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Everything You Need To Know About How To Use Amino Acids For Muscle Gain, Appetite Control, Injury Repair, Ketosis And More

Published on December 28, 2015

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It seems these days that the building blocks of proteins, affectionately known as “amino acids”, are viewed as tiny little gold nuggets that bestow superhuman powers upon anyone lucky enough to stumble upon them in a sports gel, capsule, fizzy drink or cocktail.

After all, these little guys are starting to get put by nutrition supplement manufacturers into just about everything: from your engineered pre-workout snack, to your during workout beverage, to your post-workout smoothie mix.

But why are amino acids so prevalent now as the “darling” of the supplement industry?

And more importantly, do amino acids actually work any better or differently than, say, protein powder or eggs or a steak?

And of course, when it comes to your hard-earned dollars and which supplements you “prioritize”, do amino acids really help you exercise or function…or are nutrition supplement companies pulling a fast one on you?

You're about to find out, and have a bit of educational fun in the process. If you want to transform yourself into a real amino acid ninja, then a perfect audio companion to this article is the podcast I released a couple days entitled: Amino Acids, BCAA's, EAA's, Ketosis, Bonking & More With 41 Time Ironman Triathlete Dr. David Minkoff.

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Update:

Since first publishing this article, I've received a lot of question on dosing, so here is a quick update to this article from Dr. Minkoff (I think the part about how pro cyclists use this stuff is pretty intriguing):

For most people who do not have gigantic bodies, 10 grams of amino acids 3 times a day would be maximum the body could use. If more are taken they will just be metabolized into sugar or stored as fat. Taking more than 10 grams of amino acids at a time can also will do the same thing. Lance Armstrong, George Hincapie and Viatcheslav Eckimov did this regimen during the tour and were anabolic during the tour. That was something they were never able to achieve without this formula. They didn’t have body breakdown and were actually more fit at the end than the beginning. It allowed their bodies to accommodate to the stress and get stronger.

Update #2:

I have included a full list of research on amino acid utilization at the end of this article.

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How Amino Acids Work

Let's start by taking a trip down memory lane.

When I took my freshman level biology class at University of Idaho, my professor described muscle like a big Lego castle (or Lego pirate ship, depending on your tastes), and then describied amino acids as all the little Lego parts that made up the giant Lego structure (your muscle).

Convenient explanation? Yes. Complete explanation? Not exactly.

See, the role of amino acids goes way beyond being Lego-like building blocks. Amino acids are essential for the synthesis of proteins, enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, metabolic pathways, mental stabilization, and just about every function that takes place within your body.

So, using the “Legos-are-amino-acids” example, a more appropriate analogy would be that you dump all the Legos out of the box and they self-assemble in a magic pirate ship, then float into the air and fly around the room shooting miniature cannon balls at pesky flies, fixing holes in the drywall of your house, and then tucking you into bed for a refreshing night of deep sleep.

In other words, the function of amino acids goes far beyond being simple “building blocks”.

In the nutrition supplement industry (when I use that word, it seems to denote big fat guys in black suits sitting around an oak conference table, but in reality, most of these folks are skinny athletes in white shoes and geeky shorts), amino acid supplements fall into two basic categories: Essential Amino Acids (EAA's) and Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA's).

And there's plenty of confusion about the difference between EAA's and BCAA's.

So let's start with the first category: the EAA's (and by the way, using the acronym like I do will make you seem super smart if you hang around any bros at the gym).

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Essential Amino Acids

Essential amino acids, as the name implies, are essential because they can't simply be made by your body like all the other amino acids can. Instead, you have to get EAA's from your diet or other exogenous sources.

Have you ever heard of Private Tim Hall, AKA Pvt. Tim Hall? If you're a biology or chemistry geek, you probably have, because his name is the mnemonic commonly used to remember these essential amino acids, which are, drumroll please:

Phenylanine, Valine, Threonine, Tryptophan, Isoleucine, Methionine, Histidine, Arginine,Leucine and Lysine.

Get it? PVT Tim Hall?

