Betaine Sources, Uses and Health Benefits

Betaine supplementation may help improve liver detoxification, heart health, digestive function, muscle building, body fat loss, and more. Find out how this amino acid derivative works.

Betaine is a methyl derivative of the amino acid glycine and can be found in food sources like sugar beets, spinach, shellfish, and wheat. As a methyl donor in chemical reactions within the body, betaine is important for liver and kidney health, and without it there can be fatty accumulation in the liver leading to serious cerebral, coronary, vascular, and hepatic diseases—dangerous consequences for your brain, your heart, your bloodstream, and your liver. With a sufficient amount of betaine you can protect your organs, improve certain cardiovascular risk factors, and increase your physical performance. For more about where betaine comes from and how it impacts your health, read on.

What Is Betaine? Where Does It Come From?

A naturally occurring amino acid derivative, betaine is also known as trimethylglycine (TMG). It’s a nonessential nutrient, meaning we don’t have to consume it to get it, as our normal functioning produces betaine as a byproduct of the nonessential amino acid glycine. However, beneficial amounts of betaine can be found in foods, including:

  • Sugar beets
  • Rye grain
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Wheat bran
  • Sweet potato
  • Turkey breast
  • Beef
  • Veal
  • Spinach
  • Shellfish

Betaine was first discovered in the 19th century in sugar beets, which is where its common name is derived from. Its scientific name, trimethylglycine, describes its chemical composition: a glycine derivative attached to three (tri-) methyl groups on the molecular level. This is what gives it the ability to be a methyl donor (along with vitamin B12 and folic acid) when it comes in contact with other chemical compounds throughout the body. Methyl donation occurs in a process called methylation. The methylation process is crucial in protein function and many other critical actions in the body.

Betaine is also an organic osmolyte, a compound involved in the osmosis process, moving fluid into and out of cells to maintain fluid balance and prevent cell shrinkage or rupture. An imbalance there could lead to cell death.

The Health Benefits of Betaine

Betaine has long been a subject for scientific study in the realm of heart health and the prevention and treatment of heart disease, but more recently people have been taking betaine to enhance their exercise performance and improve their body composition as well. For more on how betaine can impact liver detoxification, heart health, digestive function, muscle building, and body fat loss, read on.

Betaine sources, uses, and health benefits.

1. Liver Function and Detoxification

Fatty acid buildup in the liver can lead to severe health consequences, including obesity, diabetes, and fatty liver disease. Fatty acids can accumulate due to dietary choices like eating too many sugary or fatty foods or consuming excessive amounts of alcohol. Liver buildup of fatty acids can cause abdominal pain, fluid retention, cardiovascular problems, and muscle wasting, not to mention damage and scarring to the liver. While the liver is one of our most resilient organs (able to heal itself in ways that our heart and our kidneys, for example, cannot), long-term damage and scarring can build up too, causing permanent damage and even liver failure or death.

The use of betaine treatments for hepatoprotection against conditions like fatty liver disease and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis has proven effective due to betaine’s ability to aid in recovery from liver damage and protect the liver from certain hepatotoxins like ethanol or carbon tetrachloride. Those toxins can find their way into our bodies through contact with pesticides, herbicides, and even some prescription medications. Detoxing them from the body without long-lasting liver damage is one of the top benefits we can all gain from betaine.

2. Heart Health

The cardiovascular benefits of betaine are the most thoroughly documented by researchers. By quickly and safely reducing the plasma homocysteine concentrations in our bloodstream, betaine protects us from homocystinuria, a condition characterized by high homocysteine levels that can lead to the development of arterial plaque and ultimately heart disease.

Betaine can lower homocysteine levels by providing homocysteine molecules with one of its three methyl groups, transforming homocysteine into the amino acid methionine, which is beneficially used in protein synthesis and liver cell protection against toxins, like in cases of acetaminophen (Tylenol) poisoning. Betaine has even gained Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for safe use in treating homocystinuria.

3. Digestive Aid

Our stomachs require a sufficient amount of stomach acid to digest the food we eat. If you have low stomach acid (a condition called hypochlorhydria), your food will only be partially digested, resulting in a lower absorption rate of the nutrients you consume. In some instances (as in the case of essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals) we can only gain the necessary nutrients needed to live and function by consuming and then absorbing them. Absorption disorders can quickly lead to different forms of anemia, malnutrition, and wasting that detrimentally impact our health. Gastrointestinal overgrowth of Candida (a yeast bacteria) has been scientifically linked with lower levels of stomach acid.

The biggest component in stomach acid is hydrochloric acid (HCl), and an estimated half of individuals over 50 are not producing enough of it. Luckily betaine HCl, a combination of betaine and hydrochloride naturally found in beets, can work as an effective treatment for hypochlorhydria (a total absence of stomach acid). When taken as a supplement, betaine HCl increases the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, aiding digestion and enhancing the absorption levels of nutrients like iron, calcium, vitamin B12, and protein.

It should be noted, however, that betaine HCl should not be taken by those who have peptic ulcers, severe atrophic gastritis, or an inflammation of the stomach lining. While it used to be an over-the-counter drug often combined with vitamin B6, this form of betaine has since been banned (in 1993) from over-the-counter sale because it could not be recognized as “generally safe” by the FDA. It is now only available in supplement form, and because supplements are largely under-regulated, you should consult a health care professional for medical advice on the proper doses of betaine hydrochloride before taking it.

And while we’re on the subject, betaine hydrochloride should not be confused with betaine anhydrous, which is the FDA-approved form of betaine that is deemed safe and effective for treating high levels of homocysteine.

4. Muscle Building and Fat Loss

Due to betaine’s role in metabolizing protein, it has recently come into popular use as a workout supplement for muscle building and bodyweight management. Included in many pre-workout nutrient formulas, clinical trials have shown that betaine supplementation can help increase muscle power and endurance all while promoting the loss of dangerous body fat. This combination results in improved body composition for those who utilize betaine as a workout enhancement.

