It is known that when a human body has stress from surgery or injury, nutrient and caloric needs skyrocket. Because it is difficult for most people to eat enough healthy nutrients to meet these requirements, muscle loss often results. The injury must heal before the body is able to focus on recovery.
A recent *LEVEL 2 study found that those knee replacement patients (total knee arthroplasty or TKA), taking ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS both before and after the procedure, had a quicker recovery with less muscle atrophy, more muscle mass, strength and endurance, than those taking placebo.(Dreyer et al, JBJS 2018- University of Oregon)
Amino acids are building blocks of protein and protein rich tissue, such as muscle. Non-Essential amino acids are made by the body, while Essential Amino Acids (EAA) are those obtained from DIET. There are 8 ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS, which can be purchased as a supplement in powder, pill form or injected.
Researchers studied a specific group (averaging 64 years of age with a BMI 30) in order to determine a method which helped to minimize or reverse muscle loss in these patients who typically have poor muscle tone. The patients who were given EAA 1 week prior to surgery and continuing for 6 weeks afterward, demonstrated increased muscle, strength and motion of the knee.
This suggests that recovery after major knee surgery (and likely other surgery) can be improved by digesting Essential Amino Acids. Although eating healthy, whole foods, (the primary source of EAA), is preferable, the use of readily available supplements for a short time may prevent or reverse the detrimental effects of the injury/surgery. As with many things, MORE IS NOT BETTER. Long term use has not been studied and could potentially lead to harm. Future research will be able to determine the best dosage, timing and duration of treatment to achieve the desired positive outcomes while minimizing any potential long term harm.
* There are 5 levels of scientific research ranging from Level 1 to Level 5
Level 1 requires the following:
a. RANDOMIZED – The researcher AND the subject (in this case patients) are randomly assigned a treatment option
b. DOUBLE BLIND – Neither the researchers NOR the subject know what they are receiving (vs SINGLE BLIND where the researcher may know but the test subject does not)
c. PLACEBO CONTROLLED – One of the treatment options MUST be a placebo (something that is known to do NOTHING can actually cause improvements in 60% of test subjects)
Although Level 1 studies are the gold standard, they are often not statistically significant due to minimal sample sizes as a result of limited available test subjects, ethics, and high costs.
Level 2 study is the same as Level 1 except not quite as rigid. In this particular study, there were many uncontrollable factors (other medical issues, various medicines and varied diets etc).
Level 5 study requires an expert opinion, without scientific proof.