Best Amino Acid Supplements

In the world of supplements, protein – whether from whey or another source – tends to hold steady as king of them all. But here’s something from high school biology you may have forgotten: Proteins are made of amino acids.

Actually, those amino acids are the very reason that protein is so important. Put very simply, amino acids are the building blocks of life. When you ingest a protein, your body breaks it apart into the individual aminos, reorders them, refolds them and turns them into whatever is needed at the time. But some amino acids are incredibly unique in the way they’re used in your body, especially when it comes to fitness.

Of primary concern to athletes is a group of three amino acids, leucine, isoleucine, and valine,called Branched-chain Amino Acids (BCAAs). As their name suggests, these aminos have a specialized shaped that allows them to be used in ways that other amino acids could only dream about. What, exactly, makes BCAAs so important? If proteins are made of amino acids, why should you also take amino acid supplements, instead of just getting all your protein?

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L-Theanine Capsules

L-Theanine is a nootropic found in tea leaves that promotes relaxation and sleep and can be combined with caffeine for improved cognitive performance and focus.

  • Promotes sleep quality 
  • Increases alpha brain waves 
  • May regulate stress levels 
  • May improve performance on cognitively demanding tasks when combined with caffeine 
  • General Recognized As Safe (GRAS) by U.S. FDA 

L-Theanine is an amino acid which naturally occurs in tea leaves and some forms of mushrooms.  Tea (Camellia sinensis) contains 1-3% of L-theanine. It is used in a supplemental form isolated directly from tea leaves or prepared via chemical synthesis or biosynthesis (1). Green, black, oolong and white tea all contain L-Theanine in varying amounts (2).  Green tea and black tea contain the highest amounts of L-theanine, but the studies are conflicted about which of the two has the most (3).

L-Theanine is consumed throughout the world in tea form but the focus of Pure Nootropics’ product is on the isolated amino acid L-Theanine.

L-Theanine Benefits

L-Theanine promotes sleep quality due to its ability to provide relaxation by increasing alpha-brain waves and regulating excitatory neurotransmitters that may inhibit restful sleep.  Alpha-brain waves (8-13 Hz) are the brain waves associated with relaxation and alertness and are produced within 30-40 minutes after ingestion.  The alpha-brain waves (or “a-waves”) occur in the occipital and parietal regions of the brain and prepare the body for a relaxed state prior to sleep (4)(5).

L-Theanine may regulate stress levels by modulating the sympathetic nervous system when faced with an acute stressor by reducing heart rate and salivary stress immunoglobin A, leading to anti-stress effects (6).

Combined with caffeine, L-Theanine may improve performance on cognitively demanding tasks through its synergistic effects.  L-Theanine may help control blood pressure and may lessen some of the unwanted effects of caffeine (7).

L-Theanine Mode of Action

L-Theanine is absorbed through the intestines and reaches the blood-brain barrier in approximately 50 minutes after ingestion, similarly to the absorption through natural tea leaves(1).  L-Theanine can be found in the brain in the hippocampus after ingestion–the area of the brain responsible for learning and memory (8)(9).

Research in animals suggests that L-Theanine (L-gamma-glutamylethylamide) works through glutamate receptors and increases levels of GABA and glycine in the brain, which causes relaxation. Increased GABA and glycine may increase serotonin and dopamine; however, it has also been noted that theanine may decrease or inhibit serotonin synthesis (1).

L-Theanine reduces glutamate release, an excitatory neurotransmitter (1).

L-Theanine Chemical Properties

Due to the large demand for L-Theanine supplements since its discovery in Japan in 1949 (12), and its relatively low content in dry tea leaves–only about 1-2.5%, large scale productions are primarily responsible for the L-Theanine available in supplemental form (10).

Theanine has two isomers (or forms):  L-Theanine and D-Theanine. L-Theanine is the only form of Theanine found in tea and is the best form because it has the highest absorption capacity.  When Theanine is produced synthetically, either via chemical synthesis or biosynthesis, both isomers are produced.  The “L” form is approximately three times higher in absorption level than the “D” form.  D-Theanine is not naturally occurring in foods (11).   If they are administered together, they can exhibit mutual antagonism and the “D” form can prevent the “L” form from being absorbed in the body (10).  It is not clear if the “D” form provides the benefits the “L” form is so widely used for (1) so it is essential to know the purity of the supplement you are using.

