[00:01:15] Podcast Sponsors
[00:03:36] Guest Introduction
[00:05:49] Dr. Minkoff’s Upcoming Book and History with Amino Acids
[00:11:53] Pancreatic Enzyme Therapy for Cancer
[00:20:04] All vegans and vegetarians are very deficient in essential amino acids and other amino acids
[00:21:57] About CHYMO, The Thyroid and Its Interaction with Amino Acids
[00:29:05] Podcast Sponsors
[00:31:29] The Link Between Amino Acids/Proteins and The Gut and Digestion
[00:38:41] How Amino Acids Are Used by Riders in The Tour de France Bike Race
[00:43:36] Why not derive amino acids from whey protein, spirulina, and other sources?
[01:01:15] The Chemical Configurations of Amino Acids
[01:05:32] How amino acids work with fasting and/or ketosis
[01:15:18] How Safe Amino Acids Are for Children
[01:19:21] Closing the Podcast
[01:20:50] End of Podcast
David: So, what dawned on me is maybe I was deficient in essential amino acids. And if I took them, maybe then I could try the enzymes again and see what happened. And I thought, “Gee, it made such a difference in my own performance. How would it be if I started supplementing all these people on essential amino acids?” If you gave the body exactly what it needed, and it could even meet the stress of something like the Tour de France.
Ben: I have a master’s degree in physiology, biomechanics, and human nutrition. I’ve spent the past two decades competing in some of the most masochistic events on the planet from SEALFit Kokoro, Spartan Agoge, and the world’s toughest mudder, the 13 Ironman triathlons, brutal bow hunts, adventure races, spearfishing, plant foraging, free diving, bodybuilding and beyond. I combine this intense time in the trenches with a blend of ancestral wisdom and modern science, search the globe for the world’s top experts in performance, fat loss, recovery, hormones, brain, beauty, and brawn to deliver you this podcast. Everything you need to know to live an adventurous, joyful, and fulfilling life. My name is Ben Greenfield. Enjoy the ride.
This episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness Show–wait, stop. Got to finish my cold brew. Hold on. That was cold brew with lion’s mane in it. That’s going to wake me up. Is brought to you, to complete that sentence, by Kion. We’d talk about amino acids in this podcast, and that’s one of our top-selling products at Kion, probably because it’s like the Swiss Army knife of supplements. You can use it for muscle gain. You can use it for sleep. You can use it for healing the guts. The guts, I suppose, if you’re a ruminant, you have guts. You could use it for healing the joints. It’s like somebody posted at Twitter recently. They asked if we snug crack cocaine into it because they felt that good during their workout. It’s called Kion Aminos. You get 10% off of that and everything at Kion. You go to Kion, getkion.com, getK-I-O-N.com. Check out the aminos over there, and you can use 10% code BGF10, site-wide discount on everything. How do you like that?
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All right, let’s go tune in with the great Dr. Minkoff.
Hey, folks. It’s Ben Greenfield and I have brought to you today a guy who’s been on the show, I think four times now over the past 10 years. I first met him at his anti-aging and human performance clinic down in Florida called Lifeworks Wellness Center. He’s a real kind of unicorn in the health industry because he is a wealth of knowledge on detoxification heavy metals, which I’ve taken a deep dive into with him on previous episodes, which I’ll link to in the podcast shownotes for this episode. You can grab those over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/aminospodcast. That’s BenGreenfieldFitness.com/aminospodcast.
But he also is an absolute monster when it comes to these Ironman triathlons. He’s an avid athlete. He trains athletes. He works with a bunch of endurance athletes, as well as just the general population on, like I mentioned, heavy metal detoxing, but also anti-aging medicine, hormone replacement therapy, functional medicine. He’s got all these crazy energy medicine devices in his clinic. He does neural work. He does prolotherapy work. He’s well-versed in homeopathy. He’s well-versed in nutrition. And he has done–and David, every time I get you on the show, I always mess up the actual number of Ironman triathlons you’ve done, because every time I talk to you, you’ve done like two or three more. So, how many Ironman triathlons do you have under your belt, first of all?
David: Finished 42, eight times in Hawaii, but 42 overall.
Ben: Wait, how many Hawaii?
Ben: Nice. That’s impressive. For those of you who don’t know, Hawaii is like the Super Bowl of triathlon. Very hard to get into, hard to qualify for. And David, I’ve hung out with him and he’s not like a lean emaciated triathlete who looks like he’s on death’s door, like he’s robust, he’s fit, and he knows what he’s talking about. I haven’t yet even said his full name, but it’s Dr. David Minkoff. He sent me a few weeks ago the galley of a book that he’s writing, which at the time of this podcast was recorded should be pretty close to available for you on Amazon. And I’ll link to it in the shownotes. The book is basically a primer on all things, amino acids, and lest you yawn, lest you say, “Oh Ben, I’ve heard you talk about essential amino acids before, branched-chain amino acids, blah, blah, blah.”
There’s so, so much more in this book when it comes to immunity, when it comes to how they play in with different types of supplements with regards to like kidney issues, seniors, kids, pregnancy, babies, depression, like all the different areas that you can use targeted amino acids to get some pretty impressive results. And I don’t know anybody who I’ve ever talked to has as deep a knowledge as David does on this subject matter. So, first of all, David, welcome back to the show. And second, what was your inspiration for putting this whole book together? Because it’s a beast. I mean, it’s a long book on one single topic.
David: Well, I’ve been studying this for probably over 10 years, and I think the general nutrition information and education for dieticians or nutritionists or medical doctors or nature pests is really lacking in a decent understanding of proteins and amino acids. And I had been interested in nutrition for 20 years. I didn’t know any of this stuff. And I started to look at it and I found that there’s a lot of public relations that has to do with nutrition about protein and amino acids, but the science of it was really lacking.
And so, I’ve been looking at this for 10 years. It took me a long time to understand it and that kind of got me going. And I’ve lectured all over to many medical meetings on this to doctors and nutritionists, American College of Nutrition, and at the end of the lecture, people always had the same reaction which is, “Why didn’t we ever learn this? Why hasn’t this been available in a total forum.” And so, I decided I should do that, and that’s what the book is about. It’s really understanding of proteins, amino acids, what is the perfect protein, where do you find it, what effects does it have in the body, are people protein deficient. There are so many myths about this that people just don’t have any idea about. I’ve tried to explain it in a way where anybody can just read this and then go like, “Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah, that makes sense,” and then try it.
Ben: Yeah. And I know a lot about amino acids. I picked up a ton reading the book. My first use of amino acids stemmed from when I was racing Ironman triathlon myself back in 2013 and I was experimenting a lot with ketosis, with carbohydrate limitation to enhance the ketone fuel available for the diaphragm, and the heart, and the liver, and even the brain during long-term endurance exercise. And my friend, Peter Attia, reached out to me and told me about this company BioSteel and how they make these branched-chain amino acids. And, Peter hooked me up with that company, and I tried the branched-chain amino acids in my race, and I felt the pick-me-up. However, I still bonked around mile seven of the half marathon of Ironman Canada in 2013.
So, I went back to the drawing board. This was about the same time serendipitously enough that I met you and you started talking to me about how the branched-chain amino acids, and we’ll get into this later on today, might not cover all the bases especially when it comes to staving off things like central nervous system fatigue during these long races. So, I started using, instead of branched-chain amino acids, essential amino acids during my races and it was like rocket fuel. I was actually taking about a decent amount. I would take about 5 to 10 grams per hour during a 9 to 10-hour race, and I didn’t bonk anymore even though I was still limiting the amount of carbohydrates that I took in.
And so, that was when the lightbulb went on for me when it came to amino acids, then I learned about the gut benefits, and the muscle building benefits, and the fact that it’s like a well-kept secret of the bodybuilding industry. These guys walking around jacked in the gym, many of them are–they forsook branched-chain amino acids and then [00:10:15] ______ down essential amino acids from their shaker bottles because that’s what keeps them highly anabolic during these workouts. And that’s kind of how I discovered amino acids, not during my bodybuilding days but during my ketogenic Ironman days. When did you actually begin to get interested in amino acids and research them, begin to use them for your own protocol?
