3 Ways Essential Amino Acids can Boost Performance

Dec. 4, 2015

This week I’ve got Dr. David Minkoff, MD on the show to talk about protein supplementation. Before going any further, I should make it clear I’m all for real food. Spend your money at the farmer’s market before you spend on any supplement. Having said that, I’ve also had great results taking supplements, and I’ve seen many other athletes enjoy the same. Close to the top of the list, especially for athletes with digestive complaints, are free-form essential amino acids.

Dr. Minkoff is a board certified pediatrician and fellow in Infectious Diseases and has extensive postgraduate training in Complementary and Alternative Medicine. He’s an expert in Functional Medicine, Chelation, Allergy Elimination, European Biological Medicine, Neural Therapy, Longevity/Aging Medicine, Enderlein Therapy, Insulin Potentiated Therapy, and more.

And equally important, Dr. Minkoff is an athlete himself, having competed in over 40 IRONMAN competitions.

During this interview, we talk about protein and their amino acids building blocks. Free-form amino acids have helped me in three different ways:

#1: messed up gut.

Back when I was suffering from a lot of gas, bloating and diarrhoea, free-form amino acids helped me with my recovery. I got to the point where I stopped lifting weights because of how sore it made me afterwards, and I even felt sore after an endurance paced ride, sometimes for days. Now I understand more about physiology I can explain what might have been going on.

Stomach acid denatures protein and activates enzymes.

Imagine you’ve just eaten a nice piece of grass fed steak. The process of protein digestion begins in the stomach with hydrochloric acid (HCl) and an enzyme called pepsin. HCl doesn’t break apart protein into its constituent amino acids. Instead, it denatures the protein. Denaturing means to act on the hydrogen bonds that hold the protein together which allows the protein to unfold. HCl also activates pepsinogen into the active enzyme pepsin, and the pepsin then starts to break apart the peptide bonds. A peptide is just a short sequence of amino acids. If your stomach acid is low, this whole process will start to fail before absorption can start in the duodenum.

Brush border enzymes break apart proteins in peptides and amino acids.

Once in the duodenum, the partly digested food is called chyme. The pancreas produces digestive enzymes, some of which break down the proteins in the chyme. The key proteolytic enzyme trypsinogen activates into trypsin at the brush border of the enterocytes that line the GI tract. Think of the delicate brush border as a shag carpet, and the proteolytic enzymes contained within the shags are themselves proteins synthesised by the nucleus of the enterocyte cell.

Zinc is an essential cofactor.

All the enzymes described thus far are themselves proteins, and to make them your body needs zinc. Surprisingly, zinc found in food is usually bound to a protein, and to separate the zinc from the protein and absorb it, your body needs zinc! It’s a vicious cycle. Alkaline phosphatase below 70IU/L may hint at a zinc deficiency.

Elevated indican on an organic acids test indicates the bacterial breakdown of protein. Elevated indican means that the bacteria, not you, are digesting the protein that you eat. Diagnosis: messed up gut.

Free-form aminos are easily absorbed.

Hopefully me explaining all this will help you understand that protein digestion is complicated. If it goes wrong, we’re in big trouble. Free-form amino acids like the ones in Nourish Balance Thrive Catabolic Blocker do not require the same complex digestion because the tablets are water soluble and the individual amino acids are easily absorbed on contact with the enterocytes.

Even though my digestion is much better now, I still take essential amino acid tablets during my rides. I like my water plain, so I'll throw a handful of tablets into my jersey pocket every time I head out. I then take five tablets (5g) for each hour of ride time. Sounds strange, but once you get used to it, it's very easy to swallow five tablets at once and they don't seem to dissolve in my pocket.

#2: making sugar from muscle.

Exercise, especially hard exercise, is catabolic which is a fancy way of saying a state of breaking down. Even though I remain in ketosis most of the time, glucose is still the most readily usable form of energy and some cells lack the molecular machinery to burn anything other than glucose. For this reason, your liver will produce glucose during exercise in a process called gluconeogenesis.

Gluconeogenesis uses protein to make glucose during exercise. The main source is the amino acid alanine liberated from muscle. My hope is that by taking free-form amino acids during exercise I can prevent this catabolism. I certainly notice a difference in muscle soreness after a long and or hard ride and especially after a race.

#3: reducing fatigue during exercise.

Eating turkey makes you sleepy because it contains the amino acid tryptophan, right? Everyone knows that. The fact that you felt sleepy after eating could have had something to do with the 800 calories of sweet potato mashed with butter and sugar that you ate with the turkey, but still, there is some truth to the tryptophan part. Large, neutral amino acids compete for access across the blood-brain barrier, and during exercise they all disappear into muscles except for tryptophan. With unabated access to the brain, tryptophan is used to make the inhibitory neurotransmitter serotonin and that may contribute to central fatigue.

Nourish Balance Thrive Catabolic Blocker contains tryptophan, but the three main ingredients are the other large neutral amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These three are usually referred to as the branched-chain amino acids. The idea is that during exercise, the tablets replace the branched-chain amino acids disappearing into muscle for use as fuel and so we slow down the rate of tryptophan crossing the blood-brain barrier. I'm less sure about this one so I'll give you a reference.

Here’s the outline of this interview with Dr. David Minkoff:

  • [0:01] Introduction of Dr. David Minkoff.
  • [0:45] Why Christopher wants to talk with Dr. Minkoff about Amino Acids and protein.
  • [2:15] Why are Amino Acids and proteins important to the body?
  • [6:34] How Christopher discovered that protein deficiency was an issue for him and how Amino Acid supplements helped.
  • [8:15] How free form Amino Acids can be a great help to people and why Amino Acid deficiencies can occur in unexpected ways.
  • [10:38] The importance of getting the RIGHT Amino Acid supplement.
  • [16:33] The problem with whey protein.
  • [21:02] How Dr. Minkoff’s amino acid protein supplement is produced.
  • [22:40] The reality of Amino Acid usage with exercise: what’s happening in the body?
  • [26:20] Lessening mental fatigue using essential Amino Acids.
  • [33:05] How you can make room in your budget for the right Amino Acid supplement.
  • [34:32] How to connect with Dr. Minkoff.


Spritz speed reading app.

Nourish Balance Thrive Catabolic Blocker (thank you for supporting the podcast)


www.Lifeworkswellnesscenter.com - Dr. Minkoff’s clinic


Dr. Richard Feinman

Dr. Tommy Wood

Join the discussion on the NBT forum when you support us on Patreon.

© 2013-2022 nourishbalancethrive