Pure Nootropics’ L-Theanine is third-party tested for quality and delivers 99.1% of L-Theanine.

L-Theanine Capsules & Dosage

Pure Nootropics’ L-Theanine Capsules provides an extra strength dose of 200 mg per capsule.  Suggested use for adults is up to 2 capsules by mouth daily, or as directed by your healthcare practitioner.  Daily use may reduce efficacy.

The cognitive benefits associated with caffeine in combination with L-Theanine were studied on 50 mg caffeine to 100 mg L-Theanine, so we recommend caffeine to L-Theanine ratio should be 1-part caffeine to 2 parts L-Theanine (7).

L-Theanine Side Effects & Toxicity

L-Theanine, regardless of chemical synthesis, biosynthesis, or naturally occurring, is General Recognized As Safe (GRAS) by U.S. FDA 

L-Theanine is very well tolerated and side effects may include headaches and increased sleepiness (1).

Animal research indicates that the No Observed Adverse Effect Level of L-theanine is greater than 4000 mg/kg in rats (1).

Please contact your healthcare practitioner before supplementing L-theanine if you are taking any medications, herbs, or supplements. Note:  Due to L-Theanine’s effects on reducing blood pressure, possible interactions with pharmaceutical blood pressure medications and herbs/supplements that may occur.

L-Theanine may reduce the effects of caffeine and mask the symptoms of taking too much caffeine.  These include the effects of energy drinks, coffee, black tea, oolong tea, guarana, mate, cola, and others.  Please be aware of your caffeine consumption during supplementation with L-Theanine (1).

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N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine (NALT) Capsules

N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine is an acetylated form of L-Tyrosine, the amino acid which synthesizes essential neurotransmitters (1)(2).

N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine Benefits

  • Increased solubility and better bioavailability than L-Tyrosine alone 
  • May enhance cognition 
  • May improve focus and performance 
  • Promotes a healthy response to acute stress 

N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine Mode of Action

Due to the poor solubility of L-Tyrosine, N-acetyl-L-tyrosine is an L-tyrosine molecule to which an acetyl molecule has been added to enhance the solubility and bioavailability of L-tyrosine (1).

L-Tyrosine is an amino acid involved in producing neurotransmitters such as dopamine and adrenaline.  Being a catecholamine precursor, L-Tyrosine can be metabolized in three ways:  it can be incorporated into peptides and proteins in the tissues, deaminated to form p-hydroxy phenylpyruvic acid, or hydrolyzed into L-dopa.  L-Tyrosine is the rate-limiting step in the synthesis of other cathecholamines like norepinephrine and epinephrine (2).

L-Tyrosine can help stress response mechanisms during acute and uncontrollable stress.  Unlike adaptogens which help alleviate symptoms of chronic stress, L-Tyrosine’s benefits regarding stress can be seen during acute and sudden stress.  L-Tyrosine directly increases norepinephrine in the hippocampus and prevents stress-induced reactions in animal research (2).

L-Tyrosine may support a positive mood under stressful situations which deplete norepinephrine and dopamine from the brain (3).

L-Tyrosine can be food in chicken, turkey, milk, fish, yogurt, cheese, almonds, peanuts, soy products, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, avocados, and bananas (4).

N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine Dosage

Pure Nootropics’ N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine (NALT) capsules provide 350 mg per 1 capsule.  Suggested use for adults is 1 capsule by mouth daily, or as directed by your healthcare practitioner.

N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine Side Effects and Toxicity

L-Tyrosine may affect heart rate, blood pressure, and mood, and side effects may include gastrointestinal upset, agitation, and drowsiness (2).

If you are taking any medications, please consult your healthcare practitioner before beginning supplementation with L-Tyrosine.