David: Well, I was racing Ironman since 1982. And about 10 years ago, I was doing a track workout and I really strained a hamstring and I tried for probably a year to get it to heal. I have access to everything. I had people inject it, massage it, microcurrent it, chiropractor it, nutrition it, but every time I tried to go really push it, I would feel the soreness and I was afraid I was going to tear it. And I bumped into somebody who said, oh, he got some amino acid mixtures from Europe and I should try it. And I tried it and probably within six to eight weeks, I felt no pain and I could strain it hard and it didn’t bother me.
And at the same time, I noticed that my maximum heart rate actually improved by about 12 beats. I was running like 174 as sort of a max heart rate and it went up to 186 and I thought, “Holy smokes, this is really changing things in my body that I had no idea even needed to be changed, or that I was protein deficient, or amino acid deficient.” I had no idea. And there’s another part of this. A little story that goes with it is I had a patient in the clinic who is an expert on natural treatment of cancer. And one of the things that she would use with people is real strong mixtures of enzymes to theoretically digest off the coat that the cancer cells protect themselves with, and it would sort of expose the cancer to its protective coat, the immune system would see it, and that they could then get better with their cancer, and sometimes it was very effective. And we were talking about it one day and she said–
Ben: What was that therapy called? Is there a name for that?
David: Well, it’s pancreatic enzyme therapy. Kelley, William Donald Kelley was a dentist, orthodontist actually, and he got pancreatic cancer. He worked out a way that he could cure himself. Much of the things that he used were actually figured out by an anatomist named Beard, who said that there were embryonic cells within the tissue, stem cells within the tissues and these would get turned on. And that if you had an inadequate pancreas that was putting out not only digestive enzymes, these proteases, in your blood but they were supposed to be putting them in your bloodstream, and these would circulate around, and they would protect you from cancer. He’s a Scottish guy. And this was like probably in the 1910s, 1920s.
So, when Kelley got pancreatic cancer, he started using a mixture of real high concentrations of very strong digestive enzymes, like ground-up pancreases but super concentrated. He wrote some books on it and he had thousands of cases actually where he was successful. But eventually, the powers that be got to him and he went off the deep end, kind of got a little bit crazy. But this person that was my patient, she learned from him, spent a couple of years before he died learning how to do this, and she would do phone consults with people and help them, really help them. And sometimes, it was very effective.
And so, she was in the clinic one day and she told me about it. She said, “You know, something you could do is take some of these enzymes. You take 12 of them three times a day for three days. And if you get things turning on in your body, that was a sign of brewing cancer, and that then you should do a course of these enzymes to clean up anything that needed to be cleaned up.” So, I said, “Well, I’m game on that.” So, in the morning before I had breakfast, I took 12 of these enzymes. And within about two hours, I thought I’d burned a hole in my stomach. It was just like terrible. I went back to her and I said, “I don’t think I have cancer, but I can’t take these enzymes.” And I never really understood why. I had been mostly a vegetarian for 30 years before that. I never thought I was deficient in anything. So, fast forward, my maximum heart rate improved. My lean body mass actually went up without a perceivable change in how I looked but–
Ben: Were those different? Like, was that supposed to be part of the pancreatic enzyme therapy or was this just some totally different, the aminos?
David: Totally different. Well, so what dawned on me is maybe I was deficient in essential amino acids. And if I took them, maybe then I could try the enzymes again and see what happened, because I thought there must be something wrong with me that I got this severe gastric upset felt like I’d burned out the inside of my stomach with these enzymes. Like maybe I was deficient in mucoproteins or something that coated my stomach. So, after I had taken a few months of these amino acids and I was feeling really better, and I said a PR at Ironman Canada three or four months later, I thought, “Geez, maybe this earlier problem with digesting these enzymes or handling these enzymes was related to an essential amino acid deficiency.”
So, I then said, “I’m going to do the experiment again.” And I took 12 of the enzymes in the morning on an empty stomach, and by noon, I’m fine. And I took 12 more before lunch, and I took 12 more before dinner, and I did it for three days and I had zero reaction. And then it really dawned on me, “Wow, by supplementing essential amino acids, whatever was wrong with my stomach so that I couldn’t take these high dose enzymes, I could tolerate them, and I didn’t get reactions, and that maybe this was true of other problems that people were having.”
And so, in the clinic–so I have a clinic and I see lots of different kinds of people, like you said, but a lot of the people I see have serious chronic illness. They have Lyme or cancer or MS or autoimmune disease. And I started to measure their level in their blood of amino acids.
[00:17:12] Measuring Amino Acids
Ben: How do you measure that?
David: It’s a test from Genova called an ION panel, I-O-N, stands for individualized optimal nutrition. And they have a panel of amino acids as part of that. They do essential fats, amino acids, vitamins, minerals. It’s a great panel.
Ben: Yeah. I think that’s the one that you can actually order from like Direct, from a company like DirectLabs, the ION Profile with 40 Amino Acids. That one?
Ben: Oh, amazing. Is that urine?
David: It’s a mixture of urine and blood.
David: So, they do organic acids too that’s urine, but the blood amino acids are those 40 amino acids, and that’s part of it. So, I think that’s the best panel and anybody can–for the money, it’s a great panel because–
Ben: Better than an organic amino acids test, an OAT test?
David: It’s on there.
Ben: Oh, wow. So, you’re getting all of it on there?
David: You get all of it on there. And you get levels of half a dozen vitamins. You get levels of toxic metals, six or seven toxic metals, blood levels. You get red blood cell magnesium and potassium. It’s really good. And so, I started ordering that on people, and what I found is that not only the chronically ill people but a lot of the athletes that I was working with, they had low levels of essential amino acids. And I thought, “Gee, it made such a difference in my own performance. How would it be if I started supplementing all these people on essential amino acids?”
And it made a huge difference because as you know, the whole detoxification system, neurotransmitters, leaky membranes, energy systems within your mitochondria, immune cells, many hormones are all based on amino acids. And if you have low levels of amino acids, you are going to have trouble making those eventual proteins, and you won’t be as good as you could be, and your recovery will be slower, and your workouts won’t be as effective because your body can’t respond to the stress of the workouts. And so, you don’t get adequate recovery and you don’t get the anabolic effect you want from an effective workout. So, I’ve tested thousands of people. Like every patient that I see, I test these on. All vegans and vegetarians are very deficient in essential amino acids and other amino acids. It’s almost 100%.
David: Many times, they’re tired. It doesn’t happen in six months, but probably if they’ve been at it for a couple of years, it’s almost 100%. There’s a few that actually are able to do it and I think their gut bacteria are such that they’re able to synthesize these essential amino acids from all the things that they’re eating and it goes into their bloodstream and they get it.
Ben: Or supposedly if you were doing a lot of soaking, sprouting, fermenting, you had a lot of enzymes from natural food products you were eating and you had good combinations of protein throughout the day. You could theoretically eat a plant-based diet and not be deficient in amino acids, but you weren’t finding that to happen very frequently.
David: It’s very, very rare.
David: So, for basic nutrition for these people, if you want to be a vegetarian, that’s fine, but there’s a couple of things that you have to just–you have to pay attention to B12 and iron, and you have to pay attention to amino acids because these things are usually deficient. Like your mix, your Kion mix of essential amino acids, it’s vegan, there’s no animal products in there. So, these people, if they’re doing this for a spiritual reason, they’re fine. They’re very easily assimilated and they get turned into body protein to a very high level. And so, they can really help people so that if they want to be vegan or vegetarian, they should add these, then they don’t have to compromise their nutrition in the process.
