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.

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.

The Uses and Benefits of Magnesium Malate

Find out the benefits of magnesium malate, the suggested dosage, plus the difference between various forms of magnesium supplementation and which one has the best bioavailability. 

Magnesium malate is a form of magnesium that’s highly absorbable by human beings. It provides not only the benefits of magnesium, but also the benefits of malic acid. Malic acid is a nutrient that contributes to our energy production by turning food into ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the molecule that carries energy within our cells. That’s only the beginning of all that magnesium malate can do—read on to discover the scientifically backed benefits that magnesium malate can bring you.

Magnesium malate uses and benefits.

The Top Magnesium Malate Benefits

Magnesium is needed for cell formation and for maintaining your nerves, bones, and muscles. Most people can get the magnesium they need from their diet because it’s found in foods as diverse as whole grains, nuts, seeds, tofu, avocados, bananas, and dark chocolate. However, some people need to supplement magnesium to make sure they’re getting enough of this essential nutrient, and that is where magnesium malate comes in.

Because elemental magnesium is difficult for the body to absorb on its own, many supplements will bind magnesium to a salt for better absorption. Magnesium malate is one of those salt combinations, formed when magnesium is combined with malic acid.

Malic acid by itself is often taken by those seeking to improve their muscle performance, boost their mental focus, and reduce post-exercise fatigue. All those uses in one supplement means that this particular magnesium formation can help benefit those with conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. Read on to find out what else magnesium malate can do.

Magnesium Malate for Sleep

Without enough magnesium, the hormone melatonin cannot function properly. Melatonin is responsible for sleep regulation, and without it you may find it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep peacefully. Magnesium malate may help your sleep process, as magnesium is known to play a role in normal sleep regulation.

Magnesium Malate for Anxiety

Magnesium is important for stabilizing the nervous system, which is what allows us to withstand stress. A deficiency in magnesium can lead to heightened levels of stress, fatigue, and anxiety. Though more scientific research needs to be done to refine the understanding of magnesium’s effect on anxiety, it’s generally assumed that magnesium increases the neurotransmitters that block stress, like norepinephrine, while decreasing the ones that cause stress, like adrenaline and cortisol. Studies suggest that magnesium may be an effective treatment of anxiety due to its stress-stopping abilities.

Magnesium Malate for Constipation

Magnesium helps stimulate intestinal peristalsis (involuntary muscle contractions that move food through the digestive system) and helps soften stool by gathering water to the intestinal tract. These actions not only serve to prevent and treat constipation, but they also aid the body in performing its own natural detoxification processes.

Magnesium Malate for Bone Integrity

Magnesium is needed for building bone tissue and for improving the body’s absorption of calcium. This leads to magnesium playing an important role in maintaining bone density and preventing osteoporosis.

Magnesium Malate for Women’s Reproductive Health

The female reproductive system needs magnesium, and a review of the scientific literature shows that magnesium supplementation is effective in the prevention of premenstrual syndrome, dysmenorrhea, and menstrual migraines. Women with the proper level of magnesium may find their menstrual cycles more manageable, while pregnant women will find magnesium supplementation even more vital because they are more vulnerable to magnesium deficiency. Since magnesium is a mineral needed for fetal development, protein synthesis, and tissue construction, magnesium supplementation is often a part of a woman’s prenatal care.

Magnesium Malate for Improved Energy Production

Both magnesium and malate are needed to produce energy at the cellular level. Without enough magnesium, our mitochondria struggle to produce energy, while malate helps speed up energy production. With the high bioavailability of magnesium malate, you can put both of these compounds to work quickly to help balance your energy production.

One review on treatments for chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia suggests that magnesium malate can help manage the symptoms, including the lack of energy that characterizes both conditions. ATP levels are low in patients with chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, and it’s been suggested that magnesium malate may help boost energy and relieve tenderness and pain.

Magnesium Malate for Anti-Inflammatory Use

Magnesium is needed to maintain your calcium levels, and research suggests that too-high levels of calcium in the body cause inflammation. A magnesium deficiency is associated with chronic inflammation and may be a risk factor for conditions like arthritis and fibromyalgia.

Magnesium Malate for Muscle Development

Magnesium is used in synthesizing growth factors that influence the development of our muscle fibers. Magnesium has been found to help athletic performance and improve athletes’ strength.

Magnesium Malate for Depression

Due to magnesium’s role in synthesizing the hormones dopamine and serotonin, there is believed to be a link between magnesium deficiency and depression. One study with 126 adults found that magnesium supplementation was helpful in resolving mild-to-moderate depression after just 2 weeks. Though magnesium deficiency is not the only cause of depression, it could be a contributing factor that a magnesium supplement can help eliminate.

Magnesium Malate for Heart Health

If we don’t have enough magnesium, the electrical impulses of our hearts and the regeneration of our veins and arteries can be compromised. Magnesium deficiency is inversely associated with coronary artery calcification, and research suggests that supplementing with magnesium helps prevent heart disease, endothelial dysfunction, platelet aggregation, vascular calcification (stiffening of the arteries), and atherosclerosis. Many studies show that that the proper amount of magnesium results in a 30% lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

Magnesium Malate for Blood Pressure

Magnesium causes the walls of the blood vessels to relax, and in clinical trials it helps to lower blood pressure and treat hypertension. Patients with hypertension are found to have low levels of bodily magnesium, and some research suggests that magnesium supplementation may help increase the effectiveness of antihypertensive drugs (just be sure to consult a health care professional before making any changes that may alter the effect of prescribed medication).

Magnesium Malate for Controlling Blood Sugar and Preventing Diabetes

Magnesium plays a critical role in the metabolism of sugar in our bodies. Magnesium deficiency is associated not only with erratic blood sugar levels, but also with diabetes, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome. Supplementation with magnesium can help control blood sugar levels and improve cholesterol ratios, and magnesium malate specifically (if made from L-malic acid) can help remove compounds that inhibit sugar breakdown and glycolysis.

Magnesium Malate vs. Citrate

Magnesium citrate is another magnesium preparation in salt form. It also increases water in the intestines and is often used as a laxative for the treatment of constipation. However, magnesium citrate has a far lower bioavailability rate than magnesium malate has, meaning you get more magnesium from the malate version.

Magnesium Malate vs. Glycinate

Much like magnesium citrate, magnesium glycinate also has lower bioavailability than magnesium malate. Glycinate is the salt form of glycine, which like aspartate or aspartame, activates our NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptors. The NMDA receptors on our neurons help control our perception of pain, and when they’re overstimulated it can lead to severe pain, as with the NMDA receptors in the guts of those with colitis. This means that too much magnesium glycinate may actually be detrimental.

Magnesium Malate Dosage

Magnesium malate supplements are often taken orally alongside a meal. The National Institutes of Health give the following recommendations for the appropriate dosage per serving size.

For women:

  • 19-30 years: 310 milligrams
  • 31-up: 320 milligrams

For men:

  • 19-39 years: 400 milligrams
  • 31-up: 420 milligrams

Dosages of malic acid generally range from 1,200-2,800 milligrams per day. People who are athletes, pregnant, breastfeeding, diabetic, or under high levels of stress may require more magnesium and should consult with their doctor to determine the optimal dosage.

Magnificent Magnesium

When looking for magnesium from a dietary supplement, you’ll want to make sure you have the best bioavailable form of magnesium, and magnesium malate may be exactly the form you need. You’ll want to keep the tablets in a cool, dry place, out of reach of children, but other than those precautions, you can easily add it your regimen of multivitamins and gain its amazing health benefits.

When Is the Best Time to Take Protein?

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

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

The Different Types of Protein Supplements

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

Plant-based proteins include:

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

Dairy-based proteins include:

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

Animal-based proteins include:

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

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

The Varied Uses of Protein Supplementation

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

Exercise Performance and Recovery

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

Muscle Building

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

Muscle Loss Prevention

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

Fat Loss Facilitation

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

The Enduring Power of Protein

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

The Best Time to Take Protein Depending on Your Workout

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

The best time to take protein supplements.

Aerobic/Cardiovascular Exercise

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

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

BCAAs are Insufficient Pre-Workout

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

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

EAAs are Effective Pre- and Post-Workout

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

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

Resistance Exercise

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

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

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

Bodybuilding

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

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

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

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

Is There Any Downside to Taking Protein Supplements?