Be Better with Betaine

Betaine supplementation is not advised for children or pregnant or breastfeeding women. This is due not to any adverse side effects reported, but because of a lack of scientific evidence on the effects of high betaine levels in those populations. Likewise betaine hydrochloride can be dangerous for anyone with peptic ulcers or issues with their stomach lining, and should only be taken under a doctor’s approval.

However, as betaine is a naturally occurring compound in our bodies and vital for many important functions, it’s otherwise regarded as a safe way to protect your liver, enhance your physical performance, and help your heart. Consult with a medical professional if you have any hesitations, and find out what betaine supplementation could do for you.

The Benefits of Coconut Aminos

Coconut aminos are the gluten-free, no-MSG, low-sodium alternative to soy sauce—find out what other benefits they can provide, no matter what dietary restriction or allergies you have.

Find out what are coconut aminos, why some people use them to replace soy sauce, how to get them, and how to use them. We’re also dishing on the health benefits of coconut aminos, which are pretty impressive!

What Are Coconut Aminos?

Coconut aminos are sold as a liquid condiment, a dark sweet-and-salty product that is often used as an alternative to tamari or soy sauce. With low salt and low glycemic contents, coconut aminos are also vegan, gluten free, soy free, and full of amino acids as the name suggests.

A favorite among those eating a paleo diet or dealing with a gluten sensitivity or celiac’s disease, coconut aminos are actually a great product for anyone who wants to avoid the high salt content of soy sauce.

Coconut aminos, unlike coconut oil, are made by fermenting raw coconut-blossom nectar (sap) with mineral-rich sea salt. From those unopened flowers come a wide array of products, including alcohol, vinegar, syrup, sweeteners, and coconut aminos. Coconut sap needs no additives to ferment, as it naturally has all the right yeast, sugar, and bacteria. It ages from a milky white color to a dark brown, and then is mixed with sea salt for flavoring.

A natural whole food with B vitamins, vitamin C, and 17 amino acids (including all nine essential amino acids required for new muscle growth), coconut aminos have a lot to offer.

Are Coconut Aminos Healthier Than Soy Sauce?

If coconut aminos still contain salt, how is coconut amino liquid healthier than soy sauce? Though coconut aminos do come with sugar and salt, as a soy sauce alternative they have less sodium per gram. A 5-gram serving of coconut aminos yields 5 calories, 1 gram of carbs, zero fat, and about 73% less sodium than soy sauce does. That’s roughly 113 milligrams of sodium per serving, just 5% of the recommended daily value.

Coconut aminos also have a low glycemic index number, which ranks foods based on how they impact blood sugar levels. At a 35 on the glycemic index, coconut aminos are a much healthier choice for those with diabetes, and for maintaining healthier blood sugar levels over all. Coconut amino seasoning sauce in Asian food recipes like fried rice is better than soy sauce in a few more ways.

  • Soy sauce can come fermented or unfermented. Fermented soy sauce offers the benefits of probiotics, but unfermented does not, and often contains wheat (a problem for those with food sensitivities to gluten).
  • A lot of soy sauces are genetically modified (GMO) products, the health effects of which are not fully known, and may cause allergies in children.
  • Soy sauce contains monosodium glutamate (MSG), which can cause weakness, muscle pain, and headaches in those who are vulnerable to its affects.
  • A high-sodium diet can have a dangerous impact on anyone’s blood pressure, and with 73% more sodium in soy sauce than coconut aminos, it’s safer to go with the low sodium option.

For those reasons, many people are saying goodbye to commercial soy sauces and hello to the gluten free, sustainable, and organic coconut amino alternative instead.

Coconut aminos: health benefits and dietary uses.The Benefits of Coconut Aminos

While coconut aminos have not been extensively studied, coconut sap has, in both its fresh and fermented form. That research provides the following beneficial credits.

Amino Acid Content

Amino acids not only make up all the protein in your body, but are also responsible for hormone synthesis and regulating your immune function and response. With 17 essential (all the essentials in fact!) and nonessential aminos, coconut aminos provide you with the building blocks of protein and more.

Probiotic Digestion Aid

Fermented foods like kefir, kimchi, and coconut aminos improve your gut’s bacterial content by adding more good bacteria into the mix, and coconut aminos provide an organic probiotic boost to the health of your gut flora. Scientifically shown to benefit digestion and help decrease the symptoms of allergies, probiotics are a healthy choice.

One of the commonest fungal infections in modern times is candidiasis, resulting from a bacteria that tends to overgrow in our digestive tracts and is responsible for symptoms like bloating, gas, nausea, and diarrhea. The lactobacillus contained in coconut aminos helps to inhibit fungal candida albicans, reducing the likelihood that it will overgrow and cause harm to its host (us humans).

An MSG- and Gluten-Free Alternative

Those with a sensitivity to MSG, which is often added to soy sauce, can use coconut aminos instead. MSG has been shown to exacerbate migraine headaches, increase blood pressure, and negatively harm the human body. Moreover, as coconut aminos are gluten free, it’s a safer and healthier alternative for many, especially those who suffer from celiac disease and cannot ingest gluten whatsoever without severe consequences.

How to Use Coconut Aminos

What might you use soy sauce for? That is where coconut aminos can sub in perfectly. From a sushi dipping sauce to a marinade to salad dressing, coconut aminos have the same consistency and a similar taste to soy sauce and pair well with any Asian culinary dish. A vegetable stir fry with 73% less sodium? That’s an extremely healthy and easy way to use a soy sauce substitute.