Ben: Now, one of the things that I noted in your book that I found fascinating was this idea of–it’s called C-H-Y-M-O, and what was happening in some of these patients after you put them on amino acids. Not a lot of people are familiar with C-H-Y-M-O. It’s like the thyroid, but I found this fascinating and kind of a good illustration of one of the ways that amino acids work within the body. Can you get into that?
David: Well, one of the things that you have to make in the body in order to digest your food is an enzyme that’s made in the pancreas called chymotrypsin. And so, the pancreas makes enzymes. When you eat a meal, these enzymes go from your pancreas into your small intestine. And when digestion occurs in the small intestine, these enzymes trips and chymotrypsin, amylase, lipase, these things that help digest different things, they have to break these proteins which are long chains of amino acids into smaller units so that they can be absorbed.
If you, say, have a steak, the main protein in muscle, say you have a filet mignon, the main protein in muscle is a protein called actin. And actin has I think 5,600 or 5,800 amino acids in one chain of that muscle fiber. Now, that is a really long string of amino acids put together for the one fiber, but that’s a big molecule and your body can’t absorb it. So, it has to be digested, which means it has to be broken down into individual amino acids, which then are able to be absorbed by your intestine so that you can then, those amino acids enter your bloodstream, they go to your cells, and let’s say these amino acids go into your muscle cells, then your muscle cell has to then reconnect all these amino acids and make that protein again. Many people who are low in blood levels of amino acids and they’re not getting enough of them, their levels of chymotrypsin in their stool is very low.
And so, you get this catch-22 of the amino acids aren’t coming in in enough amount to make chymotrypsin. So, your chymotrypsin level is low, so now you’re not going to digest your protein, so then you can’t get the amino acids in, and you get this sort of vicious cycle where you can’t get them in. And when you do get them in, you can’t digest them, and so your blood levels don’t go up and you get stuck. Like with the thyroid, one of the things I’ve noticed is, so you get people in something like between 60% and 70% of people walking around, adult people, females probably a little more than males, have low thyroid. Their thyroid levels of hormones are actually low for what should be ideal for them. Now, you may be aware the blood levels for thyroid hormones are notoriously insensitive.
Ben: Yeah. The laboratory reference ranges?
Ben: Yeah. They’re all [00:25:16] ______.
David: I mean, the reference ranges are based on the last thousand people who did the test, and those people aren’t screened for, “Are they 80? Are they 20? Are they almost dead? Are they Olympic athlete?” There’s just a great big pool and they take 90% and call that top and bottom and that’s what their normals are. So, they’re very insensitive. And we find that almost everybody that we see who’s acting hypothyroid, their skin is dry, and their eyebrows and their hair is falling out, and they’re tired, and they’re gaining weight, and they’re cold, all the classic thyroid signs.
They go to their doctor and they get up. They get usually a TSH. Sometimes they’ll do a T4. And, “You’re normal, ma’am. You’re normal. You don’t need thyroid, but they’re hypothyroid.” And if you get the full complement of thyroid values, you see that their free T3 is low, their free T4 is low, their TSH is elevated above one and a half, and they’re hypothyroid. And you give them thyroid, and by golly, in two or three months, they’re like, “Oh my gosh, I’m not cold anymore. My hair is not falling out. I lost five pounds. I just feel better. My brain is working now and it’s just like wonderful.”
So, I noticed that a lot of these people were iodine deficient because in many parts of the United States, iodine levels are very low in the soil and people are iodine deficient. So, I always give people about six milligrams a day of a mixture of iodine, iodide. But also, I saw that a lot of people had very low levels of tyrosine. Now, tyrosine is not an essential amino acid, but it’s made from one of the essential amino acids which is called phenylalanine. And their tyrosine levels in their blood were very low. So, I got to thinking. Their tyrosine levels are low. Most people are iodine deficient. Could you actually get their thyroid functioning up to a normal level? If you gave them essential amino acids, their bodies would take the phenylalanine, make the tyrosine–
Ben: Oh, so it’s the tyrosine?
David: It’s the tyrosine.
Ben: Okay. Gotcha.
David: And then we would see recovery. They would be like, “Oh, you know, I’d put them on thyroid at the beginning, but then within a few months, they’re saying, ‘I think I’m on too much thyroid.’ Okay. Calm down, calm down, calm down.” And some of them go all the way up; some of them go down to maybe 25% of what we needed to get them on. But now, their tyrosine levels are up, and they’re making thyroid hormone, and there was actually a deficiency. The reason for their low thyroid was a deficiency.
Ben: So, rather than drinking Red Bull for the tyrosine–or actually, Red Bull is taurine, isn’t it? I guess Red Bull is taurine. I’m getting my amino acids mixed up. We can delve into that a little bit more as we go through about all these different amino acids. But basically, what you’re talking about here would be thyroid for one of those examples that you gave. And then the other one to this chymotrypsin issue–and these are common issues in folks?
David: Super common. I mean, we do a stool test on everybody along with the ION Panel and they give you a level of chymotrypsin in the stool.
Ben: Which stool test do you do?
David: I like the Diagnos-Techs.
David: It’s D-I-A-G-N-O-S – T-E-C-H-S.
Ben: Is that like one of those three-day stool panels?
Ben: Okay. Okay, got it.
David: They fight parasites. I like that one the best of all of them. It helps me the most. And chymotrypsin is on there, and a lot of people are low.
Ben: Okay. Got it. I’ll put links, by the way, for those of you listening into some of these tests, if you could go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/aminospodcast.
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One other question before I have some questions about the use of these was digestion because I think a lot of people don’t realize the link between amino acids and proteins and the actual lining of the gut. People talk about colostrum and glutamine and bone broth, but I think they don’t realize how these things are working and the importance of amino acids in the scenario. So, can you get into how these interplays with digestion?
David: Yeah. So, in order for the intestinal membrane–the intestinal membrane, the inner lining of your intestine is only one cell thick. And there are some proteins that kind of keep that barrier closed. Zonulin is one of them, but these are junctions which hold these cells shoulder-to-shoulder so that you don’t get foods that are not fully digested passing through those spaces and entering into the body. And those are very important. They’re in the intestine, they’re in the lungs, they’re in the sinuses. And this thing that’s called blood-brain barrier, it’s part of that network, too, so that if you have leaky barrier membranes, your body is going to get exposed to foreign proteins. Like, cow muscle is a foreign protein, so is Epstein–Barr virus.
The body is set up so that these barriers keep the bad guys out when they’re fully functional, because like in the gut, 80% or 70% of the immune system that’s in your body is right behind that membrane barrier. It’s called Peyer’s patches or gut-associated lymphoid tissue, and they are standing there waiting for things that aren’t you. So, these are proteins that aren’t your individual proteins, and they make reactions to those things. So, this is really important because if you have that barriers broken and things like glyphosate, virtually, all drugs, parasites, funguses, bad bacteria, these things are–they’re coming into us all the time. And if your barrier tissues aren’t good, you’re not going to stop those things from coming in and your immune system is going to get all jacked up.
Also, the inner lining of your gut and your other barrier tissues have a high turnover. There should turnover every, probably, three to five days so that you get a new layer because they’re exposed to a lot of wear and tear and chemical trauma. And if they’re not replaced, then you’re going to have more chance for leakage. If you don’t have enough essential amino acids coming in, what happens is that those things don’t turn over. The body will slow down the turnover. So, instead of every three to five days where the inner mucosa of the gut is turning over, it might be 10 or 12 days because they’re just not enough availability.
And I can just maybe jump ahead a little bit just to give people kind of an experience that they might have had, especially if they’re athletes. You trained really hard and you did a marathon or you did a Spartan Race or you did an Ironman, and what percentage of the time within a week after that did you get a cold, you got an upper respiratory infection or a flu?
Ben: Yeah. All the time.
David: All the time.
Ben: Pretty much every time when I raced. I mean, that beats up your body anyways. I remember I would finish up a race and you’d think after, especially early in the day before I started going keto, when you’re shoving caffeine and sugar and all this stuff down the hatch during a race, you’d think that after race, your ass off for the entire day that you just fall asleep at the end of the day. But I remember I’d be so jacked and so inflamed. I’d pop a couple of valium to sleep after an Ironman triathlon. It definitely beats your body up.
