Understanding Autophagy: Loose Skin, Chronic Disease and Cancer—Some Scientists Say It Could Be the Key to Treating and Preventing All of These 

Maximize the ability of autophagy, a cellular cleansing process, to prevent loose skin after weight loss, chronic diseases, and even cancer. Read on to learn about the science behind autophagy as well as how it can help those on weight-loss journeys.

Autophagy (pronounced ah-TAH-fuh-gee), a medical term, describes a regenerative cellular process that decreases your risk of developing a multitude of serious diseases, extends your lifespan, and improves your overall health and well-being. In some circles, there’s particularly intense interest in the impact of autophagy on loose skin following weight loss, a frustrating side effect that can require surgery to address.

Read on to learn about the science behind autophagy as well as how it can help those on weight-loss journeys.

What Is Autophagy?

In simple terms, the concept of autophagy can be defined as follows: without external nutrients, the body begins to consume itself. The term comes from the Greek words “auto” meaning self and “phage” meaning to eat.

While this may sound like the premise for a horror movie, it can be incredibly beneficial. During the process of autophagy, specialized membranes seek out cells that are dead, damaged, or diseased and use their component parts for energy or to make new cells.

“Think of it as our body’s innate recycling program,” said Dr. Colin Champ, assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, in an interview. Other experts have summed it up as “cellular housekeeping” or “cellular quality control.”

Though Belgian biochemist Christian de Duve originated the term “autophagy” in 1963, much of what we now know about this vital process was not discovered until well into the 2000s. In fact, pioneering Japanese biologist Yoshinori Ohsumi won a Nobel Prize for his investigations into the mechanisms of autophagy in 2016. Scientists working in the field, however, caution that what we currently don’t know about autophagy would fill far more books than what we do.

7 Proven Benefits of Autophagy

Autophagy plays a fundamental and essential role in overall cellular function by recycling disused or dysfunctional components that, if left in place, can become problematic. By doing so, autophagy can prevent the development of several types of diseases. Here are 7 proven ways autophagy benefits your health.

1. Decrease Systemic Inflammation

A 2017 review published in Clinical and Translational Medicine states that “increasing evidence” demonstrates autophagy can help to prevent the development of inflammatory diseases.

“Autophagy plays critical roles in inflammation through influencing the development, homeostasis and survival of inflammatory cells, including macrophages, neutrophils and lymphocytes; effecting the transcription, processing and secretion of a number of cytokines, as well as being regulated by cytokines,” the authors state. Essentially, this means that autophagy helps to ensure that all the cells regulating your body’s inflammatory processes are working properly.

The authors go on to say that studies suggest autophagy’s positive influence on inflammatory cells offers promise as a therapeutic intervention for diseases linked to inflammation, including:

  • Crohn’s disease
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Obstructive pulmonary disease

2. Treat Neurodegenerative Diseases

Findings published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, a leading journal in its field, point to autophagy as a way to slow the progression of neurodegenerative diseases.

As we’ve established, autophagy repurposes cellular components, including misfolded proteins. The accumulation of misfolded proteins is believed to cause symptoms of many neurodegenerative diseases to worsen. So, by preventing that, autophagy can mitigate the severity of those diseases.

3. Safeguard Mental Health

Some research has shown that when autophagy does not occur with sufficient frequency, your mental health can be negatively impacted.

A study published in Molecular Psychiatry, a peer-reviewed journal, looked at the connection between autophagy and mental health. When they analyzed the brains of schizophrenia patients, the authors found clear reductions in post-mortem levels of proteins that control autophagy. They determined that the direct association between autophagy and the progression of schizophrenia could offer a pathway to new methods of treatment.

4. Increase Longevity

A review published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation claims that inducing autophagy can counteract cellular aging processes and enhance the metabolic activity of your cells, resulting in increased longevity.

This claim stems from experimental findings, and it’s not yet clear exactly how autophagy increases anti-aging activity and extends life spans, though studies with mice have shown that to be the case.

5. Suppress Tumor Growth

It’s clear that the process of autophagy is intimately linked to the development of cancer, but exactly what effect it has on tumor initiation and development remains somewhat murky.

Per a review published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, “Many studies have found that autophagy plays dual roles in cell survival and cell death in the context of tumor initiation and development.” The authors elaborate that while autophagy has been shown to suppress tumor formation in certain instances, it also seems to contribute to cancer progression by supplying nutrients to cancer cells in others.

More research is needed to fully understand how to harness the power of autophagy to prevent cancer. In the future, however, the authors believe it could be “a potentially effective therapeutic strategy in anticancer therapy.”

6. Support Maintenance of a Healthy Weight

Some of what we know about autophagy comes from research in what happens in its absence. For instance, a study done with mice and published in Cell Metabolism found that deleting an essential autophagy gene led to higher body weights, increased fat mass, and higher rates of glucose intolerance.

According to the authors, these findings indicate that an autophagy deficiency may play a role in the development of obesity.

7. Prevent Sagging Skin Post-Weight Loss

Though this benefit does not have rigorous scientific support, solid anecdotal evidence indicates that autophagy can help those who have lost weight—particularly, individuals who have lost a lot of weight—from needing skin removal surgeries. Dr. Jason Fung, a nephrologist who specializes in research into fasting, has developed a program designed to help people successfully lose weight and reverse conditions linked to weight gain, such as type 2 diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and fatty liver.

“We’ve never sent a single person for skin-removal surgery,” said Dr. Fung in an interview. “We have anecdotal cases where people have lost 120, 130 pounds, and they said their skin also shrank, too.”

