When Is the Best Time to Take Protein?

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

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

The Different Types of Protein Supplements

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

Plant-based proteins include:

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

Dairy-based proteins include:

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

Animal-based proteins include:

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

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

The Varied Uses of Protein Supplementation

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

Exercise Performance and Recovery

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

Muscle Building

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

Muscle Loss Prevention

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

Fat Loss Facilitation

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

The Enduring Power of Protein

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

The Best Time to Take Protein Depending on Your Workout

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

The best time to take protein supplements.

Aerobic/Cardiovascular Exercise

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

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

BCAAs are Insufficient Pre-Workout

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

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

EAAs are Effective Pre- and Post-Workout

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

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

Resistance Exercise

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

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

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

Bodybuilding

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

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

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

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

Is There Any Downside to Taking Protein Supplements?

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

Timing Is Everything

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

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

What are Amino Acid Functional Groups?

What is an amino acid functional group? This article will answer that question with information on amino acid classification and how proteins (and possibly all life on Earth) are formed.

What are Amino Acid Functional Groups?

So you’ve heard of amino acid functional groups and you want to understand them better. This article will help to clarify the structure of amino acids, their functional groups, and what it all has to do with the creation of protein.

Some Basic Reference Definitions

Below are the names of the 20 common amino acids in the body, nine of which are essential amino acids, meaning humans must eat or otherwise consume them to get what we need to function. The essential aminos are designated with an asterisk (*). There are their names, their three-letter codes, their one-letter codes (as used in drawing models of molecular bonds), plus their bond type and properties. Polar vs. nonpolar bond types refers to their covalent bonds. We will start with those definitions for the bond type category—get ready for some high school clique metaphors to help you visualize all this organic chemistry.

Covalent Bonds

Covalent bonds form the base of the chemical reactions between atoms of different elements. The bonds form in only one way: when an electron becomes shared by two elements. That creates the connection that then results in a new substance. Covalent bonds can exist as polar or nonpolar compounds, and all bonds that are polar or nonpolar in nature are by definition covalent.

To visualize: think of these bonds like the bonds of friendship. Two students (atoms) come close to one another and share their lunch (electrons). This sharing means there is a bond of friendship (the covalent bond). Whereas before they had been two separate elements, strangers, now a new substance has formed: a friendship.

Polar Bonds

Polar bonds are bonds where the electrons are not shared equally between two atoms. These types of bonds are what designates polar molecules from nonpolar ones. This occurs when the two atoms bonding are from two different elements; atoms from the same element do not form polar bonds.

Just as bigger planets can hold bigger moons in their orbits, so it is with atoms: they pull electrons to the best of their ability, but when they come into the orbit of a better puller (a bigger planet), that atom will pull more electrons into its orbit (and steal the lesser planet’s moons).

When two atoms of the same element meet, neither is stronger than the other, and thus neither one is more attractive than the other regarding electrons, and so neither side exhibits the polar pull, and the bond is considered nonpolar. The negative charge end of the bond is the more attractive atom, because it can draw more negative (-) electrons.

To put this back into the context of our high school friends, let’s say the two atoms meeting and bonding are a vivacious theater student and a more reserved math student. In sharing lunch, somehow the theater student always gets more to eat because the math student is so transfixed and feels the need to be overly generous. This is true whenever the theater student meets someone with less personal magnetism, which means the theater student gets an overabundance of food (electrons), which is negative because the increased calories may cause the theater student to gain weight, or get a bad complexion from eating too much processed lunch food. Eventually the theater student will fill up to the brim with extra food, and won’t be able to accept any more.

Nonpolar Bonds

A nonpolar bond is formed when two atoms from the same element meet and share electrons equally and evenly with one another. Neither atom is a better electron puller than the other, and so there is no one side more polar than the other.

In our friendship metaphor, this is a bond between two theater students, or two math students, who pool all of their lunch food together in the middle of the table, and pull from the pile equally and in unison.

Hydrophobic vs. Hydrophilic

For the properties category, hydrophobic and hydrophilic refer to molecules and their reactions to water. Molecules that repel water, or are phobic of hydration, are hydrophobic. The molecules that can form an ionic or hydrogen bond with a water molecule are hydrophilic, they have a philia for water, they like the feel of it.

If atoms are students once again, the hydrophilic ones are either on the swim team itself, or part of a group that likes to swim and heads out to the beach or the lake every weekend. The hydrophobic ones either can’t swim or simply do not like it. Hydrophobic students will tell you that their friends and the community pool go together like oil and water: they don’t mix.

Your Amino Acids: Names and Designations

Amino-acid name: Alanine Amino-acid name: Arginine
Three-letter code: Ala

One-letter code: A

Bond type: Nonpolar

Properties: Hydrophobic

Three-letter code: Arg

One-letter code: R

Bond type: Polar, positively charged

Properties: Hydrophilic

Amino-acid name: Asparagine Amino-acid name: Aspartate
Three-letter code: Asn

One-letter code: N

Bond type: Polar, no charge

Properties: Hydrophilic

Three-letter code: Asp

One-letter code: D

Bond type: Polar, negatively charged

Properties: Hydrophilic

Amino-acid name: Cysteine Amino-acid name: Glutamate
Three-letter code: Cys

One-letter code: C

Bond type: Nonpolar, no charge

Properties: Hydrophilic

Three-letter code: Glu

One-letter code: E

Bond type: Polar, negatively charged

Properties: Hydrophilic

Amino-acid name: Glutamine Amino-acid name: Glycine
Three-letter code: Gln

One-letter code: Q

Bond type: Polar, no charge

Properties: Hydrophilic

Three-letter code: Gly

One-letter code: G

Bond type: Nonpolar, no charge

Properties: Hydrophilic

Amino-acid name: Histidine* Amino-acid name: Isoleucine*
Three-letter code: His

One-letter code: H

Bond type: Polar, positively charged

Properties: Hydrophilic

Three-letter code: Ile

One-letter code: I

Bond type: Nonpolar

Properties: Hydrophobic

Amino-acid name: Leucine* Amino-acid name: Lysine*
Three-letter code: Leu

One-letter code: L

Bond type: Nonpolar

Properties: Hydrophobic

Three-letter code: Lys

One-letter code: K

Bond type: Polar, positively charged

Properties: Hydrophilic

Amino-acid name: Methionine* Amino-acid name: Phenylalanine
Three-letter code: Met

One-letter code: M

Bond type: Nonpolar

Properties: Hydrophobic

Three-letter code: Phe

One-letter code: F

Bond type: Nonpolar

Properties: Hydrophobic

Amino-acid name: Proline Amino-acid name: Serine
Three-letter code: Pro

One-letter code: P

Bond type: Nonpolar

Properties: Hydrophobic

Three-letter code: Ser

One-letter code: S

Bond type: Polar, no charge

Properties: Hydrophilic

Amino-acid name: Threonine* Amino-acid name: Tryptophan*
Three-letter code: Thr

One-letter code: T

Bond type: Polar, no charge

Properties: Hydrophilic

Three-letter code: Trp

One-letter code: W

Bond type: Nonpolar, no charge

Properties: Hydrophobic

Amino-acid name: Tyrosine Amino-acid name: Valine*
Three-letter code: Tyr

One-letter code: Y

Bond type: Polar, no charge
Properties: Hydrophilic

Three-letter code: Val

One-letter code: V

Bond type: Nonpolar

Properties: Hydrophobic

It’s a lot of information, to be sure, but it’s provided as a reference point to help facilitate the following explanations.

What Are Amino Acid Functional Groups?

Amino acids are all made up of groups of atoms, and the functional groups are the important ones in each amino, it’s what makes them different and unique, deciding whether the amino overall is polar or nonpolar, acidic or basic.

Each of the above standard 20 aminos have one hydrogen atom, and two groups attached to its alpha carbon atom: an amino or amine group (~NH3+) and a carboxyl group (~COOH). They are each then distinguished from other types of amino acids by their third attached functional group: side chains referred to as R groups. When you ask what are amino acid functional groups, here they are, with the R group being the one with the most diversity. When you think of R groups, think R for radical, as it’s the variable part that makes each amino acid different from the rest.

What is the amino acid functional group?

About R Groups

Of the 20 standard amino acids that make up the building blocks of protein:

  • 6 of them have hydrocarbon R groups
  • 7 of them have neutral R groups
  • 6 of them have acid or base R groups

The simplest of the amino acids is glycine, which has just one hydrogen atom in the position of the side chain group (no R group at all, just an attached loner).

Some Quite Interesting Relevant Facts

  • In chemistry, organic compounds are generally thought of as any chemical compound that contains carbon, which includes amino acids.
  • All amino acids are soluble in an aqueous solution (water), even the hydrophobic ones (counterintuitive but true).
  • All naturally occurring amino acids are in the L-form; L for levorotatory, referring to the way you’d turn the amino acid to read the order of its attached groups (the opposite of is dextrorotatory or D-form).
  • As you can see in the above list, 50% of the amino acids have nonpolar side chains. The other half is designated polar, five of which have side chains that are not only polar, but charged.
  • Because the carboxyl group is an acid, it can form peptide bonds with the base amino groups of other amino acids, causing chemical reactions that create polypeptide chains and amino acid residues.
  • When two amino acids react and form a peptide bond, and that process goes on to be repeated, many amino acids may string together, which forms a protein structure.
  • This protein synthesis (though a little more complicated than just linking acid to base over and over again like links of a chain) is among the most fundamental of biological processes, an invaluable component of every cell. Proteins make our nails and hair, protein builds and repairs our tissues, protein is needed to make our hormones, our enzymes, and many other chemicals in the human body.
  • In 1953, Stanley Miller and Harold Urey conducted a simulation, to test a hypothesis about how life originally formed on Earth. They built a closed system that contained a heated pool of water under a mixture of gases that were thought to be present in the early atmosphere of Earth. They delivered an electric current to simulate lightning, and after a week analyzed the contents of the liquid pool. In there they discovered that several organic amino acids had spontaneously formed from inorganic raw materials. This leant support to the theory that the first life on Earth arose out of the primordial ooze through naturally occurring chemical reactions like a little flash of lightning.

Conclusion

The functional or R groups of amino acids are the groups that define the chemistry of proteins. They are the basis on which amino acids are classified, and according to the Miller-Urey experiment, possibly the start of all organic life on Earth. Not only is “What are amino acid functional groups?” a stimulating question to ask, but the answer to that question comes awfully close to revealing the true answers behind life, the universe, and…well…everything.

