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People who do a lot of sport have an increased need for essential amino acids. This includes, in particular, strength and endurance athletes(5). Normally you can cover your EAA requirements with a balanced and protein-rich diet(3). However, many decide to support their body with EAA supplements.
These supplements can be particularly practical if you want to optimally supply your body with essential amino acids during training(5). To help you decide whether EAA supplements are something for you, we have compiled all the important information on essential amino acids and EAA supplements in our EAA test 2022.
- 1 Summary
- 2 The Best EAA: Our Picks
- 3 Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before you buy EAA
- 4 Decision: What types of EAA supplements are there and which one is right for you?
- 5 Buying criteria: You can use these factors to compare and evaluate EAA supplements
- 6 Trivia: Facts worth knowing about EAA
- Essential amino acids are vital for our bodies and must be obtained through food or supplements. Since the body cannot produce them itself.
- You can distinguish between EAA capsules, EAA tablets and EAA powder, which all have their own advantages and disadvantages.
- When buying supplements with essential amino acids, you should pay particular attention to the dosage, the package size, other ingredients and the dosage form.
The Best EAA: Our Picks
Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before you buy EAA
Essential amino acids are important for us because we need them to build and maintain our muscle mass
Athletes in particular have a higher need for EAA and therefore often use so-called EAA supplements(5).
What is EAA?
Essential amino acids are:
The various amino acids are each responsible for maintaining different bodily functions (1).
How does EAA work?
Amino acids therefore have a lot of effects in our body. The EAA leucine is a popular ingredient of EAA supplements for athletes. Its functions are the building and maintenance of muscles, the promotion of wound healing and the donation of energy (3).
The need for EAA supplements is controversial. Since people who do a lot of sport have an increased need for essential and non-essential amino acids, but could cover this need through normal food, they should not take EAA supplements(3)
However, essential amino acids are of undisputed importance for athletes. And various studies have shown that a targeted intake of EAA can positively influence the following processes(4, 5).
- Weight loss
- Muscle building
In an 8-week study involving 12 subjects with an average age of 69 years, it was found that the targeted intake of essential amino acids had a significantly positive effect on weight loss during dieting(4).
In the study by Neumann & Hottenrott it was found that the intake of 10 g of essential amino acids per day in connection with strength training leads to a noticeable increase in strength(5).
Endurance and strength endurance training promote the building and rebuilding of our muscles. Our body needs proteins for this. However, it is rather difficult to consume them during or between training sessions because our body absorbs them too slowly and a full stomach can be unpleasant during training.
To quickly supply the body with the required substances, many athletes prefer EAA and protein supplements. In addition, the intake of essential amino acids can lead to improved performance during long-term stress and altitude training(5).
How important is EAA for the body?
Since they cannot be produced by the body itself, we have to take them in through our food(1).You can find EAAs in protein-containing foods such as meat, fish, dairy products and legumes(2).
Since athletes have an increased need for protein due to their training and essential amino acids are needed to build it up, many athletes opt for EAA supplements(3).
When and for whom is an EAA supplement useful?
If you do a lot of sport, however, your need for essential amino acids is higher. In this case, it can make sense to cover your EAA needs with EAA supplements, but you don’t need to take supplements if you eat a protein-rich diet(3, 5).
Why EAA supplements can bring you added value for certain processes is clearly presented in the following list:
|Process||Support through EAA supplements|
|Weight loss||The targeted intake of EAA during a diet can positively influence weight loss(4).|
|Muscle building||Essential amino acids have a 99% building effect. In the context of strength training, the intake of 10 g EAA per day can significantly promote the build-up of muscle mass(5).|
|Endurance||Consuming essential amino acids during long-term exercise can improve your performance. Because it takes a long time to process essential amino acids from normal food, many athletes opt for EAA supplements (5).|
How can I measure my EAA levels in the body?
Because of the great importance of essential amino acids for your body, you will probably also notice if you have a deficiency of certain amino acids. For example, the amino acid tryptophan is indispensable for a healthy sleep rhythm.
How high should my EAA value be?
An aminogram will show you exactly which values are within the normal range and which are not. If you don’t want to pay money for a test, it is best to pay attention to your diet.
Below we have compiled a list of the individual amino acids and your daily requirements:
|Amino acid||Daily requirement per kg body weight|
|Methionine + Cysteine||13 mg|
|Phenylalanine + Tyrosine||14 mg|
Remember that the information in the table refers to 1 kg of body weight.
For example, if you weigh 70 kg, your requirements are as follows:
- 700 mg isoleucine
- 980 mg leucine
- 840 mg lysine
- 910 mg methionine + cysteine
- 980 mg phenylananine + tyrosine
- 490 mg threonine
- 245 mg tryptophan
- 700 mg valine
This makes a total EAA requirement of 5.01 g(1). To ensure an ideal value of all amino acids in the body, there is a general recommendation to consume about 15 g of amino acids per 1000 calories. (2) .