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Taurine Capsules

Taurine is an essential amino acid that occurs naturally in the human body and is abundant in the brain, muscle tissue, retina, and organs in the body (1).  It can also be found in dietary sources such as meat and fish (2).

Taurine Benefits

  • May improve athletic performance 
  • May promote weight loss 
  • Supports a healthy blood pressure 
  • Promotes healthy cholesterol levels 

Taurine Mode of Action

Taurine, being a substrate in bile salt formation, was originally discovered in ox bile and was named after Taurus, the bull (3).  It is not derived from bulls or bull testicles, contrary to circulating misinformation.  Many people continue to spread the misinformation that since Red Bull energy drinks contain taurine and it is named “Red Bull” that it confirms this myth.  This is incorrect:  it is simply an ode to its discovery.

Taurine (2-aminoethanesulfonic acid) is one of the most essential amino acids in the body.  Small amounts of taurine can be synthesized in the liver from cysteine and methionine (4).  It is an organic osmolyte and regulates cell volumes. Taurine is involved in the central nervous system development and cell protection, as well as being critical for the retina of the eye.  Its’ functions include osmoregulation, membrane stabilization, anti-inflammation, ion transport modulation, mitochondrial protein synthesis, and regulation of oxidative stress (5).

Taurine is considered “conditionally essential” because humans can synthesize it and are not entirely dependent on outside sources from which to obtain it (6).  The mechanisms behind Taurine are not fully understood, despite the knowledge that it is so essential (1).

Humans obtain most of the taurine from their diet.  Though it is synthesized in the body, humans have a low amount of CSAD (cysteine sulfinic acid)–a substrate in taurine synthesis–thus, most of the taurine comes from diet and it is absorbed by the small intestine.  Taurine can be found in small amounts of dairy, with the highest amount of taurine in shellfish, dark meat of chicken and turkey, and turkey bologna.  Vegetarians and vegans have a lower blood level of taurine than meat-eaters (4).

A deficiency in taurine can be serious and affect the cardiovascular, renal, and ocular system (1).

Taurine is an inhibitory amino acid neurotransmitter, like GABA and Glycine.  Taurine can stimulate the release of glutamate and GABA at synapses, but it can also reduce excitatory transmission. Though GABA and Glycine have their own signaling systems, taurine acts without its own signaling and is a neuromodulator of the GABAergic and Glycinergic systems.  Taurine binds to both GABAand GABAreceptors.  Taurine may have some mechanism with BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) that may explain its support of mood. Taurine can stimulate the release of glutamate and GABA at synapses, but it can also reduce excitatory transmission (6).

Taurine Dosage

 Pure Nootropics’ Taurine contains 500 mg per capsule.  Suggested use is 1 capsule by mouth up to 4 times daily or as directed by a healthcare practitioner.

Taurine Side Effects & Toxicity

Taurine is safe in doses up to 3g per day (6).  Both animal and human studies have found taurine to be safe at high doses (7).

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L-Tyrosine Capsules

L-Tyrosine is an amino acid which can be metabolized in the body to synthesize essential neurotransmitters (1).

L-Tyrosine Benefits

  • May enhance cognition 
  • May improve focus and performance 
  • Promotes a healthy response to acute stress 

L-Tyrosine Mode of Action

L-Tyrosine is an amino acid involved in producing neurotransmitters such as dopamine and adrenaline.  Being a catecholamine precursor, L-Tyrosine can be metabolized in three ways:  it can be incorporated into peptides and proteins in the tissues, deaminated to form p-hydroxy phenylpyruvic acid, or hydrolyzed into L-dopa.  L-Tyrosine is the rate-limiting step in the synthesis of other cathecholamines like norepinephrine and epinephrine (1).

L-Tyrosine can help stress response mechanisms during acute and uncontrollable stress.  Unlike adaptogens which help alleviate symptoms of chronic stress, L-Tyrosine’s benefits regarding stress can be seen during acute and sudden stress.  L-Tyrosine directly increases norepinephrine in the hippocampus and prevents stress-induced reactions in animal research (1).

L-Tyrosine may support a positive mood under stressful situations which deplete norepinephrine and dopamine from the brain (2).

