September 14, 2021
I’ve been immersed in the health, exercise, and fitness industry for over 20 years now, starting out with a fledgling tennis coaching business when I was in high school, to getting a master's degree in exercise physiology and biomechanics, to working for ten years as a personal trainer, strength coach and nutritional consultant, to bodybuilding, Spartan racing, and competing all over the world in Ironman triathlons, marathons, open water swims, adventure races and beyond, to of course what I do now: write, speak, podcast, research, self-experiment and investigate every nook and cranny of both ancient wisdom and modern science for bettering one's body, brain, and spirit.
Over the last two decades, as I've witnessed hundreds of so-called “cutting-edge” compounds, fringe supplements, health foods come and go, I’ve continued to keep one mainstay supplement darling in my pantry at all times.
Nary a day goes by when I don’t consume anywhere from 10 to 40 grams of amino acids, either for a cognitive boost, an appetite-satiating hack, a pre-workout energy hit, a post-workout recovery aid, a potent muscle-building and muscle-maintenance aid, a gut-nourishing nutrient, or even to support deep, restorative sleep.
Because of their extreme versatility and broad range of benefits that you’re about to learn, amino acids are truly the “Swiss army knife” of nutrients. Because amino acids are so foundational to the human body, there really isn’t much they can’t do. However, there are still pervasive myths about amino acids, as well as confusion around the best types, their benefits, how much you need, when to take them, and much more.
So, because I truly believe almost everyone could benefit from getting more of these compounds, in today’s article I’ll be busting those myths, and telling you everything you need to know about amino acids—including one type of amino acid supplement you should avoid, despite common advice.
And finally, I’ll let you in on some cutting-edge new research that’s changed everything I thought I once knew about selecting the best amino acid supplement.
What Are Amino Acids?
Many moons ago, when I was a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed freshman in college at the University of Idaho, I distinctly remember my biology professor describing amino acids as the tiny “Lego pieces” that formed the building blocks of human skeletal muscle.
Convenient explanation? Sure (albeit a little cliche).
But was it completely accurate? Not exactly…
A more precise explanation by my professor would have sounded something like this:
“Amino acids are like if lego pieces could self-assemble into a magic pirate ship, float around the room shooting miniature cannonballs at pesky flies, fixing holes in the drywall of your house, and then tuck you into bed for a refreshing night of deep sleep.”
I’ll admit, while that sounds highly unrealistic, it’s indeed a more accurate description of the sort of magic that amino acids perform in the body. Yes, amino acids are, in very basic terms, the structural building blocks of proteins. They form the foundation of not just muscles, but also organs, glands, ligaments, tendons, nails, hair, and bones.
However, what my professor conveniently left out is the long list of other roles that amino acids serve in the body, regulating dozens of processes including:
- Blood sugar
- Sexual function
- Immune system
- Hormone production
- Nitrogen balance
- Immune system regulation
- ATP (energy) production
- Muscle protein synthesis
- Absorption of nutrients and minerals
- Proper functioning of neurotransmitters
- And more…
In other words, amino acids are much, much more than just the tiny building blocks of your muscles. They are literally the fuel for nearly every process in your body. So, if you want optimal health, cognitive functioning, and human performance, focusing on proper ratios and adequate intake of amino acids might get you further than any biohack, cutting-edge peptide, or fancy piece of gear you can ever buy.
But it all comes down to getting adequate amounts of amino acids, and in the correct combination and ratio, which you'll learn everything you need to know about later in this article.
Why Do I Even Need To Supplement With Amino Acids?
But first, why supplement with amino acids in the first place? It’s a fair question, and something you’re probably asking yourself right about now if you haven’t already experienced the potent benefits of an amino acid supplement.
After all, doesn’t dietary protein give you all the amino acids you need?
“Need” is the key word here. Without getting into a huge rabbit hole smack dab in the middle of this article, I’ll sum it up in a few bullet points:
- Our body can’t store protein and, like water, it must be replenished on a daily basis. The more you use, the more you need.
- Most people, especially active adults and plant-based eaters, don’t get enough protein to maintain a net positive state of muscular growth.
- The profile of amino acids varies greatly among dietary sources, so unless you’re a savvy “protein combiner,” you’re probably not getting optimal amounts of all of them.
- Even if you do eat a lot of protein, your body can only absorb and utilize ~50% of the amino acids from dietary sources due to digestive processes, metabolism, and factors related to the gut microbiome.
- As you get older, your muscle becomes less sensitive to protein/amino acids. Therefore, older populations may need at least twice as much protein/amino acids compared to younger adults.
- What’s more, digestive issues such as hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid levels), depleted enzymes, and gut dysbiosis (an imbalance of gut microbiota) can result in an even lower extraction of amino acids.
- Dietary protein also contains high amounts of non-essential amino acids (NEAAs). Consuming excess NEAAs puts a strain on the liver and kidneys, creating more harmful by-products like urea and ammonia. Therefore, supplementing just with EAAs requires less processing by the gut, liver, and kidneys, and is, therefore, easier on your body’s organs.
In summary: Sure, if you're getting adequate, digestible, bioavailable protein from food sources (at least 0.55-0.8 grams per pound of body weight, preferably) you might be able to get “enough” amino acids from your diet to simply maintain a relatively decent level of health…
…unless you’re as physically active as the average exercise enthusiast or athlete, vegan or vegetarian, over 50 years old, have even the slightest amount of gut dysbiosis, or actually want to build muscle and look and feel amazing. In that case, added amino acids can be incredibly beneficial, and I would argue that covers a pretty decent chunk of the population.
In other words, think of taking amino acids like taking a multivitamin: Theoretically, you shouldn’t need it. But in an imperfect world, it’s incredible health insurance at the very least.
The Types Of Amino Acids
In total, there are 20 (-ish, depending on what science you're reading and which nutritionist or dietitian or scientist you ask) amino acids…
…all of which are categorized differently depending on how the body synthesizes them.
While I could really take you back to freshman biology—listing all the amino acids, explaining what each does, and supplying you with a handy mnemonic to memorize them (including “Pvt. Tim Hall” or Phenylalanine-Valine-Tryptophane, Threonine-Isoleucine-Methionine, Histidine-Arginine-Lysine-Leucine :)—the truth is, this isn’t really a biology class, and there are only two groups of amino acids you need to be aware if you want to cut straight to the chase…
…essential amino acids (EAAs) and branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs).
(If you’re curious, all the remaining amino acids are considered “non-essential,” or NEAAs, meaning that they can be made by your body and therefore are not essential to include in your diet.)
Essential Amino Acids (EAAs)
EAAs are a smaller subcategory of the 20 amino acids. They’re classified as “essential” because your body can’t make them on its own, and you have to get them from diet or supplementation.
In fact, EAAs are the only macronutrient humans must eat to survive. So long story short, just like water, you would simply die without enough of them.
There are nine EAAs in total, each with critical roles in the body:
- Leucine (BCAA): Critical for protein synthesis, muscular growth, and repair.
- Isoleucine (BCAA): Supports muscular metabolism, immune function, and energy regulation.
- Valine (BCAA): Stimulates muscle growth, regeneration, and energy production.
- Phenylalanine: Precursor to several important neurotransmitters that promote cognitive function and a balanced mood.
- Threonine: Forms structural proteins (collagen and elastin) for healthy skin and connective tissue.
- Tryptophan: Precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, sleep, and appetite.
- Lysine: Important for immune function and the absorption of nutrients.
- Methionine: Plays a role in metabolism, detoxification, and the absorption of zinc and selenium.
- Histidine (sometimes considered “conditionally essential,” but for reasons you’ll learn about, is best classified as “essential”): Precursor to histamine, and neurotransmitter vital for the immune system, digestion, sexual function, and sleep.
As you can guess, lacking in any one of the EAAs is a fast-track to a multitude of health issues—hence why these amino acids are considered to be “essential” in the first place. Of these nine EAAs, only three are classified as branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which are denoted above.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
BCAAs have a molecular structure that includes—you guessed it—a branched chain.
This branched chain structure allows them to bypass the liver, and instead be quickly metabolized in muscular tissue, providing a direct source of fuel for your muscles.
This means that BCAAs, without any requirement for much digestion or “processing” at all, can be relied on as an energy source for your muscles during exercise. This fact has made BCAAs a darling of the bodybuilding industry, as well as an inexpensive favorite for any athlete wanting a quick performance boost—although I have personally in the past referred to BCAA's as basically overpriced flavored “water”, and most supplement manufacturers know that, especially compared to EAA's, BCAA's are crazy cheap to produce and crazy profitable, though their benefits are pretty ho-hum, and possibly even deleterious, as you'll discover below.
However, despite their drawbacks, expense, and relative inefficiency, BCAAs have been shown in studies to have beneficial effects on a number of performance-related metrics, including:
- Preventing exercise-induced muscle damage
- Reducing the effects of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS)
- Supporting exercise recovery (even more so than rest or passive recovery activities)
- Lowering perceived exertion and mental fatigue during exercise
- Increasing resistance to fatigue and lipid (fat) oxidation during endurance exercise
- Boosting lean mass, muscle strength, and fat loss when combined with resistance training
However, there are some big myths about BCAAs, as well as serious downsides to taking them in isolation, which is what I am going to get into shortly.
BCAA Myths And Side Effects (And Why I Personally Don’t Take Them In Isolation)
As I mentioned, I’ve been using amino acids for decades. As a matter of fact, back in my college bodybuilding days, in addition to eating oodles of canned tuna with ketchup and relish, dry lean chicken with broccoli, and nasty, chemical-infused whey protein shakes, I used to toss back scoops of chemical- and caffeine-laden BCAA formulas (you know, the ones in the massive Costco-sized tubs), thinking they were my key to a lean, muscular physique. Just imagine the nasty gas coming out my backside, baby.
But, like many athletes, gym rats, and personal trainers at the time, it turns out I was pretty misled when it comes to the effects of BCAAs on building muscle.
Not only that, I was completely unaware of the potential issues that may result from taking BCAAs in isolation. So, in the effort to make you a more informed consumer than I was, here’s what we now know about BCAAs and a few reasons why I no longer take them…
Do BCAAs Actually Promote Muscle Protein Synthesis?
As you may recall from human physiology or biology classes or textbooks (sheesh—I'm really taking us back to school today!), the process of muscle building depends on the delicate balance between muscle protein synthesis (MPS) and muscle protein breakdown (MPB)—which is known as net protein balance (NPB).
MPB naturally occurs as a result of muscular damage induced by exercise. MPS, on the other hand, is the opposite force: when protein is produced (or consumed via diet) to repair muscle damage caused by intense exercise.
When MPS is greater than MPB, you get a positive NPB, and therefore muscle growth. But when MPB outpaces MPS, NPB is negative, and you experience a net loss of muscle. Therefore, increasing your rate of muscle protein synthesis is one way to make sure you’re building muscle, and not losing it. And replenishing your protein stores (or more specifically, amino acids) after exercise is exactly how you can do that.
