Amino Acids 101
Every serious athlete knows the importance of proteins. We consume them, track them, and use them to build muscle. But just as proteins build muscle, amino acids build proteins. Amino acids are the key to building more muscle, and knowing which ones are essential can change the way you view your pre- and post-workout routine.
What Are Essential Amino Acids?
Out of the 80 amino acids found in nature, nine are categorized as “essential.” Those nine essential amino acids, or EAAs, can only be obtained through consumption, as the body cannot produce them. By taking an EAA supplement, you can make sure your body has all of the essential amino acids it needs.
What Can Essential Amino Acids Do?
Essential amino acids are needed for full-body health, but you might not realize how much they achieve. Essential amino acids are used to:
- Build cells
- Create hormones
- Produce antibodies
- Provide energy
- Produce enzymes
- Repair damaged cells
They also have serious benefits for those with active lifestyles:
- Reduce muscle soreness
- Decrease exercise fatigue
- Improve liver function
- Improve mood
- Better sleep
- Promote weight loss
Now you might understand why they’re called “essential.” But when we look at the role amino acids play in building muscle mass, BCAAs are the most important.
What Are BCAAs?
While the nine EAAs are vital for your overall body, only three of them are used in building muscle: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These are called branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs, and they are responsible for protein synthesis in building muscle and maintaining glycogen stores. That means they stop your body from targeting and breaking down existing muscle protein after your hard workout, so you build muscle without losing any.
How Can I Consume BCAAs?
One BCAA, leucine, can be found in whey protein, but it is bound to other amino acids which makes it harder to break down (tip: that’s why whey protein is best taken post-workout). Taking a BCAA-specific supplement can actually shorten the process your body uses to build muscle. Let us break it down: when we eat foods with protein, our body breaks the protein down into amino acids, and sends those amino acids to your muscles, where they build back up into proteins again. By taking a BCAA supplement, the already-broken-down amino acids can go straight to the muscle to synthesize, which shortens recovery time and uses less energy between workouts.
When Should I Take BCAAs?
The most effective time to take BCAAs is directly after your workout. But amino acids can also be taken before and during a workout to give you that extra boost of fuel without weighing you down like a heavy protein shake. For easy pre-workout, during, or post-workout amino acid consumption, we carry BCAA supplements such as Allmax Aminocore, ANS Performance Quench BCAA, Beyond Yourself AMRAP, and Mutant BCAA 9.7 These come in flavors like fruit punch, pink lemonade, strawberry kiwi, and even watermelon.
Supplements like protein shakes are important, but when you really look into the science of your body, you can have more control in the recovery time and muscle building process than you ever realized. Work smarter, not harder, when you start your amino acid supplement today.