Kidney Infections: The Symptoms and Solutions

Kidney infections: what are the symptoms, what causes them, who’s most at risk, and how can they be cured? These important kidney-related questions are answered here.

A kidney infection is a serious health condition that needs immediate medical treatment. This article details the signs and symptoms of kidney infection, the diagnostic process, and the treatment options so you can determine whether or not it’s time to seek medical care.

What Is a Kidney Infection?

The medical term for an infection in your kidneys is pyelonephritis. It can develop from urinary tract or bladder infections that spread to one or both of your kidneys, and it can be a life-threatening condition. If you experience the following symptoms, seek medical evaluation immediately.

The Symptoms of a Kidney Infection

This list includes possible kidney infection symptoms, and due to the seriousness of such infections, if you experience them you’re encouraged to seek health care as soon as possible.

  • Cloudy urine (or urine containing blood or pus)
  • Pain in your groin, lower back, side, or abdomen
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Frequent urination
  • Burning or painful urination
  • High fever
  • Chills

An untreated kidney infection can quickly lead to sepsis and possible death, so do not hesitate if you are experiencing these symptoms, or if you suspect them in a person you care for like a child or an elderly parent.

The Causes of Kidney Infection

Your kidneys reside in your upper abdomen. These two fist-sized organs filter waste out of your bloodstream and into your urine for elimination from the body. They also work to regulate your electrolytes and water retention and are vital to human survival.

Bacteria like Escherichia coli (E. coli) can enter the kidneys via the urethra and bladder, where the bacteria can multiply and spread. Bacteria can also arise from other sources in the body and be spread via the bloodstream, or can arise from something blocking the flow of urine (like a kidney stone or an enlarged prostate).

The Risk Factors for Kidney Infection

Since we all have kidneys, we are all at risk of developing a kidney infection of some sort, but there are certain situations and conditions which make infection more likely.

  • Urinary catheter use: Because a catheter enters the urethra, it can introduce bacteria.
  • Compromised immune system: Taking immunosuppressant drugs, or having conditions like HIV/AIDS or diabetes, can increase the risk of kidney infection.
  • Urinary tract damage: Any damage that causes urine retention or backup can lead to kidney infection. Urine backing up into the kidneys is a condition known as vesicoureteral reflux.
  • Urinary tract infection: UTIs account for at least 1 in 30 kidney infection cases.
  • Being female: Due to the proximity between urethra and anus, plus the shorter urethra that characterizes female anatomy, women are statistically more likely to contract a kidney infection due to a UTI.
  • Being pregnant: Pregnant women are even more likely to have a kidney infection due to shifts that happen to the urinary tract during pregnancy.

If you have a UTI, seek medical intervention before it progresses to a severe infection. Likewise if you have unexplained lower back pain, abdominal pain (common kidney pain locations), or any other suspicious symptoms, consult a doctor as quickly as possible for treatment.

How Kidney Infections Are Diagnosed

A doctor may conduct a medical history survey to determine your health information and risk factors for kidney infection, and then order tests or conduct a physical exam of the genital area. Tests may include:

  • X-rays to assess for urinary system blockage
  • A rectal exam for men to evaluate the prostate gland
  • MRI, ultrasound, or CT scan of the kidneys
  • A urine culture to determine the type of bacteria involved
  • Urinalysis to check the urine for bacteria or white blood cell presence

Kidney Infection Treatment Options

Depending on the nature and severity of your kidney infection, treatment options may vary. Once your urine tests have been evaluated, a doctor may prescribe oral antibiotics, recommend you drink plenty of fluids to help clear out the infection, and issue other medical advice to help you avoid kidney problems in the future.

If you are given antibiotics, be sure to take them as directed and to completion to effectively eliminate the infection and avoid other serious complications like sepsis, chronic kidney disease, or kidney failure. Some instances may even call for surgical intervention and need prolonged medical attention.

Kidney Infection Recovery Tips

If you are sent home with a 2-week course of antibiotics, you can use a heating pad to help reduce your kidney pain or take over-the-counter pain killers like ibuprofen (avoid acetaminophen or Tylenol as it can cause more kidney harm). Be sure to drink at least 8 glasses of water and/or cranberry juice each day to help your body clear out the bacteria afflicting your organs.

Take Care of Yourself and Your Kidneys

Kidney infections, especially if they are caught early enough, can be managed and completely cured. Your kidneys are some of the hardest-working organs you’ve got detoxifying your body every day, so if you suspect they’re in danger or besieged by bacteria, seek medical assistance right away to get them back to functioning.

Kidney infections: symptoms and solutions.

Liver Flush: What Ingredients Actually Help Liver Function?

Will a liver flush or cleanse actually work? Find out what damages your liver, and which supplements and foods can actually help prevent liver disease.

Your liver is the undefeated detoxifier. Along with your kidneys, it’s the organ that detoxes you, and there’s only so much you can do to help detox it. That being said, while a liver flush is not as simple a concept as, say, clearing out your rain gutters with a high-powered spray of water, there are things you can do to support your liver’s natural detoxification processes, so it can flush itself and your entire body of any toxins swirling around in your bloodstream. This article details what substances can harm your liver and which liver aids have scientific reasoning behind them.

Liver Flush: Fad vs. Fact

Your liver is your largest internal organ. As big as an average football, the liver resides on the upper right side of your abdomen, above your stomach but beneath the divide separating your lungs from your guts: the diaphragm.

Many homemade liver cleanse concoctions involve fruit juice (organic apple juice, lemon juice, grapefruit juice), along with epsom salt and extra virgin olive oil. Some go so far as to suggest a coffee enema, but which one if any of these ingredients actually benefits your liver, and how? Let’s first dispel some misconceptions, and then read on for a list of foods and beverages that are proven to benefit your liver.

Is There Anything Useful in Liver Supplements?

Your liver is unique among your organs because it has the ability to heal and regenerate itself that other vital organs like the heart, lungs, and kidneys simply do not have. While you need to consume certain substances such as essential amino acids and antioxidant vitamins to support even your most basic functions, most of those nutrients can be found naturally in whole foods.

Many supplements on the market are sold without clinical testing or FDA approval, but there are certain ingredients that have been proven scientifically to help the liver do its job.

  • Milk thistleThe anti-inflammatory and antioxidant powers of milk thistle are known to have a positive effect on your liver’s health.
  • Turmeric: Another anti-inflammatory agent, turmeric can help not only reduce the risk of developing liver disease, but can also improve your entire body’s well-being by reducing pro-inflammatory molecules.

Can a Liver Flush Help with Weight Loss?

There really is no quick shortcut to losing weight. There are only two ways to shed body fat: one is burning more calories than you consume and the other is consuming fewer calories than you burn.

Because there are so many questionable claims surrounding liver cleanses on the market, studies have actually looked into and found that certain supposed liver-cleansing diets actually succeed in lowering your metabolic rate, therefore impeding weight loss rather than aiding it.

Instead of trying to find a shortcut to weight loss via your liver, focus on more tried-and-true methods of healthy weight loss (which in turn benefit your liver by cutting down on fatty deposits that may lead to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease). You can do this by:

  • Reducing caloric intake. It’s recommended that women eat 1,600-2,400 calories per day, and men 2,000-3,000. Staying closer to the lower end of the appropriate range is ideal for both your waistline and your liver’s health.
  • Burning calories through exercise. To burn off the body fat you already have, especially dangerous abdominal fat that could be negatively impacting your vital organs, take up regular exercise. Even evening walks or gentle at-home morning yoga can help get harmful fat deposits off your body and away from your liver.
  • Upgrading your diet. The better foods you choose, the more you can eat. If you want to lose weight without feeling like you’re starving yourself, eat superior foods from each food group: whole vegetables and fruits, unrefined whole grains, lean proteins like fish, chicken, and eggs, and healthy fats like those in nuts and olive oil.

