A peer review by the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) titled, “International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: Effects of essential amino acid supplementation on exercise and performance”, presents an official, and collective stance on the benefits of Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) after a critical review of the literature surrounding EAA supplementation.
I found this paper’s findings to be really useful, as it’s not a cherry-picked study on EAAs meant to confirm one bias or another, but rather, a review of all the available literature and research (which is typically the type of research papers I rely upon) done on EAAs.
From this review of the available literature, the highly accredited ISSN presented 10 separate statements on the benefits of EAAs.
Before we dive into their official stance on EAAs, let’s do a quick rundown on EAAs and why they might be important.
Essential Amino Acids 101
Essential amino acids are the king molecules of your body's building blocks – they're absolutely crucial for good health, but unlike non-essential amino acids which your body can synthesize on its own, you must get essential amino acids from your diet and supplementation.
Of the 20 amino acids needed for muscle protein synthesis (MPS) and other vital functions, 9 are considered essential for humans. With the consumption of these 9 essential amino acids that you must get through diet and supplementation, your body can then synthesize all other necessary amino acids for muscle protein synthesis. The 9 essential amino acids are:
- Histidine: Plays a role in growth, blood cell production, and tissue repair.
- Isoleucine: Supports muscle growth, wound healing, immunity, and blood sugar regulation.
- Leucine: Essential for energy production, muscle growth and repair, and hormone regulation.
- Lysine: Crucial for building muscle, bone health, hormone production, and recovery from injury.
- Methionine: Needed for protein synthesis, detoxification, and antioxidant function.
- Phenylalanine: Precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine, involved in mood, memory, and pain perception.
- Threonine: Important for healthy skin and teeth, collagen production, and immune function.
- Tryptophan: Precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin, critical for mood, sleep, and appetite regulation.
- Valine: Supports muscle growth, energy production, and mental focus.
So you can see all the critical roles EAAs play in the body. It goes beyond muscle protein synthesis, as they help form your neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, etc, and are also used in peptide formation, many of which play critical anti-aging, healing, and disease preventive roles in the body.
Now, let’s dive into the official positions on EAAs from the ISSN. I’ll add some further context to certain points when necessary:
1. Initial studies on EAAs’ effects on skeletal muscle highlight their primary role in stimulating muscle protein synthesis (MPS) and turnover. Protein turnover is critical for replacing degraded or damaged muscle proteins, laying the metabolic foundation for enhanced functional performance.
Protein turnover in your muscle tissue is critical to avoid wasting or atrophy. Growing research is showing that EAA supplementation, even in the absence of muscle stimulation from exercise, can lead to protein turnover and the avoidance of muscle wasting.
2. Supplementation with free-form EAAs leads to a quick rise in peripheral EAA concentrations, which in turn stimulates MPS.
3. The safe upper limit of EAA intake (amount), without inborn metabolic disease, can easily accommodate additional supplementation.
Essentially, even if consuming a diet rich in protein, additional EAA supplementation will still yield distinct benefits, and not overload the body with amino acids. I consume about 250-300g of protein per day, and also consume 20-30g additionally of EAAs. That said, if your diet is not rich in protein, or is plant based, there should be an even greater emphasis on EAA supplementation.
4. At rest, stimulation of MPS occurs at relatively small dosages (1.5–3.0 g) and seems to plateau at around 15–18 g.
If at rest and/or not exercising, you can stimulate muscle protein synthesis with only 1.5-3g of EAAs, and the research shows the rate of MPS increases with additional supplementation up to around 15-18g.
5. The MPS stimulation by EAAs does not require non-essential amino acids.
6. Free-form EAA ingestion stimulates MPS more than an equivalent amount of intact protein.
This is the core reason I ingest a good amount of free form EAAs on top of aiming for 1g protein intake per 1lb of body weight. Furthermore, as mentioned above, EAAs play a critical role in neurotransmitter and peptide formation.
7. Repeated EAA-induced MPS stimulation throughout the day does not diminish the anabolic effect of meal intake.
Again, EAA consumption on top of normal protein intake does not take away from the protein synthesis from your meals, and vice versa, your meals do not take away from the additional muscle protein synthesis from EAA ingestion.
8. Although direct comparisons of various formulas have yet to be investigated, aging requires a greater proportion of leucine to overcome the reduced muscle sensitivity known as “anabolic resistance.”
Leucine is the most anabolic of all essential amino acids, meaning it induces muscle protein synthesis more effectively than any other amino acid. As you age, muscle has a tendency to deteriorate, so the need for additional Leucine (thus EAAs) actually increases with age to offset the propensity towards muscle loss.
9. Without exercise, EAA supplementation can enhance functional outcomes in anabolic-resistant populations.
As you age and become more anabolic resistant, and move less, and even if physically unable to exercise at all, supplementing with EAAs can still help stimulate muscle protein synthesis and protein turnover.
10. EAA requirements rise in the face of caloric deficits. During caloric deficit, it’s essential to meet whole-body EAA requirements to preserve anabolic sensitivity in skeletal muscle.
EAAs can be very useful when dieting or running in a caloric deficit to help stave off muscle loss while trying to reduce body fat, and can help fuel and stimulate energy, and reduce appetite while in a caloric deficit.
Who should supplement with EAAs?
✔️ Anyone trying to improve athletic or exercise performance and enhance recovery.
✔️ Anyone who consumes a low protein diet
✔️ Anyone on a plant-based diet (most EAA supplements are vegan-approved)
✔️ Anyone who is older and susceptible to sarcopenia (age-related muscle loss)
✔️ Those dieting, fasting, and/or running on a caloric deficit
I will consume EAAs 2-3 times per day.
