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Thursday
Jan222015

Why Amino Acids Matter for Health, Performance and Weight Loss

You may have heard of them but know little about their actual benefits.

In fact, Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) just may be the best supplement you haven’t explored yet.

Whether you’re trying to maximize your health, avoid or manage disease, support your efforts for higher performance, or improve your weight loss progress, EAAs may serve as a quick, consistent strategy to boost your anabolic (lean tissue-building) abilities.

Read on to learn more about the advantages EEAs can offer you - no matter what your primary health aim.

The Importance of Amino Acids 

Every structure in the body is built from a sequence of amino acids we know as proteins. The strength and resilience of our very being hinges on our ability to balance the forces that strain our organs, bones, and muscles with the processes that rebuild and repair the damage.

When our damage and repair equilibrium drifts off course, more often than not it’s referred to as inflammation and can be measured through a number of biochemical markers. It breaks us down.

The scary thing is our balance can often be slanted towards declining health and lean tissue loss before these markers show up. Consistently. Constantly even. We also call this aging. 

Through a very complex web of digestion, absorption and signaling, most of us manage to stay on our feet and keep our eyes open from day to day (often with less vigor as time passes). While we could debate all the factors related to dietary practices and definitions of “nutritionally adequate” for years (that’s nutrition and health science for you!), there is exciting evidence about an easy-to-implement dietary strategy that just may help us stay poised to repair under some of the worst conditions as we age. 

We lose muscle as we age, and that’s not exactly healthy for us. The more muscle we have and maintain later into life, the harder it is to gain fat, develop diabetes, or suffer from bone loss. Consistent, life-long resistance (weight bearing) exercise - along with adequate nourishment - can help slow these processes.

With regard to “adequate nourishment,” we must understand the amount and type of protein we eat through our lifespan influences how well we can regulate our weight (fat), bone health, and muscle mass.

To that point, there’s evidence to support animal-based protein as a key source (with the accompaniment of ample intake of colorful veggies and fruits). Animal protein tends to be a suitably rich source of amino acids for many people across the globe, while still others opt for non-animal sources of protein to fulfill their amino acid needs. Some studies suggest animal based proteins may be superior to vegetarian sources. Animal proteins offer a denser source of Essential Amino Acids - the nine amino acids necessary to stimulate muscle growth and maintenance that the human body cannot manufacture on its own. 

Recent reviews of current protein recommendations suggest new (and higher) protein intake guidelines are necessary, especially for elderly populations. At very least, it’s suggested, protein needs to be part of every meal to safeguard against wasting.

And, while food protein, whey protein supplements, and/or Essential Amino Acids provide the primary trigger for muscle protein synthesis anytime (most notably after resistance exercise), EAAs may be a more energetically efficient nutritional intervention than whey for many populations. 

Amino Acids for Health

A specific EAA blend known as DaxibeQOL (Quality of Life) from Thorne Research has been extensively studied as a therapy for some of the most difficult medical challenges to muscle maintenance - primarily cachexia (rapid muscle wasting) due to cancer, AIDs, severe infection, starvation and age-related sarcopenia (chronic, gradual muscle wasting). These conditions typically involve poor appetites, extreme stress, and other challenges that make it hard to improve nutritional status (e.g. hospital food, anyone?). Yet supplementation with EAAs twice per day significantly improves lean tissue health and red blood cell maintenance.

Higher intakes of EAAs (from food proteins or supplements) to maintain higher blood levels of essential amino acids are also associated with improvement in insulin resistance, blood sugar balance, and reduced risk of diabetes.

Supplementation with EAAs in elderly adults with type 2 diabetes (twice daily for sixty weeks) significantly improved fasting and post-meal glucose, insulin sensitivity, and HbA1c levels. To boot, the benefits seemed to continue after supplementation ended, likely due to better maintenance of muscle tissue in the subjects.

The simple act of taking amino acids also helped heart failure patients (and may similarly and significantly improve exercise tolerance and aerobic capacity after short interventions in healthy people as well) - a definite plus for quality of life!

Amino Acids for Performance

A sub-set of essential amino acids known as branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), just three components of Thorne’s Amino Complex (L-Leucine, L-Isoleucine, Valine), have been a popular supplement in the body-building and elite athlete community for years, touted for their “performance-boosting” benefits.

Interestingly, supplementing with 6-20g of BCAAs per day have not been shown to boost performance significantly but are associated with improved exercise tolerance (reduced ratings of perceived exertion – RPE) and reduced delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). These effects may only indirectly support higher performance by shortening the time needed for recovery between intense training sessions. 

EAAs, on the other hand, may offer added advantage. Along with the benefits of BCAAs, the additional amino acids maintain an anabolic environment for up to several hours after ingestion - even in calorie-deficient and overall protein-deficient states.

This supplementation approach may offer an easier compliance strategy for athletes looking for quick recovery and muscle/strength gains under circumstances of energy or protein deficits - or for those who are simply short on time!

Amino Acids for Weight Loss

Perhaps the most exciting benefits of EAAs have yet to be fully discovered. Current research on the role of amino acids in weight loss programming shows promise.

One study compared the results of a group that used just a meal replacement supplement (akin to Fast Fuel Complete) with another that received both amino acids and the same meal replacement supplement (akin to using Thorne Amino Complex in addition to Fast Fuel Complete).

The group using EAAs in addition to the meal replacement had preferential loss of body fat and better retention of lean tissue. Ultimately, this meant four more pounds of fat loss and better retention of lean muscle in the EAA group over the two months of the study!

Other evidence points to amino acids’ (e.g. L-Leucine and other EAAs) role in metabolic function far beyond building and maintaining lean tissue but also supporting blood sugar balance and energy production (i.e. calorie burning) between meals.

Lesson: the more essential amino acids consumed on a daily basis, the less likely one is to be or stay obese. This easy strategy sounds too good to be true, but can we afford to ignore such compelling momentum in the right direction? While research continues, we have the opportunity to see what EAAs can do for our own health and weight loss progress.

In Conclusion...

Are EAAs or BCAAs necessary for everyone? Evidence doesn't yet adequately support this suggestion.

Does Thorne’s Amino Complex supplement offer a convenient, safe, simple, effective, and potent strategy to support your health, performance gains, or weight loss? Yes, and it's here to use in your journey today. 

Talk with one of our dietitians for more information on what the Amino Complex supplement can do for you.  

In health, Paul Kriegler - Corporate Registered Dietitian

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

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