7 Hormone Imbalance Treatments and 13 Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalances

Hormone imbalances can occur at any age, and left untreated imbalances may cause potentially serious health consequences. Effective hormone imbalance treatments are available, and natural remedies may help to get your body back to producing hormones optimally.

What Are Hormones?

Hormones are the chemical messengers produced and secreted through the glands in the endocrine system. Hormones travel through the bloodstream to various tissue and organs, providing detailed operating instructions and critical information to your overall health and well-being. Hormones are responsible for regulating:

  • Respiration
  • Metabolism
  • Reproductive cycles
  • Sensory perception
  • Movement
  • Sexual development
  • Growth
  • Bone health
  • Mood
  • Sleep cycle
  • Body temperature
  • Sexual function

13 Symptoms of Hormone Imbalances

Hormone imbalance can manifest in a variety of ways. Watch for the following red flags.

1. Fatigue

Chronic fatigue that you just cannot shake may be a result of an adrenal disorder, hypothyroidism, diabetes, or hypogonadism.

2. Anxiety

When the body releases too much cortisol and norepinephrine, anxiety symptoms can develop. This imbalance of stress hormones can be caused by disorders of the adrenal gland, thyroid gland, or the pituitary glands.

3. Depression

Depression is associated with thyroid disease, menopause, hypogonadism, and obesity.

4. Weight Gain

Weight gain is a byproduct of an overproduction of cortisol. Cortisol tells the human body to hang on to fat as an emergency source for energy.

5. Insomnia

Persistent insomnia is often a sign of a melatonin imbalance, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and diabetes.

6. Irritable Bowel Syndrome

The gut and the endocrine system are synergistic. Irregularities in the stomach can cause hormone imbalances, and hormone imbalances can cause irritable bowel syndrome symptoms.

7. Changes in Hair and Skin

Hair loss, thinning hair, brittle nails, and dry skin can all be signs of menopause, hypogonadism, hypothyroidism, diabetes, and polycystic ovary syndrome.

8. Low Sex Drive

In both men and women, low sex drive is associated with an imbalance in estrogen, progesterone, DHEA, or testosterone that can be associated with polycystic ovary syndrome, hypogonadism, menopause, thyroid disorders, and disorders of the pituitary glands.

9. Poor Motivation

Yes, a lack of motivation (and chronic procrastination!) is a sign of a hormone imbalance. It’s specifically a sign that your body isn’t making enough dopamine.

10. Bone Loss

Osteoporosis occurs when bone tissue is broken down faster than new bone tissue is created. Menopause, pituitary gland disorders, hyperparathyroidism, diabetes, anorexia, rheumatoid arthritis, and hypercortisolism can all cause hormone disruptions that lead to bone loss according to the Hormone Health Network of the Endocrine Society.

11. Heart Palpitations

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, heart palpitations can be caused by stress, menopause, pregnancy, menstruation, and thyroid disorders.

12. Acne

Acne is associated with hormone fluctuations during puberty, menstruation, menopause, polycystic ovary syndrome, and androgen hormone imbalances.

13. Brain Fog

Cloudy thinking, or brain fog, is most often linked to menopause and thyroid disorders. But brain fog can also be a symptom of pregnancy and adrenal disorders.

Symptoms of Hormone Imbalances

Are you looking for a natural hormone imbalance treatment?

Causes of Hormone Imbalances

There are hundreds of hormones coursing through the human body at any given moment. To understand and effectively treat a hormone imbalance, you must identify the root cause. A hormonal imbalance test can help you and your doctor determine the best treatment protocol, as well as natural treatments and lifestyle changes that may help improve hormone levels in your body.

Potential causes of hormonal imbalances include:

Chronic stress Excessive alcohol consumption
Poor diet Sedentary lifestyle
Menopause Pregnancy
Menstrual cycles Exposure to toxins and endocrine disruptors
Hashimoto’s disease Hypothyroidism
Hyperthyroidism Grave’s disease
Thyroid nodules Adrenal disorders
Pituitary disorders Diabetes
Hyperglycemia Hypoglycemia
Obesity Hormone replacement therapy
Birth control pills Cushing’s syndrome
Addison’s disease Chronic or acute infections
Cancers affecting endocrine glands Chemotherapy and radiation
Goiters Pancreatitis
>Anorexia nervosa Hypogonadism
Prostate Cancer Phytoestrogens
Polycystic ovary syndrome

Hormone Imbalance Treatments

There are so many disorders, conditions, and lifestyle choices that can cause hormone imbalances. It is essential to speak to your doctor about the root cause of your symptoms so that an effective treatment program can begin. Complementary therapies may help balance your hormone levels naturally—but speak to your doctor before trying any of the suggestions below, especially if you are on any hormone replacement therapy or protocol.

Hypothyroidism

Here are seven natural hormone imbalance treatments based on specific underlying disorders and diseases.

Ashwagandha

A daily regimen of 600 milligrams of ashwagandha root extract for eight weeks significantly improved TSH, T3, and T4 levels in patients with “subclinical” hypothyroidism according to a recent study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

L-tyrosine

The amino acid L-tyrosine taken at a dose of between 500 milligrams and 1000 milligrams each day may help improve the production of thyroid hormones, memory, stress, and sleep. However, L-tyrosine supplements can adversely interact with medications, including those prescribed for hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s disease, so talk to your doctor before taking tyrosine.

Hashimoto’s disease

Vitamin D

A daily vitamin D supplement of 3000 IU to 6000 IU, plus 10-15 minutes of direct sunshine a day, may benefit thyroid disease and may reduce the risk of developing autoimmune thyroid disease and thyroid cancer. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with an increased risk of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis according to researchers.

In an interesting study on overweight postmenopausal women, vitamin D supplements supported weight loss, but more importantly researchers found a link between vitamin D and sex hormones related to breast cancer. Researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center note that further studies are warranted to understand the preventative role vitamin D may play in postmenopausal breast cancer.

Hyperthyroidism

L-carnitine

A 500-milligram dose of the amino acid L-carnitine taken four times a day may reduce symptoms of overactive thyroid, including heart palpitations, tremors, insomnia, and nervousness according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Typical doses of this amino acid range between 1 gram to 3 grams daily. However, talk to your doctor before you begin taking an L-carnitine supplement if you have hyperthyroidism or Graves disease.

Read this article to learn about the best way to supplement with carnitine.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Probiotics

Fifty billion CFU of probiotics a day may help increase the level of healthy bacteria in the gut. Research shows that probiotics play a therapeutic role in relieving inflammation in the gut and may help to reduce the severity of IBS symptoms.

Tryptophan

The essential amino acid tryptophan in doses between 1000 milligrams and 1500 milligrams may help aid digestion and support the brain-gut axis. Tryptophan is the precursor for serotonin, a primary chemical associated with digestion, and it may also help relieve other hormone imbalance symptoms including:

  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Chronic stress
  • Mania
  • Obesity

Check out this article to learn more about how tryptophan can affect your energy and mood.

Osteoporosis

Amino Acids

According to a study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, amino acid intake is directly linked to bone health and the prevalence of osteoporosis and osteopenia. The researchers of this cross-sectional study identified alanine, arginine, glutamic acid, leucine, lysine, and proline as “bone-protective amino acids” and revealed that consuming more of these amino acids is beneficial in the fight against osteoporosis.

They maintain: “These data provide evidence to suggest that intake of protein and several amino acids, including alanine and glycine, may be beneficial for bone health.”

It’s always best to take a balanced blend of essential amino acids to keep the concentration of amino acids in the blood stable and to optimize energy, mood, and protein synthesis.

Reduce Toxin Exposure

Endocrine disruptors interfere with the body’s endocrine system according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Endocrine disruptors include natural and man-made compounds, such as pesticides, dioxin, flame retardants, and more. Continued exposure to these types of toxins is linked to hormone disruption, immune system effects, reproductive problems, and neurological symptoms.

Reduce your exposure to toxins by:

  • Avoiding pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides.
  • Avoiding household cleaning products with chlorine or bleach.
  • Avoiding plastic containers, bags, plates, bottles, and cups.
  • Reducing or eliminating solvents in beauty products like nail polish and nail polish remover.
  • Eating hormone-free meat and dairy.
  • Eating wild-caught fish instead of farmed fish.
  • Switching to organic tampons and sanitary napkins or using a menstrual cup.

Risks of Hormonal Imbalances

If you don’t treat hormone imbalances properly, the results can be devastating to your physical health and emotional well-being. Recognized risks of prolonged hormone imbalances include:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Depression
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Increased risk of hormone-related cancers, including breast cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, and uterine or endometrial cancer.

What Are Collagen Peptides and in the Collagen Peptide vs. Amino Acid Debate—Who Wins?

It seems everywhere you look collagen protein powders and supplements formulated with collagen peptides are appearing on shelves in natural health food stores. But why? Where is the demand coming from and is collagen “the most important supplement you can take” as some in the wellness industry say?

What Is Collagen?

Collagen is an amino acid-based protein that is created and stored in the human body. It is found in the digestive system, bones, teeth, muscles, skin, hair, connective tissue, and blood cells. This vital protein’s production diminishes as we age. Collagen proteins are essential for slowing down many signs of aging, including joint pain, wrinkles, sagging skin, crepe-like skin, and decreased cartilage.

The primary amino acids that create collagen are:

  • Arginine: Arginine is a semi-essential amino acid known as the “anti-aging” amino acid that benefits cardiovascular health.
  • Glycine: Glycine is the second most common amino acid in humans, making up one-third of the total collagen in the body.
  • Proline: Proline is responsible for the production of cartilage and collagen that benefit wound healing and heart health.

