Amino acids are nutrients all proteins consist of. When we say muscles are formed by proteins and proteins are formed by amino acids, it is clear that amino acids form muscles. But not only this. Amino acids participate nearly in all the biological processes of the body. Amino acids are responsible for growth, restoration and strengthening of the body, as well as the production of enzymes, hormones and antibodies.
In bodybuilding, amino acids are an essential tool for muscle growth, physical and psychological recovery of an athlete after intense training. Everybody, who does sports, knows such terms as “lipolysis”, “catabolism” and “anabolism”. Amino acids control these processes.
There are about 20 amino acids and only nine of them are essential amino acids – that are not produced in our body naturally. In addition, some amino acids do not form proteins, yet are important for normal metabolism (for example, carnitine).
According to scientific research and various studies, amino acids play an important role in recovery of muscles after physical trainings. Moreover, scientists have found out that some amino acids protected muscles during “cutting” or weight loss process. It is a fact that when a person loses weight, his or her muscles atrophy without proper physical exercises. Amino acids never let that happen.
BCAA – branched chain amino acids are the most important amino acids for bodybuilders, since muscle tissue are formed of them by 35%. If you are a beginner and you want to become a successful bodybuilder, you should know that after each intense workout, your body loses up to 80% of all amino acids. Hence, sports nutrition that contains amino acids is very important for you.
Effects of amino acids
- Suppression of catabolism. Amino acids prevent catabolism (a breakdown of proteins). This process is very important for the body of any athlete after training, especially in cutting or weight loss workouts.
- Source of energy. Because amino acids and carbs are metabolized differently, an athlete can get much more energy from amino acids than from carbs during a workout.
- Fat burn.
- Increased protein synthesis. It is known that amino acids stimulate the release of insulin, thereby initiating the muscle growth. As mentioned above, amino acids build up muscles.
Types of amino acids
There are different types of amino acids. Some of them are isolates others come in mixes. Hydrolyzed amino acids are proteins that were split into components for better absorption. BCAA, for example, is a complex of three amino acids – valine, leucine and isoleucine. These amino acids are quickly absorbed in muscles. Many athletes say that if you see the word “hydrolyzed” on a package with amino acids sports supplement, meaning that it is just a pressed protein powder instead of actual amino acids. But special research has shown that such hydrolyzed protein is digested much more faster and better than regular (free) forms of amino acids.
Free amino acids
Free amino acids are rapidly absorbed in the body; get to the muscles preventing the catabolism there. These types of amino acids should be used before / during / after a workout. Lacks: are expensive.
Three main amino acids for muscles. Provide energy, muscle growth and prevent the catabolism. These three amino acids are rapidly absorbed and indicated for heavy workouts. BCAA should be used before / after workouts (5 g maximum). Lacks: are expensive.
Dipeptide and tripeptide amino acids
These amino acids are “food” for muscles, providing anabolism and suppressing the catabolism. Both dipeptide and tripeptide amino acids are quickly digested in the body and are used the same way as hydrolyzed amino acids complex. Lacks: an expensive and deficient sports nutrition product.
Hydrolyzed amino acids
This is the most rapidly absorbed amino acids form. Hydrolyzed amino acids nourish muscles, preventing the catabolism and provide anabolism. Hydrolyzed amino acids can also be used twice before and after each training and one more time in the morning. Lacks: this form of amino acids contains amino acids chains that must breakdown before getting into the blood stream.
When do I need to take amino acids?
It depends on your goals. If you are gaining muscles, then you should take amino acids before and after a workout. Some athletes use another dose of amino acids in the morning. In other time, it is better to take proteins. If you are losing weight, then you might need to take amino acids more often. You need to reduce the appetite, suppress catabolism and save muscles during weigh loss process. Amino acids can do all that perfectly.
Benefits of amino acids
Amino acids are a very important bodybuilding supplement, scientists and many bodybuilders proved that. Still, amino acids form proteins. The only difference between amino acids and proteins is that the first ones are digested in the body more rapidly than the second one. We only need this high rate of digestion before and after our workouts and one more time – in the morning. And if you decided to lose some weight – amino acids can help you by saving your muscles, reducing the appetite (although they are low in calories) and slow down the catabolism.
However, this sports supplement has some drawbacks as well. Low doses and high price are typical for any amino acid sports nutrition complex. Usually, 10 g of amino acids, taken 3 times daily is more than enough. You can take 30 g of protein supplement instead and get almost the same results, but protein sports supplements are much cheaper than amino acids.
- Check out the expiration date first!
- The color and consistency must be as indicated on the label
- The package should be properly sealed, corresponding to factory standards
- Amino acids taste bitter
- Powder amino acids are well dissolved in water (except for BCAA).
Forms of amino acids
As sports nutrition, amino acids are produced in the form of powder, pills, capsules and syrups and all these forms are equally effective. Moreover, some manufacturers produce amino acids for intravenous injections. However, injected amino acids do the same job as other forms do, so amino acids injections are not recommended due to high risk of side effects.
Optimal doses of amino acids
In bodybuilding, a minimal dose of amino acid complex is 5 g (per intake). It was recorded that the best results can be achieved with 10 g or 20 g dose of amino acids (per intake). If you are going to purchase some amino acids complex, please check out the label: sometimes, the recommended doses are too low, meaning you will need to buy more of this product and overpay for this supplement.
Combination with other sports supplements
You can combine amino acids with all kinds of sports supplements. However, not all of them can be mixed together (for example, in one shake). Make sure you read the label on the pack before using any sports supplement together with another one. It is not recommended to use amino acids together with proteins, gainers or food replacements, since this may slow down their absorption.
Side effects of amino acids
Scientists and bodybuilders agree: amino acids have no side effects. They are natural components in the human body. Therefore, you may use amino acids whenever you like, even if you are not involved in any sports.
- Amino acids list
- Determination of amino acids in foods
- Best amino acids.
Boza JJ, Moënnoz D, Vuichoud J, Jarret AR, Gaudard-de-Weck D, Ballèvre O – Protein hydrolysate vs free amino acid-based diets on the nutritional recovery of the starved rat. – Eur J Nutr. 2000 Dec;39(6):237-43