Amino acids are having a moment. They’re nutrition’s new black, if you will. Not that you shouldn’t keep taking your antioxidants and bioflavanoids or whatever, but those supplement bottles lined up on your kitchen counter just reek of 2005. This season’s miracle micronutrients don’t need to be taken in pill form—they’re already in everything from your favorite energy drink to your trusty hangover remedy.
Exhibit A: A new study conducted at Cincinnati’s Genome Research Institute indicates that leucine, an amino acid found in meat and dairy, may be responsible for regulating the neural circuits that control appetite. Does this explain why eating a big steak is so satisfying? Maybe. But my money’s on the fact that it’s just plain delicious.
Exhibit B: For reasons unknown, the folks at Red Bull recently installed a fridge full of their trademark jitter-inducing soft drinks at PopSci HQ—right outside my cubicle. And you wouldn’t believe how quickly the staff is putting them away (our general manager, in particular, has a real problem). Although I suspect the drinks’ heavy dose of caffeine has a lot to do with their popularity, they also contain taurine, a basic building block of protein, which may or may not live up to the company’s claim of giving you a superhuman boost of energy.
Exhibit C: On Friday evening, a group of friends and I tested out Kampai, a powdery supplement that contains L-glutamine and L-alanine and is purported to stop hangovers in their tracks. You just suck down a packet of the stuff before you begin drinking, and it’s supposed to dramatically reduce the adverse effects of alcohol consumption. I felt groovy the next morning after drinking four beers and sleeping only five hours, so my unscientific opinion is that the stuff definitely helped. My friends, however, went overboard with the beer drinking and reported feeling as lousy as ever on Saturday. —Megan Miller