Coconut Aminos: Dietary Restrictions and Allergies

Even better, because coconut aminos are so allergen-free, they fit into any healthy diet, from the Whole30 diet, to the keto diet, to paleo and AIP diets, vegan and vegetarian diets, gluten-free diets, and the Candida diet (designed to prevent bacterial overgrowth). Whatever your restrictions or dietary choices, you can rely on coconut aminos.

The same cannot be said about tamari though, so for those still deciding between tamari vs. coconut aminos in the great soy sauce replacement debate, tamari products are not always 100% gluten-free. Though it’s made without the roasted grains of soy sauce, you’ll have to check tamari’s label every time to make sure there is no wheat in use at any stage in the process. Also for those with soy allergies, it’s a no-go: tamari is still the end result of fermented soybeans.

So in the end, if you’re looking for a soy-free seasoning sauce that won’t disrupt your carefully kept diet, you’re probably looking for coconut aminos. That goes the same for coconut aminos vs. liquid aminos: liquid aminos are made by treating soybeans with an acid that breaks down its proteins into amino acids, and while it (like coconut aminos) is a gluten-free product, it still has soy, and a lot more sodium per serving size to boot. A teaspoon of coconut aminos comes with 90 milligrams of sodium, while liquid aminos have 320 milligrams per teaspoon—that’s even higher than many traditional soy sauces.

Side Effects

Good news: there are no reported adverse side effects to consuming coconut aminos. Short of being allergic to coconuts, coconut aminos are safe to welcome into your diet and have no noted interactions with any medications whatsoever.

Go Loco for Coco Aminos

For an alternative to soy sauce that’s sustainable, organic, soy free, gluten free, vegan, kosher, and free of MSG, coconut aminos are your ideal answer. Not only will you lose the unhealthy impact of soy sauce, but you’ll also gain the probiotic benefits of a fermented food product. While it may be hard to find on store shelves outside of the largest health food chains, you can easily browse the Internet and research the many brands of coconut aminos to find one that fits perfectly to your liking. Look for organic products only, and in a glass bottle that you store in the refrigerator once opened and then enjoy for months to come.

L-Phenylalanine: Weight-Loss Solution?

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

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

What Is L-Phenylalanine?

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

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

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

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

Phenylalanine for Normal Functioning

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

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

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

Phenylalanine for Certain Medical Conditions

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

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

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

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

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

L-Phenylalanine: Weight-Loss Applications

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

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

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

Possible Side Effects of Phenylalanine Supplementation

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

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

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

Foods High in Phenylalanine

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

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

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

Phenomenal Phenylalanine

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

Amino Acid Powder: The Top 10 Benefits

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

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

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

Top 10 benefits of amino acid powders.

BCAAs vs. EAAs

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

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

The essential amino acids include:

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

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

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

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

The Top 10 Benefits of Amino Acid Powder

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

1. Balanced Dosages

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

2. Improved Muscle Growth

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

3. Increased Endurance

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

4. Better Fat Burning

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

5. Reduced Fatigue

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

6. Increased Focus

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

7. Muscle Sparing

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

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

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

8. Improved Post-Workout Recovery

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

9. Reduced Muscle Soreness

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

10. Improved Athletic Performance

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

When to Take Amino Acid Powder

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

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

The Amino Advantage

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

Should You Supplement with the Amino Acid GABA?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who Should Take GABA Supplements?

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

People may need more GABA if they have:

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

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

The science behind GABA supplements.

Are GABA Supplements Effective?

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

GABA for Anxiety and Depression

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

GABA for Insomnia

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

GABA for High Blood Pressure

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

GABA for Stress and Fatigue

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

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

The Potential Side Effects of GABA Supplements

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

  • Headache
  • Muscle weakness
  • Sleepiness
  • Upset stomach

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

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

Go Gaga for GABA

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

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

D-Mannose: UTI Prevention and Treatment

D-mannose: what is it, how is it useful in preventing and treating UTIs, and where can you find it? All these questions and more answered, along with dosage recommendations based on successful clinical trials. 

If you suffer from recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs), then you are already well aware that unsweetened cranberry juice is on the top of the home remedy list. You may not know that one of the aspects of cranberry juice that makes it so helpful is a compound known as D-mannose, a type of sugar related to the better-known substance glucose. This simple sugar is found naturally in the body and in a variety of foods, and recent clinical trials are discovering that D-mannose UTI treatment is a promising possibility. Read on to learn more about D-mannose, its other dietary sources, and how it may help those dealing with recurrent UTIs.

D-mannose for UTI treatment and prevention.

Symptoms and Risk Factors of UTI

Urinary tract infections do not always cause signs and symptoms, but when they do those symptoms could include:

  • A persistent urge to urinate
  • A burning sensation during urination
  • Passing small, frequent amounts of urine
  • Cloudy urine
  • Pink-, red-, or cola-colored urine (a sign of blood in the urine)
  • Unusually strong-smelling urine
  • Pelvic pain, especially in women, in the center of the pelvis and around the pubic bone

Women are more at risk of developing UTIs because the urethra is shorter in female anatomy, which thus shortens the distance bacteria has to travel to reach the bladder. Sexual activity increases this risk, as well as certain types of birth control like diaphragms and spermicidal agents. Menopause can leave women more vulnerable to UTIs as well, and conditions like diabetes, or requiring the use of a catheter.

What Is D-Mannose for UTI?

D-mannose is a simple sugar, meaning it consists of only one molecule of sugar. While it naturally occurs in your body, D-mannose can also be found in some plants in the form of starch. Fruits and vegetables that contain D-mannose include:

  • Apples
  • Broccoli
  • Cranberries (and cranberry juice)
  • Green beans
  • Oranges
  • Peaches

D-mannose is also included in certain dietary supplements, and is available as a powder or in capsule form. Some supplements are made exclusively of D-mannose, while others may include additional ingredients like cranberry, hibiscus, dandelion extract, rose hips, or probiotics. D-mannose is often taken to treat or prevent urinary tract infections because it is able to stop specific bacteria from growing inside the urinary tract. The question is: does the use of D-mannose effectively treat UTIs?

