What You Should Know About How Amino Acids Benefit Liver Health

Before we dive into the fascinating ways that amino acids benefit liver health, let’s provide some context on just how dire the consequences of not paying attention to the health of your liver can be.

There are more than 4.9 million diagnosed cases of chronic liver disease in the United States, based on statistics shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Of those cases, 40,545 end in death.

According to the American Liver Foundation, “Anything that keeps your liver from doing its job may put your life in danger.” There are many different factors that can interfere with liver function, such as…

  • A viral infection
  • Chemical injury
  • A misfiring immune response

Regardless of the underlying cause, the central danger is the same: that your liver will become too damaged to function at the level necessary for you to remain alive. And no matter what set it off, liver damage and disease tends to progress along a familiar path.

Learn about how amino acids benefit liver health.

What Causes Liver Disease?

One of the factors that spurs the progression of liver disease is that a protein called Bcl-xl begins to malfunction, failing to control the release of a second protein called cytochrome C, which occurs when a liver cell dies.

The release of cytochrome C triggers a cascade reaction in the liver which ultimately results in liver scarring—what medical professionals refer to as “hepatic fibrosis”—and instigates the development of chronic liver disease.

When it comes to uncovering methods for preventing liver disease and protecting the health of the liver, finding ways to ensure the Bcl-xl protein functionally regulates cytochrome C is a major priority. And exciting new research indicates that branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) may be able to do exactly that.

In order to understand how amino acids protect your liver, it’s important to understand how the liver processes amino acids.

How the Liver Processes Amino Acids

Did you know that your liver is the largest organ in your body? Given that, it’s hardly surprising how many essential functions the liver carries out. Not only does your liver detoxify your blood, but it also processes nutrients and produces lipids, carbohydrates, and amino acids.

Your liver produces a variety of proteins, such as albumin and fibrinogen, two of the major plasma proteins that are responsible for many vital tasks. Albumin keeps your blood volume balanced and transports essential amino acids throughout the body, while fibrinogen ensures your blood clots properly.

One of the primary functions of the liver is to process the amino acids your body absorbs through protein digestion. Your liver uses enzymes called deaminases and transaminases to transform the amino acids into the forms most useful to your body.

The deaminase and transaminase enzymes can add nitrogen to synthesize nonessential amino acids, or remove nitrogen to leave intact carbon structures that can then be utilized for the production of glucose or, less frequently, converted into fatty acids.

When these processes involve the release of nitrogen, a potentially toxic compound called ammonia is generated. Your liver then converts the ammonia to urea, allowing it to be safely flushed from your body.

Prolonged, excessive exposure to alcohol or other drugs as well as nutritional deficiencies can compromise your liver’s ability to carry out these key jobs. Altered amino acid metabolism is one of the hallmark symptoms of liver disease, and studies indicate that supplementing with amino acids—and BCAAs in particular—can improve the health of your liver.

Investigating the Ways Amino Acids Benefit Liver Health

Some of the most exciting research on how amino acids benefit liver health was done by a team of scientists based in Kyoto, Japan. The team hypothesized that BCAA supplementation could slow down, or possibly even halt, the progression of chronic liver disease.

After inducing liver disease in a group of rats, the researchers then split the rats into two groups. One group received a diet supplemented with three BCAAs: valine, leucine, and isoleucine. The other was the control group. Over the course of the 11-week study, weekly blood samples were taken from both groups of rats. At the study’s conclusion, the researchers took liver samples.

The results of BCAA supplementation were quite dramatic. Blood levels of a liver enzyme called AST, which rises as liver damage intensifies, were an average of 22% lower for the group given BCAAs than for the control group. And levels of the CTGF protein, a marker of liver scarring, were an average of 75% higher in the control group.

Perhaps most significant of all, levels of an enzyme called caspase 3 and a protein called albumin, which indicate rates of cell death, were respectively 100% and 80% higher in the control group.

Based on these changes, the researchers concluded: “Supplementation with branched-chain amino acids delays the progression of chronic liver disease” and that it does so specifically by slowing liver cell death.

Learn about how amino acids benefit liver health.

Rates of Liver Disease Are Rising

Concerningly, rates of liver disease fatalities in the United States are rising, according to an analysis of data collected from across the nation. Lead author Zobair M. Younossi, MD, MPH, attributes this largely to a spike in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

“I believe it’s all related to a big increase in obesity and type 2 diabetes in this country,” Dr. Younossi said in an interview in advance of the annual meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases. “Those two risk factors drive NAFLD and its progressive type, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). That accounts for at least part of the increase in mortality related to liver disease.”

Dr. Younossi and his colleagues analyzed findings from 838,809 chronic liver disease-related deaths. They found that the overall fatality rate for chronic liver disease rose by 1.3% for men and 2.5% for women.

Nonalcoholic liver disease was the most common cause of chronic liver disease-related deaths (34.7%), followed by alcoholic liver disease (28.8%) and chronic hepatitis C (21.1%). Between 2007 and 2016, fatalities caused by NAFLD increased from 7.6 to 9.0 per 100,000.

One of the most important takeaways from the analysis, Dr. Younossi said, is that NASH—the most severe form of NAFLD—is quite common in the United States. “These patients are under-recognized and underdiagnosed because they are asymptomatic.” But fatty liver disease can progress to full-blown cirrhosis. Younossi believes it’s vital to identify treatments that can help to tackle this disease.

Using Amino Acids to Treat Liver Disease

Studies done with humans have confirmed that amino acid supplements can naturally and effectively treat both nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and alcoholic liver disease, the top two causes of liver disease-related deaths.

A clinical trial found that essential amino acids reduce liver fat as effectively as fenofibrate, a top pharmacological treatment. And the amino acids caused no adverse reactions. Fenofibrate, on the other hand, can cause unpleasant side effects such as fever, hives and other skin rashes, muscle aches and pains, stomach pain, and vomiting.

Learn about how amino acids benefit liver health.

Scientists are still working to understand the metabolic shifts that cause fat to accumulate in the liver, which then disrupts liver function and results in damage and disease. Many people show no symptoms of fatty liver in the early phases, but some potential warning signs include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Pain in the upper right abdomen, where the liver is located

It is possible to mitigate the damage associated with fatty liver disease, and in some cases, to fully reverse it. Nutrient therapies that improve fatty acid metabolism in the liver, like essential amino acids, can go a long way toward safeguarding or restoring liver health.

5 Signs of Amino Acid Deficiency and How to Treat It

You probably know that between 60% and 70% of the average human body is composed of water. But did you know that protein makes up approximately 66% of the non-water components of your body? As you may remember from biology class, amino acids form the building blocks of protein. In the same way that it’s vital to drink water to stay hydrated, it’s also absolutely necessary to provide our bodies with an ongoing supply of amino acids to make up for those used up rebuilding our tissues and carrying out other important bodily functions. Without an adequate intake of amino-rich foods, you’re likely to develop an amino acid deficiency.

Amino acid deficiency often gets overlooked, and when left untreated it makes it more likely you’ll develop a whole host of serious disorders. In this article, we’ll go over some basic facts about amino acids and then share five signs of amino acid deficiency as well as how to correct amino acid deficiency.

What Are Amino Acids?

Scientists have found that when we select food, our first instinctive priority is to meet our short-term energy needs. And right behind that comes the maintenance of our essential amino acids balance. When you eat food that contains protein, your body then breaks it down in order to access and utilize the amino acids.

Amino acids carry out a wide variety of vital functions inside the human body, from building muscles to generating neurotransmitters like dopamine. We need a steady supply of a balanced ratio of amino acids to maintain optimal levels inside our bodies. When we’re under stress, or dealing with illness or injury, we require an even higher intake to meet the increased demand.

There are 20 proteinogenic amino acids—”proteinogenic” means “protein creating,” and as you might be able to intuit, these amino acids form all biological proteins and all contribute to our overall health and well-being in different ways. For instance, research reveals that leucine, isoleucine, and valine, the three branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), work to build and repair muscle tissue. While there’s understandably a great deal of interest in determining the role of each individual amino acid, it’s important to keep in mind that they can only carry out those roles effectively when the proper balance and concentration of all the amino acids is in place.

Eleven of the proteinogenic amino acids are deemed nonessential. Since your body can produce these nonessential amino acids, it’s not essential that you derive them from your diet. The nonessential amino acids are alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine.

The remaining nine are essential amino acids that you must obtain either from the food you eat or supplements you take since your body cannot independently create them. The essential amino acids are histidine, isoleucine, leucin, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.

Some amino acids are considered conditionally essential. This category can be a bit confusing. Basically, when everything is going smoothly, your body can make these amino acids on its own without any difficulty. But if your health is compromised in some way, for instance, if your liver is functioning less than ideally, that can get in the way of amino acid synthesis. Poor diet can also cause problems, since certain minerals and vitamins play important roles in the amino acid creation process. Under those circumstances, your body can greatly benefit from an increased intake of the seven conditionally essential amino acids: arginine, cysteine, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine.

There are 11 nonessential amino acids that your body can produce, meaning there’s not a minimum recommended dietary intake.

How Do Amino Acids Work?

As we touched on in the previous section, amino acids do not work in isolation. It’s true that each has a specific function, but simply increasing your intake of one particular amino acid will not necessarily make that function happen more efficiently.

Take arginine. Research shows that arginine stimulates the production of nitric oxide, a signaling molecule that’s especially important for vasodilation. In simple terms, nitric oxide allows the inner muscles of your blood vessels to relax, which improves your circulation. You might think that the best way to boost your nitric oxide levels would be to take more arginine. But studies make it clear that taking arginine supplements doesn’t lead to significantly increased arginine concentrations. What’s more effective is to increase your intake of citrulline, which your body then converts to arginine your body can readily use for nitric oxide production and other purposes.

As you can see, amino acids work together to maintain your health and well-being. It’s very rare to develop a deficiency of just one amino acid. The most effective strategy is to focus on keeping your amino acid levels in balance by eating a protein-rich diet and supplementing with well-formulated amino acid supplements if necessary.

5 Signs of Amino Acid Deficiency

5 Signs You May Have an Amino Acid Deficiency

1. Muscle Loss

Our bodies have systems in place to compensate for a lack of dietary amino acid intake. One of the first things that happens is the breakdown of muscle tissues, which are assembled from amino acids. Amino acids are then sent where they’re most needed, for instance, to maintain heart function. As you may be able to guess, eating away at your muscle to fuel your heart is not a sustainable strategy and can have serious consequences.

No matter what, some degree of muscle loss, often (incorrectly) called sarcopenia, will accompany the aging process. A lack of amino acids, however, speeds up that process, which can begin as early as your 30s.

2. Increased Anxiety and Depression

There’s an intimate connection between your amino acid intake and your mental health. We rely on amino acids to produce brain chemicals like serotonin that balance our moods and emotions.

Tryptophan, an essential amino acid, is a precursor to serotonin. When serotonin levels drop, symptoms of depression increase. A 2016 study found that without an adequate supply of tryptophan, serotonin production is compromised, which can, in turn, compromise your mental health.

3. Difficulty Concentrating

If you’re feeling unmotivated, struggling to concentrate, finding it difficult to learn new information, or dealing with “brain fog,” you may have low amino acid levels. As we touched on above, you need amino acids to produce neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.

Without enough tyrosine, a conditionally essential amino acid, your brain struggles to produce dopamine. And without enough dopamine, your energy levels will flag and your overall cognitive function will decline.

4. Digestive Disturbances

In order for the digestive system to operate smoothly, we need a balanced intake of amino acids, which play crucial roles in enzyme production as well as muscle contractions in your gastrointestinal tract.

Amino acids have such a pronounced impact on digestion that they may even be used to treat certain gut-related diseases, according to a study.

5. Slowed Healing Time

Amino acids help our muscles recover from exertion, maintain the strength of our bones, and keep our immune systems running at peak capacity.

A 2009 study showed that amino acids help bone fractures heal more quickly, and findings published in the British Journal of Nutrition show that a deficiency in amino acids impairs immune function and increases your susceptibility to illness.

The Best Way to Correct Amino Acid Deficiency

Once you’ve realized you have an amino acid deficiency, there’s likely only one question on your mind: how to correct an amino acid deficiency. To stabilize your amino acid levels, you need to increase the amount of amino acids you’re consuming. It can be difficult to do this in a balanced way through diet alone, especially if you aren’t inclined to eat a diet high in animal protein.

And balance is absolutely key. The amino acid that we consume the least of, proportionate to recommended consumption levels, determines the degree to which our bodies can utilize the rest of the amino acids we take in.

Essential amino acid (EAA) supplements can help to fill any gaps you might have in your diet. If you’re already experiencing any of the signs of amino acid deficiency listed above, it can be highly beneficial to augment your amino acid intake with a high-quality EAA supplement.

How Essential Amino Acids Can Prevent and Even Reverse Age-Related Muscle Loss

Muscle loss with aging is one of the inescapable characteristics of growing older. While age-related muscle loss is a normal part of the aging process, we can temper its effect with the nutritional support of essential amino acids.

Muscle loss with aging is one of the inescapable characteristics of growing older. While age-related muscle loss is a normal part of the aging process, we can temper its effect with the nutritional support of essential amino acids (EAAs).

It’s Never Too Early to Combat Age-Related Muscle Loss

There’s nothing wrong with embracing the mentality that 40 is the new 20, but don’t fool yourself into believing age is nothing more than a number. Growing older does come with certain physiological changes. Yet there’s no reason your golden years can’t be every bit as vibrant as your youth. And the sooner you acknowledge how the passage of time influences certain biological processes, the better off you’ll be.

As you grow older, age-related muscle loss, which scientists refer to as sarcopenia or age-related sarcopenia, begins to erode your lean muscle mass. This process likely begins earlier than you think. Once you reach the age of 30, you begin to lose between 3% and 8% of your overall muscle mass each decade. The rate of decline increases once you turn 60.

Understanding Anabolic Resistance

Muscle loss with aging occurs because as the years wear on, we lose the ability to make new muscle protein from dietary protein. The impaired ability to build new muscle protein is called anabolic resistance.

When your body enters an anabolic resistant state, it has trouble getting the motor started. The starter for the motor, in this case, is a factor inside the muscle cells called mTOR. mTOR starts the whole process of protein synthesis. The activation of mTOR begins a cascade of responses that ultimately result in the initiation of protein synthesis. Together these responses are called initiation factors.

In aging muscle, the reactivity of mTOR and the other initiation factors is blunted, and this is a basis of anabolic resistance.

The Vicious Cycle of Age-Related Sarcopenia

This ongoing loss of skeletal muscle mass leaves older adults with less control over their bodies. Age-related changes to your muscle tissue and muscle strength don’t just influence your ability to excel during a strength-training workout, they also make you more prone to falls and other types of injuries.

Age-related sarcopenia can kick off a vicious cycle: your muscle strength decreases, which limits your ability to carry out physical activity, which causes further muscle loss. Ultimately, this can result in what health care professionals refer to as frailty, a condition that leaves you extra susceptible to external stressors more hearty individuals would be able to navigate with few to no lasting consequences.

Researchers have identified age-related sarcopenia as the primary factor behind the frailty we associate with aging, such as an increased propensity to fall, compounded by a higher likelihood of suffering an injury such as a broken hip due to a fall and the decreased ability to heal in the aftermath of such an injury.

The more frail you become, the greater the impact of each stressor. As the adverse effects of minor illnesses and injuries accumulate, individuals find it more and more challenging to live independently. Increased frailty also heightens the risk of early death.