Fung believes this happens because the body harvests the protein contained in excess skin. “Remember, during fasting, you’re activating a pathway within your body that says, ‘Okay, we need to buckle down because we’re in a time of famine, so to speak, and we don’t need all that extra skin, so let’s burn it. And if you need it, we’ll build it again.’”

How to Increase the Efficacy of Autophagy for Loose Skin

Is It Possible to Trigger Autophagy?

Though it has not yet been definitively proved that it’s possible to trigger autophagy in humans, studies done with animals indicate that fasting and calorie restriction may be means of inducing autophagy.

A literature review published in Ageing Research Reviews in 2018 found that “the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that autophagy is induced in a wide variety of tissues and organs in response to food deprivation.” In other words, there’s a very high likelihood that if you fast, autophagy will occur.

Studies done with mice have historically delineated 24 hours as the marker for when autophagy sets in, but it’s not clear whether the same would hold true for humans. Dr. Fung believes that autophagy most likely sets in during the later stages of an extended fast, “somewhere around 20 to 24 hours is my guess, and it probably maxes out somewhere around 32 hours, again, my best guess.”

While scientists have yet to agree upon a surefire way to trigger autophagy, this process does occur naturally, though it’s unclear how frequently or extensively it takes place without outside stimulus. Fasting, exercise, and other forms of physiological stress seems to cause the process to accelerate.

However, it’s quite challenging to measure autophagy (technically, what would be measured would be termed autophagic flux) in humans, as it requires tracking the levels of minuscule proteins, including protein 1A and LC3.

Does Autophagy Have Any Negative Effects?

While autophagy clearly has a host of remarkable benefits, it can cause problems too. An article published in PLOS Biology termed it a “double-edged sword.”

Author Andrew Thorburn of the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine explained that “autophagy’s effects may work for both the good and the bad of an organism.” When it comes to conditions like treating bacterial infections, autophagy sometimes leads to improvement and sometimes causes conditions to worsen. According to Thorburn, using autophagy effectively will require a better understanding of which cells it degrades and under what circumstances.

It’s important to note as well that using fasting as a method for inducing autophagy comes with its own risks. There are no universal medical recommendations at this time, but most experts agree that extended fasts—going without food for 36-, 48-, or even a full 72 hour-fast—should only be undertaken by those in good health. Extended fasting should not be done too frequently either. As a general rule, it should only be undertaken 2 or 3 times annually. Confer with a trusted doctor before embarking on a fast to make sure it’s safe for you.

If you have previously engaged in unhealthy food restrictions behaviors or have been diagnosed with an eating disorder like anorexia, it’s likely best to avoid fasting.

Expert Advice on Triggering Autophagy

Because autophagy is a stress response, to intentionally trigger it, you will have to endure some discomfort. “It’s our ancestral and evolutionary response to dealing with feast and famine in times of stress,” said Dr. Champ.

If you’d like to try triggering autophagy, one of these three methods is a good place to start.

1. Enter a State of Ketosis

If the idea of fasting feels daunting or there are reasons you should avoid it, evidence shows you can also activate autophagy by entering ketosis. By restricting your carbohydrate intake and increasing your fat intake, you can shift your body into a state in which it uses fat rather than carbs as its primary source of fuel. This is the scientific basis for the immensely popular high-fat, low-carb ketogenic diet, commonly abbreviated as the keto diet.

In order to adhere to the keto diet, you’ll need to keep your carbohydrate intake at no more than 5% of your total calories, your protein intake between 20% and 30%, and your fat percentage at between 60% and 70%.

Studies have shown that entering ketosis can bring about significant fat loss while maintaining muscle mass. Other proven medical uses for the keto diet include improving the treatment of epilepsy and other brain conditions (in fact, it was developed to treat epilepsy in children), lowering your risk of diabetes, and assisting your body in defeating cancerous tumors.

According to Champ, “Ketosis is like an autophagy hack. You get a lot of the same metabolic changes and benefits of fasting without actually fasting.”

2. Experiment with Intermittent Fasting

Extended fasts can be grueling, but that may not be necessary in order to spur autophagy.

A Brazilian research team published a research review indicating that intermittent fasting can help increase autophagy, which makes cancer treatments more effective and reduces side effects. They note, however: “Additional studies are required to better understand the molecular mechanisms evoked by fasting, aiming to identify the context in which fasting may be beneficial as an adjunct to cancer treatment.”

In the meantime, it certainly seems worthwhile to give intermittent fasting a try, if for no other reason than the wealth of benefits they mention that have been associated with intermittent fasting, such as an extended lifespan and a lower risk of diseases including:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Neurodegenerative conditions

As with extended fasting, there are limitations on who should try intermittent fasting. It’s typically not advisable for children, pregnant women, or individuals with diabetes or other blood sugar issues to follow this fasting protocol.

3. Engage in Regular Exercise

As you may know, exercising creates microscopic tears in your muscles. When your body repairs those tears, that process leads to bigger, stronger muscles. It appears that exercise also increases the rate at which your body carries out autophagy.

A study published in Nature, an international journal of science, found: “Acute exercise induces autophagy in skeletal and cardiac muscle of fed mice.” The authors discovered that after 30 minutes of running on a treadmill, the rate at which mice recycled their own cells via autophagy increased significantly and continued to do so until the 80-minute marker at which point rates leveled out.