David: Yeah. So, if you look at it, you stood back and you said, “Okay. Tendons, muscles, cardiac tissue, mitochondria, these guys just took a huge stress, okay? And they got injured. They got injured both traumatically.” If you’re running 26 miles, the hit on your quadriceps and your glutes and your cardiac muscle is heavy. So, it’s got to heal those things. And then what about your tendons and ligaments? Well, it’s got to heal those things too because even as prepared as you are, if you raced hard, you’re going to feel it.
So, the body makes an assessment of some kind of–I’ve got limited resources of amino acids. I’m just looking at amino acids because there are other things that are important than this too, but if we just look at it from the point of view of essential amino acids, it’s got to heal all this stuff, plus it has to maintain immunity, so immune proteins and cytokines and all these other things that are needed for immunity, and it’s got to keep its barrier tissues together, and his digestive enzymes, and neurotransmitters, and all this other stuff.
There’s not enough resources to do it. And so, it makes a choice of, “Okay, I’m going to go for the biggest damage, which is muscles and tendons, and I’m going to let immune status go down.” These viruses are in us, and these bacteria are in us, and they get to us when our immune system goes down and people get sick, just because there aren’t enough resources to deal with it. So, what I found in myself and in people that I talk to is pre-race, load these things. During the race, like you were doing, take a whole bunch. And then after the race for four or five days, take a whole bunch. This is similar to you just had cardiac surgery or you were just in a bad accident where the body needs for protein to repair are enormous.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I’ve talked to a lot of people like Mark Sisson, for example. He’s very into collagen and he got me on like this 40 grams of collagen a day kick. That was after I started racing Ironman. And since then, I’ve switched to doing about 20 to 30 grams of essential amino acids. I got an effect from both but it’s–I mean, even if you’re not going out and doing like–I don’t want to give people the impression these are only necessary for people involved in ultra-endurance type of activities because as you’ve noted in your clinic, Dr. Minkoff, and with the anecdotes you have throughout the book, and I actually have a few others I want to get into, I mean these things can be used for a wide variety of gut issues and thyroid issues and immune issues I also want to get into here shortly. But one thing that I found intriguing was this idea of what happened when one of your patients brought these to the Tour de France and then gave them to some athletes there. Can you get into that?
David: Yeah. I have a patient. He doesn’t mind me talking about it. His name is Jeff Spencer.
Ben: Like Dr. Jeff Spencer?
David: Dr. Jeff Spencer.
Ben: Oh, wow.
David: He’s one of my closest friends–
Ben: He’s been on the show before.
David: Yeah, yeah. Well, he’s an amazing guy. He was an Olympian himself. He was in the ’72 or ’74 Olympics. And he’s one of the people that writes an inch over this book. He came to me a bunch of years ago because he was heavy-metal toxic and he got better and we got to be very good friends. And so, the seven years that Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France, he was the go-to guy. He went to their training, he went to the race, and he was jack-of-all-trades for bodywork and help with the athletes.
So, one year, I said, “Why don’t you try these things out with some of the guys?” And he did with some essential amino acids. And he came back with a story that I had no idea of before. So, if you’re an elite athlete, you have access to everything. And I’m not even talking about illegal drugs. I mean, [00:40:14] ______, IVs after the race, and optimal nutrition, and a chef that travels with you, an optimum food where everything is being done. And what he said was even that, after the 21 days of the tour, that the athletes would be broken down. They would all have tendinitis, they would all be weaker, they would all be having problems.
And so, to a few of the athletes, he gave these amino acids, essential amino acids in order to see what would happen with them. And what he found is that they didn’t break down and that their performance at the end was actually a little bit better than it was at the beginning, that if you gave the body exactly what it needed in order to heal and repair, it could even meet the stress of something like the Tour de France to not only recover, but actually, it would be sort of an anabolic stimulus. The person could get better. And that was really interesting because I’d never seen that before.
Ben: Well, what’s happening to the immune systems of these athletes? Like, what exactly is going on with exercise trauma and anybody who’s like a workout fiend or who’s out there really tearing themselves up when it comes to their workouts?
David: Well, usually, I mean if they’re actually doing it right, their rest recovery ratios are fine and their nutrition is adequate to keep up. But most people aren’t very good at that. And I find most coaches don’t have a way to gauge it very well, and they overdo what they should be doing, and they don’t get enough essential amino acids to meet those needs, but they also may be overworking and not meet their needs and so they break down. Immune system is, you know, it’s proteins, and they need extra if they’re going to combat this–it’s sort of the same thing. If you have to feed so many mouths, immune system, neurotransmitters, barrier tissues, muscles, tendons, ligaments, cardiac, but you don’t have enough essential amino acids to feed all those mouths, something is going to suffer. And I think that’s what happens to be–
Ben: Yeah. The way I like to think about it is that when intense skeletal repair is needed, your immune system gets depleted of resources. I mean, you’re just more set up after that traumatic event, and that leads to like the upper respiratory infection or everything else that happens. And so, I think a lot of people who get sick, especially if they’re doing big workouts, races, competitions, et cetera, they’d notice, like I did and like you did, some pretty intense changes when you begin–and my protocol again is you preload.
So, you have high blood levels of amino acids going into whatever difficult thing that you’re doing, and then you dose during every hour, then finish up with them, and it’s a night and day difference. And again, it doesn’t mean that this is something that you only need if you’re out doing some crazy events, but the immune system piece I think is incredible for athletes who are beating themselves up. And I know people are going to ask this question, and this one might be a bit of a rabbit hole question, David, but why not just like drink some whey protein before your workout and then finish it up and eventually have some chicken or some steak or some fish or maybe a vegan source of amino acids like some spirulina or a cup full of collagen? I mean, why is it that these would work? What’s the difference between some of these proteins?
David: Well, I think there’s a–one of the biggest things, the myths about protein is that if you look on the side of the container and it says how many grams of protein are in there, that they’re equivalent. Like 10 grams of whey protein equals 10 grams of collagen, grams of tuna fish or steak, or what name here, spirulina. It isn’t true at all. The body has two pathways. So, assuming that you have teeth and you can chew, and you swallow it and it goes into your stomach and you have stomach acid which is–none of these are true in many people, because tens of millions of people are on medication to block stomach acid for their GERD. It’s available over the counter now.
So, as soon as you take that stuff, you are stopping protein digestion. The enzyme that’s in the stomach is called pepsin, and it’s the first process in digesting protein, requires a very acid stomach. And if you’re taking acid blockers, Nexium or Tagamet or Pepcid or any of these drugs, you are not making stomach acid, it poisons the system in the stomach that makes acid. So, now you’ve got a stomach acid 7 which is not acid. It needs to be 1 to 2, pH 1 to 2 in order for your stomach to digest protein and to turn on the pepsin. The pepsin is in a precursor form in the stomach and acid turns it on. So, it turns it from pepsinogen, which is the precursor to pepsin. Then protein digestion starts.
So, many people aren’t–they don’t have pepsin in their stomachs, or they don’t have acid in their stomachs, and so they don’t turn on pepsin. It then goes to the small intestine and they need enzymes, enough enzymes, trypsin, chymotrypsin, to be able to digest these things. And so, assuming that you have stomach acid, and you have pancreatic enzymes, and you have an intestinal membrane that’s working, full of fungus and bad bacteria and parasites, and you’ve been organic really well, and you’re not on a bunch of drugs, you aren’t taking Advil or aspirin or Motrin, and your levels of Roundup and glyphosate in your food is very low because all these things cause damage to the intestinal membrane, and your digestion and absorption isn’t going to be as good.