To simplify it even more: Protein In > Protein Out = Muscle Growth
While all the amino acids contribute to MPS, arguably the most potent for stimulating muscle protein synthesis is the BCAA leucine. This is why many folks in the fitness industry started opting for BCAA supplements. After all, why take all the amino acids when you just need three? However, this reductionist thinking misled a lot of people because of one aspect of your body's physiology…
…namely, when you don’t have the other EAAs to balance out the BCAAs, the effects of BCAAs on protein synthesis are severely limited—and worse, can even lead to an amino acid imbalance that results in the breakdown of muscle tissue.
According to a 2018 review in the journal Nutrients, “Recent Perspectives Regarding the Role of Dietary Protein for the Promotion of Muscle Hypertrophy with Resistance Exercise Training”:
“While it is true that leucine is capable of stimulating MPS in the absence of other amino acids, it should be emphasized that protein synthesis will eventually become limited by the availability of other essential amino acids.”
Another large meta-analysis, in which researcher Robert Wolfe reviewed all the available BCAA studies between 1985 and 2017, found exactly zero human studies in which BCAAs alone were responsible for more efficient muscle protein synthesis. What’s more, Wolfe’s meta-analysis discussed two studies in which BCAAs were found to actually decrease muscle protein synthesis and increase the catabolic rate of lean tissue!
This shows that, when you have an excess of BCAAs, the body will actually break down its own muscle tissue to free up EAAs and maintain homeostasis.
In other words, no: BCAAs alone don’t promote muscle protein synthesis. In fact, without adequate intake of the other EAAs, BCAAs can actually have catabolic (breakdown) effects. It's as though you were trying to build a car and only had 2.5 wheels, half an engine, a missing chassis, and no gas tank—rather than a shiny new vehicle, you get a crumpled-up mess of metal uglying up your backyard.
The potential loss of muscle is reason enough not to waste your hard-earned dough on BCAAs. But unfortunately, there’s more…
The Unfortunate Side Effects Of BCAAs In Isolation
Not only are isolated BCAAs more ineffective for building muscle…
…but there’s also now research that points to some potentially deleterious side effects of regular, high dose BCAA supplementation.
BCAAs Can Deplete B Vitamins
B Vitamin cofactors—specifically B1, B2, B3, B5, and B6—are required for the breakdown, synthesis, and utilization of BCAAs.
Therefore, by taking high doses of BCAAs, you could be taxing your precious stores of B vitamins.
This is bad news, especially considering B vitamins are essential for converting your food into fuel, nervous system function, cognition, healthy hair, skin and nails, DNA synthesis, hormone production, and more.
BCAAs Can Lower Serotonin Levels
BCAAs and the amino acid tryptophan compete for the same carrier system.
In fact, blocking the uptake of tryptophan in the brain is exactly how BCAAs can help to stave off fatigue during long workouts.
So, when BCAA concentrations in the body are abnormally high, the brain doesn’t get as much tryptophan. While this is good news during a workout, it also means you can inadvertently lower your serotonin levels—a calming, mood-boosting neurotransmitter—because tryptophan is its precursor.
High BCAAs = low tryptophan uptake = decreased serotonin levels
Unfortunately, chronically low serotonin can lead to serious neurological imbalances that increase the risk of depression, anxiety, sleep problems, carbohydrate cravings, attention disorders, and more.
BCAAs May Lead To Higher Risk Of Metabolic Disease
BCAAs are known to activate insulin activity and promote the uptake of glucose by muscles…
…which actually contributes to their positive effects on athletic performance.
When taken in high doses and in isolation of other amino acids, though, research shows BCAAs may actually lead to dysregulated blood sugar, insulin resistance, and increase the risk of more serious metabolic diseases like diabetes:
- Independent of body weight, the addition of BCAAs to a high-fat diet contributes to the development of insulin resistance and impaired glucose homeostasis
- Higher levels of BCAAs have a significant association with the future development of diabetes
- Increased fasting concentrations of circulating BCAAs are associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance in humans
While the mechanism between BCAAs and dysregulated glucose metabolism isn’t quite clear, some researchers hypothesize it could be a result of a metabolic burden driven by an amino acid imbalance.
BCAAs Can Lead To Overeating And Weight Gain
High levels of BCAAs have also been linked to obesity.
Some say this is a result of the aforementioned insulin resistance, which inhibits your body’s ability to burn fat and leads to weight gain (as I discussed in the article “5 Simple Steps You Can Take To Live Longer, Banish Blood Sugar Swings & Massively Enhance Energy Levels”).
However, new research shows that it may be the opposite, and that high levels of BCAAs can interfere with appetite signaling, leading to overeating and obesity, which then causes metabolic dysfunction.
In a recent animal study from 2019, researchers found that mice given higher levels of BCAAs (200%) experienced hyperphagia—an abnormal condition of intense hunger and overeating—and thus gained more fat-based weight than controls (no gain in lean mass was observed). Additionally, these mice had a 10% reduction in overall lifespan.
What’s more, the researchers concluded that these effects were not due to high levels of BCAAs, but a consequence of the body compensating for a BCAA-driven amino acid imbalance. In fact, the researchers found that by adding certain essential amino acids back into the mouse diets (specifically tryptophan and threonine), they were able to reverse the effects of BCAAs and significantly reduce hyperphagia.
I guess you could call this effect the BCAA munchies.
So, because I don't want my precious vitamins depleted, my neurotransmitters imbalanced, or my blood glucose regulation or appetite screwed up, I really don't go near any BCAA formulas. Period.
This isn't because BCAAs are bad, per se. It’s just that when taken in the doses dished out in most supplements and powders these days, and without the presence of the other EAAs to balance them out, BCAAs are A) not as effective for building muscle, and B) can lead to amino acid imbalances that cause all the other issues I've just cited.
But you don’t need to throw out your amino acid supplements altogether, as the solution is actually quite simple. Just make sure you somehow consume all of the EAAs, which include a balanced ratio of BCAAs, plus the additional benefits of all the other essential amino acids.
What I Didn't Know About Amino Acids & What Has Radically Changed My Stance On Amino Acids: “LEAAs”
As you probably guessed by now, EAAs are my amino acid supplement of choice.
Taking all the essential amino acids together (which again, includes the three BCAAs) prevents the potential side effects caused by a BCAA-induced amino acid imbalance, while also giving you the full spectrum of benefits.
But here’s a secret not many people know, and one that I just recently learned myself…
…based on the latest research that I'll get into below, it appears that EAAs are even more effective when they include a relatively higher ratio of leucine than what I've considered to be appropriate in the past (but again, in combination with the other amino acids, not in isolation). These leucine-fortified essential amino acids are known as LEAAs.
While I’ve taken traditional EAAs for years now—and have experienced massive benefits in not only my energy, athletic performance, muscle mass, mood, satiety, and much, much more—when I dove into the large amount of high-quality research on leucine-enriched essential amino acids, which we'll call “LEAAs” for now, especially when it comes to muscle protein synthesis, lean muscle growth, and athletic recovery, I pretty quickly became convinced.
Why LEAAs Are Even Better For Muscle & Recovery
Again, the key to the magic of LEAAs is the leucine content, as the “L” implies…
…because, as you've already learned, leucine is undoubtedly the most effective amino acid when it comes to building muscle and athletic recovery.
Mechanistically, leucine supports muscle and recovery in a number of ways:
- Increases the rate of muscle protein synthesis (but as you know, it doesn’t work efficiently in isolation)
- Regulates the production of anabolic endocrine hormones
- Stimulates the release of insulin, which enhances the uptake of other amino acids and suppresses muscle protein breakdown
- Modulates the mTor pathway, the cell survival pathway that monitors the availability of nutrients, cellular energy, and oxygen levels, triggering muscle hypertrophy (an increase and growth of muscle cells)
(In fact, a specific lack of leucine may be why plant-based proteins don’t have as much of a profound effect on building muscle when compared to leucine-rich animal proteins.)
Sure, that’s all pretty theoretical. But is there any research on these novel LEAAs? You bet your ‘AAs’ there is.
The Research-Backed Benefits Of LEAAs
In the past decade, there have been a number of high-quality, clinical trials conducted on LEAAs. I wish more of those folks throwing back cheap BCAAs, and those now taking EAAs, knew about these trials.
You will now.
Most of this research relates to protein synthesis, muscle growth, and athletic recovery.
In a 2011 randomized controlled trial, eight adults completed two separate bouts of cycling for 60 minutes for 13 days. 10 g of LEAAs (3.5 g leucine) were consumed during one bout, and 10 g of a standard EAA supplement (1.87 g leucine) during the other. The results showed that LEAAs increased MPS by 33% more than traditional EAAs (though both were effective).
Another randomized controlled trial from 2018 on post-stroke patients with sarcopenia (a condition characterized by loss of skeletal muscle mass and function) showed that supplementation with as little as 3 g of LEAAs resulted in increased muscle mass, strength, and physical function.
In terms of athletic recovery, the research is also very promising. A 2019 study in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science examined the effects of LEAA supplementation (3.6 g, 3x/day) on post-exercise muscle damage in 10 young, healthy males. The results of the study showed that LEAAs significantly suppressed exercise-induced muscle tissue damage, suggesting that LEAAs can aid in muscle recovery.
In April 2020, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group design study (whew, say that five times fast) was published in which 20 active young men on a controlled diet (1.2 g/kg/d of protein) were given either 4 g of LEAAs (1.6 g leucine) or a placebo three times a day for four days following an acute bout of lower-body resistance exercise. LEAAs were shown to preserve muscle force production and attenuate muscle soreness more than placebo, even when combined with an already high protein diet.
All that to say, the research is pretty clear: By using an essential amino acid formula that’s just a bit higher in leucine, you could see substantial gains when it comes to lean muscle mass, reduced soreness after exercise, and a speedier recovery, and avoid all the issues with BCAAs because you've still got all the other EAAs present.
But the importance of leucine isn’t all I’ve learned about amino acids in the past several months. Thanks to the help of my team at Kion and several researchers and scientific experts in the nutrition science field who I've consulting with, there have been a number of new discoveries that have shifted my thoughts on how to formulate the absolute best amino acid supplement on the face of the planet.
But That's Not All: The Correct Ratios Of EAAs Are Also Critical
As someone who has worked on amino acid formulations for many years, there are many ways to “skin the cat,” so to speak, when it comes to selecting an EAA supplement.
You can find formulas with varying amino acid ratios, amounts of each, total dosage, and much more. None that I could find utilize the LEAA trick you've just read about.
But the truth is, despite what many companies will tell you, we don’t yet have a clinical trial that compares all the options and tells us what combination is the absolute best for humans. However, there are a few key factors I’ve discovered recently that have a big impact on whether or not your amino acid supplement might be getting you the best results possible, starting with the clues on the best EAA ratios perhaps already being hidden in our very own muscles.
Many people in the amino acid space will claim that the most effective ratio of essential amino acids mimics that of human muscle.
Makes sense, right?
If your goal is to enhance muscle protein synthesis, or build more muscle, mimicking the amino acid composition of muscle seems fairly logical. For example, human skeletal muscle contains the following EAA amounts (expressed in grams per 100 gram):
- Leucine: 6.3 grams (20%)
- Lysine: 6.6 grams (21%)
- Isoleucine: 3.4 grams (11%)
- Valine: 4.3 grams (13%)
- Threonine: 2.9 grams (9%)
- Phenylalanine: 3.8 grams (12%)
- Methionine: 1.7 grams (5%)
- Histidine: 2.8 grams (9%)
However, from a physiological standpoint, things aren't as simple as replicating that composition we find in our own muscle.
