry.

Human studies show GABA treatment can help regulate anxiety, bringing balance back to an imbalanced brain. GABA can be consumed as a supplement and also synthesized within the body from the branched-chain amino acids.

The Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)

The balance of chemicals in an otherwise healthy brain is important enough, but our nine essential amino acids (of which the branched-chain amino acids are three) can also bring beneficial effects in instances of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and cognitive impairment.

Penn Medicine News states, “Neurology researchers have shown that feeding amino acids to brain-injured animals restores their cognitive abilities and may set the stage for the first effective treatment for cognitive impairments suffered by people with traumatic brain injuries.”

What is beginning as clinical trials based on animal models of brain injury may some day help human patients with brain damage from TBIs restore their quality of life just by ingesting the BCAAs leucine, isoleucine, and valine.

Many athletes and bodybuilders take BCAAs as part of their supplement regimen for protein synthesis and muscle building, but for those athletes who perform sports that involve potential head injuries, these branched-chain amino acids may come to be so much more valuable in the area of brain repair.

How to Avoid Brain Imbalance

You can’t predict or prevent a brain injury (outside of wearing a helmet when it’s appropriate), but you can help prevent chemical imbalances by taking care of your gut.

The essential amino acids are so-called because we must consume them from outside sources like our food or targeted amino acid supplements. By eating amino acid foods like meat and plant protein sources, we gain the amino acids we need, and not only do we absorb our aminos in the gut, but we also synthesize our neurotransmitters there too. Up to 90% of serotonin is made in the gut, so if your gut health is poor, your gut microbes imbalanced, or you have a malabsorption disorder like Crohn’s disease, you may be experiencing disturbances to your brain health.

Other than maintaining digestive health, ensuring that you consume a proper balance of all nine essential amino acids is imperative. In fact, our amino acids are so important to so many functions in the body that the experts here at AminoCo have designed scientifically balanced amino acid formulas targeted to help build muscle and enhance liver health, brain health, and more.

Amino Acids: Food for Thought

Amino acid neurotransmitters for proper brain functioning are essential, and new research shows that they may even help restore function after a traumatic brain injury. Stay tuned as science reveals more and more amazing applications for amino acids every day, for brain health and beyond.

Glycine for Sleep: The Amino Acid for Better Rest

Glycine for sleep and so much more: find out how this amino acid and neurotransmitter aids your body’s most important functions, and learn how to supplement with it for better sleep quality, vital organ protection, and supple skin.

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, which probably makes you think of all things muscle, like muscle repair and new muscle creation. You do need all nine essential amino acids to build muscle, but amino acids perform a wide variety of important tasks in the body, including regulating your sleep-wake cycle and the quality of sleep you experience. Glycine is one of those amino acids working tirelessly behind the scenes so that you can get a good night’s sleep. We have the details on the effects of glycine for sleep, and how you can utilize it to optimize your sleep patterns.

What Is Glycine?

Glycine is a naturally occurring nonessential amino acid. It is the simplest in structure of all the amino acids, and yet it’s just as important in daily functioning. Glycine is used to make vital substances like various enzymes and hormones in the body, and it’s also used to synthesize new protein, a role it plays in muscle maintenance and growth.

The human body naturally produces glycine, but it’s also found in protein foods and can be taken as a dietary supplement. While glycine deficiency is extremely rare, studies have shown that low levels of glycine are associated with the development of type 2 diabetes, which we’ll cover in a bit.

Insufficient glycine levels may also be associated with chronic sleep problems, and glycine supplements could function as a natural sleep aid.

Glycine for Sleep: Scientifically Proven Effectiveness

Glycine for Sleep: Scientifically Proven Effectiveness

Daytime sleepiness coupled with an inability to fall asleep easily can quickly interrupt your quality of life. It’s more dangerous to drive or commute to work if you’re not properly rested, it’s more difficult to concentrate on your daily tasks, and it saps the enjoyment you should be experiencing when your work is completed each day. Here are some of the scientifically backed data points showing that glycine ingestion could lead to better sleep.

1. Sleep-Promoting

Glycine is an inhibitory neurotransmitter operating in our central nervous system. That means it has a role to play in hearing, vision, motor movement, and our intake and processing of sensory information. By working as an inhibitor, glycine has a calming effect on the central nervous system. The dietary glycine we consume has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, enter our brains, and go where it’s needed.

Perhaps working with other inhibitory neurotransmitters like the amino acid GABA (the exact mechanisms are still not fully understood by researchers), glycine has the ability to help “quiet down” the nervous system and effectively promote sleep.

2. Enhances Memory Formation, Organization, and Retrieval

Memory formation and memory organization are deeply connected to healthy, adequate sleep. One of the other roles glycine performs in the brain is to activate excitatory NMDA receptors, which are keys to synaptic plasticity and the creation of new synapses for learning and memory retention.

Research shows that glycine may be beneficial to memory retrieval in both old and young participants in instances of disrupted sleep, like jet lag or having to work a night shift. Researchers also suggest that glycine may be able to help those with Parkinson’s, Huntington’s disease, and schizophrenia in the area of memory retrieval.

3. Encourages Deeper Sleep

Studies on glycine’s effect on sleep have revealed that glycine ingestion before bedtime improves the subjective sleep quality of those dealing with insomnia. Researchers studied both rat and human subjects, and found the same effects in both, with more information coming from the rat models on the inner workings of glycine.

Glycine taken orally significantly increased the concentration of glycine in the cerebrospinal fluid of rats. Researches noted an increase of cutaneous blood flow coupled with a decrease in core body temperature. A low core body temperature is maintained during human sleep, revealing another facet of how glycine may beneficially interact with our sleep patterns.

4. Calms Anxiety

Studies on glycine for anxiety work closely with serotonin and its relationship to restful sleep. Serotonin is known as the “happy hormone” because it contributes to feelings of pleasure, satisfaction, and well-being. Serotonin is also needed to create the hormone melatonin, which encourages deeper sleep and is often lacking in those with sleep disorders like insomnia or sleep apnea.

By increasing serotonin levels, you can lessen anxiety and promote restful sleep, and consuming glycine has been shown to elevate serotonin levels and encourage healthy sleep cycles, both of which provide much needed anxiety relief.

5. Improves Daytime Performance

A study on the effects of glycine on subjective daytime performance in partially sleep-restricted healthy volunteers asserts that about 30% of the general population suffers from insomnia. Knowing that, researchers chose to test the effects of glycine on the daytime levels of fatigue and sleepiness on people restricted to 25% less of their usual sleep time. They then measured the cognitive performances of the participants.

The results found that those who were given glycine instead of a placebo reported significantly less fatigue and sleepiness, and demonstrated improvements in psychomotor vigilance tests. The researchers also measured circadian rhythms by looking at the suprachiasmatic nucleus (one of a pair of small nuclei in the hypothalamus of the brain). While they found no changes in the circadian clock, they did find that glycine altered specific neuropeptides in the brain, which they suggest accounts for glycine’s ability to improve feelings of sleepiness and fatigue in those who are sleep deprived.

A previously linked study also found that taking supplemental glycine helped people reach slow-wave sleep faster, providing the benefits of deeper REM sleep in a shorter amount of time. This benefit may extend to better mental performance during the day, even when sleep is restricted.