The Science Behind D-Mannose UTI Treatment

There is scientific evidence detailing how D-mannose works to combat the bacterium that causes infections in the urinary system. Escherichia coli (E. coli) causes an estimated 90% of UTIs. When E. coli gets into the urinary tract, it latches onto the cells and starts to grow, causing an infection. Researchers believe that D-mannose, whether consumed in foods or ingested via D-mannose supplements, can work to prevent UTIs by stopping the E. coli bacteria from attaching to the cell walls in the first place.

When D-mannose is consumed, it travels through the same digestive pathways as all the other foods you eat, eventually finding its way to your kidneys and urinary tract for elimination from the body. Once arrived, if there are any E. coli bacteria present, D-mannose combines with them before they can attach to your cells, and carries them out of your body during urination.

While there hasn’t been an overwhelming amount of research done on those with chronic or acute urinary tract infections, a few pilot studies show promising support of D-mannose’s potential in preventing and clearing up UTIs.

  • One 2013 clinical trial evaluated the effect of D-mannose supplementation on 308 women who had a history of recurrent UTIs. Over a 6-month period, D-mannose worked about as well as the antibiotic treatment nitrofurantoin, without the potential adverse effect of developing antibiotic resistance.
  • A 2014 study of 60 adult women found that D-mannose, when compared to the antibiotic trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole, appeared to be a safe and effective treatment and prevention tool. Not only did D-mannose reduce UTI symptoms in those women with active infections, but it was also more effective than the antibiotic in preventing recurring infections.
  • Another study in 2016 tested D-mannose’s effects on 43 women with active UTIs, observing that by the end of the study, most of the women had improved symptoms.

Where to Buy D-Mannose for a UTI and How to Use It

There are many D-mannose products that are widely available at pharmacies, health food and wellness stores, or for purchase online. When choosing a D-mannose product, keep in mind these three questions:

  • Are you seeking to prevent infection or to treat an active UTI?
  • What is the dose you’ll have to take?
  • What is the type of product you want to consume? (Powder or capsule? D-mannose alone or in a combined supplement?)

D-mannose is most often used for preventing UTIs in people who have them frequently, or for treating the symptoms of active urinary tract infections. How much D-mannose to take for a UTI depends on whether you’re treating or preventing, and based on the dosages used in the above-mentioned clinical research, suggested dosages are:

  • For preventing frequent UTIs: 2 grams of D-mannose once per day, or 1 gram twice per day.
  • For treating active UTIs: 1.5 grams of D-mannose twice per day for 3 days, then once per day for the following 10 days; or 1 gram 3 times per day for 14 days.

As far as the difference between capsules and powders, that is solely up to your personal preference. You may prefer a powder if you don’t like to swallow large capsules, if you want to avoid the fillers that are often included in manufacturers’ products, or if you have dietary restrictions on gelatin capsules. Many products provide you with 500-milligram capsules, meaning you may need to take 2-4 capsules to get the dose you’re looking for. Powder on the other hand would allow you to do your own measuring. D-mannose powder can be dissolved in a glass of water for drinking, or combined into smoothies. The powder easily dissolves, and in plain water D-mannose has a sweet taste.

Possible Side Effects of Taking D-Mannose

Most people taking D-mannose do not experience any side effects, but some have reported loose stools or diarrhea. Those with diabetes should consult a health care professional for medical advice before taking D-mannose, as it is a form of sugar and may need to be carefully monitored in relation to blood sugar levels.

Those with an active UTI should also consult a trusted health care provider, because the ability of D-mannose to treat an active infection for some may not be a sure-fire solution for all. Delaying antibiotic treatment of an active infection could allow enough time for the infection to spread to the kidneys and the blood, resulting in a much more serious medical condition.

D-Mannose Gets an “A” for Effort

While more research needs to be done on D-mannose’s potential for treating UTIs, it’s nevertheless a safe option to try for those who want to prevent UTIs and bladder infections from occurring in the first place. Talk with your doctor about whether this supplement might be the key to arming your immune system against invading urinary tract bacteria.

How to Speed up Healing: From Sunburns to Surgery Recovery

The wound healing process, much like our physical activity levels, tends to decline as we age. Here are some scientifically backed tips on the best ways to speed up healing, from minor cuts and scrapes around the home, to post-surgical recovery and muscle tissue rebuilding.

Whether you have a cut, a burn, or are healing from a surgical procedure, there are ways to help speed up healing and close your wounds faster. The wound healing process, much like our physical activity levels, tends to decline as we age. The older we get, the longer our healing time takes, leading in some instances to chronic wounds that never really go away. To speed up wound repair, here are some tips for helping your body along.

Speed up healing: from sunburns to surgery.

At-Home Healing: Small Wounds and Scar Reduction

When it comes to home remedies for wound care, there are a lot of old wives’ tales still around. Some of them make a certain amount of sense when considered scientifically, like waiting 30 minutes to swim after you eat may well help you avoid a minor cramp. However, not all of these folktales are true enough to keep repeating or insisting on. Not everyone will get a minor cramp if they swim after eating, and even if they do, it won’t cause them to drown. And yet still we wait, and tell children to wait, and keep the myth going.

When it comes to how to speed up wound healing, there are a lot of practices that don’t really apply. Some say leaving a wound open to dry in the air and “breathe” helps it heal faster, but that isn’t true if it’s now open to dirt and possible infection. To stop infection, many douse a wound in alcohol or peroxide—talk about pouring salt on a wound!

