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.

The Balance Between Muscle Anabolism and Muscle Catabolism

Your muscle mass is dependent on the balance between anabolic and catabolic processes. Find out how they work together, and what nutrients will set you up for success.

The life cycle of a forest involves both creation and destruction. From the ashes of a forest fire come new blooms, just as decaying fallen trees enrich the soil for future growth. Your body operates the same way on a molecular level: your muscles break down and rebuild all the time. Both of these processes are forms of metabolism, genesis, and digestion. To find out the difference between muscle anabolism and muscle catabolism, read on for definitive answers and an explanation of how they work together to keep you strong.

Muscle anabolism vs. muscle catabolism in bodybuilding.

Metabolism Defined

Metabolism in the simplest terms is defined as the chemical processes that take place inside living organisms in order to maintain life. Included under this umbrella are the processes of anabolism and catabolism, one that builds up and one that breaks down. These chemical changes are happening in your body simultaneously all the time.

  • Anabolism: This form of metabolism involves the organization, building, and synthesizing of new complex molecules. During anabolism, smaller molecular compounds are linked together to form greater ones, as in the process of gluconeogenesis, which is the production of glucose derived from a non-carbohydrate source.
  • Catabolism: This is also known as “destructive metabolism,” the process by which molecules are broken down for use as energy, often leaving cell debris in its wake. An example of catabolism is glycolysis, the breakdown of glucose molecules in order to release their energy, a process that’s almost the direct inverse of gluconeogenesis.

Between these two undertakings is the process by which we burn fat (adipose tissue) for fuel, and then build muscle with that energy. Understanding this balance will help you better utilize muscle protein anabolism during exercise and throughout the day and night, because your metabolism doesn’t stop, even when you go to sleep.

The Balance Between Muscle Anabolism and Muscle Catabolism

Muscle catabolism is one of the dreaded concerns plaguing bodybuilders as they seek to bulk up their skeletal muscles (the muscles attached directly to our bones, as opposed to the muscles that pump our hearts and squeeze along our digestion). The goal in muscle building is to promote muscle protein synthesis and keep catabolism busy breaking down any other energy source that is not muscle: break down sugar for glucose energy, fat for ketone bodies, but please don’t run out and come for the muscles.

What follows are explanations of the key players in muscle anabolism and how best to keep your catabolic processes from cannibalizing the muscles you seek to build.

Hormones

Both anabolism and catabolism trade in hormones, though they each require different ones.

  • Anabolic hormones: The hormones estrogen, testosterone, insulin, and certain growth factors all play a role in building new molecular structures, including muscle proteins.
  • Catabolic hormones: In order to break down fuel sources, catabolism needs cortisol (the stress hormone), adrenaline, glucagon, and cytokines.

A disruption of your hormones could affect your muscle protein metabolism, particularly issues with the thyroid gland, as that is where our hormones are produced, stored, and dispatched to where they’re needed in the body.

Nutrition

Muscle anabolism and muscle catabolism cannot be reasoned with: one knows its job is to build, the other knows its job is to supply. If you’re hitting the gym hoping to build muscle, you need to be cognizant of your energy supplies to avoid a “one step forward, two steps back” conundrum between these two forms of metabolism.

For example, in 2010 researchers examined the anabolic-catabolic balance of male bodybuilders during competition training and found that the group who restricted their energy intake in an effort to burn body fat had a significant decrease in both their body fat and their muscle mass compared to the control group. The men exhibited decreases in their insulin levels, their growth hormone levels, and their testosterone levels too, leading researchers to conclude that their anabolic response pathways were compromised due to the lack of sufficient energy sources. They suggested other nutritional substances were needed beyond just high protein ingestion.

While catabolism is always at work somewhere, from a workout standpoint if you’re in an anabolic state you’re both building and (just as importantly) maintaining your muscle mass, whereas if you’re in a catabolic state, you’re losing muscle mass along with fat. How to balance the two? Nutrition.

