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Amino Acids From Supplements vs. Whole Foods

Research Update: Get your pre- and post-workout amino acids in supplement form (not just from whole foods) to maximize performance, recovery, and overall results.

Amino acids in supplement form versus whole foods

Does getting your amino acids from supplements versus whole foods make a difference? In a word, YES, especially before and after workouts.

Why Pre-Workout and Post-Workout Supplements Matter

I’m a big proponent of pre-workout and post-workout nutrition. After all, Sports Nutrition is the study of the intake of nutrients around workouts and competitions to improve performance and results. If it made no difference what you consumed before and after training, there would be no need for a field of Sports Nutrition.

Thanks to the advances made in the field, we know that taking certain nutrients before and after workouts can help improve performance (strength, power, endurance) during the workout and recovery afterward. For example…

A mixed protein powder like Pro JYM improves muscle protein synthesis and overall results in muscle mass and strength.

The branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) leucine, isoleucine, and valine – which are included in both Pre JYM and Post JYM, as well as my stand-alone BCAA product JYM BCAAs – taken before workouts improves endurance and reduces fatigue, while BCAAs taken immediately after workouts boost muscle protein synthesis and overall results in muscle mass, strength, and even fat loss.

The "Anabolic Window" for Maximizing Recovery and Results

You may have heard some debate over whether or not the post-workout “anabolic window” actually exists. This is due to a Canadian study on newbie lifters that reported that post-workout muscle protein synthesis increased to the same magnitude whether post-workout protein was given within 1 hour after the workout or 24 hours. This led many “experts” to jump the gun and claim that there’s no need to worry about nutrients around workouts. Get them in any time, they advised.

What these “experts” failed to read, however, was the follow-up study with the same lifters at the same Canadian lab. This time, the researchers found that after only 8 weeks of training, the newbie lifters’ post-workout protein synthesis was only maximized when consumed within 8 hours after the workout.

In other words, training shortened the time the anabolic window remained maximized from 24 hours in untrained people to just 8 hours after only 8 weeks of training. Imagine how much shorter your anabolic window would be after 8 months of training or 8 years!

So trust me when I say that if you want to maximize muscle growth, consume a mixed protein powder and extra BCAAs both before and right after workouts.

The Science of Free-Form Amino Acids vs. Aminos from Whole Food

Even if you’re already sold on the fact that getting in protein and amino acids around workouts is ideal to maximize muscle growth, you may not understand that the source of that protein and/or amino acids is also critical. There’s a reason I recommend a mixed protein shake and BCAAs around workouts instead of whole food: availability. And new research from Japan confirms that this is the best way to maximize muscle growth.

The researchers had male students consume 2 grams of the BCAA leucine in one of two forms: (1) in free-form via a powdered leucine supplement, or (2) from a whole-food meal comprised mainly of fish, egg, milk, and rice. The amount of leucine that made it to the subjects’ blood at various times was measured to see if there were any differences in the way nutrients, like amino acids, were absorbed and used by the body when they come in free-form via supplements versus from whole food.

To many people’s surprise, except mine, the students’ blood leucine concentrations from taking 2 grams of leucine via a free-form supplement were nearly 140% higher than when the 2 grams of leucine came from a whole food meal.

Bottom line: You can’t always count on whole foods delivering you all the nutrients contained in them. In this case, you’d be absorbing and utilizing less than half the amount of leucine than you’d be getting if you took it in supplement form. 

Jim’s Take-Home Points

This research supports two recommendations I’ve been making for decades.

  1. First and foremost, around workouts, make sure you don’t rely solely on whole food for your pre-workout and post-workout nutrients. Not only will those nutrients arrive at your hard-working muscles much slower than in supplement form (because it takes your body longer to break down whole food), but you may be shorting yourself by more than half of what you’d be absorbing and utilizing from supplements. In other words, you’ll absorb far less leucine from a chicken breast or steak then you will from a leucine supplement in capsule or powder form.
  2. The second point is that you definitely want to take extra BCAAs around workouts. I recommend at least 5 grams before workouts. Then, after workouts, make sure to get enough BCAAs to provide at least 3 grams of leucine.

Even though Pro JYM (which I recommend taking both before and after workouts) contains adequate amounts of leucine to stimulate muscle protein synthesis, you’ll be better off getting additional leucine along with the other two BCAAs, isoleucine and valine, in free-form from supplements like Pre JYM and Post JYM. Not only will this help the BCAAs get to your muscles faster; it will actually deliver more total amino acids to your muscles by more than double! More aminos to the muscles equals more muscle protein synthesis and greater potential for muscle growth.

My JYM System makes it easy to ensure that you’re getting all the right nutrients you need around workouts in the right form.

Pre-Workout Supplement Intake

Taking Pre JYM 30 minutes before workouts provides 6 grams of BCAAs (including 3 grams of free-form leucine) to provide the working muscles a direct fuel source and to blunt fatigue during the workout. In addition, there are 12 other free-form nutrients in Pre JYM – including 6 grams of the amino acid citrulline malate, 2 grams of creatine HCL, and 2 grams of the amino acid beta-alanine – to further blunt fatigue and boost energy and strength.

Taking Pro JYM before workouts provides further BCAAs, as well as the other amino acids that act as the building blocks for muscle protein. This way, as soon as the workout is over, those amino acids are available to immediately start the recovery process.

Post-Workout Supplement Intake

After training, getting in a dose of Post JYM delivers another 6 grams of BCAAs, including another 3+ grams of leucine to fully ramp up muscle protein synthesis. Post JYM also contains seven other free-form nutrients, including 3 grams of glutamine and 2 grams of carnitine to further aid recovery and maximize results.

Following your workout with another dose of Pro JYM ensures adequate amino acids are available for maximal muscle protein synthesis and growth.



Yoshii, N., et al. Effect of mixed meal and leucine intake on plasma amino acid concentrations in young men. Nutrients 10:1543, 2018.


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