Muscle loss with aging is one of the inescapable characteristics of growing older. While age-related muscle loss is a normal part of the aging process, we can temper its effect with the nutritional support of essential amino acids (EAAs). It's Never Too Early to Combat Age-Related Muscle Loss There's nothing wrong with embracing the mentality that 40 is the new 20, but don't fool yourself into believing age is nothing more than a number. Growing older does come with certain physiological changes. Yet there's no reason your golden years can't be every bit as vibrant as your youth. And the sooner you acknowledge how the passage of time influences certain biological processes, the better off you'll be. As you grow older, age-related muscle loss, which scientists refer to as sarcopenia or age-related sarcopenia, begins to erode your lean muscle mass. This process likely begins earlier than you think. Once you reach the age of 30, you begin to lose between 3% and 8% of your overall muscle mass each decade. The rate of decline increases once you turn 60. Understanding Anabolic Resistance Muscle loss with aging occurs because as the years wear on, we lose the ability to make new muscle protein from dietary protein. The impaired ability to build new muscle protein is called anabolic resistance. When your body enters an anabolic resistant state, it has trouble getting the motor started. The starter for the motor, in this case, is a factor inside the muscle cells called mTOR. mTOR starts the whole process of protein synthesis. The activation of mTOR begins a cascade of responses that ultimately result in the initiation of protein synthesis. Together these responses are called initiation factors. In aging muscle, the reactivity of mTOR and the other initiation factors are blunted, and this is a basis of anabolic resistance. The Vicious Cycle of Age-Related Sarcopenia This ongoing loss of skeletal muscle mass leaves older adults with less control over their bodies. Age-related changes to your muscle tissue and muscle strength don't just influence your ability to excel during a strength-training workout, they also make you more prone to falls and other types of injuries. Age-related sarcopenia can kick off a vicious cycle: your muscle strength decreases, which limits your ability to carry out physical activity, which causes further muscle loss. Ultimately, this can result in what health care professionals refer to as frailty, a condition that leaves you extra-susceptible to external stressors more hearty individuals would be able to navigate with few to no lasting consequences. Researchers have identified age-related sarcopenia as the primary factor behind the frailty we associate with aging, such as an increased propensity to fall, compounded by a higher likelihood of suffering an injury such as a broken hip due to a fall and the decreased ability to heal in the aftermath of such an injury. The more frail you become, the greater the impact of each stressor. As the adverse effects of minor illnesses and injuries accumulate, individuals find it more and more challenging to live independently. Increased frailty also heightens the risk of early death. [infographic] How Muscle Loss Creates a Downward Spiral As your muscle strength decreases, it becomes more difficult to be physically active. This results in more lost muscle mass and strength, which can culminate in what health care professionals refer to as frailty. Frailty makes you more susceptible to stressors like illness and injury. The more frail you are, the greater the damage done by each subsequent stressor. Ultimately, it becomes more and more difficult for frail individuals to live on their own. Becoming increasingly frail also raises your risk of early death. [/infographic] While that all sounds grim, you have the ability to preserve—and even increase—your muscle mass as you grow older. Physical activity such as resistance exercise inarguably plays a vital role in preserving muscle mass as you age; however, nutrition will have just as strong—if not an even stronger—influence on your ability to preserve and build muscle. Optimizing Your Nutrient Intake to Combat Muscle Loss As you may be aware, when it comes to providing your muscle fibers with the optimized nutrition they need to maintain themselves and grow, protein is the macronutrient to prioritize. When you don't provide your body with enough protein, your body will lose the ability to keep up muscle mass and bone density. Determining your ideal protein intake can be challenging. Studies have shown that many factors affect the quantity of protein your body requires on a daily basis, such as: Age Gender Physical activity habits Muscle mass to fat ratio Keep in mind, too, that your muscle mass to fat ratio differs from your body mass index (BMI). It's entirely possible to be quite thin and still have high levels of fat compared to lean muscle, which increases the likelihood that you'll develop age-related sarcopenia. According to findings published in Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, eating between 25 grams and 30 grams of protein with each meal "maximally stimulates muscle protein synthesis in both young and older adults." The authors noted, however, that when elderly subjects consumed protein and carbohydrates together or ate less than 20 grams of protein per meal, that blunted muscle protein synthesis. Choosing the right protein sources will ensure each gram does the most work. When it comes to selecting protein sources, there's one element you should pay the closest attention to: their amino acid content. If you're aging and seeking to combat muscle wasting, you'll benefit the most from increasing your intake of an amino acid called leucine. Why Leucine Matters So Much Leucine, an essential amino acid (EAA) called a branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) because of its chemical structure, is one of the most important dietary regulators of mTOR activity. If the proportion of leucine in an essential amino acid mixture is increased to an amount that exceeds its normal contribution to the composition of dietary protein, that EAA supplement can then effectively activate mTOR in aging muscle. However, leucine alone is not enough. You may have noticed that I did not recommend taking a leucine supplement, but rather an amino acid supplement formulated to contain a higher concentration of leucine. That's because all nine essential amino acids need to be present in the proper proportion to produce new muscle protein. You can think of leucine as the quarterback of a football team—it may be the pivot point of how the team performs, but without the other players the team is not going to have much success. How the Other 8 Essential Amino Acids Contribute When you consume a large amount of the EAA leucine, you increase the rate at which leucine gets broken down since the body is designed to maintain steady levels of EAAs. And since the enzyme that breaks down leucine is also responsible for metabolizing the other two essential BCAAs, valine and isoleucine, they also get broken down at an increased rate. Consequently, the proportions of valine and isoleucine in an EAA formulation containing abundant leucine must also be increased. Lysine is another EAA with distinct characteristics—it is not transported into muscle as readily as other EAAs are. For this reason, the optimal profile of EAAs to maximally stimulate anabolic-resistant muscle includes proportionately more lysine than is reflected in the composition of muscle protein. So, even though it may seem logical to provide EAAs for a muscle-building supplement in a profile similar to the makeup of muscle, adjustments can be made to boost the signal and improve delivery of amino acids to overcome the anabolic resistance that results in muscle loss. The remaining five EAAs—phenylalanine, threonine, methionine, tryptophan, and histidine—also need to be included in a mixture of EAAs to maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis. In order to include disproportionately high amounts of BCAAs and lysine, however, the proportionate contribution of these additional EAAs must be reduced below what occurs in muscle protein. [infographic] Building an Optimal Essential Amino Acid Blend to Address Age-Related Muscle Loss First and foremost, you'll want high concentrations of leucine, an EAA and BCAA. Leucine activates mTOR in aging muscle, helping to stimulate maintenance and growth. You'll also need all the other EAAs—think of leucine like a quarterback. No matter how skillful that player is, he still needs the rest of his team to win. For the best results, you'll want to increase the proportions of the other two essential BCAAs, valine and isoleucine. You'll also want to up the lysine content. To make room for these adjustments, you'll need to scale back on the amount of phenylalanine, threonine, methionine, tryptophan and histidine you include. [/infographic] The Science Behind How Essential Amino Acids Prevent and Reverse Age-Related Muscle Loss A wealth of research has been conducted on the link between amino acids and age-related declines in protein metabolism, muscle function, muscle growth, and more. The scientists behind one study set out to examine how an amino acid mixture enriched with leucine affected muscle protein metabolism in both young and elderly subjects. They found that ingesting the enriched EAA mixture resolved anabolic resistance in elderly subjects. The mixture of EAAs was 3 times more effective at stimulating muscle protein synthesis in older individuals on a gram-per-gram basis than was whey protein isolate, which is a very high-quality protein by traditional means of assessment. Another study showed that a specifically formulated EAA supplement decreased loss of muscle mass and strength that occurs with bed rest and recovery from hip replacement. This is especially relevant when it comes to preventing muscle loss associated with aging, as older individuals are more likely to experience extended hospitalization and more likely to suffer adverse consequences from the inactivity imposed by hospital stays. Yet another study demonstrated that daily supplementation with EAAs improved muscle mass and function in healthy, active elderly women. The authors wanted to determine whether essential amino acid supplementation improves post-absorptive muscle protein fractional synthesis rate, lean body mass, muscle strength, and other physiological processes. The randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial found that ingesting the essential amino acid blend stimulated the muscle protein fractional synthesis rate as well as IGF-1 protein expression. Overall, the authors concluded that EAA supplementation improved lean body mass as well as muscle protein synthesis and that it could be a means of offsetting the "debilitating effects" of age-related sarcopenia. [infographic] 5 Science-Backed Ways EAAs Offset Age-Related Muscle Loss Researchers have shown that an amino acid blend enriched with leucine resolved anabolic resistance in elderly subjects. An essential amino acid blend proved 3 times more effective at stimulating muscle protein synthesis than whey protein isolate. An EAA supplement reduced losses of muscle mass and strength related to bed rest. Daily supplementation with EAAs can improve muscle mass and function. Studies show that EAAs can improve lean body mass and muscle protein synthesis, making them a possible means of treating age-related sarcopenia. [/infographic] Key Takeaways to Help You Remain Healthy and Vital as You Age Experts from across the globe agree that both the loss of muscle mass and the loss of muscle strength are highly prevalent and important risk factors for disability and potential mortality as individuals age. This makes identifying treatments for age-related muscle loss a key priority when it comes not only to improving average life expectancy for older people, but also reducing health care costs and enhancing overall quality of life. Ensuring an optimal protein intake will form a foundational part of any successful strategy for maintaining muscle mass (and bone density!) as you age. The kind of protein you eat will be just as impactful as the amount. Leucine, an EAA and BCAA found in certain protein sources, makes uniquely significant contributions to the muscle maintenance and growth processes within the human body. Consuming amino acid supplements designed to contain higher concentrations of leucine (as well as certain other helper amino acids) can dramatically influence your body's ability to retain and increase lean muscle mass as you age. The difference between the effectiveness of EAAs and intact protein cannot be made up just by consuming more of the intact protein, because the optimal profile of EAAs will never be achieved with intact protein. If you're interested in learning more about the advantages of essential amino acid supplements compared to dietary protein sources, this article is an excellent place to start. And if you'd like a quick takeaway in a nutshell, here it is: when it comes to amino acids for muscle loss with aging, it’s a matter of quality, not quantity.

While that all sounds grim, you have the ability to preserve—and even increase—your muscle mass as you grow older.

Physical activity such as resistance exercise inarguably plays a vital role in preserving muscle mass as you age; however, nutrition will have just as strong—if not an even stronger—influence on your ability to preserve and build muscle.

Optimizing Your Nutrient Intake to Combat Muscle Loss

As you may be aware, when it comes to providing your muscle fibers with the optimized nutrition they need to maintain themselves and grow, protein is the macronutrient to prioritize. When you don’t provide your body with enough protein, your body will lose the ability to keep up muscle mass and bone density.

Determining your ideal protein intake can be challenging. Studies have shown that many factors affect the quantity of protein your body requires on a daily basis, such as:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Physical activity habits
  • Muscle mass to fat ratio

Keep in mind, too, that your muscle mass to fat ratio differs from your body mass index (BMI). It’s entirely possible to be quite thin and still have high levels of fat compared to lean muscle, which increases the likelihood that you’ll develop age-related sarcopenia.

According to findings published in Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, eating between 25 grams and 30 grams of protein with each meal “maximally stimulates muscle protein synthesis in both young and older adults.” The authors noted, however, that when elderly subjects consumed protein and carbohydrates together or ate less than 20 grams of protein per meal, that blunted muscle protein synthesis.

Choosing the right protein sources will ensure each gram does the most work. When it comes to selecting protein sources, there’s one element you should pay the closest attention to: their amino acid content. If you’re aging and seeking to combat muscle wasting, you’ll benefit the most from increasing your intake of an amino acid called leucine.

Why Leucine Matters So Much

Leucine, an essential amino acid (EAA) called a branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) because of its chemical structure, is one of the most important dietary regulators of mTOR activity. If the proportion of leucine in an essential amino acid mixture is increased to an amount that exceeds its normal contribution to the composition of dietary protein, that EAA supplement can then effectively activate mTOR in aging muscle.

However, leucine alone is not enough. You may have noticed that I did not recommend taking a leucine supplement, but rather an amino acid supplement formulated to contain a higher concentration of leucine. That’s because all nine essential amino acids need to be present in the proper proportion to produce new muscle protein.

You can think of leucine as the quarterback of a football team—it may be the pivot point of how the team performs, but without the other players the team is not going to have much success.

How the Other 8 Essential Amino Acids Contribute

When you consume a large amount of the EAA leucine, you increase the rate at which leucine gets broken down since the body is designed to maintain steady levels of EAAs. And since the enzyme that breaks down leucine is also responsible for metabolizing the other two essential BCAAs, valine and isoleucine, they also get broken down at an increased rate. Consequently, the proportions of valine and isoleucine in an EAA formulation containing abundant leucine must also be increased.

Lysine is another EAA with distinct characteristics—it is not transported into muscle as readily as other EAAs are. For this reason, the optimal profile of EAAs to maximally stimulate anabolic-resistant muscle includes proportionately more lysine than is reflected in the composition of muscle protein.

So, even though it may seem logical to provide EAAs for a muscle-building supplement in a profile similar to the makeup of muscle, adjustments can be made to boost the signal and improve delivery of amino acids to overcome the anabolic resistance that results in muscle loss.

The remaining five EAAs—phenylalanine, threonine, methionine, tryptophan, and histidine—also need to be included in a mixture of EAAs to maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis. In order to include disproportionately high amounts of BCAAs and lysine, however, the proportionate contribution of these additional EAAs must be reduced below what occurs in muscle protein.