See, when you consume amino acids, some of them get used up before they can be incorporated into skeletal muscle. In fact, that’s exactly what happens to leucine, which tends to get rapidly oxidized by muscle as it enters the cell.
Therefore, in order to make sure you’re actually getting adequate amounts of leucine—which, as you now know, is the star of the muscle-building show—your amino acid supplement really should have more than the 20% found in skeletal muscle.
Which brings me to the next discovery: 40% Leucine + Increased Valine, Isoleucine, and Lysine is best.
That’s right, you need about double the amount of leucine you’ll find in skeletal muscle, especially if you’re concerned about lean muscle and athletic recovery.
LEAAs with 40% leucine are found to be more effective in a number of clinical studies when it comes to protein synthesis and muscle building (study, study, study).
Now, as I discussed in the case of isolated BCAA formulations, maintaining a balanced ratio of amino acids is important—otherwise, the body tends to overcompensate and cause other problems. Therefore, with additional leucine, the other BCAAs (valine and isoleucine) will also need to be increased proportionally to maintain proper balance. And, since its transport into muscle is slower than other amino acids, increasing the amount of lysine is helpful for bumping up protein synthesis rates, too.
You Need All 9 EAAs for Best Results (Yes, Even Histidine, The One Most People Leave Out)
If you recall from a few thousand words ago (and if you don’t, I certainly don’t blame you), I mentioned that histidine was once considered a “conditionally essential” amino acid.
It was thought that, at least in adults, histidine could be created de novo (inside the body), and that blood levels would rise in the presence of the other EAAs. However, it turns out this theory was based on studies from the 1980s, which used an outdated method of urine nitrogen balance testing.
Urine nitrogen balance testing measures the byproducts of amino acid breakdown rather than evaluating aminos acids directly. When looking at newer research using the “Tracer Method”—which observes amino acids right inside the muscle—we now know that manufacture of histidine inside the body isn’t that efficient. Therefore, researchers now tend to classify histidine as an essential amino acid, which means we need to get it from either diet or supplementation.
Plus, histidine has many important roles in the body that you don’t want to hinder, including regulating glucose metabolism, decreasing inflammation and oxidative stress, reducing appetite, improving cognitive function, boosting mood, and improving sleep. So, when finding the most effective, high-quality amino acid supplement, it turns out you should indeed choose one that includes histidine.
In other words, most supplements manufacturers have been under the impression that histidine wasn't at all important, and it turns out that because they were all relying on outdated methods of amino acid testing, they were all wrong. Histidine is crucial if you want to get the most out of your amino acid supplement.
Wow. Let's review. In summary, a good amino acid supplement should:
- Be modeled off human skeletal muscle, but with a few important tweaks
- Have 40% leucine
- Include increased levels of lysine, valine, and isoleucine
- Include histidine
Does such an amino acid supplement exist? A month ago, I'd say absolutely not. But based on all this new research I've been up to behind-the-scenes, since I want the supplement I consume every single day to be as close to perfect as possible, it does now…
Putting It All Together: Introducing The New-And-Improved Kion Aminos
Whew, that was quite the thrilling exercise in theoretical amino acid formulation.
But don’t worry, this isn’t all about theory.
If you’ve been a reader for a while, you know I’m such a fan of essential amino acids that we started formulating them at Kion—so that I could not only “scratch my own itch” when it came to taking the best amino acid supplement I could find, but also to help spread the word about these amazing compounds and get them into as many hands as possible so that others could experience the same benefits I did, especially benefits that are totally risk-free, incredibly tasty, and hyper-efficacious.
Despite already experiencing the incredible effects of Kion Aminos myself (and swearing by them so much that I literally don’t ever go a day without 10-40 grams dumped in my mouth, sprinkled in smoothies, and shaken into icy cold Nalgene water bottles) since learning about these new findings in amino acid research, I just couldn’t help but go back to the “bat caves” with the team at Kion to make some serious improvements. After all, I'm totally willing to come right out and say it when new research has revealed that we could do an even better job with our supplement formulations at Kion.
So, over the last several months, thanks to the amazing team at Kion, we’ve managed to develop an upgraded formula that knocks the socks off any other EAA supplement on the market.
The newly formulated Kion Aminos does indeed check literally every box we just covered in this article:
- All nine essential amino acids (including histidine)
- An LEAA profile with 40% leucine
- Additional lysine, valine, and isoleucine
- A comprehensive amino acid ratio that’s been clinically proven to maximize muscle protein synthesis and athletic recovery
- And, just like always, no added sugar, artificial ingredients, chemicals, stimulants, or other nasty fillers
Not only that, while it was pretty tasty before, our new Kion Aminos got a serious upgrade in the flavor department. I must say, I didn’t know it was possible to make amino acids taste this friggin’ delicious (without gobs of sugar, obviously). But we worked with some stellar flavor scientists to crack the code on a flavor profile for our Aminos powders that is going to blow you away when you taste it.
So here’s what you’ll find in the new-and-improved Kion Aminos.
Superior, Scientifically Validated Amino Acid Ratio
Each serving of Kion Aminos contains 5 grams (5,000 mg) of pure essential amino acids in a meticulously crafted ratio.
After spending countless hours poring through the current scientific research, we landed on a ratio similar to skeletal muscle, but with all the improvements needed to make a more effective product.
In each serving, you’ll find:
- L-Leucine: 2000 mg (40%)
- L-Lysine: 850 mg (17%)
- L-Isoleucine: 550 mg (11%)
- L-Valine: 500 mg (10%)
- L-Threonine: 475 mg (10%)
- L-Phenylalanine: 350 mg (7%)
- L-Methionine: 200 mg (4%)
- L-Histidine: 71.5 mg (1%)
- L-Tryptophan: 3.5 mg (<1%)
With 40% leucine, increased amounts of lysine, isoleucine, and valine, plus added histidine, the new formula is more effective than ever.
Unbelievable Upgraded Taste
Amino acids themselves are not the most appetizing.
They’re notoriously bitter, with a lingering aftertaste that can scare away even the bravest of spouses.
Most companies will mask the strong taste with crazy amounts of sugar and artificial flavors. However, if you know Kion, you know we never add sugar or artificial ingredients, and our Aminos are no exception. So, considering Kion Aminos are only sweetened with a touch of natural stevia and monk fruit, the fact that we were able to create a formula this delicious is nothing short of mind-blowing.
The improved Mixed Berry, Cool Lime, Mango and Watermelon powder flavors were crafted using only natural ingredients, and then meticulously taste-tested until we reached a final product that allows you to sip, savor, and actually enjoy your amino acid supplement—rather than chugging it down as fast as humanly possible.
(And if you’re not into flavors or powders, need something to tuck into your pack for a hike, marathon, triathlon, or other competition, or simply travel a lot, we also have Kion Aminos in a convenient capsule form.)
Clean, Natural Ingredients
As usual, the new Kion Aminos contains no artificial additives, artificial preservatives, stearates, coatings, dyes, added sugars, or caffeine.
This means that they won’t spike your blood sugar, interfere with gut health, or give you the nervous energy and jitters of other popular amino acid supplements.
In fact, here’s the list of simple, clean ingredients:
Rigorous Quality Testing
And finally, as we do with all our products, we conducted rigorous quality testing to ensure every batch of Kion Aminos is free of heavy metals and other contaminants.
Not only that, our products undergo regular testing to ensure the supplements delivered to your door actually contain what’s on the label, in the exact amounts listed. You'd be shocked at the number of supplement manufacturers who simply don't do that.
While testing supplements before they get shipped to a customer may seem like a no-brainer, the FDA doesn’t actually verify that supplements contain what they say they do or whether they're contaminated with heavy metals, bacteria, or pesticides before they are sold. So, because it’s not actually required, a lot of companies will forego quality testing—meaning there’s no way to know if you’re actually getting what you’re paying for.
In other words, Kion goes above and beyond with our quality testing because—shocker—we really do care about the quality of our products.
These new Kion Aminos just dropped today, and since the original formula is already our most popular product, chances are it’ll sell out fast. So while you can of course keep reading to learn how to use 'em properly, you can also click here to grab some Aminos.
And if you need a little more convincing from some who, perhaps, isn’t the co-founder of the company, just go check out our 400+ 5-star reviews like this one:
How To Use Amino Acids The Right Way
Now, while you’ll definitely still experience profound benefits from the simple act of throwing back 5-40 g of these new Kion Aminos every day, the truth is, once you start diving into the research, you’ll find a number of best practices when it comes to timing, macro-combining, and dosing your amino acids.
(Warning: This is about to get nerdy. So skip to the last section if you just want the CliffsNotes version.)
Let's begin with timing. Because amino acids are such a potent performance and recovery aid…
…most of the research has to do with whether or not you should take them before or after exercise for best results.
Turns out, it depends on what kind of exercise you’re doing. I'll dig into details below.
Aerobic Exercise: Take 30 Minutes Before for Energy, Within One Hour After for Optimized Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS)
The main amino acid that gets oxidized and used for energy during aerobic exercise is leucine.
And as you now know like the back of your hand if you read everything above, leucine is crucial for muscle protein synthesis.
So, if you take amino acids before aerobic exercise, your body will quickly burn any excess leucine for energy. While this sounds bad, it can actually be helpful if you’re looking for a quick energy boost or want help staving off fatigue during a longer workout. In fact, many customers of Kion Aminos report using it as a “pre-workout” for this exact reason—plus, it won’t weigh you down or make you jittery like a lot of other pre-workout formulas can.
However, if you’re looking for optimal results for muscle protein synthesis, you’ll want to take your amino acids within one hour after exercise. This will replenish the amino acids (especially leucine) that got burned during your workout and therefore give your muscles the fuel they need to build and recover.
When it comes to aerobic exercise, do you want energy? Take Kion Aminos 30 minutes before. Muscle-building? Take them after.
Resistance Exercise: Take 30 Minutes Prior And Within One Hour After
In the case of resistance exercise, amino acid metabolism is slightly different.
Since the very nature of resistance exercise is to stimulate muscle protein breakdown, by taking amino acids before resistance training, you’re priming your muscles to shift to an anabolic (or biosynthesizing) state, which actually makes them more receptive to strength gains.
However, as every “religious post-workout protein shake drinker” knows, there’s also a benefit to taking amino acids after resistance exercise, too. Research shows that the stimulatory effect of amino acids on muscle protein synthesis is greater after a strength workout, partially due to increased blood flow to muscles.
So basically, if you want to get the most optimal results when it comes to building muscle and recovering, take amino acids about 30 minutes before and also after a resistance workout.
But Then Consider Taking Aminos During Exercise, Too
Now, until recently, I had never considered taking aminos during a workout…
…but my thinking changed after I had professional bodybuilder Milos Sarcev on my podcast.
What Milos pointed out was that during resistance exercise, you can take advantage of hyperemia—the increase in blood flow to skeletal muscle—to maximize the delivery of nutrients into the bloodstream with intra-workout supplementation (literally, taking sips from your shaker cup between sets). This allows you to maintain a consistent level of amino acids by constantly replenishing your stores as they're being depleted by resistance training.