Most Popular Supplements for Muscle Growth

Learn the chemistry behind the traditional top supplements for muscle growth, and find out about the newest and most comprehensive supplement that’s about to revolutionize muscle building.

If you’re looking for supplements for muscle growth, you’ve probably already noticed that it’s a pretty crowded field. Different proteins and combinations and timing strategies get discussed, and before you know it you feel like you need about half a degree in chemistry just to build muscle at the gym! We’re streamlining the relevant information on muscle-building supplements, their pros and cons, so you can decide on the best supplements for your own fitness goals. If you’re in a rush, skip to the end, because there’s a new supplemental option that combines the best muscle growth nutrients you’ve ever known, all in one complete, balanced formula that will best all the rest. Read through to learn about the ideal muscle-building combo, a powerful protein trinity.

The First Steps Towards Muscle Building

Getting the most out of your workout involves taking a few first steps before you can start targeting muscle gain specifically. The first steps after taking up regular exercise are:

While supplements are not mandatory to reach these goals, they can be excellent aids to quicken your progress and maximize your protein intake without bringing unpredictable calories to your diet. Next up we’ll discuss the top supplements for muscle growth that you can choose from when attempting to gain muscle mass, and reveal a cutting-edge, scientifically-backed newcomer to the muscle-building supplement world.

Traditional Top Supplements for Muscle Growth

Over and above eating well and lifting weights, here are some protein and muscle-building supplements you can use to augment your workout goals, some of them more effective than others.

Top supplements for muscle growth and bodybuilding.

Carnitine

Carnitine is the general term for a group of amino acid compounds that include L-carnitine, acetyl-L-carnitine, and propionyl-L-carnitine. Carnitine is a transporter that moves long-chain fatty acids into mitochondria, where they’re oxidized or burned for energy.

A popular supplement for fat-loss, carnitine can also aid muscle growth by increasing blood flow to muscles, lessening muscle soreness, and increasing nitric oxide production, all of which improve your post-workout recovery. The combination of these benefits makes carnitine a strong asset for energy-boosting while you’re building muscles through exercise, especially when utilized in pre-workout and post-workout shakes. Though it doesn’t directly contribute to muscle building, it does provide valuable energy assistance, and improves performance during endurance athletics.

Pros

  • Aids athletic endurance by providing energy transport.
  • Helps ease muscle soreness and improve post-workout recovery.

Cons

  • Does not directly increase muscle, but instead aids in workout energy.
  • Carnitine is only a peripheral aid to individuals working to build muscle via exercise.
  • Carnitine would need to be taken alongside direct protein or amino acid supplements to be most effective.

Whey Protein Powder

A milk protein derived from whey, which is the watery part of milk that separates from the curd, whey protein is an excellent supplement affecting protein synthesis. With a high level of branched-chain amino acids or BCAAs, and including some amount of all nine essential amino acids (EAAs), this protein supplement digests relatively quickly and can help with rapid muscle building.

Whey protein can help increase blood flow due to its content of peptides, and is regularly consumed by bodybuilders immediately after their training sessions (within the hour). When choosing a whey protein, it’s recommended that you find a powder containing whey protein hydrolysates, which are proteins broken down for faster digestion.

Pros

  • Whey protein is a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids.
  • Whey protein is high in the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs).

Cons

  • While whey protein is a fast-absorbing whole protein, free-form amino acids can be absorbed much more quickly.
  • Whey protein’s amino acid content is not optimally balanced, and a properly formulated essential amino acid supplement can have 3 times the effectiveness rate as a whey protein powder supplement alone.

Glutamine

Glutamine is an amino acid that not only helps build muscles by increasing the levels of the essential amino acid leucine in muscle fibers, but it also helps fight against muscle breakdown, and has been shown to play a significant role in protein synthesis.

Incidentally, glutamine can also be recommended for those with digestion issues (diarrhea or constipation), anxiety, cravings for sugar and/or alcohol, and those with poor wound healing.

Pros

  • Valuable as a precursor to the essential amino acid leucine.

Cons

  • Glutamine aids only one of the nine essential amino acids needed for muscle building, and so is far from being the most effective muscle-building supplement.
  • Glutamine is unnecessary if you’re taking a complete blend of essential amino acids.

Casein Protein Powder

Casein is the other milk protein that is derived from the curd of the milk and not the whey. Casein has a slower digestion rate than whey protein does, which makes it an excellent protein to take before bed, as it digests while you sleep and helps to prevent catabolism (which is to say destructive metabolism, a kind of self-cannibalism the body sometimes resorts to for energy).

Because increased calorie intake is also needed to build muscle, casein can help by being less filling than whey, allowing you to consume more alongside it. However, it’s also suggested that taking a combination of whey (or better yet free-form essential amino acids…read on!) and casein after a workout can help with muscle protein synthesis better than taking either one of them alone. Be advised that a casein protein product with micellar casein is the slowest-digesting form of casein readily available, and is your best bet when buying it as a supplement.

Pros

  • Casein protein has a slower digestion rate than whey, which can help prevent catabolism during sleep.

Cons

  • Works best when combined with stronger protein supplements like whey protein or free-form essential amino acids.

Beta-Alanine and Carnosine

Beta-alanine, an amino acid and key component of the dipeptide carnosine, aids in increasing carnosine levels and thus heightening muscle strength and muscle endurance. Higher levels of carnosine also increase the force of muscle contractions, and combining it with creatine (next on the list) has the greatest effect on losing body fat and gaining lean tissue, as was seen when the two were studied during a 10-week resistance training program conducted with collegiate football players.

Pros

  • Carnosine contributes to muscle endurance, leading to more powerful workouts, which can then translate to increased muscle.

Cons

  • Carnosine does not directly build muscle, but instead helps aid in workout endurance.
  • Carnosine is most effective in combination with proteins like creatine or free-form amino acids, and so is best as peripheral support for muscle building.

Creatine

Popularized as a workout supplement in the 1970s, creatine is made up of three amino acids—glycine, arginine, and methionine—and is vital for supplying the energy for muscular contraction. Creatine can be found in the forms reatine alpha-ketoglutarate (AKG), creatine monohydrate, and creatine malate. Creatine has been shown to increase the levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) in resistance-exercise training, which is essential for stimulating muscle growth.

Creatine is converted to phosphocreatine (CP) in the body, which then provides energy for explosive exertions like heavy weight lifting or sprinting. The creatine-phosphocreatine system provides an increase in energy supplied to muscle cells when your body is using more ATP (adenosine triphosphate) than is being regenerated in the cells’ mitochondria. This increases your athletic endurance.

Pros

  • Provides energy for increased exercise performance, especially when you’re using more ATP than the mitochondria of your muscle cells can regenerate.
  • Creatine helps stimulate muscle growth.

Cons

  • Creatine is not most effective when taken alone, but is instead at its best when paired with an essential amino acid (EAA) supplement, where it will help provide the energy needed for increased muscle protein synthesis.

Nitric Oxide Boosters (Arginine)

Nitric oxide (NO) in the body serves to dilate blood vessels, thus allowing better blood flow to muscles, providing them with energy, nutrients, water, anabolic hormones, and oxygen—everything your muscles need to function, grow, and thrive. Nitric oxide boosters do not contain nitric oxide, but instead provide it via the amino acid arginine, which the body converts into nitric oxide.

Arginine supplements are often marketed based on their association with muscle growth, increased muscle strength, and loss of bodyweight. However, we recommend supplementing with citrulline to increase arginine, as arginine supplements don’t produce significant increases in blood arginine concentrations due to the liver’s effectiveness at clearing absorbed arginine. Citrulline, on the other hand, is converted into arginine by the kidneys, and the arginine is then released into the bloodstream; this more effectively increases your arginine levels. Additionally, there are no adverse effects associated with citrulline supplementation, while arginine consumption can sometimes lead to gastrointestinal discomfort.

Pros

  • Arginine in the bloodstream leads to more readily available amounts of nitric oxide, essential for muscle functioning.

Cons

  • Counterintuitively, arginine supplements are often ineffective at supplying useable arginine to the bloodstream.
  • Instead citrulline is recommended to supplement for an effective increase in arginine, and can be taken alongside or included in EAA and protein supplements for optimal muscle performance.

ZMA (Zinc, Magnesium Aspartate, Vitamin B6)

Supplementing the minerals zinc and magnesium aspartate along with vitamin B6 is sometimes important to bodybuilders because they become depleted during intense training and need to be specifically replaced. These nutrients are necessary for maintaining proper sleep and hormone levels, as testosterone particularly can be compromised by intensive training.

Athletes who take ZMA have been shown to have increased levels of IGF-1 and testosterone, both of which have an influence on muscle gains. ZMA is recommended to be taken before bed on an empty stomach, to allow for better uptake and to help improve sleep quality and the muscle recovery that sleep provides.

Pros

  • Can help correct vitamin and mineral deficiency caused by intensive weight training.

Cons

  • ZMA supplementation does not lead to direct muscle growth, but can be taken as needed alongside free-form amino acids or traditional protein contributions like whey or creatine, depending on your workout style and your body’s needs.
  • Not everyone will need the extra supplementation of ZMA.

HMB (Beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyrate)

Beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyrate or HMB is a molecule derived from the processing of the essential amino acid leucine, and helps protect against muscle protein breakdown. HMB is often recommended only for those who are beginning weight-training exercises, as the scientific results seen in those who are more experienced with muscle training are less significant. This is due to the fact that HMB is heavily reliant on a steady and abundant supply of EAAs to be effective. When the EAA supply dips down, so does the effectiveness of HMB; it cannot work alone.

Pros

  • HMB supplementation can be good for resisting extreme catabolic states, such as in individuals with critical wasting illnesses.

Cons

  • HMB without an excess supply of EAAs is only marginally effective.
  • EAA supplementation is also needed to derive maximum benefits from HMB supplementation.

Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)

The branched-chain amino acids are a subcategory of essential amino acids, and are designated by the molecular structure of leucine, isoleucine, and valine. BCAAs make up 14% of the amino acids that reside in your muscles, and it’s been shown that taking a supplement of BCAAs during resistance-training exercise increases muscle strength, fat loss, and lean mass.