Muscle loss with aging is one of the inescapable characteristics of growing older. While age-related muscle loss is a normal part of the aging process, we can temper its effect with the nutritional support of essential amino acids (EAAs). It's Never Too Early to Combat Age-Related Muscle Loss There's nothing wrong with embracing the mentality that 40 is the new 20, but don't fool yourself into believing age is nothing more than a number. Growing older does come with certain physiological changes. Yet there's no reason your golden years can't be every bit as vibrant as your youth. And the sooner you acknowledge how the passage of time influences certain biological processes, the better off you'll be. As you grow older, age-related muscle loss, which scientists refer to as sarcopenia or age-related sarcopenia, begins to erode your lean muscle mass. This process likely begins earlier than you think. Once you reach the age of 30, you begin to lose between 3% and 8% of your overall muscle mass each decade. The rate of decline increases once you turn 60. Understanding Anabolic Resistance Muscle loss with aging occurs because as the years wear on, we lose the ability to make new muscle protein from dietary protein. The impaired ability to build new muscle protein is called anabolic resistance. When your body enters an anabolic resistant state, it has trouble getting the motor started. The starter for the motor, in this case, is a factor inside the muscle cells called mTOR. mTOR starts the whole process of protein synthesis. The activation of mTOR begins a cascade of responses that ultimately result in the initiation of protein synthesis. Together these responses are called initiation factors. In aging muscle, the reactivity of mTOR and the other initiation factors are blunted, and this is a basis of anabolic resistance. The Vicious Cycle of Age-Related Sarcopenia This ongoing loss of skeletal muscle mass leaves older adults with less control over their bodies. Age-related changes to your muscle tissue and muscle strength don't just influence your ability to excel during a strength-training workout, they also make you more prone to falls and other types of injuries. Age-related sarcopenia can kick off a vicious cycle: your muscle strength decreases, which limits your ability to carry out physical activity, which causes further muscle loss. Ultimately, this can result in what health care professionals refer to as frailty, a condition that leaves you extra-susceptible to external stressors more hearty individuals would be able to navigate with few to no lasting consequences. Researchers have identified age-related sarcopenia as the primary factor behind the frailty we associate with aging, such as an increased propensity to fall, compounded by a higher likelihood of suffering an injury such as a broken hip due to a fall and the decreased ability to heal in the aftermath of such an injury. The more frail you become, the greater the impact of each stressor. As the adverse effects of minor illnesses and injuries accumulate, individuals find it more and more challenging to live independently. Increased frailty also heightens the risk of early death. [infographic] How Muscle Loss Creates a Downward Spiral As your muscle strength decreases, it becomes more difficult to be physically active. This results in more lost muscle mass and strength, which can culminate in what health care professionals refer to as frailty. Frailty makes you more susceptible to stressors like illness and injury. The more frail you are, the greater the damage done by each subsequent stressor. Ultimately, it becomes more and more difficult for frail individuals to live on their own. Becoming increasingly frail also raises your risk of early death. [/infographic] While that all sounds grim, you have the ability to preserve—and even increase—your muscle mass as you grow older. Physical activity such as resistance exercise inarguably plays a vital role in preserving muscle mass as you age; however, nutrition will have just as strong—if not an even stronger—influence on your ability to preserve and build muscle. Optimizing Your Nutrient Intake to Combat Muscle Loss As you may be aware, when it comes to providing your muscle fibers with the optimized nutrition they need to maintain themselves and grow, protein is the macronutrient to prioritize. When you don't provide your body with enough protein, your body will lose the ability to keep up muscle mass and bone density. Determining your ideal protein intake can be challenging. Studies have shown that many factors affect the quantity of protein your body requires on a daily basis, such as: Age Gender Physical activity habits Muscle mass to fat ratio Keep in mind, too, that your muscle mass to fat ratio differs from your body mass index (BMI). It's entirely possible to be quite thin and still have high levels of fat compared to lean muscle, which increases the likelihood that you'll develop age-related sarcopenia. According to findings published in Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, eating between 25 grams and 30 grams of protein with each meal "maximally stimulates muscle protein synthesis in both young and older adults." The authors noted, however, that when elderly subjects consumed protein and carbohydrates together or ate less than 20 grams of protein per meal, that blunted muscle protein synthesis. Choosing the right protein sources will ensure each gram does the most work. When it comes to selecting protein sources, there's one element you should pay the closest attention to: their amino acid content. If you're aging and seeking to combat muscle wasting, you'll benefit the most from increasing your intake of an amino acid called leucine. Why Leucine Matters So Much Leucine, an essential amino acid (EAA) called a branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) because of its chemical structure, is one of the most important dietary regulators of mTOR activity. If the proportion of leucine in an essential amino acid mixture is increased to an amount that exceeds its normal contribution to the composition of dietary protein, that EAA supplement can then effectively activate mTOR in aging muscle. However, leucine alone is not enough. You may have noticed that I did not recommend taking a leucine supplement, but rather an amino acid supplement formulated to contain a higher concentration of leucine. That's because all nine essential amino acids need to be present in the proper proportion to produce new muscle protein. You can think of leucine as the quarterback of a football team—it may be the pivot point of how the team performs, but without the other players the team is not going to have much success. How the Other 8 Essential Amino Acids Contribute When you consume a large amount of the EAA leucine, you increase the rate at which leucine gets broken down since the body is designed to maintain steady levels of EAAs. And since the enzyme that breaks down leucine is also responsible for metabolizing the other two essential BCAAs, valine and isoleucine, they also get broken down at an increased rate. Consequently, the proportions of valine and isoleucine in an EAA formulation containing abundant leucine must also be increased. Lysine is another EAA with distinct characteristics—it is not transported into muscle as readily as other EAAs are. For this reason, the optimal profile of EAAs to maximally stimulate anabolic-resistant muscle includes proportionately more lysine than is reflected in the composition of muscle protein. So, even though it may seem logical to provide EAAs for a muscle-building supplement in a profile similar to the makeup of muscle, adjustments can be made to boost the signal and improve delivery of amino acids to overcome the anabolic resistance that results in muscle loss. The remaining five EAAs—phenylalanine, threonine, methionine, tryptophan, and histidine—also need to be included in a mixture of EAAs to maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis. In order to include disproportionately high amounts of BCAAs and lysine, however, the proportionate contribution of these additional EAAs must be reduced below what occurs in muscle protein. [infographic] Building an Optimal Essential Amino Acid Blend to Address Age-Related Muscle Loss First and foremost, you'll want high concentrations of leucine, an EAA and BCAA. Leucine activates mTOR in aging muscle, helping to stimulate maintenance and growth. You'll also need all the other EAAs—think of leucine like a quarterback. No matter how skillful that player is, he still needs the rest of his team to win. For the best results, you'll want to increase the proportions of the other two essential BCAAs, valine and isoleucine. You'll also want to up the lysine content. To make room for these adjustments, you'll need to scale back on the amount of phenylalanine, threonine, methionine, tryptophan and histidine you include. [/infographic] The Science Behind How Essential Amino Acids Prevent and Reverse Age-Related Muscle Loss A wealth of research has been conducted on the link between amino acids and age-related declines in protein metabolism, muscle function, muscle growth, and more. The scientists behind one study set out to examine how an amino acid mixture enriched with leucine affected muscle protein metabolism in both young and elderly subjects. They found that ingesting the enriched EAA mixture resolved anabolic resistance in elderly subjects. The mixture of EAAs was 3 times more effective at stimulating muscle protein synthesis in older individuals on a gram-per-gram basis than was whey protein isolate, which is a very high-quality protein by traditional means of assessment. Another study showed that a specifically formulated EAA supplement decreased loss of muscle mass and strength that occurs with bed rest and recovery from hip replacement. This is especially relevant when it comes to preventing muscle loss associated with aging, as older individuals are more likely to experience extended hospitalization and more likely to suffer adverse consequences from the inactivity imposed by hospital stays. Yet another study demonstrated that daily supplementation with EAAs improved muscle mass and function in healthy, active elderly women. The authors wanted to determine whether essential amino acid supplementation improves post-absorptive muscle protein fractional synthesis rate, lean body mass, muscle strength, and other physiological processes. The randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial found that ingesting the essential amino acid blend stimulated the muscle protein fractional synthesis rate as well as IGF-1 protein expression. Overall, the authors concluded that EAA supplementation improved lean body mass as well as muscle protein synthesis and that it could be a means of offsetting the "debilitating effects" of age-related sarcopenia. [infographic] 5 Science-Backed Ways EAAs Offset Age-Related Muscle Loss Researchers have shown that an amino acid blend enriched with leucine resolved anabolic resistance in elderly subjects. An essential amino acid blend proved 3 times more effective at stimulating muscle protein synthesis than whey protein isolate. An EAA supplement reduced losses of muscle mass and strength related to bed rest. Daily supplementation with EAAs can improve muscle mass and function. Studies show that EAAs can improve lean body mass and muscle protein synthesis, making them a possible means of treating age-related sarcopenia. [/infographic] Key Takeaways to Help You Remain Healthy and Vital as You Age Experts from across the globe agree that both the loss of muscle mass and the loss of muscle strength are highly prevalent and important risk factors for disability and potential mortality as individuals age. This makes identifying treatments for age-related muscle loss a key priority when it comes not only to improving average life expectancy for older people, but also reducing health care costs and enhancing overall quality of life. Ensuring an optimal protein intake will form a foundational part of any successful strategy for maintaining muscle mass (and bone density!) as you age. The kind of protein you eat will be just as impactful as the amount. Leucine, an EAA and BCAA found in certain protein sources, makes uniquely significant contributions to the muscle maintenance and growth processes within the human body. Consuming amino acid supplements designed to contain higher concentrations of leucine (as well as certain other helper amino acids) can dramatically influence your body's ability to retain and increase lean muscle mass as you age. The difference between the effectiveness of EAAs and intact protein cannot be made up just by consuming more of the intact protein, because the optimal profile of EAAs will never be achieved with intact protein. If you're interested in learning more about the advantages of essential amino acid supplements compared to dietary protein sources, this article is an excellent place to start. And if you'd like a quick takeaway in a nutshell, here it is: when it comes to amino acids for muscle loss with aging, it’s a matter of quality, not quantity.

The Science Behind How Essential Amino Acids Prevent and Reverse Age-Related Muscle Loss

A wealth of research has been conducted on the link between amino acids and age-related declines in protein metabolism, muscle function, muscle growth, and more.

The scientists behind one study set out to examine how an amino acid mixture enriched with leucine affected muscle protein metabolism in both young and elderly subjects. They found that ingesting the enriched EAA mixture resolved anabolic resistance in elderly subjects. The mixture of EAAs was 3 times more effective at stimulating muscle protein synthesis in older individuals on a gram-per-gram basis than was whey protein isolate, which is a very high-quality protein by traditional means of assessment.

Another study showed that a specifically formulated EAA supplement decreased loss of muscle mass and strength that occurs with bed rest and recovery from hip replacement. This is especially relevant when it comes to preventing muscle loss associated with aging, as older individuals are more likely to experience extended hospitalization and more likely to suffer adverse consequences from the inactivity imposed by hospital stays.

Yet another study demonstrated that daily supplementation with EAAs improved muscle mass and function in healthy, active elderly women. The authors wanted to determine whether essential amino acid supplementation improves post-absorptive muscle protein fractional synthesis rate, lean body mass, muscle strength, and other physiological processes. The randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial found that ingesting the essential amino acid blend stimulated the muscle protein fractional synthesis rate as well as IGF-1 protein expression. Overall, the authors concluded that EAA supplementation improved lean body mass as well as muscle protein synthesis and that it could be a means of offsetting the “debilitating effects” of age-related sarcopenia.

Muscle loss with aging is one of the inescapable characteristics of growing older. While age-related muscle loss is a normal part of the aging process, we can temper its effect with the nutritional support of essential amino acids (EAAs). It's Never Too Early to Combat Age-Related Muscle Loss There's nothing wrong with embracing the mentality that 40 is the new 20, but don't fool yourself into believing age is nothing more than a number. Growing older does come with certain physiological changes. Yet there's no reason your golden years can't be every bit as vibrant as your youth. And the sooner you acknowledge how the passage of time influences certain biological processes, the better off you'll be. As you grow older, age-related muscle loss, which scientists refer to as sarcopenia or age-related sarcopenia, begins to erode your lean muscle mass. This process likely begins earlier than you think. Once you reach the age of 30, you begin to lose between 3% and 8% of your overall muscle mass each decade. The rate of decline increases once you turn 60. Understanding Anabolic Resistance Muscle loss with aging occurs because as the years wear on, we lose the ability to make new muscle protein from dietary protein. The impaired ability to build new muscle protein is called anabolic resistance. When your body enters an anabolic resistant state, it has trouble getting the motor started. The starter for the motor, in this case, is a factor inside the muscle cells called mTOR. mTOR starts the whole process of protein synthesis. The activation of mTOR begins a cascade of responses that ultimately result in the initiation of protein synthesis. Together these responses are called initiation factors. In aging muscle, the reactivity of mTOR and the other initiation factors are blunted, and this is a basis of anabolic resistance. The Vicious Cycle of Age-Related Sarcopenia This ongoing loss of skeletal muscle mass leaves older adults with less control over their bodies. Age-related changes to your muscle tissue and muscle strength don't just influence your ability to excel during a strength-training workout, they also make you more prone to falls and other types of injuries. Age-related sarcopenia can kick off a vicious cycle: your muscle strength decreases, which limits your ability to carry out physical activity, which causes further muscle loss. Ultimately, this can result in what health care professionals refer to as frailty, a condition that leaves you extra-susceptible to external stressors more hearty individuals would be able to navigate with few to no lasting consequences. Researchers have identified age-related sarcopenia as the primary factor behind the frailty we associate with aging, such as an increased propensity to fall, compounded by a higher likelihood of suffering an injury such as a broken hip due to a fall and the decreased ability to heal in the aftermath of such an injury. The more frail you become, the greater the impact of each stressor. As the adverse effects of minor illnesses and injuries accumulate, individuals find it more and more challenging to live independently. Increased frailty also heightens the risk of early death. [infographic] How Muscle Loss Creates a Downward Spiral As your muscle strength decreases, it becomes more difficult to be physically active. This results in more lost muscle mass and strength, which can culminate in what health care professionals refer to as frailty. Frailty makes you more susceptible to stressors like illness and injury. The more frail you are, the greater the damage done by each subsequent stressor. Ultimately, it becomes more and more difficult for frail individuals to live on their own. Becoming increasingly frail also raises your risk of early death. [/infographic] While that all sounds grim, you have the ability to preserve—and even increase—your muscle mass as you grow older. Physical activity such as resistance exercise inarguably plays a vital role in preserving muscle mass as you age; however, nutrition will have just as strong—if not an even stronger—influence on your ability to preserve and build muscle. Optimizing Your Nutrient Intake to Combat Muscle Loss As you may be aware, when it comes to providing your muscle fibers with the optimized nutrition they need to maintain themselves and grow, protein is the macronutrient to prioritize. When you don't provide your body with enough protein, your body will lose the ability to keep up muscle mass and bone density. Determining your ideal protein intake can be challenging. Studies have shown that many factors affect the quantity of protein your body requires on a daily basis, such as: Age Gender Physical activity habits Muscle mass to fat ratio Keep in mind, too, that your muscle mass to fat ratio differs from your body mass index (BMI). It's entirely possible to be quite thin and still have high levels of fat compared to lean muscle, which increases the likelihood that you'll develop age-related sarcopenia. According to findings published in Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, eating between 25 grams and 30 grams of protein with each meal "maximally stimulates muscle protein synthesis in both young and older adults." The authors noted, however, that when elderly subjects consumed protein and carbohydrates together or ate less than 20 grams of protein per meal, that blunted muscle protein synthesis. Choosing the right protein sources will ensure each gram does the most work. When it comes to selecting protein sources, there's one element you should pay the closest attention to: their amino acid content. If you're aging and seeking to combat muscle wasting, you'll benefit the most from increasing your intake of an amino acid called leucine. Why Leucine Matters So Much Leucine, an essential amino acid (EAA) called a branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) because of its chemical structure, is one of the most important dietary regulators of mTOR activity. If the proportion of leucine in an essential amino acid mixture is increased to an amount that exceeds its normal contribution to the composition of dietary protein, that EAA supplement can then effectively activate mTOR in aging muscle. However, leucine alone is not enough. You may have noticed that I did not recommend taking a leucine supplement, but rather an amino acid supplement formulated to contain a higher concentration of leucine. That's because all nine essential amino acids need to be present in the proper proportion to produce new muscle protein. You can think of leucine as the quarterback of a football team—it may be the pivot point of how the team performs, but without the other players the team is not going to have much success. How the Other 8 Essential Amino Acids Contribute When you consume a large amount of the EAA leucine, you increase the rate at which leucine gets broken down since the body is designed to maintain steady levels of EAAs. And since the enzyme that breaks down leucine is also responsible for metabolizing the other two essential BCAAs, valine and isoleucine, they also get broken down at an increased rate. Consequently, the proportions of valine and isoleucine in an EAA formulation containing abundant leucine must also be increased. Lysine is another EAA with distinct characteristics—it is not transported into muscle as readily as other EAAs are. For this reason, the optimal profile of EAAs to maximally stimulate anabolic-resistant muscle includes proportionately more lysine than is reflected in the composition of muscle protein. So, even though it may seem logical to provide EAAs for a muscle-building supplement in a profile similar to the makeup of muscle, adjustments can be made to boost the signal and improve delivery of amino acids to overcome the anabolic resistance that results in muscle loss. The remaining five EAAs—phenylalanine, threonine, methionine, tryptophan, and histidine—also need to be included in a mixture of EAAs to maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis. In order to include disproportionately high amounts of BCAAs and lysine, however, the proportionate contribution of these additional EAAs must be reduced below what occurs in muscle protein. [infographic] Building an Optimal Essential Amino Acid Blend to Address Age-Related Muscle Loss First and foremost, you'll want high concentrations of leucine, an EAA and BCAA. Leucine activates mTOR in aging muscle, helping to stimulate maintenance and growth. You'll also need all the other EAAs—think of leucine like a quarterback. No matter how skillful that player is, he still needs the rest of his team to win. For the best results, you'll want to increase the proportions of the other two essential BCAAs, valine and isoleucine. You'll also want to up the lysine content. To make room for these adjustments, you'll need to scale back on the amount of phenylalanine, threonine, methionine, tryptophan and histidine you include. [/infographic] The Science Behind How Essential Amino Acids Prevent and Reverse Age-Related Muscle Loss A wealth of research has been conducted on the link between amino acids and age-related declines in protein metabolism, muscle function, muscle growth, and more. The scientists behind one study set out to examine how an amino acid mixture enriched with leucine affected muscle protein metabolism in both young and elderly subjects. They found that ingesting the enriched EAA mixture resolved anabolic resistance in elderly subjects. The mixture of EAAs was 3 times more effective at stimulating muscle protein synthesis in older individuals on a gram-per-gram basis than was whey protein isolate, which is a very high-quality protein by traditional means of assessment. Another study showed that a specifically formulated EAA supplement decreased loss of muscle mass and strength that occurs with bed rest and recovery from hip replacement. This is especially relevant when it comes to preventing muscle loss associated with aging, as older individuals are more likely to experience extended hospitalization and more likely to suffer adverse consequences from the inactivity imposed by hospital stays. Yet another study demonstrated that daily supplementation with EAAs improved muscle mass and function in healthy, active elderly women. The authors wanted to determine whether essential amino acid supplementation improves post-absorptive muscle protein fractional synthesis rate, lean body mass, muscle strength, and other physiological processes. The randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial found that ingesting the essential amino acid blend stimulated the muscle protein fractional synthesis rate as well as IGF-1 protein expression. Overall, the authors concluded that EAA supplementation improved lean body mass as well as muscle protein synthesis and that it could be a means of offsetting the "debilitating effects" of age-related sarcopenia. [infographic] 5 Science-Backed Ways EAAs Offset Age-Related Muscle Loss Researchers have shown that an amino acid blend enriched with leucine resolved anabolic resistance in elderly subjects. An essential amino acid blend proved 3 times more effective at stimulating muscle protein synthesis than whey protein isolate. An EAA supplement reduced losses of muscle mass and strength related to bed rest. Daily supplementation with EAAs can improve muscle mass and function. Studies show that EAAs can improve lean body mass and muscle protein synthesis, making them a possible means of treating age-related sarcopenia. [/infographic] Key Takeaways to Help You Remain Healthy and Vital as You Age Experts from across the globe agree that both the loss of muscle mass and the loss of muscle strength are highly prevalent and important risk factors for disability and potential mortality as individuals age. This makes identifying treatments for age-related muscle loss a key priority when it comes not only to improving average life expectancy for older people, but also reducing health care costs and enhancing overall quality of life. Ensuring an optimal protein intake will form a foundational part of any successful strategy for maintaining muscle mass (and bone density!) as you age. The kind of protein you eat will be just as impactful as the amount. Leucine, an EAA and BCAA found in certain protein sources, makes uniquely significant contributions to the muscle maintenance and growth processes within the human body. Consuming amino acid supplements designed to contain higher concentrations of leucine (as well as certain other helper amino acids) can dramatically influence your body's ability to retain and increase lean muscle mass as you age. The difference between the effectiveness of EAAs and intact protein cannot be made up just by consuming more of the intact protein, because the optimal profile of EAAs will never be achieved with intact protein. If you're interested in learning more about the advantages of essential amino acid supplements compared to dietary protein sources, this article is an excellent place to start. And if you'd like a quick takeaway in a nutshell, here it is: when it comes to amino acids for muscle loss with aging, it’s a matter of quality, not quantity.