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

Timing Is Everything

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

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

What Are the Best Muscle Recovery Foods?

Wondering what muscle recovery foods are good for prevention and relief of delayed onset muscle soreness? This comprehensive list of foods full of healthy fats, amino acids, and natural sugars will support your workout and recovery goals.

After starting a new workout, you’re in for some growing pains. Delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS can affect anyone, from those new to working out to elite athletes incorporating different exercises into their routines. Whenever you push your muscles, either with unfamiliar exercises or longer durations, you’re creating microscopic tears to the muscles, which then cause stiffness, soreness, and pain. Are sore muscles a good sign? Yes, in a sense, because it means you’re using your muscles in new ways that will eventually lead to a better fitness profile. But don’t fret! Eating muscle recovery foods can help ease the discomfort and may even help decrease muscle soreness in the first place.

Using food as your method of recovery and prevention may truly be the best road to take. The other suggestions to help muscle recovery either take extra time or come with other risks, and none of them can get in front of DOMS before it starts. Getting a massage after every workout would be great, but do you have the time, the money? Rest and ice packs are perfectly reasonable options too, but it’s the rest that might bother you if you’re really excited about a new workout and seeing results. Do you really want to take a couple of days off after every workout to let your muscles recover? It might not be a bad idea, but with the right foods pre- and post-workout, it might not be necessary either.

The last refuge to treat the ache and pain of muscle soreness is to use painkillers. Whether it’s over the counter fare you’d take for any pains (a wincing headache for example, or to relieve menstrual cramps), or prescription painkillers meant for more serious pains (a wrenched back or dental surgery). And these pain killers come with health-compromising side effects that are best avoided.

So what can you eat that will make a difference? Here are some foods you might want to include on the menu on gym days.

 Muscle recovery foods for prevention and relief.

Muscle Recovery Foods

Whether for their protein content, iron content, anti-inflammatory properties, or amino acids, these foods can help your muscles heal faster.

Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese has around 27 grams of protein per cup, and is often a regular food in the fitness community for those without any dietary restrictions surrounding milk products. In fact, the casein protein found in cottage cheese curds (as opposed to the whey protein found in watery milk) are often isolated and used as a workout protein supplement. As a slow-digesting protein, casein can help build and rebuild muscle while you sleep if it’s your last snack before bed.

The essential amino acid leucine is also present in cottage cheese, and comprises around 23% of the essential amino acids in muscle protein (the most abundant percentage of them all). Foods with leucine can help you build muscle by activating protein synthesis, and the faster you rebuild your muscle, the faster your muscle repair and workout recovery!

Eat it plain, or combine cottage cheese with some of the other recovery foods on this list to stack the benefits. Cottage cheese can even be used in baked goods and pancakes or included in protein shakes—don’t be afraid to get creative.

Sweet Potatoes

Adding sweet potatoes to your post-workout meal can help replenish your glycogen stores after a tough workout. Sweet potatoes are a great source of vitamin C and beta-carotene as well, and are loaded with fiber which helps to control appetite and maintain healthy digestion and build muscle.

Sweet potatoes can be baked whole in the oven or on a grill, cut into fries, spiced with cinnamon, or made savory with garlic powder and pepper. Enjoy them at the dinner table or on the go: a baked potato wrapped in foil can join you just about anywhere.

Baking Spices

Speaking of what you can put on sweet potatoes, it turns out some baking spices are good for post-workout recovery as well. Not so much in the form of gingerbread cookies or cinnamon rolls, but a study showed that cinnamon or ginger given to 60 trained young women (between the ages of 13 and 25) significantly reduced their muscle soreness post-exercise. If you’re already having a sweet potato, make it a little sweeter with some cinnamon, add it to oatmeal, or put some in your coffee for the extra boost.

Coffee

Did we just mention coffee? Good news: coffee’s on the list too. Research suggests that about 2 cups of caffeinated coffee can reduce post-workout pain by 48%, and another study showed that pairing caffeine with painkilling pharmaceuticals resulted in a 40% reduction of the drugs taken. If you do need pharmaceutical pain relief, maybe coffee can help you minimize just how much you take—caffeine is a much less dangerous stimulant than pain pills.

Turmeric

Another spice on the list, turmeric contains the compound curcumin, which is an anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant, and has been shown to be a proven and reliable pain reliever. Whether it’s helping you with delayed onset muscle soreness or pain from an injury (workout-related or otherwise), turmeric eases both pain and swelling by blocking chemical pain messengers and pro-inflammatory enzymes.

As with the other spices, it can be easily added to baked goods, to coffee, and to oatmeal. With its beautiful golden color, you can even make what’s called “golden milk” or a turmeric latte by combining 2 cups of warm cow’s or almond milk with 1 teaspoon of turmeric and another teaspoon of ginger, and then sip your muscle soreness away.

Oatmeal

Speaking of oatmeal (and isn’t it nice that so many of these ingredients can be easily combined?), it, too, can help relieve muscle soreness. This complex carb gives you a slow and steady release of sugar, along with iron needed to carry oxygen through your blood, and vitamin B1 (thiamin), which can reduce stress and improve alertness. This is why oatmeal is a great way to start the day, but since it also includes selenium, a mineral that protects cells from free-radical damage and lowers the potential for joint inflammation, it’s a great food for those in high-intensity workout training as well (like, up to Olympic level training).

Use oatmeal as a daily vehicle for other healthy ingredients, including the spices on this list, and enjoy its reliable benefits.

Bananas

Easily sliced into oatmeal, included in smoothies, or eaten alone, not only are bananas a healthy way to replace sweets (frozen and blended they can even make a delicious ice cream alternative), bananas are also a great way to get much-needed potassium. Research suggests potassium helps reduce muscle soreness and muscle cramps like the dreaded “Charley horse” spasm that contracts your muscle against your will and might not let up until it causes enough damage to last for days. A banana a day could keep the Charley horse away, and is particularly delicious (and helpful) when paired with its classic mate: peanut butter.

Peanut Butter

The healthy fats and protein found in nut butters like peanut or almond butter can help repair sore muscles. A reliable source of protein for muscle building, with fiber for blood pressure aid, vitamin E for antioxidant properties, and phytosterols for heart health, peanut butter offers up a ton of benefit and is easy to eat anywhere. Make a sandwich, use it to help bind together portable protein balls filled with other ingredients, add it into smoothies, or just eat it from the jar with a spoon (no one’s judging).

Nuts and Seeds

If you’re a fan of protein balls, then you’re well acquainted with nuts and seeds, which are great additions to these protein-rich foods. While providing essential omega-3 fatty acids to fight inflammation, various nuts and seeds can provide you protein for muscle protein synthesis, electrolytes for hydration, and zinc for an immune system boost. Something as simple as a baggie full of almonds, walnuts, pumpkin, and cashews can help maximize your muscles. Mixing in seeds (sunflower, chia, pumpkin) adds a healthy density that can curb your hunger and satisfy your appetite for longer. They’re small but powerful assets in quick muscle recovery.

Manuka Honey

This is not your grocery store honey in its little bear- or hive-shaped bottle. Manuka honey comes from the Manuka bush in New Zealand, with a milder flavor than that of bee honey and a much thicker texture. It’s anti-inflammatory and rich in the carbs needed to replenish glycogen stores and deliver protein to your muscles. Drizzle it over yogurt or stir it into tea to gain its benefits.

Green Tea

Green tea is particularly helpful for muscle recovery purposes. With anti-inflammatory antioxidants, it makes an excellent pre- or post-workout drink to prevent muscle damage related to exercise, and also helps you stay hydrated.

Cacao

Cacao has high levels of magnesium, antioxidants, and B-vitamins, which reduce exercise stress, balance electrolytes, and boost immunity and energy levels. The antioxidant flavanols in cacao also help up the production of nitric oxide in your body, which allows your blood vessel walls to relax, lowering blood pressure and promoting healthy blood flow. Adding cacao powder to your high-quality protein shakes or a glass of cow/almond/coconut milk post-workout will bring you its benefits.