Thanks Tim, we'll send you a check if we ever win money in Biology Trivial Pursuit.

Anyways, let's take a look at why the heck Pvt. Tim might do us good during exercise, starting with P.

P: Phenylalanine is traditionally marketed for it's analgesic (pain-killing) and antidepressant effect, and is a precursor to the synthesis of norepinephrine and dopamine, two “feel-good” brain chemicals. This could be good because elevated brain levels of norepinephrine and dopamine may actually lower your “RPE” or Rating of Perceived Exertion During Exercise, which means you could be happier when you're suffering hallway through a killer workout session, an Ironman bike ride, an obstacle race, or any voluminous or intense event.

V: Valine, along with Isoleucine and Leucine, is a real player, because it is BOTH an Essential Amino Acid and a Branched Chain Amino Acid. Valine is an essential amino acid. It can help to prevent muscle proteins from breaking down during exercise. This means that if you take Valine during exercise, you could recover faster because you'd have less muscle damage. More details on that below, when we delve into BCAA's.

T: Threonine research is a bit scant. I personally couldn't find much at all that explained why threonine could assist with exercise performance, but would hazard a guess that it is included in essential amino acid supplements because it is just that: essential. And many of the studies done on EAA's just basically use all of them, rather than isolating one, like Threonine. For example (and this is a bit interesting for people who are masochistic enough to like working out starved) there is a significant muscle-preserving effect of a essential amino acids when ingested during training in a fasted state, and this includes decreased indicators of muscle damage and inflammation. This basically means that if you popped some essential amino acids, even if you didn't eat anything, you wouldn't “cannibalize” as much lean muscle during a fasted workout session.

OK, sorry, I got sidetracked there.

T: Tryptophan is an interesting one. It is a precursor for serotonin, a brain neurotransmitter that can suppress pain, and if you're taking some before bed at night, even induce a bit of sleepiness. The main reason to take tryptophan would be to increase tolerance to pain during hard workouts, games or races. But studies to this point go back and forth on whether or not that actually improves performance.

I: Isoleucine, another BCAA that has some of the same advantages of Valine. Again…more on BCAA's coming in a sec.

M: Methionine helps your body process and eliminate fat. It contains sulfur, a substance that is required for the production of the body’s most abundant natural antioxidant, glutathione. Your body also needs plenty of methionine to produce two other sulfur-containing amino acids, cysteine and taurine, which help the body eliminate toxins, build strong, healthy tissues, and promote cardiovascular health. Methionine is a “lipotropic”, which means it helps your liver process fats, prevents accumulation of fat in the liver and ensures normal liver function, which is essential for the elimination of toxins from your body. Methionine also supports liver function by regulating glutathione supplies – glutathione is needed to help neutralize toxins in the liver.

H: Histidine, as the name implies, is a precursor to histamine, and actually has some antioxidant properties and plays a key role in carnosine synthesis. What's that mean, exactly? Here's a clarification: histamine could help you fight off the cell damaging free radicals you produce during exercise, and carnosine helps you get rid of muscle burn more quickly, and helps turn lactic acid back into useable muscle fuel. Interestingly, though histidine is often listed as “essential” histidine is not technically essential, because when you take an EAA supplement, the levels of histidine in your blood will rise within one hour. But Tim and biology professors worldwide might be pissed if we abbreviate Tim Hall to Tim All, so we'll roll with the mnemonic for now.

A: Next is arginine, and if you're reading this and you're an old man who has relied on a little blue pill called Viagra to have a happier time in the sac, you can thank arginine. Arginine helps with nitric oxide synthesis, and nitric oxide is a vasodilator that increases blood flow and could help with exercise capacity (in the case of the blue pill, for one specific body part). Most of the studies on arginine show that it also helps folks with cardiovascular disease improve exercise capacity.

L: Leucine is yet another BCAA.. Yes, as I keep promising, we will get to BCAA's very soon.

