EAA Supplement Guide: What they are, which one is best, and are they better than BCAAs?

The EAA supplement has been getting more and more attention in recent years. Weightlifters and athletes have supplemented with protein to give their muscles extra fuel for a long time. If you've ever been in a gym, you'll see lifters drinking their post-workout protein shakes to feed their stressed muscles and ensure maximum growth. But most of those protein shakes are loaded with extras the muscles don't need---like carbs and calories.

What if you could get the same benefits of a protein shake without the extra ingredients which can inhibit your fat loss goals?

An EAA supplement offers you everything a protein shake does, without the extras. You've probably heard of amino acids. They're known as the building blocks of protein. Your body needs them to build and repair muscles and other tissues. They are also important precursors to neurotransmitters and hormones. In this article, we're going to take a deep dive into the world of essential amino acids and why EAA supplementation has become so popular. You'll learn what essential amino acids are, why they're important, which forms your body prefers, and how they compare to the alternatives.

What Are Essential Amino Acids (EAAs)? #

The human body makes use of over twenty amino acids to help you function throughout your day. Eight of these are considered essential. Essential amino acids are the ones your body can’t synthesize on its own, which means you need to get them from your diet.

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When you miss out on just one of these critical amino acids, your body is not able to make use of the others. They all must be present for your body to function properly. Missing an essential amino acid results in muscle breakdown, a reduced resting metabolic rate, loss of physical performance, and a higher risk for injury. 1

When your body is getting all of the essential amino acids it needs, you’re able to maintain nitrogen balance, lean muscle, lose more fat, and reduce recovery time. If your goal is to lose fat while building muscle, ensuring you have a high-quality supply of essential amino acids should be your top priority.

Which Essential Amino Acids Do You Need?  #

Although EAAs are essential for optimal fat loss and muscle growth, they’re also critical for your nervous system, immune system, digestive, and reproductive systems. The following eight essential amino acids are the ones you’ll have to source through food and supplementation.

L-Leucine #

Leucine must be present for optimal metabolic functions, including muscle and bone growth and repair. Your body’s growth hormone synthesis depends upon leucine for blood sugar regulation. This amino acid is also important for wound healing and prevents the muscle protein breakdown that occurs after intense workouts. 2

L-Valine  #

Valine is closely related to Leucine and also helps promote muscle growth and repair. The amino acid helps with your muscle coordination, mental vigor, and emotional stability. People need Valine for optimal physical and mental energy. 3

L-Isoleucine  #

Isoleucine is a detoxifier. It detoxifies nitrogenous waste, aids in wound healing, and helps your body release beneficial hormones. You need this amino acid in order to produce hemoglobin, which improves athletic performance and immune function. It also plays a key role in regulating the body’s blood sugar levels, which keeps your energy balanced. 4

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L-Lysine HCL  #

Lysine is essential for tissue growth and repair. In supplement form, L-lysine helps your body absorb calcium and improves immune function. You need this amino acid for optimal production of collagen, which keeps your connective tissues healthy and helps heal wounds. 5

L-Phenylalanine  #

Phenylalanine is an amino acid that’s essential for synthesizing dopamine, tyrosine, and norepinephrine - three neurotransmitters that control key brain functions. These brain functions influence your vigilance, action, memory, learning, and reward pathways - all tools you’ll need for optimal athletic performance. 6

L-Threonine  #

Threonine is an important contributor to structural proteins such as collagen, elastin, and tooth enamel. It helps with your body’s fat metabolism and immune system function. The amino acid keeps fat from building up in the liver as well. In supplement form, it’s known to improve digestion and mood, and alleviate mild anxiety and depression. 7

L-Methionine  #

Methionine is important for the repair and growth of tissue. It strengthens your hair, skin, and nails. It’s an important detoxifier and assists in the excretion of heavy metals like lead and mercury. Methionine protects your cells from aging and prevents fat from accumulating in your liver. 8

L-Tryptophan  #

Tryptophan is known as a natural sedative but is also a precursor to serotonin. It’s essential for our feelings of contentment. It also helps regulate appetite, mood, sleep, and our response to pain. 9

Are There 8 or 9 Essential Amino Acids? #

You may have noticed the above list contains only eight essential amino acids. Histidine is the 9th, although in some circles it’s considered semi-essential.

