Getting the right supplements can be confusing. Amino acids are a great example.
Why do you need them?
How do they help?
What do you really need to know?
Don’t worry. We got your back. Here’s everything you need to know about amino acids.
Been to a sports nutrition store lately?
If so, you’ve seen all the protein supplement products. Most health and fitness enthusiasts these days understand the importance of protein in their diet. They are aware that it is an essential part of building and strengthening the body, and amino acids are the key building blocks of it. It’s surprising though, how little so many fitness fanatics really know about amino acids and their importance. I’d like to explain a little more on what they are and their role.
Quite simply, amino acids are the building blocks of protein, as well as muscle tissue. They also play a major part in physiological processes relating to energy, recovery, mood, brain function, building muscle and strength gains. More surprisingly, they are also vital in the quest for fat loss diet.
You will always find them listed on protein powders and many natural protein foods. It is common to think of every protein source as being the same thing. The truth is that meat, yogurt, chicken, cottage cheese and fish – among others – are not all created equally. This is because each of these protein-rich foods has diverse types and amounts of amino acids. These play a crucial role in your body.
What role is that?
Simple, repairing and building new muscle tissue.
What Do Amino Acids Do?
Amino acids are made naturally in the body as what is known as non-essential amino acids. The non-essential amino acids provide many different functions.
These include removing toxins, promoting proper brain activity, synthesizing blood cells, providing antioxidants, boosting immunity and providing energy.You will want to go over the best amino acids for muscle growth.
Without the proper level of amino acids, it’s very easy to feel off. You could become ill, feel sluggish and experience other side effects, especially if your training is intense. Provided you have a good diet, you will likely get all the essential amino acids from your food. Even with that, you do still need to refuel these amino acids on a daily basis.
Eating a varied diet can help you get all of the nutrition you need for total health. Everything from green beans to dark chocolate carries something essential. The same can be said for a variety of fruits, veggies, beans, dairy and fish or meat sources. Once your body receives these plant proteins, it converts them into proteins that are usable.
Remember, though, that as with almost everything, too much of any one thing, including amino acids, can be detrimental. It can have possible harmful effects. That’s why too many amino acids and too much protein is not a good idea for a healthy body.
There’s a lot of debate among, the pros right now regarding the use of amino acids. There’s scientific evidence that more amino acids are required for your body to function properly. On the flip side, there’s also the conflicting argument that too many amino acids can lead to hardening of the arteries. The jury is still out. From personal experience, if you are training hard and taking care of overall health, the addition of amino acids is a safe and sensible practice.
These Are Amino Acids
The 20 amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. They can be combined in many ways to form hundreds of different proteins in the body. When protein is eaten, it’s broken down in the digestive tract into smaller units. These are known as single amino acids and dipeptides. Dipeptides are just two amino’s linked together. You can always check out the best tasting protein powder for more ideas.
Twelve of the amino acids can be made in the body from other amino acids, as well as carbohydrate and nitrogen. These are the dispensable or non-essential amino acids (NEAAs). The other eight are known as indispensable or essential amino acids (EAAs). These are the ones that must be supplied in the diet.
What follows is a list of the amino acids. They are: Isoleucine, alanine, leucine, arginine, lysine, asparagine, methionine, aspartic acid, phenylalanine, cysteine, threonine, glutamic acid, tryptophan, glutamine, valine, glycine, histidine, proline, serine and tyrosine. Histidine is essential for babies only, not for adults.
Branched Chain Amino Acids
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) include the three EAAs with a branched molecular configuration: Valine, leucine, and isoleucine. They make up one-third of muscle protein and are a vital substitute for two other amino acids. Glutamine and alanine are the other two amino acids.
These are released in larger quantities during any of your intense aerobic sessions. They can also be used directly as fuel by the muscles, especially when muscle glycogen is depleted. So the body’s real requirement is for amino acids instead of the more commonly spoken pure protein. These are then reassembled into new proteins with hundreds or thousands of amino acids linked together.
In general, when we eat a meal, we do not pay too much attention to the content and balance of amino acids. Even still, the content of the meal determines the health building value of the protein food or supplement. Also, the amino acid content of any meal, and how it reacts with the other macronutrients it’s consumed with, is important to support the digestion, absorption and the bioavailability.
What Is Bioavailability?
Bioavailability is a measure of the efficiency of delivery and how much of what is eaten is used by the body. There are various factors that determine the amino acid bioavailability.