Tart Cherries

Tart cherry juice has been shown to minimize post-run muscle pain, reduce muscle damage, and improve recovery time in professional athletes like lifters, according to the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Enjoy tart cherry juice as a drink, or include the dried fruit as a part of your own muscle-building trail mix with the nuts and seeds discussed above. It’s not the only fruit or fruit juice you might include either. The nutrients in fruits like oranges, pineapples, and raspberries can also help speed up your recovery.

Salmon

Rich with anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats, muscle-building protein, and antioxidants, salmon is an extremely efficient post-workout food. Not an option if you are vegan or vegetarian, of course, but for the meat eaters among us, or those on the Paleo diet, salmon can specifically help prevent delayed onset muscle soreness, reduce inflammation, and provide you with an abundance of the protein needed for muscle growth. Eat this protein within 45 minutes after working out for maximum effect, either grilled, cooked up in salmon cakes, or raw in the form of sushi or sashimi. All of the above goes for tuna as well, by the way—reasons you might become a pescatarian.

Eggs

If you are an omnivore or ovo-vegetarian, eggs are great way to gain protein first thing in the morning, and an even more effective food to have immediately post-workout to help prevent DOMS. Like cottage cheese, eggs are a rich provider of leucine, and like salmon, eggs contain vitamin D (in their yolks). For your convenience, eggs can be boiled and brought along for immediate consumption after your training. Boil a dozen at the start of each week during your meal prep, and have an easy protein source in the palm of your hand every other day of the week.

Spinach

Did we really get all the way to the end of the list without a vegetable? So sorry! Let’s fix that with spinach. A powerhouse of antioxidants, not only can spinach help prevent diseases like heart disease and various cancers, but it also helps you recover quickly from intense exercise. Spinach’s nitrates help to strengthen your muscles, and its magnesium content helps maintain nerve function. Spinach helps to regulate your blood sugar (in case you worry about the spikes you might get from the sweeter items on this list), and can be added to many dinners, snuck into smoothies, or eaten on its own either raw or sautéed in olive oil.

Resist Damage and Recovery Quickly

These foods help with recovery from DOMS and reduce the amount of soreness you get in the first place by providing your body with the proteins and nutrients it craves when you’re working out to the best of your ability.

A quick note before you go. In your quest for pain-free muscles, you’ll want to avoid:

  • Refined sugar: Just one sugary soda a day can increase your inflammatory markers, as can white bread and other products with refined sugar. Natural sugars don’t bring that kind of adverse effect, so get your sugar from whole foods instead.
  • Alcohol: The dehydration caused by alcohol requires its own special recovery, and will deplete many of your vitamins (especially B vitamins). Some research suggests that alcohol can interfere with how your body breaks down lactic acid, which would increase muscle soreness. If you’re on a mission to build muscle, it’s best to avoid alcohol.

If you’re eating pretty well and avoiding what you shouldn’t eat, but still find muscle soreness a burden after working out, there is always the option to supplement.

What is the best supplement for muscle recovery? Evidence shows that getting all your body’s essential amino acids in balance will help specifically with muscle sprains and pulls, so when supplementing, just make sure you cover the waterfront (rather than choosing one or two essentials and neglecting the rest). Other than that, a diverse diet can be had in choosing natural preventions and remedies for healthy muscle recovery.

Amino Acids and Muscle Protein Turnover: Keeping Your Muscles Strong and Healthy

Amino acids are the building blocks of the protein that makes up muscle. We know for certain that amino acids, particularly essential amino acids, stimulate the growth of new muscle proteins, keeping your muscles strong and healthy. Learn all about the relationship between amino acids and muscle health.

Muscle has always been recognized for its importance in mobility and physical activity, and there’s currently a newfound appreciation for the importance of maintaining muscle for better health outcomes. Likewise, there’s also a growing appreciation for the complex relationship that exists between amino acids and muscle tissue.

But before we proceed to discuss that relationship, let’s get comfortable with some key muscle terminology.

Three Components of Muscle Health

The process of building muscle (anabolism) is known as muscle protein synthesis, and the process of breaking down muscle (catabolism) is known as muscle protein breakdown. Muscle protein turnover refers to the cycle of muscle being made and broken down and then made again.

Here’s where amino acids come into the picture.

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins that make up muscle. And when there’s not a plentiful supply of amino acids coming from your diet—whether from whole food sources or supplements such as whey protein or other forms of protein powder—your muscles will release amino acids during muscle protein turnover so they can be used as needed by other organs and tissues.

Muscle can therefore be thought of as the main reservoir of amino acids for the body.

And in combination with a high-protein diet and/or amino acid and protein supplementation, weight training usually increases both muscle mass and strength.

So, muscle health comes down to three key components:

  • High-protein diet
  • Essential amino acid (EAA) supplementation
  • Regular weight training

Anabolic and Catabolic Stimuli

When we refer to anabolic stimuli, we’re talking about factors and lifestyle choices that promote the growth or synthesis of new muscle. These include:

  • Dietary protein intake
  • Exercise (particularly weight-bearing or resistance exercise)
  • Anabolic hormones (such as growth hormone and testosterone)

We know for certain that amino acids, particularly EAAs, stimulate the growth of new proteins.

Factors that are catabolic, or promote muscle breakdown and loss, include:

  • Low-protein diets
  • Low-energy diets
  • Illness and stress

During times of illness and stress, we have an increased need for amino acids to support immune system function and to respond to the actions of catabolic hormones that are released in response to stress.

Amino acids are the building blocks of the protein that makes up muscle.

Another Quick Lesson on Amino Acids and Muscle Protein

Muscles are made up of individual fibers constructed of proteins, and these proteins are made up of amino acids connected to one another in long strings of almost infinite variety.

Some amino acids are derived from dietary protein, but others are synthesized by the body via chemical reactions that occur in the liver and other select sites.

Amino acids that must be obtained from the diet are called EAAs, and amino acids that can be made in the body are called nonessential amino acids (NEAAs).

The Production of New Muscle Protein

Muscle proteins are assembled from amino acids using information encoded in our genetic material—deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). The sequence of amino acids in a protein is unique and distinguishes one protein from another. But for protein synthesis to occur, all 20 “proteinogenic” (aka protein-creating) amino acids must be present.

Messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) is the nucleic acid that carries instructions from the nuclear DNA—the DNA within each cell’s nucleus—into the part of the cell where protein is synthesized (ribosome).

There’s also another type of RNA known as transfer RNA (tRNA). Transfer RNA carries amino acids to the proper site for protein synthesis. When protein synthesis is taking place, enzymes link tRNA molecules to amino acids in a highly specific manner.

Transcription is one of the first processes to occur in protein synthesis, and it refers basically to the creation of the RNA strands that carry the genetic code.

The genetic code is then transferred to an amino acid sequence in a protein through a process known as translation. During this process, the amino acids carried by tRNA molecules are positioned sequentially and linked together.

One by one, amino acids are added to the growing chain until a signal to stop is received. After the protein has been synthesized completely, it’s removed from the cell structure that makes the protein for both further processing and to perform its function.

While all of this might seem complicated, a simple way to think about muscle protein synthesis is to compare it to the construction of a building.

The DNA is basically the idea for the design of the building. The mRNA is the written plan or blueprint, and transcription is the process of writing up that plan. The charged tRNA and process of translation—or tRNA plus its amino acid—are the construction company that builds the product by “putting the bricks together.” And the protein is the final product—or completed building—ready to serve its function.

Amino acids are the building blocks of the protein that makes up muscle.

There are many detailed molecular studies of all the independent steps along these complicated biochemical pathways of muscle growth and breakdown, but these don’t always predict what will be observed in human beings. For example, mRNA may be produced to initiate protein synthesis, but if amino acids are not available, the protein cannot be made.

What’s the Deal with Muscle Protein Breakdown?

It’s easy to understand the importance of muscle protein synthesis, as that’s the metabolic basis for muscle building. But why do muscles need to be broken down as part of muscle protein turnover?

We’ve already learned that muscle protein breakdown is essential when other important tissues and organs are in need of a constant supply of EAAs. However, muscle protein breakdown also helps improve muscle function.

