Everything you need to know about Amino Acids

What are Amino Acids?

Amino Acids in very basic terms are the core building blocks of protein. They create the foundation of many elements in our body, such as muscle, organs, bone, nails, hair, ligaments and tendons. Not only that, Amino Acids are critical to and manage many processes including our nervous, reproductive, immune and digestive systems, energy production and proper functioning of neurotransmitters.  Yes, Amino Acids are the force behind basically every process in the human body. 

  • Sleep
  • Digestion
  • Metabolism
  • Blood sugar
  • Sexual function
  • Immune system
  • Hormone production
  • Nitrogen balance
  • Immune system regulation
  • ATP (energy) production
  • Muscle protein synthesis
  • Absorption of nutrients and minerals
  • Proper functioning of neurotransmitters
  • And more…

Amino acids are essential, serving as more than just the fundamental components of muscle. They are crucial for powering nearly every bodily function. To maximize health, cognitive abilities, and overall performance, it is beneficial to focus on obtaining the right balance and sufficient amounts of amino acids. 

Why might you consider supplementing with amino acids? 

Despite protein-rich diets, many may not consume enough essential amino acids (EAAs) daily, especially active individuals, vegetarians, or older adults whose bodies demand more.

  • Your body can't store protein, necessitating daily replenishment; higher usage increases this need.

  • Many, especially active adults and those on plant-based diets, fail to consume sufficient protein for positive muscular growth.

  • Different foods offer varied amino acid profiles, and without careful dietary planning, you might not achieve optimal amino acid levels.

  • Typically, only about 50% of amino acids from food are absorbed due to digestion and other bodily factors.

  • As we age, our muscles become less responsive to protein and amino acids, increasing the dietary requirement for older adults.

  • Conditions like low stomach acid, enzyme deficiencies, and imbalanced gut flora can further hinder amino acid absorption.

  • Dietary proteins are also high in non-essential amino acids, which can overburden the liver and kidneys with byproducts like urea and ammonia, making EAA supplementation a gentler option.

The different types of Amino Acids

The human body needs 20 different amino acids to function correctly. Out of these 20 amino acids, there are two select groups you need to be aware of. 

These are EAA’s ( Essential Amino Acids) & BCAA’s ( Branch Chain Amino Acids) 

(If you’re curious, all the remaining amino acids are considered “non-essential,” or NEAAs, meaning that they can be made by your body and therefore are not essential to include in your diet.)

Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) are crucial as they are not synthesized by the body and must be obtained through diet or supplements. These include nine vital EAAs:

  • Leucine (BCAA): Essential for protein synthesis, muscle growth, and repair.
  • Isoleucine (BCAA): Aids muscle metabolism, immune functions, and energy regulation.
  • Valine (BCAA): Promotes muscle growth, regeneration, and energy production.
  • Phenylalanine: Key precursor for neurotransmitters, supporting cognitive function and mood.
  • Threonine: Integral for forming structural proteins like collagen and elastin.
  • Tryptophan: Leads to serotonin production, influencing mood, sleep, and appetite.
  • Lysine: Crucial for immune health and nutrient absorption.
  • Methionine: Involved in metabolism, detoxification, and absorbing essential minerals.
  • Histidine: Considered essential for producing histamine, impacting immunity, digestion, sexual function, and sleep.

Insufficiency in any of these can lead to various health issues, underlining their essential status. Among them, three are branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), noted above for their significant roles.


Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are distinguished by their unique molecular structure, which includes a branching chain. This structure enables them to be metabolized directly in muscle tissue rather than undergoing processing in the liver, thus serving as a rapid energy source during exercise. This characteristic has popularized BCAAs among bodybuilders and athletes seeking an immediate boost in performance. Despite my previous characterization of BCAAs as merely overpriced, flavored "water," they remain economically favorable for supplement manufacturers due to their low production costs and high profit margins. However, their efficacy and benefits are modest and potentially harmful, as will be discussed further.