Other Benefits of Glycine Supplementation

The use of glycine in both animal models and human volunteers shows that it has a beneficial impact on the polysomnographic changes in our brains and bodies. But glycine amino acid supplementation can benefit even more than sleep. For instance:

  • Antioxidant support: Glycine is one of the three amino acids needed to create glutathione, an antioxidant that protects the body from the oxidative stress damage caused by free radicles.
  • Collagen creation and skincare: Ingesting glycine promotes collagen levels in the body and helps keep our connective tissues supple and young. Externally, glycine soja oil from soy contains all of the essential amino acids along with vitamin E, and is commonly found in skin conditioning products, beauty supplies, moisturizing soaps, and bath oils.
  • Creatine and workout aid: Glycine is needed to form creatine, a substance you most likely know as a main ingredient in protein shakes that are used to build muscle bulk. Creatine provides fast energy to muscles, making it a vigorous workout aid for any strenuous activity, from weightlifting to sprinting.
  • Liver protection: Glycine has been shown to help prevent alcoholic fatty liver disease and alcoholic cirrhosis.
  • Heart health and blood pressure support: Glycine treatment has been found to improve the usability of nitric oxide in the body, increasing blood flow and lowering blood pressure, thereby reducing the risk of heart attack.
  • Diabetes management: Glycine aids in both preventing and managing the development of type 2 diabetes by improving blood sugar levels and increasing insulin sensitivity and response.

Glycine Foods and How to Supplement with Glycine

“Glycine” comes from the Greek word glykys (γλυκύς), meaning “sweet-tasting.” In fact, the original betaine, now known as glycine betaine, was first discovered in the sugar beet in the 19th century. Glycine in supplement form still tastes quite sweet, and for that reason it is easily added to foods and beverages like oatmeal, coffee, protein shakes, yogurt, and pudding. Natural glycine foods include high-protein options like:

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Legumes
  • Dairy products
  • Eggs

Dosages and Possible Adverse Side Effects

When studied, up to 90 grams of glycine can be administered every day for several weeks without adverse effects. However, the standard effective dosage is between 3 and 5 grams per day. It’s also important that you seek professional medical advice before adding glycine or any other supplement to your routine if you are already on medications or if you are pregnant or nursing. Some reported potential side effects of supplementing with glycine include:

  • Stomach upset
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Soft stools

Glycine: Neurotransmitter Extraordinaire

There you have it: glycine is not only effective at improving sleep but also a vital contributor to many functions in the body, including maintaining healthy skin and protecting the liver and the heart. By ensuring that you have sufficient amounts of both your essential and nonessential amino acids like glycine, you can improve your whole-body health.

When to Take BCAAs: Pre- or Post- Workout? Morning, Noon or Night?

When is the best time to take BCAA supplements: pre-, during, or post-workout? Is it safe to consume them before bed? What about in between meals? We have the science and the answers.

There are many reasons to take protein supplements, and not all of them have to do with working out. Vegetarians and vegans often take them to make sure they’re getting enough plant-based protein. Those recovering from surgery are often on doctor’s orders to consume more protein to help heal faster. Those working to lose weight also find that consuming more protein helps fuel their energy and their weight-loss efforts by curbing hunger and increasing muscle growth. All of the above is even more true for those who consume protein like whey, creatine, or BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids) to boost their workout or to build muscle: you need enough protein to function, you need even more protein for recovery, and you need to control your calorie consumption as you aim to bulk up. If you’re new to trying BCAAs, the first question you have after what they are and how do they work is likely to be: when to take BCAAs? We have the best practical advice here.

Muscles, Amino Acids, and BCAAs

Muscles are made out of protein, and protein is made out of amino acids. Specifically, the human body needs all nine essential amino acids (EAAs) to synthesize any new muscle protein. Of those nine essentials (as opposed to the nonessential amino acids that your body can make on its own, meaning it’s not essential to consume them in food), three are branched-chain amino acids, so called because of their molecular structure.

So what are the three BCAAs and why are they singled out for workout supplements? Let’s start with their names.

  • Leucine: This is the amino acid thought to make the biggest difference when it comes to building new muscle proteins.
  • Isoleucine: An isolated form of leucine (hence its name), isoleucine helps regulate blood sugar levels and energy production.
  • Valine: This BCAA is important not only for maintaining muscles but also for supporting immune function.

Together these three aminos make up about 40% of the EAAs in the body, and about 18% of the EAA content of muscle. They are broken down in the skeletal muscles directly instead of in the liver with the majority of the other EAAs, which leads researchers to theorize that they play a more direct part in energy production during exercise. Not only are BCAAs essential building blocks for protein synthesis and muscle growth, but they also positively impact your blood sugar levels and help ward off exercise fatigue.

All of the essential amino acids depreciate more rapidly during exercise due to a protein breakdown process known as catabolism (more on this later). If you are fit, active, and looking to build more muscle, you’ll want to increase protein-rich foods in your diet, which is why taking targeted amino acids like BCAAs is so popular among fitness aficionados.

Muscles, Amino Acids and BCAAs

The Scientifically Proven Benefits of BCAA Supplementation

Here’s a quick rundown on the science behind BCAAs, and why so many professional bodybuilders use them.

1. Increased Muscle Growth

Leucine particularly has been shown time and time again to stimulate new muscle protein synthesis. This 2017 study showed that those taking 5.6 grams of BCAAs post-workout enjoyed an increase in muscle protein synthesis 22% higher than the control group.

2. Decreased Exercise Fatigue and Muscle Soreness

Some fatigue will always be a part of a proper workout: if you’re not at all tired after a workout, you’re probably not doing it right! But exercise fatigue that sets in too soon or when your workout is hardly begun? You may be suffering from a low energy source, and that is where BCAAs can come in swinging.

Studies show that when your BCAA levels decrease, your tryptophan levels increase in the brain. Tryptophan is the amino acid that famously makes a turkey dinner so sleep-inducing. Tryptophan is converted to serotonin, and serotonin leads to feelings of fatigue and lethargy.

Because BCAAs are burned up in the muscles during a vigorous workout, making sure your body has more than enough to burn through helps delay exercise fatigue, providing time for a few more reps or a few more steps.

BCAAs can also help mitigate delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), so that you can go strong with more workouts per week because you aren’t still achingly sore from the last one. BCAAs have not only been shown to decrease muscle damage and protein breakdown during workouts, but they also lead to fewer reported instances of delayed onset muscle soreness when tested against a control group.

3. Prevention of Muscle Wasting

While muscle protein is forever in a cycle of build-up and breakdown, actual muscle wasting occurs when protein breaks down at a far faster pace than it can be rebuilt. It happens to those who are malnourished or fasting excessively, as well as to the sick and the elderly. But it can also happen to those who overexert themselves in workouts.

During times of muscle wasting, it’s important to resupply the body with the building blocks of protein that are the amino acids, which includes BCAAs. Studies reveal that one of the effects of BCAA supplementation is to inhibit muscle protein breakdown, not only in those seeking to gain muscle with resistance training or reach new heights with endurance exercise, but also in those with cancer and other wasting diseases.

Counterbalancing Catabolism

Muscle breakdown is known as “destructive metabolism” or catabolism, and while it’s a process that bodybuilders do their best to ward off, it’s also part of the natural cycle between catabolism and anabolism.

Muscle protein turnover is not unlike the regenerative properties of a forest fire. Balance is the key. Catabolism of protein molecules that are old or damaged is great; it clears the dead wood and repurposes those nutrients for healthy new growth. However, when your body doesn’t have enough amino acids to build with, unlike a forest it will start chopping down healthy molecules to meet the production demand of new lean muscle mass. This is why the timing of protein supplements like BCAAs is important.