I will consume them upon waking with some spring water, trace ocean minerals, and vitamin C powder even if I do not exercise shortly after waking, as I then stay in a fasted state usually until 12 pm, and the EAAs help fuel my body and avoid muscle loss while staying in a fasted state.
I then also consume 5-10g of EAAs before my workout, and another 10g throughout my workout.
If in a big caloric deficit for the day, or in need of additional recovery from exercise, I will also consume 5g before bed from time to time.
I use the Thorne Amino Complex which is vegan-approved, uses all-natural flavors, and contains the 9 essential amino acids in their perfect ratios for 99% bioavailability within the body.
When referring to refined seed oils, the biggest culprits are corn, canola, and soybean oil. These oils are highly refined, making the fats in them rancid and highly inflammatory, and are cut with solvents that have neurotoxic effects.
In fact, what we know as canola or vegetable oil was actually originally used as an industrial lubricant before synthetic chemicals existed. Once synthetic chemistry became a thing, and cheaper, synthetic lubricants were used, they repurposed rapeseed oil as vegetable oil, now known as canola oil, and somehow deemed it fit for human consumption.
I mean, it’s vegetable oil right? Must be healthy.
This is no joke. I actually wrote about it when I did a segment on understanding polyunsaturated fats.
I came across even more research that further paints the picture on why these oils appear to be the most pro-inflammatory “foods” we consume, as well as causing expedited cellular aging and damage, and an increased risk of disease seemingly across the board.
The paper, titled “4-Hydroxynonenal (HNE) modified proteins in metabolic diseases” discusses the formation of HNE when refined seed oils are exposed to high heat and oxygen, and how HNE increases your risk of many metabolic diseases.
In short, when you cook or fry with these oils, and thus, they are exposed to high heat and oxygen, HNE forms, and there are certain stable HNE molecules that don’t metabolize, and therefore stay in the body, and they are not good for you.
The authors of the paper state:
“It is fully recognized that HNE may take part in cell signaling involved in inflammatory reactions, which in fact, represents the main driving force on the progression of the large majority of human chronic diseases. Moreover, at least in terms of molecular pathology, no doubt exists about a possible causative role of the n-6 poly-unsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) peroxidation end product HNE in cell death, inflammation, fibrosis, and atypical cell proliferation.”
If you want to dig a little deeper into the study, I suggest reading Section 5, it’ll take 5 minutes at the most, and actually discusses the link between HNE modified proteins and disease.
In said section they list a table with references of metabolic diseases linked to HNE modified proteins. Included are the following:
✔️ Insulin-resistant obesity (which also means Type II diabetes)
✔️ Rheumatological diseases (such as rheumatoid arthritis)
✔️ Neurodegenerative diseases (this includes Alzheimer’s & dementia)
✔️ Gastrointestinal diseases
✔️ Atherosclerosis (heart disease)
Simple changes to your cooking habits and food choices when dining out go a long way in avoiding HNE
I highly recommend avoiding the aforementioned refined seed oils as a whole, however, they are in a lot of our foods in small amounts, and it’s probably not worth killing yourself, and stressing out about them in those small amounts.
The areas where you can make easy efforts to avoid probably 95% of your refined seed oil consumption would be to:
- Stop cooking with them at home. Opt instead for butter or animal fats like beef tallow. These are your most optimal oils for cooking, and they’re super delicious. If opting for plant based oils, go with avocado, macadamia, olive, and coconut oils.
- Avoid fried foods when eating out. This is the biggest culprit of HNE, because you can all but guarantee that restaurants are frying in cheap, very rancid seed oils. Furthermore, they’re not changing that oil often in all likelihood, which means with every fry that oil gets more and more rancid as it’s exposed to both heat and oxygen over, and over, and over. I get it, it’s Wisconsin, and we’re going to have a fish fry every now and then
PRO TIP: If you’re going to eat out, and know you’ll be eating fried foods, drink a green superfood blend with water before you go out. These green superfoods are pretty effective at negating much of the neurotoxic effects of HNE at least. I drink Organifi Green Juice.
- Read the labels on dressings. As mentioned above, it’s probably not worth stressing out over these refined seed oils entirely, as they make their way into our foods in relatively trivial amounts, and this last 5% of cutting out seed oils will cause 95% of the energy and stress in reading labels. That said, one kind of label I would read, would be labels on foods like dressings that are fat/oil based. Opt for salad dressings that are olive oil based, avocado based mayo, et cetera. If using any type of dressing with a refined seed oil base will quickly insert a high amount of these toxic oils into your diet, and can easily be avoided. The word is getting out on how bad these refined seed oils are for you, so the healthier oil options are growing.
If following these 3 simple tips, you’ll probably remove 95% of the seed oils from your diet with relative ease and little to no headache or stress in reading labels.
Heck YES, or Heck NO!
Removing the word “should” from your vocabulary can be a highly effective tool to living a happier life.
When you “should” do something, it means you feel obligated to do so, which most likely means whatever it is you feel obligated to do doesn’t bring you joy or happiness.
A feeling of obligation is no reason to do something.
If you’re helping someone out, it should be because you care about and love that person, and helping them out brings you joy.
An effective strategy to start the year is to do a past year review.
Locate all the activities you do and things that take up your time that are discretionary.
From there, locate the ones that bring you true joy, and thus, make you happier.
Focus more on those in the new year.
From there, the word “should” can be removed from your vocabulary, and now it’s a more clearly defined “Heck YES” or “Heck NO” to doing something.
The more “Heck YESs” you do, and the more you’re willing to say “Heck No” to things, the more joy you will bring into your life.
I’m no expert, but that should lend itself to a happier, more fulfilled you, and that’s a pretty awesome thing.