Histidine is a precursor to histamine, the neurotransmitter that’s responsible for your immune response to allergens in addition to healthy digestion and sexual function. Histidine also plays a role in building the myelin sheath that surrounds and protects your nerve cells.

As infants, it’s important we get histidine in our diet, but as adults we can go for long periods of time without it as adults. In supplement form, histidine may even be toxic. 10 Healthy adults who take too much histidine can suffer serious side effes negative nitrogen imbalance.

This is not only detrimental to muscle growth, but can slow metabolism and cause damage to kidneys. Unless you have a kidney disorder, rheumatoid arthritis, or metabolic syndrome, there’s no reason to supplement with histidine.

Where Are EAAs Found? #

Essential amino acids are found in protein. Complete proteins are sources of proteins that include all nine essential amino acids. The following complete proteins provide all the essential amino acids:

    • Meat

    • Poultry and Eggs

    • Seafood

    • Dairy Products

    • Soy

    • Quinoa

    • Hemp Seeds

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Although complete proteins can provide you with each essential amino acid, they also do so in a form that’s high in calories and carbohydrates. If your goal is to build muscle and lose fat, it’s difficult to get the amount of protein needed for anabolic use without putting excess energy stores into your body.

Supplementation is recommended if you’re trying to fuel your muscles without eating too much. For years whey protein supplements were the go-to, but often come packed with carbs and fall short on the anabolic use scale at only 18%. This means your body is only able to utilize 18% of the available protein, so you need to consume more for muscle protein synthesis.

EAA supplements do amazingly better, and the highest quality ones, like Fortagen , can boast a protein usability score of 99%.

What Does an EAA Supplement Do? #

Essential amino acid supplements fill the gaps most of us have in our diets. While it’s technically possible to get all your essential amino acids from diet alone, it involves meticulous meal preparation that most of us don’t have time for.

And if you’re training hard and have fat loss goals, EAA supplementation is the most efficient way to meet your goals. High-quality EAA supplements do not have additives and are nearly calorie free.

What Are the Benefits of EAA Supplements? #

Taking a high-quality essential amino acid supplement ensures you always have the levels of EAAs your body needs for optimal function and maximum protein synthesis.

Faster Muscles Growth #

EAA supplementation accelerates lean muscle growth and development. Studies show amino acid supplementation stimulates muscle anabolism even in elderly adults who don’t exercise. 11

Lower Body Fat #

The more lean muscle you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate. This means you’ll burn more calories even while you’re resting.

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Faster Recovery #

Increased protein synthesis reduces your recovery times and allows you to train harder, heavier, and longer. EAA supplementation offsets muscular and system fatigue that can hurt your muscle gains.

Lose Weight #

Best in class EAA supplements like Fortagen have only four calories per serving. This means you’re getting the maximum benefit at a significantly lower caloric intake. Muscles require a minimal intake of .7 - 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. To get this much protein from whole food sources requires eating a lot which contributes to weight gain.

What’s the Difference Between EAAs and BCAAs? #

Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) get a lot of attention in the sports supplement world. They’re at the top of the popularity list alongside creatine, pre-workouts, and protein powders. However, EAAs are now getting nearly equal attention because they’re now recognized as more complete and more effective.

The reason why EAAs are more complete and effective is obvious once you understand the difference. The difference is that there is no difference. Confused? It’s kind of a trick question. The three BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine and valine) are also EAAs. So all BCAA supplements contain EAAs, but they are incomplete.

Branched Chain Amino Acids are not as complete as EAA supplements because they only represent three out of the eight essential amino acids. Thanks to marketing, most of the public is confused and believes these are two different things.

When Is the Best Time to Take an EAA Supplement? #

Taking EAAs after a workout has been shown to help with positive muscle protein synthesis. After you weight train, your body is in a prime muscle-building state, which is a great time to take some EAAs.

EAAs are good for endurance training as well. Many endurance athletes rely on EAAs during long training sessions. Because EAAs are lighter on the stomach than protein, they ease the digestion process and don’t cause any discomfort during high-demand workouts or activities.

You can also take EAAs between meals. Because EAAs spike your muscle protein synthesis, taking EAAs between meals can help promote a positive muscle protein balance and help curb your appetite.

The Best EAA Supplements  #

EAA supplements are like all supplements in that they’re not all created equal. Here we profile some of the most popular EAA supplements on the market and reveal the best overall EAA supplement .