You see, muscle fibers become damaged during exercise and unable to generate the same contractile force as new fibers. Without the process of muscle protein turnover, our bodies wouldn’t be able to get rid of the older, damaged fibers (protein breakdown) and replace them with new, better functioning ones (protein synthesis).

In fact, accelerated muscle protein turnover can improve exercise performance even if total muscle mass does not change. This is because a heavy workout induces local inflammation due to the damaged muscle fibers. But the more rapid the muscle turnover, the more quickly the post-workout inflammation will subside.

Amino Acids and Muscle

EAAs are the most potent stimulators of muscle protein turnover. Without an adequate supply of these amino acids, muscle protein turnover is limited because there are not enough EAAs to maintain muscle protein synthesis at an accelerated rate.

In order to stimulate muscle protein turnover, since EAAs can’t be produced in the body, you must get them from your diet. However, it’s difficult to get enough EAAs from food alone. This is where a balanced EEA supplement can come in handy.

Amino acid supplements can help improve skeletal muscle function without increasing muscle mass—if that’s your goal.

For example, an endurance runner will improve muscle function and decrease inflammation by consuming EAAs after a workout without adding extra muscle weight.

However, if you’re looking for strength gains and your goal is to increase muscle mass, then supplementing with an EAA powder is also a must. But to build muscle and add to the extra mass, you’ll want to be sure you’re consuming EAAs with sufficient calories from non-protein sources.

Whether you’re interested in increasing muscle mass or muscle function, or simply want to grow old with as much ease and mobility as possible, supporting healthy muscle protein turnover is essential. And striving to achieve a balanced intake of EAAs each day will help ensure all these goals are within your reach.

Stay Hydrated! 14 Signs of Dehydration

Dehydration occurs when the body loses too much water without being replaced. Preventing dehydration is especially critical for people who are active or who sweat a great deal. Read on for 14 must-know signs of dehydration.

The human body is 70% water. Fluids are important for protecting the joints, maintaining organ function, transporting oxygen to cells, and sustaining body temperature. Dehydration, which is most common during hot weather or strenuous workouts, happens when the body loses too much water without being replaced. Even mild dehydration can produce symptoms such as mood swings, headaches, muscle cramps, and fatigue.

Perspiration, hot weather, sun exposure, and lack of fluids throughout the day cause dehydration, which is the main determinant of heat exhaustion, which, in turn, can lead to life-threatening heat stroke. Preventing dehydration is especially critical for people who are active or who sweat a great deal. Read on for 14 must-know signs of dehydration.

Causes of Dehydration

Dehydration occurs when the loss of body fluids exceeds the intake. More water is exiting individual cells and the body than the amount of water ingested through drinking. When this happens, the body loses enough fluid to undermine its capability to function normally, and then demonstrates symptoms of the fluid loss. While infants and young children have a greater risk for dehydration, many adults, especially older adults, have critical risk factors.

People lose water every day when expelling body fluids, along with salts and electrolytes, and as water vapor when exhaling. Bodies are always readjusting the balance between intake and release of water, salts, and electrolytes. Losing too much fluid puts the body out of balance, or dehydrates. Mild and moderate dehydration can be adjusted by drinking fluids containing electrolytes or salts. Severe dehydration can be critical or even life-threatening.

Many conditions can increase your risk of dehydration:

  • Fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and increased urination when ill
  • Heat exposure, humid weather, too much exercise, or work-related activity
  • Diseases such as diabetes
  • Inability to seek appropriate water and food
  • Impaired ability to drink
  • Lack of access to safe drinking water
  • Skin infections or injuries

14 Signs of Dehydration

The symptoms of dehydration can sneak up on you, so beware of the most common dehydration alerts!

1. Fatigue

People feel very sluggish or tired when they are dehydrated. Chronic dehydration reduces blood flow and blood pressure because of decreased water content and oxygen in the blood. Muscles and nerves cease to function after exertion. The heart has to work harder to keep the skin and muscles supplied with oxygen and nutrients, which can cause you to feel drowsy or lethargic. When you feel fatigued after an illness, doctors recommend rest and fluids. Most bodily functions are impacted by fluid balance, making small changes significant in daily performance and activities.

2. Skin Elasticity Loss

Doctors pinch the skin to see how fast it bounces back. Skin that is properly hydrated snaps back to normal quickly, but dehydrated and dry skin stays elevated and goes back to normal slowly. Hydration keeps skin looking young and minimizes sagging. Properly hydrated skin looks doughy, while dehydrated skin demonstrates a lack of resilience and elasticity.

3. Lightheadedness, Confusion, and Irritability

When blood pressure drops because of dehydration, standing up too quickly causes dizziness, a condition called orthostatic hypotension. Severe dehydration can lead to intense confusion and dizziness. Dehydrated infants and children may become irritable, fussy, and confused, while blood pressure falls. A dehydrated person may seem delirious and lose consciousness.

Even mild levels of dehydration can affect mood and cognitive functions. Dehydration reduces water volume by 1.5%, impacting a person’s mood, energy, and ability to think coherently. Changes in electrolyte levels can also change levels of serotonin, which affects mood changes.

In physical activity, the body directs blood to the muscles. Dehydration removes the ability to direct enough blood to the brain, producing a dizzy spell. Exertion raises body temperature and breathing rate, diluting blood vessels in the brain and causing dizziness or lightheadedness.

4. Constipation

Water absorption is needed for proper digestion, including bowel movements. Fluids move things along, through the intestines and out of the body. Water maintains smooth and malleable intestinal walls. If you are dehydrated, the colon redirects fluid into the bloodstream.

5. Muscle Cramps

Hydration and electrolyte balance are critical to muscle contraction. If sodium and potassium levels are low, you can experience painful muscle spasms. If a muscle is unable to relax, there can be a muscle cramp or spasm. Dehydration can turn muscle spasms into muscle cramps when muscles contract and harden for a period of time, from a few seconds to a few hours. Hydrating can reduce the pain and eliminate continued cramping.

Lack of adequate fluid makes muscles hypersensitive. When the nerves that connect to the muscles are not surrounded by adequate water and sodium, there can be involuntary muscle contraction or spasms causing muscle cramps.

6. Discolored Urine

Concentrated, discolored urine indicates dehydration. When blood pressure levels fall, the kidneys try to store water instead of removing it from the body. Medications, foods, and certain diseases can change urine color as well.

7. Minimal Urine

The quantity of urine can predict a person’s state of hydration. It is a sign of dehydration if someone goes without a bathroom visit for a period of 4 to 6 hours. Children who become dehydrated can also produce a lack of wet diapers.

If urine is both minimal and discolored, it is likely that dehydration is the culprit. Dehydration occurs when the volume of water in the body is depleted. Kidneys, which filter waste, tell the body to retain water. Thus, there is less water in the urine, making it more concentrated and darker.

8. Heart Rate Increases

Dehydration is associated with plunging electrolyte levels, causing increased heart rate and heart palpitations or spasms in the actual heart muscle. When blood pressure decreases, breathing and heart rate accelerate to show potential dehydration.

9. Low Blood Pressure

Low blood pressure occurs when the blood flow is not sufficient for transporting enough oxygen and nutrients to various organs. While low blood pressure does not always signify dehydration, blood pressure can sometimes drop because of a lack of fluid in the body. When low blood pressure is caused by dehydration, fluid intake facilitates an increase in blood volume, which then helps increase the blood pressure reading.

10. Overheating

Fluid levels keep body temperatures regulated to avoid overheating or having heat stroke. Overheating can come from physical exertion or being in a hot environment. Bring water when working out or being outdoors in the heat.

11. Lack of Tear Production

Dehydrated children and adults can cry and stop producing tears. Adults can have dry mucous membranes, making the nose, mouth, and tongue dry and sticky. Eyes may appear sunken.

12. Dry Mouth

Dehydration can be indicated by a dry throat, mouth, and tongue. Some people feel hunger when dehydrated, which is why a University of Washington study indicated that a single glass of water can easily stop nighttime hunger pangs in almost all cases. Late stage hydration manifests as “dry mouth,” that dry, parched, thick feeling in the mouth that many of us have experienced.

13. Bad Breath

A person who is well hydrated has sufficient saliva in the mouth to keep it adequately moistened. Saliva has antibacterial properties to regulate bacterial growth in the mouth. When dehydrated, lower saliva production causes bacterial overgrowth that leads to bad breath.