Will a Liver Detox Diet Help Prevent Liver Disease?

Liver disease can arise from many different conditions, the most well-known being hepatitis (from infection by the hepatitis A, B, or C virus), alcohol abuse (leading to inflammation of the liver, scarring, and ultimately cirrhosis), and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which can come about through poor exercise and diet. The best way to prevent liver disease depends on the cause of it, and includes:

  • Safe sex and hygiene practices: Hepatitis can be contracted through unprotected sex, needle-sharing, or from mother to child during birth.
  • Alcohol moderation: The best way to prevent alcoholic fatty liver disease and other adverse health conditions (like kidney damage) is to drink alcohol in moderation or not at all.
  • Proper diet and exercise: To prevent the buildup of fat in your liver (not to mention your arteries), eating well and exercising regularly are key.

While the liver can recover and repair itself, once there is scarring of the liver tissue, that scarring cannot be reversed. Severe scarring of the liver is known as cirrhosis, and can ultimately lead to liver failure and death.

Avoiding fatty foods by choosing a liver detox diet can only prevent some of the risk factors for liver disease, not all, so be careful with your liver—unlike your kidneys, it’s the only one you’ve got.

If you have a family history of liver disease, consult a health care professional for medical advice on how to maintain optimal liver function.

What You Can Do to Protect Your Liver

There are foods and substances that can help cleanse or flush your system and aid liver health, but before we get to dietary solutions, here are other things you can do to maintain a healthy liver.

1. Vaccinate Against Hepatitis

Some forms of hepatitis are incurable, and preventing infection is the best way to make sure your liver does not have to suffer damage from the disease. Hepatitis viruses are not just sexually transmitted; they can be caught during travel to countries with unsanitary conditions, by healthcare workers who work in close proximity with infected patients, or from tattoo parlors with unsafe needle practices. The proper hepatitis vaccinations may save you from infection no matter how you’re exposed to these viruses.

2. Take Medications Cautiously and as Directed

No matter whether it’s a prescription or nonprescription drug, your liver must process the medication you take. If it’s possible to use natural remedies instead of pharmaceutical drugs, you may want to try those first.

If you need certain medications, take them as directed by your doctor (don’t stop a course of antibiotics for example when you start feeling better, as this can lead to drug-resistant viruses), and do not mix any medications with alcohol, including and especially over-the-counter medicine like Tylenol (acetaminophen), which should never be taken within 24 hours of imbibing alcohol, and vice versa.

3. Limit or Avoid Alcohol Intake

Liver damage from alcohol use is one of the most preventable conditions around. Alcohol is a poison, a toxin that your liver has to clean up. In fact, your liver has the lion’s share of the responsibility, as 90% of the alcohol you ingest is metabolized by your liver. The recommended limit is no more than 1 drink per day for women, and 2 drinks per day for men.

It’s not just liver disease you need to be concerned about with alcohol. When the liver metabolizes alcohol it converts it into acetaldehyde, which is a cancer-causing agent. While a glass of red wine with dinner is connected to heart health, excessive drinking and hard liquor consumption can cause inflammation, fatty buildup, and permanent scarring, which compromises your liver’s ability to detox your body, and no liver flush or cleanse can reverse that kind of damage.

4. Protect Yourself from Needles (and with Condoms)

If you need to use needles regularly for insulin injections or other medications, if you’re a healthcare worker who frequently handles needles, or if you are in the market for a tattoo, be proactive in making sure your needles are properly sterilized and never shared. Should you get stuck with a previously used needle, seek immediate medical attention, and do not take street drugs at all, especially if they involve injection.

Many viruses can be transmitted not just by blood, but via other bodily fluids as well. When engaging in intercourse, practice safe sex precautions like condom usage, dental dams, regular STD testing, and preventative medications like PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis).

5. Handle Chemicals with Caution

Household chemicals, paint, insecticides, fungicides, etc. are all toxins you can inhale or ingest, and it is up to your liver to process and eliminate those toxins. Protect yourself by wearing gloves, a mask, and protective skin coverings (like long-sleeved shirts and pants) to reduce the amount of toxic chemicals you’re exposed to in any given situation.

6. Reduce Unhealthy Food Consumption

Salt, sugar, and processed foods can all be detrimental to your liver’s health. For example, consuming excessive salt can lead to fluid retention, water weight gain, and extra stress on both your kidneys and your liver. If you don’t consume enough water along with the salt, your body may produce an antidiuretic hormone (vasopressin) that prevents urination, and you’ll retain the water instead of using it to flush toxins from your system. In this situation, more water intake, decreased salt intake, or increased potassium could help, as potassium helps balance out the effects of sodium.

When it comes to sugar and processed foods, it’s a metabolic nightmare. Added sugars like refined sugar and corn syrup are permeating processed foods, from cookies and candies, to salad dressings, pasta sauces, and even granola bars. High sugar consumption not only can lead to the development of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, but can also contribute to other chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.

Maintaining a healthy weight via diet and exercise can help prevent gallstone formation, which arises when you have too much cholesterol in your bile. Your gallbladder is attached to your liver courtesy of the common bile duct, and acts as a storage site for the necessary bile your liver produces. Bile that is thick with cholesterol can form stones that block your gallbladder or your liver (making them liver stones), and interrupt or damage the liver’s normal functioning.

Replacing junk foods with healthier alternatives, as well as eating more whole foods instead of processed ones, invariably leads to better health for you and your vital organs.

What ingredients work for a liver flush?

Healthy Foods for Liver Cleansing

So here we are: one of the best ways to help remove toxins from your bloodstream and your liver is to avoid consuming them in the first place. However, that begs the question, “What foods are good for a liver flush?” Here’s a list of foods and beverages that are particularly suited to promoting your liver’s health and helping it eliminate toxins.

1. Coffee

Good news: coffee is an excellent drink for liver health. It can protect against the development of liver disease, even for those who already have compromised liver function. For instance, multiple studies have shown that regularly consuming coffee lowers your risk for cirrhosis, even for those who already have chronic liver disease. Researchers urge those with liver disease to drink coffee, as many as 3 cups per day, because it may even lower the risk of death.

These amazing benefits are attributed in the above-linked studies to coffee’s ability to block collagen and fat buildup, two huge contributors to liver disease, and to aid in the production of glutathione, an antioxidant that helps guard against the oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Coffee comes with many health benefits, including improved liver function.

2. Grapes

Darker grapes (purple and red) are famously well-known for containing resveratrol, the compound that makes red wine a heart-healthy beverage. Grapes and grape juices have been shown to benefit the liver in various animal studies, preventing damage from toxins and lowering unhealthy inflammation.

One human study conducted in 2010 found that supplementing with grape seed extract for 3 months improved the liver function of participants with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, leading to the supposition that consuming concentrated, unsweetened grape fruit juice could help those with even severe liver conditions feel better.

3. Grapefruit

Another fruit that can provide natural hepatoprotective (liver-protective) antioxidants is grapefruit, thanks to its concentrations of naringenin and naringin. These antioxidants have been shown to help guard against liver damage and help reduce dangerous inflammation. They can also discourage the development of hepatic fibrosis, a condition wherein connective tissue excessively builds up in the liver and causes chronic inflammation.

Naringenin specifically has been shown to increase fat-burning enzymes and prevent metabolic dysregulation, while naringin is known to improve alcohol metabolism and mitigate alcohol’s adverse side effects. So if you find grapefruit juice in a liver flush recipe, it has scientifically backed reasoning to be included, not to mention it’s a great source of vitamin C, another antioxidant that’s known to help prevent cold and flu infection.

4. Nuts

Full of the antioxidant vitamin E and high in healthy fats, nuts are great benefactors for heart health and possibly the liver as well. This observational study conducted in 2015 found that consuming walnuts helped improve liver enzyme levels of 106 participants with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. And an observational study from 2014 demonstrated that men who consumed nuts and seeds in large amounts had a lower risk of developing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in the first place.