Primeval Labs EAA Max #

Primeval Labs EAA supplement powder is a good option to help you stay hydrated throughout the day due to its electrolyte blend. This product contains all of the essential amino acids. It offers an assortment of fruity flavors to choose from.

Serving Facts  #

    • Protein: 0 grams

    • Calories: 10

    • Carbs: 2 grams

    • Magnesium: 17 mg

    • Potassium: 52 mg

    • BCAA matrix: 5 grams

    • ECAAs: 820 grams

Pros #

    • BCAAs included in a 2:1:1 formula

    • Quantities of ingredients specified

    • Electrolytes keep you hydrated

    • Contain all essential EAAs

    • Comes in a number of tasty flavors

Cons  #

    • Only 30 servings per container

    • Contains artificial sweeteners

    • No protein

Optimum Nutrition Essential Amino Energy #

Optimum Nutrition essential amino acids powder contains an amino blend to help with muscle recovery combined with an energy blend to boost focus and energy during your workout. It contains I-glutamine, I-arginine, and taurine, all essential amino acids to help with postwork soreness. The energy blend includes caffeine, green coffee bean extract, and green tea extract to boost energy and aid in weight loss.

Serving Facts  #

    • Protein: 0 grams

    • Calories: 5

    • Carbs: 1 gram

    • Amino Blend: 5 grams

    • Energy Blend: 5 grams

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Pros  #

    • Includes 65 servings per container

    • Comes with an energy boost formula

    • Very few calories

    • No sugar and low carbs

Cons  #

    • Includes two proprietary blends, making exact quantities of ingredients unknown

    • Includes caffeine so it can’t be taken at night

    • No protein

Solgar – Essential Amino Complex #

Solgar is a great option for anyone who wants all the details with no proprietary blends. It’s a simple blend of specially selected amino acids. It includes all eight of the essential amino acids. Solgar is a trusted supplement brand with a great reputation for high-quality ingredients. This blend is free of gluten, wheat, yeast, sugar, and artificial colors, and sweeteners.

Serving Facts  #

    • Protein: 0 grams

    • L-Histidine: 75 mg.

    • L-Lysine: 75 mg.

    • L-Methionine: 75 mg.

    • L-Threonine: 75 mg.

    • L-Phenylalanine: 75 mg.

    • L-Leucine: 75 mg.

    • L-Isoleucine: 75 mg.

    • L-Valine: 75 mg.

Pros  #

    • Values of ingredients labeled

    • Vegan and vegetarian friendly

    • No sugar and low carbs

    • Comes with 90 servings per bottle

Cons  #

    • BCAA ratio not in the proven effective ratio of 2:1:1

    • No protein

MuscleTech Essential Series Platinum Amino Plus Energy #

MuscleTech Essential Series is another option for amino acid supplements if you’re looking for a free-form amino acids supplement. This product includes BCAAs, and other amino acids like I-arginine, I-citrulline, l-lysine, and l-glutamine. Users like adding coconut water to this mix for the added hydrating benefits. This blend also includes an energy blend with caffeine and green tea extract to push you through tough workouts.

 

Serving Facts  #

    • Protein: 0 grams 

    • Calories: 30

    • Carbs: 0 

    • BCAA Matrix: 5 grams 

    • Recovery Complex: 2.2 grams

    • Electrolyte Blend: 300 mg

    • Energy Blend: 125 mg

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Pros  #

    • Includes BCAAs

    • All ingredients and quantities are labeled 

    • No sugar or carbs 

    • Comes in multiple flavors 

Cons  #

    • BCAA ratio not in the usual effective ratio of 2:1:1 

    • Only 30 servings per container 

    • Energy blend makes it hard to take at night 

    • No protein 

FundAminos By PureClean Performance #

FundAminos is a plant-based EAA supplement option that comes with directions based on activities. Each container has a packet instruction that tells you exactly how much of the plant protein to take and when, depending on your activity. This can be helpful if you’re a person who does a lot of different types of physical activities and wants to customize your supplement intake based on energy spent.