That being said, it should be noted that an abundance of BCAAs without the rest of the nine essential amino acids will not effectively prevent unnecessary catabolism. Think of building new muscle like building furniture (perhaps with wood from the above-mentioned forest metaphor): the BCAAs are the different cuts of wood for the frame, but without cushions, fabric, springs, wood glue, nails, and screws, would you have a new couch, or just an overabundance of wood?

For this reason, we suggest taking BCAAs as part of a balanced formula of all the EAAs, because if the body lacks any one ingredient, it will burn down your hard-earned muscle tissue to take it.

Still don’t believe us? While studies on BCAA supplementation confirm that they boost muscle protein synthesis much better than a placebo, that boost is still 50% lower than the boost seen in studies with whey protein, which contains some measure of all nine essential amino acids. Taking anything less than all the EAAs is scientifically considered suboptimal, an important aspect to keep in mind when selecting the most robust and effective protein powder for your muscle-building workout.

Counterbalancing Catabolism

When to Take BCAAs

If you’ve decided BCAAs are what’s missing from your workout routine, the question still remains: when is the best time to take protein for optimal exercise performance, body fat loss, and muscle growth? The quick answers are:

  • Pre-workout: Always, for everything. To make sure you have the supplies on-hand for the vigors of your workout, take between 5 and 10 grams (depending on your body weight) of amino acids within half an hour before your workout. This helps boost your energy, endurance, and muscle recovery speed.
  • During workout: For resistance exercise and longer workouts, another dose of BCAAs can help see you through to the end and keep your muscles in A+ anabolic territory.
  • Post-workout: Across the board, yes again. While timing may vary, consuming more protein in the form of amino acids after any workout contributes to the rebuilding efforts of your muscles.
  • Before bed: This one is for bodybuilders in particular. Consuming complex proteins your body can digest while sleeping helps prevent catabolism while you rest.

The more fat burning and bodybuilding you do, the more nutrients you will need from both whole food sources and amino acid supplements. This could mean supplementing with meals or between meals multiple times a day depending on your body, your body goals, and your workout regimen. When it comes to sports nutrition, fitness professionals, athletes, or those undergoing rigorous training periods may need to consume anywhere between 15 and 20 grams of BCAAs along with other proteins each day, far more than those who are working out a handful of times or fewer per week to stay in shape throughout their daily lives.

When to take BCAAs for muscle building?

Boosting with BCAAs

The amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine are the core components of BCAA supplements, and while their effectiveness is proven in the areas of fitness and muscle building, it’s also known that BCAA powders or supplements alone underperform when compared to more comprehensive EAA supplements and proteins. Take your BCAAs, but take them alongside the rest of their essential team for optimal results.

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.

Amino Acids for Pregnancy

Amino acids for pregnancy and optimal fetal development, plus their dietary sources. If you’re eating for two, make sure you’re getting these vital protein-building aminos.

There are many nutrients you need more of when pregnant—folic acid, calcium, iron, etc.—because a whole new human being is being built from scratch: head, shoulders, knees, and toes. To build the body tissue and musculature of a brand new baby, pregnant women also need a lot of extra protein, including the amino acids contained within protein foods. Which amino acids for pregnancy should you be consuming, and where can they be found? The following article has the answers you’re looking for.

Maternal Nutrition Needs

Here’s a quick rundown of the extra nutrients needed during any common pregnancy and where to find them.

1. Folic Acid

Folic acid is included in prenatal vitamins for a reason: this B vitamin is necessary for preventing brain and spinal birth defects known as neural tube defects, and possibly heart defects and cleft palates as well. While you’ll need to supplement with folic acid before and during pregnancy, there are fortified and enriched food sources of it too. Folic acid can be found in:

  • Beans and lentils
  • Breads
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Cornmeal and corn masa products (tortillas, taco shells, and pupusas)
  • Flour
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Orange juice
  • Pasta
  • White rice

2. Iron

Iron is the mineral used to make hemoglobin, which is the protein needed to carry oxygen throughout your body. Not only do you require more iron for the blood you’re supplying to your growing baby, but you also need enough iron so that the baby can build a blood supply of his or her own. Iron can be found in:

  • Beans, nuts, and dried fruits like raisins
  • Certain cereals, breads, and pastas
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Poultry, lean meat, and seafood

You may also want to consume more vitamin C (easily found in colorful citrus fruits), because vitamin C helps your body absorb the iron you consume, which could then help prevent anemia and low birthweight.

3. Calcium

Calcium is the mineral that helps build a brand new skeleton, and without a sufficient amount in your diet, your body will start dissolving your own bones to get the calcium it needs for your baby. That could lead to osteoporosis later in life, so an abundant supply of calcium is definitely required during pregnancy. You can find calcium in:

  • Broccoli
  • Dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt
  • Kale
  • Orange juice (if calcium has been added)

4. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is another aid in absorption, this time for calcium uptake. It’s also important for proper immune functioning and for developing your baby’s muscles, nerves, and teeth. You can find vitamin D in:

  • Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, and mackerel)
  • Vitamin D-enriched milk or cereal

5. DHA

DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, is an omega-3 fatty acid critical for brain and eye development. If your prenatal vitamin does not contain DHA, ask your health care provider how best to supplement with it, and be sure to eat plenty of:

  • Low mercury fish (salmon, herring, halibut, trout, and anchovies)
  • DHA-enriched eggs
  • Fortified beverages (orange juice and milk)

6. Iodine

Iodine is important for synthesizing hormones and forming your baby’s nervous system (the spinal cord, nerves, and brain). Again, iodine isn’t always included in prenatal vitamins, so be sure to eat plenty of:

  • Dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese
  • Enriched and fortified foods
  • Fish
  • Iodized salt

All of these nutrients play important roles in the development of a healthy baby, and certain amino acids are needed too.

Amino acids for a healthy pregnancy.

Amino Acids for Pregnancy

The essential amino acids are the building blocks for new muscle growth in the body and vital nutrients for both mom and baby. The only way to get essential amino acids (including the branched-chain amino acids regularly consumed by bodybuilders) is to eat them, either via food or dietary supplement.

Your body can synthesize nonessential amino acids in-house and appreciates the extra nonessentials it gets from outside sources, but you may need more of them throughout the duration of a healthy, normal pregnancy. Which amino acids are the most important during pregnancy? Here they are, along with why they matter.

The Essentials

These essential amino acids are needed for protein synthesis and the health, development, growth, and survival of your baby.

Threonine

There are very few in-depth human studies on the amino acids required during human pregnancy. However, using an animal model of pigs to determine which amino acids are needed during each trimester of pregnancy, researchers have found that higher amounts of threonine are required during the first and third trimesters.

When pregnant, the mother’s dietary protein intake needs to increase, resulting in the metabolism of amino acids into her and the baby’s systems. A higher protein requirement is critical for fetal growth and development, and threonine specifically is necessary for forming tooth enamel, collagen, and elastin, important for supple skin, hair, and joints. Threonine can be found in:

  • Beans and lentils
  • Chicken and turkey
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Pork
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Lean beef and lamb
  • Salmon
  • Shellfish
  • Soy foods

Lysine

Lysine is an essential amino needed for building muscle, repairing tissue, regulating enzymes and hormones, and maintaining bone strength. Lysine can be consumed by eating:

  • Eggs
  • Fenugreek seed
  • Fish (like cod and sardines)
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Red meat, pork, and poultry
  • Soy products
  • Spirulina

Isoleucine

This branched-chain amino acid is an isolated version of another branched-chain amino acid, leucine. Isoleucine is used in hormone production, wound healing, and blood sugar regulation, and also helps control energy levels in muscle tissue. Isoleucine can be consumed via:

  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Lentils
  • Meat, fish, and poultry
  • Nuts and seeds

Tryptophan

Tryptophan plays one of its most important roles in the proper growth of newborn infants, and in utero as well. Tryptophan is also needed for regulating melatonin (for a healthy wake-sleep cycle) and for synthesizing serotonin (the “happy” hormone), so mother will appreciate having a good supply of it too. Get your tryptophan from:

  • Chicken
  • Cottage cheese
  • Turkey
  • Wheat germ

The Nonessentials

These nonessential amino acids help regulate immunity, gene expression, antioxidant responses, and neurological function during pregnancy.

