While the other two macronutrients, carbohydrates and dietary fats, have taken turns as the black sheep of the macronutrient family, our friend protein has enjoyed a well-deserved rise to fame and adoration.
As you may know, protein itself is made up of amino acids. There are tons of amino acids, but only 20 proteinogenic amino acids (the ones that matter to us for building muscle).
What Are The Essential Amino Acids?
Of these, 9 can’t be made by the body, which means we have to get them from diet and supplementation. These are called the “essential amino acids.” Here they are in alphabetical order.
We need these essential aminos for countless bodily functions. Foods that contain all of the EAAs are called “complete” proteins. This includes animal proteins like beef, poultry, dairy, whey protein, and more. There are also many complete plant-based proteins like quinoa, soybeans, buckwheat, and our plant-based protein powder, Plantein.
These amino acids are the building blocks of tissue growth. A lack of essential amino acids flowing through your bloodstream could mean your body is breaking down your precious muscle, especially while training.*
When Should You Take Essential Amino Acids?
Essential Amino Acids, regardless of when you take them, are going to support muscle protein synthesis and may help prevent muscle protein breakdown.
However, there are a few situations when they tend to have the most utility. In general, you’ll get the most out of an EAA supplement if you take it when your muscles most likely need a boost of aminos to prevent muscle breakdown. This includes after training, during long workouts, and in between meals when bulking.
Here are a few instances where you can get the most out of your EAA supplement.
After Training EAAs
After training, our body is in a prime muscle-building state. It’s a time when your body craves nutrients and amino acids to rebuild.
Taking EAAs after a workout has been shown to encourage the positive muscle protein synthesis effects of resistance training.
Simply, post-training EAAs can activate muscle-protein synthesis and put you back into an anabolic state where you’re repairing muscle instead of breaking it down.
During Endurance Workouts or Long Training Sessions
Endurance training can often put people into a catabolic state. That is, you may enter a zone where without amino acids in your bloodstream, your body eats away at your tissue for fuel. Instead, if you give your body a steady supply of EAAs, you can support your muscles and your performance. Your body will have a steady source of aminos to use. This makes an EAA supplement a good choice for long cardio sessions.
Similarly, if your training session gets longer and longer, you’re also more likely to enter a catabolic state. An EAA supplement can be a tool to put you back into an anabolic state.
You can also take EAAs before your workout, if you know it’s going to be a long session.
Between Meals When Bulking
If you’re trying to gain muscle, that means you want to frequently spike muscle protein synthesis. In between meals you can sip on EAAs to support this, and help promote muscle protein synthesis throughout the day.
How Much EAAs Should You Take?
Most research has shown 6-12 g of EAAs to be effective for promoting muscle protein synthesis. (1) This depends on your body weight, protein needs, and more.
In studies, leucine-enriched EAAs have been shown to be especially anabolic. That’s why in Kaged Amino Synergy, we use the EAALPHA™ Matrix, a leucine-dominant EAA formula.
When looking for an EAA supplement, you want to look for a formula that is leucine heavy to get the most of its muscle-preserving and muscle-building benefits.
As a starting point, begin with around 6 grams and move up based on your needs and goals.
What Are The Benefits of Essential Amino Acid Supplements?
The intention behind EAA supplementation is to aid muscle protein synthesis (building new muscle) and preventing muscle protein breakdown (maintain your current muscle while you train hard.*
EAA supplementation may also support your muscle recovery.*
Here are more of the details on how this works on a mechanistic level.
Supports Positive Muscle Protein Balance
Positive muscle protein balance is when the rate of muscle protein synthesis is greater than the rate of muscle protein breakdown, our bodies are in a positive muscle protein balance.
This environment supports muscle building.
In one study on this phenomenon, researchers had subjects do a high-volume leg workout with 10 x 10 leg presses and 8 x 8 leg extensions.
