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Your Guide to Amino Acids and Supplements

If you’re new to the world of protein powders and various workout supplements, we know it can be a bit overwhelming. It can be tough deciding which supplements are high-quality and suited for your specific needs and goals. So we've put together the ultimate guide to help you break down the essentials. We’ll share the vital role amino acids and protein play in all your health needs, regardless of if you’re bulking up, trimming down, or just looking to lead a healthier lifestyle. 

Understanding Amino Acids

What Are Essential Amino Acids?

Benefits of Essential Amino Acid Supplements

Understanding BCAAs

Benefits of Adding BCAA Supplements

Best Time to Take Your Amino Acid Supplements

Understanding the Importance of Protein

What is Protein Powder?

Protein Powder and BCAAs

Protein Powder Benefits

Types of Protein Powder

Whey Protein Powder Benefits

Casein Protein Powder Benefits

Additional Protein Supplements

Milk Protein

Whey Protein Vs. BCAA Supplements

 

Understanding Amino Acids

Amino acids are essential in many roles the human body is responsible for. Familiarizing yourself with the fundamentals of amino acids will help you grasp what they are, how they work, and what they can offer you.

Amino acids are the building blocks for forming proteins within your body and are crucial in supporting its ability to replace lost proteins. Along with proteins, these organic compounds are foundational elements of your overall health.

Your body relies on amino acids for an array of processes, including food breakdown, muscle repair, and muscle tissue regrowth. The combination of amino acids and protein also offers one of the most effective ways to repair and grow lean muscle.

Amino acids function as incredible energy sources. This benefit makes them invaluable during those tough endurance workouts. In addition, when you fuel your body with foods or supplements packed with amino acids, you support increased energy levels and boost your overall health.

almonds in a white dish and around the outside of the dish

Best food sources for amino acids include:

  • Almonds
  • Lean meats
  • Fish
  • Tofu
  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Quinoa
  • Brown rice

What Are Essential Amino Acids?

There are twenty amino acids that make up proteins. Of these twenty, only nine are considered essential amino acids. Unfortunately, your body can’t produce these nine essential amino acids naturally, making it necessary to consume them.

The nine essential amino acids include:

  • Histidine
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Valine
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Histidine supports healthy sleep-wake cycles, digestion, and immune response. Histamine production also protects your nerve cells’ myelin sheath.

Isoleucine regulates energy and supports your muscle metabolism and hemoglobin production.

Leucine regulates blood sugar levels and aids in the repair of your muscles and protein synthesis.

Lysine supports enzyme and hormone production, protein synthesis, and energy.

Methionine plays a vital role in absorbing vital minerals, detoxification, metabolism, and tissue growth.

Phenylalanine is essential in producing additional amino acids.

Threonine supports proper immune function, healthy skin, connective tissues, and fat metabolism.

Tryptophan supports proper sleep, hunger, and mood regulation.

Valine helps stimulate muscle growth, energy, and muscle regeneration by regulating your serotonin levels. 

Benefits of Essential Amino Acid Supplements

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Essential amino acids are vital to your overall wellness and health. Adding essential amino acid supplements provides various benefits, including energy increases, repairing damaged cells, and building new cells.

Incorporating these supplements can help your body produce enzymes and create necessary hormones. They also produce the required antibodies needed to support and maintain your health.

When essential amino acid supplements are used during your workouts, they help decrease exercise fatigue and muscle soreness.

Additional benefits of essential amino acid supplements include:

  • Optimal liver function
  • Heightened mood
  • Improved quality of sleep
  • Weight-loss support 

Understanding BCAAs

BCAAs, or branch chain amino acids, play a vital role in your health, wellness, and fitness goals. Three essential amino acids make up BCAAs: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Let’s take a closer look at the roles these three essential amino acids play.

Leucine

Leucine is necessary for increasing your overall muscle mass while strength training and can aid in maintaining your muscle mass when dieting.