Glutamine

The most abundant free amino acid in the body, glutamine is needed for gut functioning, immune support, wound healing, and cell energy fuel. Glutamine foods include:

  • Beans
  • Cabbage
  • Eggs
  • Meat
  • Milk
  • Nuts
  • Seafood

Glutamate

Glutamate is a neurotransmitter needed for sending signals between our nerve cells and is important in learning and memory. Glutamate can be found in:

  • Broccoli
  • Cured meats and cheeses
  • Grape juice
  • Fish sauce
  • Mushrooms
  • Peas
  • Ripe tomatoes
  • Soy products
  • Walnuts

Arginine

Arginine (also known as L-arginine) becomes nitric oxide in the body, which helps our blood vessels relax and open up, improving blood flow and circulation. Arginine can be found in:

  • Legumes
  • Meat
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Seaweed

Protein and Pregnancy

The protein turnover in early pregnancy has been found to be similar in pregnant and non-pregnant women, but a 15% and 25% absolute increase in protein synthesis happens in late pregnancy, during the second and third trimesters. Multiple studies have shown that increased protein intake during pregnancy results in a risk reduction for small-for-gestational age infants, meaning that protein may prevent intrauterine growth restriction and help build up the baby’s body weight. Amino acid transport and uptake are interrupted in cases of intrauterine growth restriction, and put the baby at risk of low birthweight and growth retardation.

The above-mentioned amino acids are low during pregnancy, as they are being put to greater usage. High-protein foods could help replenish them and go far in ensuring a healthy pregnancy and steady growth and weight gain for the baby, according to the American Pregnancy Association.

Eating for Two

Low protein intake during pregnancy could be detrimental to the process, but so could an imbalanced amino acid intake. All of the amino acids are needed at some stage of pregnancy, with the above-listed aminos being the more critical ones during the late stages of pregnancy when the baby’s body weight is growing rapidly. For this reason researchers insist that “amino acid intake recommendations during pregnancy should be gestational stage–specific,” so consult with your doctor before taking any sort of supplement or vitamin to make sure that it’s appropriate for the baby’s stage of growth. Other than that be sure to eat well, as a healthy diet should help you get everything you and your baby need.

The Best Amino Acids for Energy

Which aminos help with energy production, muscle building, weight loss, sleep cycles, and more? Find out the difference between nonessential and essential amino acid supplements, plus the science behind how they work in the body.

When people supplement with amino acids, they’re usually looking for some very key boosts: muscle building, weight loss, and energy. Whether it’s energy to get through a workout or bodybuilding session at the gym, or energy that carries you through your daily activities (of which greater muscle strength and less body fat also help), amino acids are effective supplements for improving your health and physical performance. But which are the best amino acids for energy? Let’s explore some of the options.

The best amino acids for energy.

The Best Amino Acids for Energy

Here are some of the amino acids that have been proven to help increase energy, decrease muscle fatigue, and improve athletic performance.

1. Citrulline

Citrulline is a nonessential amino acid, meaning it is naturally produced in your body. However, people often supplement with citrulline to boost their exercise performance, mostly because one of citrulline’s uses is to increase blood flow to your body and muscle tissues. Citrulline does this by revving up your body’s production of nitric oxide, a vasodilator that relaxes the blood vessels and opens them up, allowing more oxygen and other nutrients to move through the body faster, thereby increasing energy and stamina.

This 2015 study found that taking citrulline supplements allowed cyclists to bike 12% longer than the placebo group, while this 2010 study showed that taking citrulline increased the amount of reps bodybuilders could do by 53% over the control group.

Citrulline is also known to help reduce muscles soreness and appears to be totally safe for use, with no adverse side effects reported up to 15 grams.

2. Beta-Alanine

Beta-alanine is another nonessential amino acid that improves muscular endurance, enhances anaerobic exercise capacity, and reduces muscle fatigue. Beta-alanine helps combat the acid buildup in your muscles during intense exercise (especially short bursts of energy like sprints or a single strength-training session). Increasing levels of beta-alanine could help improve your physical performance and prolong your endurance.

A brief yet effective pre-workout supplement, the one reported side effect of beta-alanine supplementation is a feeling of tingling skin if taken in high doses.

3. Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)

The branched-chain amino acids are three of the nine essential amino acids: valine, leucine, and isoleucine. BCAAs are so-called because their chemical structures involve branching chains of molecules. Naturally found in high-protein foods like meat, fish, eggs, and plant sources of protein like beans and legumes, BCAAs and the other essential aminos are substances your body needs to consume, if not by food then by supplement.

Many athletes, bodybuilders, and fitness-minded folk will take BCAA capsules or powders to help enhance their workouts because these particular amino acids make up over 30% of our muscle protein. BCAA supplements have been studied and scientifically proven to help improve running endurance, reduce both physical and mental fatigue, and diminish muscle soreness after activities like running and weight training.

The only problem with BCAAs is that they are only a third of the nine essential amino acids needed to create new muscle, and that excessive amounts of BCAA powders taken without the other six essential aminos can lead to counterproductive catabolism—basically the cannibalizing of your muscle tissue to access those other amino acids. Not only does catabolism reduce your lean muscle mass, but it also damages your energy levels, because you’re wasting energy on destructive metabolism instead of the virtuous cycle of only using energy to build, repair, and maintain muscle growth.

4. Essential Amino Acids (EAAs)

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein in your body, and the essential amino acids are the ones you need to import from outside the body, because they cannot be synthesized within. EAA supplements contain not only the three branched-chain amino acids, but the other six as well: histidine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, and tryptophan. They help with everything from hormone creation, immune support, muscle building, metabolism regulation, and energy transport. Here are some of the most vital roles each essential amino plays in your body.

  • Valine: A branched-chain amino that stimulates the growth of new muscle and is actively involved in energy production.
  • Leucine: This branched-chain amino acid is used in both new protein synthesis, muscle repair, wound healing, blood sugar regulation, and the production of growth hormones.
  • Isoleucine: The final branched-chain amino, this isolated form of leucine (hence the name) is heavily concentrated in your muscle tissue where it aids muscle metabolism and energy regulation.
  • Histidine: This neurotransmitter is used to create histamine and is needed in digestion, sexual function, immune response, and for regulating your sleep-wake cycle (circadian rhythm).
  • Lysine: Used in hormone and enzyme synthesis, lysine also plays a major role in new protein creation, energy production, and the generation of elastin and collagen (which keep our joints, skin, and hair supple, making lysine one of the amino acids for anti-aging).
  • Methionine: This amino is important for tissue growth, zinc absorption, detoxification, and metabolism.
  • Phenylalanine: Precursor to the neurotransmitters dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, this amino also helps produce the other nonessential amino acids.
  • Threonine: Another contributor to elastin and collagen for anti-aging, threonine also aids in fat metabolism for energy usage.
  • Tryptophan: Most often thought of as the chemical in turkey which makes you sleepy, tryptophan regulates sleep, mood, appetite, and is needed to create serotonin (the “happy hormone”).