14. Headaches

Dehydration can trigger stress that can cause a headache because it alters the body’s natural balance. The headache warns people that their physiological equilibrium is unbalanced.

Another reason for headaches is liquid deprivation, making the blood more concentrated and causing inflammatory proteins in the circulatory system to irritate nerves surrounding the brain.

The most serious warning signs of dehydration include:

  • Inability to urinate
  • Extremely dark, yellow urine
  • Parched skin
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Accelerated breathing
  • Sunken eyes
  • Fatigue and lack of energy
  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Fainting

If left untreated, dehydration can bring on confusion, urinary tract infections, kidney stones, weakness, pneumonia, and even death.

Dehydration Diagnosis

In addition to assessing your dehydration symptoms, doctors will start diagnosing dehydration by taking your blood pressure, which will be low. To ascertain just how dehydrated someone is, further tests are typically ordered. Blood tests measure electrolyte levels, especially sodium and potassium, as well as kidney function. Tests performed on the urine can determine the effects of dehydration and its extent and check for a bladder infection.

Dehydration Treatment

To treat dehydration, replace lost fluids and lost electrolytes. The best treatment approach depends on age, severity, and cause.

An over-the-counter oral rehydration solution formulated with water and salts is a helpful way to restore lost fluids and electrolytes to infants and children. Adults likewise need to replenish with fluids when experiencing mild to moderate dehydration from diarrhea, vomiting, or fever. Individuals who work or exercise outdoors in hot and humid conditions can stay hydrated with cool water or sports drinks containing electrolytes and a carbohydrate solution.

If children and adults are severely dehydrated, they need to be treated by emergency personnel who restore fluid volume and seek underlying causes. Hospitals can administer salts and fluids through a vein, enabling quick absorption to speed recovery time.

Home remedies can help with mild to moderate dehydration. They include:

  • Sipping small amounts of water
  • Drinking carbohydrate/electrolyte drinks, such as sports drinks
  • Sucking on popsicles made from juices and sports drinks
  • Sucking on ice chips
  • Sipping through a straw
  • Removing or loosening clothing
  • Being in an air-conditioned or fan-cooled area
  • Using a wet towel, spray bottle, or mister

Dehydration Prevention

Dehydration is easy to prevent. Preparation goes a long way.

  1. Drink plenty of fluids, including sports drinks that contain electrolytes, and bring water bottles to outdoor events and work areas where increased sweating, activity, and heat stress can increase fluid loss.
  2. Replace fluids at a rate equal to the loss.
  3. Avoid exercise and exposure when there is high air temperature with high humidity. Plan outdoor events at other times.
  4. Give older people, infants, and children enough drinking water and fluids containing electrolytes. Encourage incapacitated or disabled people to drink and give them adequate fluids.
  5. Minimize alcohol consumption in hot weather, because it increases water loss and interferes with the ability to notice early signs of dehydration.
  6. Wear light-colored and loose-fitting clothing and carry a personal fan or mister.
  7. Limit exposure to hot temperatures. Find air-conditioned or shady areas for cooling.
  8. Clemson University has developed recommendations for fluid intake when a person needs to endure outside activity in hot weather:
    1. Drink 2 cups of plain water (or diluted fruit juice) during the 2 hours before exercising; 1 to 2 cups within 15 minutes of the activity.
    2. Drink 1/2 to 1 cup every 15 to 20 minutes during exercise.
    3. Drink 3 cups for each pound of body weight lost.

Dehydration Prognosis

If dehydration is treated and the cause is determined, most people will recover well. If the cause is heat exposure, too much exercise, or decreased water intake, dehydration is easy to remedy. Severe dehydration is challenging, and the prognosis depends on how well the underlying cause responds to treatment.

Know the 14 signs of dehydration.

 

 

What Is Post-Workout Inflammation? Plus, 8 Expert-Approved Ways to Recover Faster

There’s a way to make post-workout inflammation work for the greater good of your muscles and body, and there is, unfortunately, also a way to stoke the flames of inflammation to the degree that they’re burning away all the gains you’ve worked out for. Learn how to manage inflammation after strenuous exercise and increase your fitness gains.

If you’re interested in health and wellness, you’ve likely come across the topic of inflammation, which has been widely covered. The vast majority of that coverage, however, has focused on the damage inflammation can do to the body. But that’s not the whole story. Certain kinds of inflammation can be highly beneficial, including what’s known as post-workout inflammation.

As Shawn Talbott, PhD, a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine, put it, “You need enough inflammation to trigger a physiological response that makes your body fitter and stronger and helps it recover after a workout, but not so much inflammation that it slows the body’s natural repair process.”

The reason many work out is to see and feel results, which can make even muscle aches and pains feel gratifying. We often see muscle pain as evidence that, say, the 50 weighted squats we completed the day before are going to make our muscles bigger and stronger. And that’s true, to a point. Post-workout inflammation can work for the greater good of our muscles and bodies, but when inflammation becomes too elevated, its flames can begin to burn away all the gains you’ve been working for.

The Inflammatory Response Explained

The inflammatory response is the immune system’s reaction to tissue damage. When we work out we naturally and inadvertently cause microscopic trauma to muscle fibers, connective tissues, bones, and joints. After workouts, the inflammatory response kicks in, sending a flood of chemicals and hormones throughout the body to repair the damage done to affected tissues; fill in the divots strength training creates in weak areas of bones with new, stronger bone; and build stronger muscle fibers. According to Joanne Donoghue, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist at the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic medicine, this type of inflammation is crucial to overall immune system function and has potent healing effects.

You might see and feel this inflammation in the form of swelling, heat, stiffness, muscle pain, or joint aches. Alternately, this inflammatory response may be so mild that you might not experience any perceptible physical symptoms.

Post-workout inflammation typically sets in between 2 and 48 hours after exercise. In an ideal world, this transpires during your recovery time between workouts, allowing pro-inflammatory molecules called cytokines to work uninterrupted as they rejuvenate soft tissue cells in muscles, ligaments, and tendons so that they are stronger for subsequent workouts of a similar nature.

Understanding how inflammation works will help you learn how to recover more quickly after intense bouts of physical activity. Post-workout inflammation follows the same trajectory as any other inflammatory response, whether it’s an acute, short-term flare in response to a sprained ankle or chronic, low-level inflammation resulting from an ongoing condition such as Crohn’s disease.

Let’s break the inflammatory response down in phases.

  • Phase 1: Blood rushes to the affected area or areas, inducing the familiar symptoms of inflammation, such as redness and swelling.
  • Phase 2: White blood cells called neutrophils sweep away the remains of damaged cells.
  • Phase 3: Macrophages, another type of white blood cell, flood the site of injury, clear up the remaining debris, and activate tissue rebuilding.

Inflammation Phase One

When your immune system detects an injury or threat, it responds by delivering a rapid infusion of blood and expanding blood vessels leading to the affected area or areas and sealing those leading away from it.

Inflammation Phase Two

Next, the immune system directs pro-inflammatory cytokines and a specialized type of white blood cell called neutrophils to the injured area. They sail through the wide-open blood vessels leading to the area, then pile up when they encounter the sealed-off vessels leading away.

This creates an environment in which a concentrated supply of cytokines and neutrophils can rapidly flush out damaged or infected cells.

Inflammation Phase Three

Finally, the immune system sends in macrophages, another type of white blood cell, to complete the clean-up process and begin repairing the damage caused by the injury or infection.

When the area appears to be stabilized, meaning the trauma has been reduced and any infections resolved, the immune system reopens the blood vessels leading away, allowing the extra blood cells that have accumulated to evacuate and bringing swelling and redness down.

There’s a way to make post-workout inflammation work for the greater good of your muscles and body, and there is, unfortunately, also a way to stoke the flames of inflammation to the degree that they’re burning away all the gains you’ve worked out for. Learn how to manage inflammation after strenuous exercise and increase your fitness gains.

Differentiating Between Healthy and Unhealthy Inflammation

As you can see, the intended purpose of inflammation is to heal. However, when inflammation levels rise too high or remain elevated for too long, this can result in damage to healthy muscle and tissue cells that present as chronic aches and pains.