These three amino acids are called nonessential amino acids because they can be produced in the body. Although essential amino acids comprise only a small fraction of the amino acids in collagen, the availability of essential amino acids can be crucial for the production of collagen because essential amino acids cannot be produced in the body.

What Are Collagen Peptides?

We’ve talked about collagen, now let’s talk about collagen peptides. Collagen peptides are essentially hydrolyzed collagen that has been broken down into more digestible strands of protein. Collagen peptide supplements are more accessible and easier to consume than several servings of bone broth each day.

In truth, bone broth’s healing power comes from the gelatin (produced from collagen) found in the bones of animals. If you’ve wanted to try beef bone broth or chicken bone broth but haven’t wanted to spend a couple of days making bone broth from scratch, a collagen supplement or an amino acid supplement may provide the health benefits you are looking for.

Collagen Peptides vs. Amino Acids

Now we are going to get a bit deeper into the science. As noted above, collagen protein is actually made up of amino acids—so is it wiser to take collagen supplements or amino acid supplements?

Amino acids are considered “collagen builders” or building blocks for collagen that keep collagen production high and give collagen its glue-like and moist characteristics. Amino acids are naturally occurring chemical compounds that combine to form proteins—including collagen. Our stores of amino acids are depleted during exercise and digestion, and as we age, which makes optimal ingestion via the diet and supplementation advisable.

“Peptides” are simply short chains of amino acids. It has been proposed, however, that the benefits of collagen peptides aren’t merely due to the composition of amino acids, but are derived from the peptide itself. According to scientists at the Vellore Institute of Technology, many of the biological activities of collagen are attributable to the “small hidden peptide residues in the collagen molecules.”

Collagen and amino acids have been studied extensively for their health benefits. As you would expect, both support connective tissue health, muscle recovery, skin health, and joint pain.

A Snapshot of Collagen Supplement Benefits

Amino Acid-Rich Foods

In addition to taking amino acid supplements, you can boost the production of collagen in your body by eating foods rich in amino acids. Adding high-quality protein sources to your diet can provide the amino acids that spur the development of collagen. The best sources of amino acids are called “complete proteins” that contain all the essential amino acids the human body needs.

Complete Protein Sources

If you are a vegetarian or vegan, it can be challenging to get enough essential amino acids through diet alone. Supplementation with essential amino acids may help to keep you thriving and fight the signs of aging.

So to answer the question which is better—collagen peptide supplements or amino acid supplements—the answer is it depends. If you are noticing age-related skin problems, loss of muscle mass, joint pain, hair loss or breakage, or are concerned about your heart health, start with an amino acid supplement to see if your symptoms improve.  While collagen peptides may benefit skin, they do not provide the widespread benefits throughout the body that essential amino acids do.

Remember, amino acids are the building blocks of collagen, but they also provide health benefits above and beyond collagen production. Amino acids support the breakdown of foods in the gut, help to repair tissue, improve athletic performance, regulate mood, and so much more.

5 Amino Acids for Energy and Mood

Looking for a natural pick-me-up? Amino acids for energy naturally fuel your body throughout the day while also boosting your mood, and these five can be especially beneficial!

The popularity of natural energy drinks and aromatherapy products is a strong indicator of just how many people are seeking healthful ways to feel more energized and positive in their outlook on life. Even if you exercise routinely and eat a healthy diet with a variety of whole foods, sometimes you may feel like you need an extra pick-me-up. Substances like caffeine and alcohol in moderation can give you a boost, but this energy lift is often short-lived and sometimes followed by a let-down or energy “crash.” However, amino acids for energy naturally fuel your body throughout the day while also boosting your mood.

As building blocks of protein—the most plentiful substance in the body after water—amino acids help you function at your best in a variety of ways. In fact, processes as diverse as immune system function and muscle growth would break down without a steady supply of amino acids on hand to fuel growth, maintenance, and repair.

But what about the brain? If you’re curious to learn how amino acids affect this large and most complex of organs, as well as how your brain reacts to nutritional factors that can influence mood and energy, you first need to have a basic understanding of brain chemistry.

Brain Chemistry 101

Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that work in concert to shape how we perceive and learn from the environment around us. These pathways are established during growth and development and are instrumental in forming our personalities and outlook on life.

These same pathways also respond acutely to specific amino acids that cross the blood-brain barrier to act as building blocks of important neurotransmitters—or, in the case of glutamate and aspartate, as neurotransmitters in their own right.

In addition, with the exception of glycine, all amino acids can be found in two forms: L and D. But only the L form is used by the body. Keeping that in mind, here are five individual amino acids for energy that may help optimize neurotransmitter synthesis to help balance your energy levels and mood.

Amino Acids for Energy

Glutamine and Glutamate

L-glutamine is used to treat fatigue and depression, and also to boost immune function and muscle recovery. Under stressful conditions, your body consumes large amounts of glutamine, which is readily converted to glutamate by removal of an amine group (a group of organic compounds that contain nitrogen).

In fact, extreme stress, such as that caused by disease or severe injury, can deplete levels of glutamine and result in a life-threatening situation, requiring immediate supplementation.

Glutamine also protects the brain from ammonia toxicity, which generates free radicals and is implicated in the development of neurodegenerative diseases. Ammonia interferes with neuronal metabolism and reduces the amount of adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, the body is able to produce. This has a crucial effect on energy levels, as ATP is also known as the “molecular unit of currency” due to its role in storing and transporting chemical energy within cells.

Because of the number of neurons in the brain, this organ consumes more glucose than any other. And if glucose stores become depleted, the brain compensates by increasing glutamine metabolism. For this reason, glutamine is also known as “brain food,” and its consumption can result in less fatigue and elevated energy and mood.

Glutamate, the anion—or negatively charged ion—of glutamic acid, acts directly as an excitatory neurotransmitter and is also used widely in the brain. It plays a critical role in synaptic maintenance and plasticity, and even contributes to learning and memory.

Glutamate is also the metabolic precursor of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which inhibits neural transmissions and acts as an anxiolytic agent, reducing anxiety and calming nervous activity.

Phenylalanine and Tyrosine

Phenylalanine is an important building block for a number of proteins, including those involved in both hormone and neurotransmitter production. Dopamine, norepinephrine, and thyroid hormones are three key end products that are necessary for optimal brain and mental function.

Norepinephrine and epinephrine are catecholamines, which are responsible for the fight-or-flight response that increases heart rate, constricts blood vessels, and increases blood glucose. The adrenal glands secrete these neurotransmitters along with other stress hormones. Catecholamines are produced by the brain and sympathetic nervous system as well.

Dopamine is the main neurotransmitter supporting attention and motivation. It plays a key role in the “reward system” of your brain. Drugs and other substances that adversely affect memory, cognition, attention, learning, mood, and fine motor control do so via their effect on dopamine function. Both phenylalanine and tyrosine can serve as dietary precursors of dopamine.

When the amino acid phenylalanine is not used in specific reactions, it’s converted to tyrosine, a nonessential amino acid that is a direct precursor of both dopamine and mood- and energy-affecting catecholamines.

Supplemental L-tyrosine is promoted for alleviating fatigue, low mood and sex drive, depression, and anxiety. It’s also used in those suffering from thyroid problems resulting from an underactive thyroid gland, or hypothyroidism.

Tyrosine and phenylalanine can also be combined in supplement form, though some individuals appear to respond better to one or the other. However, as with many nutrient-based therapies, it’s worth exploring the various available options to find the appropriate balance for your individual needs.

Tryptophan

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that acts as a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin is also known as a “happy chemical” because it creates feelings of calm and well-being. If serotonin levels are low, depression, anxiety, insomnia, extreme anger, and mood swings can occur.

Serotonin, or 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT), is derived from both tryptophan and 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). It is a primary regulator of not only mood and sleep but also sexual function, appetite, and digestion.

In fact, serotonin is crucial for normal gastrointestinal (GI) function and plays a critical role in GI motility and immune function, visceral sensitivity, and blood flow. Even more interesting is the fact that abnormalities in reuptake of this neurotransmitter have been linked to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Tryptophan supplements, sold commercially as L-tryptophan, have shown efficacy in alleviating symptoms resulting from low serotonin levels, including depression, anxiety, and insomnia. The amino acid also acts quickly to increase these levels. However, the amino acid 5-HTP has been found to be even more beneficial, as it crosses the blood-brain barrier and converts into serotonin more efficiently and has a more pronounced antidepressant effect.

Amino acids for energy and mood.

Amino Acid Therapy

There are many nuances to amino acid therapy, as various factors determine which amino acids are able to pass into the brain for conversion into mood-changing neurotransmitters. Protein intake, stress, intense exercise, and even sudden lifestyle changes can all affect amino acid metabolism.

If you’re experiencing issues with malnutrition or extreme stress, it’s a good idea to seek professional medical advice. However, if you’re one of the many simply seeking a natural source of energy to help you feel more energized in your day-to-day life, you might want to first make sure your diet is rich in high-quality proteins to ensure a steady supply of energy- and mood-boosting amino acids.

However, it’s also important to note that some individuals have experienced positive results with various free-form amino acid regimens. For example, most of us are probably familiar with the muscle soreness that follows a particularly intense workout. But a particular set of amino acids known as branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs, has been shown to actually increase the lactate threshold.

This means that you can actually exercise longer before lactic acid builds up in your muscles to the point where pain and soreness begin. BCAAs have also been shown to decrease post-workout muscle fatigue and increase muscle growth. However, BCAAs only work effectively when consumed as part of a complete essential amino acid blend.

So, as you can see, amino acids offer many benefits for energy and mood. Not only do they provide a natural way to shift brain chemistry, but they also offer up the possibility of achieving greater energy levels and a happier mood.