L: Lysine is something my Mom used to take to help cold sores that she got from eating citrusy foods. That's basically because it helps heal mouth tissue. But more importantly for exercising individuals, lysine may actual assist with growth-hormone release, which could vastly improve muscle repair and recovery, although if you take lysine in it's isolated form, the amount you'd have to take to increase growth hormone release would cause gastrointestinal distress, or as I like to it, sad poopies. But combined with all the other essential amino acids, there may be a growth hormone response in smaller doses, and there is some clinical evidence that essential amino acid supplementation could stimulate growth hormone releasing factors.

OK, that almost wraps it up for good ol' Private Tim Hall.

The only thing I didn't mention is that the EAA's have a bit of an insulin and cortisol increasing effect, which confuses some people as to why EAA's would be good. But before you draw back in shock and go flush all your essential amino acids down the toilet because you heard insulin and cortisol make you fat, remember that both insulin and cortisol are crucial (in smaller amounts) for the “anabolic process”, or the growth, repair and recovery of lean muscle tissue.

So the amount of these hormones you get in essential amino acids is far different than the stress and insulin and cortisol response you get from, say, doing burpees with your mother-in-law while eating a pint of ice cream smothered in whiskey while working on an all-nighter project for work.

You can get more instructions and details on timing, dosages and effects of EAA's here.

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Branched Chain Amino Acids

Next come BCAA's, the slightly less well-endowed (albeit much cheaper) cousin of EAA's.

BCAA's are quite interesting because they are metabolized in your muscle, rather than in the liver. This means that BCAA's, without any requirement for much digestion or “processing” at all, can be relied on as an actual energy source during exercise, and could therefore prevent premature muscle breakdown. There was actually one compelling study done by a guy named Ohtani that showed exercising individuals who got BCAA's had better exercise efficiency and exercise capacity compared to a group that didn't get BCAA's.

Other studies have found that BCAA's could increase a variety of factors that are really useful for anyone who cares about their physical performance…like red blood cell count, hemoglobin, hematocrit and serum albumin. They can also lower fasting blood glucose and decrease creatine phophokinase, which means less inflammation, better red blood cell formation, and better formation of storage carbohydrate.

But that ain't all.

BCAA supplementation after exercise has been shown to cause faster recovery of muscle strength, and even more interestingly, the ability to slow down muscle breakdown even during intense training and “overreaching” (getting very close to overtraining). Just Google the branched chain amino acid studies by Sugita and Kraemer for more on that (yes, shocker, this is a blog post, and not a peer reviewed scientific journal report with full citations, because if it was the latter, you'd be asleep by now – so if you're a science nazi, then go get busy on Google scholar).

OK, so continuing onto with the many cool things that BCAA's can do…

When you supplement with BCAA's, they can decrease the blood indicators of muscle tissue damage after long periods of exercise, thus indicating reduced muscle damage. They also help maintain higher blood levels of amino acids, which, if you recall from the EAA explanation above, can make you feel happier even when you're suffering hard during exercise. So as you may have guessed, low blood levels of BCAA's are correlated with increased fatigue and reduced physical performance.

Heck, they even use BCAA's in medicine. BCAA's could help people recover from liver disease, could assist with improvements in patients with lateral sclerosis, and could help recovery in patients who have gone through trauma, extreme physical stress (can you say “triathlon”, “Crossfit WOD”, “obstacle race” or “airline travel”?), kidney failure, and burns.

But here is what I think could be the two most interesting things about BCAA's, especially for fat loss:

1. In his book, “SuperHealth: The Last Diet You'll Ever Need”, my friend KC Craichy swears by them for significantly decreasing your appetite when taken 30-60 minutes prior to exercise.

2. When taken prior to a fasted exercise session, BCAA's could increase fat oxidation (and yes, I'll actually cite a study for this one, it was “Branched-chain amino acids supplementation enhances exercise capacity and lipid oxidation during endurance exercise after muscle glycogen depletion.“, by Gualano, et al)

3. My friend Dominic D' Agostino, ketosis researcher at University of Florida, swears by BCAA's for maintaining high-intensity performance while in ketosis, a strategy he recently outlined in this recent ketosis podcast with Tim Ferris.