5. Tea

Tea (especially green, black, and oolong tea) has been shown to consistently improve the health and longevity of those who consume it regularly. Tea consumption has also been found to benefit the liver in particular, as can be seen in this study of Japanese men who drank 5-10 cups of green tea each day and had improved blood markers of both cardiovascular and hepatic health. In another study of 17 participants with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, drinking green tea for a 12-week period decreased fat deposits in their livers, reduced their oxidative stress levels, and improved their liver enzyme levels.

Green tea has also been found to help prevent the development of liver cancer, and black tea too has been observed reducing the negative liver effects of a high-fat diet while also improving liver health blood markers. If you have an active liver condition, consult your doctor before supplementing with green tea extract, but if you’re just looking to flush your liver of toxins, drinking green tea is a strong place to start.

6. Dark Berries

Deep-colored berries like blueberries and cranberries contain antioxidants known as anthocyanins. This compound gives berries their rich colors and is connected to improved liver health. For example, cranberries can help prevent toxic liver injury, and blueberries can help positively modulate T-cell activity in the immune response to your liver.

Blueberry extract has even managed to inhibit human liver cancer cell growth in laboratory studies, and may someday have practical anti-cancer application in humans.

7. Beetroot Juice

Beetroot juice contains betalains, nitrates that function as antioxidants for heart health. When it comes to the liver, beetroot juice also serves to increase your production of natural detoxification enzymes, improving your liver’s detox capacity. It also lowers inflammation levels in the liver and blocks oxidative stress damage.

8. Prickly Pear

The prickly pear, aka Opuntia ficus-indica, is an edible cactus that you may remember from the song “The Bare Necessities” in Disney’s The Jungle Book. A long-standing staple of traditional medicine, the prickly pear is used in modern medicine to treat wounds, ulcers, liver disease, and even hangovers.

That’s right: those who overindulge in alcohol and wake up the next morning with symptoms like dry mouth, nausea, and lack of appetite may lessen the severity of those ill effects according to this study from 2004. This is thanks to the detoxification-enhancing abilities and anti-inflammatory properties of the prickly pear. A more recent study from 2012 on rat models found that prickly pear helped protect the liver from the after-effects of alcohol consumption as well.

9. Fatty Fish

You might not think nonalcoholic fatty liver disease could be helped by eating more fat, but it’s the quality of fat that counts, as well as the omega-3 fatty acid content. Eating oily, fatty fish like salmon or halibut is well-known to be good for heart and cholesterol health, and consuming fish oil may help alleviate arthritis inflammation.

Fatty fish are good for your liver health as well, because they can help balance your ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids (most people in the modern world get far too much omega-6 and nowhere near enough omega-3 fatty acids), which is important because an imbalance between the two may help promote liver disease development.

10. Olive Oil

Olive oil can not only replace unhealthy refined vegetable oils in your diet, but it can also improve your liver enzyme levels, as was seen in this 2010 study of 11 nonalcoholic fatty liver disease patients. As with fatty fish, olive oil is a healthy fat that can improve your metabolic rate, optimize insulin sensitivity, and even increase blood flow to your liver.

Liver, Laugh, Love

When it comes to optimal liver function, it’s half about what you add to your body, and half about what you abstain from adding. Avoid overtaxing your liver with poison like alcohol and drugs, but do be sure to make a habit of consuming detoxification aids like green tea, grapefruit juice, healthy whole foods, and the occasional nutrient supplement designed to provide the liver-protective nutrients you don’t naturally gain from food.

Fatty Liver Diet: How to Help Reverse Fatty Liver Disease

These 10 foods are central to the fatty liver diet, with science backing up what they can do to reverse fatty liver disease, decrease liver fat buildup, and protect your liver cells from damage.

Liver disease comes in two major types: alcoholic fatty liver disease and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. About a third of American adults are affected by fatty liver disease, and it’s one of the primary contributors to liver failure in the Western world. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is often associated with obesity and is frequently caused by highly processed food diets and a sedentary lifestyle. Treating fatty liver disease by eating a fatty liver diet can help reduce the amount of unhealthy fats in your food and restore your liver to its optimal functioning so that it can go on producing digestive bile and detoxing the body.

Top 10 fatty liver diet foods.

Top 10 Foods for the Fatty Liver Diet

A fatty liver diet includes high-fiber plant foods like whole grains and legumes, very low amounts of salt, sugar, trans fat, saturated fat, and refined carbs, absolutely no alcohol, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Eating a low-fat diet like this goes a long way in helping you lose weight, another factor in fatty liver disease. Reducing body fat and consuming less dietary fat help reverse fatty liver disease before it leads to dire health consequences, so consider these top 10 foods to be part of a fatty liver cure.

Top 10 fatty liver diet foods.

1. Green Vegetables

Eating green veggies like broccoli, spinach, kale, Brussel sprouts, etc. can help prevent fat buildup in your liver. Broccoli, for example, has been shown to prevent liver fat buildup in mice models, and eating a diet full of green leafy vegetables is well-known for helping to encourage weight loss and better overall health. Try this recipe for Tuscan Vegetable Soup from LiverSupport.com to find out just how tasty vegetables can be when you include them in your diet.

2. Fish

Fatty fish like trout, salmon, tuna, and sardines are not bad for you just because they’re fatty—healthy fats make a world of difference. Fatty fish contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which can actually improve your liver fat levels and reduce liver inflammation. Check out another low-fat recipe from LiverSupport.com for Cornmeal and Flax-Crusted Cod or Snapper to get an idea for fish dishes that could improve your health.

3. Walnuts

Walnuts are also a good source of healthy fat full of omega-3 fatty acids just like fish. Research confirms that including walnuts in one’s diet helps treat nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, improving liver function tests and bettering the health of patients.

4. Milk and Dairy

Low-fat dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt contain whey protein, which is not only a popular supplement for muscle growth among bodybuilders, but has also been shown to protect liver cells from damage sustained due to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, according to this 2011 animal-based study.

5. Olive Oil

A staple of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil is full of omega-3 fatty acids and can be used in cooking to replace butter, shortening, or margarine for much healthier meals. Olive oil can help bring down your liver enzyme levels and body weight. Start cooking with olive oil with this recipe for a Healthy Mixed Vegetable Stir-Fry.

6. Green Tea

The science behind green tea is extraordinary, leading researchers to believe that it can literally help you live longer. Studies support the conclusion that green tea can help enhance liver function and decrease liver fat storage as well.

7. Coffee

Speaking of beverages, coffee can help lower high liver enzymes. The Mayo Clinic points out that studies have found coffee drinkers with fatty liver disease experience less liver damage than those who don’t drink any caffeine at all, and further studies show that the amount of abnormal liver enzymes in those at risk for liver disease can be reduced by caffeine intake. If you were ever looking for an excuse to drink more coffee, now you have a really good reason.

8. Tofu

Soy protein like the kind found in tofu has been found to reduce fat buildup in the liver. Not only that, tofu and other soy products provide a plant-based protein that can help other areas of your health when eaten regularly, including reducing the risk of heart disease.

9. Oatmeal

Whole grains like oatmeal help lower blood sugar spikes and other risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes and also contribute to weight-loss efforts and improve your liver health and function. Including oatmeal as part of a healthy diet can aid your digestive health as well. Check out these various oatmeal recipes from Yumma at FeelGoodFoodie.

10. Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds are full of vitamin E, an antioxidant that can help fight off free radical damage in the body and protect the liver. This 2016 review of studies details vitamin E’s ability to protect the liver and avoid the development of liver cancer. A regular habit of snacking on sunflower seeds may just help save your life.

Fatty Liver Foods to Avoid

Now that you have some idea of what you should eat to combat fatty liver disease, let’s quickly review the foods that should be avoided.