The foods you eat pre- and post-exercise are the fuel sources that can keep catabolic processes working for you and not against you. Just as certain athletes will carbo-load before a big game or race to ensure they have complex molecules to supply longer durations of energy, the proper amount of muscle-building nutrients at the right times and concentrations helps optimize your resistance-training workout and the synthesis of new skeletal muscle protein.

Balance

You may have heard the phrase “you can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs,” and that idea applies to the muscle protein turnover involved in bodybuilding. While you are creating new body mass, older muscle proteins that are no longer working at optimum levels will be recycled and replaced in a catabolic-anabolic cycle.

It’s the balance between protein synthesis and breakdown that dictates whether you’ve got muscle growth or muscle wasting (an especial danger for older adults). Muscle protein breakdown needs to be met with the right kind of energy and protein intake to replace it, and that’s where amino acid ingestion comes in.

Amino Acids for Muscle Anabolism

Under the expert guidance of amino-acid researcher Dr. Robert Wolfe, the Amino Co. has developed an amino acid supplementation formula to help build skeletal muscle mass with the correct balance of essential amino acids needed to synthesize new muscle growth in the first place.

As was seen in the above-linked study on bodybuilders, protein intake alone is not enough to prevent human muscle mass from being catabolized for energy, disrupting the body composition of even trained competitors.

While many bodybuilders supplement with whey protein, casein, or branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), The Amino Co.’s formula has clinically informed levels of amino acid concentration to ensure not only muscle protein balance but also the energy needs required for a whole-body protein revolution.

The performance-focused formula includes:

The effects of leucine supplementation are particularly powerful when it comes to muscle anabolism, as free leucine is absorbed immediately after ingestion (postprandial). In a post-workout recovery drink it’s been shown to increase skeletal muscle hypertrophy and strength and may be useful in promoting human skeletal muscle growth safely in elderly individuals who are at risk of sarcopenia, the degenerative loss of skeletal muscle mass.

Break Down and Build Up

The response of muscle protein to the proper amount of amino acid nutrition and fitness is to grow and strengthen. Muscle mass maintenance is dictated by the give-and-take between anabolic and catabolic processes: the anabolic building that requires energy, and the catabolic breakdown that supplies it. Together they work to prune, repair, and replace spent cells with newer, stronger ones, and move your body’s composition to its optimal spot on the body mass index.

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.

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.

Amino Acid Pills vs. Powder: Which Is More Effective?

Amino acid pills vs. powdered supplements: why do you need amino acids, when do you need them, and which of these products works best? Discover the pros and cons of both delivery methods.

This article explores why you may need to take amino acid supplements, the difference between branched-chain amino acids and essential amino acids, plus the pros and cons of amino acid pills vs. powder supplements so you’ll know which one to choose for overall convenience and effectiveness.

Why Do You Need Amino Acids?

If you’re trying to lose weight or build muscle, amino acids could be the boost you’re waiting for. Why is that? Because while both can be accomplished with increased muscle mass, you cannot build muscle without all nine essential amino acids.

Your amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and protein is what you need for muscle growth. Essential amino acids (EAAs) are so-called because it’s essential that you ingest them—your body cannot make these amino acids on its own.

Your nine essential amino acids include: histidine, leucine, isoleucine, lysine, methionine, valine, phenylalanine, threonine, and tryptophan. Without the proper amount of each of one, you won’t get protein synthesis for new muscle no matter how hard you work out, because your body simply doesn’t have the ingredients. It’s sort of like trying to make a cake with everything but flour, or trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle with the corner and side pieces missing. You can try, but you won’t get the desired result no matter how much time and effort you put in.

The Difference Between EAAs, Branched-Chain Amino Acids, and Other Protein Supplements

Many protein powders and amino acid supplements contain handfuls of amino acids, often the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which are valine, leucine, and isoleucine. For example, creatine is a type of protein found in dietary protein (animal meats) and produced by some of your nonessential amino acids, while whey protein contains all EAAs in one amount or another (though not always the optimal amount of each).