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.

Tendonitis: When Tennis Elbow Has You Down for the Game

A painful condition, tendonitis involves inflammation of the tendons—fibrous cords connecting muscles to bones. Commonly occurring in the knees, heels, shoulders, elbows, and wrists, tendonitis leads to swelling and discomfort when moving the affected body part.

A painful condition, tendonitis involves inflammation of the tendons—fibrous cords that connect muscles to bones. Commonly occurring in the knees, heels, shoulders, elbows, and wrists, tendonitis leads to swelling and discomfort when moving the affected body part.

You might know tendonitis by the following terms:

  • Jumper’s knee (patellar tendonitis)
  • Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis)
  • Golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis)
  • Pitcher’s shoulder or swimmer’s shoulder (rotator cuff tendonitis)

Tendonitis is also spelled tendinitis, so don’t let those variations confuse you. Whatever you call it, tendonitis causes pain and discomfort that can have a negative effect on quality of life. And while the condition usually improves on its own with rest, more severe cases may require physical therapy, medication, and even surgery to heal. Understanding the signs and symptoms of tendonitis is the first step in knowing when and if to seek medical attention.

Common Causes of Tendonitis

The most common causes of tendonitis are sudden injury and repetitive motions, such as from physical activities that put stress on the tendons. If proper technique isn’t followed, tendonitis or tendon rupture can occur.

Risk factors for tendonitis include age— it’s inevitable that as we age, our tendons become less pliable—occupation, and certain sports. Jobs that involve repetitive movements or forceful action, such as frequent overhead reaching, can cause irritation of a tendon. Sports injuries that cause tendinitis are common among tennis players, runners, golfers, swimmers, bowlers, baseball players, and basketball players.

Tennis Elbow and Tendonitis Symptoms

Wondering if you’re suffering from tennis elbow or just a mild cause of overexertion? Here are some of the primary signs and symptoms of tendinitis:

  • Pain that worsens with movement
  • A cracking or grating feeling around the bone
  • Swelling
  • A lump near the affected tendon

Despite the name, tennis elbow often occurs in people who have never picked up a racket. In fact, the condition may occur in anyone whose work or hobbies involve repetitive motions of the wrist and arm. To that end, tennis elbow is common in painters, plumbers, and carpenters as well. Older people are more likely to get tennis elbow, as tendons become less flexible with age.

If you’re suffering from persistent pain around your elbow that spreads into the forearm and wrist, or if you’ve noticed a bony bump on the outside of your elbow, don’t hesitate to seek medical attention. Left untreated, tendonitis can cause a more serious condition called tendon rupture, which often requires surgery to repair.

Tendonitis Diagnosis

Your health care provider will determine if you have tendonitis or a related condition by taking a medical history and conducting a physical examination that assesses range of motion and discomfort in the affected area. Be upfront with your work and physical activities, including any new sports you’re trying out, so the doctor can consider contributing risk factors.

Your physician may also order X-rays to rule out arthritis or a fracture and blood tests to rule out conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. Your doctor may even go a step further and order an MRI scan (magnetic resonance imaging) to see changes in the tissue around the tendon.

The type of test used is greatly determined by the area affected. For instance, the Finkelstein test helps diagnose wrist tendonitis. Your doctor will bend your thumb, fingers, and wrist in a specific manner to see if the pain that results is tied to wrist tendonitis or another type of wrist injury.

Tendonitis Treatments

There’s no one cure for tendonitis. The goal of treatment is to reduce pain and inflammation while giving the body time to heal. Some of the most effective home remedies for the condition include:

  • Resting and avoiding activities that led to the injury
  • Applying an ice pack to the affected area for 20 minutes every couple hours
  • Using a compress or bandage on the affected area
  • Elevating the limb or injured body part
  • Taking over-the-counter medication, such as ibuprofen

It’s important to note that tendonitis can take 4 to 6 weeks to heal. However, more serious or long-lasting cases of tendonitis may require additional treatment. If rest and medication are doing little to alleviate your discomfort, you might want to see a doctor and/or physical therapist to discuss the following treatment options:

  • Steroid injections to reduce inflammation and pain
  • Shockwave therapy
  • Platelet rich plasma injections to encourage healing
  • Surgery to repair tendon ruptures and remove damaged tissue

Note that it could take 6 months for a tendon to heal completely after surgery.

A painful condition, tendonitis involves inflammation of the tendons

Achilles Tendonitis Treatment

Athletes and other people who spend a lot of time on their feet are at risk for a type of tendonitis affecting the Achilles tendon. With Achilles tendonitis, the large tendon that runs down the back of the leg becomes inflamed. As a result, patients may suffer stiffness, swelling, and pain that worsens with activity. Treatments for Achilles tendonitis vary based on the severity of the condition and may include:

  • Rest and avoiding repetitive motions
  • Stretching and muscle-strengthening exercises
  • Icing the area
  • Elevating the affected foot
  • Physical therapy
  • Taking anti-inflammatories
  • Wearing special shoes to take tension off the tendon

In severe cases, patients may require steroid injections or surgery to treat their Achilles tendonitis.

What Is the Difference Between Tendonitis and Tendinosis?

Tendonitis involves inflammation. When tendonitis is at play, you’ll see hallmark inflammatory signs such as warmth, swelling, redness, and pain. Take wrist tendonitis, for example. Wrist tendonitis involves inflammation of the wrist tendons and is caused by either a sudden injury or repetitive motions that cause the wrist tendons to rub against the bone. Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen can help the pain as the tendonitis subsides over the course of several weeks.

Tendinosis, on the other hand, is chronic, which means continuous or recurring. It’s caused by a repetitive trauma or overuse injuries, and can take several months to heal. The main difference between tendonitis and tendinosis is that tendinosis is the the non-inflammatory degeneration of a tendon.

Amino Acids as a Tendonitis Cure

An increasing amount of research suggests that amino acids can boost musculoskeletal health and even help repair damage. When people engage in exercise, their muscles break down more rapidly, and additional protein is required to prevent minor injuries from becoming serious ones.

According to a 2018 article titled “Nutritional Research May Be Useful in Treating Tendon Injuries,” evidence suggests that certain amino acids, including leucine, arginine, and glutamine, can aid in tendon growth and healing. However, it’s always best to consume a balanced mixture of essential amino acids to ensure optimal health and wellness.

The article goes on to reveal that tendon surgery isn’t always successful, and many patients experience chronic pain even after treatment. More research is needed to determine if amino acids could be used in therapeutic approaches to tendon injuries and other problems.

Additionally, people can protect their long-term tendon health by avoiding exercises and activities that put undue stress on tendons. It’s also smart to mix up workout routines, take time to stretch and warm up, and use ergonomic equipment in the workplace.

The Relationship Between Energy and Amino Acids

Energy is one of the primary markers of health. When people are asked about their health, low energy is often a common complaint. What many people don’t realize, however, is that energy and amino acids go hand in hand.

Energy is one of the primary markers of health. When people are asked about their health, low energy is often a common complaint. Likewise, when people are asked to identify a benefit from a nutritional supplement, “improved energy” is often the first thing they report. What many people don’t realize, however, is that energy and amino acids go hand in hand.

Almost everyone, even the most energetic among us, desires more energy. So it’s no accident that energy drinks have become so popular. However, the concept of energy is somewhat vague. What does having energy really mean?

To understand the relationship between energy and amino acids, we must first distinguish between physical and mental energy. These two types of energy are clearly related, but distinct. By considering physical and mental energy separately, we can better understand the physiologic basis for each.

Energy and Amino Acids: What Fuels Our Bodies?

Physical energy requires not just fuel for our bodies but also all the necessary vitamins and cofactors—the inorganic substances needed for certain enzymes to carry out their functions—required to convert food to an energy form our cells can utilize.

Assuming all vitamins and cofactors are available, the energy necessary for physiologic functions is derived from combining carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and (in some cases) alcohol with oxygen in a process known as oxidation. These energy substrates—molecules acted on by an enzyme—can thus be considered the “fuel” of the body.

The major form of chemical energy in the body is a compound called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Energy is released when ATP is broken down to adenosine diphosphate (ADP) and phosphate.

ATP is regenerated by the metabolism of the macronutrient (food required in large amounts for optimum nutrition) energy substrates mentioned above as well as by the oxidation of amino acids.

Chemical Energy and Mitochondria

The energy needed to perform physical functions such as exercise comes from the chemical energy stored in ATP. ATP is the universal fuel used by all cells.

In general, food is digested and absorbed as its basic components (glucose and other simple sugars, fatty acids, and amino acids), which are then used for structural needs, stored away, or oxidized for energy.

The oxidation of nutrients into chemical energy involves complex biochemical pathways. The Krebs cycle, named for its discoverer, Sir Hans Adolf Krebs—and also known as the citric acid or tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle—involves a series of chemical reactions in which carbon structures derived from carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are metabolized, with the production of ATP as a byproduct.

The TCA cycle operates inside mitochondria, which are specialized organelles within cells that are responsible for “digesting” nutrients and turning them into energy.

The energy and amino acid relationship.

Oxidation of Amino Acids for ATP Production

The majority of physical energy comes from the oxidation of fats and carbohydrates. However, every amino acid in the body can potentially be oxidized to produce ATP.

The amount of oxidation undergone by the essential amino acids (or EAAs)—the nine dietary amino acids that can’t be produced in the body and must be obtained from food—determines how much of each essential amino acid you need in a day.

The amount of protein synthesized by the body will decrease if a steady supply of EAAs is not maintained, leading to conditions such as muscle loss and impaired immune function. Therefore, any EAA that is oxidized must be replaced through the diet.