When it comes to post-workout inflammation, issues often arise when individuals neglect to leave adequate time for the healing process to transpire between sessions. If you put too much strain on your joints and don’t take time off to let your body repair the tendons and ligaments, you may develop arthritis.

The goal should not be to avoid inflammation altogether, but rather to ensure it remains at healthy, healing levels.

The Healing Benefits of Inflammation

Post-workout inflammation is important to muscle recovery and growth because it helps accelerate the healing process and keeps us from working out already depleted muscles and joints before they are ready to once again perform at top function.

Inflammation can also help to accelerate fitness gains due to satellite cell proliferation, which is crucial to the building of stronger and better adapted muscle fibers.

Furthermore, inflammation builds up a resistance to future injury due to an occurrence called the “repeated bout effect.” Essentially, inflammation after strenuous exercise increases neutrophil activity for the next round of exercise, thereby shielding muscle fibers from redundant and extreme damage.

In the same way that regular workouts expand your muscles’ strength capacity, they also improve your body’s ability to regulate inflammation levels to contain them within the healthy range. This translates to the capacity to work out longer and harder with decreased muscle breakdown, and subsequently, decreased recovery time.

Scientists have found, too, that routine physical activity can lower systemic inflammation. A 2016 study showed that a combination of endurance and resistance training reduced markers of inflammation, which the authors believe could have exciting implications for the treatment of diseases caused by inflammation.

When Inflammation Goes Wrong

Post-workout inflammation, if not appropriately managed, does have downsides—slow recovery, increased risk of injuries from overuse, and constrained fitness gains due to secondary muscle damage between workouts, of which delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is a primary cause.

DOMS is that peculiar type of muscle pain that begins the day after a hard workout, and becomes even more severe the day after that. Exercise scientists attribute DOMS in part due to free radicals that are produced as byproducts of neutrophil activity. The degree of muscle damage that has triggered DOMS can greatly impact the quality of your workouts and training, and place undue stress on your joints, increasing your risk of future injuries.

Muscles aren’t the only part of the body affected by post-workout inflammation. The joints also experience microtrauma during exercise and must be restored and fortified during the healing process instigated by post-workout inflammation. However, if joint tissues aren’t fully revived during the recovery process, unrelenting chronic inflammation can take over and slowly whittle away joint stability, resulting in long-term joint pain and even acute joint injuries.

Those who enjoy physical exertion and pushing their limits face particularly high risks for inflammation-related injuries. Take Alia Malley’s experience. She committed to a serious yoga practice after discovering a style and instructor she loved, and assumed that the harder she worked, the greater the rewards would be. After several months of attending vinyasa classes practically every other day, Malley developed knee pain extreme enough to compel her to schedule an appointment with her doctor, who diagnosed her with partially-torn ACLs in both knees. By the time she sought medical care, the condition had progressed to the point at which it would take a combination of surgery and physical therapy to restore function to her knees. “I was ignoring the warning signs—soreness and swelling,” Malley told Fitness Magazine. “I kept pushing myself until I got hurt because I thought I could handle it.”

The challenge with addressing joint, tendon, and muscle inflammation, according to Tom Hackett, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at the Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colorado and lead physician for the U.S. men’s and women’s snowboarding and raft teams, is that you can’t see the inflammation that affects your fascia or muscle tissue. This makes it more likely to be ignored until a problem like tendinitis, arthritis, or even fibromyalgia develops.

To avoid this, Dr. Hackett advises tuning into which muscles and joints are most vulnerable. This will depend on your own physiology as well as the activity you’re engaged in. Tennis, for example, puts a significant amount of strain on the shoulders and elbows while runners often develop knee and ankle issues. Any time you experience pain or swelling in a muscle, joint, or tendon, that’s a sign you need to let it rest. If you’re dealing with chronic issues in the same area, it can be helpful to consult with a doctor, trainer, or physical therapist for guidance on how best to rest and restore the problem area.

Your doctor may also want to check inflammatory markers such as the ratio of arachidonic acid to eciposapentaenoic acid, which can help them ascertain whether your global anti-inflammatory response has been compromised. If this occurs, inflammation can begin to spread throughout your body, setting off a cascade of adverse events such as increased belly and body fat, decreased immune function, and higher levels of fatigue and depression.

How to Manage Post-Workout Inflammation

Your muscles, joints, bones, and connective tissues need adequate rest between workouts to fully recover so that they can rebuild stronger and more durable. You can subdue inflammation and trim down the time it takes for your body to regenerate with the following eight tips for managing post-workout inflammation.

There’s a way to make post-workout inflammation work for the greater good of your muscles and body, and there is, unfortunately, also a way to stoke the flames of inflammation to the degree that they’re burning away all the gains you’ve worked out for. Learn how to manage inflammation after strenuous exercise and increase your fitness gains.

1. Alternate Workouts

You most likely know that the consensus among experts is that you should allow your muscles a full 48 hours to recover before working them in the same way. That doesn’t mean you need to abstain from all physical activity during that time, though.

Adding one or two alternate workouts to your preferred form of exercise is a great way to maximize your strength and fitness gains. That might mean experimenting with cardio and resistance-training workouts between your strength-training sessions. You can lift heavy on Monday, go for a run or bike ride on Tuesday, run through a set of body-weight exercises on Wednesday, and circle back to strength training on Thursday.

2. Develop a Post-Workout Stretching Routine

It can be tempting to allow yourself to just collapse after a tough workout, but this takes a toll on your muscles.

After you’ve exerted them, your muscles excrete a protein called creatine kinase, which your kidneys must filter from your blood. Sitting still allows this substance to accumulate, which can delay recovery time.

When you move your muscles by engaging in a light cool down and stretching routine, you increase blood flow, which helps flush creatine kinase from your body more quickly. This, in turn, facilitates a speedier cellular repair process.

3. Exercise in the Morning

Researchers have found that certain hormones that mitigate post-workout inflammation, including testosterone and cortisol, are at their highest levels in the morning. Take advantage by timing your workouts to take place early in the day so you can make rapid recoveries from even the most strenuous training sessions.

4. Sleep Well

Though you’re not consciously aware it’s transpiring, your body carries out many functions, including healing ones, while you’re asleep. Be sure to get a minimum of 8 hours of quality sleep nightly to help your body move through the inflammation and repair process as rapidly as possible.

5. Feed Your Muscles

Your post-exercise meals can significantly impact the time it takes your body to recover. The more intense the workout, the more strategic you’ll need to be about the timing and nutrient profile of your food choices. Typically, experts advise ingesting a combination of protein and carbs within 20 minutes of the conclusion of an intense workout.

Foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids also show promise as a means of fueling major recovery gains due to their ability to lower inflammation levels. Though fish oil supplements can seem like the easiest way to load up on these potent nutrients, not all formulations are made from high-quality ingredients or contain sufficient quantities of omega-3 fatty acids to produce results. Because of this, it can be a better option to meet your body’s needs through strategic food choices. Tuna, salmon, and herring all contain high levels of an omega-3 fatty acid called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).

6. Get a Massage

Recent studies indicate that massage can be key to quicker recoveries after high-intensity workouts.

A particular massage technique known as myofascial release manipulates connective tissues to reduce inflammation. Fans say that it reduces soreness and improves performance in subsequent workouts.

If you can’t find a massage therapist near you who practices myofascial release, or want to try it on your own first, self-massage with a foam roller can produce similar results, though it can be challenging to apply to certain areas of the body.

7. Address Your Stress

Stress can intensify the inflammation that occurs after workouts. Any time your brain perceives anxiety or danger, inflammation levels rise. This can be beneficial in the short term, since the release of cortisol and other chemicals keep you extra alert. When it becomes chronic, however, inflammation can be quite damaging, as previously discussed.

Scientists have identified a number of ways to lower stress levels, including spending time in nature, practicing meditation, and eating more probiotic foods.

8. Give Your Body a Boost with Amino Acids

Taking amino acids is a proven technique for maximizing your workout gains and minimizing the time needed to recover between training sessions.

Research consistently shows that a well-formulated blend of essential amino acids can accelerate muscle growth during recovery by boosting muscle protein synthesis. If you’d like to learn more about the science behind how amino acids support muscle recovery, check out this article.