What if the value is too high?
In most cases, there is no harm in taking too many amino acids, as side effects are extremely rare. However, there can be interactions between amino acids and medicines.
For example, an amino acid can enhance or neutralise the effect of a medicine. One example of this is that taking L-arginine can increase the effect of prescription potency medicines. Be sure to read the package insert.
In addition, it is strongly advised not to take amino acids in higher doses, as this could have health consequences.
What if the value is too low?
If your amino acid level is too low, your body will give you appropriate signals. Your health and well-being may be significantly affected by a lack of amino acids.
An amino acid deficiency can lead to delayed wound healing, impaired cardiovascular function, nervous or immune system dysfunction, or anaemia (6).
How much EAA should I consume per day?
If you do little or no exercise, the intake of essential amino acids through food is sufficient. Make sure you eat a balanced diet(3).
However, if you do a lot of endurance sports or muscle-building training, your need for essential amino acids is increased. In this case, you should eat a protein-rich diet(3).
A study by Neumann & Hottenrott, for example, showed that a daily intake of 10 g of essential amino acids in combination with strength training leads to a demonstrably higher increase in strength (5)
What are the side effects of taking EAA?
If you take in too many essential amino acids through food, this is not a problem. When taking EAA supplements, however, you should always pay attention to the instructions.
What alternatives are there to EAA?
First and foremost, however, is a balanced diet. The more you are active in sports, the more you should make sure you supply your body with enough protein(2, 3).
Due to the increased need for essential amino acids in competitive sports and endurance training, many athletes take supplementary EAA supplements(5).
If you have the feeling that your immune system is weakened, you have an iron deficiency or intestinal problems, the targeted intake of certain amino acids can be helpful. An aminogram can tell you which amino acids you lack and in what quantity.
Decision: What types of EAA supplements are there and which one is right for you?
EAA supplements come in different forms. Each has advantages and disadvantages. For example, the different dosage forms differ in price, dosage and the release of the active ingredients.
What distinguishes EAA capsules and what are their advantages and disadvantages?
Like all supplements in capsule form, EAA capsules also have their advantages and disadvantages:
Compared to powders, capsules have the advantage that they are easy to transport. You don’t have to mix them with water like you do with powder, and you can take them quickly and easily.
In addition, EAA capsules always contain the same amount of essential amino acids and are therefore particularly easy to dose. You can keep track of how many EAA you have added to your body without having to weigh them out.
Another advantage of essential amino acids in capsule form is their neutral taste. Powders often have a flavour of their own or are artificially added. If this is not your cup of tea, EAA in capsule form is a good alternative. In addition, you can avoid the additional intake of sweeteners.
However, EAA capsules are not completely free of additives. Many of them contain separating agents or colourings. In addition, most capsules are coated with a layer of gelatine, which makes them unsuitable for vegans and vegetarians.
Another disadvantage is the higher price of capsules compared to powders, which is due to the fact that the processing of capsules in production involves a comparatively higher effort.
What distinguishes EAA tablets and what are their advantages and disadvantages?
EAA tablets have some similarities to EAA in capsule form and also bring most of the advantages of the latter. However, tablets with essential amino acids do not only have advantages, but also disadvantages:
Although essential amino acids in tablet form are similar to EAA capsules in many ways, they also have some advantages over them. For example, they are easier to swallow than capsules.
In addition, it is possible to purchase EAA tablets without additives, which are free of allergens. Since the tablets do not have to be coated with a gelatine layer, they are also suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
However, just like supplements in capsule form, supplements in tablet form cannot be individually dosed. So if you need a higher supply of essential amino acids because of more intensive training, you will inevitably have to take more tablets.
Furthermore, tablets generally take longer to take effect than powders, which you should bear in mind when taking them.
In addition, the price of EAA tablets is roughly the same as that of EAA capsules and is therefore more expensive than EAA powder.
What distinguishes EAA powder and what are its advantages and disadvantages?
Essential amino acids in powder form have some advantages but also some disadvantages compared to capsules or tablets:
A big advantage of essential amino acids in powder form is that you can dose the powder individually. For example, if you are planning a more intensive training session, you can easily add more amino acids to your body with powder without having to swallow several capsules.
In addition, supplements in powder form take effect after just a few seconds. As soon as they reach the stomach, they are digested by the body. This gives them a much faster effect compared to preparations in capsule or tablet form.
Another advantage of powders is their low price. This is because they are processed with less effort than EAA supplements in solid form.