Scientists have not yet pinpointed the threshold require for humans to kickstart autophagy. Dr. Daniel Kilonsky, a cellular biologist specializing in autophagy, says that at the moment, it’s proving quite difficult to answer that question.  However, he reminds us that exercise, like intermittent fasting, has many other benefits.

3 Possible Methods for Triggering Autophagy

Additional Advice on Naturally Addressing Loose Skin

If your primary interest in autophagy has to do with its potential role in addressing loose skin following weight loss, you may want to incorporate these other natural methods for resolving loose skin without plastic surgery.

A key aspect of doing so is improving skin elasticity. Without proper elasticity, your skin cannot adapt to physical changes such as weight loss. To maintain or enhance skin elasticity, you’ll need to sustain an adequate supply of collagen.

All the collagen in your body begins as procollagen. To make procollagen, your body uses two amino acids: glycine and proline. Certain nutrients have been shown to increase the rate at which your body produces those amino acids, such as vitamin C, copper, selenium, and zinc.

Citrus fruits, strawberries, bell peppers, and raw liver all contain high concentrations of vitamin C. Organ meats are generally high in copper, as are cashews, sesame seeds, lentils, and cocoa powder. You can get plenty of selenium from seafood (salmon in particular) and Brazil nuts, while oysters and red meat are rich in zinc.

Consuming foods high in glycine and proline themselves also boosts procollagen production. Good sources of glycine include gelatin as well as pork and chicken skin, while egg whites, dairy products, wheat germ, mushrooms, asparagus, and cabbage provide lots of proline.

Because your body needs a balanced supply of all the amino acids in order to effectively utilize them, you’ll also want to eat foods with overall high levels of amino acids, like:

  • Red meat
  • Poultry
  • Seafood
  • Legumes
  • Tofu

Interestingly, eating foods high in collagen, such as bone broth, is not necessarily the best way to raise levels in the body. That’s because when you consume protein, your body breaks it down into its component amino acids.

3 Possible Methods for Triggering Autophagy

How to Avoid Loose Skin After Weight Loss

Significant weight loss can result in loose, sagging skin. Studies show these 6 methods can help you avoid loose skin or minimize its appearance.

We tend to treat weight loss, particularly major weight loss, as the triumphant endpoint of a difficult journey. We divide weight-loss journeys into “Before” and “After,” often with a single photo representing the start and finish of that journey. However, this story only captures one aspect of what it’s like to lose weight. What often gets left out of weight-loss stories is that when you move from a higher body weight to a significantly lower one, you may experience other unwanted physical changes, such as loose skin. There is absolutely nothing wrong with embracing loose skin—as individuals like Kenzie Brenna, an actress, writer, and body-positivity activist, have publicly done—in fact, it’s an admirable goal and an indication of deep self-acceptance. That said, there’s also nothing wrong with wanting to learn how to avoid loose skin after weight loss.

For some people, loose skin can be damaging to their mental health and self-esteem. It can also be physically uncomfortable, particularly during physical exercise. Once you develop loose skin, it can be quite challenging to reverse without plastic surgery.

Less invasive options do exist, however, many of which are most effective when put in place preemptively. Before sharing eight ways you can avoid loose skin after weight loss, we’ll first cover some basic facts about the skin as well as risk factors that impact how likely you are to develop loose skin.

How Does Skin Function?

One of the pitfalls of the rapid loss of a lot of weight is the development of excess skin. A New York Times article covering a pioneering study that followed contestants from season eight of the popular TV show “The Biggest Loser” for 6 years after the series finale addressed this issue. Per the article, prior to the finale weigh-in during the show’s finale to determine the winner, contestants “dressed carefully to hide the rolls of loose skin that remained, to their surprise and horror, after they had lost weight. They wore compression undergarments to hold it in.”

In order to understand why rapid, significant weight loss so often results in loose skin, you must have a basic grasp of how skin functions.

The skin—which is the largest human organ—acts as a barrier to keep your body safe from viruses, fungi, bacteria, and other potentially harmful contaminants. Collagen and elastin, two proteins found in the second layer of the skin, (the dermis), allow it to stretch and contract as we move and grow.

As an individual gains weight, those proteins must continually stretch to allow the skin to adapt to that change. This can cause the fibers of those proteins to become weak and damaged. Thus, when significant weight-loss occurs, the elastin and collagen in the skin may not be readily able to contract.

“Skin stretches to form the shape of your body since it’s an ‘elastic’ organ,” Certified Exercise Physiologist Lizbeth Simancas summarized. “Your skin may not contract back to its smaller shape if weight is lost too quickly.” This can be seen most clearly for individuals who undergo bariatric surgery, but those who quickly lose a lot of weight through intense diet and exercise practices, like competitors on “Biggest Loser,” can experience this too.

The more weight is lost, the greater the demand on the skin’s previously overtaxed capacity for elasticity. And, therefore, the greater the likelihood of saggy skin post-weight loss.

What Factors Contribute to the Development of Loose Skin After Weight Loss?