Studies have demonstrated that BCAAs can provide several performance-related benefits. These include mitigating exercise-induced muscle damage, reducing symptoms of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), aiding recovery from exercise, decreasing perceived exertion and mental fatigue during physical activity, enhancing endurance by increasing resistance to fatigue and promoting fat oxidation, and improving lean mass, muscle strength, and fat loss when combined with resistance training.

Despite these benefits, there are prevalent myths and significant disadvantages associated with isolated BCAA consumption.

BCAAs alone do not effectively promote muscle protein synthesis (MPS), the process crucial for muscle growth. MPS must exceed muscle protein breakdown (MPB) for muscle growth to occur, a state known as positive net protein balance (NPB). While BCAAs, particularly leucine, are potent stimulators of MPS, they cannot sustain this synthesis without the presence of other essential amino acids (EAAs). According to a 2018 review in the journal Nutrients and a comprehensive meta-analysis by researcher Robert Wolfe, isolated BCAA intake can paradoxically decrease MPS and increase the catabolic rate, leading to muscle breakdown due to an imbalance in amino acid availability.

The implications of isolated BCAA supplementation extend beyond ineffective muscle building. High doses of BCAAs can deplete essential B vitamins needed for various bodily functions, from energy conversion to DNA synthesis. They can also disrupt serotonin levels, potentially leading to mood disorders, sleep disturbances, and other neurological issues. Furthermore, excessive BCAA intake has been linked to increased risks of insulin resistance and metabolic diseases like diabetes, as suggested by various studies associating high BCAA levels with these health problems.

Additionally, BCAAs can disturb appetite regulation, potentially leading to overeating and weight gain, as evidenced by a 2019 animal study. This study found that excessive BCAA consumption caused significant increases in fat mass and reductions in lifespan, effects that were attributed to amino acid imbalances rather than high BCAA levels alone.

Given these findings, it’s best to avoid BCAA supplements. The potential for creating amino acid imbalances and the associated health risks outweigh their benefits. 

However, this does not mean abandoning amino acid supplementation altogether. A balanced intake of all EAAs, including BCAAs, can provide the necessary nutrients for muscle building and overall health without the adverse effects of isolated BCAA consumption.

Essential Amino Acids (EAA's)

Essential amino acids (EAAs) are a critical choice for supplementation due to their comprehensive benefits. They mitigate the side effects associated with the imbalanced consumption of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) by providing a full spectrum of benefits. Research indicates that EAAs containing a higher ratio of leucine, known as leucine-enriched essential amino acids (LEAAs), are particularly effective. Leucine enhances muscle protein synthesis, regulates anabolic hormones, stimulates insulin release to aid amino acid uptake and reduce protein breakdown, and activates the mTor pathway, promoting muscle hypertrophy.

Substantial research supports the efficacy of LEAAs over traditional EAAs. A 2011 randomized controlled trial found that LEAAs increased muscle protein synthesis by 33% more than standard EAAs during cycling exercises (source: Journal of Nutrition, 2011). Another 2018 study showed improvements in muscle mass, strength, and function in post-stroke patients with sarcopenia when supplemented with LEAAs (source: Clinical Interventions in Aging, 2018). A 2019 study indicated that LEAA supplementation significantly suppressed muscle damage post-exercise, aiding in faster recovery (source: Journal of Physical Therapy Science, 2019). Furthermore, a 2020 study demonstrated that LEAAs preserved muscle force and reduced soreness more effectively than a placebo, even in diets already high in protein (source: Nutrients, 2020).

The composition of amino acids in supplements, particularly the ratio of EAAs, is critical for optimizing muscle protein synthesis. Human skeletal muscle contains specific amounts of EAAs, which can guide the formulation of supplements. The typical amino acid profile per 100 grams of human muscle is as follows:

  • Leucine: 6.3 grams (20%)
  • Lysine: 6.6 grams (21%)
  • Isoleucine: 3.4 grams (11%)
  • Valine: 4.3 grams (13%)
  • Threonine: 2.9 grams (9%)
  • Phenylalanine: 3.8 grams (12%)
  • Methionine: 1.7 grams (5%)
  • Histidine: 2.8 grams (9%)

Although this distribution reflects their natural occurrence, physiological processes such as the rapid oxidation of leucine by muscle cells suggest that higher proportions than found naturally might be necessary in supplements. The optimal formulation, therefore, may contain up to 40% leucine, with increased amounts of valine, isoleucine, and lysine to ensure effective protein synthesis and muscle recovery while maintaining a balanced amino acid profile.