However, while research shows that leucine in particular stimulates muscle protein synthesis, and that together these three amino acids diminish cortisol (a catabolic hormone), increase energy, and reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness, BCAAs when consumed alone are not fully effective. All nine essential amino acids are needed to make new muscle, and in fact, the the rate of muscle protein synthesis is directly affected by the availability of all your essential amino acids—the more you have, the faster your rate of muscle synthesis, and the fewer you have, the slower the rate. Because of this, research actually shows that BCAAs when taken alone have little to no effect on the rate of muscle protein synthesis in humans.

Pros

  • BCAAs are valuable amino acids that can be taken to help some aspects of muscle building.

Cons

  • BCAAs are only three of the nine essential amino acids, and all essentials are needed to create new muscle.
  • BCAAs have little to no effect on muscle protein synthesis when taken alone.

An Essential Amino Acid (EAA) Blend: The New Top Muscle Growth Supplement

If BCAAs ever sounded good, you’ll probably be more interested in a complete EAA supplement. Our unique EAA supplement is an ideally proportioned blend that combines the strengths of whey protein, creatine, and the eight essential amino acids that contribute directly to muscle growth. With our EAA blend, you’ll not only get the BCAAs mentioned above, but also a full cocktail essential amino acid supplement. It contains the key factors that make whey protein and creatine effective too, giving you the best of every top effective traditional supplement on the market.

EAAs and Muscle Protein Synthesis

The human body is made up of about 20% protein, and amino acids are used to form our muscles, tissues, and organs (not to mention the hormones needed for cognitive and physiological function). The key to our muscle-building product that helps make it more effective than other supplements, and even some dietary sources of essential amino acids, is its absorption rate and digestibility.

The EAAs derived from dietary proteins have to be digested first and then absorbed, while free-form amino acids are absorbed more quickly and completely. With eight of the nine essential amino acids (minus tryptophan which is not necessary to supplement for muscle protein synthesis), the amounts of EAAs are maximized more than any naturally occurring protein can deliver.

EAAs with Whey Protein’s Support

While free-form EAAs provide faster absorption, an intact protein like whey provides for a longer absorption period, sustaining the supply of EAAs after the rapid absorption of the free-form EAAs. Designed to work in concert with one another, our muscle-growth supplement combines its EAA profile with a balanced inclusion of whey protein for steady, ongoing support of muscle protein synthesis.

EAAs and Creatine’s Energy

Because creatine-phosphate provides the energy for sudden bursts of physical activity like lifting heavy weights or sprinting, it’s included in the Amino Co.’s technology to provide the energy needed to convert EAAs into muscle via muscle protein synthesis. Instead of waiting for the mitochondria of muscle cells to metabolize ATP for energy, creatine covers the time gap when needed, completing the full circle required for ideal muscle building: the rapid essential ingredients, the long-haul supply, and the energy to put them to use.

The Amino Company Advantage

Our product is a unique, patent-pending blend of essential amino acids, whey protein, and creatine that outperforms all other supplements in increasing muscle mass. Good for increasing strength in the elderly and easy to include in drinks or smoothies, Amino Co. supplements are scientifically proven to be effective in muscle protein synthesis over any other supplement, food, or protein choice currently available.

The ABCs of Muscle Growth

On a first glance at muscle growth supplements, it looks like an alphabet soup of vitamins and molecules and chemistry notes, but the more knowledgeable you become about your own body’s strengths and needs, the closer you’ll approach a PhD’s level of understanding when it comes to which supplements best support your goals. Effectiveness is key, bolstered by practical results that can be not only felt, but also scientifically proven. In the end, you can see which supplement brings you the greatest value.

The strongest performers from the traditional list of muscle growth supplements have been brought forward to the new frontier: an EAA blend that brings the best of everything essential to building and maintaining new muscle. The Amino Company provides the full circle of quick, long-lasting, and energized EAAs for muscle building. When you take our unique blend, you’re guaranteed to have an optimally balanced formula designed specifically for human muscle growth (and not lab animals). With the Amino Co. on your team, you can reach higher heights of strength faster and more effectively than ever before!

Best Amino Acids for the Ketogenic Diet: Which Ketogenic Amino Acids Should You Be Eating?

The value of a ketogenic diet? To burn fat rather than just lose weight on the scale. The core question: in what foods can the six essential ketogenic amino acids be found?

The value of a ketogenic diet? To burn fat rather than just lose weight on the scale. Beginners at dieting often attempt to lose weight with short-term crash diets, which put the body in starvation mode and cause it to stockpile more fat as soon as possible (an evolutionary protection against times of famine). Conversely, the ketogenic diet puts the body into more of a sustainability mode, a stable way to reduce and optimize calorie intake, while focusing on foods that provide the essential amino acids for the ketogenic conversion of fat into energy.

So which ketogenic amino acids should you be eating, and where can you find them?

Amino Acids: the Fat Burning, the Sugar Forming, and the Switch Hitters

The building blocks of protein, amino acids can be categorized as exclusively ketogenic, exclusively glucogenic, or like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: radically both. This is based on the end products produced during amino acid metabolism.

Essential amino acids for the ketogenic diet.

As you can see, the predominant category is the glucogenic group, with 13 amino acids. The carbon skeletons that result from the breakdown of glucogenic amino acids can be used via gluconeogenesis to synthesize glucose, simple sugar and an important energy source found in many carbohydrates. These are not the amino acids that will derive energy from your body’s pre-existing fat stores.

The second largest category contains five amino acids, the switch hitters that when catabolized can yield both glucogenic and ketogenic products.

Exclusively ketogenic amino acids are just that: exclusive. Lysine and leucine are the only two amino acids that produce Acetyl CoA or Acetoacetyl CoA without any glucogenic byproducts.

Acetyl CoA (the precursor of ketone bodies) and Acetoacetyl CoA are the first steps of the Krebs Cycle of energy production, which combines glycolysis and pyruvate oxidation with the citric acid cycle (which itself includes α-ketoglutarate, succinyl CoA, fumarate, and oxaloacetate—all byproducts of glucogenic amino acids). To access citrate synthase, the catalyst of this cycle, without glucose or carbohydrates is the value of ketogenic amino acids: it’s like buying the product you need without bringing home any unnecessary or harmful packaging around it.

Acid Eater: the Amino Acids Essential to a Ketogenic Diet

Classes of amino acids can be further categorized as essential vs. nonessential, essential being the ones you must eat to obtain, and nonessential being those that naturally occur in the body, and are not reliant on the food you eat.

Nonessential amino acids:

  • Asparagine
  • Alanine
  • Glutamic acid
  • Aspartic acid

Essential amino acids:

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

You may have noticed those last two are the exclusively ketogenic amino acids, meaning they only come from sources outside the body. Likewise, four out of five of the switch hitter or versatile amino acids are on this essential list as well, excluding only tyrosine, a conditional essential, as it’s derived from phenylalanine (which is itself essential). Regardless of that particular debate, the core question remains: in what foods can the six essential ketogenic amino acids be found?

The Key Ingredients to Ketogenesis

Intro 101 of the keto diet is to go deeper when dieting, to the cellular level of biological sciences. This is more advanced than the grocery aisle surface choices people often make between low-carb and no-sugar-added options. It’s important to remember that the colorful labeling on the front of food packages can often be subjective. It’s better to know how to read the nutrition label with a keen (keto) eye.

Better yet, know what basic foods have the ketogenic keys to turn fatty acids into ketone bodies. These ketone bodies will then provide energy from your fat stores, without adding carbohydrates, and without impacting insulin or blood sugar levels. Here are where the six essential ketogenic amino acids reside.

1. Isoleucine

Along with leucine and valine (glucogenic), isoleucine is an isomer (isolated form) of leucine that is one of the three branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), all of which help to promote post-exercise muscle recovery. Involved in hemoglobin production, isoleucine can be found in:

  • Protein sources like meat, fish, and eggs
  • Dairy, particularly cottage cheese
  • Seeds, grains, nuts, and beans including almonds, brown rice, cashews, lentils, and chia seeds

2. Phenylalanine

The source of tyrosine and one of the aromatic amino acids, phenylalanine is used in the biosynthesis of norepinephrine, dopamine, and thyroid hormones (huge players when it comes to mental health). Possibly effective in treating mood disorders, phenylalanine is contained in:

  • Olives, figs, raisins, avocados, pumpkins, and most berries
  • Meat, chicken, fish, and eggs
  • Rice, beans, quinoa, and seeds
  • Spirulina, seaweed, and leafy greens

3. Threonine

An essential nutrient in the diet of vertebrates, threonine supports the central nervous system, along with the heart, liver, and immune system. A key component in the production of collagen, elastin, and muscle tissue, threonine can be gained from:

  • Beans, nuts, lentils, and quinoa
  • Lean beef, lamb, pork, and chicken/turkey
  • Seafood including shellfish, particularly salmon, whelks, cuttlefish, octopus
  • Seeds, including chia and hemp seeds
  • Raisins, figs, avocados, and pumpkin
  • Spirulina, watercress

4. Tryptophan

Needed for nitrogen balance, tryptophan is also used to produce melatonin (for regulating sleep and wakefulness), niacin, and serotonin, the neurotransmitter known as the “happy” chemical. Tryptophan can be found in:

  • Turkey (rather famously), as well as red meat, rabbit and goat meat, eggs, and fish
  • Milk and cheese, particularly reduced fat mozzarella
  • Pumpkin and squash seeds, along with chia, sesame, and sunflower seeds
  • Almonds, peanuts, bananas, and chocolate (ideal ingredients for a sundae)
  • Spirulina

5. Leucine

Another of the BCAAs, and one of the two exclusively ketogenic amino acids, leucine builds muscle by stimulating protein synthesis. It can be sourced from:

  • Nuts, peas, beans, seeds, and pumpkins
  • Chicken, beef, and pork
  • Seafood including tuna
  • Soybeans, whey protein, and plant proteins
  • Cheese, particularly Parmesan

6. Lysine

Necessary in the formation of collagen, connective tissue, and muscle growth and repair in the body, lysine can be found in:

  • Protein sources like meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs
  • Beans, peas, almonds, cashews, and chia seeds
  • Spirulina, parsley
  • Cheese and yogurt
  • Whey protein

The Ketogenic Conclusion

You may have noticed some foods dominating the field; when it comes to essential amino acids for a ketogenic diet, where you find a good source of protein, you often find the ketogenic advantage. Donald K. Layman, Ph.D. along with Nancy R. Rodriguez, Ph.D. penned a paper for Nutrition Today titled “Egg Protein as a Source of Power, Strength, and Energy,” but in it pointed out that egg is not the only food that packs that much value. With so many high-yield proteins, any dietary practice—be it vegetarian, vegan, kosher, or allergy-restrictive—can still gain you the essential amino acids for perfecting your ketogenic journey if you’re diligent about ensuring your protein macros.