Intra-workout supplementation is a highly effective way to saturate your blood with amino acids and optimizing your performance.
With Or Without Food?
This is another question I often get: Should you take amino acids on an empty stomach?
I used to think that consuming the EAAs without food was the best, but it turns out, this is not necessarily correct.
In fact, research shows that taking EAAs along with carbohydrates can lead to even greater stimulation of muscle protein synthesis. According to a small clinical trial, those who consumed EAAs (6 g) along with carbohydrates (35 g sucrose) after a bout of resistance exercise showed significant increases in muscle protein synthesis.
How this works is that the insulin response from eating carbs enhances the uptake of amino acids into muscle, which increases their anabolic effects. Also, the carbohydrates will get stored in the muscle as glycogen, which can also contribute to mass gains.
However, maximizing muscle mass is certainly not everyone’s goal. If you want to build the leanest muscle possible, I would say take your amino acids on an empty stomach. If you’re going for increased mass and strength, combining aminos with carbohydrates could give you a significant boost.
In addition, you can indeed combine EAAs with other forms of protein, including something like a smoothie with protein powder in it. Whey protein is a particularly effective complement to amino acid supplementation. A 2020 study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that combining whey protein and EAAs increased whole-body protein synthesis and resulted in greater suppression of whole-body protein breakdown.
How Much To Take
Research shows that because of the enhanced digestibility and bioavailability, as little as 3 grams of LEEAs can stimulate muscle protein synthesis as much as 20 grams of whey protein.
What’s more, 15 grams is shown to be even more effective than 40 grams of whey.
The benefits of amino acids increase linearly (the more you take, the better results), but appear to plateau after 15 grams in a single serving. In other words, you’ll get benefits from taking 3-15 grams of EAAs at one time, experiencing the best results at the higher end of that range. But the benefits plateau after 15 grams.
TLDR (Too Long; Didn't Read :): The CliffsNotes Version
Alright, that was admittedly a lot to weave through…
…but at least you physiology and biology nerds got the full picture.
Here’s basically all you need to know when it comes to dosing, timing, and general best practices for optimal results:
- Dose: Take 3-15 grams in one serving (higher end of range = more results). There are no additional benefits to taking more than 15 grams at one time.
- Aerobic exercise: For energy, take one serving 30 minutes before a workout. For muscle building, take one serving within one hour after exercise.
- Resistance exercise: Take one serving 30 minutes before a workout, and another serving within one hour after.
- Intra-workout supplementation: Also consider taking amino acids throughout your workout to take advantage of hyperemia and maintain nutrient levels.
- General wellbeing: Take one serving in between meals.
- Macronutrient Combining: If looking to enhance mass gains and brute strength, take with a serving of carbohydrates or protein (whey protein is recommended). Combining amino acids with protein Otherwise, take on an empty stomach.
Again, these are all tips for optimal results. You will still get benefits if you don’t follow these instructions to a T. If all else fails, just take one serving per day whenever it’s convenient.
Congratulations, you’re now officially an expert on everything amino acids.
At the very least, I hope you understand why—even as someone who has tried hundreds of different compounds, nutrients, and supplements—amino acids continue to be a staple in my household, and why I consider them the “Swiss army knife” of supplements.
You just can’t get much more fundamental when it comes to your health than the mighty amino acid, which regulates everything from sleep to muscle building, recovery, cognition, mood, immunity, glucose metabolism, and much, much more. However, it all comes down to getting adequate amounts of specific amino acids, in the right combination, and a balanced ratio.
This is why, unlike many other trusted sources, I don’t recommend isolated BCAAs:
- They don’t give you all the essential amino acids (EAAs) you need;
- They aren’t effective alone for muscle protein synthesis (and may have the opposite effect);
- They can lead to an imbalance in the body that results in overcompensation, which can cause depleted B vitamins, reduced serotonin levels, dysregulated blood glucose, increased appetite levels, and even obesity.
Instead, you should look for a balanced EAA supplement—which still contains the BCAAs in lower amounts, but also has all the other essential amino acids.
Additionally, based on current research in the field of human physiology, the “gold standard” amino acid supplement has the following:
- All nine essential amino acids
- An amino acid profile conducive to stimulating muscle protein synthesis
- Is fortified with 40% leucine (also known as LEAAs), which has even greater effects on muscle protein synthesis
- Increased levels of lysine, valine, and isoleucine to balance out the added leucine
- At least 3 grams per serving
I’m extremely proud to say that the new-and-improved Kion Aminos has been strategically upgraded to check all these boxes, and much more.
It also tastes better than ever, and nobody else in the nutrition supplements industry has any product anything like this. We are the only ones. Period.
Grab yours today (before we run out, and no that's not “false scarcity”, as we actually do have a limited supply).
What's your take on amino acids? Have you been overwhelmed by the information out there? Has this article helped clarify things? How do you personally use aminos, if you do? Leave your comments and questions below. I read them all.
185 thoughts on “The Secret Darling Of The Nutrition Supplements Industry & Why Ben Greenfield Has Changed His Mind On Amino Acids: Myths, Deception & Truth Of BCAAs vs. EAAs.”
Anyone know if these EAAs, BCAAs, LEAAs are safe for people with gut issues? Say with Hydrogen sulfide SIBO? Thanks.
Hi Ben, after reading your article, which I very much enjoyed, I searched for your product and noticed immediately that histidine is not included in the composition, this despite the article relaying its importance. I find this confusing and in conflict with the article above. Would you please explain for me?
Would the consumption of these EAAs improve my kidney function? I have stage 4 CKD with extensive proteinuria. Creatine is about 2.7 I need a way to keep my serum albumin up and my protein consumption low so I don’t need dialysis.
If I took 15g of Kion Aminos, what would that be the equivalent to in terms of protein?
I was taking a look at MAP’s website (which I am sure you are familiar with) and they have an exact conversion – 10 tablets = 25g of protein. Thanks and look forward to your response.
The way that I prescribe doing it is to take the amino acids however at that point to likewise have a cup of bone stock every day… That gives you some additional glutamine.
I suspect daily Leucine supplementation is great for muscle building and sports performance, but might be a bad idea for longevity. Continual activation of MTOR is theorized to reduce longevity.
It is also found in certain studies that Leucine may enhance tumor growth. So I don’t know if daily supplementation is a great idea for middle aged and older adults where cancer risk is greater. Or maybe such folks should only use supplemental Leucine periodically?
I theorize that it might be a good idea to take Leucine for some period of time after an extended fast to help build back up white blood cells that are lost during fasting. However, I have not found a paper to support this.
Here are some papers and an article on the cancer promoting effect of Leucine:
Liu, Kristyn A et al. “Leucine supplementation differentially enhances pancreatic cancer growth in lean and overweight mice.” Cancer & metabolism vol. 2,1 6. 31 Mar. 2014, doi:10.1186/2049-3002-2-6
Xiao, Fei et al. “Leucine deprivation inhibits proliferation and induces apoptosis of human breast cancer cells via fatty acid synthase.” Oncotarget vol. 7,39 (2016): 63679-63689. doi:10.18632/oncotarget.11626
Breast Cancer Drug Resistance Linked to Diet High in Leucine
April 22, 2019
Listening to dozens of podcasts with specialists like Ben, Mercola, Paul Saladino, ….
My conslusion is…
When we fast regularly (maybe compress eating time) mTor activation is not a bigdeal.
We have the two windows…mTor activated and AMPK activated.
Copying Mercola words “keeping mtor activated all the time is a receip for a metabolic disaster”
When I started to follow Mercola (introduce me Ben) he used to be almost a vegetarian. Now he is carnivore.
That’s my impression.
The problems mentioned with Leucine happened in isolation or bcaa/eaa/leaa ?
I’m quiteeee curious about this topic too.
Chronic elevation of mTor is driven by elevated insulin more than elevated Aminos and protein. You gain more longevity by lowering insulin than lowering Aminos. Cancer is luecine hungry but you cannot starve it of luecine because it will cause cachexia and break down the body’s muscle tissue to feed the tumor. Sadly I lost an uncle this way. Hope this helps.
Ben, would you consume Kion Amino’s during the bike and run portions of a 70.3? If so, what does and how often? Thx!
Save Aminos until after during practice. Use during only on competition. It takes roughly 45min for complete absorbing though effects on fatigue will be immediate due to neural responses to the taste of luecine. Absorption is complete after 2hrs. I would due 10g LEAA (that gives you 4g of Luecine) every 2hr during bike run but if feeling like I would still bonk I might redose sooner to taste the aminos more.
What is considered best for developing muscles? Natural foods that contain BCAA or BCAA supplements.
Hi, I have a 15 year old nationally ranked athlete. I have been giving him the aminos 3 in the morning and 3 before his grueling matches that last up to two hours. It has really helped endurance and recovery. Am I giving him the proper dose?
I am giving him the Thorne electrolytes during his gmaes as well.
3am? What about autophagy?
Having read the literature on aminos, which Ben is correctly understanding and adjusting to here is what I would do…
Aminos have a 45min absorption time and 2 hour life in circulation. Therefore 15grams of a Kion LEAA product would be in his Gatorade. The electrolyte formula would include both glucose and sucrose for fastest glycogen replenishment. See Zack Bitter on this…
Amino’s would not be supplemented during workouts and practice but saved until after. Only game day is during.
He would supplement 40g daily in 10g doses with or without meal divided in 10g doses spaced at least 2hrs apart. This is on top of the 1g per body weight daily protein target, ideally from quality animal sources.
He would also supplement with gelatin or bone both(for gut health and greater non muscle protein synthesis), citruline 6- 10g(blood flow nitric oxide support), and 3g of Tyrosine( for cognitive, mood, and thyroid support).
So even with this amino acid mix containing BCAA’s it won’t activate mToR? Want to make sure I get this right bc I am trying to focus on emphasizing the benefits of longevity boosting by fasting yet need to make sure I get essential levels of amino acids and thus proteins.
Minimum 2.6g L-Luecine activates MToR, after 4 hours repeat to reactivate again. Check out protein experts Dr Gabrielle Lyon and Dr Don Layman, on Youtube and search engine.
– Since autophagy is reduced when supplementing leucine (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20844186/), will supplementing 10-15 gr of EAA per day reduce the benefits of a 72 hours fast? Since I’m also working out everyday (main goal: losing 4% of bf + building muscles) would it be a strategy you’d recommend or fasting would just be “energy restriction” without added benefits?
– EAA from fermented source vs classic EAA. Some people are claiming that the first kind of EAA is the only one working. And the second kind of EAA has proved to be essentially almost useless. What’s your thought on that?
Hey Matt, these would be good questions to call into the podcast: https://speakpipe.com/bengreenfield
Hi Ben!! Would you recommend taking AMINO as a PRE-WORKOUT (30mins-1hr before workout) and my POST-WORKOUT after a 2hrs training will be a WHEY (PROTEIN SHAKE)? Will this be good for the day? I heard that AMINO and WHEY are not a good combination.
Hi Ben. I am recently hearing about the benefits of training fasted along with taking Kion Aminos pre-workout. Do you agree with this? If so, how many aminos do you recommend I take? Should I also take any after? Thanks so much!