One factor is how much fat is contained in the protein source and the length of time it takes for the amino acids to be available for use by the body. Cooking also can affect the amino acids. Some are more or less sensitive to heat and cooking may cause decomposition of some amino acids. I always suggest that protein rich foods are cooked as little as possible.
Needless to say, I prefer steak to be rare!
The physical nature of the particular food is also a factor. For example, whether it is a solid, liquid, powder or a tablet is important. You also have to be aware of the fillers and binders in the amino’s you take in. This can have a great impact on digestion and how quickly it is in action to help fuel your gains.
Does that seem like a lot to take in?
It gets even more complex. The condition of our digestive system can also have an effect on amino acid digestion. Genetics, age, health, specific diseases, and illnesses all have, an effect. Amino acid supplementation isn’t as simple as it first seems!
This Is What Happens When Strength Training
Without getting overly technical, weight training generally stimulates both protein synthesis and protein degradation in exercised muscle fibers. Muscle growth can then take place.
The normal hormonal environment, insulin and growth hormone levels in the period right after you workout sparks the anabolic process of your muscles. It also slows down protein degradation.
What does all this mean for you?
Your muscles are growing.
Dietary modifications that shoot amino acids into muscles increase the rate of muscle anabolism and/or decrease muscle catabolism. Both of these are great and the intended goal. Either effect will create a positive body protein balance for improved muscle growth and strength.
Is Fat Loss Your Goal?
Whenever the goal is fat loss, it’s often the case that calories are restricted. Therefore, the body is obviously deprived of certain nutrients essential for overall health and fitness. This is where amino acid supplementation can be so vital and you can learn how to get rid of love handles.
Many nutrients can assist in the conversion of fat to energy including the amino acid methionine. In the proper amounts it can help improve the transport and metabolism of fat.
When attempting to keep our total calories down during dieting, amino acid supplements, including bcaa for men and glutamine, can also help to keep our food volume down but still provide support directly to the muscles, liver and our immune systems which are vital to optimal overall health. The strength building benefits of amino’s also have a role in developing the best six pack ever.
It’s almost too good to be true!
Muscle Breakdown Can Happen
The body has the ability to breakdown muscle tissue for use as an energy source during heavy exercise. This is called gluconeogenesis.
What does this mean?
It means producing or generating glucose from non-carb sources. If we consume supplemental BCAAs, the body doesn’t have to break down the muscle tissue to gain extra energy.
Multiple studies have now concluded that the use of BCAAs (up to 4 gram) during and after workouts can result in a large reduction of muscle breakdown during training. Catabolism of muscle can actually cause shrinkage of the muscles and muscle soreness. It may also lead to injury. That’s the complete opposite of what the goal is from the training and building muscle! Don’t let that happen!
The popularity of amino acid supplements has increased dramatically. Packaged workout and recovery drinks that have hydrolyzed (pre-digested) proteins and often some free-form amino acids can be found in most gyms, health stores and even supermarkets. Tubs of powdered or amino acids capsules are also being used more and more by gym goers.
A benefit with these supplements is that they don’t require digestion the same way food does. The term free-form means that they are free of chemical bonds to other molecules. Because of that, they move quickly through the stomach, into the small intestines where they are very quickly absorbed into the bloodstream.
When absorbed, the liver then processes these amino acids. The liver can only process so many at one time. That is why taking a dose of 3 or 4grams of amino acids is a safe amount. Fitness enthusiasts may be tempted to add amino acid supplements to their diets if nothing else, then simply because of the importance of alanine.
Alanine is a non-essential amino acid that helps remove the toxins from your body that get released during intense workouts. However, alanine is produced naturally in the body. If you are in good health, workout often and eat well, you really should not need to be supplement with it.
Are They Right For You?
Before deciding to supplement your diet with amino acids, you need to really have a good look at your daily routine. I suggest that you make sure you are working out with a sensible and structured plan. You also need to be eating a balanced diet that closely follows the good pyramid guide. This means you have to eat a variety of fruits and veggies and get enough natural foods that are packed with amino acids.
Stay hydrated throughout the day and drink a lot of water during and after any workout. If you’re not feeling well or if you are not sure if your body is making and getting enough amino acids, be sure to talk with your doctor. Just be sensible when taking extra amino acid supplements. It all really comes down to your own unique goals, physiology and training intensity as to whether you should supplement or not.
Want to better your health?
Simply commit to a healthy lifestyle, exercise, and a proper diet. If you are doing everything possible to live a standard, active life and eat well, your body should be producing all of the amino acids you need. But if you want to take it to that next level, then amino acid supplementation may be a good idea.
By Keith Cormican, RD