Complete Protein vs Free Form Amino Acids (FFAAs)

Complete Protein vs Free Form Amino Acids (FFAAs)

  • Complete Protein vs Free Form Amino Acids (FFAAs)
    • Are FFAAs a replacement for complete proteins?? Any challenges ??
    • Filtered fractions and sub-fractions of complete proteins do matter a lot … !!

Free Form Aminos don’t need to be digested to reach muscles. So all 18 amino acids blended in a typical whey-like amino profile should give far results than a fast digesting whey product !! Right ??

The RESULT game is all about how best an element is absorbed, assimilated and utilized by the body.

Now, no doubt free form amino acids don’t need to get digested to reach muscles (say within 15-20 mins)

However, bigger question is: How well the body utilizes the same in a long term perspective? And Moreover, is fitness all about muscles ??


Here are some checkpoints that compare both ideologies in a qualitative and quantitative way:


  1. What are challenges with the FFAA approach:
    1. Doesn’t work indefinitely

Even if the amino acids are pharmaceutical grade FFAAs, they will stop benefiting the body after a short period of time (say 3-6 months). This is because of the way that AAs work in the body, if the balance is not correct i.e. if there is too little or too much of any one, all the rest of the AAs will be limited in their effectiveness. Hence, you won’t see significant long term results.

  1. Doesn’t really strengthen the immune system

An unbalanced profile will not allow the body to generate all the nonessential AAs the body needs. A balanced blend of essential AAs will also create exactly the right kind and right amount of enzymes to properly digest food so we can create the substances needed to heal and maintain the body.

  1. Tricking the Liver is not really a great idea

FFAAs basically trick the liver. By exceeding the FFAA supply we exceed the liver’s capacity, resulting in the aminos being directed to the tissues that require them.

When the body begins to heal with the systemic proteins, it starts getting rid of all the toxins, bacteria, viruses and toxic metals that have been stored in the tissues and cells of our bodies. All these things must first run through the liver (body’s poison filter) on their way out of the body.

We got to add extra sulfur and molybdenum to support the liver. Sulfur and molybdenum help flush the liver in a process called phase two detoxification.

Even if you take care of the above 3 points, complete proteins score way ahead on the overall biological value that they source from the filtered fractions and the sub-fractions. Lets see how these impact on the effectiveness of natural proteins:




Just for the study, let’s consider Whey Protein as an example of natural protein source.

  1. Alpha – Lactalbumin

Feeds the “master antioxidant” – Glutathione. Research suggests Alpha-lac may have anti-cancer properties due to the antioxidant benefits. Apart from this, Alpha-lac is rich in the amino acids lysine, leucine, threonine, tryptophan, and cystine. Making up about 15-25% of whey protein, Alpha-lac is very easily digested and forms the basis of human breast milk. Whey Isolates are high in Alpha-Lac and that’s why considered potentially superior.


  1. Beta – Lactoglubin


Beta-lactoglobulin (Beta-lac) comprises 55-65% of whey and has binding sites for minerals and fat soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, and E. Beta-lac is capable of transporting these compounds into the body so they may be utilized.

  1. Lactoferrin (LF)

LF is a multifunctional protein found in bodily fluids such as milk, saliva, tears, and nasal secretions. Human colostrums (first milk) contains the highest concentration of LF, followed by human milk, and then cow milk.


  • LF has been found to have a potent iron-binding property which is important in host defense.


  • Prevents bacteria from growing and forming biofilms.


  • Typically Whey Proteins contain 0.5 – 1% of Lactoferrin. The higher the better.


  1. The Fat also helps

Whey fat contains growth factors (IGF-1, TGF-1, and TGF-2), and other bio active compounds, such as various phospholipids, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), immunoglobulins, and lactoferrin

Whey Concentrates contain ~8-10% fat and while Isolates and Hydroslyates contain quite less (2-3 %). Milk Proteins normally offer 15-20% fat content.

Apart from the Fractions and Sub-fractions spoken about, complete proteins have higher biological value. This means they would enable quicker release of nitrogen into your muscles after working out, restoring them to an anabolic state.

Peptides have got the edge here !!

Every natural protein can be converted into its peptides. Peptides are enzymatically treated (can be treated with acid or alkali as well) shorter chains of amino acids derived from complete proteins.

These short chains are already broken down so they don’t need body’s effort (calories) to digest them and can be consumed by the muscles within 30 minutes. Peptides start getting assimilated in your blood stream the moment they come in contact with mouth saliva.

So they definitely give you an edge in terms on digestion / absorption rates. However, the cost of enzyme treatment normally goes a bit higher. That’s why you see Hydro Whey products are more expensive J

Processing Methods do matter:

With all the filtration methods known and what all different bands follow, we can broadly classify all into two:

  1. Microfiltration:

Here raw whey is filtered in multiple stages where the membranes of the filters are about one micrometer, which is amazingly small. Both Whey Concentrates and Isolates are manufactured via this method. To make an isolate we put the concentrates into additional filters (these membranes are 4 times smaller than the previous ones) to achieve 90-95% protein content.

CFM is again a type of Microfiltration where when the natural proteins go through all the filtration stages the treated under cold temperatures.

Point is: the technique retains the biological activity and the most important sub fractions !!!

  1. Ion Exchange:

Proteins are separated based on their electrical charge in presence of HCL and Sodium Hydroxide.  Because of this, protein fractions that are sensitive to pH are denatured. This means that the structure of the protein is changed, so that its biological activity is reduced or completely eliminated. Although you render pretty high protein content (upto 97%).

Bits from the Research:

In total of 3 trials aimed at studying if FFAAs would lend similar increase in protein synthesis as natural whey protein powder, subjects were given 15g of intact whey protein (regular whey protein powder). The other 2 trials provided either the individual essential amino acids (7g) or the individual non-essential amino acids (8g) found in whey. Protein balance was measured for 3.5 hours after ingestion.

Key findings were: The non-essential amino acid trial resulted in essentially no change in protein balance, whereas the essential amino acid trial resulted in a small increase. After the whey protein powder ingestion, protein balance was markedly increased.

The findings were not really surprising because it indicates that the essential amino acid content of whey is not solely responsible for the anabolic effects.


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