Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and the reason why many of our bodily functions go as smoothly as they do. Essential amino acids specifically are amino acids that the body cannot make by itself. Therefore, patients must get them from food. However, there is another way to go about it—essential amino acid supplements. But what do these supplements do? What are the benefits of amino acids? And why are they so important?
Amino acids have been studied for centuries and the last of the 20 was discovered by William Cumming Rose (x). These amino acids as supplements may successfully help boost athletic performance, build strength, support the muscles, fortify connective tissue and promote healthy metabolism. You may want to consider taking essential amino acids if you’re looking to build metabolism or build strength. Taking essential acids as a supplement may help make up for the amino acids that the body doesn’t create so that you are able to live an overall healthy lifestyle.
What are Amino Acids?
Amino acids are molecules that contain carbon and they are the building blocks of protein. Together in the body, they form chains that eventually become protein molecules. Proteins work as structural support to the cells in our bodies and help build muscles and nutrients and repair damaged tissue (x). According to research, these supplements may successfully build strength, promote healthy metabolism and support connective tissue.
Short for α-amino (alpha-amino) carboxylic acids, amino acids fill your body and support several different functions in the muscles, bones and throughout the body to maintain overall health. How many amino acids actually fill the body? Our bodies use 20 different types of amino acids. They are categorized into three groups:
- Essential amino acids cannot be made in the body and thus must come from food or supplementation. The nine essential amino acids are: leucine, isoleucine, histidine, lysine, phenylalanine, methionine, threonine, valine and tryptophan.
- Nonessential amino acids are naturally produced by our bodies and don’t require conscious supplementation to gain their effects, although some people may still choose to take supplements. The nonessential amino acids are glycine, arginine, alanine, asparagine, cysteine, aspartic acid, glutamic acid, glutamine, proline, serine and tyrosine.
- Conditional amino acids are only essential in times of illness and stress. The conditional amino acids include cysteine, arginine, glutamine, tyrosine, glycine, ornithine, proline and serine.
Roles of the Essential Amino Acids
Now that you know the difference between the amino acid categories, let’s take a look at the essential amino acids individually and how each of them functions:
- Histidine naturally works as an anti-inflammatory agent, an antioxidant and may also aid in weight management (x).
- Isoleucine is an amino acid that naturally lowers blood glucose levels in the body (x).
- Leucine acts as a “nutrient trigger” for muscle energy (x). It helps with muscle growth, repair and maintenance and also helps with wound healing, bone repair and hormone production (x, x, x).
- Lysine promotes healthy tissue function, growth and supports the healing process, such as after an injury or a surgical procedure (x). It also helps regulate hormones, antibodies and enzymes (x)
- Methionine contains high levels of sulfur and helps regulate metabolic processes and digestive functions in humans and animals (x).
- Phenylalanine acts as a precursor to the nonessential amino acid tyrosine (x).
- Threonine is important for the nervous system, helps prevent fat buildup in the liver and also plays a role in digestive health (x).
- Tryptophan is derived from plants and consuming it transforms it into bioactive metabolites, which are end products of metabolism (x). The brain needs them to produce serotonin (x).
- Valine aids in muscle and tissue repair, energy deficiencies and mental focus (x).
What are BCAAs?
BCAA is short for branched-chain amino acids, a group of amino acids that work together with a branched side chain. They are the only amino acids that have a branched side chain, which is what gives them their name and role as a group (x). The three BCAAs are leucine, isoleucine and valine. Unlike other amino acids, they are metabolized by the muscle and not the liver, meaning they are faster-acting (x, x, x).
What are Essential Amino Acids Used for?
Essential amino acids act as some of the body’s building blocks for proteins. The body does not store essential amino acids naturally, so it’s important to have them in your diet via food or supplementation to receive the benefits. According to research, athletes and fitness experts often use them for muscle building and recovery after exercise. Experts state that essential amino acids may also be important in the quality of food (x). They are required for synthesizing protein and other nitrogen compounds including creatine, peptide hormones and some neurotransmitters (x). But how do they work?
Supporting Muscle Development
Essential amino acids, unlike other amino acids, are the only ones that promote and maintain muscle development (x). The body has an increased need for essential amino acids during endurance exercise, especially strength and power exercises. When the body is at rest, it goes through catabolism, which breaks down more muscle protein than it builds up. Protein-building, on the other hand, is called anabolism. Anabolism increases during resistance exercise but only if there are enough nutrients present (x).