Yes this is a great way to fuel a fasted workout, while maintaining/building lean muscle mass… I'd recommend 5-10g as a preworkout (dependent on intensity). You don't necessarily need them after, unless you're planning on remaining fasted for a long time or have another intense workout within 8 hours. In which case, I'd recommend another 5-10g.
Thank you! Do you recommend I take anything else with the amino acids (e.g., electrolytes) to fuel my workout?
Personally I use Thorne Creapure and some Kion Aminos, especially for more strength based training. If you're doing endurance training or race, a mix of aminos, ketones and pure carb fuel source can be like rocket fuel.
Hello. I am a female trying to gain muscle. I use whey protein to help me get enough protein and to help me get enough calories in my diet. If I use eaa’s will i still need the whey? I dont want to overdo the aa’s but i still want to get my calories. Thank you
Depends what your goals and protein intake is. I would recommend at least taking them separately, as the whey would throw of the amino acid ratio of the EAAs, making them absorb less efficiently.
I’m trying to reconcile amounts of Kion Amino with whey protein or really any protein. I get now that I really can’t take “protein” as an exact measurement but have to think with it in terms of “protein from what.” It almost seems as though PerfectAmino could straight up replace whey, meat or egg protein in my diet — to varying degrees.
But as I’m used to counting calories when cutting or bulking, the 4 calorie per 5 tablets of aminos throws me and I’m trying to fit it into the understanding I have had.
So I’m going to give some calculations i think are correct, but please correct me if I’m wrong so I don’t make a mistake.
If I normally take 25 grams of Whey protein before a workout, which is 18% assimilable. Then in replacing it I should take… 4.5 grams of Perfect Amino, or roughly 5 grams. From what I see I would be getting the same protein utilization at that point.
But I would then be taking “5 grams of protein” not “30 grams of protein” which throws off my calorie counting.
So I guess I’m asking, should I just do my calorie counting and make rough translations between whey and Kion Amino or should I take it in addition to Whey?
Please help a confused person. Thnaks!
How long could you supplement EAA after a fasted workout before needing some actual nutrition? The idea being to continue an interment fast after a morning exercise. I’ve heard 10g ever 2 hours until food replenishment. Is there a law of diminishing return here? Lets say you are fasted for 10 hours pre workout, and want to hit that 16 hour fast mark.
I often like to do 10 g prior to workout and another 10g 1-2 post workout… Best not to exceed 30g/day
And you’ll die if you don’t drink a post-workout shake 15 minutes after your last set, right?
If you read the article or did a basic Google search you would understand why other *essential* amino acids are not “filler”.
I thought about your podcast recently. Been listening for years. I’m about to start doing a fasted cardio regimen in the mornings before work. I wanted to take essential amino acids in tandem.
I was reading this article and curious about the line where it’s stated EAA’s increase insulin and cortisol. (By chance do you have the source for that? I just want to understand the science.)
I was confused by the latter statement. If the body releases cortisol to draw amino acids from muscle, wouldn’t the body not do so if there’s free amino acids in the bloodstream from the supplemented EAA’s?
Is the takeaway:
EAA’s stimulate an increase in insulin & cortisol, but the amount of insulin & cortisol released isn’t at any significantly damaging amounts (assuming within the max 10g, 3 times a daily dosage).
Thanks for your time, Ben. Keep up the awesome show
Trying to throw in some fasted HIIT some mornings for mithocondrial sexyness. Will the ”fastedness” of said HIIT be in any way compromizrd by dropping some neutral EAA’s before doing it? If so, is there any negative Impact of running ’em fasted and going food after.
Thx for some great resources and deep rabbitholes.
Nope, that's what I do.
Hey Ben. What are your thoughts on glutamine? It’s an amino acid but not an EAA. If I supplement Kion EAA’s, is it beneficial or unnecessary to supplement glutamine?
I train HIIT 3x per week or more, I throw kettlebells around often, I run… So I am moderately active.
Thank you so much for your time. You are a genuine inspiration.
The way that I recommend doing it is to take the amino acids but then to also have a cup of bone broth each day… That gives you some extra glutamine.
What is the difference between Master Amino Pattern (MAP) and Kion Amino?
I just bought this and was curious about taking it 20 mins before fat or protein. I have a snack (granola with coconut yogurt) after work and before hitting the gym, but according to instructions I need to take aminos before. Does it matter that I take the aminos approx. and hour and a half before my workout? Or is it better to time it right before my workout? Thank you!
Johanna, refer to this supplement guide which should answer your questions.
Hi, Ben – I just received my first shipment of Kion Aminos – SO EXCITED! I was sharing my excitement with friends, and one of them told me her doctor recommended not taking aminos within 30 minutes of taking in any caffeine. Is there any validity to this? Could caffeine lessen the effects of amino acids? Sounds suspect to me… Thanks for always sharing an amazing wealth of information with us. I love your podcast and web site!
Not in my opinion. I've seen it actually enhance the effects of AA's in some studies!
hello, i’d like to know if taking bcaa’s supplements would i be better off eating carbs with them or proteins? I heard that it’s better to take bcaa’s when eating carbohydrates not proteins.
What are you taking them for?
hey Ben, well, I started taking L glutamine as I have IBS, and have since started taking other BCAAs on top. my IBS has been four years now and has been increasingly getting worse so much so that I sometimes cannot control my bowels and often don’t make it to toilet in time and have been recently given adult nappies by my doctor, I have not been able to gym in three years and getting out of the house even for a dog walk is increasingly difficult due to very low energy levels. On some investigations they found, so I was told, some kind of nerve problem in my large intestines. I am very much nauseous all day long and have very uncomfortable bloating.
in addition, i am currently eating paleo 3 years now and keto for a little over a year.
In addition to checking out the following articles, I recommend shifting from BCAA's to EAA's. Keep mind I am not a doctor and these are just my own personal thoughts and opinions! Please consult a doctor. I hope that helps!
https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/podcast/digestio… https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/article/digestio… https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/podcast/digestio…
Absolutely garbage product. This product is a proprietary BLEND (5g) of several aminos. You only need 3 aminos in your supps: Leucine; Isoleucine and Valine. The others are nothing but fillers. In addition to this, it does not show what ratio (or quantity) the different aminos are.
I have a 40 point spike (77 average to 117 average) in morning fasted glucose if I take 10 NatureAminos 30 minutes before a reading.
I also have a 20 point if I take 10 NatureAminos before I go to bed and then test my blood glucose after 9 hours of sleep. I only take them in the evening after a hard training day.
You said they “can lower fasting glucose” so why am I getting an increase?
Thanks for your guidance-Alice
There is a logical fallacy in this article that I just couldn’t ignore.
The article states (correctly) that Leucine, Isoleucine are both BCAA’s and EAA’s, yet the claim made in the infographic on “utillization” (which is a very ambiguous statement in and of itself) is that their proprietary blend of EAA’s are greater than 99% whereas BCAA’s (no mention of which ones either) are merely less than one percent when the fact is their EAA blend contains the BCAA’s Leucine and Isoleucine. Clearly not all BCAA’s have a “utillization” of less than 1%. This type of sensationalist reporting is extremely misleading, plagued by ambiguities and omissions. This is nothing more than a sophisticated sales pitch.
I’m thinking that this is due to the ratio of EAA’s present in the blood stream simultaneously allowing all of them to be utilized in protein synthesis. With bcaa’s, if protein synthesis is initiated without the present of all EAA’s, proteolytic breakdown will occur to pull the essential aminos from your muscle or organ tissue in order to follow through with the protein synthesis, or it is also possible that the branch chained aminos will simply be converted to glucose via gluconeogenesis, which can have an anticatabolic effect, but will not result in utilization toward protein synthesis.
Phew I’m glad Ben didn’t entertain your comment especially in regards to BCAAs which he and alot of others have addressed. I do however agree on the prop blend, but if you look around he gives through ratios, from there it’s math. There are other products out there that include the breakout and are less costly, nonetheless he uses his platform to inform and to sell his product. It’s up to you how to use the information and whether to use the product. It seems you haven’t done either, the latter you should be dissapointed with.
I just started using nature aminos and have noticed that I get incredibly tired afterward. Is this a sign of anything, or a deficiency somewhere? I usually take it on an empty stomach.
Consider coming on to CoreBrain Journal to talk about proteins and brain function, relevance of protein breakfast, supplements etc. – about 45 min on Zoom, easy.
Apply here so we can get show notes together easily: http://corebrainjournal.com/guest
This is why to get on: http://corebrainjournal.com/about.
email my scheduling assistant [email protected]
Great article. I realize you prefer amino supplement that does not have any sweeteners, but curious what your thoughts are on this company’s line of Amino protein products:
They seem like a good blend of amino and convenient.
It has a ton of fillers and so called "natural flavors" that definitely would make me think twice about using it…
What are the fillers you see in this product? Stevia? They use vegetable use for their color and it has no sugar. I am just curious as to why your hesitation?They also use AjiPure amino acids, which are plant based and used in pharmaceuticals. With that, what is the source of amino acids in NatureAminos?
I am starting Keto OS with Brain Octane….how does natureaminos fit into that scenario….mostly doing this for weight loss, but am hoping to build some muscle while I am at it…not an athlete, do med/light weights 3 times a week. Thoughts?
I hope you’ll answer these 2 question and that it’s not too late :)
1. Regarding Perfect Aminos, if I am keeping track of grams of protein per meal, and want to eat about 15 grams per meal for a total of about 45 grams, give or take, would these pills count? For example, if I take 10 pills (I believe its 1 gram/protein per pill), do i count them as 10 grams/protein out of my allotted 45 grams? If so, would leave me with very much food to eat on the protein side of things…
2. Since I know BCAA’a spike mMtor, a lot of people reserve these only for strength training days, when you want that anabolic boost. My concern in taking this everyday is that “id be stimulating mMtor all the time, since BCAA’s are part of this formula? I know you said it doesn’t boost insulin, but not sure about mMTor?
Thanks so much!! I love your podcasts!! Also, can your team shoot me an email when you answer this, as i can’t regularly check this post?
1) Yep 1 pill is one gram!
2) You only get this effect with branch chain amino acid's not the essential amino acids.
Hope that helps!
Hey Ben! So I’m used to tracking my macros and carb cycling. I work out 6 days a week. I’m also vegan/gluten free. If I don’t need to supplement with protein anymore, do I need to make up those protein calories? If so, that means I’m eating more carbs or more fat. I’m just worried it’s going to throw off my perfect Macro plan I have in place.
Yep, you would more specifically need to make up those protein GRAMS, and you can definitely add up to 20g/day of aa's from NatureAminos from that. https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/natureaminos
Also…I'd highly recommend you review this: https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2013/07/how-to-c…
Ben some people like the people at Fortagen and Eric Serano with Infinity Fitness are making the claim that you can substitute EAAS supplements for protein to during a cut/diet to save caloriea ,and 5 to 10g grams of EAAs are equivalent to 20 to 40 grams of whey protein depending on quality of the EAAS as far as protein synthesis because of higher utilization. They say if your protein goals 150 grams and you take 5 to 10 grams of an EAAs then you only need to take 130 to 110 grams of protein to hit your goals because EAAS are 3 to 6 times more anabolic per gram. Some even say you can replace 50 to 80 percent of your protein with EAAS . They use studies like the one linked below to justify it. It seems like you are saying EAAS are only worth one gram. Fortagen claims that three serving of 10 grams each can replace 140 grams of protein needs with only 160 worth of calories with their EAAS. Im confused here is the studies they are using to justify it.