Key Takeaways to Help You Remain Healthy and Vital as You Age

Experts from across the globe agree that both the loss of muscle mass and the loss of muscle strength are highly prevalent and important risk factors for disability and potential mortality as individuals age. This makes identifying treatments for age-related muscle loss a key priority when it comes not only to improving average life expectancy for older people, but also reducing health care costs and enhancing overall quality of life.

Ensuring an optimal protein intake will form a foundational part of any successful strategy for maintaining muscle mass (and bone density!) as you age. The kind of protein you eat will be just as impactful as the amount. Leucine, an EAA and BCAA found in certain protein sources, makes uniquely significant contributions to the muscle maintenance and growth processes within the human body.

Consuming amino acid supplements designed to contain higher concentrations of leucine (as well as certain other helper amino acids) can dramatically influence your body’s ability to retain and increase lean muscle mass as you age.

The difference between the effectiveness of EAAs and intact protein cannot be made up just by consuming more of the intact protein, because the optimal profile of EAAs will never be achieved with intact protein. If you’re interested in learning more about the advantages of essential amino acid supplements compared to dietary protein sources, this article is an excellent place to start.

And if you’d like a quick takeaway in a nutshell, here it is: when it comes to amino acids for muscle loss with aging, it’s a matter of quality, not quantity.

Evidence Shows Using Amino Acids for Surgery Recovery Leads to Improved Outcomes

Injury and surgery place a similar type of stress on the body, and essential amino acid therapy can help mitigate this stress and accelerate muscle recovery. An essential amino acid supplement with abundant leucine can slow the net loss of muscle protein.

Surgery can be a life-saving necessity, but it places significant strain on the human body. Developing a proactive plan for navigating the post-surgery healing process can help surgical patients avoid—or at least mitigate the effects of—pitfalls such as protein-energy malnutrition, the loss of lean body mass, and systemic inflammation. High-quality scientific research indicates that essential amino acids can offset the physical stress caused by surgery and accelerate the recovery process. To understand the benefits of amino acids for surgery recovery, you must first have an understanding of the role amino acids play in the body.

Dietary supplements of essential amino acids are the most important aspect of nutritional therapy for recovery from injury or surgery.

It’s no secret that amino acids make vital contributions to your overall health and well-being, particularly when it comes to the growth and repair of muscle tissue.

There are two general types of amino acids: essential amino acids and nonessential amino acids. Both are necessary, but because your body can produce nonessential amino acids, you do not need to monitor your intake in the same way you must do for essential amino acids that must be obtained either from the food you eat or from supplements.

Researchers have found that a subgroup of essential amino acids called branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) increase the body’s ability to  synthesize protein, regulate the rate of muscle tissue breakdown, repair muscle tissue, and transport fuel into muscle cells.

The Toll Surgery Takes on the Body

Think of surgery as a controlled injury. If you are hurt in a car crash, for example, you can go from perfectly healthy to seriously injured in a matter of seconds. The same is often true in the case of surgery.

When going in for elective surgery, you typically feel fine as the anesthesia is administered, but when you wake up, you feel roughly as if a truck ran over you. And even if an underlying pathological condition necessitates surgery, the stress of the surgery itself increases the challenge of rehabilitation.

Although the exact nature of the stress on the body may differ, the body’s response to either the controlled injury of surgery or an uncontrolled injury involves the same fundamental elements. The path to recovery can be nearly identical whether you are healing from an injury or from surgery.

Why People Lose Muscle Mass and Function During Recovery

Whether you are severely injured or recuperating from surgery, one thing’s for sure—you are going to lose muscle mass and function. It’s inevitable. Recovery requires some degree of inactivity, and inactivity means the muscles aren’t maximizing their movement and performance capabilities. This makes a decline in muscle mass and function inescapable. What you can control, however, is the degree of decline. It does not have to be substantial (more on that in a moment).

The detrimental effects of inactivity on muscle mass and function are well established. If you’ve ever had a broken limb put in a cast, you’ve seen the effects firsthand. When it’s time to remove the cast, you’re greeted with the startling withered look of a limb unused. Even if you have been working out the rest of your body, the limb that has remained inactive will show visible signs of decline. An event such as heart surgery that physically limits activity has the same effect as casting a broken limb but on the whole-body level.

The muscle loss triggered by inactivity is amplified by your body’s overall physiological response to injury, which we call the catabolic state. A catabolic state occurs in response to severe injury or illness and is characterized by whole-body protein loss, mainly due to increased breakdown of muscle proteins. The catabolic state can last anywhere from a week to several months.

Anyone who is interested in muscle building for functional or aesthetic reasons knows that failure to consume an adequate supply of nutrients—in particular, protein—slows the body’s rate of muscle protein synthesis, resulting in the loss of a certain amount of muscle. When your body enters the catabolic state, the loss of muscle mass and strength occurs at a much faster rate than it occurs in the absence of key nutrients.

The Physiological Processes Behind Muscle Loss

The simplest way to encapsulate the processes that result in muscle loss is to state that when the rate of muscle protein breakdown exceeds the rate of muscle protein synthesis, we lose muscle mass. Our bodies just can’t make enough new muscle protein to offset the rapid rate of muscle breakdown.

When our bodies enter a catabolic state, the rate of muscle protein breakdown shoots way up. It is not unusual for the rate of protein breakdown to increase by more than threefold!

A large increase in the rate of protein breakdown releases a flood of amino acids into the muscle cells. This increased availability of amino acids stimulates the rate of muscle protein synthesis. Unfortunately, the increased synthesis is not enough to balance the increase in breakdown. The net result is a large increase in the loss of muscle protein.

How Hormones and Inflammation Drive the Catabolic State

The catabolic state following surgery, injury, or illness stems from a variety of underlying factors.

First, a flood of stress hormones, most prominently epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol, activate the sympathetic nervous system. You have likely heard this referred to as the fight-or-flight response.

Next, inflammation kicks in. There are two types of inflammation, and their impact on the body is quite distinct. Local, acute inflammation arises at the site of injury or surgery. This type of inflammation can be quite beneficial in the early phase of wound healing. When local inflammation lingers too long, however, it can begin to inhibit tissue repair.

Systemic inflammation, also called long-term, chronic inflammation, has no identifiable benefits. In fact, this type of inflammation can escalate the catabolic state in the whole body, increasing the severity of associated muscle loss.

To better understand the impact systemic inflammation can have on the body, let’s examine that process in the context of a severe burn injury to the leg. A local response at the site of tissue injury would result in a decline in muscle protein synthesis and a loss of muscle mass and strength to the injured leg. A systemic response, however, disrupts muscle protein metabolism in the unburned leg to nearly the same extent as it does in the leg that sustained the severe burn injury.

Furthermore, the consequences of a catabolic state extend beyond muscle loss. Your appetite decreases, making it more difficult to consume the nutrients required to fuel muscle protein synthesis. Metabolic changes transpire, too, such as reduced sensitivity to the action of the hormone insulin. Insulin resistance may persist for months after other symptoms of the catabolic state have resolved.

Using Amino Acid Therapy to Help Your Body Heal

Loss of muscle mass and strength after injury or surgery delays recovery and an individual’s return to normal activity. In severe cases, or in elderly individuals with little reserve, muscle loss can be a direct contributor to mortality.

In all cases of injury and surgery, the speed and extent of recovery to normal functional capacity is determined in large part by how much muscle has been lost. Injury or surgery causes muscle loss at a rate so fast that consequences can be evident in a matter of days. If you can decrease the amount of muscle you lose, you can accelerate the time it takes you to recover. A balanced essential amino acid supplement can help tremendously with both those goals.

How Essential Amino Acids Decrease Muscle Loss

In order to decrease muscle mass losses during the recovery period, you must counteract the changes to your body’s protein metabolism processes.

After an injury (including the controlled injury of surgery), an alteration in muscle protein metabolism transpires, limiting the normal stimulatory effect of dietary protein on muscle protein synthesis. The lack of responsiveness of muscle protein synthesis to the normal stimulatory effect of dietary protein is called severe anabolic resistance.

The Crucial Role Played by mTOR

Anabolic resistance in the catabolic state occurs because of a molecular factor called mTOR inside the muscle cell. Under normal conditions, mTOR activates muscle protein synthesis, however, anabolic resistance in the catabolic state decreases mTOR activity. In order for muscle protein synthesis to return to optimal levels, mTOR activity must be escalated. Once this occurs, other intracellular molecules involved in initiating protein synthesis respond by escalating their activity levels as well.

So, how do we get mTOR up and running? By supplementing with a complete blend of free essential amino acids formulated with a relatively high proportion of leucine.

Perhaps you’re wondering: why not get leucine from the diet? One of the biggest therapeutic challenges presented by the catabolic state that arises after surgical procedures, injuries, or severe illnesses is reduced appetite. Loss of appetite makes it difficult to take in the dietary protein needed to offset increased muscle protein breakdown and help prevent muscle decline. For many, taking a well-formulated amino acid supplement is a desirable alternative to attempting to eat a sufficient amount of leucine-rich dietary protein.

Then there’s the fact that free leucine activates mTOR more efficiently than leucine contained in intact protein. This is because free leucine does not require digestion and is therefore absorbed more rapidly. Free leucine reaches a higher peak concentration in blood more rapidly than when leucine is consumed as part of an intact dietary protein that must be digested before the constituent amino acids can be absorbed. During the catabolic state, therefore, consuming a mixture of free essential amino acids with abundant leucine slows the net loss of muscle protein more effectively than either intact protein in a meal or meal replacement beverages do.

Once mTOR is activated by leucine, an increased availability of a full balance of all the essential amino acids is necessary to stimulate protein synthesis. Single amino acid therapy with leucine, or a combination of the three BCAAs, just won’t do it. Thus, although leucine is the key to overcoming anabolic resistance, consumption of leucine alone is not sufficient to stimulate muscle protein synthesis.

Dietary supplements of essential amino acids are the most important aspect of nutritional therapy for recovery from injury or surgery.

In addition to providing precursors for making new muscle protein, if enough essential amino acids are consumed, concentrations will rise high enough to inhibit muscle protein breakdown and stimulate protein synthesis.

In this way, essential amino acid nutritional therapy during the recovery period following surgery can help you return to full function by protecting against muscle loss. Taking an essential amino acid supplement can:

  • Activate mTOR
  • Provide amino acid precursors needed to make new muscle
  • Inhibit the breakdown of muscle
  • Improve the net balance between muscle protein synthesis and breakdown

A stimulation of muscle protein synthesis and inhibition of muscle protein breakdown is the metabolic basis for restoring muscle mass and strength.

Key Scientific Evidence on Using Amino Acids for Surgery Recovery

Much of the work done on how best to preserve lean body mass in the wake of major surgery has been focused on protein breakdown and amino acid oxidation. The manipulation of hormones involved in the development of the catabolic state, as well as the stimulation of insulin and insulin-growth factors, has also been a major priority.

Decreasing the release of so-called catabolic hormones as well as insulin resistance in post-surgery patients has been shown to both lower rates of whole body protein breakdown as well as to minimize decreases to muscle protein synthesis. A key element of this, researchers have found, is providing the correct balance of nutrients.

According to findings published in Anesthesiology, delivering an infusion of amino acids to patients can actually reverse the catabolic state. Previous studies demonstrated that amino acid infusions can decrease whole body protein breakdown and increase protein synthesis, resulting in a positive protein balance.

A research team led by scientists from the Department of Anesthesia at the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal enrolled patients scheduled to undergo colon resection, a surgical procedure that involves a hospital stay. On the second postoperative day, all patients received a solution of 10% amino acids. Levels of whole body leucine and glucose were measured, and blood samples were taken to analyze levels of hormones including cortisol, glucagon, and insulin.

The scientists found that the infusion of amino acids resulted in a positive protein balance as well as other beneficial metabolic effects. Their findings showed that the amino acids suppressed protein breakdown by over 25%, and that 12-16% of amino acids made available from proteolysis were redirected toward protein synthesis. “The infusion of amino acids in the current study caused an average increase in protein balance of 36.7 μmol · kg−1· h−1,” the authors wrote. They concluded that even the short-term use of amino acids after surgery can inhibit protein breakdown while stimulating protein synthesis.

A separate study carried out by a team based in Oregon and published in the June 28, 2018 issue of the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery focused specifically on how amino acids impact post-surgical muscle volume loss.

The double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial enrolled adult patients undergoing total knee arthroplasty (TKA), also known as total knee replacement surgery. The authors’ goal was to determine whether supplementing with amino acids during the perioperative period—which includes time spent in the hospital prior to as well as after surgery—can mitigate muscle atrophy.

Study participants ingested either 20 grams of essential amino acids (EAAs) or a placebo twice daily for 7 days prior to their procedures and for 6 weeks following them. Magnetic resonance imaging was used to measure quadricep and hamstring muscle volume at the time of enrollment and at the study’s conclusion. Data on functional mobility and strength came from patient-reported outcomes.

Compared with the placebo group, participants who took EAAs experienced significantly smaller losses of mean quadriceps muscle volume in the leg on which the operation was performed as well as their other leg. A greater muscle-volume-sparing effect was seen for the hamstrings of individuals who took EAAs than for those in the control group as well. The authors concluded that EAA supplementation is a safe way to reduce the loss of muscle volume for patients undergoing TKA.

Strategies for Preserving Muscle Strength and Function During Recovery

Even if you’re able to use amino acids to alleviate or avoid the the short-term catabolic state that follows physical trauma, your body will enter a depleted state marked by significant muscle loss. This will be evident in overall body weight loss—how many times have you heard that the only good thing about someone’s injury or surgery was that they lost weight?

As recovery continues, the lost weight will be gradually regained. However, without diligent adherence to an exercise and nutrition program, the lost muscle weight will be regained as fat. To return to your daily activities in the best possible health, it is crucial to replace the lost weight with new muscle, not fat. In this article, I go deeper into how amino acids can fuel good weight after a serious illness, injury, or surgery.

For our purposes here, I’ll provide an overview of best practices related to exercise and nutritional strategies to rebuild muscle during recovery.

Be Sure to Prioritize Exercise

At the outset of recovery, your capacity for exercise will be limited. Even so, it is essential to engage in both aerobic and resistance exercise as soon as possible.

Depending on the specifics of your situation, it may be advisable—or even mandatory—for you to engage in a structured physical therapy program. Whether or not that is the case, at some point in your functional recovery process, it will be vital to devise your own approach to reintroducing physical activity.

Aerobic exercise can take any form—walking, elliptical, cycling, swimming, and so on—as long as the option you choose elevates your heart rate to 120 beats per minute or above. As you regain your fitness, your speed and the amount of distance you cover will increase.

Some moderate stretching may also be needed to regain range of motion. As strength returns, work up to the recommended guideline of 150 minutes a week of aerobic exercise. However, because most of your cardio output recovery will be walking as opposed to more strenuous aerobic activity, it’s advisable to increase to 5 hours per week of aerobic exercise in addition to resistance sessions.

Resistance exercise is the most important type of exercise for rebuilding muscle. Machines are optimal for resistance workouts, particularly at the outset. The loss of muscle function in the catabolic state impairs coordination, and the possibility of injury is greater with free weights. Machines provide specificity in terms of the muscles involved in any exercise, and this may be of particular importance when addressing specific areas affected by injury or surgery.

The weight lifted should be progressively increased as strength returns. Most individuals will find that they regain lost strength in a shorter period of time than that required to originally gain that strength. The amount of resistance used should be adjusted accordingly. A general guideline is to increase the resistance by 10% per week, but progress may be more rapid in the first few weeks of recovery.

Make a Post-Surgery Nutrition Plan

Nutrition plays a crucial role in recovery. Eating a balanced diet featuring ample high-quality protein is essential. However, that alone will not ensure you regain more muscle than fat.