As you can see, all the essential amino acids are needed to build muscles and produce the fuel needed to use them, making each and every one an important amino acid for energy. The best supplements for improved energy should come with a whole host of EAAs.

The Energy Enhancement of Essential Amino Acids

Energy creation and expenditure is a cycle in the human body, requiring not only the generation of energy from food and body fat, but also the use of it to build and strengthen our muscles. Here is how supplementing with essential amino acids contributes to each aspect of the energy cycle.

Improve Exercise Performance

The branched-chain amino acids have been extensively studied to show they increase physical performance and reduce energy fatigue. A recent 2017 study found that BCAAs significantly improved muscle recovery and decreased the muscle soreness experienced by athletes over the placebo group in a 16-person trial. A 2017 review of eight other studies found that BCAAs across the board helped to promote muscle recovery and reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

Even leucine alone has shown an ability to increase strength performance in untrained, non-athletic men (although this increase is greatly limited by the availability of all the other EAAs)—that means amino acid supplements are a great place to start for those who are new to fitness.

Prevent Muscle Loss

When working out and when getting older, we lose muscle mass to other needs in the body. Though BCAAs alone cannot definitively preserve your muscle, and BCAAs without a balanced amount of the other essential aminos might cause catabolism as they seek the other ingredients they need to synthesize new protein, a more thorough amount of the essential amino acids have been shown to preserve muscle mass and prevent muscle breakdown.

This 2009 study of older adults who were on bed rest and susceptible to muscle atrophy demonstrated that 15 grams of EAAs helped maintain muscle protein synthesis, while the placebo group’s muscle synthesis decreased by 30%. Another 2009 study found equivalent results in older women who were able to preserve and even increase lean body mass with supplemental EAAs. When talking about amino acids for anti-aging, preventing age-related muscle wasting is a huge area of importance.

Promote Weight Loss

EAAs can be effective in stimulating fat loss, significantly decreasing the percentage of body fat in men over an 8-week study (the same effects have been shown in animal studies). While fat is, in a sense, a fuel source (the principle behind the ketogenic diet for example is to train the body to burn fat for energy almost exclusively), an excessive amount of fat, especially around your midsection, is not only dangerous to your cardiovascular health, but it’s also a lot more cumbersome weight to carry throughout your day, requiring extra energy that could be better spent. EAA supplementation can lead to better metabolism performance, greater muscle mass, and lower body fat all at once.

Amino Energizer

The best amino acid supplements should contain all the essential amino acids relevant to building muscle, producing energy, and losing excessive weight. The health benefits derived from the right aminos go beyond sports nutrition and into the realm of optimum nutrition for your longevity and quality of life. Check out Amino Co.’s own blend of balanced essential amino acids to see if it doesn’t boost your energy levels, your fitness performance, and your overall well-being.

How to Get the Best Amino Acids for Muscle Growth

Discover the important differences between BCAAs and EAAs for athletic performance, including the best amino acids for muscle growth, workout recovery, plus improved sleep, mood, energy, and fat metabolism.

Muscle protein turnover is a constant state of activity: repairing, replacing, and rebuilding every day. This is true for everyone, though for those who work out or do strenuous labor regularly, the rate is even faster. It’s also true that as we age, this process slows down, meaning the more we do and the older we get, the more support we need to maintain and grow our muscles. Those who hit the gym frequently have probably heard about amino acid supplements, but which are the best amino acids for muscle growth? Branched-chain aminos? The ones in creatine or whey protein? This article has the rundown on the amino acids responsible for muscle synthesis, and advice on how to get all the relevant amino acids for new muscle growth.

Branched-Chain vs. Essential Amino Acids

Branched-chain amino acid supplements (or BCAAs) are incredibly popular workout supplements among athletes and bodybuilders for their purported muscle-building abilities, but BCAAs are only a third of the essential amino acids (EAAs) needed to create new muscle. Here are the important differences when it comes to amino acids for working out.

Branched-Chain Amino Acids

BCAAs are taken as supplements to increase muscle gain, improve muscle recovery, and boost athletic performance. However, it’s a little more nuanced than that on the molecular level.

Branched-chain aminos are so-called because of their chemical structures, the branching chains of their chemical bonds. They are valine, leucine, and isoleucine, and they do indeed play vital and irreplaceable roles in muscle building.

BCAAs are metabolized in your muscles, not via the liver, which means they hit your bloodstream fast when you consume a BCAA supplement, and are especially useful for workout energy. Scientific studies show a link between BCAA consumption and improved glycogen energy storage, decreased workout fatigue, and greater muscle mass. So…what could possibly be the drawback?

The Issue with BCAA Supplements

BCAAs cannot work alone. This meta-analysis of the relevant research done over 30 years (between 1985-2017) found that there are no human studies that show BCAAs working independently to improve athletic performance or increase protein synthesis. While they definitely play a role in new muscle growth, they are not the magic bullet that many fitness enthusiasts are led to believe. How can that be so?

Well, the meta-analysis referenced above highlighted two distinct studies that both showed BCAA supplementation can actually decrease muscle protein synthesis when they are overabundant. As mentioned previously, it takes all nine of the essential amino acids to create new muscle, and without a sufficient amount of every EAA, the excessive amount of BCAAs in the body may accelerate the catabolic rate of muscles (catabolism being a destructive metabolism, the very thing most bodybuilders take supplements to guard against).

In two of the studies profiled, muscle tissue was being broken down much faster than it was being repaired due to the fact that the overwhelming amount of BCAAs in the subjects were seeking to complete their job: achieve protein synthesis. To do this they cannibalized muscle tissue to derive the other six essential amino acids that could not be found quickly enough anywhere else. It’s sort of like the way certain parasites kill their hosts, even though it’s an illogical action: molecules and basic organisms aren’t thinking about the bigger picture, they have one purpose and will clear a path of destruction to complete it if necessary.

Long story short, BCAAs cannot create new muscle alone, without all the ingredients necessary for new protein synthesis, they can actually work against your goals.

Other BCAA Concerns

BCAAs only work to improve muscle growth in those who just so happen to have a sufficient amount of the other essential amino acids in their bloodstreams. Too many BCAAs taken as a solo supplement can have some other negative side effects.

  • A too-high dose of BCAAs can interrupt serotonin production: Serotonin is one of your happy hormones, part of the group of chemicals like dopamine and your endorphins that keep you from feelings of depression and anxiety (among others). Serotonin is synthesized from tryptophan, which uses the same carrier as BCAAs to reach the brain. With extra BCAAs clogging the brain bus, tryptophan uptake decreases, and serotonin production declines.
  • Increased amounts of BCAAs lead to B vitamin depletion: The metabolic requirements of utilizing extra BCAAs includes using several B vitamins, which then leads to a B vitamin shortage. B vitamins are needed for a multitude of other bodily functions, and a deficiency in B vitamins can interrupt hormone production, nervous system functioning, and digestion.
  • Excessive BCAA concentrations can lead to blood sugar and insulin issues: Increased levels of BCAAs may be a predictor of type 2 diabetes onset, and are linked to a higher risk of insulin resistance.

The best amino acids for muscle growth.

Essential Amino Acids

The positive promises of branched-chain amino acid supplements can still be had, so long as you get them in proper balance with the rest of the essential aminos. The best supplements for muscle growth will include all of the amino acids you can’t make yourself, which includes those treasured BCAAs.

Essential vs. Nonessential Amino Acids

Amino acids are known as the building blocks of protein in the body, and have everything to do with muscle gain and protein synthesis. They also have a firm hand in our hormone production, our enzyme creation, our cognitive functioning, and our metabolism.

