Essential amino acids are not a medicine that you take for a little while until the condition you began taking them for has cleared up. Rather, they are called essential because we can’t live without a regular intake of these miraculous, protein-building nutrients. It is, therefore, advisable to incorporate essential amino acid supplements into your daily dietary routine.
We’re all for keeping life exciting, so why shouldn’t the essential amino acids you ingest have a little variety? Shaking things up (pun intended) with different flavors and ingredients in your essential amino acid drink is a great way to maintain enthusiasm for your daily supplement routine.
The Phenomenon of Taste and Aroma
We all have certain foods or drinks that we love. Some of us love ice cream and others crush on freshly squeezed orange juice. Just as tastes and textures vary from person to person, so, too, can tastes be acquired. Not many children enjoy strong tastes like liver or blue cheese. But our tastes mature with age, and something you strongly disliked as a child may become something you enjoy very much as an adult.
Almost all foods have an aroma that contributes strongly to the taste. This aroma originates from the chemical components of the food and is enhanced and even altered with cooking. Interestingly, the individual molecules of food can have a very different smell than the intact food. While whole grains are rich in vitamin B, they smell much better than a jar of B vitamins! This is because food is a mixture of ingredients that are chemically bound together, changing the characteristics of each molecule.
Amino acids derived from intact proteins provide a very good example of this phenomenon. If you take a high-quality protein like milk or fresh uncooked meat, there is very little odor. Go ahead, take a whiff…we’ll wait for you…
Once you break that protein down into its constituent amino acids, you’ll have a very distinct aroma, one that may not be considered pleasant by everyone. Free amino acids also have a distinct taste, which may include some bitterness depending upon the particular amino acid.
Each amino acid contains nitrogen and a unique side chain. Methionine and cysteine are the “sulfur amino acids” and therefore, the side chain contains sulfur. Sulfur has a very strong taste and smell, as anyone who likes hard-boiled eggs can attest to. Leucine, isoleucine, and valine are branched-chain amino acids, meaning the side group has a somewhat large branched structure that is hydrophobic. That’s a fancy way of saying it does not mix well in water, so if you are trying to blend pure leucine crystals into a beverage, it’s going to require some shaking!
If you have tried an essential amino acid blend as a commercially available product, you probably either like it just fine or you might find it to be somewhat bitter. Individuals vary genetically in their sensitivity to bitter tastes, and those with strong responses often dislike foods with bitter notes, such as cruciferous vegetables or coffee. Regardless of where you fall on the taste spectrum, there are a number of strategies to enhance the flavor of an amino acid drink.
Flavoring Up Your Amino Acid Drink
Balance the Notes
Balancing components of taste is a common strategy used by food scientists and chefs. If something is bitter, add something sweet and, voila, you’ve offset the bitterness. Adding tart or tangy notes also effectively diminishes a bitter taste. In the same vein, fresh-squeezed lemon or lime juice can dramatically change the final taste of an amino acid drink.
Certain flavors are stronger than others. Grape juice, lemonade, and pomegranate juice are very rich in color and have a bold taste that can mask less desirable flavors. Apple juice, on the other hand, is rather neutral and adds just a hint of sweetness.
The temperature of a food or beverage influences the intensity of the flavor. Hot cocoa tastes very chocolatey and sweet, while ice cold milk with the same amount of cocoa tastes a bit bland. Ice cream requires a fair amount of sugar and flavoring for the taste to be intense once it is frozen solid. It follows that if you want to diminish a flavor, you should consume it ice cold.
For this reason, amino acid drinks taste best with lots of ice or even blended up like a slushy or frozen margarita.
Mix and Match
Most amino acid supplements come pre-flavored, usually with a natural low-calorie or non-caloric sweetener. The manufacturer usually suggests a ratio of powder mix to water but this is, by no means, a required direction. Using different volumes of water or water/juice combinations allows you to create a whole spectrum of concentrations, all of which provide the same effective dose.
If the taste is just not in your palette, the best strategy might be to mix the powder in a very small volume of water. While this “shot of supplement” will be intensely flavored, it can be consumed in one gulp. Some essential amino acid supplements are in capsule form, so if you are okay with swallowing pills (the dose is usually five or six fairly large capsules) then you can skip the culinary creativity and take your essential aminos in pill form.
There are endless options you can use to create your favorite amino acid drink. The idea is not to just love the benefits of a daily essential amino acid supplement but to love the taste of your amino acid drink too!