 

Serving Facts  #

    • Protein: 0 grams 

    • Calories: 5

    • Essential Amino Acid Blend: 5 grams 

    • Botanical  Recovery Blend: 315 mg

    • Organic Superberry Blend: 250 mg

Pros  #

    • Low in calories

    • Vegan friendly 

    • Non-GMO

    • No fillers or additives 

Cons  #

    • Made using a proprietary blend  

    • Some say the taste is not the best 

    • No protein 

The Overall Best EAA Supplement  #

Fortagen #

Fortagen tops our list for the best EAA supplement. Fortagen is not only the ultimate muscle-building vegan-friendly dietary protein supplement, crushing the competition at 50 grams of protein per serving, but it’s the best EAA supplement because it’s fermented and engineered with the perfect amino acid profile.

Serving Facts #

    • Calories: 4

    • Carbs: 0 grams

    • Sugar: 0 grams

    • Protein: 50 grams

    • Fat: 0 grams

    • Servings per container: 45

You’ll notice Fortagen is the only EAA supplement that also has protein. If your goal is to gain lean muscle mass and lose fat, you need high-quality protein in the right amount. Fortagen not only offers you all the benefits of a perfect amino acid profile, but it eliminates the need to buy protein supplements separately, making it a cost-effective choice.

The Perfect Amino Acid Profile  #

Fortagen outperforms other essential amino acid supplements because it’s designed to provide the amino acid profile your body needs, in the perfect ratio. Other products come loaded with nonessential amino acids your body already has a surplus of.

Superior Bioavailability  #

When it comes to the impact of different EAA blends, bioavailability is one of the most important metrics to consider. Fortagen is digested in under 30 minutes, while whey or vegetable-based blends can take up to 6 hours.

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Minimal Calories  #

Many EAA supplements come packed with calories. If you’re on a calorie-restricted diet or intermittent fasting, typical calorie-packed protein powders will hinder your progress. Because of its protein, Fortagen also acts as a dietary supplement with low calories.

Insulin Response  #

Fortagen is a sugar-free powder that will not trigger an insulin response. Your energy remains balanced, and if you’re fasting, you’ll have a powerful tool to keep you from breaking your fast. For those trying to lose weight, having a zero-carb/zero-sugar protein powder with high protein per serving can make the journey a lot more comfortable.

Faster Recovery Time   #

Fortagen is designed for increased muscle protein synthesis post-workout. The reality is Fortagen has cracked the perfect essential amino acid profile code. EAAs offset muscular and systemic fatigue that hurt muscle gains when delivered in the right combination.

A 2017 study 12 showed that supplementing with essential amino acids outperformed passive recovery and rest after varied and exhaustive exercises. Another 2018 study 13 showed EAA supplementation delayed fatigue, improved endurance capacity, and prevented muscle failure compared to a placebo.

Conclusion  #

An Essential Amino Acid supplement can give you everything a protein shake does, without the extras. Amino acids are necessary for constructing the protein your body needs to build muscle and other tissues. They’re also important precursors to neurotransmitters and hormones and keep you in optimal health.

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Now you can see why EAA supplements are getting so much attention. You can also see most EAA supplements come up short in one important area - protein.  The majority of EAA supplements will require you to source your protein from other sources whether it be whole foods or a protein supplement.

Fortagen solves this problem by providing the perfect blend of amino acids and the highest quality protein together. Fortagen is extremely clean containing just five all-natural vegan-friendly ingredients. It can even be taken before bedtime.

References #


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3648712/?utm_source=jaquishbiomedical.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=jaquishbiomedical.com&utm_medium=referral ↩︎

  2. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/L-leucine?utm_source=jaquishbiomedical.com&utm_medium=referral ↩︎

  3. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/L-valine?utm_source=jaquishbiomedical.com&utm_medium=referral ↩︎

  4. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/l-isoleucine?utm_source=jaquishbiomedical.com&utm_medium=referral ↩︎

  5. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Lysine?utm_source=jaquishbiomedical.com&utm_medium=referral ↩︎

  6. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/L-phenylalanine?utm_source=jaquishbiomedical.com&utm_medium=referral ↩︎

  7. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/L-threonine?utm_source=jaquishbiomedical.com&utm_medium=referral ↩︎

  8. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/L-methionine?utm_source=jaquishbiomedical.com&utm_medium=referral ↩︎

  9. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Tryptophan?utm_source=jaquishbiomedical.com&utm_medium=referral ↩︎

  10. https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/150/Supplement_1/2588S/5913298 ↩︎

  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12885705/ ↩︎

  12. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28870476/ ↩︎

  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6107748/?utm_source=jaquishbiomedical.com&utm_medium=referral ↩︎