BEN. THANK YOU. I’ve been meaning to write a review about your podcast after hearing you talk about the link between taurine and cortisol. You’re a legitimate lifesaver and this article and product is what I’ve been searching for. I hope I can meet you someday to thank you in person. I sincerely love you.
Thank you for all the great work. It was your podcast that got me on to Amino Acids.
Could you recommend how I would combine them with creatine? My strength coach suggested I start taking creatine to help increase strength and mass.
Any help would be appreciated.
Easy. 5g creatine per day. No loading required at all. I recommend this stuff: https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/thorne-creatine
Is anyone able to answer my question?
Hi Craig, both Histidine and Arginine can be produced by the body, as long as the other 8 essential amino acids are present, such as in Nature Aminos. So additional Arginine shouldn’t need to be supplemented in addition. However, it is always recommended to speak to your health care professional as well, about such things.
Thank you Ben.
Hi Ben, I notice in your article you have histidine and arginine as EAA’s but
I am not finding them in the ingredients listed on Nature Amino’s. I saw where
you said histidine naturally occurs within and hour of taking EAA’s but I don’t see
anything similar about Arginine. Could you expain/ elaborate please? Should I
be taking an Arginine supplement as well? Thanks!
How much should we be cutting our protein intake from whole food sources when taking these? I weight 160 pounds and I’m trying to gain muscle. I shoot for about 130g of protein per day and I just started taking 10 tablets a day preworkout. Should I be cutting down to say 110g to account for aminos, or my diet should remain unchanged? Thanks in advance.
Each serving of aminos (1 tablet) counts as 1 gram, so if you take 10, you could decrease total daily protein intake by 10g, etc.
Hey Ben, Maybe I missed this, I saw your post workout suggestions, but how many
tablets do you suggest for pre workout? Should that amount be different
on a weight workout than a cardio workout?
5-10 pre and 5-10 post. If a bike ride or swim not as necessary but for a run, same for cardio as for weightlifting.
Very interesting stuff. I am curious to know your thoughts on if aminos can help one recover from a chemotherapy dose, or on the other end, hinder its efficacy? I’m am avid crossfitter and continue to do as much as I can. Chemo obviously limits one’s ability to perform, and recover, because it destroys cells. I just don’t know how it affects muscles, if speed up apoptosis(cell death) or are neutral. My doctors don’t seem very aware of the benefits of rigorous exercise and proper supplements. Any thoughts or know of any colleagues who have looked into this? thank you
I’ve done a ton of the harshest chemo cycles and have been an exercise and nutrition freak using aminos and supps for years. I studied the heck out of AAs & effect on chemo. My conclusion is to avoid them during a chemo cycle….especially if it’s multiple chemo drugs or higher doses. When cycles are complete, then it could be of benefit to help with recovery of medicine used to kill cancer. There’s more studies done with radiation and AAs. Same principle. You want to get the full benefit of chemo, then you can be back better than before. AAs risk interfering with the body’s complete response to chemo medicine.
I am vegan, are this Aminos vegan?
Hey Jeremy, they are yes, you can find out more here: https://getkion.com/shop/body/kion-aminos
Hey Ben, I already have 3 large bottles of bcaas that I purchased from Poliquin’s store. As I’d prefer not to waste these, what dosing/timing would you recommend for someone taking solely bcaas?
I don't recommend them. Period. Huge rise in your blood sugar and close to zero benefit in my opinion. Suppose I'd take the recommended 10-20g/hr for a hard workout session if I had to though.
I’m an 18 year old female, rep softball player, and I’ve been trying for months to add more upper body strength and muscle in order to improve my hitting. At 5’4″ and 130 lbs, what dosage of amino’s would you recommend before and after my daily workouts (1-1.5 hours of strength and cardio)? What about after a one hour batting session? Thanks!
Hey Darcie, I'd suggest 10 tablets of NatureAminos, 30 minutes before any training or workout, in conjunction with the daily requirement of vitamins, minerals and trace elements. And an additional 10 tablets of NatureAminos to be taken 30 minutes before the next meal (lunch or dinner). Hope that helps.
I’m taking muscle tech nitro tech which has 6.9 grams of bcaa I drink this first thing in the morning about hr and 30 before my work out I take a l carnitine pill plus 2 arginine pills 45 min to workout I then eat 30 min after that I go to gym have a cellucore Bcaa drink which has 10g. Then post workout another protein drink? Am I consuming enough aminos
I would NOT take BCAA's AT ALL. I only recommend using about 10g of the aminos in article above. That's all you need. Period.
What is the difference between MAP and much much cheaper EAAs such as:
MAP would run into hundreds of dollars a month if used as suggested.
The ratios in MAP are far more effective than the ratios in other compounds. This works well too: https://getkion.com/shop/body/kion-aminos
Hello Ben have a question for you so you say you should take 10 grams a day or 20 grams A Day. that is 10 pills or 20 pills is that every day or only when you’re working out or exercising because a bottle at 20 to 30 grams a day won’t last very long at all. How Many bottles does one need to purchase to last a month
So for bodybuidling, muscle gain, I would take 10g before lifting then, could I still do my whey protein shake post workout? Is that “too much Aminos?” Thanks!
That might be a little excessive…I'd do one or the other unless you're trying to build a lot of muscle…(which is sounds like you are)…
Hi Ben, great article!
Can you tell me how, if at all, taking 5-10 g of Nature Aminos will affect my intermittent fasting? Will they invoke an insulin reaction and throw me out of my fast?
Zero insulin release and PERFECT for fasting.
Very informative indeed. I have a couple of questions for you.
1. I’m currently on my second cycle of two SARMS (as discussed in detail in your previous articles), and although the muscle and endurance gains have been significant (very happy) – I’m looking to further aid recovery as I am frequently sore following intense workouts. Would the addition of these aminos provide this support, or is there any conflict that you are aware of?
2. Does the requirement for this type of supplementation increase with age?
The aminos would be a incredibly helpful addition for what you're looking for, yes. Be sure to use the essential amino acids, not branched-chain amino acids. And yes, predigested protein needs do indeed increase with age: https://getkion.com/shop/body/kion-aminos/
I now have the EAAs and am looking at dosing. I know the website details this but I wanted to ask:
I am currently training very hard (CrossFit Open), frequently sore/stiff and working through a few small injuries/niggles too.
That said – I feel that, at this time, the max dosing of 30 tablets per day would help.
I’m thinking 5 in the morning, 10 pre-workout, 10 post-workout, and 5 before bed.
What do you think?
Would I still need to keep the two hour window between those either side of the workout?
Also, and at present, I take a scoop of protein in my morning oats and one in an evening/post-workout shake. I also have 2-4 eggs each day and meat with at least one meal.
Is this now excessive – or in-line with my activity and requirements?Would you drop any?
Yes, you could do that or just do 10per day and then do 4-6 NatureFlex morning and 4-6 NatureFlex evening: https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/kion-flex – for more, I'd be happy to help you via a personal one-on-one consult. Just go to https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/coaching and then choose a 20 or 60 minute consult, whichever you'd prefer. I can schedule ASAP after you get that.
Thanks Ben. I will just do that when things settle down a touch.
If taking 10 per day – is it best all pre-workout?
Pre or post
A bit confused so I will call bullshit. You are trying to sell a product rather than provide valid information. How do I know? Your little chart shows the product you recommend has a utilization of 99% and BCAA’s have a utilization of around 1%. The first three ingredients of this product are Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine aka BCAA’s. Ah the magical properties of bullshit now allow you to absorb BCAA’s almost 100% more efficiently, awesome!
Andrew, the answer to this is that the 8 essential amino acids are needed in order to build body protein. Yes, BCAAs comprise 3 of the 8 essential amino acids, and they each have their individual purposes, but the other 5 need to be present as well to build a complete protein.
Incredible article! You’re crushing it all around, man!
I just purchased your product and I’m ready to use it today.
1) I’m a little scared to be honest, I’m worried about what happens if I stop taking these aminios in the long run and if my body will not able to function as well without them one day. I’m 28 and I want to add muscle but I don’t want to sacrifice my long term health, especially with a product that promises so much. Any thoughts on the long term?
2) I’m still not 100% sure on what I can take with this and when I can eat before and after. My plan is to take 5gs a half hour before a workout – so should I not be eating food for the 2 hours leading up to that? Can I eat after my workout (last around an hour or an hour and a half)? I read that other fats and proteins can mess with it, I’d like to be more clear on eating before and after my workouts now that I’ll be using these EAAs before my workout.
Thanks for everything, I’m really look forward to your answers and I appreciate you, your knowledge, and all that you do!
These are Definitely not a product that you would experience a drop in your own amino acid storage from taking. And you can definitely do some before your workout and some after your workout as you have proposed. I personally take 10 to 20 g per day!
Now in endurance running like ultra marathon are 10g of BCAA aquateic enough to run say 31 miles? Or is more needed to support the constant tearing and breaking down of muscle tissues and fibers? Also which do you prefer as far as taking these the capsules or chews?
For that distance, I'd use this approach: https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2015/12/how-to-g… – that is slow digest carbs + EAA's + MCT powder + ketones + electrolytes.
Does the natureamino product keep your blood sugar and insulin low. I’m looking for maximum fat burn. Thanks
Yep. Unlike protein powder, it is perfect for that. I would check out the FAQ section under 'Additional Information' here: https://getkion.com/shop/body/kion-aminos/
I’ve been researching multiple EAA products and am finding most to not have included arganine and histidine. Neither MAP nor NatureAminos has them in it. Why is that? Are they just more readily available in diet?
Am about to purchase a second bottle of amino, thanks for your podcast and all that you do……..
Felt great last weekend running first trail 50 miler after a month on the aminos.
Quick question, is it a common side effect to get mild acne with aminos? My googling does not offer much except may be due to excess oil from the BCAA’s? I am experiencing it on my face and scalp however not my back like may of the bodybuilder sites that claim this happens.
Should I lower the dose?
Can BCAA’s and whey protein be mixed for recovery drink? I see the two may compete, yet I’m not sure when listening to Aubrey Marcus’s onnit podcast featuring Ben green field and Aubrey said his recovery drink was a mix of goat whey, colostrum, creating, BCAA and coconut!? I’ve been doing this. Am I not doing the proper thing by mixing the two!!?
The BCAA's are thrown because they add extra leucine, isoleucine and valine so yes, but you get the 80/20 from the whey.
i go to gym
30-40 minutes cardio (10 min cycling, 15-20 walking & running, 10-12 min cross trainer)
Than will go for strength training for 1 hour approx.
Is it safe for me to consume essential amino acid before and while doing cardio and consuming whet protein after strength training.
sorry i meant whey protein.