The single most important aspect of nutritional therapy during the recovery period will be essential amino acid supplementation.

Essential amino acids are the active components of dietary proteins. Balanced essential amino acid supplements stimulate muscle protein synthesis to a greater extent than any naturally occurring protein food source.

Essential amino acid supplements work synergistically with exercise to provide a greater stimulus than either produces on its own. To maximize the beneficial effects of each element, you should take essential amino acids 30 minutes before an exercise session as well as immediately following the session.

When consuming essential amino acids without accompanying physical activity, the greatest effect will be when taken between meals. That said, there is no wrong time to take an essential amino acid supplement. If you miss the optimal dosing window, simply take your EAA supplement at your earliest opportunity.

For more information on a balanced amino acid supplement created for recovery after injury or surgery, check out our Amino Company blends.

Back to the Basics: An Overview Of Amino Acids

Amino acids are the foundation of life. Here is an overview of basic information about amino acids and how and why they are perfectly suited for, and in fact “essential” to, the dietary goals of people committed to health and their own well-being.

Amino acids are the foundation of life. They are involved in everything from muscle growth and the maintenance of connective tissues to making the chemicals necessary for our brain and vital organs to function. Beyond serving as the building blocks for all-important proteins, amino acids are in and of themselves important signaling factors and intermediaries in many metabolic pathways.

The average human body is 60-70% water while protein constitutes two-thirds of the non-water component of the body. We can all appreciate how important it is to drink plenty of fluids in order to balance the water lost through sweat, urine, and respiration. But we also lose protein on a daily basis as muscles and tissues degrade and amino acids are oxidized. Just as it’s important to rehydrate with water, a significant dietary input of amino acids is required to maintain this body pool at an optimal level. These requirements are even greater under conditions that affect our overall diet quality and subject us to a variety of physiological stresses.

Here is an overview of basic information about amino acids and how and why they are perfectly suited for, and in fact essential to, the dietary goals of people committed to health and their own well-being.

What Are Amino Acids?

Amino acids (20 in total for biological purposes) are important organic compounds that exist in all protein-containing food sources. They are the building blocks of proteins.

In chemical terms, an amino acid is an organic compound containing amine (-NH2) and carboxylic acid (-COOH) functional groups. In addition, each amino acid contains a unique side chain (R group) that features an element or chemical structure that imparts a specific characteristic or function to that amino acid.

Basic information on how Amino Acids is essential to your health.

While at least 500 naturally occurring amino acids have been identified, in this article we will concern ourselves only with those that are referred to as “proteinogenic,” which means they are used in the making of all biological proteins. You may already be familiar with some of these amino acids since an increasing number are available as nutritional supplements (for example, the ever-popular branched-chain amino acids).

Currently, there is a great deal of interest in identifying functional benefits of different amino acids beyond their role as constituents of muscle protein. As we discuss each amino acid, keep in mind that these functions occur in an environment in which all amino acids are present and maintained in a specific balance and physiological concentration.

Eleven of the standard amino acids found in the human genetic code are considered dispensable or nonessential, meaning the body has the ability to make or synthesize these amino acids, and so it is not necessary to get them from the diet.

Nine amino acids must be obtained from food sources or supplements since humans do not have the ability to make them, and these are deemed indispensable or essential. There is a recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for the essential amino acids, while there is no required dietary intake defined for the nonessentials.

There are also some conditionally essential amino acids. In healthy people, these amino acids can be synthesized, but in certain disease states, some amino acids must be obtained from diet since the amount produced by the body is inadequate to meet demands. This occurs, for instance, when the liver functions less than optimally. Liver damage impairs the conversion of some essential amino acids to nonessential amino acids, and these nonessentials then become classified as conditionally essential amino acids. Overall good nutrition is important as well, since sub-optimal vitamin and mineral status can interfere with the synthesis of nonessential amino acids by impairing enzymes or other cofactors involved in the reaction.

Essential vs. Nonessential Amino Acids

The essential amino acids include:

  1. Histidine
  2. Isoleucine
  3. Leucine
  4. Lysine
  5. Methionine
  6. Phenylalanine
  7. Threonine
  8. Tryptophan
  9. Valine

Histidine was thought to be nonessential for adults since it appeared that only infants could not synthesize it, but more extensive studies suggest that adults, too, rely upon dietary sources of this amino acid.

The nonessential amino acids include:

  1. Alanine
  2. Arginine
  3. Asparagine
  4. Aspartic Acid
  5. Cysteine
  6. Glutamic Acid
  7. Glutamine
  8. Glycine
  9. Proline
  10. Serine
  11. Tyrosine

While in theory, we could function perfectly well without any dietary intake of nonessential amino acids, we are actually much more metabolically efficient if we have some percentage of these common amino acids supplied by the diet. In the absence of a dietary source, the body has to divert energy and resources to making the particular amino acid that is in short supply. Depending upon the circumstances and the desired outcome, this may or may not be a good thing.

For example, with an illness or a catabolic disease, having an abundance of all amino acids facilitates immune system function by ensuring all the amino acid components are available and energy does not need to be devoted to synthesizing nonessential amino acids.

On the other hand, efforts to lose weight for health can be helped along by the added calorie cost of processing protein and making nonessential amino acids. Bodybuilders who eat very high-protein diets or individuals who need to reduce urea production (for example dialysis patients or people with kidney impairments), can benefit from supplementing with essential amino acids, which effectively reduces the breakdown of nonessential amino acids (and the consequent release of nitrogen). On average, a high-quality dietary protein contains a ratio of essential to nonessential amino acids of approximately 55:45 which is similar to the makeup of human muscle.

Amino Acids in Balance: The Whole Is Greater Than the Sum of the Parts

Every amino acid can serve as a structural component of protein, skeletal muscle being the main reservoir in the human body. Individual amino acids have unique functions, such as L-arginine’s role in the production of nitric oxide, L-leucine’s ability to initiate the process of protein synthesis, or L-lysine’s beneficial effect on blood sugar regulation. However, it is an oversimplification to expect a specific outcome in response to taking a single amino acid supplement.

When a specific action is attributed to an amino acid, it is in the context of all the chemical reactions occurring throughout the human body, which involve all the amino acids working together. For example, it seems reasonable to consume arginine to stimulate nitric oxide production since that is what arginine does in the body. Yet arginine supplements do not cause a large increase in arginine concentrations in the blood and tissues because much of the orally ingested arginine is taken up and metabolized in the liver. It is more effective to take a citrulline supplement which is converted to arginine in the kidneys, thus making arginine available to circulate to endothelial cells and other tissues.

Just like the way in which many vitamins function, taking more of a single amino acid does not necessarily create more of an effect, and often it is only with a deficiency of the nutrient that a problem arises. Isolated amino acid deficiencies are very rare and usually attributable to metabolic defects.

Amino acids function as a team in a physiological system with many other compounds and factors that affect how it operates. To keep amino acids in balance, eat a varied protein- and antioxidant-rich diet and take a well-formulated essential amino acid supplement as needed.

Basic information on how Amino Acids is essential to your health.

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

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

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

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

The Benefits of Essential Amino Acid Drinks

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

The Role of Amino Acids in the Human Body

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

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

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

Understanding the Link Between Taste and Smell

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

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

How Does This Relate to Essential Amino Acid Drinks?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Chill It Out

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

2.  Blend It Up

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

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

3. Pour in Some Sweetness

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

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

4. Make It Mouth-Puckering

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

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

5. Tweak the Ratios

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

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

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

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

 

A Science-Based What the Health Review: Fact-Checking 7 Major Claims Made by the Documentary

The headline-grabbing documentary What the Health makes a strong case that going vegan will improve your health on just about every level. If you cut all animal products out of your diet—meaning no more meat, poultry, dairy, or fish—you’ll also decrease your risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and other chronic health conditions. Those who have read a What the Health review prior to this one may have noticed that many experts aren’t convinced that the science used to make that case holds up under scrutiny.

Directed by Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn, What the Health aims to make clear how our diets affect our health so that viewers can make informed, healthy food choices. It’s a commendable goal, but Andersen and Kuhn cherry-pick data to back their claims that a plant-based diet is always the best choice for everyone. They dramatize findings about the connections between specific foods and disease, and rely on expert opinions from health professionals known to be vehement backers of veganism. Plus, they use misleading tactics to suggest organizations like the American Diabetes Association are intentionally attempting to obscure the truth about how animal products affect human health.

Like many other food documentaries and guide books, What the Health falls into the trap of highlighting only the nutritional research that validates a plant-based diet, and overlooking how diverse human bodies can have very different nutritional needs. In this What the Health documentary review, we’ll give you the full story behind seven of the most significant claims made in the documentary.

Test your knowledge on What the Health with these facts.

Claim #1: Excess Sugar Doesn’t Cause Diabetes

When fact-checking What the Health, one of the first claims to tackle comes early in the film: dietary sugar doesn’t cause diabetes. Experts including Dr. Neal Barnard, who founded the Physicians Committee for Responsibility, a nonprofit that advocates a vegan diet, put forward the idea that primary dietary causes of type 2 diabetes are not carbs and sugar, but rather, animal products.

“Diabetes is not and was never caused by eating a high-carbohydrate diet and it’s not caused by eating sugar. The cause of diabetes is a diet that builds up the amount of fat in the blood,” Dr. Barnard said in the film. “I’m talking about a typical meat-based, animal-based diet,” he continued. “You can look into the muscle cells of the human body and you find they’re building up tiny particles of fat that’s building insulin resistance. What that means is the sugar that is naturally from the foods that you’re eating can’t get into the cells where it belongs. It builds up in the blood.”

To support this claim, the film cites a Harvard study that found one serving a day of processed meats raised a person’s risk of diabetes by 51%, which does sound dire but hardly captures the full truth. First of all, the 51% refers to relative risk, not absolute risk. So if your absolute risk of developing diabetes was, say, 4 in 1,000, then eating a serving of processed meats would raise it to about 6 in 1,000. The change to absolute risk just isn’t that big.

And according to a systematic review, the impact of processed meats on your diabetes risk may be even smaller. The authors found that daily consumption of processed meat only led to a 19% increase, and again, that’s to relative not absolute risk. Data from the National Health Interview Survey puts the lifetime risk of developing diabetes at 32% for the average American man and 38% for the average women. If you ate bacon (or prosciutto, or pepperoni, or…) each and every day, you’d raise your absolute risk by a minimal 6 or 7 percentage points. Now, we aren’t advocating the consumption of processed meats by any means, as premium sourced meat products from pasture-raised animals are always preferable, but we also want to dispel claims that have been blown out of proportion to actual truth.

But what about sugar and carbohydrates? Does Barnard have a point that they’re not as strongly linked to diabetes as we’ve been told? Probably not. A literature review published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that sugar, and specifically added sugars, are the “principal driver” behind type 2 diabetes.

The research showing that excess consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates undermines your health is quite compelling. For example, researchers from the Department of Preventive Medicine at the University of Southern California conducted a global investigation of what drives the progression of type 2 diabetes, and found that the prevalence of the disease is 20% higher in countries where high-fructose corn syrup, a highly concentrated, highly processed kind of sugar, is readily available.

It seems quite clear that high sugar and carbohydrate consumption can, in fact, make you more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. It also seems clear that not only meat—specifically, processed meat—has a much more minimal effect, but also that dietary fats, from animal products or otherwise, can actually decrease your diabetes risk. The Swedish government has gone so far as to recognize a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet as being an effective health intervention for people with type 2 diabetes as well as those looking to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. A low-carbohydrate diet is, by necessity, low in sugar too.

Given the documentary’s harsh take on food industry lobbyists (which we’ll get into more later), it’s notable that it fails to mention how the sugar industry has poured money into research meant to obscure their product’s link to adverse health outcomes. This tactic has been quite effective, even influencing governmental recommendations.

Claim #2: Eggs Can Be as Harmful as Cigarettes

One of the other claims made by What the Health that grabbed the attention of all who came across it is that eating a single egg a day hurts your health as much as smoking five cigarettes a day. The evidence behind that statement just doesn’t add up. The logic used to equate eating eggs with one of the most provable dangerous behaviors out there stems from an outdated view of how cholesterol impacts human health.

It’s true that health professionals used to believe eating more cholesterol could raise your blood cholesterol levels and risk of heart disease, an idea that received widespread media coverage. But scientists now know that high-cholesterol foods, like eggs, don’t necessarily lead to artery plaque buildup. Research shows that the link between the kind of cholesterol you eat and the kind in your blood is nowhere near as definitive as was once believed.

In fact, a national nutrition committee declassified cholesterol as a “nutrient of concern,” meaning there’s no need to worry about overconsumption.

Andy Bellatti, a dietician who has followed a vegan diet for six years, absolutely believes in the health benefits of plant-based food. And yes, he said an an interview: “The idea that if you’re going to eat an egg, you might as well smoke a Marlboro, I don’t find accurate.” And for good reason. Two out of every three long-term smokers die because of the cigarettes they consume. Egg eaters just don’t meet that same fate.

Claim #3: Processed Meats Can Be as Dangerous as Asbestos

The claim that eating processed meats, like bacon, can increase your risk of cancer as significantly as asbestos can comes from a massive distortion of a 2015 World Health Organization (WHO) review.

Andersen states that WHO considers processed meats to be as dangerous as asbestos, plutonium, and cigarettes. He also claims that eating a single daily serving of processed meat raises your risk of developing colon cancer by 18%. Let’s break those down.

First, it’s true that the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a World Health Organization group, classified processed meat as a Group 1 carcinogen. It’s also true that IARC classifies cigarettes, asbestos, and plutonium as Group 1 carcinogens. What’s completely untrue is that the classification has to do with how dangerous those substances are. The information page makes it unmistakably clear that the Group 1 classification for processed meat reflects the strength of the evidence showing it can raise your risk of cancer, and not that it’s as dangerous as the other substances with the same classification. Based on existing research, they feel there’s compelling evidence that processed meat can increase your risk of a specific kind of cancer. It definitely doesn’t mean eating processed meat can be as harmful as being exposed to asbestos or smoking cigarettes.

In an explanation of their findings, the IARC actually spelled this point out: “Processed meat has been classified in the same category as causes of cancer such as tobacco smoking and asbestos, but this does not mean that they are all equally dangerous.” WHO puts the annual number of cancer deaths due to diets high in processed meat at around 34,000 globally. The number due to tobacco smoking? One million.

When Andersen asks, “If processed meats are labeled the same as cigarettes, how is it even legal for kids to be eating this way?” he either didn’t understand the reasoning behind the IARC classification, or he was indulging in scare tactics to further his agenda.

Second, Andersen puts the increased colon cancer risk associated with eating processed meat at 18%. It’s worth noting the data he uses to get that number comes from epidemiologic studies, which can only show correlation and not causation. There are many factors that can influence your actual risk of developing cancer, and it’s possible that lifestyle factors like smoking, higher overall salt consumption, and even genetics might correspond with eating more processed meats.

And, as with the claim made in What the Health about processed meat and diabetes, the percentage refers to an increase in relative, not absolute, risk. According to the American Cancer Society, your lifetime risk of developing colon cancer is approximately 5%. Eating processed meat every day raises that risk by 1 percentage point—18% of your 5% lifetime risk—to give you a 6% lifetime risk. So, even if you eat a full serving of processed meat daily, you’re only increasing your risk of developing one type of cancer by a single percentage point.

Claim #4: Milk Can Increase Your Risk of Cancer

What the Health features studies linking milk consumption and an increased risk of cancer. While there are studies out there that suggest a link between milk and cancer, there’s just as much evidence contradicting that.

A systematic review of the highest quality findings on the topic to date concluded that there’s no consistent link between drinking milk and an elevated risk of cancer. Furthermore, research from the Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Health found that women who ate more dairy had a lowered risk of cancer.

The documentary also conveniently excludes high-quality data on the health benefits of dairy products, especially in connection to cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in Western countries.

Claim #5: Protein Deficiency Isn’t a Real Problem

One of the physicians interviewed for What the Health observes that they have “never seen a patient with a protein deficiency.” What they neglect to specify is that they’re referring to an acute protein deficiency, such as kwashiorkor. This detracts from the very real fact that it’s highly possible to eat too little protein for optimal health.

As you get older, your protein needs may increase. And if you choose to adhere to a plant-based diet, you will almost certainly need to eat more protein than meat-eaters do in order to meet your body’s amino acid needs.

There are 20 amino acids total, 11 of which we can synthesize as long as we get sufficient nitrogen in our diets, and 9 of which we can’t. Those nine are called essential amino acids and we have to get them from food. Plant-based proteins do contain all nine essential amino acids, but they’re often low in one or two, whereas animal proteins more closely match the human body’s amino acid needs.