The oxidation of EAAs is important physiologically even though only a minimal amount of total energy production is derived from this process. For example, at rest, less than 10% of energy production comes from the oxidation of amino acids.

Exercise greatly increases the requirements for ATP, and part of that ATP comes from amino acid oxidation. This is one reason why the consumption of a number of whole foods and supplements, including whey protein, is recommended in the field of sports nutrition both pre-workout and post. However, amino acid oxidation does not increase uniformly during exercise.

Among the EAAs, there is a selective increase in the oxidation of leucine. However, even with the increase seen during exercise, leucine oxidation provides only about 3% to 4% of energy for ATP production. Yet leucine plays a crucial role in regulating protein synthesis and other metabolic processes, so extra leucine needs to be consumed after exercise to replace what was oxidized.

While amino acids, particularly EAAs, do not play a major role in overall energy production, there are a number of aspects of amino acid oxidation that are important for the body’s metabolic regulation. To understand the critical nature of EAA oxidation is to appreciate that the body regulates the availability of all EAAs at a relatively constant level.

Consuming a high-protein meal causes EAA availability to increase. This increased concentration of EAAs stimulates their oxidation and minimizes changes in EAA availability. By contrast, if you do not consume enough EAAs through your diet, metabolic adaptations occur that reduce the rate of EAA oxidation.

The oxidation of specific amino acids is important for the body. For example, the availability of certain amino acids depends on the oxidation of other amino acids.

Take tyrosine, for example. This amino acid is produced in the liver from the oxidation of the EAA phenylalanine. Maintaining an adequate amount of tyrosine in the blood is critical, as tyrosine is a precursor of the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine.

Specific tissues and organs also have metabolic preferences for certain amino acids. Most prominently, glutamine (a nonessential amino acid) is a preferred substrate for the gut.

Amino Acids Augment Mitochondria

Only recently have we begun to appreciate the difference in energy levels the number of available mitochondria and their ability to operate at full capacity can make. Both amino acid supplementation and exercise are known to increase numbers of mitochondria and enhance their function.

By contrast, alcohol or drug use has been shown to induce mitochondrial defects by increasing oxidative stress and damaging mitochondrial genetic material—deoxynucleic acid, or DNA. When alcohol damages mitochondrial DNA, it impairs mitochondrial function, which further increases oxidative cell stress, leading to a vicious cycle of accumulating cell damage and decreased energy production over time.

Mental Energy: What Balances Our Brains?

Energy drinks typically contain caffeine (with a range of 6 to 242 mg of caffeine, according to Consumer Reports) and perhaps some B vitamins.

Whether used to help one wake up first thing in the morning or as an afternoon pick-me-up, these beverages clearly aid in sharpening concentration and increasing the body’s overall feeling of energy.

Surprisingly, when it comes to maintaining mental energy and focus, amino acids play as important a role as caffeine. In contrast to caffeine, however, amino acids impact mental energy by modulating neurotransmitters within the brain.

Many of the brain’s neurotransmitters are produced through the conversion of amino acids as they pass through the blood-brain barrier. In addition, two amino acids—glutamate and aspartate—are themselves considered neurotransmitters.

The interaction of neurotransmitters in the brain determines many aspects of behavior. To simplify a very complex system, the key determinant of mental energy is the balance between the neurotransmitters dopamine (excitatory) and serotonin (inhibitory).

The amounts of dopamine and serotonin in the brain are dependent on the availability of the precursors for their productionTyrosine is the amino acid precursor of dopamine, and tryptophan is the amino acid precursor of serotonin.

Tyrosine is also derived from the oxidation of phenylalanine. However, neither phenylalanine nor tryptophan is made in the body, as both are EAAs.

Increasing the amount of phenylalanine consumed in the diet will, via conversion to tyrosine, increase mental energy by increasing the amount of dopamine in the brain.

Conversely, increasing tryptophan consumption, such as through the use of the dietary supplement L-tryptophan, will induce a feeling of sleepiness or lack of energy by promoting serotonin production.

Amino Acid Balance and Mental and Physical Energy

Amino acids help support both physical and mental energy via a wide range of actions. While supplementation with individual amino acids may produce particular reactions, disrupting the body’s balance by consuming a single or small combination of amino acids may be counterproductive when it comes to other functions.

An amino acid supplement containing relatively high levels of phenylalanine (tyrosine is nearly insoluble and difficult to add to a dietary supplement) and low levels of tryptophan can provide mental sharpness and focus. However, an isolated increase in phenylalanine can also induce Parkinson-like symptoms in susceptible individuals.

Likewise, consumption of leucine can counter the accelerated rate of oxidation that occurs during exercise, but the use of leucine in isolation will activate the oxidation of valine and isoleucine, thereby limiting muscle protein synthesis.

Consequently, to replace the oxidized leucine and enhance post-workout muscle recovery, it is necessary to provide all three of the branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs—leucine, isoleucine, and valine.

Finally, all EAAs must be available in sufficient quantities to stimulate muscle protein synthesis, which is the metabolic basis for increased muscle growth, strength, and function.

Hence, the gold standard approach for the maintenance of both mental and physical energy involves choosing a free-form amino acid formulation that takes into account not only the direct actions of the component amino acids but also the importance of maintaining a relative balance of EAAs to sustain maximal benefit.

Balance Your Brain: Amino Acids and the Blood-Brain Barrier

Brain health is dependent, in large part, on our neurotransmitter levels, which in turn are affected by amino acids. In this article, we’re going to look at the complex interplay between amino acids and the blood-brain barrier and the steps you can take to balance your brain.

The brain is so vital to life that it must be protected and shielded from foreign substances like toxins and pathogens that can cause lethal damage. This protection comes in part from a highly selective membrane called the blood-brain barrier (BBB). The BBB surrounds the brain and is semipermeable, meaning it allows some materials to cross from the blood into the brain but prevents others from gaining access. This is especially important when we consider that brain health is dependent, in large part, on our neurotransmitter levels, which in turn are affected by amino acids. In this article, we’re going to look at the complex interplay between amino acids and the blood-brain barrier and the steps you can take to balance your brain.

All Aboard the BBB Express

The blood vessels and lymphatic vessels of the body are lined with special cells called endothelial cells—the only cells in direct contact with the blood. Between these cells are small spaces that allow substances to pass from the vessels into the bloodstream. This is how, for example, nutrients from the food we eat pass from the gastrointestinal tract into the bloodstream.

In the brain, endothelial cells fit very tightly together to prevent a variety of substances from passing into or out of the brain. Water, gases, and some fat-soluble substances can pass through this barrier by passive diffusion—a process by which materials travel down a concentration gradient. However, other substances, such as certain nutrients, are made up of molecules that are too large to pass through the blood-brain barrier easily.

These and other molecules thus require specific transporters. There are transporters for glucose (the preferred fuel source for the brain) and for amino acids that serve as important chemical messengers in the brain. Some amino acids, like glutamate, act directly as neurotransmitters, while others serve as precursors, or “building blocks,” of neurotransmitters that are assembled in the brain.

Whether an amino acid acts as a neurotransmitter on its own or is used to create other brain chemicals, it’s important that concentrations of these building blocks are closely regulated to ensure brain balance, as maintaining appropriate levels of neurotransmitters is vital to well-being and good mental health.

However, there is no unique transporter for each individual amino acid. Rather, there are several transporters, each of which is used by amino acids that share certain chemical properties, such as size or ionic charge. The names of these transporters are hardly what you’d call catchy—for example, system L, EAAT1, ASCT2—and they’re sometimes identified by different designations, so let’s not get caught up in the specifics.

However, it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of why these shared transporters are so important. That’s because the requirement to share transporters makes this a competitive transport system—which means the amino acid that’s present in the largest concentration in the blood has the best chance of getting carried into the brain.

Take, for example, the large neutral amino acids, for which there is one shared transporter. The large neutral amino acids include tryptophan (or L-tryptophan), tyrosine (or L-tyrosine), and the three branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs)—leucine, isoleucine, and valine.

If blood levels of tryptophan are increased, then a greater amount of this amino acid enters the brain. Once in the brain, tryptophan is converted into the inhibitory neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin is involved in maintaining a positive mood and plays a role in appetite, digestion, sleep, memory, and sexual desire and function.

Low serotonin levels are associated with anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive behavior. In fact, the most widely used family of antidepressants, the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), work by blocking reabsorption of serotonin in the brain, thus increasing levels of this important neurotransmitter.

Tyrosine, by contrast, is a precursor of the excitatory neurotransmitter dopamine—another major neurotransmitter that’s central to the brain’s reward pathway. Dopamine helps motivate us to continue certain behaviors, like eating or sex, by triggering feelings of pleasure. Dopamine also plays an important role in movement, learning, memory, focus, and alertness.

Theoretically, if tryptophan is present in high concentrations in the blood, more tryptophan gets into the brain, which yields higher serotonin levels. By contrast, high concentrations of tyrosine decrease tryptophan uptake and increase dopamine levels.

So, as you can see, specific concentrations of amino acids can greatly influence the brain’s neurotransmitter levels, which can have a profound impact on both mood and behavior.

Using Amino Acids to Balance Your Brain

Studies on animals have shown that the production of neurotransmitters in the brain can be manipulated by administering specific amino acids in large enough concentrations to increase brain uptake relative to other amino acids that share the same transporter.

Of course, these types of studies can’t readily be performed in people because it’s difficult to measure exactly what changes occur inside the human brain. Even so, it seems reasonable to infer that the use of amino acids to control brain chemicals may assist us in achieving whatever mood, energy level, or other therapeutic effect we desire.