What’s with Wearable Fitness Technology?

Wearable fitness devices have become popular in recent years. You have probably seen people wearing fancy watches that can track heart rate and fitness activities, but just what exactly is wearable fitness technology and what are your best options?

Wearable fitness devices have become all the rage. Just scope out all the gym rats glancing down at their wrists between sets! You’ve probably seen people wearing fancy watches that can track heart rate and fitness activities, but just what exactly is wearable fitness technology?

The craze began with basic wearables like pedometers, heart rate monitors, and calorie counters, and has morphed into more sophisticated devices that can track all your fitness data. Wearable fitness devices track your heart rate, the distance you travel, how many calories you burn, and how much exercise you do each day. Set your fitness and health goals, and your fitness tracker will alert you when you’ve reached them. Some of these devices can connect to apps on your smartphone to measure your long-term progress and share your data with fitness groups.

Best Fitness Trackers

Wearable fitness devices have become popular in recent years. You have probably seen people wearing fancy watches that can track heart rate and fitness activities, but just what exactly is wearable fitness technology?

Fitbit

With the promise of multi-day battery life, Fitbit has a variety of activity trackers to suit your needs and budget. No matter which model you choose, you’re covered with distance, calorie burn, and step counting, while more sophisticated models also offer heart and sleep monitoring.

An upgrade from the Fitbit Charge 2, the Fitbit Charge 3 features a streamlined design and the smartwatch features you depend on. Lightweight with a grayscale touchscreen display, the Charge 3 monitors heart rate and daily steps, and jumps on board automatically to track workouts and even menstrual cycles for women if you wish. You can also take texts and calls and check your social media accounts on this handy wearable device.

Or you can get fit with the more top-of-the-line Fitbit Ionic or Fitbit Versa fitness trackers. They’ve got more app compatibility, better visuals on the screen, and built-in GPS. If you’re willing to splurge, then the Ionic or Versa are sweet upgrades.

Garmin

A smart option for runners and outdoorsy types, the Garmin Vivosport is lightweight with an integrated GPS and heart rate monitor. This water-resistant tracker does everything from sleep tracking to workout tracking. It helps you measure your fitness goals with personal records and a virtual pacer, and you can sync up with the Garmin Connect app to track your metrics over time.

Want a slimmer, sleeker, slightly cheaper Garmin option? You could opt for the Vivosmart 4, which is a lighterweight choice that also comes equipped with a Body Battery Energy Monitor so you know when to go hard and when to back off, as well as a function that measures your oxygen saturation levels. Still, you won’t get the GPS integration function with the Garmin Vivosmart and may miss the better lit display of the Vivosport.

And then there’s the least expensive option, the Garmin Vivofit, which is a slim-fitting fitness tracker that tracks the basics—steps, distance, calories, sleep—but doesn’t have all the smart functions you may desire.

Apple Watch Series 4

Leave it to Apple to make its mark on the fitness industry. The Apple Watch is for iOS users looking for the best of the best in fitness trackers. It’s compatible with most third-party fitness apps, boasts GPS tracking, changes in altitude, onboard heart rate monitoring, and even an electrocardiogram app certified by the FDA. Your Apple Watch comes complete with Bluetooth and Siri, all in typical Apple style.

Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro

Android users can get onboard the fitness tracker train with the Samsung Gear Fit2Pro, complete with GPS technology and smartwatch bells and whistles. It has an ultra-detailed display, it monitors your heart rate, and it tracks your fitness data. Samsung has designed a fitness tracker with a minimalist look that stores and streams music, tracks typical fitness metrics, is water resistant, and features a top-notch display. And yes, you can still get social and take phone calls and texts.

Withings Steel HR Sport

Withings emerged onto the wearable tech market in 2015 with its Activité Pop smartwatch, and it’s holding strong among the best wearable fitness tech companies in 2019 with its newly released Steel HR Sport. This hybrid watch is stylish, with a traditional analog face and integrated smartwatch features, GPS connectivity, and activity tracking. It measures your steps in percentages, monitors your sleep, and tracks your heart rate and VO2 max so you know how much oxygen you’re using when exercising. If you’re looking for subtlety with all the digital dressings, the Steel HR Sport might be your favorite.

Moov Now

Perhaps the best wearable fitness tracker for those on the budget, the Moov Now is noted for its outstanding 6-month battery life, and while it doesn’t have the fancy trappings of many of the other fitness trackers on this list, it will keep track of your steps, your boxing and rep-based activities, and even monitor your swimming and running goals as well as your sleep.

Polar Loop

An “activity band with smart guidance” this wearable fitness tracker offers the same functions as the others, tracking sleep, calories, and steps. Sync it up with your smartphone to account for goal setting and reminders, and enjoy the personalized guidance and motivation throughout your day. Rest easy knowing its waterproof and durable.

Smartwatch

Skagen created the Signatur Connected Hybrid Smartwatch, a classier option compared to a standard smartwatch. The company specializes in elegant, smart devices that do not look like wearable tech. This watch tracks activities, and it synchronizes with your smartphone. This is an excellent choice if you are looking for a more sophisticated wearable.

Smart Shoes

This option is considered “invisible” wearable tech. Under Armour, for example, has integrated a fitness tracker right into the soles of the shoes, so you do not need to wear a smartwatch to record your fitness data. These smart shoes have an accelerometer that records running metrics, as well as Bluetooth, and keeps all metrics logged in an app.

Science and Benefits

The National Institutes of Health says that if you walk fewer than 5,000 steps per day, you have a sedentary lifestyle—if you take more than 10,000 steps per day you are considered “active.”

With reminders and accountability tools, wearable fitness trackers can help people get more active. Using a smartwatch can also reduce the strain of upper vertebrae, known as “text neck” and cervicalgia, because wearers raise their arms to look at wrist-worn displays instead of lowering their heads to look at the phone.

Another benefit of wearable technology is that it helps you engage with your surroundings. “What we’re really trying to achieve is the idea of freedom from your phone,” says David Ng, a wearable product manager for Samsung. Trackers that monitor your heart rate are also great because they can keep track of your resting heart rate—a key value when it comes to hypertension and heart disease.

Science, however, has not been so in awe of wearable fitness technology.

Research published by the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology found that activity trackers had no effect on health and fitness. The results of another study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that subjects who didn’t use fitness trackers lost more weight than the group that used wearable fitness technologies.

When considering the less-than-stellar findings, it’s important to note that most existing studies, including the two mentioned above, used devices that are several years old—outside experts agree that fitness tech is improving.

“There are two things, specifically, that apps and devices are actually getting better at,” said Mitesh Patel, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania. In his opinion, the first is leveraging social networks to foster competition and support. A study, conducted by Liza Rovniak, a Penn State psychologist, showed that support networks are effective at increasing physical activity in unmotivated adults. The second factor devices are improving, according to Patel, is goal setting. He sustains that the problem with early fitness trackers was that they all used the same goal (step count) and they all set the bar way too high. Today’s fitness wearables tailor their feedback to users’ individual habits, instead of telling you to take 10,000 steps.

Of course, there will always be people who prefer to track their own progress and go to the doctor to measure heart rate. But wearable tech is an excellent option to consider if you want to develop a new relationship with your fitness routine, but you can also decide to keep on working out the traditional way, without any wearable fitness technologies—the important thing is that you find time to exercise!

Should I Take Amino Acids Pre-Workout?

The before, during, or after debate on amino acids for working out can leave you utterly confused as to when you should take your amino acid supplement. I’ll cover the details, but the quick and easy answer to the question should I take amino acids pre-workout is yes!

The before, during, or after debate on amino acids for working out can leave you utterly confused as to when you should take your amino acid supplement. I’ll cover the details, but the quick and easy answer to the question should I take amino acids pre-workout is yes! An amino acid pre-workout powder can help support muscle building, reduce the breakdown of muscle, increase blood flow to the muscle during your workout, and help prevent fatigue and boost performance.

Why Amino Acids Make Ideal Pre-Workout Supplements

You’re taking your sports nutrition goals seriously. You load your plate with whole foods and make sure to prioritize quality protein at every meal. Maybe you’re even incorporating protein powder or other dietary supplements into your regimen. You commit to each training session. You should be seeing major muscle growth gains and yet, you seem to be stuck.