So, assuming none of that, like it’s optimum, and you could say, “Okay. If I eat, let’s say whey protein, and you are able to digest it and you’re able to get it into your blood, what then does your body do with the amino acids that make up whey protein?” And really, once it hits the cell, so it goes into your bloodstream and it goes to the cell, the cell has two pathways to deal with the amino acids. One pathway is that it makes those amino acids into the proteins that that cell is responsible for making. So, let’s say it’s a hair cell, it’s going to make hair. It’s a liver cell, it’s going to make globulin and enzymes and bile, whatever else it’s supposed to do. Your muscle cell is going to make new muscle tissue or heal muscle tissue. So, that’s one pathway. We call that anabolic pathway. The second pathway is called catabolic. Catabolic means to break it up, to not make something out of it but to destroy it.
David: And the catabolic pathway means that those amino acids, the body is going to take off the nitrogen. So, an amino acid is basically a carbon, hydrogen, oxygen molecule that has on it nitrogen. So, amino in Greek means nitrogen. So, it’s an amino. There’s an acid part of it. It’s a carbon-oxygen, oxygen-hydrogen. And in the middle, there’s a chain that looks like a carbohydrate. It’s carbon, hydrogen, oxygen. And so, if the body puts that amino acid down a catabolic pathway, it takes off the nitrogen, which becomes a waste product. And the chain that’s left over looks like a carbohydrate, and it can be burned as fuel or stored as glycogen or stored as fat, but you don’t make a protein out of it.
So, it’s been discovered some, probably 25 years ago, that different proteins are handled in different ways by the body. Some, it makes a lot of the amino acids into proteins. And some proteins, when they’re divided up into their amino acids, the body can’t use those amino acids and it puts them down the catabolic pathway, and you end up with nitrogen plus calories. And so, there is a, in Kion Aminos, the ratio of the essential amino acids, which are eight amino acids. They are in a very specific balance of how much tryptophan and leucine, isoleucine, methionine, phenylalanine. They’re in a very specific ratio. It’s very specific that if you put that mixture in the body, 99% of those amino acids will go toward building body protein, whatever tissue it goes to. It will make protein out of it. If you look at whey protein and you do the balance study, only–
Ben: What’s the balance study called? Is there a name for this balance study?
David: Well, it’s a nitrogen utilization study.
Ben: Okay. Nitrogen utilization study.
David: You can measure. So, since proteins have nitrogen, and fats and carbohydrates don’t have nitrogen, you could keep track of, “Okay. I ate 100 grams of whey protein today.” And the amount of nitrogen in that 100 grams is about 16% by weight. So, you could say, “Okay. I took in today 16 grams of nitrogen.” Now, what we want to know is how much came out, because if you didn’t make it into body protein, the nitrogen is going to come off. It’s going to go to your liver. It’s going to turn it into urea. You’re going to pee it out. So, most of the nitrogen leaves the body, free nitrogen because free nitrogen isn’t utilized by the body. So, a free nitrogen–
Ben: You can just measure that in the urine to see how many grams of nitrogen come out after you eat any different type of protein?
David: Now, to do it really right, and the study that did this, I don’t have it right to hand, but it’s in the book it’s given, you have to get someone set up so that they’re in good nitrogen balance when you start. They aren’t deficient in amino acids when you start so that you have sort of a level playing field. Then if you give them, let’s say, so many grams of egg protein and you measure how much nitrogen you put in and how much came out, it turns out with eggs, 48% of the nitrogen that goes in stays in, and 62% comes out.
Ben: Wow. Geez. And that’s not to shove eggs under the bus, or I mean everybody knows, like I love a ribeye steak and a nice organic bone and Marie’s roasted chicken. My kids make scrambled eggs all the time. There are vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, lutein, zeaxanthin, the actual wonderful flavor of many of those said foods. But ultimately, if your goal is to just cut straight to the chase and–sometimes I’m amused to use this word but biohack your protein intake so that you don’t have to actually digest anything. You get full utilization. That’s where something like this would come in and be appropriate. You’re not saying like don’t eat these proteins because in most people I think their bodies can handle the nitrogen. What you’re saying is that if your goal is pure protein utilization, then essential amino acids are what are providing that.
David: Yeah. And I see it as a supplement for–if you look at different foods, like what is the amino acid utilization of different foods, like you fed the pure food and you followed it, actually, the second-best food in a natural state is whole eggs. If you just eat the egg whites, only 16% of the amino acids are utilized because the–one of the essential amino acids is called methionine, and there’s very little in the egg white, and there’s a lot in the egg yolk. And so, you need the whole thing or you can’t do it. The only thing better than whole eggs in terms of amino acid utilization is breast milk, which is 49%, but it’s hard to get in quantity. And so, it’s reserved for babies.
David: But as you go down the list, like meat and fish, have about a 33% utilization. But if you go to whey protein or soy protein, you’re in the 16% or 17% utilization. So, it’s low. They’re not high-quality proteins. Yes, they’re absorbed. Yes, they get into the body, but are they turned into body protein very effectively? Not very effectively, and it’s because the mix of essential amino acids in those foods is what it is. It doesn’t mean they’re bad. They taste good. Yes, but that’s why I think it’s worth it for people to supplement essential amino acids because they’re probably not getting enough in their food to keep their body levels good.
Ben: It definitely falls in the supplementation, Better Living Through Science category, not the food category per se. I don’t think I’d ever say that. But something else is touted as a superfood. There’s a few of them actually, but there are uses as “superfoods” or there are protein sources. One is algae, right? Like a lot of health food stores are big on selling spirulina. It’s like something that’s got minerals and essential fatty acids. And many people will say that it’s got all the amino acids that you need. What’s the comparison between this and spirulina?
David: Well, spirulina is a wonderful food for chlorophyll and, like you said, minerals and essential fatty acids, but for amino acids, it’s poor. We didn’t but one of the guys who researched behind this study looked at 24 different species of spirulina and found that all but six were missing at least one essential amino acid. And so, it made the utilization very low. And the one that had all eight essential amino acids had them in a ratio that wasn’t very good and it was only a 6% utilization. So, I wouldn’t go to spirulina as your go-to protein for protein or for amino acid supplementation. It isn’t very good.
Ben: Interesting. What about collagen?
David: We should maybe mention collagen.
Ben: Yeah. I want to talk collagen because this confuses a lot of people.
David: This is really interesting. Well, there is a way to make a buck. A lot of stuff can get promoted but there’s a lot of stuff that’s not true. So, if you look at collagen, okay, it’s the most prevalent protein in our body. About 30% of the proteins in our body are collagen or is collagen. Now, first of all, the source of collagen is very important because many of the–these are animal tissues. They can go everything from chicken bills to feathers, to knuckles, to bone, to horse hoofs. Where is the source of it? And what has this animal been eating? And what else is in that besides just the collagen protein? How much antibiotics, pesticides, drugs, parabens, steroids? What’s the source of it? Because there’s going to be some residual in there.
The other thing that’s interesting about collagen is that 50% of the amino acid mixture in collagen are non-essential amino acids. Now, whenever you add non-essential amino acids to a protein, you reduce the amount of utilization that your body is going to use. Okay? There was a really interesting experiment that was done. When this formulation of the eight essential amino acids, Health Canada said that, “No. There were two conditional amino acids that you have to include if this is going to be a complete food.” So, in addition to the eight essentials, they said that arginine, which is another amino acid, and histidine had to be added so that you covered all your bases. The U.S. FDA didn’t do this but Canada did.
And when the experiments were done to see what happened by adding histidine and arginine to the mix, the amino acid utilization went from 99% down to 94%. So, by adding non-essential amino acids, you don’t get better utilization, you get worse. Now, we just conducted an experiment, and I’ll get you this data very shortly where we looked at, does the level of arginine and histidine actually go up after you take a dose of [00:58:49] ______? And the answer is yes, they do, within a half an hour.
So, you’re not feeding them but the body can make them because there really are only eight essential amino acids. And if you get those in the right balance, it will make the non–so collagen has 50% non-essential amino acids, and those are, just for the record, proline, glycine hydroxyproline, and arginine. Collagen is very low in tryptophan, which is one of the essential amino acids. Some reports say there isn’t any tryptophan in there, and it’s also low in three of the other essential amino acids; isoleucine, threonine, and methionine.