In truth, leaving a wound to dry out is not ideal, and can even slow healing and increase pain. Wounds need moisture to heal, and moist wound healing speeds up healing and reduces scarring. Here are some other tips on how to foster faster healing and reduce the risk of scarring.

1. Clean and Disinfect

Before touching a wound, wash your hands. When it comes to cleaning the wound, start with clear water and a clean cloth to remove any dirt or particles from the wound. If there are pieces of debris in a wound (your kid took a wipeout on their skateboard and has gravel embedded in the scrape, for example), use a pair of tweezers to remove them. The tweezers should be sterilized with some isopropyl alcohol, but alcohol is not advised directly on the open wound.

Instead, once the wound is clean, apply an antibiotic cream, ointment, or spray to the wound area, and make your call about what kind of bandage applies. If it’s an open wound like a wide scrape, a gauze and a wrap may be called for, but a cut on a finger might need only a bandaid to reduce the risk of infection and speed healing.

Remember not to pick at any scab that forms, because a scab is the body’s natural bandage.

2. Encourage Blood Flow

Nobody can heal you better than your own body, but there are ways to help it along. You’ll notice when you get a scrape or a bruise that the area seems to heat up. That’s because the body has dispatched its in-house medical team via your bloodstream.

To increase blood flow to the skin and surrounding area, you can apply a heating pad or hot water bottle, or place the wound area in some warm water for 15-30 minutes. It’s not a high-tech method but it does help, especially for wounds on your extremities (fingers, toes, arms, and legs) where your blood vessels are smaller, or for anyone with poor circulation, like the elderly.

If adding heat is uncomfortable, massaging the surrounding area is another way to usher blood to the site of injury.

3. Reduce Inflammation

After encouraging healthy blood flow, your wound may experience unhealthy inflammation. A burn that you got from pulling dinner out of the oven might feel like it’s still burning for days after, and you’ll want some kind of anti-inflammatory to help relieve the pain.

Many people think of the gel-like insides of the aloe vera plant for burns, and this is an age-old home remedy that actually works! Aloe vera is a succulent plant originally native to Africa that has a gooey substance in its leaves called mucilaginous juice, and while the plant is 99% water, it does have two chemicals within that improve wound healing.

According to researchers, many of the healing effects of aloe vera are due to the glycoproteins and polysaccharides present in the plant’s pulp. The polysaccharides increase cellular movement, leading to faster tissue regrowth, and the glycoproteins help relieve pain and control the inflammatory response. Together these compounds aid and possibly improve your immune system.

There is even more evidence out of a 2015 study that suggests there are further helpful compounds in aloe vera for cutaneous wounds (like sunburns). For instance, glucomannan stimulates the growth of fibroblasts responsible for collagen, skin cell, and tissue building. Other chemicals found in aloe vera may also help foster blood vessel regrowth, making it a fantastic, natural anti-inflammatory to have on hand for minor wound healing.

4. Get More Protein, Vitamins, and Nutrients

There are certain power foods that contain the nutrients your body needs to rebuild itself, including vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, and magnesium. You’ll find these nutrients in dark green leafy vegetables and in orange, yellow, and red fruits and veggies (eat the rainbow!), like bell peppers, tomatoes, oranges, and more.

One of the biggest factors when it comes to tissue and wound healing though? Protein. Omega-3s come from fish along with fish’s protein content, and you can get an assortment of your essential amino acids from various meats and dairy products.

Amino acids are needed for wound healing, so if you’re not a meat-eater, you can increase your protein intake with certain vegetarian and vegan protein foods, or with an amino acid supplement while you heal.

How to Speed up Healing After Surgery

Outside of household and playground injuries, recovery after surgery is a whole different ball game. No matter where it is on the body or how good the chances for a speedy recovery are, surgery still carries a certain amount of risk, and so does surgical recovery. Once you’re sent home from your procedure, you’re going to want to heal as quickly and safely as possible. Here are some tips for how to do so.

1. Follow Your Doctor’s Instructions

While it’s true that no one knows your body quite like you do, doctors don’t give out suggestions willy-nilly. Their medical advice is based on data and research collected from all different kinds of patients over years and years of procedures.

If a doctor tells you to avoid activities for a specific amount of time after a procedure, it’s in your best interest to heed that advice. If you’re told to avoid driving, avoid sexual intercourse, avoid alcohol, or avoid lifting anything over 10 pounds for a couple of weeks, this is for your safety, and so you don’t end up back in their office with a new injury or complication. You may be feeling good enough to return to normal activity, and that’s great, it means your healing is right on course! And yet there may still be healing processes going on beneath your skin that need a little bit more time.

2. Eat the Right Recovery Foods

As true as it was for minor wounds, eating a nutrient-dense diet is even more important after a surgery, because you’re healing much deeper wounds. Although you may have a loss of appetite or digestive discomfort after a surgery, it’s important that you eat a healthy diet by any means necessary (broths, smoothies, amino acid powders), because certain foods are actually going to feed your recovery process.

Again, vitamin C and zinc can help with healing, and can be had from fruit and beans. Iron and vitamin B12 help in forming new blood cells and can be found in fish and eggs. Sports and sugary drinks should be avoided for the time being, as should refined sugar foods.

Protein is more important than ever, as many surgeries by nature involve cutting through tissue and muscle, and the amino acids in protein can help speed post-surgical recovery. Meat, poultry, fish, and eggs are all strong sources of protein, but if a doctor tells you to take a protein supplement, look for a comprehensive amino acid supplement. For recovering after surgery, you may need more protein than a normal diet or your appetite can provide, and supplementing may be a necessity.

3. Follow-up, Ask For Help, and Get Moving Gradually

Surgical recovery may take a while and involve follow-up appointments, physical therapy, and/or at-home assistance. During this time, it’s important to keep all appointments with your health care team, because a diagnostic such as bloodwork could alert your doctor to a problem before it becomes an infection. Likewise, physical therapy could help you correct something like a limp before it becomes a misalignment.

