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For me, supplementing certain nutrients is about enjoying the best health I can. I’m not necessarily aiming to live forever, but I am taking advantage of what’s available to me — thanks to science — to improve my healthspan.
Healthspan is different from lifespan. The focus is on prolonging the number of healthy years you have — instead of just trying to live longer. We’ve all seen what happens to those friends or relatives who spend their later years in nursing homes or under the care of family because their bodies and minds have failed them.
To that end, most of the usual suspects including vitamin D, PQQ and resveratrol, among others — have long been part of my supplement routine.
I’d been hearing about amino acids for a while, but usually in the context of working out or athletic performance. I’m not a triathlete or marathon runner, so I didn’t think they held any value for me. If I hadn’t have decided to look further into them, I would have continued to miss out on a valuable component of shoring up my healthspan, in my opinion…
What Exactly Are Amino Acids?
Amino acids are the foundation of protein, and therefore muscle mass — making them a necessity for not only optimizing athletic performance but the daily functions of your body as well.
That’s because they are the catalyst for nearly every physiological function that occurs in the body — including protein synthesis, enzyme production, hormone regulation, cognitive performance, neurotransmitter balance and metabolism.
Essential amino acids make up over 50 percent of every protein in your body, so a deficiency in any one of them can have detrimental effects on muscle preservation, athletic training, recovery, and much more. Whether you work out for gains or not, muscle preservation is imperative. Sarcopenia, or age-related muscle loss, starts in your 30s, and by the time you reach your 70s, you may have lost as much as 50 percent of your muscle mass.
Out of the 20 total amino acids, nine are classified as essential. These essential amino acids (EAAs) cannot be synthesized by your body but instead must be attained through diet from protein-rich foods like meat, fish, eggs, dairy and legumes. Because I follow mostly a plant-based diet, supplementing these essential amino acids was a no-brainer for me — much in the same way that taking a krill oil capsule daily to ensure I get my omega-3 essential fatty acids is.
How essential amino acids work
Each of the EAAs plays an important role in supporting the body:
- Leucine is critical for protein synthesis, blood sugar regulation, and growth hormone production.
- Lysine plays a role in growth hormone secretion, which supports muscle repair and recovery. It’s also a critical component of structural proteins like collagen and elastin, which are important for building strong connective tissue.
- Methionine helps the body process and eliminate fat, promotes cardiovascular health and supports liver function to help the body eliminate toxins.
- Phenylalanine has a pain-killing and mood-elevating effect and is necessary for the synthesis of norepinephrine and dopamine. It also stimulates the release of adrenaline and noradrenaline, which are critical for nervous system function.
- Threonine supports fat metabolism and immune function. Like Lysine, it’s another crucial component of structural proteins and connective tissue.
- Tryptophan has pain-suppressing qualities and can increase pain tolerance during hard workouts or competitions. It’s also a precursor for serotonin, which regulates sleep, appetite and mood.
- Isoleucine helps prevent muscle from breaking down during exercise, which could lead to faster recovery. It’s also important for immune function, hemoglobin production and energy regulation.
- Valine helps stimulate muscle regeneration and plays a critical role in energy production.
- Histidine supports the nervous system and protects muscle tissues.
Additionally, EAAs support sleep, recovery, muscle maintenance, appetite regulation, energy, fasting and cognition — just to name a few. Here’s how…
- Sleep: Your body converts tryptophan into melatonin, a necessary hormone for inducing sleep. Improving sleep quality has been shown to improve athletic performance and has even been associated with lower self-reported levels of depression.
- Recovery: Post-exercise consumption of EAAs has been shown to have a positive effect on net muscle protein. In fact, one study of elite athletes showed that EAAs stimulate the anabolic process more effectively than other protein supplements.
- Muscle maintenance: EAAs, particularly leucine, are responsible for the stimulation of the anabolic state and are therefore a crucial component for building and maintaining muscle mass. EAA supplementation can help you maintain muscle even during periods of extended inactivity.
- Appetite regulation: Amino acids are inherently satiating and appetite-suppressing. This makes them a highly effective, low-calorie tool for fasting, and a great option in situations where food options are limited (like during travel).
- Fast, clean energy: Three of the EAAs — Leucine, Valine and Isoleucine — are metabolized in the muscle rather than the liver, making them readily available in the bloodstream for quick energy without a spike in blood sugar.
- Fasting: Aminos can be used to support fasting by suppressing hunger, improving energy levels, helping the body retain muscle mass, and stabilizing cognitive performance. Amino acid consumption has been shown to inhibit autophagy, so if giving your cells a detox is your primary goal for fasting, then they might not be the right choice for you.
- Cognitive performance: Essential amino acids are necessary for optimizing mental performance. Tyrosine, in particular, has been shown to improve working memory.
How to supplement amino acids
There are plenty of amino acid supplements on the market. They commonly come in tablets, capsules and powders. As a fan of greens powders, trying an amino acid powder supplement was the most appealing to me. I often include my powdered supplements in smoothies or juice and find it’s an easy and enjoyable way to take in supplemental nutrition.
I did my homework and chose Kion Aminos. Why?
First, Kion hired a 3rd party independent research firm to conduct a meta-analysis of all aminos research to ensure their formula is bioavailable, effective for muscle protein synthesis and recovery, and based on the latest science.
In addition to formulating science-backed EAAs supplements that meet the needs of athletes (their formula has 40 percent leucine, which is crucial for muscle protein synthesis), they understand and acknowledge the whole body benefits of EAAs.
Finally, Kion Aminos contains all 9 EAAs, and with a 100 percent transparent label, you know exactly how much of each amino acid you’re getting.
Plus, they met certain criteria I require for any supplement that goes into my body:
- Clean, natural ingredients. Unlike many popular performance-enhancing supplements, Kion Aminos are pure protein. They don’t contain any added binders, fillers, stearates, coatings, dyes, added sugars, or caffeine.
- Plant-sourced ingredients. Kion Aminos are extracted from plant sources, including beans and peas. Plant proteins are extremely bioavailable and are combined to deliver a complete protein.
- Science-Backed Formula. Many amino acid supplements claim to be great for muscle growth and recovery, but they don’t share exactly how much of each EAA is responsible for those results. Kion shares the exact quantity of each EAA down to the milligram.
- Rigorous Testing. The aminos are thoroughly tested for heavy metals and other contaminants. Each bottle is checked to make sure the exact amount of each amino listed on the label is what’s in the bottle.
- Convenience. Whether you prefer powders like me or popping a capsule, you can get both from Kion.
Since supplementing EAAs, I’ve noticed a definite improvement in my energy levels, seem to have more endurance to push myself further on my daily walks and I’m actually starting to feel a little sharper mentally.
Think of amino acids as just another part of the puzzle — like vitamins, minerals, enzymes and other cofactors — that, when you’ve got all the pieces, works together to give the human body what it needs.
Note: As managing editor of Easy Health Options, I’m fortunate to receive samples of products. Kion Aminos was glad to let me try their product for free when I came across their site during my research. I do not personally receive any compensation from them to share my experience with you. However, if you use the link I’ve provided to visit Kion Aminos, Easy Health Options will receive a small compensation from purchases made.