Your body is not so much a temple as a laboratory, a series of chemical reactions. Providing your body with the right ketogenic amino acids (instead of an overabundance of glucose precursors) sets you up for the ideal fat-burning catabolic pathways. This leads to healthy protein turnover for muscle growth, weight loss, and the energy to propel you forward.

Taking an essential amino acid supplement (which includes the ketogenic amino acids lysine and leucine) can help protect against any protein insufficiencies you may encounter while following dietary restrictions, such as the high-fat, moderate-protein requirements of the keto diet.

Unlock Lasting Weight-Loss Results by Understanding Hunger Control

Weight loss and maintenance depend on a number of factors, one of which is controlling the desire to eat. Dietary proteins and amino acids play key roles in hunger control. Learn how to maximize their effect.

Weight loss and successful long-term weight maintenance depend on a number of factors, one of which is controlling the desire to eat. While there are numerous approaches to weight management, reducing your caloric intake will almost certainly play an important role in helping you achieve your desired body weight. No matter how dedicated you are, if you’re dealing with persistent feelings of hunger, it’s highly likely that you will deviate from your mindful eating intentions. Fortunately, there are scientifically validated ways to keep your hunger levels in check. Researchers have found that dietary proteins, as well as amino acids, play key roles in hunger control.

Studies Show Eating More Protein Can Curb Hunger

Increasing satiety by choosing the right foods to eat is essential to achieving successful weight loss and weight maintenance.

Scientists have known for more than 50 years that when you eat a high-protein meal you end up consuming fewer calories. In 1956, a research team composed of Sherman Mellinkoff, Marjorie Frankland, David Boyle, and Margaret Greipel found a clear link between amino acid concentration in the blood and hunger levels. The more amino acids were circulating in a subject’s blood, the lower their reported level of hunger…and the fewer amino acids, the higher their level of hunger. The researchers noted that the same relationship appeared to exist between blood sugar levels and hunger—when blood sugar levels dropped, participants’ appetites soared. Since that pioneering study, it has been repeatedly shown that dietary protein elevates amino acid concentrations in the blood and that high-protein meals function as appetite suppressants.

Several studies conducted on healthy subjects have shown, too, that long-term adherence to a high-protein diet can increase feelings of fullness in an enduring way. Some of these studies carefully controlled energy balance by having the subjects live in a chamber for several days so that their total energy expenditure could be accurately measured. The level of energy expenditure was matched with the same amount of caloric intake. This approach ensured that the only variable was the level of protein intake, so there was no doubt that the effect on appetite control stemmed from the higher intake of dietary protein.

Why Eating High-Protein Meals Makes You Feel More Satiated

There are a few theories as to why a high-protein meal makes you feel fuller.

One potential pathway has to do with hunger hormones such as peptide YY (PYY), sometimes referred to as the fullness hormone. Research shows that peptide YY helps control hunger and food intake. Scientists have found that when you eat protein, your gut releases these hunger hormones.

According to a study published in Cell Metabolism, eating a high-protein diet increases your body’s production of hunger-fighting PYY.

“We’ve now found that increasing the protein content of the diet augments the body’s own PYY, helping to reduce hunger and aid weight loss,” said Rachel Batterham of University College London, a Medical Research Council clinician scientist and the study’s lead author.

Batterham and her fellow researchers found that eating high-protein meals stimulated the body to release more PYY than either high-fat or high-carbohydrate meals. Consequently, both normal-weight and obese participants who ate the high-protein meals reported fewer food cravings and less overall hunger.

The research team conducted follow-up studies with mice in order to eliminate other factors that could influence the results. They discovered that mice on high-protein diets had higher PYY levels and ate fewer calories than those who ate the usual amount of protein. They also had lower body fat levels.

So, what is it about high-protein foods specifically that produces this effect on fullness signals?

One hypothesis, which I introduced above, has to do with amino acids. Proteins are made up of amino acids, so when we eat a high-protein meal the plasma concentrations of their component amino acids spike. Some researchers, including the team behind that groundbreaking 1956 study, believe that this elevation of plasma amino acid levels can promote feelings of fullness.

Dietary proteins and amino acids play key roles in hunger control.

Amino Acids: The Key to Quelling Many Types of Hunger

A review of studies conducted to date provides indisputable evidence that amino acids on their own, separate from other compounds found in protein, can lower hunger levels.

The satiating effect of increased plasma amino acids was proven in an experiment in which amino acids were infused intravenously. This study demonstrated that intravenous amino acid infusion increased the satiety rating and feeling of fullness, even though nothing was ingested into the gastrointestinal tract. The suppression of appetite was due to elevated plasma amino acid concentrations. When the infusion stopped and plasma amino acid concentrations returned to the basal level, the effect on satiety was eliminated.

As with the question of exactly what biological mechanisms underlie the clear connection between protein intake and increased satiety, there is no single, succinct answer to the question of why their component amino acids have such a pronounced effect on hunger control.

One possibility is that a greater availability of amino acids, particularly the essential amino acids that cannot be produced in the body, stimulates protein synthesis. The stimulation of protein synthesis increases energy expenditure. Recent research proposed that the extra use of oxygen associated with stimulated protein synthesis results in increased satiety.

Another possibility is that the actions of amino acids in the brain stimulate satiety. When amino acids were infused into the intestines of cats, either as a mixture or independently, researchers recorded increased signaling from the part of the brain responsible for satiety. Early amino acid studies that identified the brain receptor that influences satiety are supported by the more recent identification of a chemosensor for dietary essential amino acids in the brains of rats. This area of the brain projects signals to other brain areas that are associated with the control of food intake.

Do All Amino Acids Help Control Hunger?

The short answer is, no. While all amino acids have health benefits and can be valuable components of dietary supplements, scientists have found that only some amino acids increase satiety. Other amino acids have been shown to have either no discernible effect on appetite or, in some cases, to stimulate the appetite.

The results of one study showed that while tryptophan and lysine increased satiety, proline and threonine had no effect and arginine decreased satiety.

The results of another study in which essential amino acids were directly injected into the cerebroventricular area of the brain found that injections of all three of the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) or leucine individually led to a suppressed food intake. Ultimately, the study’s authors determined that the effect of the BCAA injection was entirely due to leucine, as individual injections of the other BCAAs, isoleucine and valine, had no effect.

Not only does an augmented supply of certain dietary essential amino acids including leucine, lysine, and tryptophan induce satiety, but the reverse is also true. When your body lacks amino acids, that spurs your appetite.

Research consistently indicates that a low-protein diet drives increased food intake—in fact, there is a brain receptor that identifies a diet deficient in essential amino acids! A low-protein diet causes an increase in food intake in order to correct the amino acid deficiency, which can easily result in weight gain. This phenomenon was demonstrated by a study published in Physiology and Behavior. Increased food intake occurs when intake of all the essential amino acids drops, not just leucine or other amino acids directly linked to fullness signals.

How You Can Use Scientific Findings to Achieve Real-World Weight-Loss Results

So, you may be asking yourself, what does this all mean for my personal weight-loss journey?

As I have mentioned, understanding the precise biological mechanisms that affect hunger control can be challenging. Satiety is difficult to quantify objectively in humans. A number of factors come into play, and we do not have access to the complete workings of the brain. Consequently, we must rely extensively on data obtained from rats, which differ from humans in obvious ways. That being said, there are important findings obtained from studies on rats that are relevant to human nutrition.

With regard to amino acids, a rat’s brain can sense when essential amino acids are available and modify dietary intake accordingly. Elevated levels of certain essential amino acids—namely leucine, lysine, and tryptophan—can increase satiety, while a deficiency of essential amino acids increases the amount of food eaten. Following this science, a low-protein diet increases food intake and causes weight gain, and a high-protein diet reduces food intake.

In addition to ensuring an adequate intake of dietary protein, you may find it beneficial to consume a balanced mixture of free essential amino acids. Essential amino acids produce the same effect as high-protein foods but contain far fewer calories.

Taking a complete essential amino acid supplement with all the essential aminos has been shown to be the most low-calorie way to improve hunger control. While not all amino acids directly affect your hunger levels, it appears that supplementing with individual amino acids does not have the same effectiveness as optimizing your intake of all the essential amino acids.

Essential Amino Acid Supplements and Bariatric Surgery

Let’s take a look at the different types of bariatric surgery available, the benefits and risks of these procedures, and how amino acids can help you maintain the nutrition so important to your health both during recovery and long after this weight-loss procedure is over.

According to figures from the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS), the number of Americans choosing to undergo bariatric surgery has risen steadily over the past several years, with over 200,000 undergoing the procedure in 2017 alone.

However, while the obesity epidemic leads more and more people to consider a surgical solution to excess weight, many may not realize that the physical changes to the digestive tract caused by bariatric surgery also result in changes to the body’s ability to absorb nutrition.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at the different types of bariatric surgery available, the benefits and risks of these procedures, and how amino acids can help you maintain the nutrition so important to your health both during recovery and long after the procedure is over.

Types of Bariatric Surgery

Bariatric surgery is performed on severely obese individuals who have not been able to lose weight with diet and exercise alone.

Generally, the procedure is not recommended unless you have extreme obesity, characterized by a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or greater, or a BMI of 35 and at least one obesity-related health problem, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, or heart disease.

The surgery works by changing the shape of or removing portions of the stomach and (sometimes) small intestine. In the United States, three types of bariatric surgery procedures are most commonly performed:

  • Gastric bypass
  • Gastric banding
  • Gastric sleeve

Each type of surgery also has its advantages and disadvantages.

1. Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass

The Roux-en-Y gastric bypass works by dividing both the top of the stomach from the bottom and the first part of the small intestine. The bottom end of the small intestine is then attached to the newly created pouch at the top of the stomach.

This procedure reduces both the amount of food the stomach pouch can hold at any one time and the small intestine’s ability to absorb calories and nutrients. This type of gastric bypass surgery is also typically not reversible.

2. Biliopancreatic Diversion with Duodenal Switch

In this second, more complicated form of gastric bypass, approximately 80% of the stomach is removed. The majority of the small intestine is then bypassed by connecting the end portion of the intestine to the duodenum.