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How To Use EAA's and BCAA's

So if you've stayed with me so far, here's the take-away message about amino acids:

“If all EAA's are present, your appetite is satiated, muscle repair and recovery can start before you're even done with your workout, and when you need a fast, nearly instantly absorbable form of protein or you're mentally stretched toward the end of a tough workout, game or race, high blood levels of amino acids can allow the body and brain to continue to both repair and to work hard instead of getting cannibalized and shutting down.”

Based on all this, do I take BCAA's and EAA's?

You bet I do.

And I swear by them for enhancing mental focus during a workout, keeping me from cannibalizing muscle (especially during fasted morning workout sessions), and decreasing post-workout muscle soreness.

When racing triathlons or obstacle races or other long competitive events, I pop 5-10 grams of amino acids per hour, and after hard workouts, I'll pop another 5-10 grams of amino acids, often with a glass of wine (wine, although a tasty post-workout treat to finish off a hard evening workout, sadly does not contain any actual protein, darn it).

I also use these aminos when I can't get my hands on quality protein, such as when I don't have time to make a real meal after a workout, or on a plane flight when the “fish” that gets shoved in front of you in the airline meal appears to be a rubber doggie toy laced with chemicals, or during a week or a day when I'm limiting meat consumption (shocker for bacon enthusiasts: I actually do occasionally limit meat consumption as a longevity-enhancing technique).

Now here's what I didn't tell you yet, and something that is going to save you a ton of trouble when it comes to how many “bottles” of different supplements you use: any essential amino acid blend also contains all the BCAA's. So if you use an EAA formulation that is in the proper ratios, you get every single benefit you just read about in this article, without having to buy both EAA's and BCAA's.

That's why I don't use BCAA's. Not only are they only giving me less than half of the amino acid needs, but they also aren't necessary in a protocol that already includes EAA's. I only use EAAs.

So which amino acids do I personally take?

I can tell you that I do not take the popular brands that have artificial sweeteners like sucralose or added sugars like maltodextrin.

I also do not take any amino acids that don't come in the necessary ratios, because I do not want to completely waste my money, a concept my guest Dr. David Minkoff delves into in this podcast episode.

I rarely use powders simply because they're harder for me to travel with and more time-consuming to mix.

Instead, I use an essential amino acids blend called “NatureAminos“, which comes in a convenient, portable tablet form. Each capsule contains exactly one gram of EAA's (easy for calculating your dosages) and contains every single amino acid you've just read about in the exact ratios necessary for achieving lean muscle maintenance, immune system health, injury healing, staving off central nervous system fatigue during exercise, controlling food cravings, and every other benefit you've just got done reading about.

So why are NatureAminos any different than other protein sources?

It all comes down to quality. The chart below illustrates the Amino Acid Utilization (AAU™) that NatureAminos offers, which is dramatically greater than dietary protein sources.

Dietary-Protein-Sources

  • At the low end of the spectrum are branched chain amino acids – only 1% of their content is utilized by the body, with 99% resulting in waste that your body must then process and eliminate.
  • Next are whey and soy proteins – only 18% or less of their content is utilized by the body with 83% leaving as waste.
  • Food like meat, fish and poultry fare just a bit better, with 32% being absorbed and 68% being wasted.
  • Eggs are the winners in the food category with 48% being utilized and 52% converted to waste.

Now…

…compare those numbers to NatureAminos – a massive 99% is put to work by the body, with only 1% leaving as waste. Not only that, but NatureAminos is absorbed by the body within 23 minutes. And there is only 0.4 of a calorie per tablet.

So this means that unlike, say, whey protein powder or meat or eggs or nuts, which can take hours to digest and absorb, NatureAminos is fully digested within 23 minutes from its ingestion.

In addition, Dr. David Minkoff, who helped develop the NatureAminos blend, tested the top selling amino acid blends on the market, including BCAA's. The net utilization of these blends, which is the percentage of them actually used by the body to make protein, only ranged from 0% (yes, 0%) to 20%. This seems pretty lousy when you compare to the NatureAminos utilization of 99%. Even spirulina was tested, and I've talked about spirulina before as a much hallowed protein preference of vegans and vegetarians worldwide. But of 24 different spirulina products tested, the utilization ranged from a low of 0% utilized to a maximum of 6%. So spirulina may grow whales, but it is not necessarily a good protein source when compared to NatureAminos for humans.