However, the body is very clever at adapting to drastic changes in its environment, so we need to use a bit of caution when attempting to alter our mood or behavior with amino acids—especially pharmacological doses of single amino acid supplements.

For example, when anabolic steroids like testosterone are misused for bodybuilding, the testicles stop producing endogenous testosterone because the levels in the body are already too high.

Similarly, constant exposure of the brain to high levels of a chemical elicits changes designed to minimize responsiveness and maintain function within the normal range. It’s this phenomenon that explains the tolerance people experience with excessive use of drugs and alcohol.

A more natural way—and a more reasonable approach—to optimize amino acid availability at the blood-brain barrier is to provide a steady complement of all the amino acids. And the best way to do this is to eat a diet rich in high-quality protein and to utilize balanced mixtures of supplemental essential amino acids.

But if you do want to try single amino acid therapy, you should be sure to take the amino acid in the postabsorptive state (several hours after your last meal) to minimize the presence of competing amino acids. In addition, it’s best to follow the manufacturer’s recommended dose and instructions on duration of usage.

Moreover, because no two individuals are alike, each person will vary somewhat in terms of how amino acids affect them and their brain chemistry. This applies not only to the making of brain neurotransmitters but also to how we process and react to them.

It’s also wise to remember that the blood-brain barrier exists to protect the brain—and it’s very good at its job. Likewise, the system of transporting amino acids into the brain is very sophisticated in its ability to regulate the availability of the amino acids used as both precursors of brain chemicals and important neurotransmitters in their own right.

Therefore, ensuring a good supply of all the essential nutrients the brain requires can help prevent neurotransmitter imbalances and provide an excellent foundation for optimal brain function.

Balance your brain

Understanding Digestive Plant Enzymes and 6 Benefits Not to Miss

If you are one of the millions of people that experience digestive distress, acid reflux, heartburn, or GERD, and you are considering adding digestive plant enzymes to your diet, keep reading. Across the globe, the incidences of gastrointestinal diseases are on the rise, particularly in North America.

And while researchers haven’t determined the exact cause of the increase in acid reflux, GERD, Crohn’s disease, and other gastrointestinal problems, we can safely assume that the modern American diet is at least partly to blame. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that somewhere between 13.8% and 25.8% of individuals in North America have GERD.

To combat heartburn, acid reflux, and GERD, people are turning to over-the-counter antacids at alarming rates. The World Health Organization estimates that more than $10 billion was spent worldwide on antacids in 2017. And antacids aren’t the only medication being used to fight poor digestion.

PPIs, or proton pump inhibitors, are a classification of medications that are used to treat GERD, gastric ulcers, and heartburn. They, too, are growing in popularity, and in the United States alone, in 2015, 117,617,849 prescriptions were written for PPIs including:

  • Omeprazole
  • Pantoprazole sodium
  • Esomeprazole
  • Lansoprazole
  • Dexlansoprazole

Let’s look at the causes of heartburn. According to the Mayo Clinic, heartburn occurs when the acid in the stomach backs up, causing the burning sensation. They cite certain foods that can trigger symptoms for some people. These include:

  • Spicy foods
  • Onions
  • Citrus fruits
  • Tomato products
  • Fried foods
  • Chocolate
  • Peppermint
  • Fat-laden meals
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Alcoholic beverages

So, it seems natural that you would take something to fight the acid to prevent symptoms caused by poor digestion, but in the long run, doing so can cause more harm than good. The truth is, if you start to digest your foods fully, you may be able to avoid over-the-counter and prescription medications permanently.

Fortunately, there are effective natural treatments, including digestive plant enzymes, that can help to improve digestion, which, in turn, helps your body break down and absorb essential fats, proteins, minerals, vitamins, and carbohydrates.

So, What Are Digestive Enzymes?

Digestive enzymes are compounds used by the digestive system to break food down into absorbable particles. They are required for nutrient absorption. Some digestive enzymes are produced by the body, while other digestive enzymes need to be consumed.

There are three main classes of digestive enzymes:

Amylase: Amylase enzymes are required for breaking carbohydrates down into an absorbable form. Amylase occurs naturally in saliva and pancreatic fluids and is activated when chewing begins to make digestion of carbohydrates easier.

The best food sources for amylase digestive enzyme are ripe mangoes, corn, oats, wheat, and sweet potatoes.

Protease: Protease enzymes are required for the digestion and absorption of proteins. They break down the proteins you consume and turn them into highly absorbable amino acids. Outside of the digestive tract, protease enzymes are associated with other vital functions, including tissue healing and energy.

The best food sources for protease enzymes are pineapple, papaya, kiwi, ginger, and fermented foods.

Lipases: Lipases enzymes are made and secreted by the pancreas. These digestive enzymes then mix with bile to spur the healthy digestion of fats and triglycerides into easily digestible fatty acids and glycerol. Lipases enzymes are used in the production of certain cheeses including provolone, Parmesan, and Romano, as they help the milk fat transform and add a distinctive flavor.

The best food sources for lipase are ripe avocados, coconuts, walnuts, garbanzo beans, eggplant, and pine nuts.

NOTE: The plant-based digestive enzymes are most active when consumed raw.

Essential Digestive Enzymes

Within the three types of digestive enzymes mentioned above, there are some standout enzymes to get acquainted with.

Actinidain: Actinidain is a protease enzyme that helps to digest proteins, including gluten, animal products, and legumes such as soy.

Bromelain: This pineapple-based group of protease enzymes aid in the digestion and absorption of protein. They break protein down into amino acids, increasing their bioavailability.

Cellulase: In order for our bodies to break down fiber found in vegetables, seeds, fruits, and grains, we need cellulase.

Diastases: The diastases enzyme belongs to the amylase group. It is responsible for breaking down complex starches into maltose.

Glucosidases: This is a subgroup of amylase that includes maltase, sucrase, glucoamylase, and dextranase. These digestive enzymes are responsible for transforming complex carbohydrates into the monosaccharide glucose. This is essential, as only monosaccharides can be absorbed into the bloodstream.

Invertases: The invertases enzyme breaks down sucrose into glucose and fructose so they can be easily absorbed and utilized.

Lactase: Lactase is arguably one of the most essential enzymes; our bodies need it to break down and absorb lactose from milk products. Individuals who are lactose intolerant may benefit from a lactase enzyme supplement.

Papain: Papain is a protease enzyme that helps to break protein down into smaller protein known as polypeptides, and then into amino acids. It is readily found in the flesh of the papaya, as well as papaya leaves and stems.

Pepsin: Found in the stomach, this proteases enzyme is responsible for breaking down proteins into polypeptides. In the study, “Reflux Revisited: Advancing the Role of Pepsin,” researchers identify pepsin as a critical element in the fight against GERD and acid reflux.

Sucrase: Sucrose is broken down by the digestive enzyme sucrase into monosaccharides for easy absorption.

Zingibain: Zingibain is a protease enzyme that helps proteins break down into amino acids. It also helps food move more quickly through the digestive tract.

Here are the best food sources of digestive plant enzymes and why adding them in your diet can be beneficial to your health.

6 Digestive Plant Enzyme Benefits

Thinking of upping your intake of digestive plant enzymes? Here are six reasons why that’s a good idea.

1. Digestive enzymes break down foods that are difficult to digest, including dairy products, proteins, and high-fiber foods.

2. Taking a digestive plant enzyme can help the digestion process and even relieve symptoms of certain digestive diseases such as Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and GERD.

3. Acid reflux and heartburn symptoms may be improved when digestive plant enzymes are added, as foods will be more thoroughly digested.

4. Eating more raw foods known for their digestive plant enzymes can help enhance nutrient absorption and prevent nutritional deficiencies.

5. Certain digestive enzyme supplements can help to counteract enzyme inhibitors commonly found in legumes, egg whites, wheat germ, white potatoes, and peanuts.

6. Taking digestive enzyme supplements may allow you to stop taking prescription proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and over-the-counter antacids.

Concerns of Proton Pump Inhibitors

In a report by the Mayo Clinic, “Proton Pump Inhibitors: Review of Emerging Concerns,” researchers point to several concerns related to the long-term use of PPIs. These concerns include:

Vitamin B12 deficiency: In order for the body to release and absorb vitamin B12 from the foods we eat a certain amount of acid in the digestive tract is required. A study indicates that people who take PPIs for two years or longer are at a 65% increased risk of vitamin B12 deficiency.

Hypomagnesemia: Extended use of PPIs can also adversely affect magnesium absorption. The Mayo Clinic cites that individuals who have taken PPIs for more than one year have a 43% increased risk of hypomagnesemia, a serious magnesium deficiency.

Small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO): Multiple studies link the use of proton pump inhibitors to small intestine bacterial overgrowth or SIBO. Researchers believe that a decrease in digestive acid can cause the growth of bacteria in the small intestine.

Osteoporosis-related bone fractures: The researchers from the Mayo Clinic note that there is a concerning link between long-term use of PPIs and fracture risk. They note that some research indicates it is due to reduced calcium absorption.

C. difficile infections: Multiple clinical studies suggest a link between the use of proton pump inhibitors and the development of C. difficile infections. The FDA issued a warning about the risk and recommended the lowest effective dose for the shortest duration to help protect against a dangerous C. difficile infection.

Kidney disease: Multiple studies indicate that there is a 50% greater risk in developing chronic kidney disease in those who take PPIs.

Dementia: Observational studies suggest that people who take PPIs are at a 38% increased risk for developing dementia, and a 44% increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Here are the risks of using

Who Should Take Digestive Plant Enzyme Supplements?

While we all need a healthy dose of daily digestive enzymes, we don’t all necessarily need to supplement with them. Certain conditions are, however, more likely to benefit from digestive plant enzyme supplements.