Like the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, this procedure works to reduce both stomach capacity and calorie and nutrient absorption. However, because it also carries with it more risks, the biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch is generally limited to people with a BMI greater than 50.

3. Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Banding

Gastric banding is a laparoscopic surgery in which an inflatable band, commonly known as a lap band, is placed around the upper portion of the stomach. When the band is inflated, it creates a small pouch that restricts the amount of food the upper portion of the stomach can hold.

4. Sleeve Gastrectomy

Gastric sleeve surgery actually makes use of the first part of the biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch, drastically reducing the size of the stomach until it’s shaped like a tube.

Benefits of Bariatric Surgery

Bariatric surgery can help patients avoid serious health problems by improving many of the health risks associated with severe obesity. These include:

In addition, the weight loss that results from bariatric surgery may improve mobility and reduce symptoms of arthritis, thereby increasing the ability to engage in physical activity.

Side Effects of Bariatric Surgery

Bariatric surgery also comes with both short-term and long-term risks. These include:

  • Infection
  • Acid reflux
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Dumping syndrome
  • Low blood sugar
  • Malnutrition
  • Diarrhea
  • Hernias

The Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery (LABS) program of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recruits bariatric surgery patients in order to track both short-term and long-term outcomes of surgery.

LABS has found that approximately 4% of individuals have at least one major adverse outcome within a month of surgery. The program has also shown no difference in adverse outcomes with different bariatric procedures.

Bariatric Surgery and Body Composition Changes

Bariatric surgery causes weight loss in most individuals, and the greatest percentage of that weight loss is a reduction in fat mass. However, it’s been demonstrated that lean body mass is reduced by approximately 20% as well.

This is an unfortunate finding, as lean muscle lays the foundation for successful weight loss and maintenance as well as optimal health.

However, the good news is that the addition of an amino acid supplement to the diet following bariatric surgery can minimize the loss of lean body mass.

Essential Amino Acid (EAA) Supplements and Weight Loss Following Bariatric Surgery

Weight loss following bariatric surgery is fundamentally governed by the same principles that govern any other weight-loss program—that is, weight is lost due to a negative energy balance.

In other words, the amount of energy you consume throughout the day must be less than the amount of energy you expend. And since calories are the unit of energy we’re talking about here, a negative energy balance simply refers to a caloric expenditure that’s greater than caloric intake.

However, losing weight isn’t as simple as dropping pounds. If it were, it wouldn’t matter whether those pounds were in fat or muscle.

But you want to lose fat and preserve muscle, so weight loss must be focused on losing just the fat. After all, that’s the definition of successful weight loss.

Unfortunately, when you reduce the number of calories you eat, you potentially negatively affect muscle mass in two ways.

Protein Intake

If you don’t change the composition of your diet, your protein intake is going to be cut in half along with your caloric intake. To avoid this, you need to keep your protein intake high so you can preserve lean muscle mass during weight loss.

But to do this, you have to double the percentage of calories you’re taking in as protein just to maintain the same amount of protein you normally eat.

For example, if you consume 25% of your calories as protein, to keep protein levels constant during weight loss, 50% of the calories you eat need to be protein.

And given that most forms of protein provide at least half their calories as carbohydrates and/or fats, that means your entire diet may have to be composed of foods from the protein food group.

Muscle Protein Synthesis

In addition to the negative effects on protein intake, a negative energy balance also makes it much harder to maintain the same rate of muscle protein synthesis when calories are cut.

In the human body, protein is constantly being built up and broken down. And we’ve known for more than a hundred years that the amount of protein needed to maintain this balance between protein synthesis and protein breakdown is influenced by energy intake (in the form of nutrition), which fuels the energy cost of protein synthesis.

However, when you reduce the number of calories you eat, muscle protein is inevitably lost. And this is the fundamental challenge of maintaining muscle mass when you’re losing weight.

How does all this play out in light of the negative energy balance created by bariatric surgery?

Muscle can only be preserved following bariatric surgery if enough essential amino acids (EAAs) are available to stimulate muscle protein synthesis to a degree sufficient to maintain muscle mass. And the most effective and practical way to accomplish this goal is by increasing dietary EAA intake.

Bariatric surgery is for severely obese individuals who have not been able to lose weight by calorie restriction.

The loss of lean body mass—and muscle mass, in particular—is dramatic following bariatric surgery.

This undesirable effect reflects, in part, an impaired ability to digest intact protein (the “whole” form of protein we ingest via food sources, made up of strings of individual amino acids connected to one another, as opposed to the separated amino acids found in free-form amino acid supplements) effectively, especially in the first few weeks after surgery.

In addition, patients who go through any surgical procedure may develop anabolic resistance. When this happens, intact protein loses its normal effectiveness in stimulating muscle protein synthesis.

Unlike intact proteins, such as meat and eggs, free EAAs are extensively digested and absorbed even after bariatric surgery, so their effect on muscle protein turnover is fully retained.

The fact that free-form EAAs can be formulated to overcome anabolic resistance is another potential advantage of relying on EAA-based nutrition following bariatric surgery.

How Many EAAs Are Needed to Maintain Muscle Mass After Bariatric Surgery?

You need to consume at least 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight each day to maintain muscle mass during weight loss. So, if you weigh 350 pounds, you need to eat 190 grams of protein, or about 400 grams of protein food sources such as meat, fish, and dairy products.

That’s about 2,000 kilocalories just from protein food sources alone!

Add to this the fact that the normal total caloric intake during weight loss following bariatric surgery is about 1,200 kilocalories per day, and it’s clear the numbers don’t add up.

You just can’t get enough protein from food sources to maintain lean mass.

This is particularly relevant when we’re talking about weight-loss surgery, as the amount—and sometimes type—of food bariatric surgery patients are able to eat after the procedure is limited.

Thankfully, this disadvantage can be remedied by supplementing with a free-form EAA formula. Not only have EAAs been proven to help you lose the fat, but they can also ensure you retain that all-important muscle.

Let me explain how this works.

Based on our earlier example—and given the normal proportion of EAAs in high-quality dietary proteins—a protein intake of 190 grams per day would translate to about 80 grams of EAAs.

However, in the early stages after surgery, it may not be feasible to eat more than 50 grams of protein per day, or about 20 grams of EAAs.

In this scenario, your diet would be 60 grams short of enough EAAs to maintain lean body mass, so to make up the difference, you’d need to consume 60 grams of EAAs in the form of a dietary supplement.

And this is as simple as taking a 15-gram dose of EAAs 5 times a day. In fact, a recently published study showed that 5 × 15 grams of EAAs was sufficient to maintain lean body mass during weight loss.

As your ability to obtain protein from food sources increases with time, the amount of supplemental EAAs required to maintain muscle mass will decline, but an intake of at least 30 grams of EAAs will ensure continued maintenance of muscle mass.

If you think you or a loved one may be a candidate for weight-loss surgery and would like more information on the different procedures available and what to expect before, during, and after surgery, I encourage you to visit the ASMBS website.

And if you’re already preparing to undergo bariatric surgery, I recommend exploring essential amino acid supplementation to support your nutritional intake during recovery and beyond.

5 Tips for Mixing Up the Flavor of Your Essential Amino Acid Drink

We’re all for keeping life exciting, so why shouldn’t the essential amino acids you ingest have a little variety? Shaking things up with different flavors and ingredients in your essential amino acid drink is a great way to maintain enthusiasm for your daily supplement routine.

Essential amino acids are not a medicine that you take for a little while until the condition that spurred you to seek them out has been resolved. Rather, they are called essential because we can’t live without a regular intake of these miraculous, protein-building nutrients. It is, therefore, advisable to incorporate essential amino acid supplements into your daily dietary routine.

We’re all for keeping life exciting, so why shouldn’t the essential amino acids you ingest have a little variety? Shaking things up (pun intended) with different flavors and ingredients in your essential amino acid drink is a great way to maintain enthusiasm for your daily supplement routine. Read on for five pieces of expert advice on how to tweak the flavor of your essential amino acid drink.

The Benefits of Essential Amino Acid Drinks

The draw of essential amino acid drinks, for many, has to do with their ability to support muscle mass gains and speed up muscle recovery times. Because of those benefits, it’s common for individuals to schedule their essential amino acid drink consumption around their training sessions. In fact, people often down essential amino acid drink mixes both pre-workout and post-workout because these dietary supplements can improve exercise performance as well as minimize muscle soreness capacity.

The Role of Amino Acids in the Human Body

Amino acids have earned themselves the nickname “the building blocks of protein” due to the crucial role they play in muscle growth. Three specific amino acids—leucine, isoleucine, and valine—known as branched-chain amino acids, have an especially significant impact on muscle tissue. But branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and the entire cadre of essential amino acids (EAAs) have numerous benefits that go far beyond helping the human body build muscle and preventing muscle damage.

Take branched-chain amino acids, for example. Leucine—considered the most significant of the BCAAs—initiates muscle protein synthesis. When the rate of protein synthesis outpaces protein breakdown, muscles can recover between workouts and new muscle growth can occur. So, clearly, an adequate intake of leucine is a vital prerequisite for anyone striving to build muscle. However, the branched-chain amino acids also contribute to energy production and even fat loss. There’s evidence, too, that they stabilize balance blood sugar levels and enhance blood sugar metabolism.

To learn more about the overall health benefits of amino acids, check out this article.

Understanding the Link Between Taste and Smell

We all have certain foods or drinks that we love. Some of us scream for chocolate ice cream while others crush on freshly squeezed orange juice. To some degree, these preferences for certain tastes and textures may be innate. Familiarity also plays a role in shaping our palates. Plus, some tastes can be acquired. This process often transpires naturally as we grow older. Children often find strong flavors like liver or blue cheese to be off-putting, but as we age, our tastes mature. Sometimes the very foods you disliked strongly when you were young become favorites in adulthood.

The way we respond to a food’s flavor is informed by its aroma. The smells of foods originate from their chemical components and can be enhanced and even altered with cooking. Interestingly, the individual molecules of food can have a very different smell than the intact food. Whole grains, for instance, contain rich stores of vitamin B yet have a far more appealing aroma than a jar of B vitamins does! This is because food is a mixture of ingredients that are chemically bound together, changing the characteristics of each molecule.

How Does This Relate to Essential Amino Acid Drinks?

Amino acids derived from intact proteins provide a very good example of this phenomenon. High-quality dietary protein sources such as milk or fresh uncooked meat typically give off very little odor. Go ahead, take a whiff…we’ll wait for you…

Once you break that protein down into its constituent amino acids, however, it begins to emit a different and quite distinct aroma, one that may not be considered pleasant by everyone. Free amino acids also have a distinct taste that may include some bitterness depending upon the particular amino acid.