Yep, totally safe, at about 10g before the strength training (or before the cardio)…
my lovely wife is 54 years old,she hase diabet type 2 for 20 yeards ago,and also she hase triglycrid and cholestrol, for 6 monthes ago she don a disc surgery in her back , from this time ishe hasea big problem in her back and suffuring alwyas from back pain.my question is could she take amino acides supplements , for help her .
please advice me .
with best regards
my lovely wife is 54 years old,she hase diabet type 2 for 20 yeards ago,and also she hase triglycrid and cholestrol, for 6 monthes ago she don a disc surgery in her back , from this time ishe hasea big problem in her back and suffuring alwyas from back pain.my question is could she take amino acides supplements , for help her .
please advice me .
with best regards
Firstly, I am not a doctor and nothing I say should be taken as medical advice. I suggest you check out this: https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2016/04/best-way… as that will be more useful for you than giving her amino acids.
Also check out the core foundation program because that also helps tremendously with back pain: https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2016/08/how-to-d…
my lovely wife is 54 years old,she hase diabet type 2 for 20 yeards ago,and also she hase triglycrid and cholestrol, for 6 monthes ago she don a disc surgery in her back , from this time ishe hasea big problem in her back and suffuring alwyas from back pain.my question is could she take amino acides supplements , for help her .
please advice me .
with best regards
Can I take lysine, L-methionine, Taurine and the antioxidants, together during the same time or Should I take them one after another?
Yes, you can take all at same time, such as a few hours before or after a hard workout.
I’ve heard that amino acids are great to enhance your workout from a couple of friends as well, so I’ll have to give it a try. I’m glad you broke them down so extensively; I like to know what I’m putting in my body so this definitely helped. Thanks for sharing the info!
I’m trying to put on weight and muscle, how do you recommend I take the EAAs?
Easy. 10-20g / day, pre or post workout or if budget permits, BOTH.
Hi Ben/ Dr. Minkoff,
I found this podcast as I was searching for ways to improve my body composition. I am a 51yo woman, I’ve been active my whole life, and I’ve always had a very muscular physique. The last two years, I have dealt with Stage 3 Hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal dysfunction, I have very low cortisol, very low DHEA, and my sex hormones are all out of whack as a result. My body composition has changed, I have a lot more body fat (especially on my thighs), and it’s totally discouraging. I also have some gut dysfunction (SIBO) that has caused additional stress in my body because I am not digesting what I eat very well.
My question is: I have purchased your EAA’s……IF I am going to see some improvement, approximately when should I begin noticing improvement? I am completing Christa Orechio’s “Gut Thrive in 5” program to heal my gut, as well as taking supplementation for my HPA Axis dysfunction. I eat clean, gluten and dairy free, although not necessarily low carb as I think being on the low carb band wagon and IFing for three years helped push me into the state I’m in currently.
I appreciate your feedback, I love your podcast, and I hope to meet you at the AHS in Boulder this coming August!
Also, should I be taking the EAA’s every day, as opposed to just what I workout, to help me with my body composition?
Here a response from Dr Minkoff: It is hard to say when results will be seen. In many cases it is within the first few weeks or better. The body will prioritize what it uses its proteins for, as it deems to be the most important. On another note, it is very important to take at least one serving (8-10) per day, without other proteins or fats. And in your case, with your issues, possibly even take two servings per day.
Hi Ben, can i take my 5g of Creatine with EAA’s in the morning or should i take them separately?
Yes, you can take those at same time!
Thanks Ben. You mentioned you use these when you don’t have access to high-quality protein. From reading this it seems EAAs are generally better than standard protein sources like powders, shakes, whole foods. So when is it appropriate to use EAAs vs other protein sources? My first take from this was ‘all the time’, but I assume that’s the wrong takeaway here :)
Anytime you want to be as anabolic as possible.
Trying to get the right combo of EAA’s/glutamine/zinc/magnesium while training for Ironman Louisville…wanted to know your thoughts on going the NatureAminos vice the Exos powder? A combination of the two? Thank you much!
also should note I am trying to lean out a bit and also drop another 10-12 lbs to be at optimal race weight.
The main difference between these two is that one is a tablet and one is a powder. So it just depends on the delivery mechanism that you prefer. I use both.
So if you’re trying to build muscle, would you take 5 or 10 pre weight lifting workouts? And would you take it at all on off days?
If it were me I'd take 10, and if budget permits, to really build muscle up to 10 3x/day on off days. You can build muscle FAST on a protocol like that.
Hey Ben, I have recently noticed that I have puffy cheeks. Mainly in the morning, but other times too. I started taking Exos Aminos after workouts a couple months earlier and was wondering if the AA’s were increasing my cortisol levels. High cortisol can cause puffy cheeks. Just a little background: I am a young competitive triathlete and train quite a bit. Thanks!
Nope, if anything they would take you out of a catabolic state and decrease cortisol levels…
Thanks for the quick responds Ben! Any other thoughts on the puffy cheeks? Would low testosterone have an affect?
No, but HIGH cortisol can cause that due to mineral ratio issues…
Which minerals? My diet is >95% whole food plant-based. I take a B12 vitamin, the Thorne Multivitamin, and BioCreatine.
I like the Black Water stuff and also the trace liquid minerals. The Aztec Salt is nice too.
Often Amino Acids (mainly Lucine) come from animals. Yours is vegan?
Yes, these are all vegan-sourced. No animals, duck feathers, human hair, etc…
After the last few weeks of Amino and Ketones, and your other chats/articles/podcasts/etc, I'm going to have to start calling the purchasing of items: "The Ben Effect", instead of the "The Dr Oz Effect" or "The Oprah Effect"! I have a question about timing all the goodies!
I purchased powered Amino's, KetoCaNa, and Brain Octane (and a Ketonix)! Whew! Oh, and Ashwaganda! Ha, and Oil of Oregano (there are a lot of sick peeps around right now!)!!! :)
I workout in the morning and previously would sip some coffee prior to my workout and do it fasted, and drink the rest after my workout. However, now I'm going to hold off on the coffee until post-workout because it says to drink the Amino's 30 min prior to workout (away from fat/protein), which negates drinking coffee with Brain Octane prior to the workout. And then there are the Ketone's (KetoCaNa) that are also supposed to be taken 15 min prior to workout.
*Can the KetoCaNa and the Amino's be taken together? And also throughout and a bit post-workout, because that is a LOT of liquid for me to to drink prior to a workout (side-aches terrible)!?
*Best tip on when to take these on non-workout days? Does it really matter?
*Also, when would I take the Ashwaganda (KSM 66) capsules for greatest benefit?!
Thanks again Ben for everything you do! You're a wealth of amazing information and listening to your podcasts are a great way to make long holiday drives go by a lot quicker and more pleasurable!
Happy holidays! Cheers! Nicole
Hey Ben – I did some online research about the above questions, but I still haven’t found anything in reference to when to take the Ketone powder and Amino powder, if you are taking both? Any thoughts?
And question prompted by “Matt’s” question below about cortisol levels – I have fairly low cortisol levels, will taking amino’s help or hinder this? I have felt great taking them but was curious after listening to a few more of your podcasts and reading this question! :)
Thanks again! Cheers!
You can take both simultaneously. Period. Up to 10g aminos. I have done this myself and it doesn't disrupt ketosis. See my response to Matt re: cortisol! That explains it. At this point, to really dig into details, I'd be happy to help you via a personal one-on-one consult. Just go to https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/coaching and then choose a 20 or 60 minute consult, whichever you'd prefer. I can schedule ASAP after you get that.
THANKS Ben! I appreciate your feedback! You’re awesome!!! :)
A) YES, you can take ketones and aminos simultaneously. If you read both my recent articles on ketosis and aminos you will see that they have differing mechanisms of action. On non workout days, SPACE them evenly throughout the day, but actual timing of these do not matter on a non exercise day. Although theoretically you should use these at a time when you need the most cognitive benefit. For KSM66, use at your most stressful time of day.
2 quick questions. I am an ultramarathon runner. During races I would like to use these but I dont want to take 10 pills an hour. Would you recommend the powder in this case? If so can you put an hours worth of aminos in 1 water bottle? 2nd question has to do with calories. Generally I try to consume 200-275 calories per hour. Do I back off those calories if I am taking aminos for energy? Since they are 0 calories how do I measure how much to back off for each gram of EAAs? Thanks for your time!
You can use the powder, or you can literally in a blender blend the NatureAminos tablets along with whatever else you're brewing up for your workout nutrition. I get into this here, in the section on EXOS Glycofuse here; https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2015/12/how-t…. In that case, you'd do Amino capsules instead of amino powder and blend it all together. But more than one way to skin that cat! Either way, you do NOT back off on calories. The amino acids are thrown in on top of any other calories you're taking in, and 200-275/hr is good for ultramarathon.
Hi Ben, I am fairly new to your articles and podcast and getting really interested in optimal nutrition. I have an 8 year old daughter who is a great swimmer, and has 2 hour workouts minimum 4 times a week. Practice typically ends at 8 or 8:30pm. Would you recommend nature aminos for kids too? If yes, what amount is safe or recommended for them after workouts? Thank you! V-
Hi Ben. About a year and a half ago I discovered that my kidney function was at 53% after getting blood work done. I have no fam history of kidney issues, no high blood pressure, or diabetes. After discovering this I freaked out I cleaned up my diet by juicing and reducing protein intake. I am 41, 5′ 4″, 145 pounds. I got my kidney function back up to 67%, but haven’t been able to increase it past that point. It seems the docs I talk to feed me generic info like don’t eat beef, keep protein intake low, blah, blah, blah, and don’t know much about nutrition (which is crazy to me.) My question is will EAA’s be hard on my kidneys compared to regular protein sources? If I take them do I need to reduce my meat, eggs, etc., to not increase my creatinine levels? And do u think I have a shot at repairing the kidneys with EAA use? Thanks for all that you do, love your podcast and blog posts.
Two things here: A) protein may not be as much of an issue on the kidneys as we've been led to believe: http://robbwolf.com/2011/06/16/clearing-up-kidney… (read part 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.) B) amino acids, due to the LEAST nitrogenous waste would be the easiest protein sources on your kidneys, period. I' m not a doctor so please don't misconstrue as medical advice!
Interesting article. I am a 53 year old guy who has let myself get a bit out of shape. Even though I have put on a “few” extra pounds, my blood sugar levels & cholesterol levels are all very good. As a matter of fact, even though I’ve let myself go a bit, I am a pretty lucky guy as I have no health issues. So before my sluggish lifestyle catches up with me, I’d like to get back on the healthy path. My goal is to get back in shape. I’m sure the few extra pounds will take care of themselves.
I realize you are not a medical doctor, but are there any issues I should be aware of with the use of EAA’s? Also, would you recommend any additional supplements?
I'd recommend both the supplementation and exercise program I present in my Look Good Naked/Longevity plan…and zero issues to be aware of with use of these EAA's: https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/ben-recommends/books/ben-greenfields-look-good-naked-longevity-plan/
Response from Dr Minkoff: Dear Chris,
Sounds like you’re relatively healthy. EAA’s should work great for you. For general maintenance I’d recommend a minimum of 5 tablets, twice daily. To improve health start with 5 tablets, 3 times a day. First thing in the morning, afternoon, and about 30-60 mins before bed, but at least 1-2 hours after dinner. After a week switch to 10 tablets, twice daily. Be sure to take your EAA’s at least 30 mins. before (or 1-2 hours after) eating other fats or proteins. You can take with a little bit of healthy carbs if you prefer.