Taking these products as dietary supplements pre-, during, or post-workouts can help prevent muscle soreness, boost muscle protein synthesis, and aid in muscle recovery. They can even help prevent muscle tissue loss while you sleep. The fitness-minded often use casein protein supplements for just that, due to its slow digestion rate (though amino acid supplementation prevents catabolism while you sleep just as well, if not better).

People take amino acid supplements to prevent muscle damage during workouts, to repair and build new muscle, and to keep the muscle gains they’ve made even as they sleep.

Amino Acid Pills or Powder: Which Works Best?

So much of sports nutrition is counting, measuring, weighing, and timing: wouldn’t a pill or capsule be so much easier? Think about it: pre-workout, just take a pill; post-workout, just take another pill! It sounds almost too good to be true, and by the end of this in-depth explanation, you may agree that is indeed the case.

Let’s talk about the difference between powdered and pill forms of these essential nutrients, and which one works better for athletic performance, weight loss, and muscle building.

Amino acid pills vs. powders.

The Pros and Cons of Pre-Workout Amino Acid Pills

When deciding between amino acid pills and powders, use this pros and cons cheatsheet.

Pros

The upsides to pill or capsule EAA supplements are easy to imagine: they’re as simple to transport as vitamins, can be taken with minimal (if any) water requirements, and involve zero mixing. They’re time-savers, they’re convenient, and they come pre-measured. What could go wrong?

Cons

One of the biggest cons: proper dosages. The amount of capsules, soft gels, or pills you would have to take pre-workout to meet the amounts of amino acids used in clinical studies might not be as convenient as you think, especially if you’re supplementing as a professional athlete or bodybuilder. You just can’t fit 25 grams of protein into a half-gram pill.

Another con: the digestion time. A capsule or tablet has be to be digested once consumed, and not only does that require time and energy, but it also means that whatever fillers or gelatin that’s keeping the pill together is also getting ingested, when all you really want are your essential amino acids.

During particularly high-intensity workouts, it’s helpful to take EAAs before, during, and after workouts in different amounts, and it’s hard to get the timing right if you’re ingesting pills instead of powder. Not only that, all the time spent measuring powder isn’t avoided if you have to keep doing math on the dosage amounts of pills.

Long story short: some substances work well in pill form, like caffeine, but not so much a full host of essential amino acids.

The Pros and Cons of Pre-Workout Amino Acid Powder

Pros

Amino acid powders, whether you’re using a complete EAA supplement or a medley of different protein supplements, are faster acting, longer lasting, and don’t involve swallowing large, hard objects. Amino acid powder products can give you anywhere from 10-30 grams of active ingredients in one serving, and puts them to work ASAP as soon as you ingest them.

Cons

Those supplement powder containers can be awfully big sometimes, so much so that there have actually been multiple class-action lawsuits filed against some companies based on the size of their containers being too big for the product itself, with consumers finding them half or even a third full. You can’t be carting a container big enough to be a drum to the gym and back every day, nor is it always convenient to blend up a shake just before leaving the office to go work out. It would be nice to get the EAAs that can step up your lean muscle mass in pill form, but…the pros and cons weigh more heavily in the direction of choosing powdered supplements over pills.

Take A Powder…Literally

At the end of the day, creatine, whey, weight-gain, EAA, and BCAA supplements simply don’t work well in pill form; you just need so much more than a pill or capsule can deliver in the right window of time. It’s less a question of personal preference than it is a basic math equation. The powdered forms of these amino acid supplements are superior when it comes to all the key points of effectiveness, though it is fun to dream of a day when you can get perfectly enhanced exercise performance from one little pill.

L-Phenylalanine: Weight-Loss Solution?

Discover the uses of L-phenylalanine for skin and mood disorders, as well as what it can do to help you achieve weight loss. We’re also covering the possible side effects of supplementation, and where to find phenylalanine from dietary sources.

