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7 Reasons You Need N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) Supplements

You know amino acids are the building blocks of protein and are paramount to all fitness accomplishments. So, you prioritize whole-food protein, use a protein supplement, and perhaps even add some EAA supplements here and there. But did you know supplementing with non-essential and semi-essential amino acids can be beneficial as well?

NAC supplements, short for N-acetyl cysteine, are the next big thing in the supplement world. Let’s talk about what it is, the benefits of NAC, and why you need it.


What is N-Acetyl Cysteine?

N-acetyl cysteine is the supplement version of cysteine. Cysteine is a semi-essential amino acid found in the body and high-protein foods, like yogurt, cheese, eggs, turkey, chicken, some seeds, and legumes.


What is a Semi-Essential Amino Acid?

There are 3 classifications of amino acids:

  • non-essential amino acids
  • essential amino acids
  • conditionally essential (or semi-essential) amino acids


Non-essential amino acids are those we don’t need to consume through food because the body produces them from other amino acids. Essential amino acids are those we need to get from food sources.

The last classification, conditional or semi-essential amino acids, are those that the body can typically make on its own but sometimes requires help from foods. In times like infancy, sickness, and injury, the body might use more of these amino acids than normal.


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What are NAC Supplements?

NAC is short for N-acetyl cysteine, so NAC supplements are N-acetyl cysteine supplements. Unlike many dietary supplements, N-acetyl cysteine is FDA and Health Canada approved.

Medical providers use N-acetyl cysteine for various reasons, including treatment of acetaminophen poisoning. While over-the-counter supplement use is allowed in Canada, the US requires a prescription to ensure guidance by a professional.

So, let’s talk about the benefits of NAC supplements and why you should include them!


What are the Benefits of NAC Supplements?

For a conditionally essential amino acid, the benefits of NAC are varied and plentiful, ranging from better respiratory health to improved brain health. These are the top seven reasons to give this supplement a try:


1. NAC Supplements Benefit Mental Health

Mood disorders are an unfortunate reality for many otherwise healthy adults, and if you relate, you might be even more interested in this incredible supplement.

NAC has been shown to ease symptoms of bipolar disorder, depression, and OCD. The theory behind the symptom relief is NAC’s role in regulating glutamate. Glutamate is a vital neurotransmitter required for everyday brain activity.


2. NAC Supplements Promote Fertility

As with mood disorders, fertility struggles are another unfortunately common struggle among today’s adults. One of the benefits of NAC supplements is their apparent positive effect on fertility in both men and women.

Some researchers suggest supplementation as a treatment option for male infertility due to varicocele and damage from free radicals. Additionally, NAC may be a viable fertility treatment in women with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome).


3. N-Acetyl Cysteine Supports Liver and Kidney Health

One of cysteine’s roles within the body is to assist in the detoxification process. As you might know, the kidneys and liver are primarily responsible for filtering toxins out of the body.

One of the most thoroughly understood benefits of NAC is that it binds to toxins within the liver and shuttles them out of the body. Therefore, NAC is an effective treatment for acetaminophen poisoning.   

These supplements also help filter out environmental toxins in addition to the harmful effects of drugs.


4. Benefits of NAC Supplements Include Support for Substance Abuse Conditions

In addition to supporting mental health, studies on NAC Supplements also suggest that withdrawal symptoms associated with cocaine and nicotine addictions and cannabis dependency can be decreased.

Currently, people struggling with addiction and substances don’t have as many treatment options available to them. Therefore this supplement can help to get through one of the most significant barriers to recovery.


5. NAC Supplements Benefit Respiratory Health

Another powerful benefit of NAC is its effect on lung health. NAC acts as an expectorant, loosening phlegm in your airways, and it also reduces inflammation in lung tissue and bronchial tubes.

These effects positively impact symptoms of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), chronic bronchitis, cystic fibrosis, asthma, and pulmonary fibrosis. It can also reduce symptoms of sinus congestion from allergies or infections.


6. N-Acetyl Cysteine Supports Brain Health

The regulation of glutamate mentioned above certainly promotes overall brain health. In addition, glutathione acts as a powerful antioxidant in the brain and body, and it’s also regulated by cysteine.

This combination positively influences brain health and memory and potentially improves and slows the effects of neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.


7. Benefits of NAC Supplements Include Antioxidant Power

The benefits of regulating glutathione go beyond brain health. This antioxidant superpower supports immune function and neutralizes free radicals that would otherwise cause oxidative damage.

Some researchers believe that glutathione levels contribute to longevity, meaning it extends the lifespan. This is because neutralizing free radicals has countless health benefits, including reduced risk of cancer and inflammation-related diseases.


How Much is Needed to Get the Benefits of NAC?

While there are no specific guidelines for supplemental use of NAC, research suggests that anywhere from 600-1800 mg of NAC is safe and effective. As always, please discuss your supplement use with a trusted healthcare professional.


Do NAC Supplements Have Known Risks and Side Effects?

NAC Supplements are safe for most adults, especially when used under the guidance of a medical professional.

In large doses, N-acetyl cysteine can cause the following side effects:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • dry mouth


Additionally, some people might have trouble with the odor associated with the supplement.


Potential Drug Interactions

N-acetyl cysteine is known to cause some major and moderate drug interactions. These are a few to be aware of:

  • nitroglycerine
  • activated charcoal
  • chloroquine
  • high blood pressure medications
  • anticoagulant medications


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There are plenty of options to choose from when you’re looking to supplement your diet. Unfortunately, many are not very effective or simply not backed by current, respected research. NAC supplements, on the other hand, have tons of benefits that are well researched and understood.

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