Dr. Christine Choi Kim, medical and cosmetic dermatologist, underlines that fact that the skin is a living organ, and while it responds to weight gain by stretching and expanding, its ability to contract in response to weight loss is inherently more limited. Dr. Kim notes, too, that this ability to tighten depends on a number of factors, such as:

  • Age: The aging process often causes the skin to become less elastic, impairing its ability to tighten after weight loss.
  • Genetics: Some individuals are more prone to sagging skin as they grow older, regardless of weight loss.
  • Baseline strength of elastin and collagen proteins: As is the case when it comes to your genes and your age, you can’t control the impact your baseline skin elasticity will have on its ability to bounce back after you lose weight.
  • Degree of weight gain and loss: As touched on previously, the more weight you lose, and the shorter the period of time in which you lose it, the harder it will be for your skin to adapt.
  • Nutrient intake: To keep your skin healthy, you’ll need to provide it with a balanced intake of nutrients, particularly vitamins C and E and the substances that act as precursors for the development of collagen and elastin.
  • Sun exposure: While some degree of sun exposure is a healthy way to meet your body’s vitamin D needs, excess exposure can lead to skin damage.
  • Smoking history: Yet another reason to kick the habit, or avoid  cigarettes in the first place. A plethora of studies show that smoking speeds the normal aging process of your skin.

Understanding the factors that influence skin elasticity can help you avoid loose skin after weight loss. If possible, it’s best to address this issue preventatively as it’s far more difficult to tighten skin that has already begun to sag than it is to forestall the sagging.

According to Kim, “Excess skin can lead to embarrassment and a lack of satisfaction with your body image—even after significant weight loss.” Equip yourself with the knowledge you need to keep the triumph of achieving a major weight-loss goal from being marred by unexpected changes to your skin.

7 Factors That Contribute to the Development of Loose Skin

How to Avoid Loose Skin After Weight Loss

First, it’s important to be clear that there is no guaranteed way to avoid loose skin after weight loss. Depending on the amount of weight you lose, when you gained the weight and how long you carried it, as well as your skin’s baseline elasticity, some extra skin may be unavoidable. However, the experts say that the following 6 practices can help you avoid loose skin after weight loss, or minimize the appearance of existing excess skin.

1. Lose Weight Gradually

Perhaps the single most effective way to avoid loose skin after weight loss is to progress gradually toward your weight-loss goal. Slower weight loss makes it less arduous for skin to snap back into place.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends aiming to lose between 1 and 2 pounds per week. Not only will this make it easier for your skin to keep pace, but it also makes it less likely that you’ll regain the weight.

Furthermore, a study published in the International Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism found that losing weight slowly results in more favorable changes to body composition. Study participants were randomly divided into two groups—a rapid weight-loss group that followed a diet plan designed to produce a daily 1,000- to 1,500-calorie deficit and a slow weight-loss group whose diet produced an energy deficit of 500 to 750 calories daily.

While both protocols led to reductions in waist circumference, hip circumference, body fat mass, and more, individuals in the slow weight-loss group experienced more significant reductions to waist circumference, hip circumference, fat mass, and percentage of body fat, all of which are linked to improved health.

2. Engage in Regular Cardio and Strength Training Exercise

Adding exercise to your gradual weight-loss plan also increases the odds that your skin will be able to tighten up as your weight decreases.

Both strength training and cardio make important contributions. Cardio, or aerobic exercise, can be a highly effective way to burn calories, which will help you move toward your weight-loss goal. However, if you exclusively engage in cardio training, you may lose lean muscle mass also with fat, which can increase the appearance of saggy skin as well as adversely impact your metabolism.

Strength training, however, can help you build muscle, which in turn raises your metabolic rate. One of the factors that determines your basal metabolic rate (BMR), which accounts for the vast majority of the calories you burn each day, is the amount of lean muscle you have. Muscle tissue has higher energy (calorie) demands than fat while at rest, meaning that even when you’re not working out, having more muscles translates to a greater caloric expenditure. No matter what you weigh, the more muscle and the less fat you have, the higher your BMR.

“If you have more muscle, it burns fuel more rapidly,” stated Columbia University professor Michael Rosenbaum, who specializes in weight loss and metabolism. Rosenbaum cautions, though, that if you do succeed in speeding up your metabolism, “you have to fight the natural tendency to [want to] eat more as a result of your higher metabolism.”

Still, when taking the long view of your overall health, there are clearly more benefits to physical activity than drawbacks, including the fact that weight lifting and resistance training can minimize the appearance of existing loose skin by building muscles that will fill it out. If your goal is to look lean and toned rather than built and bulky, don’t worry, you won’t accidentally develop the physique of a bodybuilder—that requires a high level of intention and commitment.

3. Optimize Your Diet

In order to lose weight and ensure you don’t subsequently gain weight, it’s important to build a diet based on whole, minimally processed foods.

A 2017 clinical trial called the DIETFITS study (the acronym stands for “Diet intervention examining the factors interacting with treatment success) set out to identify factors that predispose individuals to experience greater success when following certain weight-loss diets so that experts can more effectively match patients with dietary interventions.

Interestingly, participants in both the low-fat and low-carbohydrate groups lost comparable amounts of weight. This drew attention among health practitioners reviewing the results to the elements that remained consistent between the two diets.

Both groups were encouraged to:

  • Focus on unprocessed, high-quality foods
  • Eat as many vegetables as possible
  • Prepare meals at home
  • Restrict or eliminate trans fats, added sugars, and refined carbohydrates, including flour

Participants also had regular sessions with dietitians and access to counseling to help them break emotional eating patterns.

The findings are quite encouraging. You don’t need to follow a complicated or overly restrictive diet in order to lose weight. Instead, you can use the principles described above, which leave plenty of room for shaping a diet that accounts for your personal preferences and lifestyle.

4. Stop Smoking

Research unequivocally shows that skin damage is among the many adverse effects of cigarette smoking. In fact, even secondhand smoke exposure has been shown to decrease collagen levels, increase inflammation, and fuel oxidative damage.