  • Alcohol: It may seem obvious, but if your liver is at all compromised, alcohol is too dangerous to consume.
  • Fried foods: High in calories and trans fats, commercially fried foods should be avoided (if you love fried foods too much to say goodbye, try an air fryer instead as a healthy alternative).
  • Salt: Bad for your blood pressure and for water retention, try to keep salt intake under 1,500 milligrams each day.
  • Added sugars: Added and refined sugars in prepackaged products like cookies, candies, sodas, and fruit juices spike your blood pressure and contribute to fatty liver buildup.
  • White bread, pasta, and rice: White instead of brown or whole grain carbs are highly processed and stripped of their valuable nutrients, so they can raise your blood sugar without even contributing healthy fiber—hard pass.
  • Red meat: While fish and lean meat like poultry can help you gain muscle and lose excess fat (which leads to a healthier weight), red meat should be avoided.

Other Ways to Fight Fatty Liver Disease

In the hopes of avoiding chronic liver disease or even a liver transplant, first seek medical advice from a trusted health care professional to get blood tests done and evaluate your specific circumstances. Then, outside of perfecting your diet, these other avenues can help:

  • Lower your cholesterol levels. An improved diet will go a long way toward lowering your cholesterol and triglyceride levels, but so can medications or (if you prefer) natural remedies for optimizing your cholesterol ratios.
  • Get regular exercise. Just 30 minutes of aerobic exercise per day makes a massive difference in your health and your energy levels.
  • Prevent/manage type 2 diabetes. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes often go hand-in-hand. If you’re prediabetic, making the above lifestyle changes could help you avoid the chronic condition that is diabetes. If you already have diabetes, staying on top of managing the disease can help you avoid a number of other painful health conditions and adverse results.

Livers for Life

Incorporating the 10 foods listed above into your diet and replacing unhealthy foods with better alternatives can help you lose weight and better the health of your liver before it’s too late.

PEMF Therapy: The History, Science and Safety

PEMF therapy has been safely in use for decades: in hospitals, research facilities, and even in NASA’s treatment protocol for astronauts returning from space. Can this noninvasive therapy help relieve your pain?

Pulsed Electromagnetic Field therapy or PEMF therapy may sound like something out of a sci-fi future world, not least because it’s been used by NASA to help mitigate muscle atrophy and bone loss in astronauts. However, it is a real technology that can aid pain management, and this article has the facts you’re looking for regarding PEMF treatment and the science behind its sensational health claims.

What Exactly Is PEMF Therapy?

PEMF therapy devices emit electromagnetic waves at different wavelengths to help stimulate and encourage the body’s natural recovery mechanisms.

You might wonder how PEMF technology can be beneficial to the body when other electromagnetic pulses, like the ones emitted by X-ray machines and microwaves, are detrimental to your body. It’s the duration and the frequency that make the difference: PEMF therapy devices generate waves in short bursts at very low frequencies, closer to the electromagnetic waves that occur in nature. In fact, the majority of the waves experienced during PEMF treatments have a lower frequency than those you’d be exposed to during a thunderstorm.

Does PEMF Therapy Actually Work?

Pulsed Electromagnetic Field therapy has been used to improve circulation, bone healing, energy levels, depression, sleep function, immune function, and the rate of injury healing. The low frequencies in PEMF therapy pass through the skin and penetrate into muscles, tendons, bones, and even organs to activate cell energy and encourage their natural repair processes.

Cell membranes have positive and negative magnetic charges, but since those cells can degrade over time or become damaged due to injury, sometimes these charges fail to function. That means your cells are then incapable of exchanging the ions that are transporting the chemical compounds your body needs, like potassium and calcium. The symptoms that arise from this type of failure to function include chronic pain, fatigue, and inflammation. PEMF is a noninvasive way to target these areas, and call the body’s attention to them.

PEMF therapy: the history, science, and safety.

Scientific Proof Behind PEMF Therapy

Here is what scientists have been able to show regarding the use PEMF therapy.

5 Facts About PEMF Machines

Have we stoked your curiosity about PEMF machines? Here are some more interesting facts to know.

1. Many of the Original PEMF Machines Were Developed in Eastern Europe

The first PEMF devices came from the Czech Republic, found their way to Hungary in the 1980s, and swept through Europe by the 1990s. The original PEMF devices were quite large, consisting of a Helmholtz coil. A patient was placed inside of the machine to receive a uniform dose of magnetic energy. Modern PEMF machines are about the size of a yoga mat and use the magnetic loop coil invented by Nikola Tesla long before the invention of the PEMF machine.

2. PEMF Therapy Was First Approved by the FDA in 1979

The first FDA-approved PEMF system was meant to stimulate bone healing and treat nonunion fractures, and since then has come into use for various post-surgical healing therapies, pain relief, and even treatment for depression. The machines are safe for use on humans and animals.

3. PEMF Technology Was Then Adopted by NASA

Wider therapeutic uses of PEMF technology emerged after 2003, when NASA did a 4-year study on the use of electromagnetic fields to stimulate repair and growth in mammalian tissue. Once pulsed electromagnetic fields were successfully used to help astronauts after their return from space, scientists theorized that the cause of astronaut fatigue, depression, and bone loss has to do with being away from the beneficial magnetic field that naturally emanates from the Earth.

4. PEMF Therapy Has a Long Track Record of Clinical Success

PEMF therapy has years of positive clinical success in treating the body at the cellular level using pulsing electromagnetic waves at specific frequencies. Since its 1979 FDA approval, pulsed electromagnetic field therapy has been known to treat a wide array of conditions in clinical trials performed by hospitals, physiotherapists, rheumatologists, and neurologists.

5. PEMF Machines Are Completely Safe, Unlike X-ray Machines

Electric and magnetic fields (EMFs) are often referred to as radiation. EMFs are invisible fields of energy associated with lighting pulses and electrical power. There are two radioactive categories EMFs fall into based on their wavelength and frequency.

  • Non-ionizing: This is low-to-mid-level radiation that is generally understood to be harmless to humans, and can be found in computers, microwaves, radio frequencies, cell phones, bluetooth devices, power lines, and MRI machines.
  • Ionizing: These are mid-to-high-levels of radiation, and have the potential for DNA and/or cellular damage with long exposure, like UV rays from sunlight and X-ray machines.

Should You Explore PEMF Therapy?

A disruption to the electrical currents of your cell membranes can lead to a lifetime of pain, so if you’re suffering from joint pain, chronic pain and fatigue conditions, or a recent injury, PEMF therapy might be an option for you.

If you’re concerned about PEMF therapy quackery, or worried about PEMF therapy side effects, know that this technology has never been associated with any adverse or negative side effects, and consult with your doctor or a trusted health care expert to see if electromagnetic therapy might be the noninvasive treatment option that’s right for you.

Inflammation of the Liver: The Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Options

Learn about the causes and consequences of inflammation of the liver: the symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, and preventative measures you can take to avoid liver disease and liver failure.

Any health issue that adversely affects your liver has the potential to put your life in danger. Inflammation of the liver is a symptom of many serious medical conditions. We’ll detail these various liver diseases as well as what happens when your liver is under attack.

What Is the Function of the Liver?

The liver is your body’s largest organ, a dark-red gland that is located in the upper right area of your abdomen, just beneath your diaphragm. The bile produced by your liver collects into the gallbladder, located on the liver’s underside, which is itself attached to the small intestine via a bile duct. The manifold functions of the liver also include:

  • Blood filtration and the detoxification of alcohol, drugs, and environmental poisons
  • Converting sugars to glycogen
  • Breaking down and storing fatty acids
  • Synthesizing proteins like albumin (needed for regulating blood volume) and fibrinogen and prothrombin (essential coagulation factors)
  • Disposing of depleted blood cells by breaking them down to their basic components
  • Destroying bacteria filtered from the blood
  • Maintaining the balance of sex hormones (reducing the amount of naturally occurring male sex hormones in women and female sex hormones in men, known as estrogen dominance)
  • Policing the proteins that pass through the digestive system

What Is Inflammation of the Liver?