The problem may be that you’re ignoring just how essential a role the fittingly named essential amino acids play when it comes to increasing your muscle mass. No matter how much time you put into weight training, if you fail to provide your muscles with the raw materials they need to grow, you won’t see the results you’re craving.

Key Facts About Amino Acids

You may have heard amino acids described as the building blocks of protein. That’s not a bad description, but it doesn’t entirely do justice to the importance of amino acids.

Not only do amino acids provide structural integrity to protein, but they’re also vital to the synthesis and metabolism of proteins, enzymes, hormones, and neurotransmitters. They regulate the activity of numerous metabolic pathways. They contribute to cognitive function. In short, amino acids are involved in just about everything that occurs inside the human body.

There are 20 amino acids present in the human body. Nine of those are called essential amino acids because unlike the others, your body cannot synthesize them de novo—in plain English, they can’t be made from scratch. Instead, it’s essential that you supply your body with these amino acids via the food you eat or supplements you take.

Researchers have categorized six of the other amino acids as conditionally essential. Under most circumstances, your body can produce these amino acids, but when you’re under extreme duress, that ability becomes compromised.

The remaining four amino acids get grouped together as nonessential. In some instances, you’ll see people refer to 11 nonessential amino acids—when they do so, they’re simply lumping in the 7 conditionally essential amino acids listed above. Your body absolutely needs the nonessential amino acids, but it also has the ability to synthesize them, so it’s nonessential that you get them from your diet.

The easy answer to the question should I take amino acids pre-workout is yes! An amino acid pre-workout powder can help support muscle building and boost performance.

When it comes to using amino acid supplements to facilitate muscle growth and muscle recovery, all the key players can be found on that list of the nine essential amino acids. Here are some key facts about what each of these amino acids does inside your body.

Phenylalanine 

The analgesic (pain-killing) and antidepressant properties of this amino acid typically spark the most excitement. It’s also a precursor to norepinephrine and dopamine, two of the feel-good brain chemicals. When it comes to sports nutrition, the primary benefit of phenylalanine is that due to its ability to raise norepinephrine and dopamine levels in your brain, it may lower your rate of perceived exertion during exercise, helping you stay in a positive headspace through even the most grueling endurance exercise workouts. Our bodies also need phenylalanine to produce metabolism-regulating thyroid hormones.

Valine

A true power player when it comes to muscle synthesis, valine is both an essential amino acid and a branched-chain amino acid (BCAA)—more on these later. One of valine’s main functions is preventing muscle breakdown. That means if you take valine prior to or during an exercise session, it can help decrease muscle damage, allowing you to recover faster. Valine also stimulates your central nervous systems and regulates blood sugar levels.

Threonine

This amino acid helps keep your connective tissues and muscles strong and elastic, in part because it’s a precursor for two other amino acids: serine and glycine. The benefits of glycine have received a lot of attention from researchers lately. Studies show it can encourage muscle growth as well as decrease muscle loss, among other desirable effects. Threonine can also shorten the time it takes your body to heal wounds and recover from injuries. Plus, it supports healthy fat metabolism and stops fat from building up in the liver.

Tryptophan

Another amino acid that serves as a precursor for a feel-good brain chemical—in this case, serotonin, which can help quell physical sensations of pain. That means boosting your tryptophan can increase your tolerance for pain during challenging workouts. The human body also needs tryptophan to manufacture vitamin B3, which ensures your blood sugar levels stay balanced, forestalls free radical damage, and stymies the accumulation of cholesterol.

Isoleucine

Like valine, isoleucine is both an essential amino acid and a branched-chain amino acid. It’s a crucial component of hemoglobin, the protein in your red blood cells that transports oxygen. Our bodies also use isoleucine for muscle repair, which means upping your isoleucine levels lets you bounce back faster from taxing workout sessions.

Methionine

The principal task of this amino acid is to assist your body with metabolizing fat. Plus, it provides your body with the sulfur it needs to produce glutathione, its most abundant antioxidant compound, as well as cysteine and taurine, two other amino acids that contain sulfur. Thanks to its lipotropic properties, methionine can safeguard your liver function by preventing the buildup of fats.

Histidine

This amino acid, which has some antioxidant properties itself, is a precursor to histamine and helps your body synthesize carnosine. This can directly impact your physical performance because histamine can flush the potentially damaging free radicals generated during exercise from your system, while caronsine keeps lactic acid from accumulating in your muscles.

Leucine

Along with valine and isoleucine, leucine is both an essential amino acid and a branched-chain amino acid. It’s the most abundant amino acid found in human muscle tissue. In addition to enhancing stamina and endurance as well as promoting muscle recovery, leucine initiates the process of protein synthesis and helps to maintain your body’s nitrogen balance and energy supplies.

Lysine

Research indicates that lysine can simulate the release of growth hormone, meaning it can offer vital support to your muscle-building efforts. Lysine also ensures you body properly absorbs calcium. Plus, it demonstrates significant antiviral properties and encourages the production of antibodies, making it a phenomenal immune system booster.

Understanding Branched-Chain Amino Acids

Scientific analysis shows that 35% of your muscle protein is composed of three essential amino acids: valine, isoleucine, and leucine. These are, as you may have noticed if you’ve been paying close attention, the infamous branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). These amino acids get their name from their molecular structures, which have distinctive, branch-like shapes.

The popularity of BCAA supplements with athletes skyrocketed based on studies indicating that they can help to reduce physical fatigue, sharpen mental focus, decrease muscle breakdown, preserve muscle glycogen stores, stimulate muscle protein synthesis, prevent muscle soreness, and more.

Leucine, found in high concentrations in whey protein, is arguably the most important BCAA. But as I mentioned earlier, simply increasing your intake of dietary protein or even adding a whey protein supplement is not the most effective way to benefit from leucine or other amino acids. When taken in supplement form, amino acids can be digested and absorbed more quickly, which maximizes their impact.

As I’ve discussed in previous articles, taking BCAA supplements is also not the most effective way to increase muscle concentrations of these beneficial compounds. There’s no question that BCAAs facilitate muscle growth and optimize athletic performance, but when you take them on their own, they have a minimal impact.

That’s because in order for your body to build complete proteins, it requires all the essential amino acids—and in their appropriate concentrations. Taking a supplement that contains only BCAAs throws off your amino acid balance. Taking an essential amino acid (EAA) supplement that contains the appropriate ratios of all the amino acids needed for protein synthesis is a far better way to amplify your muscle-building results.

When Should I Take My Amino Acids?

Now that you have an increased understanding of how amino acids prevent protein breakdown, facilitate healthy weight loss, improve recovery, and increase energy levels, among other benefits pertinent to those engaged in various physical pursuits, let’s discuss the optimal timing for taking an amino acid supplement.

One of the main reasons to take amino acids for fitness is to build muscle. When you exercise, muscle breaks down in order to release amino acids for the energy the muscles need to contract. Some of the released amino acids are used to rebuild the lost muscle protein. But many of the amino acids are oxidized and cannot be used for muscle protein synthesis. That’s where taking amino acids pre-workout comes in. They help replace the amino acids that are oxidized when your muscle protein breaks down as you exercise.

Taking an amino acid pre-workout powder before resistance exercise is especially important to maintaining and building muscle mass. During resistance exercise blood flows to the muscles at an increased rate. When you ingest amino acids pre-workout, there are more essential amino acids available to strengthen and build muscle.

Taking amino acids before a cardiovascular workout, such as a high-intensity interval training (HIIT class), can help reduce fatigue by balancing the uptake of amino acids that are responsible for the production of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine in the brain.

That said, taking amino acids after a workout (within an hour after exercise) gives your body a boost when it comes to replacing damaged muscle fibers with new muscle protein. Essential amino acids are also important for reducing inflammation, thereby accelerating workout recovery.

To maximize all the beneficial effects of amino acids, it’s best to take a high-quality essential amino acid blend both before and after exercise. If you’re carrying out a resistance-training regimen, you may also see benefits from taking amino acids during your training sessions. This approach to amino acid supplementation is optimal for improving muscle strength as well as accelerating recovery.