A study published in Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications found that when rats were exposed to cigarette smoke, collagen levels in their skin decreased significantly compared to control rats. The authors concluded that long-term secondhand smoke exposure would likely “affect the appearance of the skin [and] accelerate the skin aging process.”

If you’re serious about maximizing the elasticity of your skin, which you will need to do in order to prevent it from becoming loose or saggy, the decision is clear: stop smoking.

5. Try Firming Creams

If you have room in your budget and are looking for a way to immediately tighten loose skin, you may want to try firming creams.

The results of these products tend to be rather subtle, and most impactful when skin is also in need of hydration. These products often use retinoids or collagen as their active ingredient.

One of the ways retinoids work is by preventing free radical damage that negatively impacts skin tone. They can also speed up collagen production, which can boost the elasticity of the skin.

As you know, collagen is one of the key proteins that keeps your skin tight and firm. There’s some evidence that the topical application of collagen can temporarily improve the appearance of the skin, but collagen molecules are too large to be absorbed through the skin so the results will not be lasting.

A popular natural treatment, grapeseed oil, does have some scientific backing. A study published in Pharmacognosy Magazine looked at a number of herbal ingredients touted for their ability to increase skin’s elasticity and found that grapeseed did produce measurable changes to moisture levels, softness, and tightness.

6. Supplement Strategically

As wonderful as it would be if scientists could formulate a magic pill, or combination of supplements, that completely prevents or treats loose skin, that’s yet to be announced. In the meantime, an optimal supply of the following nutrients will ensure your skin has all the raw materials it needs to be maximally healthy.

While you might assume that collagen supplements would be on this list, it tends to be more effective to consume supplements that increase collagen production, such as vitamin C and certain amino acids.

Vitamin C

Scientists have confirmed that vitamin C has impressive abilities when it comes to stimulating collagen production.

A 2018 systematic review examined the efficacy of vitamin C supplementation as a means of promoting collagen synthesis, and found that not only did vitamin C increase collagen synthesis, but it also reduced oxidative stress. The authors also found no evidence of adverse side effects.

Furthermore, an article published in Nutrients in 2017 specifically touched on the impact of dietary vitamin C intake on skin sagging related to weight loss. According to the article, a higher intake of vitamin C can be linked to improved skin tightness.

Glycine

Collagen, one of the most abundant proteins not only in the skin, but also throughout the entire human body, contains between 2 and 10 amino acids. Glycine might be the most impactful of those. This simple, naturally occurring amino acid elevates collagen production, facilitates skin regeneration, and increases moisture retention.

Though your body produces its own glycine from other amino acids, it can be beneficial to increase your glycine intake, either by eating glycine-rich foods like red meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, and legumes or by taking a high-quality amino acid supplement.

Lysine

This essential amino acid plays a vital role in the function of your skin, ensuring that its supportive structures remain strong and intact. Our bodies also need lysine for collagen development, tissue repair, and other important physiological processes.

Good food sources of lysine include:

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish (especially cod and sardines)
  • Cheese (especially Parmesan)
  • Soy products
  • Spirulina
  • Fenugreek
  • Legumes
  • Nuts

6 Science-Backed Methods for Avoiding Loose Skin After Weight Loss

Losing a significant amount of weight, particularly if you do so after weight-loss surgery, or using another method to lose a lot of weight in a short period of time often causes loose skin to develop. Embracing this physical change is a viable and commendable option, but it’s equally valid to seek out ways to avoid loose skin after weight loss or to encourage skin to tighten.

There’s no one single skin tightening technique that can fully restore skin elasticity for each and every person; however, scientific findings indicate that using one or more of the methods described above will likely prevent or reduce the appearance of loose skin.

What Is the Amino Diet?

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

Wondering what is the amino diet?

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

How Does the Amino Diet Work?

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

What is the amino acid diet?

What Is the Amino Diet and Its Phases?

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

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

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

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

The Pros and Cons of the Amino Diet

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

Pros

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

Cons

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

What Amino Acids Are in the Liquid Amino Diet?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amino Acids for Weight Loss

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

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

The Benefits of Coconut Aminos

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

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

What Are Coconut Aminos?

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

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

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

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

Are Coconut Aminos Healthier Than Soy Sauce?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amino Acid Content

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

Probiotic Digestion Aid

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

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

An MSG- and Gluten-Free Alternative

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

How to Use Coconut Aminos

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

Coconut Aminos: Dietary Restrictions and Allergies

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

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

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

Side Effects

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

Go Loco for Coco Aminos

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

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

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

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

Why Do You Need Amino Acids?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amino Acid Pills or Powder: Which Works Best?

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

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

Amino acid pills vs. powders.

The Pros and Cons of Pre-Workout Amino Acid Pills

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

Pros

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

Cons

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

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

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

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

The Pros and Cons of Pre-Workout Amino Acid Powder

Pros

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

Cons

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

Take A Powder…Literally

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

L-Phenylalanine: Weight-Loss Solution?

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

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

What Is L-Phenylalanine?

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

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

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

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

Phenylalanine for Normal Functioning

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

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

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

Phenylalanine for Certain Medical Conditions

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

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

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

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

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

L-Phenylalanine: Weight-Loss Applications

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

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

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

Possible Side Effects of Phenylalanine Supplementation

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

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

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

Foods High in Phenylalanine

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

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

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

Phenomenal Phenylalanine

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

Amino Acid Powder: The Top 10 Benefits

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

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

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

Top 10 benefits of amino acid powders.