Each amino acid contains nitrogen paired with a unique side chain. For example, methionine and cysteine are two of the sulfurous amino acids, therefore, their side chains contain sulfur. Sulfur has a very strong taste and smell, as anyone who likes hard-boiled eggs can attest to.

The branched-chain amino acids—leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which we discussed earlier—get their name from the somewhat large, branched structure of their side chains. This structure makes them hydrophobic, a fancy way of saying they do not mix well in water. So if you are trying to blend pure leucine crystals into a beverage, it’s going to require some shaking!

If you have previously tried a commercially available essential amino acid blend, you may have thought it tasted just fine, or you may have found it to be somewhat bitter. Individuals vary genetically in their sensitivity to bitter tastes and those with strong responses often dislike foods with bitter notes, such as cruciferous vegetables or coffee. Regardless of where you fall on the taste spectrum, there are a number of strategies to enhance the flavor of an amino acid drink.

Expert Advice on Mixing Up the Flavor of Your Essential Amino Acid Drink

The biggest taste issue most individuals run into with amino acid products is finding them to be overly bitter. Fortunately, there are a number of tactics you can try to balance out the innate flavor of essential amino acid drinks so that amino acid supplementation can be an enjoyable part of your day. Here are five tips for turning your essential amino acid drink into a concoction you look forward to.

1. Chill It Out

The temperature of a food or beverage influences the intensity of the flavor. Hot cocoa tastes very chocolatey and sweet, while ice cold milk with the same amount of cocoa tastes a bit bland. Ice cream requires a fair amount of sugar and flavoring for the taste to be intense once it is frozen solid. It follows that if you want to diminish a flavor, you should consume it ice cold. For this reason, amino acid drinks taste best with lots of ice.

2.  Blend It Up

Even the most hydrophobic amino acids are no match for the power of a blender. Simply add your essential amino acid blend, the liquid of your choosing, and plenty of ice.

You can add essential amino acids to your favorite smoothie or slushy recipe, or even treat yourself to a good-for-you virgin margarita, salted rim optional.

3. Pour in Some Sweetness

Balancing components of taste is a common strategy used by food scientists and chefs. If something is bitter, add something sweet and just like that, you’ve offset the bitterness.

Natural fruit juice is one of the healthiest options for sweetening up an essential amino acid drink. Keep in mind that certain flavors are stronger than others. Grape, pomegranate, and cherry juice are very rich in color and have a bold taste that can mask less desirable flavors. Apple juice, on the other hand, is rather neutral and adds just a hint of sweetness.

4. Make It Mouth-Puckering

Adding tart or tangy notes also effectively diminishes a bitter taste. Splashing in some fresh-squeezed lemon or lime juice can dramatically change the final taste of an amino acid drink.

Even a small amount of citrus—roughly half a lime or lemon, or a full orange since the flavor is more mild—can temper bitterness.

5. Tweak the Ratios

Most amino acid supplements come pre-flavored, usually with a natural low-calorie or non-calorie sweetener. The manufacturer usually suggests a ratio of powder mix to water but this is by no means a hard and fast requirement. Using different volumes of water, or water and juice combinations, allows you to create a whole spectrum of concentrations. As long as you stick to the recommended serving size, you will get the same effective dose of essential amino acids regardless of the concentration.

For those who find the taste of essential amino acid drinks simply do not agree with your palate, the best strategy could be to mix the powder in a very small volume of water. While this “shot” of essential amino acids will be intensely flavored, it can be consumed in one gulp.

I should note, too, that it’s possible to take some essential amino acid supplements in capsule form. If you would prefer to swallow pills (the dose is usually five or six fairly large capsules), then you can skip the culinary creativity altogether.

Hopefully these tips—which you should feel free to mix and match—will show you that there are endless options you can use to create your favorite essential amino acid drink. The idea is not just to love the benefits of a daily essential amino acid supplement, but also to love the taste of your essential amino acid drink.

 

What Is the Keto Diet—and Can Amino Acids and Other Supplements Really Improve Results?

Consistently following a ketogenic diet, or keto diet, is an effective way to lose weight and keep it off. Taking amino acids along with following a keto diet can expedite the metabolic processes responsible for ketogenic weight loss.

People diet for different reasons, such as preventing or treating infection, managing diabetes, gaining muscle mass, or maintaining a healthy weight. Weight loss is the most popular reason for dieting, but weight loss can be quite difficult to achieve depending on the type of diet you follow. If you’re interested in how the foods you eat can impact your weight and well-being, chances are, you’ve encountered the phrase “keto diet,” but you may still be wondering: “What is the keto diet?”

The ketogenic diet, often shortened to the keto diet, is an extremely low-carbohydrate diet approach (even sticter than the infamous Atkins diet) that proponents state can train your body to burn fat more efficiently. Many individuals have shared their experiences using the keto diet to lose weight, improve their overall health, and enhance physical and mental performance, leading to increased interest in the diet. Some of the benefits of the keto diet have been validated by scientific studies and a growing number of medical professionals recommend it as a means of addressing lifestyle-related chronic conditions.

As more and more people adopt a keto diet, often with the goal of losing weight and keeping it off, some have begun exploring whether certain supplements can improve their results. It appears that amino acids show particular promise as a means of enhancing metabolic processes responsible for ketogenic weight loss.

In this article, we’ll provide an introduction to the keto diet, cover some of the most common benefits associated with the keto diet, and then share the best keto diet supplements to take and how those supplements can help accelerate your keto diet results.

What Is the Keto Diet?

The ketogenic diet was developed in the 1920s as a treatment for epilepsy. Traditionally, it was used to treat children, but in recent years, it has been used to treat adults with epilepsy that does not respond to other interventions. And, of course, its use has expanded far beyond that initial medical context.

After the fat-free diet craze went bust, researchers turned their attention to carbohydrates. Ironically, diets that discourage fatty foods often encourage the consumption of low-fat, fat-free, or trans-fat options loaded with highly processed ingredients that the body stores as fat. Low-fat diets tend to place less emphasis on monitoring the intake of carbohydrates, which can greatly jeopardize calorie-burning processes at the cellular level.

Carbohydrates come in many food forms; sugars, complex carbohydrates (starches), and fiber are the three main types. Regularly consuming carbohydrates over time has been linked to higher risk of developing chronic illness, especially cardiovascular disease.

How the Keto Diet Encourages Your Body to Burn More Fat

The foundational principle of the keto diet is rigid carbohydrate restriction. Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of fuels; however, your body can also run off of fat. When you keep your carb intake below a certain threshold while adhering to a high-fat diet, your body switches from burning carbs for fuel to burning fat.

The “keto” in ketogenic refers to small fuel molecules called ketones that your body runs off of when it does not have access to significant quantities of glucose (blood sugar) from carbohydrates.

When you eat carbohydrates, your body quickly converts them into glucose via a process called glucogenesis. Excess protein can also be converted to glucose. The glucose produced from carbohydrates and protein can be used to power your body, but any that’s not immediately needed gets stored as fat.

If your body does not have a ready supply of glucose, it switches over to a process called ketogenesis. The liver converts loose fatty acids into ketone bodies that cells use for energy while the body metabolizes fat and burns calories at a high rate. Ketosis, a term that pops up frequently in reference to the keto diet, describes the moment when the body enters the metabolic state in which it’s running off of fat rather than carbohydrates.

The quickest way to enter a state of ketosis is to fast, but that short-term approach has its limitations. Adopting the keto diet allows you to enter and stay in ketosis for a sustained period of time.

Consistently following a comprehensive ketogenic diet, otherwise known as the keto diet, is an effective way to lose weight and keep it off. Taking amino acids along with following a keto diet can expedite the metabolic processes responsible for ketogenic weight loss.

The Basics of the Keto Diet

Entering a state of ketosis does require some number crunching to track nutrient intake, something many other diets involve too. The basic ratios of the keto diet are:

  • 70% to 75% fat
  • 15% to 25% protein
  • 5% carbohydrates

The most crucial aspect of these ratios is carbohydrate intake. Most individuals will need to limit their carb intake to 50 grams or fewer of net carbs per day. Some experience even greater benefits with a daily carb intake below 20 grams.

For the best keto diet results, you will also need to pay attention to how much protein you consume. The bulk of your calories should come from high-fat, moderate-protein foods, since excess quantities of protein can be converted into glucose.

Athletes or individuals who engage in high-intensity activity should monitor their performance when on the keto diet and may require more protein and carbohydrates for peak metabolic function. One to two days of carbohydrate refueling followed by ketogenic dieting the remaining days of the week is a common dietary program for high-endurance performers.

But if you decrease the intensity of your workouts, plan accordingly. A more precision-based model for carbohydrate intake may work best in this instance. Eating easily digestible natural carbohydrates, like honey, 30 minutes prior to a moderate to vigorous workout can offset potential energy deficiencies created by a keto diet meal plan.

7 Health Benefits of the Keto Diet

The time that it takes for you to achieve ketosis depends on how well-adapted your body is to the ketogenic process. The most reliable way to determine whether you have entered a state of ketosis is to use a blood ketone meter, which can gauge ketone levels in your blood.

Optimal ketosis—the point at which you begin to experience the health benefits of the keto diet, such as weight loss—typically begins when blood ketone levels reach between 1.5 mmol/L and 3.0 mmol/L.

For most people, it takes 2 to 3 weeks to reach optimal ketosis. During this time, you may experience symptoms of “keto flu” as your body acclimates to this new metabolic state. Some common side effects people experience during this entry phase include:

  • Mood swings
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Intestinal discomfort

Once you reach ketosis, however, any initial unpleasantness you experienced will clear up and you will begin to reap the health benefits. Here are seven of the most common benefits associated with the keto diet.

1. Sustainable Weight Loss

The keto diet, in essence, turns your body into a fat-burning machine. As you might anticipate, this can have significant benefits when it comes to weight loss. Strong scientific evidence shows that the keto diet dramatically increases the body’s fat-burning capacity while decreasing levels of insulin, a hormone that encourages fat storage.

2. Decreased Hunger

Researchers have also found that the keto diet supports body fat loss while decreasing appetite, making it easier to stick to the meal plans you set up for yourself.