There are 20 main amino acids in the human body, and while 11 of them can be synthesized in-house and are deemed nonessential, 9 of them are essential to consume from outside the body (like plant and animal protein sources: fish, eggs, beans, etc.). Those nine essential aminos are:

  1. Valine (BCAA): Aids in energy production and stimulates muscle regeneration.
  2. Isoleucine (BCAA): Prevents muscle breakdown and is important in energy regulation and immune system activity.
  3. Leucine (BCAA): Vital in blood sugar regulation, growth hormone synthesis, and protein synthesis.
  4. Lysine: One of the amino acids for joint pain due to its role in collagen, elastin, and our connective tissues.
  5. Methionine: Supports liver function, heart health, and the processing and elimination of body fat.
  6. PhenylalanineHelps synthesize dopamine and norepinephrine, providing antidepressant and pain-killing effects.
  7. ThreonineAnother player in connective tissue (like lysine) and fat metabolism (like methionine).
  8. Tryptophan: The precursor for serotonin, important for appetite, mood, and healthy sleep.
  9. HistidinePrecursor to carnosine, which reduces lactic acid buildup and helps relieve muscle soreness.

Each of the essential amino acids plays a role in either muscle building, fat burning, energy creation, or joint health, or all of the above. Don’t stop at BCAAs when supplementing. Get the full deck of essential amino acids to truly improve your workout and increase your muscle growth.

Get the Essentials for Muscle Growth

To reiterate: BCAAs aren’t bad, they just aren’t the full package that amino acid supplements have to offer. They can’t build muscle all on their own, and too many BCAAs without the rest of their EAA cohort can have counterproductive or even destructive effects on your health.

A full roster of essential amino acids can aid muscle repair, improve exercise recovery, help suppress your appetite (due to the EAAs which work in the brain to regulate satiety and hunger hormones), improve cognitive function, aid weight loss, enhance metabolic processes, and lead to better sleep.

With EAAs, your post-workout recovery improves alongside your body weight, blood flow, lean muscle mass, and muscle strength. Add a complete, well-balanced EAA supplement to your sports nutrition regimen to get the very best of everything.

What Is the Amino Diet?

Find out what the amino acid diet entails, which amino acids are included, how they function to help you lose weight, and whether there’s a better amino acid option out there.

Wondering what is the amino diet?

The amino diet is a weight-loss diet plan that operates on the principle that amino acid supplementation along with a healthy diet and exercise routine will help you shed pounds even faster and more effectively than healthy eating and exercise alone. This highly structured program is designed for those looking to lose weight quickly, for those hoping to achieve weight loss while keeping a vegetarian diet, and for those wanting to know exactly what they should eat and when every day. If this is the sort of weight-loss program that sounds good to you, read on for the details.

How Does the Amino Diet Work?

The liquid amino diet comes with an eyedropper full of amino acids, a diet guidebook, and a three-stage plan to follow to prime you for losing weight and keeping it off. It’s not only possible to follow this diet without consuming any meat (simply skip the meals that suggest meat and replace them with a non-meat protein option), but it’s also focused on low glycemic index foods, ideal for diabetics hoping to take control of their weight.

What is the amino acid diet?

What Is the Amino Diet and Its Phases?

While the eating plan for the amino diet is quite restrictive, the founder Dr. Humble Finsand ensured that you’d never feel hungry by allowing for up to five meals per day. In addition to an improved dietary intake, the weight-loss supplement at play here isn’t a diet pill as much as it’s insurance you’re getting enough amino acids.

Amino acids are important for, among other things, balancing hormones, building muscle, and managing weight. Following this diet’s three phases will help you control your blood sugar levels and burn fat quickly and safely. The phases are:

  • Phase 1: The initial step is the main weight-loss phase, lasting between 30-90 days. You’ll take the recommended amount of amino drops each day, and transition into clean eating, which involves a daily allotment of about 1,000 calories of lean protein, vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and some carbs.
  • Phase 2Discontinue taking the amino drops and increase your calorie intake up to 1,500. This is to prevent your body from entering starvation mode, which is characterized by weight gain because your body thinks it needs fat stored to protect against famine. More carbs and food varieties will be allowed during this phase.
  • Phase 3: This final phase turns the reins back over to you as you gradually increase your food variety (perhaps welcoming back your favorite natural sugars and starches), and maintain the weight loss you achieved by leading a healthy lifestyle. Should the weight return, you can begin the cycle again.

Note: the diet drops are only meant to be taken in Phase 1, though other supplements like fish oil and protein powders are recommended throughout.

The Pros and Cons of the Amino Diet

There are upsides and downsides to this diet that you may want to consider before trying it.

Pros

  • Low-glycemic foods: The amino diet is a low-glycemic diet, perfect for those with blood sugar concerns or diabetes.
  • No guesswork: The diet program is laid out very clearly in a book that provides 30 days’ worth of meals and food choices.
  • Vegetarian options: You can avoid eating meat by choosing the protein options and meals that don’t contain meat or fish.
  • No hunger: You can eat up to five meals a day with this plan and still expect to lose weight.
  • Aminos acids: You are provided with an amino acid supplement that will help ensure your nutrient balance.

Cons

  • Fewer choices: Some foods are eliminated entirely for this diet, and the limited range of food may become discouraging.
  • Costly plans: A 30-day plan can run up to $90, a 60-day plan goes up to about $140, and a 90-day plan can cost $180. Longer plans are needed depending on how much weight loss you pursue. Each plan comes with a guidebook, a 30-day meal plan, and amino acid appetite suppressants.
  • Extreme calorie deficits: The initial phase of this plan calls for extremely low calorie intake, which may not be advisable for everyone and can put the body into starvation mode if continued for too long. Consult your doctor before dramatically reducing your calorie intake.
  • Possible medication interactions: It’s important to make sure the drops will not affect any medication you’re currently taking, so be sure to seek medical advice before adding any dietary supplements to your daily intake.
  • Amino limits: The liquid amino acid diet only utilizes amino acid supplementation for the first phase, when essential amino acids are needed all the time. More than that, it only includes a limited amount of amino acids instead of a full roster of the essential amino acids.

What Amino Acids Are in the Liquid Amino Diet?

Along with phytolacca berry and other ingredients intended to aid weight loss, the amino acids contained in Dr. Finsand’s amino acid supplement bottle are L-arginine, L-carnitine, and L-ornithine, none of which are essential amino acids. Essential aminos are the ones your body cannot synthesize itself, meaning they need to be consumed in the proper amount each day for new muscle growth to take place.

  • L-arginine: This amino acid is converted into nitric oxide in the body, which allows your blood vessels to relax and open wider for better blood flow. L-arginine also acts as a stimulant for the release of insulin, growth hormone, and other important bodily substances.
  • L-carnitine: Red meat, chicken, fish, milk, beans, and avocado all contain carnitine, and while vegans may have to worry they’re not getting enough, because L-carnitine is a nonessential amino acid, most of us are able to produce enough L-carnitine naturally.
  • L-ornithine: This amino is used to remove waste from the body, and there is some research suggesting L-ornithine may help improve your energy levels.

Speaking of low energy levels, when it comes to amino acids for adrenal fatigue, getting the proper amounts of the essential amino acids can help boost your energy, bolster your immune system, and manage your weight.

Rapid Weight Loss and Fat Burning—What’s the Secret?