BCAAs vs. EAAs

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

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

The essential amino acids include:

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

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

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

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

The Top 10 Benefits of Amino Acid Powder

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

1. Balanced Dosages

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

2. Improved Muscle Growth

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

3. Increased Endurance

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

4. Better Fat Burning

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

5. Reduced Fatigue

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

6. Increased Focus

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

7. Muscle Sparing

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

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

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

8. Improved Post-Workout Recovery

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

9. Reduced Muscle Soreness

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

10. Improved Athletic Performance

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

When to Take Amino Acid Powder

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

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

The Amino Advantage

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

Unexplained Weight Loss: What Could It Mean?

Unexplained weight loss could be due to dangerous underlying causes, from infections, to disorders, to conditions as serious as congestive heart failure and cancer. 

Under normal circumstances, people have to work hard to control their weight, whether they’re trying to slim down or bulk up. Sudden, noticeable, weight loss is often a symptom of an underlying health concern, and unexplained weight loss is even more worrying, as it could be an indication that something is wrong with your body, but is currently undiagnosed. This article will detail some of the usual suspects behind unintentional weight loss, so you can better understand how important it is to identify the underlying cause.

How Much Weight Loss Is Concerning?

It’s common to fluctuate between 1-3 pounds per day according to your scale; those are just the vagaries of water weight. However, a loss of 10 pounds or more (or 5% of your body weight) over a 6-12 month period with no known reason warrants concern. If you’ve changed your habits, changed your diet, or undergone a change in life that could explain the reduction in weight, then it may not be that unusual, but you may benefit from asking yourself some questions.

  • Did you start a new job?
  • Did you move to a new area?
  • Are you under some known form of stress (whether happy or unfortunate—i.e. planning a wedding or caring for a sick loved one).
  • Has there been a change in your relationship status?

It’s important to know, because while this sort of steady weight loss would be welcome if you’d changed your diet with the intention to lose weight (by transitioning from processed to whole foods for example), if no alterations to your diet or lifestyle have been made and your weight has still gone down this dramatically, there may be some serious underlying reasons.

Losing Weight Without Trying: Am I Sick?

Unexplained weight loss could be the first sign of sickness, yes. You should contact a doctor or health care professional right away to seek evaluation, as the causes for unexplained weight loss can be quite serious, from infections, to thyroid issues, to the terrifying prospect of cancer (but please don’t go to the extreme scenario…just go to a doctor!).

The good news is that doctors quickly find the cause of abnormal weight loss in over 75% of cases. In fact, even if you think you know the cause, something like general stress and anxiety could be masking a physical health problem, and you should make an appointment to be sure this weight loss isn’t caused by a combination of issues or that it isn’t taxing your health in other ways.

If the first examination isn’t thorough enough, seek a second opinion to rule out other causes. Blood tests, a urinalysis, a thyroid panel, liver and kidney function tests, a blood sugar test, or imaging studies may need to be done to make sure there are no red flags in your health profile.

Your doctor may ask:

  • Have you made any changes in your exercise or diet recently?
  • Has this sort of weight loss ever happened to you before?
  • Do you have any dental problems or mouth sores that could impede your ability to eat normally?
  • Is there a history of any particular illness that runs in your family?
  • Do you have any other concerning symptoms (palpitations, excessive thirst, sensitivity to heat or cold, a persistent cough, shortness of breath)?

Consider your overall health as you prepare for your appointment, so you can make sure your doctor is informed of any symptom that might be relevant to your condition.

Why Diagnosis Is Important

There are many medical conditions that might lead to unintentional weight loss. The American Cancer Society points out that 50% of all cancer patients have a form of cancer cachexia, a wasting syndrome that involves unintentional weight loss and brings on the death of about 20% of cancer patients.

It is the same with cardiac events. One study explicitly states, “Unintentional weight loss was an independent predictor of poor outcomes.” Unintentional weight loss brings about higher morbidity, mortality, and bodes ill for anyone already battling a disease. That is why identifying and treating unexplained weight loss is so important, especially in older adults (above age 65), who are all the more at risk of serious consequences from any sudden change in health.

Possible Causes of Unexplained Weight Loss

We’ll now run down some of the common causes of unintentional or abnormal weight loss.

Unexplained weight loss: possible underlying causes.

Endocrine Conditions

Endocrine conditions include hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid), hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid), diabetes, and Addison’s disease (wherein the adrenal glands don’t produce enough hormones). The thyroid gland is located in your neck, is somewhat butterfly-shaped, and controls your metabolism. An issue with the thyroid gland could be accompanied by heart palpitations, and if type 2 diabetes is at play, you’re likely to experience increased thirst and excessive urination as your body tries to expel all the glucose it can’t absorb.

Infections

Infections include anything from parasites, bacterial infections, and viruses (which HIV/AIDS patients are more susceptible to), along with conditions like endocarditis (an infection of the heart valves), or tuberculosis (an infection of the lungs). In these instances, your body is losing weight because it is using all of its resources to fight off an invasion.

Cancer

Weight loss can sometimes be one of the earliest symptoms of cancer, such as from lung cancer, ovarian cancer, colon cancer, pancreatic cancer, or blood-related cancers like lymphomas and leukemias. About 40% of cancer patients report having experienced weight loss around the time of their diagnosis, and studies have shown that unintentional weight loss is the second highest predictor for certain cancers. Weight loss often occurs as a result of cancer due to the body’s nourishing efforts being hijacked to support an abnormal tumor growth. Doctors will often check first for tumors in the bowels, colon, and esophagus, which can impede swallowing and quickly contribute to unintentional weight loss.