The same doctor who claimed protein deficiencies aren’t something to worry about went on to say you can meet your body’s amino acid needs with 2000 calories of rice. Aside from being a very boring and very imbalanced way to do that, you’d also come up short for your requirement for an amino acid called lysine. Ginny Messina, a dietician who runs a website called The Vegan RD, described this statement as “a distraction and an irresponsible one….This kind of casual disregard for real issues in nutrition can set vegans up to fail.”

If you’re worried your typical diet may not be providing your body with properly balanced amino acid ratios, you may want to consider amino acid supplements. These supplements typically come either in beverage or capsule form and can help you fill any amino acid gaps you might have in your diet. Because supplements contain only active amino acids, your body can rapidly absorb them and put them to use right away.

You’ll want to be discerning about the supplement you choose, however. Some of the most widely touted kinds, like branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) supplements, don’t contain all nine essential amino acids. To avoid deficiencies that can interfere with the production of neurotransmitters, blood flow regulation, immune function, and more, be sure the amino acid supplement you pick is formulated to include scientifically optimized ratios of all the essential amino acids.

Claim #6: Meat and Dairy Lobbyists Influence Dietary Recommendations

If you’ve begun to suspect that none of the claims presented in What the Health hold up, get ready for a plot twist. Andersen points out that there are verifiable financial relationships between giant food industry corporations and public health groups. For instance, Kraft, Dannon, and Oscar Meyer, to name a few, sponsor the American Diabetes Association. Given that these companies also sell products high in fat, sodium, and/or sugar, they have a clear financial stake in any diet recommendations the American Diabetes Association might make. Given these conflicting interests, it’s hardly surprising, then, that these mainstream public health groups seem to focus more on the treatment, not the prevention, of disease.

And a broad coalition of health experts feel that food industry lobbying, including efforts by meat and dairy lobbyists, influence nutrition guidelines. In the same interview cited previously, dietician Bellati said, “It’s important for Americans to know that many health organizations receive funding from companies and trade groups that are not in line with health,” Bellatti says, “and how that affects recommendations.” For instance, the long-standing recommendations to fill up on grains, which we now know should be consumed in moderation.

Claim #7: Factory Farming Hurts Human Health and the Environment

What the Health also makes a number of valid points about the harmful impact of factory farming, and not only on the animals. The film focuses on North Carolina pork production, revealing how factory farming adversely impacts the communities, primarily low-income and populated by people of color, that surround these concentrated animal feeding operations, as the farms are known.

One of the issues these hog farms must deal with is disposing of the massive quantities of waste generated by the pigs they raise and slaughter. Unfortunately, the way they solve it—spraying raw feces onto fields—causes ongoing health problems for nearby residents.

Here are some scary stats on what's going on in North Carolina's pork industry.

The film also touches on a nationwide problem faced by all large-scale animal feeding operations, and which now affects us all: increased antibiotic resistance. Researchers have found that farm animals are now showing resistance to carbapenem, an antibiotic of last resort used to treat severe infections.

If serious changes on a large scale aren’t implemented soon, the impact of factory farming on human health and the environment will only grow starker.

What the Health Review: Takeaway Points

Of the seven major claims we looked at, five were either overhyped or flat-out falsified, and two hit on genuine areas of concern.

Claim #1: Excess sugar doesn’t cause diabetes.
Verdict: False.

High-quality evidence shows sugar intake is strongly linked to type 2 diabetes. While Dr. Barnard suggested animal products can lead to a buildup of fat in the blood, which then results in diabetes, research actually shows high-fat, low-carbohydrate diets lower your risk of type 2 diabetes.

Claim #2: Eggs can be as harmful as cigarettes.
Verdict: False.

High-quality evidence shows sugar intake is strongly linked to type 2 diabetes. While Dr. Barnard suggested animal products can lead to a buildup of fat in the blood, which then results in diabetes, research actually shows high-fat, low-carbohydrate diets lower your risk of type 2 diabetes.

Claim #3: Processed meats can be as dangerous as asbestos.
Verdict: False.

Studies have linked processed meats to an increased risk of colon cancer, and the strength of those findings did lead the World Health Organization to classify them as a Group 1 Carcinogen, a designation asbestos has also received. What the Health uses this to suggest the two are equally dangerous, but what the classification actually indicates is that the evidence about their respective—and very different—levels of danger is equivalent. If you eat a full serving of processed meat daily, you’ll only be increasing your risk of developing one type of cancer (colon cancer) by a single percentage point.

Claim #4: Milk can increase your risk of cancer.
Verdict: False.

Research on the connection between milk and cancer has been inconclusive so far. There’s at least as much evidence to suggest it has a neutral to beneficial effect as there is to suggest it has a harmful one.

Claim #5: Protein deficiency isn’t a real problem.
Verdict: False

It’s entirely possible to get a less-than-optimal amount of protein from your diet, especially if you’re older or adhering to a plant-based diet. It’s also important to consider the percentages of amino acids found in the proteins you eat. Supplements can help ensure you’re getting an optimized ratio of the nine essential amino acids.

Claim #6: Meat and dairy lobbyists influence dietary recommendations.
Verdict: True

This is a long-standing and very real problem. A wide variety of health experts have expressed frustration with the impact lobbying has on dietary recommendations made by mainstream public health organizations and by the government.

Claim #7: Factory farming hurts human health and the environment.
Verdict: True.

If you eat meat and dairy, it’s best to avoid factory-farmed products. Not only are they less nutritious than free-range, grass-fed animal products, but factory farming methods also contribute to widespread antibiotic resistance and serious health problems in communities near the farming operations.

15 Science-Backed Strategies You Can Use to Lose Fat

Even if you have the best intentions and fully commit yourself to your fat-loss goal, it can be quite challenging to achieve meaningful results. In this article, we cut through the noise and share 15 strategies to lose fat. And they’ve all been validated by reliable research.

Despite what major companies shilling vacuum-packed meal plans and diet shakes would have you believe, your weight is not inextricably linked to your health. But in some instances, it can be important to lose fat, especially visceral fat, which studies show can seriously undermine your health. Even if you have the best intentions and fully commit yourself to your fat-loss goal, it can be quite challenging to achieve meaningful results, in part because of the masses of contradictory information on the best tactics to use to achieve that goal.

In this article, we cut through the noise and share 15 strategies for losing weight that have been validated by reliable research.

Why Fat Loss Matters More Than Weight Loss

Many health organizations uphold the inaccurate link between weight and health by using BMI (body mass index) as a predictor for health conditions such as metabolic syndrome. The truth is, it’s entirely possible for someone at a higher weight to be in better health than someone at a lower weight. What’s far more relevant is the amount of visceral fat you carry.

This type of fat has been identified as a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, certain kinds of cancer, and other adverse health outcomes, as discussed in this article published in Obesity, a research journal. Even if you have a BMI in what doctors term the normal range (between 18.5 and 25) and you appear slender, you may still have excess visceral fat that puts you at an increased risk for developing a multitude of diseases.

Individuals with BMIs in the normal range and excess visceral fat have an even more elevated total risk of mortality than do individuals whose BMI falls in the overweight to obese ranges, according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, an influential academic medical journal published by the American College of Physicians.

Using data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III), the study authors examined the relationship between both BMI and visceral fat and total and cardiovascular mortality risk for 15,184 adults (52.3% women) between 18 and 90 years of age. They determined that individuals with BMIs in the normal range and excess visceral fat had the worst long-term survival. “For example, a man with a normal BMI (22 kg/m2) and central obesity had greater total mortality risk than one with similar BMI but no central obesity (hazard ratio [HR], 1.87 [95% CI, 1.53 to 2.29]),” the authors wrote, “and this man had twice the mortality risk of participants who were overweight or obese according to BMI only (HR, 2.24 [CI, 1.52 to 3.32] and 2.42 [CI, 1.30 to 4.53], respectively).” The same pattern held true for female participants, with slightly different numbers.

While it can be difficult to lose fat, it can also lead to significant improvements to your overall health. Read on to explore 15 scientifically validated ways to encourage fat loss, including the vital importance of the mind-body connection.

Use These 15 Proven Strategies to Lose Fat

First, the bad news. No single weight-loss strategy can be deemed universally applicable. Factors like your physiology and lifestyle will influence your success with using various approaches to decrease your body fat percentage. You’re likely to see the best results when you combine multiple approaches to create a healthy way of living that works for you.

15 Science-Backed Ways to Lose Fat

1. Engage in Resistance Training

While strenuous cardiovascular exercise has historically been lauded as the gold standard for melting away excess fat, new data indicates that resistance training can be even more effective.

Resistance training, simply defined, is any type of exercise that necessitates the contraction of your muscles against resistance. Strength training, a popular form of resistance training, typically involves building strength by lifting increasingly heavy weights over time. Researchers have found that increasing your muscle mass can be a powerful factor in the fat-loss equation.

Findings published in the International Journal of Cardiology indicate that resistance training induces even greater visceral fat loss than endurance-heavy cardiovascular workouts do. The randomized trial showed that, when paired with what the authors termed “sound nutritional conditions,” high-resistance-moderate-endurance exercise produced more significant visceral fat loss than either moderate-resistance-high-endurance exercise or moderate-resistance-moderate-endurance exercise.

Another study published in Current Sports Medicine Reports demonstrated that 10 weeks of resistance training increased participants’ lean muscle mass by 1.4 kilograms and their resting metabolic rate by 7% while reducing their body fat by 1.8 kilograms. The benefits associated with resistance exercise become even more relevant with age, according to study author Dr. Wayne Westcott, as adults can lose between 3% and 8% of their muscle mass as they age, which results in a slower metabolism and fat accumulation. Westcott believes resistance training can also assist with the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, arthritis, and low back pain.

Furthermore, it appears that resistance training can be especially effective for belly fat loss. It’s common for stubborn deposits of visceral fat to form on the abdomen, and many conventional weight-loss methods are ineffective when it comes to targeting this type of fat. A study done by a research team from the Department of Medicine at the University of Verona and Azienda Ospedaliera Universitaria Integrata of Verona in Verona, Italy found that resistance training produced significant benefits for visceral fat loss as well as superficial (SSAT) and deep (DSAT) subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue.

While lifting weights or using weight machines in a gym setting are the forms of resistance training many of us think of first, it’s possible to use bodyweight exercises to obtain the same health benefits. If you want to lift weights but have no prior experience, it’s best to work with a certified professional to ensure you learn the proper form and don’t overtax untrained muscles.

2. Raise Your Heart Rate with Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic or cardiovascular exercise, often referred to simply as cardio, refers to any type of physical activity designed to elevate your heart rate and expand your lung capacity.

Though cardio does not produce the increases to muscle mass that result in a higher overall rate of fat loss, it still confers crucial benefits.

Studies have yielded mixed verdicts on whether moderate- or high-intensity cardio is more effective for stimulating fat loss. And it appears that the frequency and duration of your cardio sessions is more impactful than their intensity.

A systematic review of clinical trials published in the International Journal of Obesity identified a clear dose-response relationship between aerobic exercise and visceral fat reduction, meaning that the more aerobic exercise someone does, the more dramatic their fat loss will be.

According to a 2015 study done by a Canadian research team, higher-volume aerobic exercise is a more reliable means of reducing total fat and other adiposity measures than lower-volume cardio programs. The 12-month, two-armed, two-center randomized dose-comparison trial enrolled 400 participants (all postmenopausal women) who were healthy, previously inactive nonsmokers with BMIs between 22 and 40. Half the participants carried out 30-minute aerobic exercise sessions 5 days weekly while the other half carried out 60-minute sessions. Three of the weekly sessions took place under supervision while the remaining two were unsupervised.

Participants achieved 65% to 75% of their heart rate reserve for at least half the duration of each session. The study authors asked participants not to change their diets. The efficacy of each exercise program was determined using measurements of total body fat taken with dual energy x-ray absorptiometry scans as well as measurements of subcutaneous and intra-abdominal fat from computed tomography scans and other measures of body composition. Participants in the high-volume exercise group obtained more substantial reductions for total fat as well as subcutaneous abdominal fat.

Based on the findings of the study cited above as well as general expert consensus, the minimum threshold you should strive for would be 150 minutes of aerobic exercise weekly, with the best results occurring in the 300 minutes weekly and above range.

Running is perhaps the most obvious example of cardio, but jogging and brisk walking also count, as do cycling, swimming, and games like tennis and basketball.

3. Try High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

High-intensity interval training, commonly abbreviated as HIIT, describes exercise programs that intersperse short bursts of intense exertion with recovery periods. This approach can actually keep your heart rate elevated more consistently than traditional cardio workouts can.

Research into the benefits of HIIT has shown it to be highly effective at both burning fat and stimulating weight loss.

A team of Australian researchers looked into the impact of HIIT on total body fat mass as well as visceral fat mass. At the end of the study, participants in the exercise group had lost more weight than those in the control group (1.5 kilograms) and also reduced the amount of fat more substantially (2 kilograms). They also achieved a significant reduction to visceral fat—17% in just 12 weeks.

One reason for the impressive results produced by HIIT may be that it prompts the body to burn more calories than if you engaged in other forms of exercise for the same amount of time.

Findings published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed that HITT led to a 30% greater caloric burn than aerobic or resistance exercise. The authors compared the caloric expenditures of 30-minute single sessions of resistance, aerobic, and HIIT of the same duration. HIIT proved to be conclusively able to stimulate the greatest caloric expenditure. “These data suggest that individuals can burn more calories performing an HIIT session,” the authors wrote, “than spending the same amount of time performing a steady-state exercise session.”

A major benefit to HIIT is the flexibility of this training approach. For instance, you can simply alternate between walking and jogging (or jogging and sprinting if you’re more fit) or cycle between bodyweight exercises like burpees, push-ups, and squats with short periods of rest between each set.

4. Make Time for Sleep

Getting adequate rest in the form of high-quality sleep can be every bit as essential to burning fat as your exercise regimen.

A wealth of research reveals that getting enough sleep is vital in order to lose fat, or simply to prevent weight gain.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, sleeping 5 or fewer hours per night increases your risk of weight gain compared to those who sleep for 7 hours or more nightly. The study conclusions came from self-reported sleep duration and subsequent weight gain data from 68,183 women over a period of 16 years.

Plus, an analysis conducted by researchers from the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Arizona in Tucson determined that individuals with better sleep quality as well as longer average sleep duration are more likely to be able to successfully lose weight. “Better subjective sleep quality increased the likelihood of weight-loss success by 33%,” the authors wrote. Conversely, they found a link between poor sleep quality and a lower likelihood of continued successful weight loss.

The amount of sleep you need will vary depending on your age and other factors, but most research shows that an average adult requires at least 7 hours of sleep each night for optimal health, including successful fat-loss efforts.

Adhering to a sleep schedule, limiting your caffeine intake in the evening, and avoiding the use of electronics in the hour leading up to your bedtime can all help you to get a sufficient amount of high-quality sleep.

5. Take a Daily Dose of Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar (or ACV) is a time-tested folk remedy for a variety of conditions, and modern research indicates that there’s a verifiable basis for many of these claims, including potential benefits for heart health, blood sugar control, and fat burning.

It appears that acetic acid is the primary active ingredient behind vinegar’s benefits. A number of studies done with animals have shown that acetic acid can prevent the accumulation of harmful visceral fat. According to one such study, acetic acid can “protect from the accumulation of lipid in the liver as well as abdominal fat.” Another showed that acetic acid upregulates genes that instruct the body to burn fat, thereby inhibiting weight gain without altering food intake or leading to skeletal muscle loss.

It appears that these results translate to humans. A 12-week Japanese double-blind trial investigated the effects of vinegar intake on fat loss and found that daily intake of both 15 milliliters of vinegar as well as 30 milliliters of vinegar led to reductions in body weight, BMI, and visceral fat mass.

Vinegar also supports efforts to lose fat by enhancing feelings of satiety. Findings published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition show that consuming vinegar led to increased feelings of fullness. Participants ate a portion of bread containing 50 grams of available carbohydrates after an overnight fast with a dose of vinegar containing either 18, 23, or 28 mmol of acetic acid. Those in the placebo group consumed the same portion of bread without vinegar. The higher the acetic acid intake, the greater the increase in satiety at 30, 90, and 120 minutes postprandially.

Studies suggest that most people can take 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, a dose range shown to stimulate fat loss, daily without experiencing adverse side effects.

Some people dilute vinegar (essential as undiluted vinegar can cause enamel erosion) and drink it as a beverage while others prefer to incorporate their daily dose into dressings, marinades, sauces, and so on.

