If you’ve been to a health food store lately, you may have noticed a product called liquid aminos gracing the shelves. Jim White, RDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says that liquid aminos come in pour or spray bottles and contain naturally-occurring essential and non-essential amino acids. For those keeping track at home, that means 0.5 grams of protein per teaspoon. Touted as a healthier alternative to tamari and soy sauce, liquid amino acids are gluten-free and are not fermented. Yet, you’ll still get that great flavor.
Sounds fancy, but what’s the point? Here’s why amino acids might be beneficial. Plus, when you might consider adding liquid aminos to your food.
How to Use Liquid Aminos
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein that your body uses to create muscle. They’re also important for healthy functioning of your body’s cells and organs. The major sources of essential amino acids include meat, dairy products and legumes. But supplements — either in a capsule, powder or liquid form — offer another option for going above and beyond your daily requirement, says White.
Some people swear by amino acid supplements to prevent fatigue and improve concentration. But there’s no hard scientific evidence to fully support these claims, says White. One study found that women who took supplements of L-Ornithine, a nonprotein amino acid, reported feeling less fatigued. But L-Ornithine is not one of the amino acids contained in the most popular brand of liquid amino acids.
According to White, the biggest fans of amino acid supplementation seem to be athletes. People looking to improve exercise performance and therefore, reduce the breakdown of protein and muscle during an intense workout might also take amino acid supplementation. Some athletes report increased energy levels and decreased fatigue after taking a dose of liquid amino acids before or after exercise. And while more research is needed, some suggest that amino acid supplements may help elite competitors train more efficiently. Liquid aminos may also help prevent muscle cramps in athletes and help them recover quicker after a tough workout.
Should You Try It?
While amino acid supplements may be most popular with athletes looking to boost their performance, they may have some merit for everyday use, too, says White. People who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet may be deficient in certain essential amino acids, since meat and dairy are some of the major sources.
“If you need to be on a gluten-free diet, or you’re a vegan or a vegetarian and need more protein in your diet to meet protein requirements, [for example],” White says you might want to consider them.
On the other hand, people on a low-sodium diet due to high blood pressure, kidney disease or another health issue should use liquid amino acids sparingly. Instead, they should depend on lean proteins, says White. In spite of not containing added salt, liquid amino acids contain about 320 milligrams of sodium per teaspoon; that’s 23 more than a teaspoon of soy sauce.
So adding some liquid amino acids to your next stir-fry is probably unnecessary, unless you don’t get enough protein from a restrictive diet or you’re a serious bodybuilder. But if you think you could benefit a little from it, be sure to use the liquid in moderation, says White. It’s also wise to have a chat with your doctor to see if he or she thinks it’s necessary for you to increase your amino acid intake. You’ll also want to ensure it doesn’t interact with any medications or other supplements you’re taking.
“As with protein in general, you do not want to intake more grams per day than you need, as it can overwork your kidneys or cause weight gain by increased calories,” says White. “The safest way to increase muscle mass is a high-protein natural diet with weight training and exercise.”
Originally posted August 2016. Updated March 2017.