L-Tyrosine can be food in chicken, turkey, milk, fish, yogurt, cheese, almonds, peanuts, soy products, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, avocados, and bananas (3).

L-Tyrosine Dosage

Pure Nootropics’ L-Tyrosine provides 500 mg of L-Tyrosine per 1 capsule.  Suggested use for adults is 1 capsule by mouth 1 to 3 times daily, or as directed by your healthcare practitioner.

L-Tyrosine Side Effects and Toxicity

L-Tyrosine may affect heart rate, blood pressure, and mood, and side effects may include gastrointestinal upset, agitation, and drowsiness (1).

If you are taking any medications, please consult your healthcare practitioner before beginning supplementation with L-Tyrosine.

Top 10 Benefits of Amino Acid Supplements

10. Guaranteed, Balanced Dosage – As mentioned, whey protein naturally contains BCAAs. So, why take a separate supplement. Even a high quality protein, like Momentus Strength Recover, will only contain a set amount of BCAAs – which will also be mixed with all of the other aminos. And amino acids compete for absorption with each other. To get the full benefit of BCAAs, then, a dedicated amino acid supplement, such as Klean BCAA, is needed

9. Improved Muscle Growth – Okay, but what’s the point? What do BCAAs actually do? Lots of stuff, as it turns out. The primary reason that people turn to amino acid supplements, though, has to do with muscle growth. Leucine, in particular, has been shown to regulate and improve muscle protein synthesis after exercise. Stimulated by the stress of your workout and encouraged by the jolt of leucine, then, your muscles will have everything they need to grow and be better prepared for your next workout.

8. Increased Endurance – We’ll talk about this a little more in the next point, but amino acid supplements change the way your body uses your primary fuel sources – carbs and fat. For many athletes, especially those who depend on short bursts of power like sprints, glycogen depletion is a major problem, leading to exhaustion and a sharp drop in performance. Interestingly, a 2011 study put 7 male volunteers through a workout that was designed to totally destroy their glycogen supply. One group was given BCAAs and the other was given a placebo. The glycogen stores in the BCAA group were protected so well that these subjects saw a 17.2 percent increase in the time it took for them to hit the wall.

7. Greater Fat Burn – So, how do you think BCAAs protected the glycogen of those athletes? By burning fat instead. For those trying to lose some body fat, or athletes training on a low-carb diet, then, BCAAs will help your body make the switch to depending on fat for fuel.

6. Reduced Fatigue – Related to the above-mentioned findings, BCAAs have demonstrated the ability to ward off the mental fatigue that sometimes accompanies long workouts. Primarily, this is because the relationship between low BCAAs and tryptophan. Normally, when your BCAA levels drop, your body produces more tryptophan which then becomes serotonin in your brain and leads to feelings of tiredness and mental fatigue. BCAA supplements prevent this process.

5. Increased Mental Focus – By keeping the tryptophan monster away, amino acid supplements improve your short term memory and processing abilities. During competitions – especially those that last for several hours – this can be the key to victory.

4. Muscle Sparing – I know you don’t like to think about it but we need to discuss a harsh truth: Exercise damages your muscles. Usually, this damage is exactly what your body needs to rebuild and get stronger. Sometimes, however, things go too far and your muscles are actually broken down and used for fuel. Endurance athletes and those who routinely exercise in a fasted state or at a caloric deficit are especially at risk here. BCAAs, however, protect your muscle fibers from suffering too much damage.

3. Improved Recovery – This ability to increase muscle protein synthesis and guard your muscles   means that you can recover from your workouts faster, getting back to your routine with less downtime. And remember, it’s during these periods of rest that your fitness improves. Ensuring that your recovery is complete, then, is vital to making progress.

2. Reduced Muscle Soreness – But wait, there’s more! The reduced damage and improved recovery has also been shown to limit the soreness that generally sets in after a strenuous workout.

1. Improved Performance in Sports – If we take all of the physical and psychological benefits of amino acid supplements together, something amazing becomes apparent: It can improve your overall performance. Your body will respond better to your workouts and your mind will operate more efficiently during the actual event, allowing you to maintain your focus and make better decisions.

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