Maximizing your results with essential amino acids isn’t as simple as just grabbing any old tub off the shelves. Here’s what you need to know to ensure you’re choosing the best EAAs to fuel your goals.

Amino acids are commonly cited as a critical part of building muscle and this viewpoint is accurate. However, there is a lot of ambiguity surrounding their supplementation, using the correct dosages, optimum timing and ensuring the source is premium. Unless you do it correctly, amino acids can become devoid of any real upside. When done with the appropriate protocols, in conjunction with exceptional eating habits, they can enhance results significantly by triggering the mTOR pathway that’ll boost muscle protein synthesis. This internal biological mechanism underpins recovery and muscle growth, something anybody looking to improve his physique should be interested in. For trained individuals it is crucial for their essential amino acid intake to surpass turnover, providing anti-catabolic effects. However, knowing which amino acid supplement to select and why, can be tricky so here’s how to educate yourself on this process.

Value quality

The importance of quality should never have to be emphasized, but far too many people fail to appreciate the significance. Industry standard practice surrounding amino acid production is mediocre at best with most products of this nature being derived from human hair or bird feathers. That is not a typo; the amino acid supplements you’re taking probably come from these quite frankly disgusting raw materials. During the processing of these substandard amino acids, harsh chemicals are also used that eventually make it into your body. Regardless of purpose, supplements should always bolster health rather than compromise it. The mainstream generic form of amino acids don’t do this in my opinion. Thankfully, there is another way – opting for amino acids that are fermented from vegetable-based sources. This is a far more wholesome solution. Unlike many amino acid supplements, vegetable based amino acids are vegan friendly.

Differences matter

Amino acids can be subdivided into “essential” and “non-essential,” both of which can be supplemented. “Nonessential” variants can be manufactured within the body, although quantities may need to be propped up via supplementation in individuals who regularly train vigorously. The “essential” category must be ingested in sufficient amounts because the body cannot produce them on its own. While different proprietary EAA blends contain varying types and amounts of amino acids, you should strive to use a formula that lists all nine essential amino acids on the supplement facts panel first. These are: L-leucine, L-lysine, L-valine, L-isoleucine, L-threonine, L-phenylalanine, L-methionine, L-histidine, and L-tryptophan. Without a full spectrum of essential amino acids, you’re not getting the true benefit of this powerful supplement that supports muscle health and promotes muscle protein synthesis. Carefully review thesupplement facts panel and if it first lists amino acids that are not essential, such as taurine, you are not getting an amino acid that stimulates muscle protein synthesis.

Dose dependent

The tangible impact of any supplement is down to the quality, processing and dosage. Consuming essential amino acids doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to supercharge results. It heavily relies upon the specific dosage of each of the nine EAAs. Some amino acid matrixes have an eye-popping 150% more L-leucine than the leading essential amino acid product on the market. Why does this matter? Scientific data explicitly demonstrates that L-leucine is a powerful promoter of muscle protein synthesis. This effect is compounded when accompanied by a full spectrum of essential amino acids – something few supplement companies get right. The muscle cell has ribosomes within them that synthesize proteins from amino acids, a process that relies on sufficient L-leucine intake. Once the required quantity is sufficiently saturated, this facilitates the use of other essential amino acids. In simple terms, for an essential amino acid formula to successfully support muscle protein synthesis and encourage muscle health,  there must be a significant dose of L-leucine, backed up by all other essential amino acids. If your dosages are not right, or you have more non-essential amino acids than EAAs, you may as well save your hard-earned dollars and take nothing at all.

Performance benefits

Consuming an essential amino acid matrix around the workout window assists in stabilizing the muscle tissue, helping the body benefit from a heightened state of muscle protein synthesis. Selecting an EAA formula that also provides ingredients such as coconut water extract and organic caffeine helps further performance. Unlike synthetic caffeine, which absorbs through the digestive system much faster than naturally occurring caffeine, providing a quicker spike and a quicker crash, an organic caffeine, such as PurCaf®, provides unparalleled smooth, sustained energy for added intensity during your workouts. Also try to avoid any EAA formula if it contains synthetic flavorings, artificial colorings, or GMO ingredients. Ensure the amino acid content is derived from premium vegetable sources rather than bird feathers or human hair, and that the processing has been considerate of your health as well as results.

The final steps

If the appropriate steps are taken to select the highest quality EAA formula, it is a worthwhile investment for better results. The ambiguity arrives when understanding how to identify a premium product, what aspects aren’t desirable in an EAA product, and how to circumnavigate these obstacles. Deploying the information learned in this column should enable you to distinguish the difference between EAA supplements that are worthy of your investment, and those that are not. So take heed and start progressing at a faster rate with this new-found knowledge.


Expert: Kris Gethin is a nutrition consultant, trainer and CEO of Kaged Muscle. Instagram: @krisgethin followers: 598K