Inflammation of the liver occurs when your liver cells are attacked by disease-causing agents. The various symptoms that can be caused by liver inflammation, hepatitis, and liver disease include:

Yellowing of the skin and/or whites of the eyes (jaundice) Fatigue
Fluid buildup in the legs and ankles (edema) Itchy skin
A tendency to bruise or bleed easily Dark urine color
Abdominal pain and swelling (ascites) Chronic fatigue
Bloody or tar-colored stool Pale stool color
Nausea or vomiting Diarrhea
Unexplained weight loss Loss of appetite

Not all of these symptoms are as obvious as jaundice, and many could be signs of other conditions entirely, from stomach bleeding to heart failure to Wilson’s disease, a genetic disorder that occurs when copper builds up in the body, affecting the brain and liver. Such non-specific symptoms often make liver failure hard to diagnose, which is particularly dangerous because while your liver is out of commission, toxins could be accumulating in your body and your brain and causing new problems, one of which is liver cancer.

What Is Hepatitis?

The word “hepatitis” specifically refers to inflammation of the liver: from the Greek hêpar meaning “liver” and -itis meaning “inflammation” (as in arthritis, tendinitis, pancreatitis, etc.).

Hepatitis is often caused by either a viral infection or an autoimmune disorder that directs the body’s immune system to target the liver cells because it cannot differentiate healthy liver tissue from harmful invading cells.

There are several types of viral hepatitis, including hepatitis A, B, C, D and E, with hepatitises A and B being common causes of liver inflammation (though fortunately there are vaccines available for both). The following information on these conditions has been sourced from the Mayo Clinic and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Hepatitis A

This highly contagious liver infection is caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). Hepatitis A is often contracted from contaminated food or water, or close contact with an infected person or object. Mild cases of hepatitis A often don’t require treatment, and most people who’ve been infected can recover completely, with no permanent damage to their liver. Severe cases can persist for several months, however, so getting the vaccine for hepatitis A is encouraged, as is practicing good hygiene to protect against the hepatitis A virus.

If you suspect you were exposed to the hepatitis A virus, an injection of the vaccine or the antibody immunoglobulin within two weeks of possible exposure may protect you from infection. Seek medical advice right away if there’s been a hepatitis A outbreak in your area (in a restaurant for example), if you’ve had close or sexual contact with someone who has hepatitis A, or of if you’ve traveled outside the country to areas like Mexico, Central, or South America, or to regions with poor sanitation practices.

Hepatitis B

The hepatitis B virus (HBV) brings on this very serious liver infection. Hepatitis B infection can become chronic (lasting more than 6 months), increasing the risk of liver failure, liver cancer, and cirrhosis (the end-stage of extensive scarring of the liver).

While most adults are able to recover fully from hepatitis B infection, infants and children are more likely to develop chronic hepatitis B. While a vaccine can prevent the infection of hepatitis B, and preventative treatment may help if you receive it within 24 hours after exposure, there is no cure once you are infected. Contracting hepatitis B will mean taking precautions to prevent spreading the virus to others. Hepatitis B can be spread from:

  • Sexual contact: You may contract hepatitis B if you have unprotected sex with an infected person. While the virus is not spread by coughing or sneezing, direct contact with an infected person’s saliva, blood, semen, or vaginal secretions can communicate the virus.
  • Needle sharing: Hepatitis B can easily spread through contaminated syringes and needles, so sharing intravenous drug paraphernalia puts you at a much higher risk of contracting hepatitis B.
  • Accidental needle sticks: Health care workers and anyone else who comes into regular contact with human blood are at a higher risk of exposure to hepatitis B.
  • Mother to child: Pregnant women with hepatitis B can pass the virus to their babies during childbirth. In such cases, the newborn can immediately be vaccinated to avoid infection.

Risk factors for hepatitis B infection include engaging in unprotected sex, needle sharing, working in a health care job that exposes you to human blood, and traveling to certain areas with high hepatitis B infection rates, like Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia, and the Pacific Islands. The hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for everyone, but especially for those who are at higher risk.

Hepatitis C

A viral infection with no preventative vaccine, hepatitis C (HCV) also leads to inflammation of the liver. Traditional treatment of hepatitis C used to involve weekly injections and oral medications with prohibitive side effects, but more recently chronic hepatitis C has become curable via oral medications taken over a period of 2-6 months.

The issue that remains, however, is that people are often unaware that they’re infected until the symptoms of liver inflammation arise, which could take decades to appear. Because of this long incubation, the CDC recommends that everyone born between 1945-1965 (colloquially known as Baby Boomers) get a one-time screening blood test, as they’re in a group that is 5 times more likely to be infected than the rest of the populace.

Acute hepatitis C infection does not always become chronic. Between 14-50% of those infected are able clear hepatitis C from their bodies after the acute phase in what’s known as “spontaneous viral clearance.” Fortunately, hepatitis C usually responds well to antiviral therapy, though there are several distinct types of hepatitis C around the world. While the symptoms and progression of each genotype is the same, the treatment variations depend on the strand. The type 1 genotype is most common in North America and Europe.

Risk factors for contracting hepatitis C include health care work, needle sharing, incarceration, receiving hemodialysis for an extended period, receiving a blood transfusion before 1992, or clotting factor concentrates before 1987. To avoid exposure, it’s recommended to not use illicit drugs, to be cautious about the hygienic practices of tattoo parlors, and to practice safe sex.

Hepatitis D

Hepatitis D is also known as “delta hepatitis,” and is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis D virus (HDV). It is an uncommon infection in the United States, and only occurs in those who are first infected with hepatitis B, because hepatitis D is an incomplete virus that needs the function of hepatitis B to replicate itself. Hepatitis D is transmitted via intimate contact with infected blood (either percutaneous or mucosal), and can be acquired with hepatitis B (coinfection) or after the fact (superinfection). There is no vaccine for hepatitis D, but it can be prevented by getting vaccinated for the hepatitis B vaccine, because it is a codependent virus.

Hepatitis E

This viral condition is brought about by infection from hepatitis E (HEV), though it fortunately does not result in chronic infection. Quite uncommon in the United States, hepatitis E exists in many other parts of the world, often transmitted through ingesting trace amounts of infected fecal matter through either contaminated water or poor overall sanitation. There is no current vaccine for preventing hepatitis E.

Alcoholic Hepatitis

This condition is the result of drinking too much alcohol over a period of many years, though not all heavy drinkers will develop alcoholic hepatitis. The American Liver Foundation states that up to 35% of people who drink heavily develop alcoholic hepatitis. It remains unclear to researchers why this condition only happens to some heavy drinkers (and a few moderate drinkers) and not to all of them. Receiving the diagnosis of alcoholic hepatitis requires you to immediately stop drinking, as ingesting alcohol will only escalate the condition to life-threatening proportions.

Risk factors that contribute to developing alcoholic hepatitis beyond immoderate drinking include being infected with other forms of hepatitis, being obese, being a woman, or being a person of color (African American or Hispanic), as well as binge drinking and malnutrition—heavy drinkers tend to eat poorly, and alcohol and its byproducts can hinder digestive absorption. Most people who develop alcoholic hepatitis have a history of drinking the equivalent of 7 glasses of wine, beer, or liquor shots daily for over 20 years.

Preventative measures include drinking moderately or abstaining, avoiding viral hepatitis infection, and being careful not to mix medications with alcohol, especially pain relievers like acetaminophen, found in Tylenol, which has its own adverse impact on the liver.

Autoimmune Hepatitis

Autoimmune hepatitis is inflammation of the liver that occurs when the immune system attacks your liver cells. The exact cause has never been scientifically pinpointed, but genetic and environmental factors appear to trigger the disease. While autoimmune hepatitis can be controlled via immune-suppressing drugs, if the condition does not respond to medication, it could lead to cirrhosis, liver failure, the need for a liver transplant, and death.