One reason for this is likely that when your body uses fat as its primary fuel source, it has round-the-clock access to weeks or months of stored energy. This eliminates the hunger attacks many experience when their blood sugar spikes and then plummets after a high-carb meal.

3. Balanced Blood Sugar Levels

Adopting a keto diet can help you gain control over your blood sugar levels. For this reason, medical practitioners may recommend the keto diet to patients with type 2 diabetes. The keto diet can not only lead to better management of this condition, but also, as studies have shown, to a reversal of the disease.

Though no randomized, controlled trials have examined whether the keto diet can help prevent or reverse pre-diabetes, its impressive effect as a treatment for full-blown type 2 diabetes along with anecdotal evidence makes a strong case for its likely success.

4. Reduced Risk of Heart Disease

Multiple studies have shown that adopting a low-carb diet, like the keto diet, can positively influence several key risk factors for the development of heart disease, including cholesterol levels. Levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and triglycerides consistently drop while low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels remain fairly stable.

It’s also common for people who switch from, for instance, the standard American diet (aptly abbreviated to SAD), to the keto diet to see decreases in blood pressure numbers.

5. Heightened Cognitive Skills and Mental Clarity

While weight loss and improved physical health rank high among the reasons people try the keto diet, some seek it out for its beneficial impact on cognition.

When the body enters ketosis, your brain activity no longer depends on glucose stores. Instead, it runs off a steady supply of ketones. This can eliminate frustrating issues related to blood sugar swings, such as brain fog and difficulty focusing.

6. Boosted Energy and Endurance

By allowing you to access the vast amounts of energy in your body’s fat stores, the keto diet can keep your vitality high.

While stores of glucose only contain enough energy to fuel you through a few hours of physical exertion, your fat stores could theoretically last for weeks.

7. Better Digestion and Nutrient Absorption

Many find that adopting the keto diet can relieve symptoms of digestive distress associated with IBS and other conditions.

This benefit often sets in rapidly. Within days of following a keto meal plan, individuals report improvements and fewer instances of bloating, gas, and stomach cramps and pain. Consistently following a comprehensive ketogenic diet, otherwise known as the keto diet, is an effective way to lose weight and keep it off. Taking amino acids along with following a keto diet can expedite the metabolic processes responsible for ketogenic weight loss.

It generally takes 3 to 6 months to train your body to reach optimal ketosis at a fast rate.

Once you reach that milestone, you can begin to gradually re-introduce plant-based carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables into your diet. At this stage, it’s particularly important to continue to monitor your protein intake. Protein surges can cause insulin levels to rise in the blood, which can hinder ketosis.

While transitioning into ketosis, it can be beneficial to engage in high-intensity workouts, as doing so will accelerate glycogen depletion. Many find that when they are in a state of ketosis, they feel best when participating in low-impact exercise, such as jogging or speed walking, yoga, swimming, or dancing.

Using Supplements to Improve Your Keto Results

Those who commit to a keto-friendly, low-carb foods centered approach to eating long term often find that adding specific supplements can maximize the benefits of the keto diet while minimizing any less-than-pleasant side effects.

Some supplements help fill in possible deficiencies that can result when personal preferences are overlaid on top of the restrictions built into the keto diet. Others help counteract symptoms of keto flu experienced while the body adapts to a state of ketosis, or enhance athletic performance.

Here are three supplements that can enhance the positive effects linked to the keto diet and offset any unwanted ones.

1. Amino Acids

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Proteins consist of single- or long-chain amino acids and are necessary nutrients for most cell and organ functions. Consuming measured proteins in correct proportion to nutrient fat can facilitate ketosis. Ketogenic amino acids can convert to acetyl-CoA, a precursor of ketone bodies, whereas glucogenic amino acids degrade to glucose.

Lysine and leucine function exclusively as ketogenic amino acids. Isoleucine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and tyrosine function both as ketogenic and glucogenic amino acids.

Lysine, leucine, phenylalanine, and tryptophan are all considered essential amino acids—meaning the body cannot synthesize them on its own and they must be acquired through food or supplements. Leucine, for example, can be found in abundant quantities in cheese, soybeans, chicken, nuts, seeds, and seafood.

The branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs)—leucine, isoleucine, and valine—have particular relevance for keto dieters engaged in physical training, as they can help reduce exercise-related muscle damage, muscle soreness, and fatigue during exercise. However, many studies show that the most benefit can be derived from a well-formulated essential amino acid supplement rather than individual amino acid supplements.

For more information on the best amino acids to take to complement a keto diet, check out this article.

2. Beta-Hydroxybutyrate (BHB)

Beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) supplements, sometimes referred to as exogenous ketones, may be able to elevate ketone levels, among other desirable benefits.

As we’ve discussed, your body naturally produces ketone bodies through a process called ketogenesis. Some experts believe that exogenous ketones from an external source can increase your blood ketone levels, helping you reach a state of ketosis more quickly.

There’s also some evidence to show that BHB supplements can counteract the fatigue and mood swings that some experience when they start the keto diet. Once you’ve entered ketosis, studies show that these same supplements may help to enhance athletic performance, decrease recovery time between training sessions, and lower appetite levels.

Some general guidelines for a starting dosage for BHB supplements would be to take either 2 BHB oil capsules daily or 1 scoop of BHB oil powder on an empty stomach between meals with 16 ounces of water. You should limit yourself to three such doses per day.

Some individuals experience stomachaches when taking BHB supplements. If you experience digestive upset, try lowering your intake, then gradually increase to the ideal dose.

3. Medium-Chain Triglycerides (MCTs)

Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) can be an ideal tool for keto dieting. These fatty acids are used to form ketones in the liver, and supplementing with MCT oil can help you feel more satiated during the ketosis transition.

Keto-friendly coconut oil is a rich natural source of medium-chain triglycerides, although it provides a far less concentrated dose of MCTs than expressly manufactured MCT oils.

MCTs and amino acids work together synergistically. The presence of amino acids in the body supports the essential metabolic process by which the fatty acids are transformed into ketones, and a study published in the journal Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology determined that dietary fat, especially medium-chain fats, helps to regulate amino acid transport.

As researchers study these unique compounds found in healthy dietary fats, they continue to add to the long list of health benefits associated with an increased intake of MCTs, including:

  • Increased fat burning during athletic activity
  • Bolstered growth of good gut flora
  • Lowered cardiovascular risks
  • Protection against neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease
  • Increased antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal activity

As with BHB supplements, MCT oil supplements, such as these softgels, should be taken with water—in this case, at least an 8-ounce glass. Only one daily dose is needed.

Consistently following a comprehensive ketogenic diet, otherwise known as the keto diet, is an effective way to lose weight and keep it off. Taking amino acids along with following a keto diet can expedite the metabolic processes responsible for ketogenic weight loss.

The Osteoarthritis Diet: Best Foods and Supplements for Osteoarthritis

About 30 million Americans suffer from painful osteoarthritis. Check out these best and worst foods for osteoarthritis. The osteoarthritis diet even is known to assist in osteoarthritis prevention.

When nothing else works, change your diet. It’s true for lots of chronic illnesses, but maybe arthritis isn’t one you think can be improved simply by changing your diet. Research tells us otherwise. In fact, there’s even a however controversial “osteoarthritis diet.” Several of them, actually, depending on where you look.

In one clinical trial, for example, a Cretan Mediterranean diet showed a “significant improvement in pain” over 12 weeks among patients with rheumatoid arthritis. The research, published in BMC Nutrition Journal, followed 56 people randomized to a control diet or a diet of vegetables, fruit, and olive oil.

A study published in the journal Arthritis heralded the benefits of a whole-foods plant-based diet for osteoarthritis prevention and pain relief. The study of 40 patients with osteoarthritis randomized either to a control diet or a whole-foods plant-based diet showed significant improvements in pain on this osteoarthritis diet in as little as 2 weeks.

Osteoarthritis (OA) comes from normal wear and tear on your joints. About 30 million Americans suffer from painful osteoarthritis. Joints become inflamed when cartilage is worn down or wore out, causing bone-on-bone friction. It can be difficult to find relief.

Check out these best foods for osteoarthritis and worst foods for osteoarthritis. The osteoarthritis diet even is known to assist in osteoarthritis prevention and can help keep other chronic diseases, including heart disease, at bay.

Best Foods for Osteoarthritis Prevention

Some suggestions of best foods for osteoarthritis prevention from Harvard Women’s Health Watch include:

Check out these best foods for osteoarthritis, and worst foods for osteoarthritis. The osteoarthritis diet even is known to assist in osteoarthritis prevention.

  1. Omega-3 rich fish: Oily fish such as sardines, tuna, salmon, mackerel, and sardines help to ease arthritis pain with anti-inflammatory effects courtesy of their omega-3 fatty acids. If you adhere to a plant-based diet, then you can get your anti-inflammatory omega-3s from flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts.
  2. Healthful oils: Did you know olive oil contains a compound that has comparable properties of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that help to soothe OA pain? Avocado oil is always a great choice, and an esteemed cholesterol fighter.
  3. Dairy products: If you can tolerate dairy, then add it to your osteoarthritis diet. Full-fat dairy is concentrated with calcium and vitamin D for bone strength and to help ease osteoarthritis symptoms.
  4. Leafy greens: Dark green veggies are some of the best sources of vitamin D, antioxidants, and potent phytochemicals that can help suppress infection and boost calcium absorption. Eat your fill of collard greens, kale, spinach, and Swiss chard.
  5. Broccoli: This cruciferous star contains sulforaphane that is thought to help inhibit the progression of osteoarthritis. Broccoli also provides a healthful helping of calcium, vitamin K, and vitamin C.
  6. Green tea: This polyphenol-packed tea makes the list once again, with powerful anti-inflammatory constituents that help to keep cartilage from deteriorating.
  7. Garlic: A compound in garlic called diallyl disulfide is thought to help protect cartilage from damage.
  8. Nuts: Heart-healthy and immune-supportive nuts are full of alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), magnesium, zinc, calcium, vitamin E, and fiber.

Worst Foods for Osteoarthritis

When making dietary changes to ease your osteoarthritis pain and protect your joint health, consider avoiding the following inflammatory foods.

Check out these best foods for osteoarthritis, and worst foods for osteoarthritis. The osteoarthritis diet even is known to assist in osteoarthritis prevention.