Studies suggest that exercise combined with EAA supplements may improve muscle repair and muscle growth, especially in athletes (x). In another study, the supplements may have helped athletes recover from muscle fatigue after exercise faster (x) and during a 12-week strength training program, leucine specifically improved strength drastically (x). Other studies suggest that essential amino acids may build up muscles during periods of reduced physical activity (x). According to research, taking essential amino acids regularly may even extend the lifespan and support immune function (x).
Improving Mood & Sleep
EAA supplements may also help naturally improve mood and promote better sleep because they can supply the body with tryptophan. This is the amino acid that the cells naturally use to create the neurotransmitter serotonin, which puts the body at ease and promotes relaxation (x). Serotonin is produced by nerve cells and also helps with blood clotting, sexual function, bone support and sleep. If you suffer from sleep deprivation, supplementing with essential amino acids may be a possible solution.
Managing Appetite & Weight
Amino acids activate the brain cells that control hunger and satiety. This may be an effective tool for weight management. Taking essential amino acids as a supplement may help regulate these sensations in the brain, potentially reducing hunger and increasing satiety. According to studies, leucine specifically may help suppress hunger and manage food intake (x). However, EAA supplements do not cure or treat any specific disease on their own. Instead their properties may support the body’s natural processes.
Why Take Essential Amino Acid Supplements?
Essential amino acids complete protein synthesis and work to promote functions in the body that aid in muscle repair, muscle growth, mood and sleep quality (x). The body needs all essential amino acids for proper protein synthesis and because your body does not make them naturally, it’s important to get them from outside sources, either food or supplements.
Taking them as supplements may allow you to control the amount of essential amino acids the body receives and may help you use them for specific purposes, such as exercise and athletic performance. However, it is always important to consult a doctor before adding EAAs or any other supplement to your health regimen.
How to Take EAA Supplements
As a dietary supplement, the recommended serving size for essential amino acid (EAA) powder is 15 g daily, or following a physician’s instructions. Individual needs may vary. Make sure to consult a doctor before adding the supplement to your diet to make sure it’s the most effective alternative for you.
If you’re using them for exercise specifically, you may be wondering when to take EAA supplements. Studies suggest that they are most effective following or prior to a workout, specifically between one and three hours before or after (x).
Food Sources for Essential Amino Acids
An alternative to taking essential amino acids as supplements is taking them in the food you eat everyday. When we eat protein, it’s broken down into amino acids, which is why it’s important to have a protein-rich diet. Some researchers suggest eating multiple small meals throughout the day that contain protein to eventually break down into amino acids (x). According to research, one of the most rare amino acids found in food is tryptophan (x). Here are a few food sources that essential amino acids are found in:
- Soy protein
- Black beans
- Whole grains
- Cottage cheese
Possible Side Effects of EAA Supplements
Usually patients tolerate essential amino acids well if they are taken in normal doses. However, it’s important to consult a doctor before taking them because they can cause unwanted side effects and complications in pre-existing medical conditions including:
Side Effects of BCAAs
Branched chain amino acids—valine, leucine and isoleucine—may possibly cause their own set of side effects, including fatigue and loss of coordination. They may also negatively affect blood sugar levels (x).
Other Warnings & Precautions
If you take calcium, you should also consult a physician to avoid any unwanted interactions. Women who are pregnant or nursing should not take amino acid supplements to avoid any possible complications (x).
Make sure to consult a doctor before adding amino acids to your everyday diet to ensure the supplement is right for you. Side effects vary on an individual basis so discuss the potential effects that the supplement may have on your body with a doctor.
Where to Buy Essential Amino Acid Supplements
You can purchase essential amino acid powder at BulkSupplements.com. The company is an industry-leading manufacturer and distributor for pure dietary supplements. BulkSupplements.com is not just a consumer brand. It also supplies pure ingredients to other brands that distribute food and other supplement products. All products at BulkSupplements.com are manufactured and tested according to current and proper manufacturing practices.
Are you interested in trying essential amino acids as a dietary supplement to potentially support muscle building, improve mood, promote better sleep and manage weight and appetite? Contact BulkSupplements.com to place an order today.
Essential amino acids are amino acids that the body does not produce on its own. However, they are important because they are the building blocks of proteins. The essential amino acids include histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. Of these, three of them are grouped together as branched-chain amino acids, isoleucine, leucine and valine. They can act faster because they are metabolized in the muscles and not the liver like other amino acids.
Even though the body does not make them on its own, it’s still important to consume them somehow, either through food or supplements. Research states that taking essential amino acids as supplements may be able to help build muscle strength, improve mood and sleep and assist with weight management.
Be sure to consult a doctor before adding any supplements to your everyday diet, including essential amino acids. They may cause side effects, interact with other supplements or cause complications for pre-existing health conditions.
**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.