So, by feeding this food, if you would do the balance study on collagen, it’s going to be very, very low. If there’s no tryptophan, it’s going to be zero. So, I think that people are not really getting the straight scoop, and that collagen, while it’s not harmful, and maybe there are some benefits to it–I’m not panning it as a food source except if the source is bad. But as a way to build body protein, it’s really not very good.
Ben: Yeah. And then [01:00:09] ______. I mean, like a big part of it too is if you travel, and I travel a lot, you often don’t get access to good meat, good protein, good forms of bone broth, eggs, steak, et cetera. I almost, for a very long time, would go vegan when I travel just because I didn’t want all of the ravages of hormone-fed, unclean protein that honestly–I don’t have to get on the CAFO feedlot bandwagon, all the issues with meat and meat sourcing. But having an extra protein source I can just pull out of my bag and consume along with a salad to get everything that I need from a protein standpoint is very convenient. It’s one of those things where again, it’s not a food but you can use it like a food.
Branched-chain amino acids are something that–I kind of already talked about and I think a lot of people know, like that’s only got three of the amino acids in it. It spikes your blood sugar. It can produce insulin insensitivity. It works for performance but it doesn’t work that great compared to essential amino acids. And so, I think I’ve already kicked that horse to death but what I did want to ask you was the whole chemistry of this thing, whether it’s a branched-chain amino acid or an essential amino acid. Amino acids actually have different chemical configurations that you get into in the book. And I think that’s important for people to understand the whole left-handed versus right-handed configuration of amino acids.
David: Yeah. See, the body can only use the left-handed configuration. So, if people are making amino acids in a laboratory and putting them in a supplement, if they’re not all L-form, which is the left-handed form, the body can’t use them at all. And usually when they’re spit out of a laboratory, unless they specifically say l-leucine, l-tryptophan, then you can assume that half of it is the R-form, the right form, and they’re not going to be utilized at all. Most amino acid formulas have very low amino acid utilizations, like really low.
Ben: So, what you’re saying is you could grab one form of essential amino acids and they might actually have the D configuration of the essential amino acid because it could be easier to make or it could be less expensive. But when you look at it, it could just say all the essential amino acids but not tell you on the label whether it’s the L-form or the R-form. And a lot of companies I know of, they sell a 50-50 of each, like half L-form, half R-form. But that means you’re getting 50% of what you just bought in terms of actually utilization versus everything being the L-form.
David: That’s exactly right. The other thing that’s important is that these should be very high grade, pharmaceutical grade, like these are really pure substances. In the late ’70s, there was a problem with a Japanese company that was making amino acids when they were making tryptophan. And there was this thing called erythema something syndrome where the tryptophan was actually poisoning people and there was a bunch of deaths. So, you want to make sure that your source of amino acids is pharmaceutical grade, and they’re in the right balance, and they’re l-form.
Ben: Interesting. Okay. So, when it comes to the actual way to utilize or already to use a lot of these amino acids, I get questions about kidney function, I get questions about can you use them when you’re fasting? Should older people use them? Could you use them if you’re pregnant or you’re breastfeeding? There are a lot of questions that I get about this. So, the first question that I have for you that I know you cover a little bit in your book, but I want to ask you here on the show is fasting and/or ketosis. How do amino acids fit into the scenario of either of those where we want to limit gluconeogenesis, we want to limit a lot of blood glucose spikes, we want to keep ketone production up or we want to tap into some of the cellular autophagy benefits of fasting? How do amino acids fit into that scenario?
David: Well, if the balance is bad, like if you take whey protein or you take collagen, you’re going to make carbohydrates and you’re going to get a glucose spike, and you’re going to add calories, you’re going to add carbohydrate calories to what you’re taking. With the right balance of essential amino acids, we just did an experiment on this too to just look at this again, and we found that 30 minutes and 90 minutes post-feed of 10 grams of essential amino acids that there was no glucose spike at all.
Ben: I can attest to that. I wear a Dexcom G6. So, I track every single bite that goes into my mouth. I can see my blood sugar in a flash, and I wanted to make sure these things weren’t gluconeogenic, that they weren’t actually spiking blood glucose, and they don’t. That’s as opposed to, and we know all this from the carnivore diet, blood studies that come out, people eating steak breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Their blood glucose is through the freaking roof.
David: Well, because 67% of the steak is turned into a carbohydrate that rates the blood sugar.
Ben: Exactly. That’s what people don’t understand is you can, there is a way to actually consume 40 grams of protein, for example, if you were to take that much of these things and not spike blood glucose. I mean, it’s one of those situations in which it’s one of the few proteins that doesn’t fall into that gluconeogenic category. And I’ve also done the same with ketones. I’ve tested my ketones before and after, and these are best.
The amino acids in my opinion, they’re best utilized, they’re best absorbed on an empty stomach. And when I take those, like I did right now, I have 20 grams–actually, I have almost close to 30 grams in my system right now, and I have this little device called a Keto on my desk. And I also have another device called a Levl. Both good ways to measure ketones. And my ketones have always been just fine when I use the amino acid.
So, I think it’s a myth that proteins, excess proteins will kick you out of fasting if your goal for fasting is, for example, insulin management or limitation of blood glucose spikes, and also kick you out of ketosis. The only thing I tell people is if you’re fasting for pure cellular autophagy, like if you’re fasting, because that’s catabolism, right, if you’re fasting for a catabolic state, then you don’t want anything but water, like that’s it. But I mean, if you want to kind of have your cake and eat it too and get all the benefits of fasting aside from the cellular autophagy but also maintain an anabolic state, these fit very well into a fasted scenario. Now, what about calories? What’s the amount of calories you’d get from a serving of essential amino acids?
David: On 10 grams, it’s 4 calories. It’s less than a stick of gum.
Ben: Okay. So, if I have 40 grams, which is basically like eating a ribeye steak, I’m getting like 16 calories?
David: Yeah. So, it’s really nothing.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. It’s a drop in the bucket. Now, what about for people who have kidney issues? Because you hear a lot about kidneys, high protein diet, Atkins diet, not being able to process a high level of amino acids if you have kidney dysfunction, is that something people should be careful of if they’re eating like, let’s say up to 40 grams of amino acids per day?
David: Well, here’s what they have to do. If they have a doctor and they have kidney disease, one of the main ways that you monitor kidney disease is to measure what’s called BUN. It’s blood urea nitrogen. Now, this BUN is a measure of the free nitrogen from the proteins that you ate, and probably to a certain extent, from the nitrogen that’s gotten from the intestine, from the intestinal bacteria. But when you have kidney disease, you have trouble getting–you may not be urinating or you may not be filtering right and your BUN is high. And so, if you’re really bad, you’re on a dialysis machine. And if you’re not really bad, your doctor will put you on a low amino acid, a low protein diet because he wants to limit the amount of nitrogen that you’re taking in, because your body can’t handle that extra nitrogen waste.
Now, every patient is different, but what I suggest with people or the patients that I see who have kidney function compromised is that we start them with 5 grams of essential amino acids and we measure how is their BUN doing on that, because less than 1% is going to go toward free nitrogen. And then we ramp them up. And we know that there are people who get most of their protein by taking the essential amino acids. And then they can eat other things; vegetables and grains, and whatever else they’re eating, but they’re staying away from meat, fish, eggs, beans, things that have a higher amount of protein, and their BUNs do not go up. Their BUNs actually go down because they’re reducing the amount of free nitrogen in their body.
There was a study that’s an Italian that looked at, which I’ve had trouble finding but I’ve seen it before, where people who were on dialysis, actually, if they were using as their protein source the essential amino acids, they were able to go from three times a week to twice a week on their dialysis, because they didn’t need it as often, because they were putting in so much less nitrogen into their body.