Intestinal Conditions

Conditions like celiac disease, peptic ulcer disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and pancreatitis can lead to unexplained weight loss in those who have yet to be diagnosed.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder wherein the small intestine is damaged by gluten intake, leading to GI symptoms like diarrhea and bloating. According to the Mayo Clinic, when the immune system sees gluten as a threat, it reacts, and that reaction means your body doesn’t have a chance to absorb its nutrients properly. Likewise, in an inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s, the body’s reaction leads to malabsorption and unexplained loss of weight.

Those with chronic pancreatitis lose weight due to the fact that their body cannot produce enough digestive enzymes to properly break down food (and this may come with nausea, particularly from eating fatty foods).

Heart Failure

Congestive heart failure may cause weight loss due to a lack of sufficient blood flow to the GI tract. In a 2014 study researchers observed that those who had the most dramatic unintentional weight loss were indeed those who had the lowest blood flow to their intestines. Inadequate blood flow makes it harder to absorb nutrients, and the nausea and fatigue associated with congestive heart failure could lead to a loss of appetite.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia nervosa can cause dangerous weight loss, and while it might not be a completely unknown cause to the person suffering from the condition, it can be an indicator to a loved one or parent that something is wrong. Moreover, because of the nature of body dysmorphia, those coping with these eating disorders may not fully realize just how significant their weight loss is until it starts causing other health symptoms due to malnutrition.

Psychological Conditions

Depression and anxiety disorders often come with loss of appetite as a side effect, and can be an underlying cause of unexplained weight loss. It often goes unnoticed until the weight loss is significant enough, and will involve a different sort of diagnosis, as these are not conditions that can be found via imaging scan or blood test.

Drug Abuse

Be they extralegally obtained drugs or prescription medications, drug dependence can alter your body’s metabolic and digestive processes, and change your eating habits. Side effects from medications could lead to nausea, loss of appetite, or laxative effects that can contribute to unintentional weight loss as well.

Neurological Conditions

Unintentional weight loss is frequently seen in those with Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s. This is possibly due to the increased energy expense of rigidity, tremors, or dyskinesia (involuntary movements) associated with Parkinson’s, or the reduced energy intake due to poor health, stress, or the side effects of medication.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

When the immune system causes inflammatory reactions in healthy tissues, as in those with rheumatoid arthritis, it can also lead to a loss of appetite or an inflammation of the gut that interrupts nutrient absorption.

Reproductive Issues

Unexplained weight loss during menopause is unnatural, as it’s more common that menopause cause weight gain in women experiencing the change. Unintentional weight loss surrounding menopause could indicate that the changes in hormones has caused or made you susceptible to some other condition (stress, diabetes).

Likewise, unexplained weight loss during pregnancy is the opposite of the normal course of order. In the first few months, a loss of appetite due to morning sickness could be the culprit behind unintentional weight loss, but excessive weight loss could be a sign of a thyroid dysfunction or hyperemesis, a pregnancy complication that entails vomiting, severe nausea, dehydration, and weight loss. Your obstetrician should be made aware of any such symptoms.

An Explanation Is Necessary

Unknown causes of weight loss include a lot of scary and potentially life-threatening concerns. It’s normal for your weight to fluctuate by a few pounds here or there throughout the course of the year, but if you cannot determine a cause for sudden, steady weight loss, it’s important to consult with a medical professional and investigate: in fact, it could save your life.

Autophagy and Fasting: What Does the Science Say?

Autophagy is the body’s recycling program, which can be triggered by intermittent fasting. Autophagy is key in removing the toxins associated with neurodegenerative diseases, reusing residual proteins for energy and repair, and prompting the regeneration of cells throughout our bodies.

This article will discuss what autophagy fasting is, how it works, and whether or not the science backs up this practice.

What Is Autophagy?

We’ll start with the definition of autophagy: “auto” meaning “self” and “phagy” meaning “eats” tells you that the literal translation of autophagy is “self-eating.” That sounds scarier than the reality—we’re not talking about some flesh-eating bacteria or even the more common sort of self-cannibalization that our bodies do to our muscles when in need of energy, catabolizing.

Autophagy is more like a recycling program, or cutting your hair to keep it healthy and free of split-ends. It’s the body’s process of clearing out damaged cells so that it can regenerate new and healthier cells in their place. It’s almost like the internal equivalent of the exfoliating we do outside to keep our skin healthy.

The Details of Autophagy

Autophagy is a highly regulated process that delivers cellular waste material to lysosomes to be degraded, recycled, and then used to generate molecules to fuel cellular metabolism. For the specifics: scientist and Nobel prize winner Christian de Duve coined the term autophagy in 1962, when researchers discovered an increased amount of lysosomes in rat liver cells after an infusion of glucagon. It was also discovered that autophagy is regulated in part by the kinase mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), which promotes or represses autophagy as needed.

Autophagy and fasting: your body's recycling program.

What Does Autophagy Do?

The normal process of autophagy impacts your body and your health in various ways.

Promotes Metabolic Efficiency

The dysregulation of autophagy may contribute to developing metabolic disorders like insulin resistance, obesity, diabetes mellitus, osteoporosis, and atherosclerosis. From the very cellular level, autophagy can be used to improve the efficiency of mitochondria. The mitochondria in cells are the energy-makers, and the process of autophagy feeds them proteins from damaged cells that would otherwise either go to waste, or clog up other processes in the body.

