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The more often a statement is repeated, the more it is believed. This is the truth of marketing and propaganda.
It’s no different in performance nutrition.
Myths and slanted statistics perpetuated by marketers with big ad budgets become part of our beliefs. We internalize them as truth, even when the science actually says something much different.
So let’s take a look at 4 of the most common myths in performance nutrition today and see what the science really says.
Let’s start by defining our terms: an essential amino acid is an amino acid that our body cannotsynthesize. We must get it from dietary sources, i.e., food and supplementation.
Many sources, including medical and scientific textbooks and even the venerable repository of knowledge that is Wikipedia, will tell you there are 9 essential amino acids:
phenylalanine, valine, tryptophan, threonine, isoleucine, methionine, lysine, leucine, and histidine
Only 8 of these are actually essential.
The latest data shows that while histidine is essential in infants, for adults it is conditionally essential [5,6]. That means your body can make it if you have all the right ingredients, i.e. the other 8 essential amino acids.
In this case study , when test subjects took a special formula of the 8 true essential amino acids, blood levels of histidine rose 15% without ingesting any histidine. This means the body began synthesizing histidine from the other 8 essential amino acids.
The only conclusion is that it’s conditionally essential and not truly essential.
What many people do not understand is that the scientific and health communities are like any other group of people. Politics, power, and personal biases all play a very large role in how information gets distributed.
Unfortunately, biological truth can get buried by people’s personal beliefs.
When you eat protein, your digestive system gets to work breaking it down into amino acids. Most people assume every amino acid goes directly into building protein, but it’s more complicated than that.
Your body can only use a certain ratio of amino acids. Your body needs all the essential amino acids to activate the anabolic pathway for Body Protein Synthesis (BPS) or building whole proteins the body can use to build and repair, muscle, bone, cells, and everything else.
However, you don’t needall the non-essential ones in the same way . If you have extra, your body will burn them for fuel as added calories or store them in fat cells instead. In other words, your body will not use these extra aminos to build whole proteins thus, they will not be used to build and repair your body.
The balance of using aminos for BPS to not using them for BPS is different for every protein source.
This ratio is known as the Amino Acid Utilization, or AAUTM (also known as the net nitrogen utilization or NNU). It is a measure of protein efficiency for building muscle.
The higher the AAU, the more efficient the protein source.
What’s interesting is that most of the protein you eat goes to waste.
Animal protein –– fish, chicken, or red meat –– only has a 32% AAU. That means 68% of the meat you eat goes to waste.
Eggs are actually one of the most efficient sources of protein with a 48% AAU. But even with eggs, more than half goes to waste.
Protein powders, however, are a whole other story. In fact, whey protein, pea protein, hemp protein, and soy protein each have an average AAU of a measly 17% .
That means for every 50g of protein powder –– regardless of its source –– your body only uses 8.5g.
The truth is, most protein powders are not effective for building muscle. Yes, they can “work” when you eat enough of them combined with a healthy diet.
But because they are not efficiently used, they create all sorts of secondary side effects, including saturating your blood with nitrogen, leading to gout.
We’ll touch more on efficiency in a moment, but first, let’s look at 2 more myths.
BCAA stands for branched-chain amino acids, which are three of the essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
They have some remarkable properties like reducing fatigue, enhancing exercise performance, and speeding up recovery. One study found they increased the time to fatigue by 17.2% .
How does this work?
BCAAs are single amino acids, not big proteins. This means they do not need to be broken down by your digestive system. Instead, they can immediately be absorbed into the bloodstream and sent directly to the hard-working muscle tissue.
The BCAAS provide your muscles with instantly available energy, so your muscles don’t fatigue. This is why they increase endurance and enhance performance.
BCAAs DO NOT build protein.
They make energy, not muscle.
To build muscle, your body needs all 8 essential amino acids. Fortunately, essential amino acids include all the BCAAs!
BCAAs are just 3 of the 8 pieces. It’s like only having pedals, handlebars, and a wheel when you want to build a bike. It’s not going to work. So your body burns them for fuel instead of making muscle.
However, because essential amino acids hit the bloodstream the same way as BCAAs, and go directly to muscle tissue like BCAAs, they give you both the performance boost AND keep you building protein [1,2].
Two birds, one stone. More bang for your buck. EAAs are simply more effective.
Collagen supplementation has become extraordinarily popular in the last several years. It’s a convenient protein source, but it’s subject to the exact same biological laws as every other protein you put in your body.
It is still subject to the AAU limitations of your digestive system. Your body can only absorb and utilize a certain ratio of amino acids and the rest are burned for fuel.
Collagen is a huge molecule with over 500 amino acids. When you eat a collagen supplement, all the collagen gets broken down into its basic amino acids. But even with 500 amino acids, collagen is almost entirely made of glycine, proline, and lysine.
Notice anything interesting about that list of amino acids?
Without the other 7 essential amino acids, your body will not turn out the anabolic pathway and begin building protein –– including collagen.
Furthermore, the amino acids from collagen circulate through your blood and go everywhere in your body, not just your gut lining or joints. There is no specificity to how your body uses the amino acids from collagen.
As far as efficiency goes, to our knowledge, nobody has tested collagen protein to determine it’s AAU in humans. That said, here’s what we doknow:
First of all, it is the ratio of all 8 essential amino acids that determines a protein’s efficiency.
Other dietary sources such as meat, fish, eggs, many nuts, seeds, and veggies have all 8 essential amino acids in varying ratios. BCAAs are less efficient (less than 1%), because they only contain 3 of the essential amino acids.
Collagen only has 1 essential amino acid. Just one: lysine.
The body cannot activate protein utilization with just one essential amino acid. That’s not how it owrks. The other amino acids must come from other sources, either other foods or by breaking down your own protein.
This indicates collagen is extremely low on the AAU chart. Possibly even lower than BCAAs.
The rest goes to energy and waste. Not to spontaneous collagen-building.
Now some companies with expensive products would like you to believe that it’s possible to bypass all this metabolism business by putting collagen directly where you need it with special creams or lotions.
Unfortunately, because collagen is such a massive molecule with 500+ amino acids, it cannot pass through the skin. And even if it could, it would still have to be broken down, absorbed by the special collagen-making cells (called fibroblasts), and put in just the right place in just the right way.
The collagen fad is a massive marketing myth.
Fortunately, there IS a way to go anabolic with unparalleled efficiency to build EVERY kind of protein your body needs: muscle, enzymes, and yes, even collagen.
If you want to efficiently build muscle mass in your body, it makes sense to use the most efficient source possible.
Essential amino acids are the most effective source of these because they work with the body’s natural systems and limitations. You’re working with your body instead of trying to jam some stuff inside of it.
But there’s more to it than just having all 8 essential amino acids. They need to be in the right ratio. There is a natural, fundamental amino acid pattern that goes almost entirely into protein-building.
After careful study and reviewing the literature, Dr. Minkoff created a formula scientifically proven to get 99% utilization.
That’s right, 99%. And it’s all backed by peer-reviewed research [1-4,8].
99% means you actually use everything you consume.
No waste. No sneaky marketing.
Just smart science for results you can feel.
link to case study hosted on body health website
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