Ben: Got it. Okay. So, it depends on the actual protein source, but if the nitrogen is not being dumped into the body because it’s a well-utilized protein source, it’s not an issue for people who may have kidney issues?
David: Kidney or liver because some people have liver failure and they can’t make nitrogen into urea.
David: So, with the kidney, they can’t get rid of it, and with the liver, they can’t make it so they get high levels of nitrogen in their body, which is–so in both cases, you have to do it on an individual basis. But in the patients that I follow, they can get–say if they take 10 grams of essential amino acids three times a day as their main protein source, and then for the rest of their calories and their vitamins and minerals eat non-protein foods, that they can get enough protein nutrition to keep their bodies up.
One of the main problems with people with liver and kidney disease, who are on protein-restricted diets is that their bodies break down. Their skin breaks down. Their immune system breaks down. They get infections. And if they’re on a dialysis machine, it’s even worse because they’ve got all this trauma to their blood cells going through a dialysis machine, and they actually need more protein to build blood, to build hemoglobin, and they can’t do it. And what I found is that you could give them 10 grams three times a day. It will meet their total protein requirements, but that will also maintain their immune system, their skin, their connective tissue, and they’re just better.
Ben: That’s an important point, too. Like I just mentioned, I took a whole bunch after my workout this morning, but in an ideal scenario, you could just bleed it into the body throughout the day like in those smaller 10-gram portions.
David: Yeah, yeah.
Ben: Okay. Does this do anything for bones and bone density?
David: Well, bones are 50% or 60%–about 40% of bones by weight are collagen. So, it’s a protein. And you can take all the calcium you want. You’re not going to make your bones any better. And the pharmaceuticals to build bone don’t do it very well and have a lot of side effects. So, what we find in our patients with osteoporosis, which is very common, is take extra essential amino acids, make sure your vitamin D is good, make sure your hormones are good, get on a power plate 10 or 15 minutes four or five times a week, and you will see your bones will come back.
Ben: Okay. That’s awesome.
David: But you’re building collagen and–yeah.
Ben: Now, I realized that we’re getting short on time, but I have a few kinds of rapid fires I want to ask you. Like neurotransmitters, we know that amino acids serve as a precursor for neurotransmitters. What have you seen in your clinic in terms of anything related to Alzheimer’s or depression and the link between neurotransmitters and these proteins?
David: The other thing I measure in everybody that comes in here or almost everybody that comes in here is levels of neurotransmitters in their urine. So, we get GABA, serotonin.
Ben: Is that different than the ION Profile?
David: Yeah, it’s a different panel.
Ben: What panel do you use for that?
David: Sanesco Labs.
David: It’s called HPA Profile, Hypothalamic Pituitary Axis Profile.
David: It’s S-A-N-E-S-C-O.
Ben: Okay. I’ll find it and link to it.
David: Now, I find that we get pretty good results from it, and that all these people, anyone who has sleep problems, depression, anxiety, lack of drive, their levels of these neurotransmitters are low. And all of these neurotransmitters are from amino acids. They’re from essential amino acids. Tryptophan, I mean they’re the precursors, and they’re low. And part of why they’re low is because they’re not getting enough essential amino acids in their body for their brain to make enough of this stuff. And they have to have a good gut too because serotonin is, 90% of it is made by the neuroendocrine cells in the gut, and their gut has to be good health.
So, we’re always doing everything at the same time, but they’re amino acids, and you need them if you’re going to–and here’s the other thing that’s interesting. If your doctor prescribed for you an SSRI, Prozac, or one of those drugs, or some other kind of anti-anxiety drug, I have measured many, many people, hundreds and hundreds of people who are on these medications. And when we measure their neurotransmitter levels, they are low. These drugs do not correct the normal–they don’t correct the levels of the neurotransmitters; they just cause a poison effect on the nerve to give you an effect, but it tends to wear down after a time, and then they don’t work.
David: So, it’s better to get it nutritionally.
Ben: Well, that’s the thing is from a nutritional standpoint, I’ve also found many of my clients who have some neurotransmitter issues because I’ve used the OATs test and seen some issues with neurotransmitter balance. And I’m going to look into this other test that you recommended. They have difficulty sleeping at night. And when they use amino acids at night, and this is a–some people will recommend the use of collagen at night, which I don’t do anymore. I recommend amino acids. It seems to help with sleep function as well.
So, there’s definitely some interplay, even if you don’t have depression or Alzheimer’s with some kind of an adjustment of neurotransmitters, when you take these things. And so, they seem to balance things out quite well. Now, one last question for you. I’ve got 10-year-old boys. People listening in may have babies, breastfeeding women, people who are pregnant. Should there be any caution used in any of these types of scenarios for young people or pregnant or breastfeeding women?
David: No. It’s very safe. There’s a story in the book of a little kid that I saw who–he was born where his stomach skin didn’t–or his abdominal skin did not close over his abdominal organs. So, when he was born, his intestines and his liver and his spleen were hanging out. This is called gastroschisis. And so, at birth, the surgeon had to go in there and pull that skin so tight in order to close it because the risk of infection with it open is really high. So, he closed it up. But then the kid, there was so much pressure on his intestines that he was unable to eat because his gut just wouldn’t peristalsis, just wouldn’t move food along.
So, he was in Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, close to where I’m living, and he was getting IV nutrition in order to nourish him. And after eight months, he became sensitive to the amino acid formula that they were giving him IV, and he couldn’t take that because it caused borderline liver failure in him, and the kid’s bilirubin level went up to like 20 and they had to stop it, and they didn’t know what else to do with the kid. And the mom had heard about me, so she checked the kid out for a day to come up here for an office visit. And I saw the kid, and at eight-months-old, he was only eight pounds. He hadn’t gained any weight since his birth, which is very bad for a newborn.
So, we gave him essential amino acids. The dose for young children is 0.4 milligrams per kilogram per day. That’s their dose. So, he was eight pounds. He was a little bit under, probably three and a half kilos. And so, I gave him, I think one and a half tablets crushed up into some water, and she fed it to him with a dropper three times a day because he couldn’t take other proteins. And you know, by two years, that kid was 24 pounds and he was completely normal development. He actually gained as if he was feeding normally like a pound or two a week. Just on that, what looks like a minuscule amount of essential amino acids.
So, it’s very safe in children. We have some gymnastic teams and some swim teams that we support. We give them the product and it’s–depending on the kids’ weight, we do this formula of 0.4 grams per kilo. And we also usually limit them to 10 grams at a time, not more than 30 grams a day. Those are our sort of medical parameters.
Ben: Okay. Ten grams at a time, not more than 30 a day?
David: And they do great, and they’re fine. And pregnant women should take them, and nursing mothers should take them because you need these things. They will keep your body up and they will make your milk like way better. It doesn’t interact with any drugs. It doesn’t really matter what you’re on. Of course, you have to talk to your physician about it and they can look up the formulas and see or call me if they have questions about it. But this stuff is really safe. There’s no known drug interactions at all.
Ben: Yeah. I know a lot of nursing mothers are exhausted, and a lot of times, they’re depleting their body’s own protein to feed their growing baby. So, their own bones and organs and immune systems start to break down. And I think you wrote this in a book about how the breastmilk from the mothers who you’re giving the perfect aminos to the essential amino is like creamy consistency and beautiful and higher in nutrition. So, it’s very interesting.
David: Yeah, yeah.
Ben: Yeah. Okay. Well, we could go over everything else that you write in the book, or people could just grab this book, and I’m going to put a link to it in the shownotes. You just go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/aminospodcast. I’ll also link to the Kion Aminos which you can get. And like I mentioned, the cool lime flavor or the berry flavor, a scoop of that is five grams. So, you do a few scoops. I like to get into the range of about 20 grams a day for starters. And there’s also a tablet. If you just don’t want to do a powder, you can swallow a tablet. I’ve got those three options over at Kion. And those are also discounted right now, too. So, you just go to getkion.com. That’s getK-I-O-N.com and just look for amino acids there.