If you’re looking for proven ways to support weight loss, you may have come across L-phenylalanine, an essential amino acid in your body that is important for muscle development and skin health. L-phenylalanine weight-loss studies are newer to the field, and people are naturally curious: how can L-phenylalanine help you lose weight? Read on to find out, along with its potential side effects and the natural food sources of L-phenylalanine.

What Is L-Phenylalanine?

Phenylalanine is an essential amino acid, and one of the building blocks of protein and the muscles in your body. Phenylalanine is considered “essential” because you need it to function, but your body cannot synthesize enough of it independently, so it must be consumed either from food or via phenylalanine supplementation.

There are two forms of phenylalanine, L-phenylalanine and D-phenylalanine. They are very nearly identical, but with slightly different structures. It’s the L-form molecule that is gained from foods and used to make new proteins in the body, while the D-form of phenylalanine may be used in various medical applications. L-phenylalanine can be found in both animal and plant sources of food.

Above the role phenylalanine plays in protein synthesis, it’s also important for producing other molecules in the body, several of which are important for signal transmission. Phenylalanine has also been the subject of clinical research on skin disorders (vitiligo), pain, and depression.

A note of caution: Phenylalanine is considered dangerous for those with phenylketonuria (PKU), a genetic disorder which causes phenylalanine levels to build up. For more information on possible side effects, skip to the end of this article.

Phenylalanine for Normal Functioning

Phenylalanine is principally needed for protein creation, and proteins are not just located in your muscles. Many proteins are at work in your blood, brain, and internal organs—basically all throughout your body. Even more valuable, phenylalanine is needed to make other important molecules, including:

  • Epinephrine and norepinephrine: These are the molecules that give you the “fight-or-flight” response to danger and stress.
  • TyrosineThis fellow amino acid directly results from phenylalanine, and is used to make protein or converted (if in excess) to the other molecules in this list.
  • DopamineThis molecule allows us to feel pleasure and happiness, and also plays a vital role in the development of our memory and learning skills. Basically every happy memory you have, you can thank dopamine for. 

Without proper functioning of these molecules, your health will be at risk, and phenylalanine is needed to make them. Not only that, medical application of phenylalanine can help treat specific medical conditions.

Phenylalanine for Certain Medical Conditions

Scientific studies have been performed to explore phenylalanine as a treatment for certain medical conditions. For instance, phenylalanine may help treat vitiligo, a skin condition that causes pigmentation loss and the appearance of blotchy patches on the body. Phenylalanine supplements have been studied in conjunction with ultraviolet (UV) light exposure to treat this pigmentation disorder.

Phenylalanine’s ability to produce dopamine has been applied to instances of depression, which is a mood disorder often associated with dopamine dysfunction. Both L- and D-forms of phenylalanine have been studied for treating depression. According to a study published in the Journal of Neural Transmission, of 12 participants with depression, two-thirds showed improvement after receiving a mixture of L- and D-phenylalanine.

Alongside vitiligo treatment and anti-depressant application, phenylalanine has also been studied for use in the following conditions.

  • Parkinson’s diseaseThere is evidence that phenylalanine could be beneficial in treating the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, though more research is required.
  • Alcohol withdrawalPhenylalanine, along with some fellow amino acids, has shown indications that it could be useful in treating alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
  • Chronic painD-phenylalanine may help with pain relief in certain instances (like low back pain), though so far research results are still spotty and not all of the studies produced results with statistical significance.

L-phenylalanine supplements for weight loss. Do they work?

L-Phenylalanine: Weight-Loss Applications

As a dietary supplement, L-phenylalanine may help with weight loss in a couple of ways. First the hormone cholecystokinin (CCK), which is stimulated by L-phenylalanine, may act as an appetite suppressant and thus lead to lower calorie consumption throughout the day. It’s been difficult so far for scientists to pin down whether the consumption of more L-phenylalanine will directly impact CCK production, but it is a weight-loss link that is being explored.