The subjects supplemented with 6 g of EAAs, one and two hours after they trained. They drew blood samples from the subject’s legs and the researchers noted that EAAs favorably increased net muscle protein balance. (2)
In another study examining the effects of EAA supplementation on muscle protein synthesis tested subjects during steady state cardio. The researchers had subjects supplement with a leucine dominant EAA drink while they cycled for 60 minutes at 60% of their VO2 max.
The researchers observed increased muscle protein synthesis and decreased muscle protein breakdown in subjects that took the leucine-heavy EAAs. (3)
Supports Muscle Recovery*
Anyone who works out regularly understands the importance of recovery.
After a grueling workout, your muscle strength decreases, your range of motion suffers, and you may be sore.
All these factors combined can make it difficult to maintain the quality of your subsequent workouts.
In a 2019 pilot study, researchers wanted to see if leucine dominant essential amino acids (LEAAs) could support muscle recovery.
They had subjects perform an arm workout and supplement with 10.8 g of LEAAs daily (the equivalent of 3 daily servings of Kaged Amino Synergy) for 7 days. Using blood tests, the researchers observed that LEAA supplementation suppressed exercise induced biomarkers of muscle damage. (4)
Not All Aminos Are Made The Same: What to Look For In An EAA Supplement
While we’ve talked about the benefits, when to take EAAs, and how much to take, but not all of the EAA supplements out there are created equal.
The lack of quality supplements out there is why Kaged exists, and our EAA product, Amino Synergy designed to check all of the boxes for a high-quality EAA product to help you build muscle and reduce muscle breakdown.*
Here are a few factors to look for, and what makes Amino Synergy stand out.
Choose a Leucine-Dominant-Enriched Option
A lot of the research on essential amino acids used a leucine-heavy formula. Leucine is one of the nine essential amino acids. It’s responsible for “flipping the anabolic switch” that puts our body into a muscle-building mode. In more scientific terms, l-leucine helps activate mTOR, the body’s master protein synthesis regulator.
If you want to get more of the anabolic benefits of EAAs, you need one that has enough leucine to get the job done.
In Amino Synergy, we use EAALPHA™, a leucine-enriched EAA formula to help combat muscle breakdown and support protein synthesis so you can start maximizing the results you work hard for in the gym.*
Use a Plant-Based EAA
SomeMany companies use amino acids derived from animal by-products such as bird feathers or human hair that have undergone harsh chemical treatments.
In contrast, if you grab an option that uses 100% plant-based aminos, you’re much more likely to get high-quality aminos.
Enter: Amino Synergy
Amino Synergy is a 100% plant-based, leucine-heavy EAA supplement to help you get stronger, perform better, and achieve your dream physique.*
(1) Kerksick, C. M., Wilborn, C. D., Roberts, M. D., Smith-Ryan, A., Kleiner, S. M., Jäger, R., . . . Kreider, R. B. (2018). ISSN exercise & sports nutrition review update: Research & recommendations.Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 15(1).
(2), Borcheim, E., Tipton, K.D., Wolf, S.E. & Wolfe, R.R. (2002). Essential amino acids and muscle protein recovery from resistance exercise.Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 34(5). doi:10.1097/00005768-200205001-01686
(3) Pasiakos, S.M., McClung, H.L., McClung, J.P., Margolis, L.M., Andersen, N.E., Cloutier, G.J., Pikosky, M.A., Rood, J.C., Fielding, R.A., & Young, A.J. (2011). Leucine-enriched essential amino acid supplementation during moderate steady state exercise enhances postexercise muscle protein synthesis.The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 94(3), 809–818.
(4) Matsui, Y., Takayanagi, S., Ohira, T., Watanabe, M., Murano, H., Furuhata, Y., & Miyakawa, S. (2019). Effect of a leucine-enriched essential amino acids mixture on muscle recovery.Journal of Physical Therapy Science, 31(1), 95–101. doi:10.1589/jpts.31.95