However, essential amino acids in powder form are not really something to take on the go. You have to dose them with a measuring spoon or scale and in many cases mix them with water. The mostly large containers are also less suitable for transport.
Powders always have a certain flavour of their own, which not everyone likes. Although there are a lot of flavours, they are often produced by artificial sweeteners and acidifiers that you add to your body through the powder.
Buying criteria: You can use these factors to compare and evaluate EAA supplements
Once you have decided on an EAA preparation, you can choose between different variants. When buying, you should pay attention to the following criteria:
The first difference you can make in the dosage is that EAA powder can be dosed individually, while capsules and tablets with essential amino acids always have a fixed dosage.
Since most EAA supplements contain all essential amino acids, you only need to pay attention to the amount of essential amino acids recommended for your weight. You can find more detailed information on this in our table under the point How high should my EAA value be?
If you are in a muscle building phase and do a lot of weight training, a daily dosage of approx. 10 g of essential amino acids per day is recommended(5).
Essential amino acid supplements come in different sizes. You will pay more for a larger amount than for a smaller amount. While the number of servings is specified for EAA supplements in tablet and capsule form, it cannot be directly determined for supplements in powder form.
Depending on how much you weigh and how intensively you exercise, a can of powdered supplements can last longer or less time. Although you should always follow the instructions on the pack, you can adjust the intake of the powder to your individual needs.
Since you can often buy EAA supplements in large quantities, they should have a certain shelf life. However, make sure they are stored in a cool and dry place. You should also pay attention to the expiry date of the supplements.
Tablets are generally more suitable for stockpiling than powder, as powder can absorb moisture more quickly and thus become inedible.
Depending on which dosage form you choose, you may also be buying some additives.
EAA tablets are available in a very pure form and are therefore suitable for allergy sufferers and vegetarians or vegans. They do not necessarily contain sweeteners or acidifiers and are neutral in taste.
Capsules with essential amino acids are also tasteless. This is why they are also usually free of sweeteners and acidifiers. However, capsules often contain separating agents and are coated with a layer of gelatine. This makes them unsuitable for vegetarians and vegans. EAA capsules may also contain colouring agents.
Powder with EAA usually has its own flavour, which should make it easier for you to take the supplement. However, flavour comes with some additives such as acidifiers, sweeteners and colourings.
As already mentioned, essential amino acids are available as powder, capsules and tablets. In the following table we have listed the different forms of administration and their most important properties.
|Dosage form||Most important properties|
|Capsules||Fixed dosage of amino acids, effect after 30-90 minutes (7), easy to transport, may not be suitable for vegetarians|
|Tablets||Fixed dosage of amino acids, effect after 30-90 minutes (7), easy to transport, for some people easier to swallow than capsules|
|Powder||Individual dosage possible, very fast effect, less easy to transport, usually have a taste of their own|
Trivia: Facts worth knowing about EAA
When and for how long is it best to take EAA supplements?
You can take EAA supplements before, during and after training. In general, you should ensure a balanced and protein-rich diet throughout your life, as this is the only way to guarantee that you are sufficiently supplied with all essential amino acids (2).
EAA supplements make sense especially in connection with intensive training, as your need for essential amino acids increases here (5). EAA supplements can also help you lose weight during a diet (4).
You should be careful if you are taking medication at the same time, as the effect of certain amino acids can be increased or prevented. It’s best to check the package insert or ask at your pharmacy.
What is the shelf life of EAA supplements?
Unfortunately, there is no exact information on the shelf life of supplements with EAA. Therefore, always pay attention to the expiry date of the products and store them in a cool and dry place.
In general, powders and capsules have a better shelf life than powders, as they can absorb moisture more quickly and thus become inedible.
In which foods does EAA occur naturally?
Essential amino acids can be found primarily in protein-rich foods(2):
- Dairy products
Picture source: Shevchuk/ 123rf.com
Herstellung und Verwendung von Aminosäuren - Yoshiharu Izumi, Ischiro Chibata und Tanio Itoh - S.192
Diätetische Indikationen: Basisdaten für die interdisziplinäre Ernährungstherapie - Fritz Heepe- S. 3
Leucine Supplementation and Intensive Training - Antti Mero - S. 347/S.352
Whey protein and essential amino acids promote the reduction of adipose tissue and increased muscle protein synthesis during caloric restriction-induced weight loss in elderly, obese individuals - RH Coker, S Miller, S Schutzler, N Deutz, RR Wolfe
Einfluss essentieller Aminosäuren auf die Muskelkraft - Georg Neumann und Kuno Hottenrott - S. 20-23
Nahrungsergänzungsmittel im Leistungssport - eine Untersuchung am Beispiel einer Hockeymannschaft - Désiréé Meyer- S. 26
Wirkungseintritt - PharmaWiki