By utilizing a scientifically supported composition of EAAs, especially LEAAs with a balanced and enhanced leucine content, individuals can achieve significant improvements in muscle mass, reduce soreness after exercise, and accelerate recovery, effectively avoiding the complications associated with isolated BCAA supplements. This approach to amino acid supplementation ensures that all necessary components are present to support muscle health and athletic performance optimally.

In summary, an effective amino acid supplement should be thoughtfully formulated with consideration to human skeletal muscle composition, but with several critical adjustments for optimal efficacy:

  • It should contain a higher proportion of leucine, making up 40% of the amino acid profile.
  • The levels of lysine, valine, and isoleucine should be increased to support enhanced muscle protein synthesis and recovery.
  • Histidine should be included to ensure a comprehensive amino acid profile
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Bare Aminos

This gets us onto our product, Bare Aminos. We have formulated a free form amino acid product based upon the latest research, to bring you a daily supplement that will help with your athletic performance, recovery, muscle building and more. 

Our formula checks all the boxes: 

  • All nine essential amino acids (including histidine)
  • An LEAA formula with 40% leucine
  • A comprehensive amino acid ratio that’s been clinically proven to maximize muscle protein synthesis and athletic recovery

Each Bare aminos serving contains 5,000mg of essential amino acids. 

.Bare Aminos has a ratio similar to muscle, but with additional leucine (40%), isoleuice and valine to align with the research and create a more effective formula. 

  • L-Leucine: 2000 mg (40%)
  • L-Lysine: 850 mg 
  • L-Isoleucine: 550 mg 
  • L-Valine: 550 mg 
  • L-Threonine: 450 mg 
  • L-Phenylalanine: 350 mg 
  • L-Methionine: 150 mg 
  • L-Histidine: 100 mg 
  • L-Tryptophan: 50 mg

Rapid Absorption and High Utilization of Essential Amino Acids

Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) are crucial for muscle health, especially given their rapid absorption and high utilization rates, which make them more effective than whole proteins like whey. EAAs do not require digestion, which allows them to bypass the gastrointestinal process that whole proteins undergo. This means they can be utilized immediately by the body to stimulate muscle protein synthesis (MPS), enhance recovery, and improve overall metabolic health.

Research shows that the supplementation of EAAs can be as effective as larger amounts of dietary protein, providing a streamlined and efficient way to support muscle health, particularly post-exercise.

EAAs vs. Whey Protein

While whey protein is beneficial for muscle recovery and growth due to its rich amino acid profile, EAAs have a distinctive advantage in terms of speed of absorption and efficiency. Whey protein must be digested before its amino acids can be used, whereas EAAs are readily available for muscle repair and growth immediately after ingestion. This immediate availability is particularly crucial after exercise when the muscle's ability to utilize amino acids for recovery and growth is enhanced.

Studies suggest that small amounts of EAAs can be more effective or equivalent to much larger amounts of whey protein in stimulating muscle protein synthesis. This efficiency makes EAAs an attractive option for anyone looking to maximize their nutritional intake for muscle health, especially when quick absorption is beneficial, such as post-workout or during periods of metabolic stress.

Importance of EAAs for Older Adults

As early as the age of 40, individuals can begin experiencing sarcopenia, which is the progressive loss of muscle mass and strength due to aging. Sarcopenia accelerates further after the age of 65, significantly impacting quality of life by increasing the risk of falls and frailty. Factors contributing to sarcopenia include physical inactivity, inadequate protein intake, and the body's declining efficiency in protein digestion and amino acid utilization.

For older adults, the rapid absorption and high utilization of EAAs can be particularly beneficial. Since aging is associated with reduced efficiency in digesting and metabolizing protein, free-form EAAs provide a direct source of crucial nutrients without the need for extensive digestion. This can help maintain muscle mass, improve metabolic health, and enhance physical performance, which are all vital for delaying the effects of aging and improving quality of life.