L-phenylalanine’s direct impact on dopamine via L-tyrosine’s weight-loss influence has more evidence to back it up. Because dopamine is responsible for feelings of pleasure (the kind you may get from eating your favorite dessert, for instance), regulating dopamine levels can be beneficial in the treatment of obesity. If L-phenylalanine can be used to keep your tyrosine and thus dopamine levels high while you go on a diet (and cut your usual dopamine supply), it may help reduce food cravings and lead to more sustainable weight loss.

Phenylalanine is also considered a ketogenic amino acid along with tryptophan, tyrosine, isoleucine, threonine, and lysine and leucine (which are exclusively ketogenic, as opposed to the glucogenic amino acids). Phenylalanine is a switch-hitter, and can operate both as a glucogenic (for synthesizing glucose, or sugar) or ketogenic (for synthesizing ketone bodies, or fat burners). Those looking to start a ketogenic diet to lose weight may find amino acid supplementation all the more useful in achieving fast and healthy weight loss.

Possible Side Effects of Phenylalanine Supplementation

It’s “generally recognized as safe” to take L-phenylalanine according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). And various studies suggest no adverse side effects reported for supplementation within 23–45 milligrams per pound of body weight. Still there are still some people who should not take L-phenylalanine.

Pregnant women are advised to avoid it, as are those with the disorder PKU who are genetically unable to properly process phenylalanine and usually are directed to eat a low-protein diet throughout their lives.

For otherwise healthy individuals, phenylalanine is still essential, and can easily be gained from eating foods high in phenylalanine. For those interested in taking it as a nutritional supplement, consult a health care professional for medical advice before adding it to your routine.

Foods High in Phenylalanine

For food sources of phenylalanine, you can choose from both animal and plant products.

  • Animal sources of phenylalanine: Eggs, certain meats like seafood (cod), and Parmesan cheese.
  • Plant sources of phenylalanine: Soy products, seaweed, nuts, and seeds (particularly squash and pumpkin seeds).

Eating a nutritious variety of protein-rich foods should effortlessly provide you with plenty of phenylalanine, as well as the other essential amino acids.

Phenomenal Phenylalanine

L-phenylalanine is the essential amino acid that can help regulate depression, pain, skin disorders, and weight loss if applied properly as a supplement. Otherwise gaining phenylalanine from a normal diet is essential for your overall health and well-being.

Amino Acid Powder: The Top 10 Benefits

Learn about the difference between BCAAs and EAAs, plus the top 10 health benefits of amino acid powders and when it’s best to take them for optimal workout performance. 

Amino acid powders are supplements taken much the same way as protein powders like creatine and whey protein. They are important to muscle building for a very simple reason: they are the bricks and mortar of your muscles, and without them your body cannot synthesize new muscle for repair or growth.

Many people are familiar with branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), used by bodybuilders and the fitness-minded alike, but BCAAs are only three of the nine essential amino acids (EAAs) required for muscle creation. For more on the difference between BCAA and EAA supplements, plus the benefits you can expect from supplementing with amino acids, read on.

Top 10 benefits of amino acid powders.

BCAAs vs. EAAs

The three BCAAs are valine, leucine, and isoleucine, and they make up about 35% of our muscle protein. They are isolated for supplementation because they reduce the amount of protein breakdown that occurs due to vigorous workouts, and they help preserve the muscle’s stores of glycogen, which is the muscles’ quickest energy source. Leucine is the big player among the three, and it’s also one of the main components of whey protein.

However, the reason people sometimes consume BCAAs instead of whey protein is because when these amino acids aren’t bound up with other components, they can digest and absorb faster, giving them a bigger impact as a workout supplement. The reason some people take complete EAA supplements over BCAAs is similar: you can’t increase your muscle mass without all nine of them, meaning that a full court of EAAs has an even greater positive impact on your fitness goals.

The essential amino acids include:

  • Phenylanine
  • Valine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Methionine
  • Histidine
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine

If you ever need a mnemonic device to remember them (taking a biology quiz maybe?), notice that in this order, the first letter of each essential amino acid spells out Pvt. T.M. Hill: good old private T.M. Hill can help you remember your EAAs, just as Roy G. Biv can help you remember the order of the colors in the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet).