1. Digestive Disorders and Diseases

If you suffer from a digestive disorder you may find relief in symptoms from plant-based digestive enzymes, which can assist in the breakdown of challenging fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Digestive conditions/diseases that may be aided by enzymes include:

2. Liver Disease

Individuals diagnosed with liver disease are at an increased risk of enzyme insufficiency and nutrient deficiencies since they cannot process and absorb foods properly.

3. Age-Related Enzyme Insufficiency

Seniors with age-related enzyme insufficiency may benefit from plant-based digestive enzyme supplements. As we age, our ability to make and release specific digestive enzymes decreases. For individuals with an increasing challenge of proper digestion or poor nutrient absorption, digestive enzyme supplements and foods rich in digestive enzymes may help to improve symptoms.

4. Pancreatic Enzyme Insufficiency

Individuals diagnosed with pancreatic conditions, including chronic pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer, may be supported by prescription-strength pancreatic enzyme medications.

5. Undigested Food Symptoms

Undigested food in the small intestine can cause a wide range of unpleasant and bothersome symptoms. Recognized symptoms include:

6. Hypochlorhydria

This is a diagnosis that actually means you have too little gastric acids to help break foods down correctly. Hypochlorhydria can be caused by aging or by long-term use of antacids and proton pump inhibitors.

7. Autoimmune Diseases

Certain autoimmune diseases can cause poor digestion and poor nutrient absorption. These include:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Systemic lupus
  • Erythematosus
  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Behcet’s disease
  • Scleroderma (progressive systemic sclerosis)
  • Kawasaki disease
  • Polyarteritis nodosa
  • Polymyositis
  • Giant cell arteritis
  • Henoch-Schonlein purpurn
  • Cogan’s syndrome
  • Churg-Strauss syndrome
  • Wegener granulomatosis
  • Antiphospholipid antibody syndrome
  • Chronic inflammatory rheumatic diseases (spondyloarthropathies)

Here are the best digestive enzyme supplements you should take if you're looking into taking them.

Plant Digestive Enzymes Side Effects

Most plant-based digestive enzymes are well-tolerated by most individuals. However mild to moderate side effects can occur including:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Headaches
  • Neck pain
  • Congestion
  • Swelling in the extremities

If you have been diagnosed with a latex allergy, it is imperative that you read the ingredient list of any plant-based digestive enzyme supplement carefully. Several foods that are known to cause latex allergy symptoms are also rich in digestive enzymes. These include:

  • Avocado
  • Banana
  • Chestnuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Kiwi
  • Melons
  • Papaya
  • Pineapple
  • Potato
  • Rye

20 Top Ways to Add More Protein to Your Day—Morning, Noon and Night

The list of reasons to consciously increase your protein intake just keeps getting longer. Research shows that a high protein intake can increase muscle mass, support healthy weight loss, and improve your overall health.

Increasing your protein intake can help with muscle growth, as well as making you measurably stronger. Protein also helps you build lean muscle and can counteract age-related muscle loss.

Eating protein spurs your gut to produce PYY, a hormone that keeps you feeling full and satisfied. It also tells your body to release less ghrelin, the “hunger hormone.” And it boosts your metabolic rate, even while you’re sleeping.

Protein also supports your overall health. Adding more protein to your diet can even help you recover faster from injuries!

Here are 5 reasons why you should eat more protein and how much of it you actually need.

How Much Protein Do You Really Need?

So, how much protein should you be eating each day? The answer varies from person to person, depending on how much you weigh and how much physical activity you do. To calculate your Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) as determined by the Health and Medicine Division of the National Academies of Sciences, multiple your weight in pounds by 0.36. Even simpler, use this helpful tool.

It’s important to note that your RDA of any nutrient, protein included, tells you the minimum intake you need to not be deficient in that nutrient. Many experts have now come forward with recommendations that people aim to eat up to twice their protein RDA.

Researchers from the Military Nutrition Division at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine in Natick, MA, divided participants into three groups. For 31 days, the first group ate the U.S. RDA for protein, the second group ate double the RDA for protein, and the third group ate triple it. Based on their findings, the researchers are recommending that the RDA for protein be increased.

“We believe that the RDA for protein should be based on a level to optimize health, as well as prevent deficiencies, and our data demonstrate a potential inadequacy of the current RDA,” said researcher Stefan M. Pasiakos. He noted that increasing protein intake is especially vital for individuals who are losing weight—intentionally or unintentionally.

There’s also evidence that strategically spacing out your protein intake throughout the day maximizes the benefits you’ll experience. Several experts suggest 20-30 grams of protein per meal as the optimal schedule. “Each meal should be based on protein, whereby you consume at least 20 to 30 grams of protein (depending on body size and protein type) every three hours or so,” Dr. Robert Wildman, author, expert in the field of nutrition research, and advisor to Premier Protein, said in an interview.

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that focusing on eating 20-30 grams of protein with each meal ensures that you get a steady intake of essential amino acids throughout the day, which influences your body’s inflammatory responses, mitochondrial activity, serotonin and insulin levels, and more.

To help you achieve an ideal daily protein intake, we’ve compiled 20 tips on adding protein to your breakfast, lunch, afternoon snacks, dinner, and late-night treats. Plus, we’ve included three bonus tips for individuals following a plant-based diet, and a fail safe option everyone should consider adopting to ensure circumstances never prevent you from meeting your body’s protein needs.

Morning Meal Tips

Whether or not breakfast is truly the most important meal of the day, it’s inarguably your first chance to eat protein as you break your overnight fast. These five ideas will help you make the most of your morning meal so you’re powered up and ready to take on the day ahead.

1. Mix in Protein Powder

If you’re one of those people who prefer not to eat first thing, or you often find yourself without adequate time to sit down and eat in the morning, you can still give your body a serving of protein. Simply mix a scoop of your protein powder of choice into your morning coffee. If you don’t drink coffee, substitute your morning beverage of choice.

Whey protein, which tends to have creamy notes, makes a wonderful choice. Soy’s a good option, too, as is the less-common pea protein, which like the former two choices, contains more than 20 grams of protein per scoop.

2. Go for Greek Yogurt

Yogurt is a classic breakfast choice, and a portable one. Nutritionist Tracy Lesht recommends always choosing Greek yogurt, rather than other varieties. “Just one serving of Greek yogurt can add about 18 grams of protein into your day,” Lesht said in an interview. Look out for grab-and-go options loaded with sugary flavorings, though! Adding fresh fruit is a healthier choice.

3. Try These Power Pancakes

This beloved childhood breakfast can be good for you, provided you tweak the recipe. Registered dietician Sarah Mattison Berndt mixes together oat flour, eggs, and protein powder to make pancakes that will power you up for your day rather than sending you into a post-meal carbohydrate slump. Check out this list of protein pancake recipes, perfect for fueling your next weekend warrior adventure.

4. Give Cottage Cheese a Chance

Some say cottage cheese peaked in the 1970s, but this often-overlooked nutritional powerhouse may be making a comeback. It’s a breakfast staple for nutritionist and author Jill Weisenberger. “Instead of a mere half-cup, I fill up on a full cup of cottage cheese,” Weisenberger said. A cup of cottage cheese gets you 25 grams of protein from casein and whey, which provide enduring muscle-repair support. Plus, cottage cheese pairs well with sweet or savory mix-ins.

5. Opt for Eggs

Mastering the omelet not only solidifies your kitchen chops, but also gives you the perfect method for adding 19 grams of protein (the amount found in three eggs) to your morning. Eggs are also rich in selenium and choline, and are as close to a complete protein as you can get with all nine essential amino acids. Multiple studies have found eating eggs helps you stay full for longer. And while some worry about the fat content of egg yolks, research has shown that eating whole eggs can actually impact your blood cholesterol in ways that decrease your risk of heart disease.

Upgraded Lunches

Working from nine to five can make it tempting to go out for lunch or order it to your desk. While that may feel rewarding in the moment, it makes it more likely that you’ll end up eating a nutritionally suboptimal lunch. These three simple tips can guide your meal prep or help you identify the healthiest menu option.

6. Boil a Batch of Hard-Boiled Eggs

Anyone can boil an egg, truly. It’s quick and simple, and if you make a batch over the weekend, you’ll be set for lunches all week. They’ll stay fresh if refrigerated and make it easy to throw together a protein-dense packed lunch. A single egg contains 6 grams of protein, plus nutrients that enhance your cognitive function.

7. Top Your Salad with High-Quality Protein

Choosing a salad for lunch already puts you ahead of the health choice curve. Double down on the health benefits of greens and vegetables—which are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants—by topping your salad with a high-quality protein. Here are five fantastic options, with their protein content per 100-gram serving:

  1. Chicken or turkey breast: 30 grams
  2. Tuna: 26 grams
  3. Salmon: 25 grams
  4. Goat cheese: 22 grams
  5. Chickpeas: 15 grams

Salad toppers are a great way to get protein in your diet. Here are 5 salad toppers that are high in protein.

8. Add Some Edamame

Edamame, a Japanese word used to refer to unripened, steamed soybeans, contain more protein than other beans and legumes. A serving of a single cup will get you 17 grams of protein. Edamame is also a rich source of kaempferol, an antioxidant with promising health benefits. Studies done with mice indicate that kaempferol could help to lower blood sugar levels as well as to support weight loss.

Edamame makes a great appetizer or side, or you can mix it into a stir-fry or salad.

Afternoon Snack Ideas

No matter how healthy and filling your lunch, you may find yourself in need of refueling before dinnertime. When hunger descends rapidly, especially if you’re at work or out running errands, it can be tempting to give into the siren song of the nearest vending machine or coffee cart. These five suggestions can be used to plan ahead or to steer you toward the most nutritionally optimal offering.