6. Adopt a High-Protein Diet

A number of high-quality studies have demonstrated that high-protein diets can help to reduce your appetite and heighten your fat-burning capacity.

According to an article published by the Journal of the American College of Nutrition: “There is convincing evidence that a higher protein intake increases thermogenesis and satiety compared to diets of lower protein content. The weight of evidence also suggests that high protein meals lead to a reduced subsequent energy intake.”

One reason for protein’s beneficial effects on fat loss and weight loss is likely its influence on peptide YY. Protein induces the greatest release of this anorectic hormone (meaning it decreases your appetite) of any macronutrient.

Protein also helps you lose belly fat specifically. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at how energy intake from different macronutrients affected waist circumference over a 5-year period. The authors enrolled a cohort of 22,570 women and 20,126 men aged 50-64. The most telling connection they uncovered was an inverse association between protein intake and increased waist circumference: the more protein participants ate, the less likely it was that their waist circumference would grow larger.

It appears that protein’s essential amino acid content is also significant. One study found that the amount of times a person’s food intake hit the threshold of 10 grams of essential amino acids inversely correlated to their percentage of central abdominal fat. In order to decrease abdominal fat deposits, then, it’s important to maintain an optimal intake of essential amino acids (more on this later).

To learn more about how to incorporate high-protein foods into each meal, review this helpful resource.

7. Consume Fat Strategically

Some healthy fats can provide vital support as you work to lose fat, but other unhealthy types can majorly undermine your progress.

Trans fats, manufactured by pumping hydrogen into unsaturated fats, are perhaps the most concerning type (read more about them in this article). These fats can be commonly found in margarine and many types of packaged foods. Scientists have found connections between trans fat consumption and increased body fat, belly fat, and waist circumference, as well as inflammation, heart disease, and insulin resistance. Safeguard your health by reading labels carefully and avoiding products made with trans fats, which may also be listed as partially hydrogenated fats.

Healthy fats, however, can help quell your appetite because they take a long time to digest. This may be why studies show that individuals who eat diets rich in healthy fats, like the Mediterranean diet which features plenty of olive oil and nuts, have a lower risk of weight gain than those who follow low-fat diets.

Certain fats, like coconut oil, may have unique fat-burning benefits. A randomized, double-blind, clinical trial showed that a daily dose of 2 tablespoons of coconut oil can lead to reductions in waist circumference and abdominal obesity.

Olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, and many types of nuts and seeds all contain healthy fats that research has linked to a plethora of benefits, including fat loss. Keep in mind, however, that these foods do contain a high number of calories and over-consuming them could stymie your weight-loss efforts.

8. Avoid Refined Carbohydrates

While it can be beneficial to adopt a high-fat, low-carbohydrate eating plan like the keto diet, simply avoiding refined carbohydrates may be sufficient to help you lose excess fat.

Refined carbohydrates contain grains that have been stripped of their bran and germ during processing, resulting in a finer texture but a lower fiber and nutrient content. Foods made with these grains tend to have a higher glycemic index, making you more susceptible to blood sugar spikes and dips, which in turn increase the likelihood of making less-than-ideal food choices.

Researchers have found that consuming a diet high in refined carbohydrates increases your likelihood of accruing excess visceral fat and developing insulin resistance. Studies show following a reduced-carbohydrate diet can lead to greater overall fat loss, abdominal fat loss, and total weight loss.

While many studies look at the effects of strict low-carb diets, other research indicates that replacing refined carbohydrates with unprocessed, nutrient-laden choices can suffice for fat loss.

Grain-free carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes and other starchy vegetables may be the healthiest choice, but it appears that even making the switch to whole grains can yield demonstrable benefits. A cross-sectional analysis of participants in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging found that compared with subjects in the lowest quintile of whole-grain intake, subjects in the highest quintile had lower body BMIs and weights, smaller waist circumferences, lower total cholesterol, lower LDL cholesterol, and lower 2-h glucose.

Furthermore, data sourced from 2,834 participants (49.4% women, age range 32 to 83 years of age) in the famous Framingham Heart Study revealed an inverse association between whole-grain intake and abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue as well as visceral adipose tissue. Contrastingly, refined-grain intake was positively associated with both abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue and visceral adipose tissue. Both findings accounted for age, sex, current smoking status, total caloric intake, and alcohol intake.

To maximize the efficiency of your endeavors to lose fat, keep a close eye on your consumption of pastries, pasta, white bread, and other foods containing refined grains. Preferentially choose whole grains such as buckwheat, oats, and barley or pseudocereals like quinoa.

9. Increase Your Soluble Fiber Intake

If you’re serious about losing fat, you should take care to maximize your soluble fiber intake.

This special type of fiber absorbs water to form a gel in the digestive tract, which slows the passage of food through your digestive system. This promotes fat loss by ensuring that you feel full for longer, helping you naturally limit the amount of calories you eat. It may also shift the way your body digests food so that you absorb fewer calories, according to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition.

Furthermore, it seems that soluble fiber can help you lose potentially harmful excess abdominal fat. A team of scientists set out to examine how lifestyle factors affected abdominal fat over a 5-year period. This observational study found that soluble fiber intake was inversely associated with visceral abdominal tissue. For each 10-gram increase in soluble fiber, intake, the rate of visceral abdominal tissue accumulation decreased by 3.7%.

Some top sources of soluble fiber are: flaxseeds, shirataki noodles, legumes like lentils and black beans, avocados, Brussels sprouts, and blackberries.

10. Optimize Your Beverage Intake

When taking steps to eat a healthy diet, be sure to consider your beverage intake. Sugar-sweetened beverages like soda and juice can account for a large portion of your intended caloric intake without providing much in the way of nutrients. The same holds true for alcoholic beverages, and doubly so for sweet ones.

Studies have demonstrated a link between the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and abdominal obesity as well as alcoholic ones.

Consuming drinks that contain high amounts of sugar can undermine your fat-loss goals even more than eating a sugary food containing an equal number of calories. The reason for this appears to be that your body does not register liquid calories in the same way it does solid ones.

A study done by researchers from the Department of Foods and Nutrition at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana demonstrates this point neatly. Study participants consumed 1,880 calories in the form of soda or jelly beans for 4 weeks, then after a 4-week reset period, they flipped. Body composition was measured weekly. During the jelly bean period, participants consistently decreased their intake of other calories. During the soda period, however, they did not, producing increases to body weight as well as BMI.

Limiting your intake of sugary and alcoholic beverages will likely be key to your ability to lose fat and keep it off. Fortunately, replacements like water and green tea can actually increase your odds of success.

One study found that drinking a glass of water prior to a meal can increase weight loss by an average of 4.4 pounds, perhaps because it results in decreased caloric consumption during the meal.

And green tea, another excellent option, contains caffeine and antioxidants including catechins like epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) that can escalate the rate at which your body burns fat.

According to a study published in Obesity, ingesting catechins can produce reductions in body fat, systolic blood pressure, and LDL cholesterol. From this, the authors concluded that consuming green tea can decrease your risk of obesity as well as cardiovascular disease. It also appears that the catechins found in green tea can stimulate visceral fat loss specifically, per a study published in the Journal of Functional Foods.

When paired with exercise, the fat-burning effects of green tea can be even more pronounced. Two studies with a counterbalanced crossover design found that, after ingesting green tea, average fat oxidation during moderate-intensity exercise rose by 17%. Consuming green tea also increased insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance.

If you’re a devoted fan of the sweet stuff, start off by substituting a glass of green tea (iced, if you prefer) for your usual soda and take it from there.

11. Experiment with Intermittent Fasting

When you eat can influence fat loss just as much as what you eat. Intermittent fasting, an eating approach that relies on alternating between periods of eating and periods of fasting, can amplify fat loss.

There are a number of ways to practice intermittent fasting. Some variations involve fasting for a few days out of the week while eating on the remaining ones (the 5:2 diet), while others limit the number of hours each day during which you eat (the 16:8 method). Other popular options range from meal skipping to alternate-day fasting to Eat-Stop-Eat all the way to the Warrior Diet, a fairly extreme iteration that involves restricting caloric intake to raw fruit and veggies during the 20-hour fasting window and eating a single large meal during a 4-hour window at night.

Findings published in Nutrition Reviews indicate that both alternate-day fasting and whole-day fasting can effectively reduce body weight, body fat, total cholesterol, and triglycerides. Over a period of 3–12 weeks, alternate-day fasting reduced body weight by up to 7% and decreased body fat by up to 12 pounds.

Another study looked at the benefits of the 16:8 method and found that it produced notable decreases to fat mass without depleting muscle mass. It also improved other health-related biomarkers.

Participants often find it easier to stick with intermittent fasting than more traditional approaches to calorie restriction, and it appears to be just as effective, if not more so, particularly in terms of reductions to visceral fat mass. A review of studies on intermittent fasting and alternate-day fasting carried out by researchers at the University of Illinois found that participants achieve between 4% and 7% decreases to belly fat on average within 6 to 24 weeks.

12. Cultivate a Positive Outlook

Many observers have noted the difficulty that people in the midst of a weight-loss journey often face when it comes to dropping pounds.

A scientific-research article, “Positive psychological correlates of successful weight maintenance in Australia,” addressed key components of the issue. Unsurprisingly, it corroborated the fact that the mental aspect played a significant role in dieters’ ability to lose fat. More specifically, researchers note that a substantial amount of research and subsequent treatments regarding weight loss had been based on behavioral and medical interventions and that—many times—these had been met with limited success. As a result, they aimed to look at reliable psychological predictors of successful weight maintenance.

The study was conducted on 250 Australian residents, 18-65 years old, who had attempted to lose weight over the last 12 months. Online surveys gauged their mentality by measuring qualities such as satisfaction with life, positive and negative affect, gratitude, flourishing, strengths, and hope.

Results of the study suggest that there are significant differences in some positive psychological variables (e.g., being a hopeful person) between successful weight-loss maintainers and non‐maintainers in this population. As you may be able to predict, individuals with more positive variables proved more successful when it came to maintaining weight loss.

The study also showed that by adding specific positive psychological variables to their existing weight-loss treatments, the mood and motivation of those attempting to lose weight may improve. This, in turn, may lead to more effective overall weight-maintenance behavior.

To summarize, nurturing a positive attitude will help you enter into the proper mindset for manifesting the fitness goals you’re hoping to achieve.

If you’re not a naturally positive person, don’t despair—there are concrete steps you can take to increase your optimism. For instance, try displaying confident, upbeat body language throughout your daily routine to get the feeling of success ingrained in your body and mind. You can also borrow the visualization technique beloved by athletes and imagine yourself tearing up the trail, track, or gym session as well as how the weight is going to start melting off your body thanks to your tenacious efforts.

The words you use matter too. Start incorporating positive, energetic language into your daily speech (especially the inner kind) in order to establish a winning frame of mind. And if you encounter a set-back, don’t allow that to discourage you. Progress is rarely linear and negative self-talk will only make it harder for you to achieve success in the future.

13. Address Your Stress Levels

In the same way that positive thinking can augment your resolution to lose fat, stress can hinder that by adversely impacting hormone production.

Studies have found that stress triggers your adrenal glands to produce more cortisol, known colloquially as the stress hormone. Increased levels of cortisol, in turn, can lead to a greater appetite and increased abdominal fat storage. These effects are exacerbated by the fact that cortisol also increases your craving for what researchers term “palatable foods” and what laypeople typically refer to as “comfort foods.”

Unfortunately, there also appears to be a correlation between a larger waist size and higher-than-average cortisol production. Researchers from Yale University found that subjects with high waist-to-hip ratios tend to secrete more cortisol in response to stress. They gauged this by taking multiple measures of cortisol and mood during a session of stressful tasks (eg., timed arithmetic) as well as during a time-matched, control rest session. They also considered background life stress and psychological trait variables.

Finding ways to lower your stress should be a priority as you strive to lose fat. Some popular, research-validated methods for doing so include yoga and meditation.

14. Boost Your Probiotic Consumption

Probiotics, a beneficial type of bacteria native to your digestive tract, can positively influence many aspects of your health, including the rate at which your body burns fat.

Research indicates that increasing your intake of probiotics from the food you eat or taking high-quality supplements can help you lose weight and change your body composition by dropping your fat percentage.

A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials found that participants who took probiotics consistently experienced a significantly larger reduction in body weight compared with participants who took a placebo.

It’s important to note that not all strains of probiotics produce the same effects. Those in the Lactobacillus genus, including Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus fermentum and Lactobacillus amylovorus, and Lactobacillus gasseri, appear to be the most effective at stimulating weight and fat loss.

A multi-center, double-blind, parallel-group randomized controlled trial found that consuming fermented milk containing Lactobacillis gasseri decreased participants’ abdominal visceral fat areas by an average of -8.5 %. Other measures including BMI, waist and hip circumferences, and body fat mass were also significantly decreased at the trial’s conclusion.

Probiotic-rich foods include kimchi, sauerkraut, natto, tempeh, and beverages like kefir and kombucha.

If you find it difficult to incorporate probiotic foods into your diet, probiotic supplements offer an alternative means for obtaining the same benefits. Be sure to choose one containing the strains linked to the benefits you desire.

15. Ensure an Ideal Supply of Amino Acids

As touched on previously in our discussion of the importance of a high-protein intake, amino acids play a vital role in your body’s fat-burning process.

Your basal metabolic rate, which measures how many calories your body burns while at rest, is determined largely by biochemical reactions that you can do little to influence and the energy cost associated with ongoing protein turnover.

Experts estimate that between 33% and 50% of our basal energy production goes toward protein turnover. The precise amount of energy required, in other words, the number of calories burned, is determined by the amount of muscle you have.

The best way to increase your protein turnover demands is by building muscle. A 10-kilogram muscle gain, with no other changes, results in a 35,000 increase to the number of calories burned by protein turnover. A pound of fat contains approximately 3,500 calories, meaning that the 35,000 increase translates to the loss of 10 pounds of fat over the course of a year.

When working out to build muscle, it’s essential to provide your body with enough protein as well as enough amino acids. To learn more about the relationship between amino acids and weight loss, read this article.

Amino acid supplements may help you lose weight.

How to Lose Fat: The Bottom Line

As you may recall from an earlier section, no single dietary shift or exercise program will help you reach the end result you desire on its own. In order to lose fat and keep it off, you will need to find the combination of methods that works for you. It’s likely that this will require a shift to an overall healthy way of eating and healthy lifestyle.

While there’s no magic solution for fat loss, you can undoubtedly make the process easier by supplementing with essential amino acids. To find out more about how an ideally balanced essential amino acid blend can help you lose weight, click here.

Everything You Need to Know About Intermittent Fasting and Amino Acids

If you’re up to date on the world of health and fitness, then you’ve probably heard of intermittent fasting. Learn more about intermittent fasting and amino acids, and how these dietary supplements can help boost your IF efforts.

If you’re up to date on the world of health and fitness, then you’ve probably heard of intermittent fasting (IF). And while intermittent fasting is currently one of the hottest dietary trends, it’s hardly a new invention. In fact, the ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras once praised the virtues of fasting. If you’re interested in using an intermittent fasting protocol to enhance your training’s effects on your body composition, it’s vital that you understand the relationship between intermittent fasting and amino acids—particularly, when you should take amino acid supplements and when you should not.

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

An eating pattern in which participants alternate between periods of eating and not eating, intermittent fasting can have a profound effect on both the body and the brain, enabling participants to lose weight and improve overall health. Unlike other dietary strategies, intermittent fasting doesn’t restrict what foods you eat but instead dictates when you may and may not eat them. As a result, participants often have an easier time adhering to this dietary approach rather than cycling through periods of restrictive eating followed by free-for-alls.

Individuals who utilize intermittent fasting can choose their own schedule for fasting periods and feeding windows. The most popular approach, according to a recent Reader’s Digest article, is the 16:8 schedule in which individuals fast for 16 hours of the day (typically, about half that time is spent sleeping) and fit a day’s worth of calories into the remaining 8 hours.

Another common approach is alternate day fasting, in which individuals eat one day and fast or consume very few calories the next.

Others follow a variation of this, the 5:2 approach, in which they fast 2 days a week and eat normally the other 5 days. The approach you choose depends on your personal preferences and lifestyle factors.

If you’re up to date on the world of health and fitness, then you’ve probably heard of intermittent fasting. Learn more about intermittent fasting and amino acids, and how these dietary supplements can help boost your IF efforts.

Why Intermittent Fasting Can Be More Effective Than Traditional Diets

Intermittent fasting has two significant advantages over traditional diets: first, researchers have found it produces greater fat-burning results as well as accelerated body fat loss even when the daily caloric intake for participants remained the same; second, individuals find it easier to adapt to intermittent fasting and to continue the protocol long term.