EAAs are not only easier to utilize for older adults but also help in maintaining muscle mass more effectively than regular dietary protein, especially in the presence of anabolic resistance, a condition commonly seen in the elderly where the muscle's ability to grow in response to diet and exercise is diminished.

The inclusion of EAAs in the diet of older adults is a strategic intervention that supports muscle health and overall wellness. By bypassing the digestive system and offering a highly efficient route to muscle protein synthesis, EAAs can play a crucial role in combating sarcopenia and enhancing life quality as one ages. This makes EAA supplementation a valuable tool for maintaining strength and independence in older adults.

This detailed understanding of the role of EAAs, especially in the context of aging and sarcopenia, underscores the importance of incorporating these nutrients into the dietary regimen of older individuals to support sustained muscle health and performance.

Effective Usage of Amino Acids for Optimal Benefits

Amino acids, when used correctly, can offer significant benefits ranging from enhanced performance to improved muscle recovery. However, to achieve these benefits, certain practices regarding timing, macro-nutrient combining, and dosing should be considered. 

In short, you can take aminos before, during or after exercise to get the benefits. However, correct timing can play a role in getting the most out of your EAA’.

Here is a detailed guide to using amino acids effectively:

Timing for Optimal Results

  • Aerobic Exercise: For energy enhancement, it is recommended to consume amino acids 30 minutes before aerobic activities. This pre-workout timing utilizes amino acids, particularly leucine, for energy, aiding in endurance and delaying fatigue. To maximize muscle protein synthesis (MPS), intake within one hour after exercise is crucial. This timing helps replenish amino acids used during the workout, facilitating muscle recovery and growth.
  • Resistance Exercise: Consuming amino acids 30 minutes before resistance training helps prime the muscles for anabolism, making them more receptive to strength gains. Following up with amino acids within an hour after exercising takes advantage of the increased blood flow to muscles, enhancing the muscle protein synthesis stimulated by resistance training.

Intra-Workout Supplementation

  • Incorporating amino acids during a workout, especially resistance training, can maximize nutrient delivery due to increased blood flow, maintaining a consistent amino acid level as they are depleted.

Combining with Macronutrients

  • While amino acids can be effective on an empty stomach, combining them with carbohydrates has been shown to further stimulate muscle protein synthesis. This is because the insulin spike from carbohydrates enhances amino acid uptake into muscles. For example, a combination of 6 grams of EAAs with 35 grams of sucrose post-resistance exercise significantly boosts MPS.
  • Combining EAAs with whey protein is also beneficial. This mixture has been found to increase whole-body protein synthesis more than either alone, offering a synergistic effect that enhances muscle growth and recovery.

Dosage Recommendations

  • Research indicates that low doses of LEAAs (as little as 3 grams) can stimulate muscle protein synthesis comparably to higher amounts of whey protein. For optimal results, a dose of 15 grams of EAAs is more effective and does not yield additional benefits beyond this point in a single serving.

Simplified Guidance for Use (TLDR)

  • Dosage: Optimal results are achieved with 3-15 grams of EAAs per serving. Higher dosages within this range tend to offer greater benefits, but exceeding 15 grams in one serving does not provide further advantages.
  • Timing Guidelines:
  • Aerobic Exercise: For energy, take 30 minutes before exercise; for muscle building, within one hour post-exercise.
  • Resistance Exercise: Consume 30 minutes before and within one hour after training.
  • Intra-Workout: Consider continuous intake during workouts to leverage enhanced blood flow and nutrient absorption.
  • Macronutrient Combining: For mass and strength gains, combine with carbohydrates or proteins such as whey. Otherwise, taking amino acids on an empty stomach is also effective.

These guidelines are designed to maximize the physiological benefits of amino acids, enhancing both performance and recovery in various types of exercise.

Again, these are all tips for optimal results. You will still get benefits if you don’t follow these instructions to a T. If all else fails, just take one serving per day whenever it’s convenient.