Essential amino acids are so called because they’re needed in your body, but your body can’t create them itself, so it’s essential that you gain them by ingesting them.

Essential amino acids are indispensable, and there are six more amino acids that are considered conditionally essential—arginine, cysteine, glycine, glutamine, proline, and tyrosine. Their creation in the body isn’t always possible (like when we are infants). The rest of the amino acids are made in-house by your body.

The Top 10 Benefits of Amino Acid Powder

When your goal is to build lean muscle with your workouts, protein is key, and you can’t have protein without amino acids. Here are the best benefits you can expect from taking amino acid powder as a workout supplement.

1. Balanced Dosages

The great thing about getting your amino acids in powdered supplement form is the same perk you get when using meal replacement shakes for weight loss: it comes pre-measured, guaranteeing that you receive the proper ratio of amino acids every time. Even high-quality protein supplements don’t always take into account the ideal ratio of amino acids that are scientifically required for building new muscles, so when shopping for the right workout aid, be sure to purchase a comprehensive and balanced amino acid powder, one that has exactly what you need in precisely the right amounts.

2. Improved Muscle Growth

Leucine especially shines here, as it has been clinically shown to boost muscle protein synthesis after physical exercise. That window of post-workout recovery is when your muscles are wide open for material to rebuild the cells that were damaged during exercise, and create even more muscle in preparation for the next workout. For more on the best time to take amino acid powder, read (or skip!) to the end of this article.

3. Increased Endurance

Amino acid supplements alter the way your body uses fuel, namely by changing the way you burn carbs and fat. Athletes like sprinters who require short bursts of strong energy have to deal often with glycogen depletion from their muscles. There’s only so much glycogen your muscles can hold, and if you use it up too quickly, you’ll run into fatigue or exhaustion and will have to cut your workout short. With amino acid supplementation, however, glycogen stores are better protected, as was seen in this 2011 study involving 7 men who were put through a workout designed to sap their glycogen supply. Those given amino acids instead of a placebo had a 17.2% increase in how long it took them to hit the wall of exhaustion.

4. Better Fat Burning

Amino acids protect glycogen stores by burning fat instead of glycogen for fuel. Amino acids help to retrain your body’s metabolic processes. For instance, the amino acid L-carnitine has been shown to increase fat loss without any other changes being made to your diet or exercise routine. If you’re on a low-carb diet like the ketogenic diet, even better: your body will learn to access your fat stores for energy as much as possible, because it can’t get the quick energy from carbohydrate intake.

5. Reduced Fatigue

Piggybacking off the above-mentioned benefits, amino acids have the ability to prevent the mental fatigue that can accompany really long workouts. When your amino acids are low, such as during a grueling workout, your body works to produce more, specifically tryptophan. And when the amino acid tryptophan gets too low, its production leads to feelings of mental fatigue and tiredness (it’s why turkey is considered sleep-inducing—the tryptophan in the meat!). If you’re supplementing with the proper amount of amino acids, this process never has to begin, and thus there is no extra tryptophan running around making you feel depleted and tired.

6. Increased Focus

Without extra tryptophan making you soporific, your mental focus is able to sharpen. Amino acid supplements have been shown to boost your short-term memory and mental processing abilities, and so are particularly valuable in competitive sports or contests, when fast strategizing can help you win.

7. Muscle Sparing

When you workout, you’re causing little micro-tears in your muscles. It’s necessary damage, sort of like how you need to be exposed to viruses to develop an immunity to them (it’s the reasoning behind vaccines, which contain deactivated viral cells).

Usually the muscle damage is minimal, just enough to stimulate your body into sending resources to repair and then rebuild bigger, better, and stronger muscles than ever before. Sometimes, however, muscles are broken down out of desperation for energy. This is catabolism, a destructive form of metabolism, and those who work out hard, especially bodybuilders, know to guard against it.