9. Stock Up on Nuts

Almonds, walnuts, cashews, take your pick! Nuts are a super convenient way to add more protein to your diet. They don’t require refrigeration and they won’t crumble into tiny pieces if they end up at the bottom of your bag or snack drawer. If you’re counting calories, nuts can still be a good choice so long as you exercise portion control. And, as with Greek yogurt, be on the lookout for added flavoring, which can undermine the health benefits of this snack.

10. Make Your Own Protein Bars

Yes, you can buy these pretty much everywhere, but they’re often loaded with additives, expensive, or both. Making your own may not even require you to to turn on your oven (just search “no-bake protein bars”). It’s sure to save you money, and you can include just the ingredients you like and nothing else.

11. Prep a Protein Powder To-Go Pack

Simply scoop a serving of protein powder into a to-go container to guarantee you’ll never get caught without a healthy snack option again. You can mix it into a beverage of your choosing (even plain old water will work!), and keep hunger at bay until you’re ready for your next full meal.

12. Choose Cheese

Just 28 grams of cheddar cheese offers up a full 7 grams of protein, along with 95% of your daily recommended intake of calcium.

And you don’t need to limit yourself to low-fat cheeses, either. Studies show that even for individuals with high cholesterol, eating cheese doesn’t raise those levels. Some research even indicates eating cheese can actually improve your heart health.

13. Look for Lean Jerky

Jerky can, in fact, be healthy, as long as you’re selective. Read the ingredients list carefully and avoid varieties laden with sugar, preservatives, and unpronounceable ingredients.

Look for words like grass-fed and free-range, which indicate you’re getting a higher quality of meat. Testing shows meat from animals on grass diets contains higher amounts of nutrients like healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

A 1-ounce stick of jerky typically contains about 7 grams of protein and will stay good for several months without refrigeration.

Protein-Packed Dinners

Dinner is the meal most likely to contain an optimal amount of protein, but that doesn’t mean you should take it for granted. These four recommendations will make it a cinch to include an ideal amount of protein with every dinner.

14. Cook Once to Eat Twice (or More!)

If you prefer to avoid cooking, or have an especially hectic schedule, try preparing multiple servings of a high-quality protein like fish, chicken, or lean meat. Cooking in bulk takes just about the same amount of time as making a single meal, and your future self will be grateful for your foresight. Choose neutral seasonings, though, so you can switch up the ways you use it and ward off flavor boredom.

15. Experiment with Ancient Grains

We’re including quinoa and amaranth in this category, though they’re technically seeds, because we treat them like grains when we cook them. And while quinoa—which contains six essential amino acids—gets a lot of attention, it actually contains less protein per cup (8 grams), than spelt (10 grams), kamut (9 grams), teff (9 grams), and amaranth (9 grams), and the same amount as sorghum.

Ancient grains are a great way to add protein into your diet. Here is more information on ancient grains and how many grams of protein they have.

Substitute any of these for rice or pasta to substantially augment your dinner’s protein content.

16. Select Leaner, Larger Cuts of Meat

This is perhaps the simplest suggestion to put into action. Consider the difference between a fatty ribeye steak, which contains 18 grams of protein per 100-gram serving, and a lean top sirloin steak, which contains 24 grams of protein per 112-gram serving. While that may not seem like a dramatic increase, it can certainly add up over time.

17. Make Friends with Beans

Adding chickpeas, white beans, lentils, kidney beans, or black beans to your meal is another remarkably easy-to-execute suggestion. Legumes contain 15 grams of protein per cup, on average, as well as a generous serving of fiber.

Late-Night Snacks You Won’t Regret

If you tend to want one last little something before you head to bed, take a tactical approach to avoid veering off your well-charted nutrition plan.

18. Boost Your Milkshakes with Protein Powder

If you love ice cream and other frozen treats, why not blend your own healthy version? Frozen fruit plus milk plus protein powder adds up to a delicious, creamy, satisfying treat that tastes good and is good for you.

19. Sneak Tofu into Puddings

Trust us on this one. You can even find a premade option—registered dietician Grace Wong loves the Sunrise brand, which comes in maple caramel, custard, banana, peach, mango, coconut, almond, and lychee. It’s also a snap to whip some up on your own. Tofu’s silken texture and mild taste make the perfect base for any flavor you can think of.

20. Bake with Beans

This is another one that sounds crazy until you try it and see just how well it works. Beans can be seamlessly incorporated into so many kinds of baked goods, from brownies to cookie dough bites, to cakes, to 7-layers bars and more! Check out this roundup of incredibly tasty, highly health-promoting, protein-rich recipes.

3 Bonus Plant-Based Protein Sources

If you don’t eat meat, and especially if you also don’t eat eggs and dairy, it can take a bit more effort to meet your protein goals. In addition to incorporating the meat-free ideas mentioned above, you may want to add the following three items to your pantry.

1. Spirulina

This blue-green algae is one of the most protein-rich (and nutrient-rich, period) foods in existence. It contains 16 grams of protein per ounce, as well as tons of antioxidants, B vitamins, iron, calcium, and other vital nutrients. A great way to add spirulina to your diet is to blend it into smoothies or protein shakes.

2. Hemp

Hemp hearts can be mixed into many dishes with a minimal impact on the flavor profile and a maximal impact on the protein content, given that 30 grams of this nutrient-dense seed contains 10 grams of protein. Try mixing them into Greek yogurt or oatmeal, or sprinkle them on top of a salad or veggie bowl.

3. Nutritional Yeast

The name may not be appealing to the uninitiated, but once you try it, you’ll find yourself reaching for the “nooch” (as fans refer to it) all the time. A single ounce of this umami-flavored seasoning contains a full 14 grams of protein and a hearty supply of B vitamins. Nutritional yeast makes a great substitute for cheese in vegan recipes and a delicious popcorn seasoning.

Here are the top 23 foods to add into your diet to get protein.

The Best Way to Ensure You Get the Protein You Need

Even putting all 20 of these tips into practice may not be enough to help your optimal protein intake goals. Amino acid supplements, which typically come either in beverage or capsule form, can help you fill in those gaps.

These supplements contain only active amino acids, meaning they can match or even outperform the health benefits associated with high-quality dietary protein. Your body can rapidly absorb them and put them to use right away. In fact, you’ll reach peak concentrations of essential amino acids faster when you take a supplement than when you consume a comparable amount of amino acids from dietary protein.

One important note of caution: not all amino acid supplements are created equal. And some of the most popular options, like branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) supplements, don’t contain all nine essential amino acids your body needs. To ensure you’re not lacking in the specific amino acids responsible for vital bodily functions such as the production of neurotransmitters, blood flow regulation, immune function, and more, you’ll want to be sure to choose an amino acid supplement formulated to include scientifically optimized ratios of all the essential amino acids.

Amino Acids and Bodybuilding: Increase Muscle Gain

When you fail to top off your workouts with the proper supplements, you limit how far you’ll go in the gym. Amino acid bodybuilding supplements are perhaps the most crucial nutrients to increase muscle gain. Here’s what you need to know about supplementing with essential amino acids for bodybuilding.

You wouldn’t go for a cross-country drive without making sure all your car’s fluids were topped off. After all, you know that what you put in your vehicle correlates directly to what you’ll get out of it. Similarly, when you fail to provide your body with the proper fuel, you limit your attempts to build muscle and decrease body fat.

It will likely come as no surprise that amino acids continue to reign as the most essential natural bodybuilding supplement available. Research consistently shows that high-quality amino acid supplements offer a range of desirable benefits for bodybuilders.

Read on to learn about eight essential and nonessential amino acids with proven and impressive effects on muscle building, fat loss, muscle soreness, and more. Before exploring the specific ways certain amino acids influence bodybuilding efforts, however, let’s review some basics about amino acids.

What Bodybuilders Should Know About Amino Acids

Hopefully you’re already aware of the vital role nutrition plays in all attempts to refine and optimize your physique. Understanding the essential components of a diet that supports your training regimen should be basic knowledge for any bodybuilder, and no diet for bodybuilding would be complete without a steady, well-balanced supply of amino acids.

Amino acids are small chemical compounds that contain both an amino functional group and a carboxyl functional group. These compounds are then synthesized together to form proteins—hence their nickname, “the building blocks of protein.” When humans eat protein-rich foods, our bodies break them down into their constituent amino acids and then use those amino acids to carry out core functions.

Bodybuilders must synthesize significantly greater amounts of protein compared to non-athletes (due to their ongoing efforts to produce muscle growth and strength gains). This requires uniquely high levels of amino acids on an ongoing basis. In many cases, meeting the ideal threshold for amino acid intake will necessitate the use of amino acid supplements.

Differentiating Between Essential and Nonessential Amino Acids

There are many different types of amino acids as well as many ways to divide them into different groups. The distinction most relevant in terms of human nutrition is that between essential and nonessential amino acids.

Essential Amino Acids

Essential amino acids (EAAs) are those that cannot be made by the body. As a result, you’ll need to provide your body with all the essential amino acids it needs—either from the food you eat, or a combination of food and proper supplementation.

Certain essential amino acids have been shown to have physiological effects that are especially relevant to bodybuilding goals. Those EAAs include:

  1. Leucine
  2. Isoleucine
  3. Valine
  4. Lysine

That said, your body can only access the full benefits of those EAAs, which we’ll enumerate in more detail below, when it has a balanced supply of all nine essential amino acids (the remaining five are histidine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, and tryptophan).

What About Branched-Chain Amino Acids?