There are two types of autoimmune hepatitis that have been identified.

  • Type 1 autoimmune hepatitis: The most common type of the disease, type 1 autoimmune hepatitis can occur at any age, and is often accompanied by other autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, or ulcerative colitis.
  • Type 2 autoimmune hepatitis: Although it is possible for adults to develop type 2 autoimmune hepatitis, it’s more common in children and young adults.

Risk factors for autoimmune hepatitis include having other autoimmune diseases or a history of certain infections (like the measles, herpes simplex, or hepatitises A, B, and C), being female, or having a hereditary history that suggests a predisposition to the disease.

Liver inflammation: everything you need to know.

What Happens When the Liver Fails?

Because the liver plays a role in processing everything we eat and drink, any liver damage or inflammation is an emergency. Liver failure or hepatic failure is a life-threatening condition that can be either acute or chronic.

Acute Liver Failure

Acute liver failure is a rapid loss of liver function in someone who has no pre-existing liver condition, and is a serious medical emergency that requires immediate hospitalization. Depending on the cause, acute liver failure may be reversed, but often the only cure is to receive a liver transplant.

Causes of acute liver failure include:

  • Acetaminophen overdose: The Mayo Clinic states that acetaminophen overdose is the leading cause of acute liver failure in the United States. Acetaminophen is the active ingredient in Tylenol.
  • Prescription medications: Certain prescription medications like antibiotics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and anticonvulsants may cause acute liver failure.
  • Herbal supplements: Herbal drugs and supplements including ephedra, kava, pennyroyal, and skullcap have been linked to acute liver failure.
  • Viruses: Hepatitises A-E can cause acute liver failure, as well as cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus, and herpes simplex virus.
  • Toxins: Toxins that can be responsible for acute liver failure include the poisonous wild mushroom Amanita phalloides (aka the “death cap”), and carbon tetrachloride, an industrial chemical in refrigerants, and solvents for waxes and varnishes.
  • Autoimmune disease: Liver failure can result from autoimmune hepatitis, wherein the immune system causes inflammation and injury to healthy liver cells.
  • Vascular diseases of the liver: Diseases such as Budd-Chiari syndrome can create blockages in the veins of the liver, resulting in acute liver failure.
  • Metabolic disease: Certain rare metabolic diseases like acute fatty liver of pregnancy and Wilson’s disease have the potential to cause acute liver failure, though it is an infrequent occurrence.
  • Cancer: Cancer that originates from or spreads to your liver can cause the liver to fail.
  • Septic shock: Massive infection or sepsis can overwhelm the body and severely impair blood flow to the liver, causing failure.

Though there is an extensive amount of known causes, many cases of acute liver failure have no obvious cause, and the complications can be dire, from cerebral edema (fluid buildup in the brain), to an inability of the blood to clot, to opportunistic infections in the blood, lungs, and urinary tract, to kidney failure. While it’s impossible to prevent the unknown causes of acute liver failure, it is nevertheless advised that you get vaccinated, avoid ingesting wild mushrooms, avoid coming into close contact with chemical substances, practice good hygiene, avoid or moderate alcohol use, and stay fit.

Chronic Liver Failure

Chronic liver failure is marked by the gradual destruction of liver tissue over many years.

Cirrhosis of the Liver

Cirrhosis is the late-stage condition caused by scarring of the liver tissue. Cirrhosis is the result of the accumulation of scars that form whenever the liver is injured by either disease or toxin consumption and tries to repair itself. Cirrhosis is the 12th leading cause of death in the United States, and approximately half of those cases are due to alcohol abuse.

Chronic damage to the liver escalates to cirrhosis in these stages:

  • Scar tissue slowly begins replacing healthy functioning liver tissue.
  • Blood flow through the liver is progressively diminished by the encroachment of scar tissue.
  • As more and more normal liver tissue is lost, liver function declines.
  • Ultimately the liver becomes unable to produce proteins, or process nutrients, hormones, poisons, and drugs.

Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (ALD)

Alcoholic fatty liver disease results when fat cells get deposited in the liver, causing it to enlarge, and generally affects those who are both obese and heavy users of alcohol. Alcoholic fatty liver disease is preventable, and usually improves if you can stop drinking. If drinking continues and the condition progresses, it can lead to alcoholic hepatitis or alcoholic cirrhosis, which have all the same symptoms as listed above, plus potentially high blood pressure in the liver, an enlarged spleen, mental confusion, and internal bleeding. Alcohol-related fatty liver disease is the precursor before hepatitis and cirrhosis, and should be treated as an opportunity to halt the progression of liver failure.

Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is an umbrella term for many liver conditions that affect those who drink little-to-no alcohol. The National Institutes of Health lists other health conditions as common contributors to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, like obesity, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome, which is another umbrella term for a condition that involves high levels of bad cholesterol, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, and large amounts of belly fat. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease can also cause chronic damage that progresses towards liver failure.

How Is Liver Failure Diagnosed?

Whatever the underlying cause of liver inflammation and liver failure, medical attention is necessary. Common methods of diagnosis involve blood tests to detect any abnormalities, imaging scans to get a picture of the liver (CTs, ultrasounds, MRIs), or a biopsy. During a biopsy, a small piece of the liver is extracted and examined to determine the extent of any liver damage. If the liver damage is caught early enough and the cause quickly identified, then the liver may be able to heal and recover. Going forward after a successful treatment, there are ways to prevent further liver damage.

How to Prevent Liver Inflammation and Damage

One of the best ways to prevent liver conditions from developing is to limit certain risk factors and increase your overall health.

  • Get vaccinated. Receiving the vaccines for hepatitises A and B helps guard your liver.
  • Beware of contaminated needles. Whether it’s from illicit drug use, medical conditions that require regular injectables (like diabetes), or work as a health care provider, always be wary of used needles.
  • Do not eat any wild plant foods. Consuming wild mushrooms or berries can expose you to toxins and environmental contaminants.
  • Limit your alcohol consumption. Consume no more than 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks for men.
  • Practice safe sex. Using condoms and dental dams helps limit sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Eating a nutritious plant-based diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats helps keeps fat deposits from building up in your liver.
  • Exercise. Staying physically active is a great boon to your overall health, from exercises as low-impact as walking to hitting the gym and taking fitness classes.
  • Lose excess weight. If you are obese or overweight, you can lose weight by reducing the number of calories you eat and increasing the amount of calories you burn.

Amino Acid Treatment of the Liver

On the cutting edge of developing science, amino acid therapies applied to the liver are showing amazing results. Studies have found that amino acid supplements are effective in treating both alcoholic and nonalcoholic fatty liver diseases. One study found that long-term oral supplementation of branched-chain amino acids had positive effects for patients with advanced liver cirrhosis, while another showed that application of those same essential amino acids positively impacted patients with advanced chronic liver disease.

Yet another study revealed that the dysregulation of the branched-chain amino acids is a characteristic signature in adolescents with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, independent of the factors of obesity and insulin resistance. They also concluded that an amino acid disruption could predict an increase in liver fat content over time. For as mysterious as the causes of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease can be, scientists have found that disordered amino acids are a consistent marker for it.

Liver Your Best Life

Inflammation of the liver can be both the cause and the symptom of serious liver conditions. The best way to avoid liver inflammation is to live a safe and healthy life and to make sure your essential amino acids are in the proper balance, as they have been scientifically shown to act as both a prevention and a cure for various liver diseases. If you suspect any issue with your liver’s function, visit your doctor immediately, because the importance of your liver is right there in its name: you need your liver to live. Fortunately the liver has the ability to recover and heal itself, so if you take care of it, it can take care of you for a long time.

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.

Foods That Are High in Arginine

Arginine is a conditionally essential amino acid that helps support cardiovascular health, improves kidney function, and boosts the immune system. Explore its many functions, as well as which foods are good sources for arginine if you’re looking to give your body a stronger supply.