And then like I mentioned, all the shownotes, everything we talked about, all these tests that Dr. Minkoff recommended, some of the background of his story links to all the previous episodes I’ve done with him on detoxing and teeth and heavy metals, and all sorts of stuff you can find over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/aminospodcast. And in the meantime, David, thanks for coming on the show for what I think is round five.
David: Thank you. I love talking to you. You’re an inspiration and I’ve learned a ton from you. Your work is just outstanding.
Ben: Thanks, man. I always love talking to you. I learn a lot, too. So, I’ll talk to you later and thanks for listening in, everybody. Have an amazing week. Try some amino acids. They’re good for you. All right. Night, everybody.
Well, thanks for listening to today’s show. You can grab all the shownotes, the resources, pretty much everything that I mentioned over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com, along with plenty of other goodies from me, including the highly helpful “Ben Recommends” page, which is a list of pretty much everything that I’ve ever recommended for hormone, sleep, digestion, fat loss, performance, and plenty more. Please, also, know that all the links, all the promo codes, that I mentioned during this and every episode, helped to make this podcast happen and to generate income that enables me to keep bringing you this content every single week. When you listen in, be sure to use the links in the shownotes, use the promo codes that I generate, because that helps to float this thing and keep it coming to you each and every week.
In today’s podcast episode, we unpack all things amino acids…
“Five months after beginning the amino acids, I achieved a personal best at Ironman Canada, in Penticton B.C. In my new and improved physical state, I began to wonder if my vegetarian, protein-deficient diet was the reason why the anti-cancer enzymes scorched my stomach. Could it be that the mucous lining in my stomach was inadequate, and that had also held back the healing of my hamstring? I very badly wanted to find out, so I decided to try the enzymes again. I followed the full protocol, twelve tablets, six times per day for three consecutive days. I had no adverse reactions, and my stomach was fine. I learned that because my overall body protein levels had normalized, the mucous layer in my stomach was better able to handle the enzymes. What a revelation!”
Thus begins the new book “The Search For The Perfect Protein,” by 42-time Ironman triathlete Dr. David Minkoff.
Dr. Minkoff graduated from the University of Wisconsin Medical School in 1974 and was elected to the “Phi Beta Kappa” of medical schools, the prestigious Alpha Omega Alpha Honors Medical Fraternity for very high academic achievement. He then completed both a pediatric residency and fellowship in infectious disease at the University of California at San Diego.
He worked at the University of California and Children’s Hospitals in San Diego as an attending physician in infectious disease while conducting original research on Ribavirin, a broad spectrum anti-viral agent to fight disease. He also co-directed a neo-natal intensive care unit and worked in emergency medicine.
In 1995, his wife became ill, and her physicians couldn’t find what was wrong. Not accepting their “no hope” conclusion, Dr. Minkoff went on a search to help her that led him out of emergency medicine into complementary and alternative medicine to find the answers. In the process, he gained expertise in biological medicine, heavy metal detoxification, anti-aging medicine, hormone replacement therapy, functional medicine, energy medicine, neural and prolotherapy, homeopathy, and optimum nutrition. He studied under the masters in each of these disciplines until he became an expert in his own right.
The answers he found were soon in demand when others learned of his wife’s return to good health. In response to this, he and his wife, Sue Minkoff RN established Lifeworks Wellness Center in 1997 and it quickly became one of the most comprehensive complementary and alternative medicine clinics in the U.S.
In my conversation with Dr. Minkoff, you’ll learn…
-Dr. Minkoff’s history with amino acids and why he wrote his new book…6:45
- The science behind amino acids and protein wasn’t keeping up with the commercial PR and marketing
- Strained a hamstring while running an Ironman triathlon in 1982
- A patient who was familiar with natural cancer treatment recommended a pancreatic enzyme treatment; had very negative results
- He then supplemented it with essential amino acids and was perfectly fine
- Saw potential solution for other problems patients may be having
- ION profile with 40 amino acids – Genova Kit
- He realized that if it was effective for him, it would be beneficial for others
- He now sees amino acids as an essential element of a workout and proper recovery
- Vegans and vegetarians are notoriously deficient in aminos, B12, Iron, and other nutrients
- Highly recommend an amino supplement
-About CHYMO, the thyroid and its interaction with amino acids…22:20
- Chymotrypsin: an enzyme made in the pancreas that is necessary to digest food
- Actin: the main protein in muscle;
- Contains 5800 different amino acids in one chain of the muscle fiber
- Must be broken down into individual amino acids in order for the intestine to absorb it
- Vicious cycle: amino acids not enough to make chymotrypsin; can’t digest protein properly; amino acids can’t get into the bloodstream
- Many people are iodine deficient
- Also low in tyrosine (made from the essential amino acid phenylalanine)
- These are common issues
-The link between amino acids/proteins and the gut and digestion…31:55
- The inner lining of the intestine is one cell thick
- Leaky barrier membranes: your body gets exposed to foreign proteins
- 70-80% of your immune system is behind the membrane barrier (Peyer’s patches, gut-associated lymphoid tissue)
- Inner lining of the gut has a high turnover (every 3-5 days) due to the exposure, wear and tear, etc.
- Leakage occurs when these membranes are not replaced
- Lack of amino acids slows the turnover rate (10-12 days)
- Endurance training compromises the immune system due to the pounding on the body
-How amino acids are used by riders in the Tour de France bike race…39:00
- Podcast: How Tour de France racers make it through the grueling stages w/ Dr. Jeff Spencer
- Dr. Spencer is a former Olympic biker who worked for the U.S. team during the Lance Armstrong era
- Minkoff gave Spencer amino acids to give to the riders during one of the races:
- After 21 days, athletes are broken down, even with optimal nutrition, medical care, etc.
- Athletes who used amino acids didn’t break down; performance improved
- Athletes and coaches overwork and don’t allow adequate recovery time; results in a broken immune system
-Why not derive amino acids from whey protein, spirulina, and other sources?…44:00
- The amount of protein listed on the package doesn’t translate to amounts in other sources (fish, steak, spirulina, etc.)
- Medication to stop stomach acid stops protein digestion
- Pepsin enzyme which digests protein requires a very acid stomach
- Cells have two pathways with which to deal with the amino acids:
- Anabolic: Turns amino acids into the proteins the cell is responsible for (hair, liver, muscle, etc.)
- Catabolic: Nitrogen becomes a waste product; chain leftover looks like a carbohydrate
- Ratio of essential amino acids in Kion Aminos is very specific; the body will use amino acids into making protein
- Nitrogen utilization study
- Spirulina is good for some things; amino acids is not one of them
- Adding non-essential amino acids decreases the efficacy of the product
- Collagen has 50% non-essential amino acids
-The chemical configurations of amino acids…1:02:40
- The body can only use the “left-handed” configuration (L form)
- Most amino acid forms have very low amino acid utilization because they include the R form
-How amino acids work with fasting and/or ketosis…1:05:30
- You can take amino acids and not spike blood glucose levels
- Excessive proteins will kick you out of fasting is a myth
- Amino acids work very well for fasting in an anabolic state
- 10 g of amino acids is 4 calories (less than a stick of gum)
-How safe amino acids are for children…1:17:00
-And much more…
Resources from this episode:
– Podcast: How Tour de France racers make it through the grueling stages w/ Dr. Jeff Spencer
–Kion Aminos: Building blocks for muscle recovery, reduced cravings, better cognition, immunity, and more. Get 10% off your order of Kion Aminos, and everything at the Kion site when you use discount code: BGF10 at checkout.
–Joovv: After using the Joovv for close to 2 years, it’s the only light therapy device I’d ever recommend. Give it a try: you won’t be disappointed. Order using my link and receive a nice bonus gift with your order!
–Birdwell Beach Britches: Quality is our Gimmick isn’t just our slogan, it’s a commitment we honor with every stitch we sew. 100% money back guarantee. Get 10% off your order, PLUS free shipping on any order over $99 when you use discount code: BENG.