There are many diets that are designed to help you drop weight, especially dangerous belly fat. People will eat a Paleo diet, the ketogenic diet, or another 30-day designed diet like the Whole30 diet to try and drop weight quickly. How does the amino diet measure up?

Amino diet reviews show that it’s quite common for people to lose between 5-7 pounds in the first week, but those reviews may have less to do with amino supplementation and more to do with changing their diets to high-protein, low-carb foods and meals and substantially reducing calorie intake.

Likewise, the amino diet weight-loss plan also calls for exercise and offers consultation with health coaches. Eating well and getting regular exercise will help you lose body weight without supplementation, so there’s no secret there. However, the right supplements can indeed make the process quicker and easier.

Amino Acids for Weight Loss

If you’re looking to supplement with amino acids to lose weight and boost your exercise performance and muscle growth, you may want to look into products that offer a full host of the essential amino acids, rather than supplementing with the ones your body already produces.

We here at Amino Co. have a scientifically formulated essential amino acid supplement specifically designed to help you build muscle, lose weight, and improve your overall health and well-being, and we would recommend supplementation that is more complete than the amino acid diet drops. Again, talk to a trusted medical professional before adding any dietary supplement to your regimen, but when it comes to amino acid supplements, make sure you’re getting all the essentials you need.

Where to Find the Top Amino Acids for Hair Growth

Amino acids for hair growth: how do amino acids contribute to the protein in hair, and which foods contain the best aminos for strengthening hair and preventing baldness? This article has the answers.

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein in the body, and even outside our bodies protein is still a necessary ingredient. About 88% of our hair, for instance, is comprised of the protein keratin, and we cannot produce more of it without the proper balance of amino acids for hair growth.

Instead of trying to make your hair lustrous and thick with oils, conditioners, and other products that clog up your scalp, why not try working from the outside in? The following article provides the details for the top amino acids necessary for new and healthy hair growth, plus where to find these aminos in your dietary choices.

Why Amino Acids for Hair Growth?

When you think of your hair care routine, you don’t usually first think about your diet, but at the end of the day we are what we eat.

Amino acids are chemical compounds comprised of functional groups, carboxyl groups, and anime groups of molecules, and they are responsible for creating the protein that is about 1/5th of the average human body.

It takes 18 different amino acids to produce the keratin protein in our hair, and while some of these amino acids can be manufactured in-house by the body (nonessential amino acids), the rest of them we need to get from outside sources like food (essential amino acids). Let’s make sure you have enough amino acids for making keratin. First things first: which amino acids are required?

The top amino acids for hair growth.

Hair Structure

The structure of our hair has three distinct parts:

  • The medulla: This is the core of the hair shaft, made of a soft, oily substance.
  • The cuticle: A thin protective layer that contains the nourishment needed for hair growth, highly keratinized and made of layered scale-like cells that are about 60 x 6 micrometers in size.
  • The cortex: The main portion of hair, comprised of long chains of keratin that provide elasticity and suppleness. The cortex’s cells are bound by the lipids and proteins that make up an intercellular cement.

The Amino Acid Makeup of Keratin

Keratin is a family of proteins that make up significant portions of not only our hair, but also the topmost layer of our skin and nails as well. The 18 amino acids that make up keratin are:

Cysteic acid Aspartic acid
Arginine Serine
Glutamic acid Proline
Tyrosine Glycine
Alanine Cystine
Valine* Histidine*
Threonine* Methionine*
Isoleucine* Leucine*
Lysine* Phenylalanine*

The amino acids which have been starred are eight of our nine essential amino acids (every one but tryptophan), meaning it is essential that we consume them either in our foods or via an amino acid supplement. Not only are these essential aminos needed for hair, but they are also necessary for new muscle growth, hormone regulation, and the production of the red blood cells that carry oxygen and nutrients throughout our bodies (including to our hair follicles).

However, for hair growth, we’ll concentrate on the half of keratin’s amino acids that stimulate and encourage the follicles to grow. For the amino acids for hair loss, read (or skip) to the end of this article.

The Top 9 Amino Acids for Hair Growth and Where to Find Them

These are the top amino acids needed for hair growth, plus their food sources.

1. Cysteine

Cysteine belongs at the top of the list because it helps stimulate new hair growth and is an antioxidant that serves to protect against sun damage and other degrading radiation. Cysteine can treat alopecia, a condition in which whole clumps of hair fall off of the body in patches. Plus cysteine brings sulfur to our hair cells, which is necessary for strength and a supple texture.

Food Sources:

  • Wheat germ
  • Chicken
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Dairy products (yogurt, milk)

2. Cystine

Cystine is not the same as cysteine, though there is a reason their names are so similar. Cystine is a nonessential amino acid, so-called because it is made up of two bonded cysteine molecules by our bodies’ natural functioning. Cystine is also known to stimulate new hair growth and to prevent hair loss.

About 10-14% of our hair and skin is comprised of cystine, whose double-bonded cysteine molecules help provide structural strength to our hair shafts. Bonus: cystine is also important for immune system support.

Food Sources:

  • As cystine is constructed out of two cysteine molecules by our bodies, the food sources of cystine are the same as cysteine.

3. Proline

Proline is a nonessential amino acid that aids in collagen production, which plays a role both in the makeup of hair and in the preservation of muscle tissue.

Food Sources:

  • Eggs
  • Beans
  • Meat
  • Dairy products
  • Soybeans
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Asparagus
  • Legumes
  • Avocado

4. Methionine

This essential amino acid also provides the sulfur needed to guard against hair disorders, as well as powerful antioxidant abilities. A lipotropic, methionine breaks down and prevents fat accumulation in the bloodstream, making it valuable for cardiovascular health and for providing optimal blood flow to our scalps and hair follicles, important for healthy hair growth. Methionine also is required for synthesizing collagen needed for hair shaft strength.

Food Sources:

  • Brazil nuts
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Sesame seeds
  • Cereal grains

5. Lysine

Speaking of collagen, lysine aids in collagen formation and helps the body absorb calcium (for bone strength). Lysine also has the ability to inhibit 5-alpha reductase from creating DHT (dihydrotestosterone) out of testosterone, which is the central cause for androgenic alopecia (aka male pattern baldness).

Food Sources:

  • Red meat
  • Pork
  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Dairy products

6. Glutamine

Glutamine’s role in assisting new hair growth is to deliver the sulfur needed to synthesize cysteine at the scalp. It’s a small role but also one of the many steps that cannot be skipped in forming healthy hair.

Food Sources:

  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products
  • Nuts
  • Beans
  • Legumes
  • Spinach
  • Cabbage

7. Glycine

Glycine’s important role for hair is in collagen production, but it also helps aid our digestive functioning and the health of our central nervous systems, which means it helps prevent the hair loss potentially caused by nerve disorders.

Food Sources:

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Spinach
  • Cabbage
  • Beans
  • Soybeans
  • Dairy products
  • Bananas

8. Tyrosine

This nonessential amino provides coloration to our skin and hair and is used in the production of melanin. Not only that, tyrosine works to alleviate mood disorders like depression, anxiety, and insomnia, all stressors that could easily lead to hair loss and hair weakness.

Food Sources:

  • Almonds
  • Lima beans
  • Soybeans
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Fish

9. Arginine

Arginine is another big player in healthy hair growth, because it’s a precursor to nitric oxide. A healthy supply of nitric oxide is needed to boost blood supply to our scalps and to help our immune system’s defenses against autoimmune diseases, including those that can lead to baldness.