Assists Against Neurodegenerative Disorders

In cases of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and Huntington’s disease, selective autophagy can help clean up the specific proteins that form in and around the brain’s neurons and result in neurodegenerative symptoms. While autophagy was previously thought of as a nonselective process of digestion, it’s now understood that autophagy receptors make this a selective process, involving a cellular form of quality control.

Fights Infectious Disease

One of the central functions of autophagy is to control infections. It removes the toxins that create infections and helps your immune system adapt its response to infection. Viruses as well as intracellular microorganisms and bacteria can be removed via autophagy.

Improves Muscle Performance

The oxidative stress placed on our cells during exercise can trigger instances of autophagy to help remove some of the damaged cellular debris and support our energy needs. Autophagy is necessary for exercise-induced muscle adaptation and the improvement of physical performance.

Prevents Cancer Growth

This is a double-edged sword, because while autophagy can clean up the damaged DNA and chronic inflammatory aspects of cancer development, some forms of cancer will attempt to usurp the process and use it to a detrimental advantage. Regulating the autophagy pathway is important for inhibiting cancer growth.

What Is Autophagy from Fasting?

Autophagy via fasting occurs when you take the reins of autophagy by carefully controlling your dietary intake. This is usually done in an attempt to trigger safe yet fast weight loss. Here are two types of dieting that can bring about targeted autophagy.

Autophagy via Intermittent Fasting

Stressing your cells is a quick way to turn on the autophagy process in your body, but you don’t want to overly stress your body for too long lest the cure be worse than the cold. Intermittent fasting can create a useful nutrient deprivation in your cells, just as exercising will create a certain amount of oxidative stress to purposefully trigger your repair mechanisms into building muscle.

Intermittent fasting is not so much a diet as a pattern of eating, with daily short-term fasting of 16 hours, or longer fasts of 24 hours twice a week. How long until autophagy from fasting begins? It begins whenever your liver glycogen depletes, which occurs between 12-16 hours into a fast. This isn’t a deprivation so much as a return to the eating pattern humans evolved to survive under when we didn’t have supermarkets open 24/7. Intermittent fasting in that sense is more natural than eating three square meals a day, and can lead to long-term, sustainable weight loss, as well as better overall health when practiced…well, intermittently.

Autophagy via Ketosis

The ketogenic diet (or keto diet) is another way to get the benefits of fasting without actually fasting. This high-fat, low-carb diet breaks down to about 75% of your daily calories from fat, 20% from protein, and 5% from carbohydrates.

By putting a caloric restriction on carbs, you end up shifting your body’s go-to source of energy from quick glucose to fat. That fat burning starts first with the fat you eat, and then quickly turns to burning the fat stores already on your body for a reliable energy source. This produces ketone bodies that bring protective effects, and research suggests that ketosis can also bring about periods of autophagy, which has its own health benefits for the body.

Autophagy via Exercise

Exercise is a non-diet-related way of inducing autophagy. An animal study suggests that physical exercise may bring about autophagy in specific organs that are involved in metabolic regulation, namely the pancreas, liver, adipose tissue, and muscles.

Adding intermittent fasting and regular exercise to your lifestyle is an excellent way to stimulate autophagy in your body. To make sure you have the ability to build muscle while fasting or utilizing calorie restrictions, you may want to supplement with a full host of the amino acids necessary for protein synthesis. That way the required ingredients for new muscle are never out of balance.

The Potential Benefits of Autophagy

Autophagy is the body’s way of replacing old cells with new and younger ones, a regeneration effect that can help optimize our lifespans. As with any process in the body, autophagy declines as we age—waste accumulates and the regeneration rate decreases. This invariably leads to many symptoms of aging, which is why targeted autophagy fasting is so appealing.

Autophagy and Anti-Aging Potential

The benefits of autophagy are still being explored by scientists for its anti-aging potential, from the cellular level of the brain to the surface level of the skin. Those looking to employ autophagy via fasting to the loose skin left over after dramatic weight loss can find hope in studies suggesting that the slowing of natural autophagy is associated with a deterioration of dermal integrity, and that the fibroblasts that produce collagen (which keeps our skin youthful and pliable) suffer when autophagy decreases as we age. It stands to reason that if our collagen-producing fibroblasts get clogged due to a lack of autophagy, a targeted increase in autophagy frequency can free them up again, thus preventing and counteracting the aging of our skin.

Autophagy and Anti-Cancer Potential

The buildup of cellular waste affects our bodies from surface to core, as discussed previously with neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s. Fasting and autophagy applied to cancer treatment have been shown to inhibit tumor growth. Autophagy fasting is still being fully explored by researchers hoping to prevent cancers from forming via the clean-up efforts of autophagy.

Some studies indicate that cancerous cells can be detected and destroyed through autophagy, before they can proliferate and start using the body’s processes against itself. Targeted use of autophagy, and keeping that process from being hijacked by cancers, may lead to new therapies for cancer treatment.

Fasting for Autophagy

Autophagy is our body’s recycling program, beneficial in removing the toxins associated with neurodegenerative diseases, reusing residual proteins for energy and repair, and prompting the regeneration of new and healthy cells throughout our bodies. On a cellular level, it’s like a regeneration episode of Doctor Who, but instead of science fiction, this process is science fact, and you have the ability to use it to your health’s advantage via targeted fasting.

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!