If you’re interested in the targeted use of sports nutrition dietary supplements to help you reach your bodybuilding goals, you have most likely heard of branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs. But do you know which amino acids that moniker refers to? Hint: they appear on the list of essential amino acids above. Those first three, leucine, isoleucine, and valine, are the branched-chain amino acids, a subset of essential amino acids named for their distinctive, branch-like molecular structure.

Researchers have found that BCAAs make incredibly significant contributions to generation, maintenance, and repair of muscle tissue. Though leucine does the lion’s share of the work, the three appear to exert a strong synergistic effect.

As is true for the use of amino acids in general, it’s important to choose supplements formulated to contain the correct ratio of each amino acid. The right amounts of isoleucine and valine will enhance the remarkable anabolic effects of leucine.

Nonessential Amino Acids

Given that you now know the definition of essential amino acids, you might be able to guess that nonessential amino acids are those that our bodies can produce even if we’re not consuming them from foods we eat. Under certain circumstances, however, it can still be quite valuable to fortify your body’s indigenous supply of these amino acids.

For bodybuilders, whose training places unusual demands on their muscles, digestive systems, brains, and more, an increased intake of several nonessential amino acids either from food sources or supplements can be considered, well, essential. Those nonessential amino acids include:

  1. Glutamine
  2. Arginine
  3. Citrulline
  4. Aspartic acid

When you fail to top off your workouts with the proper supplements, you limit how far you’ll go in the gym. Amino acids bodybuilding supplements are perhaps the most crucial nutrients to increase muscle gain. Here’s what you need to know about supplementing with essential amino acids for bodybuilding.

The Science Behind Amino Acids’ Bodybuilding Benefits

Thanks to the longstanding interest in the use of protein and the amino acids that compose it to support strength training and bodybuilding pursuits, there is a wealth of research on both the effects of amino acids as well as best practices for supplementation.

Studies show that amino acids facilitate the replacement of damaged muscle fibers with new muscle protein, resulting in greater muscle mass growth as well as more efficient strength gains.

Amino acids also help to reduce inflammation, which helps you to recover more rapidly between training sessions.

Amino acids can maximize your performance not only for strength training, but also for multiple types of athletic endeavors. For instance, taking amino acids prior to high-intensity cardio workouts can reduce the fatigue you experience while exercising. Amino acid supplements can also bring benefits for:

  • Powerlifters
  • CrossFitters
  • Cyclists
  • Runners

A review of scientific literature published in Nutrition & Metabolism in 2017 found that even when individuals are consuming adequate amounts of dietary protein, taking supplemental essential amino acids can increase muscle protein synthesis. It also appears to result in greater muscle cross-sectional area.

Furthermore, amino acids can facilitate improved post-exercise muscle recovery. This appears to be especially true for younger individuals. The review cited above points to several studies that support the fact that pairing increased consumption of amino acids with exercise can enhance the recovery of muscle function as measured 1-4 days following heavy exercise while decreasing proxy markers of muscle damage or soreness.

8 Essential and Nonessential Amino Acids Bodybuilders Should Try

If you want to get unsurpassed benefits from every workout, taking both pre-workout and post-workout amino acid supplements, in combination with a steady intake of amino acids throughout the day, can help you make that happen.

Be sure to choose an essential amino acid supplement that contains significant amounts of the following eight amino acids.

1. Leucine

Your body requires significant quantities of leucine, an essential amino acid and branched-chain amino acid, for both protein synthesis and other various metabolic functions. Leucine contributes to the regulation of blood sugar levels, facilitates balanced use of energy, prevents excessive breakdown of muscle proteins, and promotes the growth and healing of tissues in your skin, bones, and skeletal muscle. It’s also a key potentiator for the production of human growth hormone (HGH).

Testing indicates that leucine may be one of the most potent natural anabolic substances in existence. That said, you should not expect miraculous results when you begin supplementing with leucine, no matter what some purveyors of such products may tell you. That’s because it’s quite likely you’re already absorbing large quantities of leucine from the food you eat. It can be found in nearly all protein sources, including plant-based protein sources like beans, nuts, brown rice, and whole wheat.

Increasing your intake of leucine will ensure that you get the most out of the work you put into increasing your lean muscle percentage and decreasing your body fat percentage, but it will not do the work for you.

2. Isoleucine

As their names point to, leucine and isoleucine carry out similar roles within the human body. Isoleucine also has a balancing effect on blood sugar levels, supports muscle recovery, boosts energy levels, and stimulates the production of HGH.

Isoleucine even outperforms its close relative when it comes to wound healing. It accelerates the formation of hemoglobin and blood clots, the body’s first line of defense against possible pathogens that can enter the body through open wounds.

There’s also some indication that isoleucine can increase endurance.

3. Valine

Valine, the third of the BCAAs, also contributes to muscle growth and muscle repair. This essential amino acid has some individualized functions, too, including maintaining the body’s nitrogen balance as well as ensuring the nervous system and and cognitive functions run smoothly.

Valine also prevents muscle tissue breakdown by providing the muscles with extra glucose that can carry out energy production. This is especially useful during physical activity.

4. Lysine

This essential amino acid is a necessary building block for all of the body’s proteins. Given that, it’s hardly surprising that lysine pops up as a power player throughout the body’s system.

Lysine, like valine, helps keep nitrogen levels stable. During periods of stress and fatigue, it ensures you retain lean body mass. It also plays a major role in calcium absorption, which furthers bone and muscle growth as well as the utilization of fat for energy needs. And like practically all the essential amino acids, it helps repair damaged muscle tissue. Plus, the body needs lysine in order to generate antibodies, hormones, enzymes, and collagen. Last but certainly not least, lysine helps to maintain the health of your blood vessels.

5. Glutamine

This nonessential amino acid is the most abundant in the human body. At times, it accounts for over 60% of the total intramuscular free amino acid pool.

Glutamine is one of the main building blocks used to form your genetic code, appearing in more strands of DNA and RNA than any other amino acid. It’s also used by many cells in the body as fuel for growth. Plus, it helps balance your body’s pH (levels of acidity and alkalinity) which reduces lactic acid concentrations, thereby decreasing muscle soreness. It appears to decrease cravings for sweets, too, which can be useful for those who have weight loss on their list of physique goals.

Though glutamine is a nonessential amino acid, which means your body can produce its own supply, it can nevertheless be beneficial to supplement it under certain circumstances. This puts it in the category of conditionally essential amino acids—seven amino acids that your body can make on its own when all is going well, but that you may need to supply in times of injury, illness, or excess stress.

Evidence suggests that during times of stress the body can’t produce enough glutamine to keep up with demand, which can lead to reduced performance. Athletes, especially those that participate in strenuous endurance events, may find that glutamine supplementation results in seriously improved results. This holds particularly true for those adhering to low-carbohydrate diets, as their muscles will already be in a glucose-deprived state and more prone to catabolic breakdown.

6. Arginine

Arginine, like glutamine, is a conditionally essential amino acid. It’s a bodybuilding supplement staple, thanks to its status as both an immune system and athletic performance booster.

Arginine is perhaps best known as a precursor for the production of nitric oxide, but it’s a precursor for creatine and polyamine production too. Increased production of nitric oxide improves circulation, which can in turn improve exercise performance and benefit your heart health. Creatine generates energy to fuel you through hard workouts while polyamines keep cells healthy as you age.

Historically, studies have supported the use of arginine supplementation as a means of increasing the rate of muscle protein synthesis, accelerating wound healing, and transporting waste products of protein metabolism to the kidneys for excretion. However, it now appears that supplementing with citrulline may be a more effective way to raise your blood levels of arginine.

7. Citrulline

Because your body uses citrulline to form arginine, supplementing with citrulline can actually have a more measurable impact on blood levels of arginine than supplementing with arginine would.

Studies show that supplemental citrulline also increases nitric oxide production. As a key vasodilator, nitric oxide helps to regulate blood flow throughout the body. This is less crucial in a resting state, but during exercise, it can produce notable benefits.

If you hope to achieve the effect on nitric oxide traditionally linked to arginine, as well as the other benefits associated with higher blood levels of arginine, choosing an amino acid supplement that contains citrulline will likely be the best choice.

8. Aspartic Acid

Though aspartic acid is truly a nonessential amino acid, studies indicate that because it plays a major role in the body’s energy cycle, increasing your intake of aspartic acid can boost stamina and increase your mental focus.

Some data, such as this study published in PLOS One in 2017, indicate supplementing with aspartic acid leads to increases in total testosterone levels, though this benefit appears to be most pronounced for individuals who do not regularly engage in resistance training.

How to Use Amino Acids for Bodybuilding

A good rule of thumb is to use a high-quality amino acid supplement formulated to contain a balanced ratio of all the essential amino acids as well as any specific amino acids whose benefits you hope to reap.

For maximal muscle gain, aim to take 60 grams of amino acids daily. On days you work out, the timing of your amino acid intake can significantly influence your results. For best improvement to physique and performance, use the following schedule:

  • Pre-workout, take 15 grams in the 30-minute window prior to your workout.
  • Post-workout, take an additional 15 grams just after you complete your workout.
  • One hour later, take another 15 grams.
  • Before bed, take 15 grams if you are committed to the most regular dosing schedule possible and willing to set an alarm to wake you up 6 hours later to take a final 15-gram dose. If not, take 20 grams.

On rest days, you can divide up your full 60 grams however you’d like. Taking amino acids between meals seems to yield superior results.

When you fail to top off your workouts with the proper supplements, you limit how far you’ll go in the gym. Amino acids bodybuilding supplements are perhaps the most crucial nutrients to increase muscle gain. Here’s what you need to know about supplementing with essential amino acids for bodybuilding.