Asking for help from your family or your medical team may not be your usual tendency, but it is necessary and encouraged for the sake of a speedy and successful recovery. If problems are allowed to fester, you could end up back in the hospital or on bedrest, and in danger of new problems altogether, like muscle atrophy.

4. Don’t Smoke

This is a tip that may not apply to all, so if you don’t smoke or have never smoked, skip ahead. However, if you are a smoker or live with one, the effects of cigarette smoking can counteract your wound healing.

Nicotine tightens blood vessels, and the more constricted your blood vessels are, the harder it is for all the other recovery work you’re doing to matter. The nutrients you eat won’t be going to the right places, the muscle you’re building takes longer to thrive, your wounds take longer to heal, and more carcinogens and harmful substances are coming in at the same time. If you’ve ever wanted to quit smoking, after a surgery it’s more important than ever, and can make even more of a positive health impact.

The Need for Speed

Some things can’t be rushed, and a lot of the time your health is the tortoise racing against the hare: slow and steady wins the race. Diet and exercise are long-haul habits that make all the difference. While that’s also true when it comes to a lot of aspects of healing, the more you can do to support your body’s healing mechanisms and get out of their way, the faster the process goes and the lower the chance you’ll have any more problems arising from the initial issue.

Whether it’s a cut, a sunburn, a broken limb, or a surgical operation, anything can go from bad to worse if you’re not careful. Luckily there are resources you can use and advice to be had on how to speed up healing in a successful and sustainable way. Take these tips into consideration, seek medical advice if needed, and know that we wish you a speedy recovery.

Caffeine Withdrawal: Symptoms and Solutions

Learn about the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal, ranging from mild to severe. Also check out some tips on how to wean yourself from caffeine without the discomfort of withdrawal.

If you’ve ever had a coffee or soda habit, you may have experienced caffeine withdrawal symptoms. They’re uncomfortable, sometimes flu-like symptoms that can distract you from your work, disrupt your sleep, and make you irritable around your loved ones. Because coffee and soda are such normal beverages around the home and workplace, it can be easy to forget that caffeine, though mild, is still a drug just like any other. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association included “Caffeine Withdrawal” in a recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the DSM-51), a publication for health care professionals that describes the criteria of mental disorders. Caffeine withdrawal causes real symptoms in the human body, and this article will describe some of those symptoms, and a few different methods you can use to relieve them.

Caffeine withdrawal: symptoms and solutions.

Common Symptoms of Caffeine Withdrawal

Caffeine is a stimulant to the central nervous system, and it is also the world’s most commonly used psychoactive substance. Caffeine affects your neural activity, increasing alertness and reducing fatigue. If you regularly consume caffeine your body begins to rely on it, and when you stop, you can experience withdrawal. Here is a list of some common symptoms of caffeine withdrawal.

1. Headache

One of the most commonly reported symptoms of caffeine withdrawal, headaches are caused because caffeine constricts blood vessels in the brain, slowing the blood flow. One study showed that those who consume fewer than 3 cups of coffee a day can reduce their cerebral blood flow by up to 27%. Once the blood vessels narrow, reducing your caffeine consumption allows the blood flow to increase to the brain again, which can cause painful, sometimes severe headaches as the brain readapts. The headaches will eventually subside, but read to the end of this article to find our suggested solutions for relieving the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal.

2. Difficulty Concentrating

Coffee, tea, and energy drinks with caffeine are often taken to boost concentration, so when you suddenly stop consuming them, that benefit ends. Caffeinated beverages are often used to improve focus before tests, athletic events, or presentations because caffeine causes your adrenal glands to up their production of adrenaline. Caffeine also boosts your excitatory neurotransmitters, norepinephrine and dopamine. Overall, caffeine works by raising your heart rate, your blood pressure, and stimulating your brain. Phasing out caffeine forces your body to suddenly adapt to doing without all those perks.

3. Fatigue

That feeling of tiredness you often use a cup of coffee to counteract? If you quit caffeine, that fatigue may return with a vengeance. Caffeine increases alertness by blocking adenosine receptors, a neurotransmitter that causes drowsiness. When that is removed from your body’s chemistry, the adenosine comes right back, and affects you in a way you may have become unaccustomed to dealing with on your own.

One study of 213 habitual caffeine drinkers showed that abstaining from caffeine for only 16 hours caused feelings of fatigue. Those who consumed caffeine the most had much more severe withdrawal symptoms. Because the energy caffeine provides only lasts up to 4-6 hours, it becomes easy for normal users to get into the habit of drinking multiple cups of coffee or energy drinks each day, just to maintain their desired level of alertness. It also deepens their dependency.

4. Anxiety

Because caffeine is a stimulant that increases your blood pressure, heart rate, and the stress hormones epinephrine and cortisol, just 1 cup of coffee can make some people anxious and jittery. However, suddenly stopping your caffeine consumption can cause this side effect as well, as your body has become physically and mentally dependent on a substance it’s no longer getting. Moreover if you take your caffeine in the form of soda or sweetened coffee you may be feeling the lack of sugar intake as well, which could amp up the restlessness and anxiety you feel and make your caffeine withdrawal even worse.

5. Irritability

Regular coffee drinkers are often cranky or irritable before their morning cup of java. It’s a lack of caffeine that may be the cause of that, because caffeine only lasts in your system for 4-6 hours and it’s worn off after a night’s rest. As coffee drinkers are used to the mood-altering effects of caffeine, the lack of it can bring feelings of irritability. One study of 94 caffeine drinkers who wanted to cut back on their caffeine intake showed that 89% of the participants were unsuccessful, reportedly due to the symptoms of withdrawal, which included anger and irritability.