  1. Sugar: No surprise here, refined sugars that lurk in desserts such as cakes, pies, and cookies can exacerbate inflammation and cause your joints to feel even worse.
  2. Salt: We aren’t dissing sodium, it’s an important and necessary mineral! But too much can cause swelling and inflammation that can further damage joints. Swap out the salt for garlic and pepper.
  3. Fatty, fried foods: Saturated fats baked in batter inflame your body, including your joints, and can elevate cholesterol levels, which have been shown to contribute to osteoarthritis.
  4. Refined wheat products: Foodstuffs made from white flour and refined grains like pastas sound the inflammation alarm. Instead, eat foods made with whole grains, and if you are at all gluten sensitive, choose gluten-free alternatives.
  5. Omega-6 rich foods: Omega-6 is an essential fatty acid, but when we eat too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3, the body’s inflammatory response is stimulated. So, go easy on the egg yolks and red meat, and up your intake of omega-3s to balance the 6:3 ratio.
  6. Dairy: While dairy can be helpful for some arthritis sufferers, it activates inflammation in others. If you notice your arthritis symptoms are worse after consuming dairy, swap out the cow’s milk for almond or hemp milk.
  7. Alcohol: Alcohol, particularly beer, is highly concentrated in purine that can cause symptom flare-ups.

Obesity’s Impact on Osteoarthritis

Consider what obesity does to someone with arthritis—even more weight on those aching joints. Then, toss in so many other variables a person with arthritis may be living with and you can see why every effort should be made to reduce body weight if you are obese.

In addition, many people with osteoarthritis have a co-occurring debilitating condition, such as diabetes, which is hampered even further by obesity.

“In those overweight, weight reduction of 10% has the potential to lead to important changes in pain and inflammation,” reported researchers in a 2015 paper published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders.

How to Avoid Gaining Weight

Obesity does not result from eating specific foods. For example, we are constantly told to avoid sugar. While it is certainly a good idea to watch your sugar intake, it is a myth that sugar causes obesity—lots of people who eat candy and sugary beverages are not overweight. The same is true with other food products that have become demonized, such as french fries and red meat.

The key is not so much what types of foods to avoid, as much as it is to base your diet on high-quality protein, including meat, soluble fiber, and fruits and vegetables, with only a limited amount of sugary food products and fried foods such as french fries. There is nothing very magical or complicated about maintaining a healthy weight—it is a matter of healthy eating and matching the calories you eat with the amount of energy you expend.

How to Lose Weight Effectively

Bookstores, Amazon, and the Internet are filled with different approaches for weight loss. The fact is that any diet will enable you to lose weight if you eat fewer calories than you expend. The main (and often missing) factor in weight loss is how to lose weight without losing your muscles. This can only be accomplished by consuming a low-calorie diet composed largely of protein food products, and even high protein intake will probably not be sufficient to maintain muscle mass. Taking a dietary supplement of essential amino acids will help you maintain muscle mass and function while losing body fat on a low-calorie diet. Click here to learn more about essential amino acid support during weight loss.

Best Supplements for Arthritis

Nutritional supplements can bolster the nutritive support of anti-arthritis foods. And let’s be honest, not every food on the list is going to appeal to your taste buds. Three nutraceuticals in particular can help possibly prevent and slow osteoarthritis disease progression.

Vitamin D

The sunshine vitamin is one of the best supplements for arthritis, as it is essential to strong bone health. According to the Arthritis Foundation, if you have arthritis, your doctor may prescribe an oral steroid, making it even more important for you to boost your IUs of vitamin D with supplement support. Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University researchers discovered that patients on steroids were 2 times more likely to have a vitamin D deficiency.

Fish Oil Supplements

Omega-3s work by blocking chemicals called cytokines and prostaglandins that cause inflammation. Instead, the body converts these compounds into inflammation fighters. Omega-3 fatty acids are what make oily fish such a great food choice for people living with osteoarthritis. Coldwater fish such as salmon and super seeds such as chia seeds help boost your intake of essential omega-3s, but you can also supplement with a fish oil to optimize your anti-inflammatory diet.

Glucosamine and Chondroitin

These natural compounds make up our joint cartilage and often are used in tandem to treat joint pain. They are naturally occurring anti-inflammatory compounds with a reputation for inflammation fighting and are commonly taken as an osteoarthritis treatment.

Essential Amino Acids

Essential amino acids arginine, methionine, and cysteine all have been proven effective at reducing arthritis symptoms in laboratory animals. Essential amino acids can help to reduce the inflammation that causes joint pain.

Amino Acids: The Fatal Flaw in the Alkaline Diet

The alkaline diet is based on the premise that acidic blood causes all sorts of health problems that can be countered by eating more alkaline foods. Is it all it’s cracked up to be? Eating too many alkaline foods and not enough acidic foods may lead to amino acid nutritional deficiencies that can have disastrous consequences on your health.

The alkaline diet—which is also known as the alkaline ash diet, alkaline acid diet, acid ash diet, acid alkaline diet, and even pH diet—is based on the premise that acidic blood causes all sorts of health problems that can be countered by eating more alkaline foods.

Proponents of the alkaline diet claim it can help with weight loss and chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease and even cure conditions like arthritis and cancer.

But is the alkaline diet all it’s cracked up to be?

While the alkaline diet includes many healthy suggestions—such as fruits, vegetables, and water galore—and cautions against the consumption of admittedly unhealthy substances such as alcohol, sugar, and processed foods, nothing you eat is going to have a dramatic effect on the pH of your blood.

But if the alkaline diet is all about creating the optimal conditions for health through the consumption of alkaline foods, how can this be the case?

The reason is that our bodies have mechanisms in place that keep the blood pH tightly regulated.

What’s more, eating too many alkaline foods and too few acidic foods may actually lead to amino acid nutritional deficiencies. And this can have disastrous consequences for everything from bone health to muscle mass to blood pressure.

The pH Balance Diet: Weighing the Scales Between Acidic and Alkaline

The pH is a measurement of how acidic or alkaline something is and is based on a scale of 0 to 14, where 0 is considered extremely acidic, 7 neutral, and 14 extremely alkaline.

The body’s pH actually varies considerably from one area to another. For instance, the normal pH of the blood is around 7.4, but the pH of the stomach remains between 1.5 and 3.5 to maintain the acidic environment necessary to break down the foods we eat.

Based on the premise that maintaining a blood pH above 7.4 helps improve overall health, the alkaline diet involves avoiding foods that may act to lower blood pH levels by increasing dietary acid load.

Therefore, in the alkaline diet, dietary proteins and amino acids—particularly those obtained from animal protein—are especially to be avoided.

Instead, proponents of the alkaline diet advocate creating an alkaline environment in the body by eating mainly non-acid-forming foods, and even bicarbonate (HCO3–), which is a base that can neutralize acidic blood.

However, a high-protein diet, with its increased acid load, actually results in very little change in blood chemistry and pH, though the same diet does have a profound effect on urinary chemistry and pH.

The reason for this is that the body maintains tight control over blood pH, but urinary pH has the ability to move from an acid to alkaline state to help the pH of the blood stay in balance.

The alkaline diet is thus built on the notion that alkaline foods increase the pH of urine, thereby making urine less acidic and, by extension, blood less acidic.

But there are two problems with basing a dietary theory on urinary pH. First, urinary pH does not necessarily reflect blood pH. Second, aside from its role in contributing to kidney stones and gout, clinical trials supporting the claim that acidic urine results in adverse health outcomes are lacking.

Amino Acids and Blood pH

Our bodies absorb all the essential amino acids—the amino acids that must be obtained through dietary sources—needed for survival from the proteins we eat. And as you might guess from the name, amino acids are indeed acidic. This is reflected by the drop in urinary pH that occurs after consuming protein-rich foods.

The sulfur-containing amino acids, such as methionine and cysteine, are considered particularly problematic by proponents of the alkaline diet, as increased sulfur intake can result in the formation of sulfuric acid and present a significant acid load to the body.

And, as animal proteins are a good source of sulfur-containing amino acids, advocates of the alkaline diet caution against the consumption of these proteins.

However, there’s an innate fallacy in the assumption that sulfur has a negative effect on health. This is because sulfur plays many important roles in the body, and a sulfur deficiency can have many adverse effects.

In addition, dietary amino acids, including sulfur-containing amino acids, have only a transient effect on blood pH. As we alluded to earlier, this is a result of the body’s highly effective system for regulating blood pH.

How the Body Regulates Blood pH

The kidneys play an important role in maintaining a constant pH in the blood. For example, when the blood becomes acidic after ingesting amino acids, the kidneys excrete ammonia in the urine, which works to balance the acidic load in the blood.

So, while urine becomes more acidic after eating amino acids, this acidity is not reflected in the blood. Rather, urine becomes acidic to help prevent the blood from becoming acidic and to keep blood pH constant.

This is, in fact, a natural function of the kidneys, and there’s no evidence that high protein or amino acid intake has any detrimental effect on kidney function.

Alkaline Diet Fact:
Consuming animal protein and/or amino acids does not acidify the blood significantly, so there’s no physiological basis for the alkaline diet.

But the excretion of ammonia in the urine plays only a minor part in keeping blood pH in the normal range. The major mechanism for maintaining the proper balance of blood pH is actually the carbon dioxide (CO2)–HCO3– system.

While the kidneys play a significant role in helping to maintain blood pH, it’s actually the lungs that play the predominant part in maintaining the pH balance of the blood.

You see, the lungs excrete protons derived from dietary metabolism in the breath as CO2. And CO2 is acidic, while HCO3–, as we’ve discovered, is basic, or alkaline.

To keep the levels of CO2 and HCO3– in balance, the lungs and kidneys work together so that as HCO3– neutralizes excess acid and is thus lost from the body, more CO2 is produced and excreted in the breath. And the HCO3– lost to acid neutralization is then regenerated in the kidneys.

As this process demonstrates, the human body has a very efficient procedure for keeping blood pH tightly regulated—even after the consumption of a large amount of protein and/or amino acids.

The Flaw in the Alkaline Diet

As we’ve seen, the alkaline diet doesn’t account for the efficient regulation of blood pH by both the CO2-HCO3– system and urinary excretion of ammonia. And following the recommendation of proponents of the alkaline diet to avoid all animal proteins and thus all sulfur-containing amino acids will result in an inadequate intake of essential amino acids.

However, essential amino acids perform a wide range of important metabolic functions and contribute to a multitude of health benefits, so they must be present in the diet in adequate amounts for optimal health to occur.

The alkaline diet is based on the premise that acidic blood causes all sorts of health problems that can be countered by eating more alkaline foods