During the day you can feed your body energy, but what is your body eating while you sleep? In some instances it resorts to cannibalizing itself in a sense, breaking down the muscle you’ve worked so hard to build. Amino acids can help prevent catabolism by protecting your muscle fibers from taking too much damage in the first place; plus you can supplement right before going to bed (but more on when to take amino acid powders below).

8. Improved Post-Workout Recovery

Free amino acids in an amino acid powder are quickly absorbed, which helps increase your muscle protein synthesis rate and shorten your post-workout recovery time. The muscle soreness that used to linger can be dispatched much quicker with proper amino acid supplementation. Quicker recoveries mean you can work out again sooner, putting you in a virtuous cycle (the opposite of a vicious cycle), where workout and recovery revolve around one another in beneficial harmony.

9. Reduced Muscle Soreness

Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) can be a real hinderance to your fitness goals, but because amino acids help protect your muscles better and rebuild them quicker, they’ve been scientifically shown to reduce muscle soreness.

10. Improved Athletic Performance

When you count up all the ways amino acid supplements aid you and your muscles, the finally tally shows that they improve your overall athletic performance in more ways than one. Smarter, better, faster, stronger: amino acid powders can help you be all of these things with just a few scoops a day.

When to Take Amino Acid Powder

The fourth edition of Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning states that our muscles are particularly receptive to amino acid supplements within the first 48 hours after a workout. Likewise a study published in Frontiers in Physiology asserts that 5.6 grams of just BCAAs ingested after strength training exercise leads to a 22% increase in muscle protein synthesis. Similarly the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition reminds us that you need a healthy supply of all the essential amino acids to stimulate muscle protein synthesis, which is why we recommend a comprehensive EAA blend when seeking to build muscle tissue.

A number of studies have shown that all nine EAAs play important roles in muscle growth and repair, and when it comes to the timing of when you should consume your essential amino acid powder supplement, you almost can’t go wrong: pre-workout, intra-workout, and post-workout, plus another helping before bed if you’re concerned about catabolism. While some forms of workout will require more or less supplementation regarding dosage amounts, pairing amino acid supplementation with a high-protein diet will have you covered.

The Amino Advantage

In your quest to build lean muscle mass through working out and eating right, consider adding a high-quality, gluten free, non-GMO amino acid powder like the one we offer here at Amino Co. Amino acid powders give you an extra advantage in all your workout and sporting goals.

Should You Supplement with the Amino Acid GABA?

Discover the science behind GABA supplements, what this neurotransmitter does, and whether or not it’s effective in treating stress, insomnia, high blood pressure, and anxiety disorders. 

Gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid that functions as a neurotransmitter in our brains. Low GABA levels are known to be associated with movement and anxiety disorders, so some people will take GABA supplements to help improve the function of their minds and central nervous systems. Read on to find out how GABA works, and whether or not it may be appropriate for you.

What Is GABA? How Does GABA Work? Where Can You Find It?

GABA is classified as an inhibitory neurotransmitter due to its ability to block certain signals in the brain. GABA decreases activity in the central nervous system and binds with proteins in the brain known as GABA receptors, which creates a calming effect that helps ameliorate feelings of fear, stress, and anxiety. GABA may also help prevent seizures.

Because of these abilities, GABA has become a popular dietary supplement.

For those who want to know how to increase GABA naturally, GABA is found in oolong, black, and green tea, and fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, kefir, and tempeh. GABA production can be boosted by other foods, including nuts like almonds and walnuts, seafood like halibut and shrimp, whole grains, soy, beans, sunflower seeds, spinach, broccoli, fava, tomatoes, citrus fruits, berries, and cocoa.

Who Should Take GABA Supplements?

The reason people take GABA supplements is to get better access to its calming influence on the brain. GABA supplements are thought to relieve stress, and in so doing improve your overall health, because excess stress can lead to a weakened immune system, poor sleep quality, and a higher risk for anxiety and depression. There are also some health conditions that are associated with lower levels of GABA, so if you have any of the following health concerns, then GABA supplementation may be good for you.