6. Depressed Mood

Caffeine is well known for perking people up and elevating their mood because it blocks adenosine receptors. Studies have shown that those who consume caffeine regularly have a more positive mood compared to those taking a placebo. It can go so far as to reduce the risk of depression, as seen in one study on over 50,000 women which found that those who drank 4 or more cups of coffee a day had a 20% lower risk of depression. Removing those benefits by ceasing caffeine consumption can cause a depression in mood, a side effect that could be quite dangerous, as depression is a serious condition that could alter someone’s life for the worse.

7. Tremors

Another serious side effect of caffeine withdrawal: tremors. Those with a serious dependency may find their hands shake after they quit caffeine, because caffeine is a stimulant of the central nervous system. Quitting cold turkey could be ill advised for those with anxiety disorders or a long-term caffeine addiction, as these hand tremors could last between 2 and 9 days after stopping caffeine intake. Tremors lasting any longer than that may mean you need to consult a medical professional to make sure there isn’t an underlying cause beyond consuming too much caffeine.

Ways to Reduce Caffeine Withdrawal Symptoms

Here are some tips for treating caffeine withdrawal symptoms.

1. Over-the-Counter Medications

For headaches or difficulty falling asleep, over-the-counter medications like pain relievers and sleep aids can help in the short term, to get you past those first few days of caffeine withdrawal. Ibuprofen (Advil), acetaminophen (Tylenol), and aspirin (Bayer) can help a caffeine withdrawal headache, but be sure to take them as instructed on the label, as some medications can cause stomach bleeding or kidney damage if overused.

2. Reduce Slowly and Stay Hydrated

Reducing your dependence on caffeine slowly is a way to minimize withdrawal symptoms while avoiding over-the-counter drugs. If you are drinking multiple cups of coffee a day, for example, you may want to take a month and reduce your caffeine consumption by 25% each week. That means 4 cups a day on a usual week should go down to 3 cups the next week, and so on until you can experience milder withdrawal symptoms. Switching to decaf or herbal tea after that can help you keep your habits and obey your taste cravings, and staying hydrated reduces instances of headache.

3. Amino Acids for Caffeine Withdrawal

Another option you might try is supplementing with the amino acid L-tyrosine for caffeine withdrawal (also known as tyrosine). Your brain synthesizes dopamine from tyrosine, which is normally gained from either high-protein food sources (cod, eggs, spirulina, beef, poultry, pork, dairy products, avocados, nuts, and seeds), or from another amino acid, phenylalanine.

The brain overproduces dopamine when you consume caffeine, first depleting your stores of tyrosine, then phenylalanine. When you stop caffeine consumption suddenly, your body may be unable to normally produce dopamine for a short time until it replenishes its amino acid stores.

Supplementing with a comprehensive amino acid supplement that includes tyrosine or phenylalanine (which helps restore both of them), could help you quit caffeine cold turkey, but without the cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

The last facet will be to replace the behaviors around caffeine consumption: heading to a coffee shop, having a soda as a midday pick-me-up, or relying on energy drinks when you need to focus. Replacing behavioral habits with new ones, and replacing your physiological dependence with the help of an amino acid supplement, may allow you to skip the backlash of removing daily caffeine from your life (and help keep you from backsliding into a habit you no longer want to participate in).

Remove Caffeine from Your Routine

Caffeine dependence is a very common predicament in the modern world. Most people are able to kick the habit on their own eventually, but relapsing is a common occurrence too. Consider using the tips above to stick to your new caffeine-free resolution, and consult a medical professional if you notice extreme withdrawal symptoms like double vision, confusion, or nausea, especially if they persist for longer than 9 days. Other than that, quitting caffeine is definitely doable, and you know you have the strength to see it through.

Muscle Atrophy: Causes, Treatment and Prevention

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

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

Muscle Atrophy: Definition

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

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

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

Muscle atrophy: causes, treatment, and prevention.

Muscle Atrophy: Causes

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

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

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

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

Muscle Atrophy: Symptoms

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

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

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

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

Muscle Atrophy: Diagnosis

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

Can Muscle Atrophy Be Reversed?

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

Muscle Atrophy: Treatment

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

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

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

Muscle Atrophy: Prevention

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

Stay Active

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

Stay Nourished

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

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

Seek Physical Therapy

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

Try Passive Movement

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

Preventative Measures

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

Eliminate Atrophy

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

Are Beans a Complete Protein?

Find out whether beans are a complete protein, and also learn about the health benefits that beans have to offer for weight management, digestive comfort, heart health, and blood sugar control.

You’ve heard about complete proteins, and you know that beans are a great non-animal protein source, but you find yourself asking, “Are beans a complete protein?” We will provide you with that answer, as well as the specific definitions of what makes a complete protein, and whether or not so-called “complementary proteins” get the job done in providing you with all nine of the essential amino acids that keep your body growing and functioning.

What Is a Complete Protein?

When someone speaks of a “complete protein” they are referring to the amino acid content of a food. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein in the body, meaning they are involved in building muscle, repairing tissue, and so much more (like producing your much-needed hormones).

There are 20 different amino acids in the human body, nine of which are considered essential, meaning they must come from a food source because the body can’t create them in-house. A complete protein has all nine of these essential amino acids, not least because for protein synthesis and muscle creation in the body, all nine are necessary.

Examples of complete proteins are eggs, chia seeds, Greek yogurt, quinoa, and soybeans. These are all great sources of protein that are either non-meat or plant proteins, and thus are especially valuable for those keeping vegetarian diets as well as vegan diets (where it’s all the more difficult to get enough protein).

When talking about foods, complete proteins must have all nine essential amino acids in sufficient amounts. If a food is lacking in one or two amino acids, it needs to be eaten with a complementary protein to make for a complete protein meal.