Arginine (also called L-arginine) is a conditionally essential amino acid that helps support cardiovascular health, improves kidney function, and boosts the immune system. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins in our bodies. Essential amino acids must come from our food sources or from ingesting a supplement, but conditionally or semi-essential amino acids are on the edge. Arginine, for example, is essential during our early years of childhood growth, but is usually nonessential in normally functioning healthy adults. However, because arginine is so valuable for so many processes in the body, foods high in arginine can help shore up your stores, and may be even more important in certain medical circumstances.

This article will explore what arginine does in the human body, who could use more of it, and which foods are good sources for arginine if you’re looking to give your body a stronger supply.

Arginine: Its Role in the Body

Here are some of the health benefits that might result from an extra intake of arginine. Research is still being conducted on this amino acid and how supplementing or concentrating it might help treat certain conditions, and so far the results look promising.

Blood and Heart Health

Arginine supplements are used to treat conditions such as excessive inflammation and chronic migraines. Arginine creates nitric oxide, which relaxes our blood vessels, improves blood flow, and therefore brings cardiovascular aid for certain people and conditions. For example, those with peripheral arterial disease, angina, heart disease, and even erectile dysfunction can find benefit from increased arginine. Arginine is also associated with shortening post-surgery recovery time and helps heal injuries.

The Immune System

Studies are beginning to show arginine’s immune-boosting effects, particularly with modulating some symptoms of herpes (flare-ups) and HIV (excessive weight loss), and there have even been correlations shown between low circulating arginine and cases of trauma and cancer. Though more research is needed, it’s a valuable discovery to know that arginine is often missing when the body is experiencing traumatic events.

Kidney Functioning

Not only is arginine helpful in assisting kidney function after transplantation, but it also appears to reduce kidney inflammation. Arginine is often studied in relation to kidney functioning to try to isolate which conditions it helps best and whether or not there’s any potential harm from enhanced levels of arginine. As a natural player on the body’s chemical stage, it’s a particularly safe facet to explore.

The Research Continues

Arginine has been studied in the contexts of helping diabetes, obesity, male fertility, hypertension, dementia, and cancer, and the research goes on still. Scientists and doctors work to pinpoint the best application of arginine treatment and to better define its powers of influence. As a naturally created amino acid that helps us grow and keeps our bodies functioning, it’s a promising reserve for testing.

Foods High in Arginine

Short of supplementation, you can always get arginine from certain natural food sources. So which foods are arginine foods, and are they easy to incorporate in your diet? Short answer to that last question: yes, these arginine-rich foods will be easy to find and to eat (you’ve surely tried a few if not all of them already). As for which foods you should eat more of if you want to up your arginine content? Take a look at the list of foods below and start thinking about which ones you’d like to incorporate into your diet as well as your dietary intake.

Foods high in the amino acid arginine.

Turkey

Since arginine is derived in the body from protein, any high-protein food will help, but turkey breast in particular has such a substantial amount of arginine that it’s considered the best source around. With a high amount of omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins to boot, one cooked turkey breast provides 16 grams of arginine.

Sunflower Seeds

Seeds and nuts have a fair amount of arginine, with sunflower and sesame seeds both contributing 2.4 grams of arginine per 100 grams of seeds. While they’re a tad low in arginine, they definitely make up in balance by providing a high amount of the essential amino acid lysine along with your arginine intake, so you don’t run the risk of overbalancing. Lysine helps absorb any excess of arginine, and will act as a check on keeping your amount of arginine within its optimal healthy levels.

Pork Loin

Another high-protein food, and with it comes another high contribution to your arginine content. Pork loin is one of the leaner cuts of pork you can get, so you’re not sacrificing one aspect of your health to favor another (balance is always key). Pork loin has 14 grams of arginine per rib, just second under the above-listed turkey breast.

Pumpkin Seeds

What did we say above about seeds, that some aren’t that impressive in the arginine department? Well, here’s an even better option then: a cup of pumpkin seeds can give you nearly 7 grams of arginine, as well as the minerals zinc and iron. Pumpkin seeds are easy to snack on and a great arginine-rich food for vegans or vegetarians who don’t eat animal products. Plus, they’re trail-mix-worthy and can be flavored sweet or salty depending on your taste.

Chicken

Chicken is a staple of a diet rich in protein and low in fat. One chicken breast can contain up to 9 grams of arginine and can be combined easily with other potent sources of vitamins and minerals like beans and vegetables in meals and stews.

Chickpeas

Another kind of chick, this time chickpeas, or as they’re also known, garbanzo beans, offer up fiber and protein (especially for those who don’t eat meat). A single cooked cup of chickpeas has at least 12 grams of fiber, over 14 grams of protein, and 1.3 grams of arginine. Enjoy it as hummus and know that it’s providing you with that little boost of arginine you’re looking for.

Peanuts

With vitamin E, vitamin B3, niacin, and folate, a cup of peanuts also gives you over 4 grams of arginine. Pine nuts, too, contain over 3 grams of arginine per cup, and a good helping of mixed nuts will almost certainly give you a fair amount of arginine, as there are levels of arginine in almonds, walnuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, almonds, and pecans. Go nuts with nuts if you’re looking for foods high in arginine. Be squirrelly with them!

Soybeans

Another great protein and arginine source for non-meat eaters, soybeans and other soy products like tofu and tempeh provide potassium and magnesium. Soybeans specifically come with 4.6 grams of arginine per cup, and soybeans are also loaded with lysine for help balancing arginine.

Spirulina

Derived from a seawater blue-green algae, spirulina can be purchased in powdered form and added for its nutrients to smoothies and other foods. A cup of spirulina contains 4.6 grams of arginine, as well as iron, niacin, calcium, and potassium. You’ll probably use spirulina sparingly, but when you do know that it brings you that much more arginine along with its other nutrients.

Lentils

Another great vegetarian/vegan source of protein and fiber, arginine can be found in lentils up to 1.3 grams per cup, with lysine again to pack a double punch of amino acid intake. Lentils also pair excellently with the meats on this list for the carnivores who are interested—there’s an arginine-rich meal in the making here.

Dairy Products

Dairy products are sources of protein and thus arginine too. Just 4 ounces of cheddar cheese has a small amount of arginine, 0.25 grams, and a cup of milk has 0.2 grams, just a little bit more arginine for your effort. Some good news: if your dairy is coming in the form of ice cream, chocolate syrup has 0.9 grams of arginine per 100 grams, so add a little of it on top, or have some chocolate milk while you’re at it, and know that you’re getting some arginine there too.

Watermelon Seeds

We’ve saved the most curious for last: though most of us spit out or avoid the seeds in our watermelons, they contain over 5 grams of arginine per cup, so feel free to swallow them knowing they’re doing you no harm and also bringing you a little bit good—you can’t lose!

Arginine Foods and You

The value of gaining more arginine from foods is that it’s as natural as the healthy production of arginine within us. Not only is arginine deficiency blessedly low due to its levels in our food, but if you’re gaining a bit more of it through dietary intake, you’re not very likely to get too much of it either. With evidence showing arginine helps blood flow and heart health along with the immune response to cancer, it’s a natural amino acid to value and desire.

However: do remember that if you’re looking for even more arginine in supplement form (as with any sort of dietary supplement), it’s important not to go overboard. Too much of any one vitamin, mineral, or amino acid might have the unwanted effect of overtaxing a specific part of the body. Whether it’s by causing an excessive clean-up in the liver or kidneys, or overwhelming the other chemicals in the body that your chosen one works in concert with, you don’t want to throw yourself off kilter.

Look into well-rounded multivitamins or comprehensive essential amino acid blends that offer a measured balance of your body’s needs. Extremely high levels of arginine are no more desirable than low levels of arginine. Instead, what’s important is to have a healthy arginine ratio in the body that will meet your needs but not overwhelm your system. Eat well, supplement well, and prosper!