Food Sources:

  • Sesame seeds
  • Coconut
  • Hazelnuts
  • Cashews
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Fish
  • Wheat germ

Amino Acid Hair Treatment vs. Keratin Treatment

Now you know some of the dietary sources for the top amino acids needed for hair growth, but what about more concentrated proactive treatments? The amino acids for hair loss are methionine and cysteine, known to fight back against hair loss because they are sulfur suppliers, and when it comes to getting enough of these aminos the simplest way possible, many people consider using liquid amino acids for hair care.

One popular recipe, the Cherry Lola Treatment, calls for natural yogurt mixed with Braggs Amino Acids. With a little bit of baking soda added in, applying the mixture as a deep conditioner can lead to reduced frizz and damage repair.

Keratin treatments on the other hand (aka Brazilian blowouts) often involve a hair stylist/professional applying a chemical mixture of conditioner, keratin, and a formaldehyde-like substance to the hair before putting it under high heat to relax and smooth naturally textured hair. You’ll want to make sure your hair is strong enough to survive this harsh treatment, however, as brittle hair exposed to such chemicals and heat can easily become damaged.

A Mane of Aminos

For improved hair growth and follicle health, dietary aminos and even external amino acid conditioning treatments are safe, natural, nurturing ways to care for your hair’s keratin. With a few changes to your diet, amino acid supplementation, or amino acid applications, you can enrich and strengthen your hair without damaging it.

Soy Sauce Substitutes: Your Top 7 Options

Soy sauce substitutes: what condiment products can replace soy sauce, avoid allergens, and reduce your sodium intake? Are amino acids the perfect answer you’re looking for? They may just be!

Soy sauce is a staple of many Asian cuisines, and is often found in many a kitchen and refrigerator across the United States. As a dipping sauce, a marinade, a salad dressing, or various other forms of flavorings in soups and main courses, soy sauce seems irreplaceable. But what happens when soy sauce is detrimental to your health? The high sodium content of soy sauce can be prohibitive, as can the soy and often wheat contained in it for those who have soy allergies or a gluten sensitivity. What are your options for a soy sauce substitute then? This article details seven soy sauce alternatives, from Worcestershire sauce to Bragg Liquid Aminos. Read on to find the unique benefits of each.

Why Would You Need a Soy Sauce Substitute?

There are several reasons why you might need to replace soy sauce in your diet. It’s such a common condiment that many people refrigerate soy sauce alongside their ketchup and mustard without giving it a second thought, but as the main ingredient in soy sauce is of course soy, that can become a problem. Among children, 0.4% have a soy allergy, and though some may outgrow it, some of them do not. Many soy sauces also contain wheat, so those with gluten sensitivity or celiac’s disease must avoid them as well.

Apart from the allergen concern with soy sauce, there is also about 879 milligrams of sodium per 1 tablespoon of soy sauce. Too much sodium can impact your kidneys and your blood pressure, leading to cardiovascular issues like stiffening arteries, high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. Finding a low-sodium soy sauce substitute could be a great boon to your overall health, and may be vital for those who already have high blood pressure.

Top 7 soy sauce substitutes.

The Top 7 Soy Sauce Substitutes

Without further ado, here are the top seven soy sauce substitutes you can purchase or make at home, plus their unique benefits.

1. Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce

Originating from the city of Worcester in Worcestershire, England, this is the original Worcestershire sauce invented by the chemists John Wheeley Lea and William Perrins in 1837. Still produced in Worcestershire today, this umami-rich sauce is best known for its inclusion in Bloody Mary drinks and as a dipping sauce for steaks, but can also be used less traditionally in stir-fry veggies or to replace the normal uses of soy sauce.

Worcestershire sauce does not contain gluten or soy, and while the original recipe is much lower in sodium than soy sauce is (167 milligrams per tablespoon), it’s reduced-sodium recipe can do you even better, with only 135 milligrams of sodium per tablespoon.

2. Coconut Secret’s Coconut Aminos Sauce

Soy free, gluten free, and vegan, this soy sauce substitution comes from coconut sap, is fermented naturally, and then combined with sea salt for a natural whole foods product. Not only does it contain significantly less sodium than soy sauce (270 milligrams per tablespoon), but as a fermented product it also gives you the benefits of a probiotic, adding good gut bacteria to your intestinal environment. It contains 17 different essential and nonessential amino acids, including all nine of the essential building blocks needed for protein synthesis and new muscle growth. Non-GMO and with no MSG, this is a strong contender for replacing soy sauce.

The only downside to coconut aminos is their availability and cost, and the reports that people detect a sweetness in taste not commonly associated with traditional soy sauce.

3. Ohsawa White Nama Shoyu Sauce

This is a Japanese sauce made from distilled sake, wheat, and sea salt, which gives it a thick texture (though clearly precludes its use by those with a gluten sensitivity or allergy). It has a honey-like golden appearance and is reportedly fruity-smelling and sweeter than the soy sauce you’re used to.

Shōyu is Japanese for “soy sauce,” and yet it is a soy-free product. However, its sodium content is higher than that of soy sauce at 966 milligrams per tablespoon, so while it’s a soy-free alternative to traditional soy sauce, it may not be the best fit for your needs overall.

4. Red Boat Fish Sauce

Made from wild-caught anchovies from the Gulf of Thailand, this fish sauce has zero soy bean proteins and is a gluten-free product. On the allergen front it’s an excellent alternative to soy sauce, but not so much for sodium. With a whopping 4470 milligrams per tablespoon, if you’re avoiding soy sauce because of its salt content, you’ll have to avoid this fish sauce as well.

5. MAGGI Asian Seasoning Sauce

This sauce may contain soy, most certainly contains wheat, and has about 1850 milligrams of sodium per tablespoon. Why is it on this list? Well, it’s still a flavor alternative to soy sauce that can be used in much the same way in Asian dishes and as a marinade, though it won’t serve as an alternative in the areas of food allergies or sodium content.

6. Bragg Liquid Aminos

One of the better-known soy sauce substitutes on the market, when it comes to Bragg amino acids vs. soy sauce, the liquid aminos benefits really shine through. Though it has 960 milligrams of sodium per tablespoon, Bragg’s amino acids benefits include eight out of the nine essential amino acids required for new muscle growth (histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, and valine—all but tryptophan which you could get if you used this sauce on some turkey), plus eight more nonessential aminos on top.

While Bragg Liquid Aminos does contain soy, it’s made using no chemicals, no artificial coloring, no alcohol, and no preservatives. It’s also non-GMO and gluten free.

7. Homemade Soy Sauce Alternatives

The best way to know what you’re eating and the exact measure of salt is to make your own homemade sauces, and there are many ways to replace soy sauce with creative recipes.

  • This recipe from Melissa Joulwan’s Well Fed food blog combines blackstrap molasses, beef broth, cider vinegar, and an optional addition of fish sauce like the above-mentioned Red Boat’s for flavoring.
  • Katie Wells’ Wellness Mama recipe also uses beef stock, fish sauce, and traditional molasses, but with the tangy addition of balsamic vinegar and red wine vinegar as well.
  • For those who need a vegan option, this soy sauce substitute recipe from Teenuja and Kevin of the Veganlovlie blog includes blackstrap molasses, fenugreek seeds, and vegetable bouillon to mimic the flavor of soy sauce.

Soy-Free Soy Sauce

If regular soy sauce has lost its magic, or if you need a soy sauce alternative for your health, these soy sauce substitutes are only some of the many options available. When shopping around be sure to check the nutrition facts for sodium content and allergen warnings, browse for alternative condiments like Japanese teriyaki sauce, and know that even if you have to say goodbye to soy sauce, you don’t have to miss the real thing if you find your perfect alternative sauce.