It’s possible to benefit from intermittent fasting even if you do not change the foods you consume. Findings published in Metabolism showed that participants experienced beneficial changes to body composition and cardiovascular health regardless of which randomized dietary plan they followed.

How Intermittent Fasting Stimulates Enhanced Weight-Loss Results

Numerous studies have shown that adopting an intermittent fasting strategy can help you lose weight and keep it off. And periods of fasting provide health benefits equivalent to those gained by prolonged fasting or caloric restriction.

In the early 2000s, researchers from Yale University School of Medicine and the University of Copenhagen investigated the link between fasting and weight loss. In a series of studies, including this one, they elucidated key mechanisms behind the impressive fat-loss effects of intermittent fasting, namely, increased gene activity, which subsequently increases the total number of calories the body expends as well as the amount of fat utilized for energy.

Research published in the American Journal of Physiology revealed fasting activates genes responsible for encoding proteins and enzymes that increase fat oxidation. In other words, fasting periods activate the body’s innate fat-burning systems.

It appears, too, that intermittent fasting can convert white fat cells into brown fat cells, according to a study in the journal Cell Research. While white fat is necessary for storing excess energy and releasing lipids, it’s also associated with obesity and type 2 diabetes. Brown fat, however, burns energy and has other positive effects. Converting white fat to brown—also known as browning—could be a key component in reducing obesity.

Using Intermittent Fasting to Preserve Muscle Mass While Losing Weight

A study conducted at the University of Southern California showed that intermittent fasting spurred weight loss and cut cardiovascular risk factors while keeping muscle mass intact.

Research published in the International Journal of Endocrinology Metabolism echoed these findings, showing that Ramadan fasters lost weight but not protein mass. This makes intermittent fasting an ideal option for athletes and bodybuilders seeking to lose weight while preserving muscle mass.

Psychological Benefits Lead to Improved Adherence

Intermittent fasting can have psychological benefits too. According to a study in Psychosomatic Medicinediets that rely on calorie counting often trigger cravings and feelings of deprivation in participants. As a result, individuals are more likely to abandon their diets and resume unhealthy eating habits that lead to weight gain.

The study further noted that dieting increases psychological stress and triggers cortisol production.

One of the benefits of intermittent fasting is that it doesn’t require participants to limit what foods they eat, only when they eat them. Plus, the benefits of intermittent fasting—including weight loss—occur regardless of calorie intake.

Further Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting isn’t just an effective way to lose weight without feeling deprived. Research reveals that fasting periods can also lower your risk of developing a cardiovascular disorder, improve your insulin levels, and even extend your lifespan.

Research shared in the Annual Review of Nutrition found that employing intermittent fasting may influence metabolic regulation thanks to its impact on circadian biology and the gut microbiome, among other factors.

And a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that fasting could improve cardiovascular risk as well as insulin sensitivity. Approximately 610,000 people die of heart disease each year in the U.S., according to the CDC, so intermittent fasting could help save a significant number of lives.

In a broader sense, intermittent fasting may even help patients live longer. A 2017 study done by a team at Harvard University revealed that fasting may manipulate mitochondrial networks inside cells, thereby lengthening lifespans and improving overall health. While doctors don’t yet know how to harness these benefits in a therapeutic sense, the future applications of intermittent fasting appear promising.

Of course, intermittent fasting represents a significant lifestyle change, and not everyone is a good candidate for this dietary strategy. It’s best to speak to a medical professional before beginning any new exercise or nutritional regimen.

If you’re up to date on the world of health and fitness, then you’ve probably heard of intermittent fasting. Learn more about intermittent fasting and amino acids, and how these dietary supplements can help boost your IF efforts.

Maintaining Healthy Nutrient Intake While Intermittent Fasting

Nutrition during the fast itself is quite simple: do not consume any calories. You can, of course, drink as much water as you desire. Most agree that unsweetened beverages such as black coffee or black and green tea can safely be consumed without adversely impacting your results.

Though it might be tempting to treat yourself to other calorie-free beverages like flavored waters and diet soda, this may not be the wisest choice. Some evidence indicates that artificial sweeteners stimulate an insulin response, thus undermining the creation of a fasted state and its attendant benefits.

While the scientific community continues to analyze exactly how artificial sweeteners impact the health benefits of intermittent fasting, the safest decision would be to avoid consuming them during fasting periods.

What to Prioritize During Feeding Windows

While following an intermittent fasting protocol, you should aim to take in the same amount of calories and hit the same macronutrient totals you would if were eating a standard, nutritionally optimized diet.

While intermittent fasting allows for greater flexibility of food choices than other diet plans, that does not change the basic tenets of good nutrition. Whether or not you’re pursuing muscle growth, an optimized protein intake is crucial. You should also be sure to provide your body with a steady supply of healthy fats and complex carbohydrates.

For your first meal after a fasting period, the Yale research team referenced earlier found that choosing a low-carb meal further increases the activity of the genes that result in escalated fat-burning capacity. When participants consumed high-carbohydrate meals, however, the activity of those same genes decreased.

The most serious risk is that you may not take in an adequate number of calories, or may fail to meet the benchmarks for certain nutrient groups. This can compromise your body’s muscle-building capacity, especially if you fall short of the ideal protein intake for your size and activity level. As you likely know, protein intake becomes even more important for anyone engaged in strength training.

Intermittent Fasting and Amino Acids

One of the long-term limitations of intermittent fasting is the potential that protein and amino acid intake is reduced below the optimal amount. Many recent lines of evidence indicate that the ideal intake of dietary protein is at least 1.2 grams of high-quality protein per kilogram of body weight per day. For a 100-kg person, this translates to 120 grams of protein a day, or 840 grams of protein each week.

If food is consumed just 5 days per week, and the normal dietary pattern is maintained, then protein intake will only be about 600 grams. To meet the optimal level of protein intake while fasting 2 days out of the week, you’d need to ingest 168 grams of protein on your 5 non-fasting days (or 1.68 g/kg of body weight each day). This is a very high-protein diet.

While achievable, such a high-protein diet is difficult to maintain on a regular basis. And this is where amino acids come into the intermittent fasting picture.

Essential amino acids are the active components of dietary protein and required for muscle protein synthesis. Taking an essential amino acid dietary supplement on days in which food is eaten will ensure that your optimal weekly intake of all essential amino acids are achieved, even if you fast 2 days of the week.

Supplementing with Amino Acids While Fasting

If one of your priorities is to build muscle, you may desire to take in amino acids—specifically, branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs)—while you’re fasting. However, doing so will remove your body from the fasted state.

The human body uses 20 amino acids as the building blocks of protein. This includes the nine essential amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, valine, tryptophan, threonine, phenylalanine, methionine, lysine, and histidine), as well as the 11 nonessential amino acids (arginine, serine, cysteine, glycine, proline, alanine, tyrosine, aspartic acid, asparagine, glutamic acid, and glutamine). Consuming even one of these amino acids, let alone multiple, has a similar metabolic effect to the consumption of dietary protein.

One proposed exception to this rule, per the work of some researchers, is pre-workout and post-workout consumption of amino acids when training in a fasted state. Branched-chain amino acids can fuel you through fasted training, serving as a potent source of energy for your muscles.

BCAA supplements vs. EAA supplements

The term branched-chain amino acids refers to the unique, branch-like chemical structures of leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Research has shown that taking between 2 and 4 grams of leucine as part of a complete BCAA supplement can result in desirable health benefits like increased muscle mass, quicker recovery from exercise, and elevated mood and mental focus during endurance exercise.

The three BCAAs are also essential amino acids. When you consume BCAA supplements, their ability to deliver the health benefits you seek will be limited by the quantity of the other EAAs available for muscle protein synthesis and other physiological processes.

Because of this, it’s far more effective to ingest BCAAs as part of a balanced EAA supplement. You will only reach the optimal level of BCAA benefits when they’re combined with the other six EAAs.

If you’re up to date on the world of health and fitness, then you’ve probably heard of intermittent fasting. Learn more about intermittent fasting and amino acids, and how these dietary supplements can help boost your IF efforts.

Fatty Liver Disease: Improving Liver Health with Amino Acids and Other Natural Strategies

Fatty liver disease is a serious health condition marked by fat accumulation in the liver. It is often associated with alcoholism and obesity; however, fatty liver disease doesn’t discriminate. Essential amino acids and other natural fatty liver treatments are effective alternatives to prescription drugs that come with adverse side effects.

The liver is the body’s largest internal organ. And while it’s responsible for carrying out an estimated 500 different tasks—including acting as the body’s primary site for nutrient processing and lipid, carbohydrate, and amino acid distribution—it’s perhaps best known for its role in filtering the body’s blood supply. Yet for all the impressive things the liver does to keep us alive and healthy, certain conditions can compromise its ability to function. By far, the most common condition to negatively impact the liver is fatty liver disease, which affects up to a quarter of all adults in the United States.

In this article, we’re going to discuss what fatty liver disease is, the signs and symptoms to watch out for, and the role amino acids as well as other natural strategies and lifestyle changes may play in preventing and even reversing this potentially serious medical condition.

What Is Fatty Liver Disease?

A normal, healthy liver converts excess carbohydrates and proteins from the foods we eat into fatty acids and triglycerides. These substances are then used by the body as a source of energy or sent out into the blood to be stored as fat in the peripheral adipose tissue.

Ordinarily, only a small amount of triglycerides are stored in the liver. However, various conditions—including alcoholism, obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and hepatitis C—can reduce the liver’s ability to metabolize excess fat, which may then build up in the liver.

And if the amount of fat in the liver increases to more than 5% to 10% of total liver volume, fatty liver disease, or hepatic steatosis, becomes an issue.

Types of Fatty Liver Disease

Many people think fatty liver disease refers to one specific condition, but that’s actually not the case. In fact, there are two main types of fatty liver disease.

Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

This first stage of alcoholic liver disease, which is also known as alcoholic steatohepatitis, is the result of years of heavy alcohol use. While the liver can handle moderate alcohol intake, excessive drinking impairs its ability to break down fatty acids, which can lead to high triglyceride levels, liver inflammation (alcoholic hepatitis), and the formation of scar tissue (cirrhosis).

If caught in the early stages, abstaining from alcohol for as little as 2 weeks can help the liver clear out the excess fat and resume normal function. However, over time, the liver damage that results from constant heavy drinking can lead to chronic liver disease, with loss of liver cells, irreversible scarring of the liver, and increased risk of liver cancer, liver failure, and need for liver transplant.

Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease 

NAFLD affects an estimated 80 to 100 million Americans, many of whom don’t even know they have the condition. While NAFLD can manifest as simple fatty liver, with little or no inflammation or damage to liver cells, it can also progress to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)—a condition in which inflammation and liver cell damage are both present. Like alcoholic liver disease, NASH can eventually lead to severe liver inflammation and scar tissue and increase the risk of liver cancer, failure, and transplant.

Symptoms of Fatty Liver Disease

Unfortunately, it can be hard to know if you have fatty liver disease because the early stages often present with no symptoms. Therefore, most people discover they have the condition when blood tests or imaging tests performed for other reasons indicate a liver problem.

In addition, even though fatty liver disease may result in elevations in liver enzymes, many people with the condition have perfectly normal enzyme levels. Even people whose fatty liver disease has progressed to cirrhosis may continue to have normal liver enzymes.

While this certainly doesn’t help with diagnosis, it is a testament to the liver’s amazing regenerative powers, which enable it to continue to function when as much as 75% of it has been damaged.

If liver enzyme levels are elevated, a definitive diagnosis will require a liver biopsy to determine whether the cause of the elevation is indeed fatty liver disease or something else, such as a viral infection.

However, as fatty liver disease progresses and the liver’s ability to function becomes more and more compromised, signs and symptoms will become increasingly more apparent and may include:

  • Liver enlargement
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Itching
  • Upper right abdominal pain
  • Ascites (abdominal fluid)
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
  • Visibly enlarged blood vessels

Treatment of Fatty Liver Disease

Although no medications are currently approved for the treatment of fatty liver disease, a number of natural approaches have been found to be helpful in both treating and reversing the damage caused by excess fat in the liver.

Beyond decreasing alcohol intake, experts agree that the most effective way to treat fatty liver disease is by maintaining a healthy body weight.

In fact, a 2016 study found that weight loss of just 3% to 6% results in a reduction in liver fat of 35% to 40%. And another study from the same year demonstrated that weight loss of 7% to 10% not only is associated with reduced liver fat but can also lead to complete remission of NASH and a reduction in scar tissue.

Like weight loss, physical activity is also recommended for treatment of fatty liver disease.

A 2018 review of 30 randomized controlled trials found overwhelming evidence to support the use of exercise in the treatment of fatty liver disease. The study’s authors found that a variety of both aerobic and resistance training exercises can reduce excess liver fat by improving insulin resistance, fatty acid metabolism, and function of mitochondria (the energy centers of the cells) and by decreasing levels of inflammation.

While weight loss and exercise are two of the most important components of an effective fatty liver treatment plan, they’re not the only factors that have been shown to have a positive effect on liver health.

Coffee

Coffee was once blamed for everything from stunted growth to heart disease, but more and more scientific research is suggesting that the bitter brew is actually a complex substance with a wide range of amazing health benefits—benefits that may have a positive impact on liver function as well.

For example, a 2017 study found that daily coffee consumption can help protect against liver cancer as well as “chronic liver disease secondary to alcohol, viral hepatitis, and fatty infiltration.” And a 2015 study found that people who consume 3 or more cups a day of either regular or decaffeinated coffee have lower liver enzyme levels.

A 2016 study also found that coffee is particularly beneficial for people with liver disease, and consumption of 2 or more cups a day can protect against both liver cancer and the fibrosis (scarring) seen in cirrhosis. Moreover, the study’s researchers emphasized that coffee protects the liver against all forms of disease, though it appears to be most protective against alcoholic liver disease.

Amino Acids

Regular supplementation with essential amino acids is a proven natural and effective treatment for fatty liver.

For example, a 2018 study found that the sulfur-containing amino acid taurine was able to suppress oxidative stress and fatty acid accumulation in the livers of mice fed high-fat diets, leading researchers to conclude that supplementation with taurine may help reduce the risks associated with NAFLD.

Another rodent study, this one from 2012, found that supplementation with the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) leucine, isoleucine, and valine was able to reduce scar tissue and liver cell death and delay the progression of chronic liver disease in rats with induced liver disease.

Cysteine—which is available in supplement form as N-acetylcysteine (NAC)—is another sulfur-containing amino acid with potent antioxidant properties that protect cells from oxidative stress.

A 2010 clinical trial involving 30 individuals with NAFLD demonstrated that supplementation with NAC resulted in a significant decrease in liver enzyme levels as well as spleen size (a symptom of liver disease) compared with vitamin C, leading researchers to conclude that NAC can improve liver function in patients with NAFLD.

Several small studies have also found that S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe)—which is composed of the amino acid methionine bound to a molecule of adenosine triphosphate (ATP)—helps protect liver cells and prevent progression of fatty liver disease.

One of these studies demonstrated that supplementation with the choline metabolite betaine naturally raises levels of SAMe in the body and reduces scarring, liver enzyme levels, and degree of fatty infiltration, leading to significant improvement in patients suffering from NASH.

Because amino acids contribute to overall health by working in concert with one another to support the numerous biochemical processes of the body, the positive effects on fatty liver disease seen with these building blocks of protein may be even further enhanced by using them as part of a balanced formula containing all nine essential amino acids.

Diet

Diets high in trans fats, simple sugars, red meat, salt, and fried and processed foods are associated with a number of health conditions, from obesity to high blood pressure and cholesterol to prediabetes and type 2 diabetes to—you guessed it—fatty liver disease.

However, healthy diets rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and good fats can help prevent and treat all these conditions.

If you’re currently suffering from or at risk of fatty liver disease, some foods to get you back on the road to health include:

  • Fish
  • Tofu
  • Avocados
  • Olive oil
  • Broccoli
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

And if you’re already dealing with insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, prediabetes, or type 2 diabetes, it’s extremely important that you get your blood sugar under control, as fatty liver disease occurs in at least half of all individuals with diabetes.

Finally, if you have risk factors, don’t hesitate to speak with your health care provider about lifestyle changes you can implement to decrease your risk of developing fatty liver disease. The sooner you take steps to lower your risk, the better your chances of avoiding this potentially life-threatening condition altogether.

Fatty liver disease is a serious health condition marked by fat accumulation in the liver. It is often associated with alcoholism and obesity; however, fatty liver disease doesn’t discriminate. Essential amino acids and other natural fatty liver treatments are effective alternatives to prescription drugs that come with adverse side effects.