People may need more GABA if they have:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Depression
  • Hypertension
  • Insomnia
  • Panic disorders
  • Mood disorders
  • Movement disorders (including Parkinson’s disease)
  • Seizure disorders

Consult a qualified health care professional if you’re on any other medications for these conditions, and ask your doctor if GABA supplements could help manage some of the symptoms associated with these disorders. If you’re considering taking a GABA supplement, read on to find out how upping your intake of GABA affects your brain cells and may help improve your quality of life.

The science behind GABA supplements.

Are GABA Supplements Effective?

Even when supplementing with GABA, research suggests that only small amounts actually make it past the blood-brain barrier and reach your nerve cells. However, when it comes to some of the following uses of GABA, every little bit can count. Here is what the scientific research has to say about the effect of GABA on the human body.

GABA for Anxiety and Depression

This 2003 review on GABA usage for anxiety asserts that GABA is known to counterbalance the affect of the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate, and plays a role in multiple neurobiological interactions that are relevant to those with anxiety disorders. It supports the use of GABAergic agents in treating anxiety, as does this 2012 article on the GABA system in anxiety and depression cases, which also points out that certain GABAA receptor modulators and GABAB antagonists could serve as potential antidepressants.

GABA for Insomnia

One small study from 2018 tested GABA on participants with insomnia and found that 300 milligrams of GABA taken an hour before going to sleep resulted in reports of people falling asleep faster and noting improved sleep quality in the first 4 weeks after starting GABA treatment. Though there were only 40 participants, these results suggest that effects of GABA supplements in humans may beneficially impact sleep habits.

GABA for High Blood Pressure

There are many studies that have evaluated GABA-containing products and their effectiveness at lowering blood pressure. A 2003 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consuming fermented milk with GABA helped significantly lower blood pressure levels in participants with elevated blood pressure in 2-4 weeks (compared to the placebo group). And a 2009 study revealed that consuming a GABA-containing chlorella supplement 2 times a day lowered the blood pressure of subjects with borderline hypertension.

GABA for Stress and Fatigue

In 2011 Japanese researchers found that consuming a beverage with either 25 or 50 milligrams of GABA resulted in reduced measurements of physical and mental fatigue during problem-solving tasks, with the higher dose being slightly more effective.

A 2009 study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition showed that consuming chocolate containing 28 milligrams of GABA also reduced stress in participants as they performed a problem-solving test. Yet again in 2012, capsules with 100 milligrams of GABA led to reduced stress during the performance of a mental task. While these are small studies, they nevertheless appear to consistently show that GABA helps reduce stress and fatigue in human beings.

The Potential Side Effects of GABA Supplements

Though the side effects of GABA have not been specifically studied, there have been some reported side effects from people taking GABA supplements, including:

  • Headache
  • Muscle weakness
  • Sleepiness
  • Upset stomach

Since GABA appears to be useful in treating insomnia, it can cause feelings of sleepiness and shouldn’t be taken before driving or operating heavy machinery until you’re aware of how it affects you in whatever dosage you’re consuming it at.

There is also very little research done on GABA’s interaction potential with other supplements or medications, so it’s recommended that you seek medical advice if you’re currently taking any medication, particularly for insomnia, anxiety, or depression, and make sure that your doctor is aware of this or any other herb, supplement, or over-the-counter drug you’re consuming.

Go Gaga for GABA

GABA is a natural part of our body’s function, and plays an important role as a chemical messenger in our brains. Though the research on GABA as a supplement is somewhat skimpy, there are scientifically founded indications that it may help reduce anxiety, stress, high blood pressure, and insomnia.

It’s not just “supplements or bust” with GABA however, as practicing yoga can also lead to an increase of GABA levels, up to 27%! With a little yoga, some fermented foods, and the right GABA supplement, you could have all the bases covered when it comes to reducing the symptoms of certain dangerous medical conditions, and getting your brain in the right frame of mind.