What Are Complementary Protein Combinations?

When you have a food that has, say, eight out of nine essential amino acids, or you have a food with all nine but two of the amino acids are only present in trace amounts and, therefore, not enough for your body to effectively use, well… what then? Of course, it’s not as if an incomplete protein is suddenly trash food to be thrown to the wolves, so what can you do?

No worries: if a complete protein is what you’re after, then you might easily pair two foods in one dish, each of which have complementary amino acid profiles. What one food lacks, the other makes up for, and vice versa!

One of the best-known examples is hummus eaten with pita bread. The protein in whole wheat is almost complete, deficient only in the amino acid lysine. Meanwhile the protein in chickpeas does contain a significant helping of lysine, which together makes this Middle Eastern staple a complete protein snack. Combine one whole wheat pita and 2 tablespoons of hummus, and you net 7 grams of protein. Other easy combinations for complementary protein sources include a whole wheat bread and peanut butter sandwich, hemp seeds added to a dish with lentils, or non-Greek yogurt combined with almonds or sunflower seeds.

So… Are Beans A Complete Protein?

The answer is: not without rice! Most beans are high in lysine but low in the essential amino acid methionine. Whole grain rice on the other hand is low in lysine, but rather high in methionine. On top of that, rice and beans is one of the simplest and most affordable vegan meals around (for those who are only interested in plant sources of protein), and one of the easiest sources of protein you can make for dinner. In a 1-cup serving of rice and beans you can gain a complete protein content of 7 grams. This meal choice is also a great way to load back up on carbs and protein after a workout.

The Many Health Benefits of Beans

Beans are valuable not just as a source of protein for your daily protein requirements, but for many more of the nutrients your body needs. Check out the following nutrition facts about beans, and see if you don’t feel like making rice and beans a regular staple of your household.

Learn whether beans are a complete protein.

The Bean Family

Beans are seeds that come from the Fabaceae flowering plant family, and are technically classified as legumes (a member of the pea family). Other legumes are peanuts, lentils, and (of course) peas. The bean family includes the following varieties:

  • Black beans
  • Soybeans
  • Garbanzo beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Lima beans
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Kidney beans
  • Navy beans
  • Red beans

The Health Benefits of Beans

Outside of its protein and amino acid content, check out just what else beans can offer to your health and well-being with these six facts.

1. Nutrient Density

Beans are full of the vitamin folate, which is vital for pregnant women and for anyone in their early childhood or adolescence, which are periods of time when we are growing rapidly. Note here that dried beans have close to double the folate of canned beans. Though it may take an extra step in preparation, cooking your own beans from their dried form is better for you in the folate department. However, even canned beans contain more folate than so many other foods, so they’re still worthy of inclusion if they’re easier for you to work with. A lack of folate can lead to folate deficiency anemia, which can result in heart palpitations, fatigue, irritability, and loss of appetite.

Some other important nutrients in beans include zinc, iron, magnesium, and fiber, needed regularly in our diets for comfortable digestion and gut health.

2. Heart Health

Consuming beans on a regular basis shows a correlation in scientific studies to a reduced likelihood of death from stroke, heart attack, and other cardiovascular diseases. A multi-study analysis from 2013 showed a clear connection between the consumption of beans and a reduction in risk from coronary heart disease, while even more research suggests that beans have the potential to lower dangerous LDL cholesterol levels, another contributor to heart disease.

3. Antioxidant and Anti-Cancer Properties

Rich in the antioxidants known as polyphenols, which help combat the damage done by free radicals in the body, beans can help prevent certain forms of cancer according to the American Institute for Cancer Research, as well as unhealthy inflammation. There has been research showing that black beans specifically have the highest antioxidant effect, which you may want to take into consideration when you’re choosing between beans at the grocery store.

4. Glucose Metabolism and Diabetes

Because beans are high in fiber, they can help prevent diabetes and stabilize blood glucose levels. Beans are often considered a diabetes superfood, with the American Diabetes Association saying specifically that pinto, navy, kidney, and black beans are each full of important vitamins and minerals like potassium and magnesium. Soybeans are also contributors to pancreatic health, and the pancreas produces the insulin that regulates blood sugar in the human body.

5. Appetite Control

Not only do people often feel fuller after eating beans due to their starch and fiber content, which cuts down on their caloric intake each day, but these healthful aspects of beans can even help prevent food cravings in the first place. Appetite control means a greater ease at losing body weight, which is valuable for those struggling with obesity and the health concerns that accompany the condition.

6. Preventing Fatty Liver Issues

When fats accumulate in the liver, it could lead to the metabolic disorder that is fatty liver disease. Beans can contribute to the prevention of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, another health benefit from this protein provider (even if it’s not at the golden ratio of a “complete protein”).

These Beneficial Beans: Are There Any Downsides?

The most common complaint about beans is that they can cause gas and increase intestinal discomfort as a result (beans, beans, the musical fruit…). Though it’s usually not dangerous, some may find having extra gas to be quite unpleasant. There is a way to better avoid the issue: by hot-soaking, boiling, or pressure-cooking beans, you can reduce the chance of having gas or intestinal issues as a result of your meal. This practice may also be of use to those with IBS or inflammatory bowel syndrome who may want to include the protein and nutrients of beans in their diet, but must be wary of the strong fiber content on the digestive tract.

Protein, Pro-Beans

Long story short: no, beans are not considered one of the independent sources of complete protein, but they can easily become complete when paired with whole grain rice or cornbread (which go together as well as red beans and rice in that they’re all complete proteins). When searching for complete protein foods, it’s vital not to limit yourself when complementary proteins combos are available as well. You should welcome beans into your diet not just for the sake of your health, but for the rich variety of flavors and textures that make living well both a pleasure and a joy.