Best Amino Acids for Muscle Growth

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

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

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

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

Where Do Amino Acids Come from for Muscle Protein Synthesis?

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

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

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

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

What Are the Best Amino Acids for Muscle Growth?

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

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

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

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

Best Amino Acids for muscle growth

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

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

Leucine for Muscle Growth

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

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

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

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

Different Strokes for Different Folks

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

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

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

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

Amino Acid Infusion: Is There an Advantage Over Oral Ingestion of Amino Acids?

Amino acids can be delivered either by intravenous infusion or oral ingestion. Both routes support protein metabolism in the body, as well as provide amino acids for other purposes. But what are the advantages and disadvantages of each?

The use of amino acid infusions to provide nutritional support to individuals incapable of eating a sufficient amount of dietary protein to meet nutritional requirements dates back to the 1960s. An amino acid infusion can either provide partial nutritional support or may be given as part of total parenteral nutrition (TPN). TPN provides all nutrition, including amino acids, carbohydrate, fat, and vitamin and minerals via intravenous infusion, or amino acid injections. But is there a significant advantage to taking amino acids intravenously over taking amino acids orally as a supplement?

Intravenous Amino Acids and TPN

Intravenous amino acids can provide nutritional therapy for protein metabolism (the breaking down and building up of proteins).

An amino acid infusion contains the amino acids with the greatest protein-stimulating effect. These include the essential amino acids leucine, isoleucine, lysine, valine, phenylalanine, histidine, threonine, methionine, and tryptophan, as well as the nonessential amino acids alanine, arginine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine. These amino acids act as protein-building blocks, encouraging protein synthesis in muscle cells and preventing protein breakdown.

An amino acid injection is the administration of amino acids and other nutrients by way of parenteral nutrition. Parenteral administration utilizes routes outside the gastrointestinal (GI tract), such as intravenous routes. Enteral nutrition, on the other hand, is food or drug administered by way of the GI tract, such as with tube feeding.

Intravenous infusion of amino acids is used for patients who cannot take in food or nutrients through the enteral route (GI Tract). For instance, if gastrointestinal absorption is disrupted by inflammatory disease or obstruction, or if tube feeding is not providing adequate nutritional support.

Aminosyn® II is a popular amino acid injection given by way of peripheral vein or central vein infusion and used as a source of nitrogen in the short-term nutritional therapy of patients with adequate body fat who are unable to sustain oral nutrition. This type of amino acid infusion is also administered to help prevent or reverse negative nitrogen balance in patients who cannot take in nutrients via the enteral route.

Individuals who have had large portions of their intestines removed surgically can live indefinitely on total parenteral nutrition (TPN). A 15% amino acid injection can be administered by use of a central venous catheter or by peripheral vein. This amino acid infusion is coupled with vitamins, trace elements, electrolytes, and energy nutrients to provide the necessary nutritional support for weight maintenance or weight gain. In order for the amino acids from TPN to be adequately absorbed and utilized, energy requirements must be met. Energy is typically provided as a combination of dextrose to support carbohydrate metabolism and an intravenous fat emulsion that offers up essential fatty acids to protect against essential fatty acid deficiency and fulfill the dietary balance of fat and carbs.

TPN using amino acid injections can promote muscle protein synthesis, as well as meet other requirements for amino acids, including immune function and brain neurotransmitter synthesis.

The primary drawback to amino acid infusion as the sole source of amino acids from the physiological perspective is that the intestine atrophies. This is because some of the amino acid requirements of the gut are satisfied by direct uptake of amino acids from the digestion of orally ingested protein or amino acids. Atrophy makes the intestines more permeable to diffusion of bacteria and bacterial products from the gut into the body. Of course, if TPN is used because of the removal of the gut, this point is moot. If the intravenous infusion of amino acids is used alongside orally ingested protein, gut integrity will be maintained so long as the oral intake is sufficient.

Benefits of Amino Acid Infusion

The clinical benefits of amino acid infusion in patients who are incapable of ingesting adequate nutrition orally are well established. In addition, intravenous infusion of amino acids in individuals fully capable of ingesting amino acids orally is gaining popularity. The “selling point” of this therapy is that the exact concentrations of individual amino acids in the blood can be precisely controlled. This is promoted as particularly important to the relative concentrations of amino acid precursors of specific brain neurotransmitters. This approach is used in recovery from addiction, as well as for general support of protein metabolism in the body.

The premise of intravenous amino acid therapy is that the individual cannot get the full benefit from orally ingested amino acids, or that the intravenous infusion somehow confers special beneficial effects.

Advantages of Oral Ingestion of Amino Acids

The oral ingestion of amino acid solutions has advantages over amino acid infusion. There is no risk associated with oral ingestion, whereas intravenous infusion carries with it the risk of vein irritation. A health care provider is needed to perform the intravenous infusion, whereas free amino acids for oral consumption are relatively cheap and readily available.

It is possible to obtain a mixture of essential amino acids for oral consumption specifically designed for a particular condition, such as reaching your ideal body weight, whereas the options for intravenous infusion are much more limited due to the arduous procedure to obtain approval from the FDA.

There are also physiological advantages to the oral ingestion of amino acids over peripheral infusions. Most important of these is that the uptake and utilization of amino acid solutions by the intestines provides a direct source of essential nutrition.

Orally ingested amino acids are directly absorbed by the intestines and require no digestion. The amount of amino acids provided to the body by the two routes (oral and intravenous) are thus similar. Since orally ingested amino acids pass through the intestines, liver, and other organs before reaching the peripheral circulation, the peripheral plasma concentrations of amino acids reach higher levels when infused intravenously. Conversely, orally ingested amino acids provide more direct support of the internal organs.

Orally ingested and intravenously infused amino acids both stimulate muscle protein synthesis, which is the metabolic basis for muscle growth and strengthening. A clinical study of older individuals showed that muscle protein synthesis was stimulated in response to both intravenously infused as well as orally ingested amino acids. In addition, the profile of amino acid concentrations in the blood reflected the profile of the orally ingested amino acids, so there is no advantage to intravenous infusion in terms of supplying the proper balance of amino acids needed to synthesize neurotransmitters in the brain. Further, a clinical response was observed at dosage levels that are able to be consumed orally without much difficulty.

Side Effects of Amino Acid Injections

Amino acid infusions are now being marketed as a way to boost athletic endurance, protect against muscle loss, and even improve the health of the central nervous system. While amino acid solutions can indeed impart these benefits, amino acid injections were not originally developed for healthy individuals tackling body weight goals. Oral amino acid supplements, however, can help build muscle, sharpen cognitive function, and enhance athletic endurance, and there are no needles or doctors involved. It’s as easy as mixing an amino acid powder with water.

One of the biggest advantages of taking an oral amino acid supplement over an amino acid injection is that no special care is needed and there are no side effects to contend with.

Amino acid injections can cause the following adverse reactions:

  • Inflammation/redness at the injection site
  • Irritation
  • Nausea
  • Flushing
  • Fever
  • Allergic reactions
  • Weight gain
  • Jaundice
  • Urine changes
  • Weakness

Contraindications for amino acid injections are indicated for individuals in hepatic coma, with hepatic insufficiency, severely impaired kidney function or renal failure, or suffering from metabolic disorders due to compromised nitrogen utilization or hypersensitivity to one or more amino acids.

The Verdict

Amino acids can be delivered either by intravenous infusion or oral ingestion of amino acid solutions. Both routes support protein metabolism in the body, as well as provide amino acids for other purposes.

The intravenous infusion procedure has risks and costs that are avoided by oral ingestion, and the amino acid profiles in available intravenous infusion mixtures are limited. For these reasons, amino acid infusion should be used only in individuals who are incapable of ingesting amino acids or who have a limited capacity for absorption. Oral ingestion is the preferred route of delivery of amino acids in most circumstances.