On an airplane? I pop 10 with a can of club soda to crush food cravings and keep me from digging around in my bag for chocolate.

Post-workout? I take 5-10 immediately, which is much easier than mixing a protein shake (and zero calories for those of you wanting recovery without the calories).

Injured or sick? I'll take up to 30 in a single day to give my body extra protein without creating digestive strain or inflammation.

You can click here to try a bottle of NatureAminos now, and you can use code BGAMINO10 to save 10% on your first order. They're in tablet form, they're 100% natural, and they're very easy to use (this page contains full instructions).

Enjoy, and leave your questions, comments or feedback about amino acids below.

NatureAminos-orig

More Research:

The following is a list of research on both Biobuild and Master Amino Pattern (MAP), which were both used as the original formulations on which NatureAminos were built.

BioBuild-Desert-Crossing
Biobuild-Sports-Study
BioBuilde-AIT-Weight-Loss
Biobuilde-Explore-3-Published
BioBuilde-NNU-study
BioBuilde_Explore2published
BioBuildeExplore1published

Master Amino Pattern (MAP) Weight Loss Paper  – Word Document format

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89 thoughts on “Everything You Need To Know About How To Use Amino Acids For Muscle Gain, Appetite Control, Injury Repair, Ketosis And More

  1. Hi Ben,

    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!

    1. 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.

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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!

  5. 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?

  6. Ben

    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?

    Thanks

      1. Thanks Ben.

        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?

          1. Thanks Ben. I will just do that when things settle down a touch.

            If taking 10 per day – is it best all pre-workout?

            Cheers

  7. 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!

    1. 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.

  8. Hey Ben,

    Incredible article! You’re crushing it all around, man!

    I just purchased your product and I’m ready to use it today.

    2 things:

    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!

    1. 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!

  9. 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?

  10. Hey ben,

    Does the natureamino product keep your blood sugar and insulin low. I’m looking for maximum fat burn. Thanks

  11. Hi, Ben

    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?

  12. Greetings Ben,

    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?

    Cheers,

    Stacy

  13. 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!!?

  14. 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.

    Kindly suggest.

  15. dear Ben

    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

    jamil

    1. dear Ben
      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
      jamil

  16. dear Ben

    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

    jamil

  17. Can I take lysine, L-methionine, Taurine and the antioxidants, together during the same time or Should I take them one after another?

  18. 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!

  19. 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!

    Michelle

    1. Also, should I be taking the EAA’s every day, as opposed to just what I workout, to help me with my body composition?

      Thanks,

      Michelle

      1. 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.

  20. 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 :)

  21. 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!

    1. also should note I am trying to lean out a bit and also drop another 10-12 lbs to be at optimal race weight.

  22. 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?

  23. 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!

          1. Which minerals? My diet is >95% whole food plant-based. I take a B12 vitamin, the Thorne Multivitamin, and BioCreatine.

  24. Hi Ben!
    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

    1. 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!

      1. 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 http://greenfieldfitnesssystems.com/product/ben-g… and then choose a 20 or 60 minute consult, whichever you'd prefer. I can schedule ASAP after you get that.

    2. 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.

  25. 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!

    1. 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 CarbFuel 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.

  26. 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-

  27. 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.

  28. Hey Ben,
    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?

    Thanks again!

    Chris

    1. 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!

  29. 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!

    1. 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 http://greenfieldfitnesssystems.com/product/ben-g… and then choose a 20 or 60 minute consult, whichever you'd prefer. I can schedule ASAP after you get that.

  30. 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.

    Thanks

  31. 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 :)

    1. 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.

  32. Hi Ben,

    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.

    Cheers,
    Rob

    1. 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.

    2. 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!

      1. 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!

        1. 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?

        2. 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.

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