Eat a paleo or Bulletproof type diet, make sure you’re taking a high-quality multivitamin like BodyHealth Complete and getting an effective amount of Omega 3’s and 6’s, not to be overdone – Ben, feel free to weigh in here, as I seem to remember a recent article or podcast you’ve done on this subject.
Make sure you’re getting good exercise, lots of sunshine, staying hydrated, and play at least a little every day!
Ben, I’m 5’10” and currently weigh in at ~177lbs. My scale gives me a BF reading of ~16% (some ab + other muscle definition; I carry a lot of my bf in my thighs). About 15 months ago, I was 163lbs with BF readings of ~11% (significant ab + other muscle definition). My current goal is 150lbs at 8% bf, which I’m either going to maintain for life, or, once I get there, try to add 10lbs of muscle. So, my current goal is fat loss + muscle growth (or at least muscle retention). I understand that my scale’s BF% readings are not accurate-accurate, but I’ve no reason to think they’re not directionally-accurate.
For some additional background, I spent most of my life pre-30 (I’m 31 now) obese. In 2013/2014, I committed, finally, to eating for my health, and went from 210lbs down to the aforementioned 163lbs. I owe a lot of that to you, as well as to Abel James and Jonathan Bailor.
I spent college between 185lbs and 220lbs, and ballooned after college up to 260lbs. I dropped back to 220lbs before going to law school, and spent law school between 185lbs and 220lbs.
My current eating regimen is as follows:
Low carbohydrate intake, i.e., outside of leafy and cruciferous vegetables (plus whatever category of vegetables peppers and onions fall into) all of my carbohydrates come from dark chocolate and fruit (blueberries and strawberries), and typically at night and/or after workouts. I’m not sure exactly how many total carbs or net carbs I generally consume. I’d guess between 50 and 100 grams per day.
High fat intake (rather follows from low carb, of course), mostly animal fat, including eggs (two a day) and cheese (life isn’t worth living without cheese, but I limit to a serving or two a day), plus some nuts (typically raw and/or sprouted), avocado, and, soon, some C8 oil. I’ve been cooking my omelettes with pastured lard (fatworks is an awesome company) for a whiel now, but may make the change back to coconut oil.
I aim for organic and grass fed/pastured/free range, when I can, and try to stick to lean protein (chicken) when I can’t.
I “cheat” once a week with Indian delivery (saag and chicken tikka masala), which I’m sure is chock-full of vegetable oils/other stuff I shouldn’t put in my body. I sometimes eat rice with this meal, but typically not.
I also drink a lot of coffee (20 – 30ozs a day), but my resting heart rate is in the 60s and my bp is ~110 over ~70, so I’m not worried about my caffeine intake.
My protein goal per day is about 100 grams. Calorie-wise, I think I’m in the 1500-2000 per day range.
I tend to eat a high fat/low sugar smoothie for breakfast made from frozen greens, 100% cacao powder, a grass fed whey protein source, “supergreens”, chia seeds, and some frozen strawberries (a serving, ~50cals worth). I throw in a bunch cinnamon and some organic vanilla extract, as well as some Aztek sea salt. In the past I’ve used matcha in this as well, but that stuff is expensive.
Lunch is from a place in NYC called Roast Kitchen. It’s basically a cooked salad (greens, brocolli, cauliflower, brusell sprouts, red peppers) with chicken breast and a probably not very healthy (despite supposedly being fat, dairy, gluten, and sugar-free) red curry sauce, which the “salad” is cooked in. I suspect that the sauce is none of those things, because it tastes good. There’s a “cleaner” lunch spot I sometimes eat at, mostly out of fear (perhaps irrational) that the red curry sauce at Roast is pretty unhealthy.
Dinner is a home cooked omelette, typically with some grass fed cheese, some sort of “high quality” sausage (I need to work on improving this aspect of my diet, i’m thinking about ways to make a grass-fed ground beef “sausage”) and a bunch of sauteed greens. After dinner is dark chocolate and berries.
I don’t snack during the day. Snacking is bullshit.
I find that with this way of eating, I have even energy levels throughout the day, and I do very well on 6 to 7 hours of sleep.
As soon as my ketonix arrives this week, I’m going to modify my diet for ketosis, which may involve reducing my protein/fruit intake, of course. I’m fairly sure I was in Ketosis for much of my “trip” from 210lbs down to 163lbs.
My current exercise regimen is as follows:
HIIT two-three times per week – typically 20 second sprints with 40 second “rests” on the elliptical. I’ll do about ten of these reps. Over time I plan to increase the number of reps and the length + intensity of the sprints.
Weight training three-four times per week. I stick largely to compound movements, pullups, bench press, shoulder press, row, squat, deadlift, and lunge, – all with dumb bells. Sometimes I’ll do a circuit, with minimal rest between exercises, and in the 3-8 rep range and the 3-5 set range. Other times I’ll do an eccentric lifting session, with Jonathan Bailor’s routine: one arm/leg at a time on the nautilus machines, one 60 second “set” of 6, 10-second “lifts” per exercise, per arm/leg. I like the eccentric routine, and I credit it for my ability to do pullups now. I try to finish my lifting sessions in 40-50 minutes.
Recently I’ve picked up a personal trainer at an UFC gym. So I do an hour with him a week. This usually consists of some conditioning and agility/foot work, as well as some sparring. It’s not a “hard” workout; my goal is mostly learning how to box/fight, so it’s a lot of instruction.
Finally, I do 20ish minutes of moderate steady state cardio three to five times per week. I do this after my HIIT sessions and always in the mornings, and always fasted. I know you in past recommended this sort of activity for increased fat loss.
I have a standing desk at work. Back in the 163lb days, I primarily stood at work, but made sure to move around a lot. I’m working on getting back to that.
I rest on Sundays.
As far as workout timing is concerned, I hate lifting in the mornings, but it’s the only consistent time I can lift. I’m an attorney at a large litigation firm, so I don’t work regular hours. I’m going to make an effort in January to get out of the office at a reasonable time and do my lifting in the evenings, but after blowing a couple of sessions, I’ll likely end up lifting in the mornings again.
Daily supplements are: spirulina, probiotics, a multivitamin (a good one, but not the EXOS/Thorne one, which I don’t think I need given that I’m not what I would call a “hard charging” athlete), fish oil, NAC, creatine, and Ashwaghanda. I have some dessicated liver and colostrum that I take semi-randomly, Phenocane as well.
Finally, to the real “point” of this post and why it’s here: I have a bottle of MAP. When and how much should I take? My current thinking is 5g in mornings before a weight training session (when I work out in the mornings). Should I also take 5g after lifting? Should I take 5g before and/or after my HIIT sessions? Remember that I have my smoothie after lifting and that MAP is relatively expensive. When MAP runs out, I’ll start buying your product, since they’re identical, and priced very similarly.
Thanks for reading, Ben!
Wow. Big question. In short (pardon my brevity), based on what you've told me here, I'd recommend 10 tablets prior to OR after your lifting and HIIT. That's it. 10 is better then 5 in my opinion, but you don't need to take before AND after. Obviously a lot more we can cover re: your training/nutrition details provided, I'd be happy to help you via a personal one-on-one consult. Just go to https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/coaching and then choose a 20 or 60 minute consult, whichever you'd prefer. I can schedule ASAP after you get that.
Have you seen any increase in energy taking these post work out?
My weekly workouts end around 10pm. Im looking for something very low calorie to take that late at night but do not want a boost of energy before bed. I do realise that some of these EAA’s can help with sleep. Just want to make sure all my ducks are in a row before i take the leap and im up late like a tweeker trying to mow the lawn in the rain at 4am.
Nope, not like a stimulant would like caffeine, I think you’re good to go.
Thanks Ben, this is awesome information! What is your opinion of Growth Factor 9 as a source of EAA?
PS ‘Pneumonic’ is actually spelled mnemonic :)
Thanks for the spelling fix! In meantime, Growth Factor 9 is L-Lysine HCl, L-Arginine HCl, Oxo-Proline, N-Acetyl L-Cysteine, L-Glutamine, Schizonepeta (aerial parts) powder. Aminos has MORE amino acids in it, and I'm not too familiar with this Schizonepeta stuff but have seen zero research on it.
Awesome article. Aside from your own brand of EAA's what other brands do you recommend? Would support you if I didn't live two continents away, (shipping, import duties etc). Looking for something local. Also there seems to be a lot of hype out there suggesting BCAA's can lead to hair loss. Do you have any input this is regard?
Thanks for the amazing info.
Rob, can you get "Master Amino Acid Pattern" (MAP) where you're at? In the U.S, Amazon sells it for a fairly comparable price as Ben's product (currently $33 for 120g of MAP, whereas as Ben's product is $39 for 150g), and the products are identical. Ben used to recommend and take MAP before he started selling his own. I'll be switching to Ben's product when my bottle of MAP runs out – to support him.
Mm yes. For a $40 sup it's costing over $20 US to post to Australia- a little prohibitive.
You may want to try powdered aminos to see if you can get a better deal: https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/aminos
I am not familiar with the BCAA/hair loss link. Can you clarify or send me a research article you've seen on this? In the meantime, another good brand of aminos is the EXOS aminos.. <a href="http:// .https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/aminos” target=”_blank”> <a href="http://.https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/aminos” target=”_blank”>.https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/aminos – it is powder form, but shipping may be less, check them out!
This article is so garbage! Amino acids turning into fat and sugar under normal physiological conditions? That is the most idiotic thing I’ve heard as it relates to nutrition. Glucogenic amino acids only turn into glucose during abnormal physiologic conditions such as ketosis. The body has to go through gluconeogenesis in order to do this. Gluconeogenesis is not something that occurs when a diet is rich in carbohydrates, therefore, amino acids do not convert to glucose in this instance. Secondly, free-form amino acids only yield minuscule amounts of calories, nowhere near enough to gain fat. Furthermore, the composition of an amino acid allows for fat catabolism due to the fact that amino acids slow gastric emptying, have a high thermic affect and are not stored, but excreted in feces/urine. It takes more energy for the body to break down amino acids than to store them as fat. I could go on and on about amino acids but I’d be writing all day. The point is that your article is flawed and misleading. There are many university studies proving that amino acids are not stored as fat. I cannot believe you fixed your fingers to even write that! All of the proof and studies showing that excess fat and carbs lead to weight gain, and you’re pointing the finger at protein? My God!
Dude, could you please point to some studies that support this. Ben has done a pretty good job of trying to link in supporting info but all I have from you is a long list of things that are supposedly wrong.
Also Ben, I was curious if taking EAAs is significantly noticable for during workout energy and post workout recovery. Are there any studies that try to quantify the gain in fitness/recovery after taking EAAs?
Here’s a response from Dr Minkoff, who helped develop the NatureAminos blend:
There are two pathways that digested proteins go down.
The anabolic pathway assembles amino acids into body proteins. The second pathway causes the amino acids to be deaminated (nitrogen loped off) and what is left is a carbon hydrogen oxygen chain that is either burned or stored at glycogen or fat.
The switch that determines which pathway the aminos go down is determined by the ratio of the eight essential amino acids. Perfect amino has the exact ratio so that when taken on an empty stomach, 99% are shunted down the anabolic pathway and become body proteins.
The caloric calculation of 4 calories per gram of protein only applies to the the catabolic pathway. So depending on how much protein is eaten, the calorie load could be significant.