Leucine promotes protein synthesis by stimulating DNA synthesis. It also helps control blood sugar levels and plays a vital role in protein synthesis initiation.

This amino acid helps you maintain peak athletic performance by supporting both your mental and physical health. 

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Isoleucine

Isoleucine is a branch chain amino acid that improves your body's overall endurance during prolonged activity. Isoleucine also helps boost your energy levels.

It also aids in the management of blood sugar during and after exercise. It helps you avoid an energy deficit during or following your workout.

Valine

Valine is essential in repairing damaged muscle tissue and may aid in the recovery process.

It supports the improvement of your endurance during extended workouts.

This amino acid also serves as an appetite suppressant, allowing you to maintain focus on your healthful eating goals. This benefit will help you meet weight-reduction objectives and avoid post-workout hunger and cravings.

As you consider amino acid supplements, select one that contains all three BCAAs. Together, they will provide you with the stamina you need to go through your most challenging training sessions while supporting muscle repair and growth.

Benefits of Adding BCAA Supplements

Taking BCAA supplements in conjunction with your regular workout regimen can help you achieve your health and wellness objectives quickly. BCAAs aid your body in storing glycogen, which is the primary fuel source for energy production in muscles. You’ll be able to get in a more challenging workout when you have enough reserves to draw on during exercise.

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Since your body cannot naturally produce branch chain amino acids, finding a high-quality BCAA supplement is essential. High-quality BCAA supplements are quick, effective, and beneficial to meeting your goals. Once your BCAA enters your bloodstream, it heads straight to the areas of need to repair your muscles as soon as you need it. BCAAs also help preserve muscle protein and target muscle repair the moment they enter your bloodstream.

When you use branch chain amino acids to support weight loss, you’ll also benefit from curbed cravings (especially carb cravings) and increased muscle mass support. 

Additional benefits of utilizing branch chain amino acids include:

  • Promotes loss of fat
  • Boosts focus and clarity
  • Better protein absorption
  • Increase sustained energy
  • Combats muscle fatigue
  • Increases endurance levels
  • Decreases recovery time 

Top Reasons BCAAs are Ideal for Your Fitness Goals

While there are many incredible BCAA benefits, a few are ideal for meeting your fitness goals. Among the most important is providing enhanced immune system protection.

When you exhaust your body without adequate rest time between exercise sessions, you may increase the chance of adverse effects on your body. For instance, athletes who frequently train for several days at a time with high-volume, intensive exercises are prone to fatigue, injury, and immune suppression.

The immune system is bolstered when you use a BCAA supplement for months on end. In addition to that, the immune system is strengthened and able to endure weeks of rigorous exercise by continuing to take a BCAA supplement.

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Branch chain amino acid supplements present in immune cells in your gut have been shown to stimulate the immune system's regeneration and resistance against pathogens. Therefore, continued use may strengthen your immune system and endurance by utilizing this source as fuel.

BCAAs promote your fitness objectives by reducing muscular soreness caused by intensive exercise. When taken before and after training sessions, branch chain amino acid supplements help decrease and even prevent muscle soreness.

DOMS, or delayed onset muscle soreness, can last several days and keep you from maintaining those hardcore sessions. However, using high-quality BCAA supplements can protect your body against severe muscle damage typical in endurance and resistance workouts. As a result, you'll experience quicker recovery times and less muscle fatigue and soreness.

Branch chain amino acids also support your fitness goals through:

  • Protecting lean muscle
  • Muscle protein synthesis support
  • Fat burn increases
  • Lowering effects of exercise fatigue
  • Protection against muscle wasting 

Best Time to Take Your Amino Acid Supplements

When deciding which BCAA supplement is suitable for your needs, keep in mind that timing is crucial. When you consume your amino acid supplement, believe it or not, the time of day has a significant impact on whether you maximize lean muscle growth and protein synthesis.

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Most BCAA supplements are shakes, making them convenient to drink when you're at the gym or driving home post-workout. However, the optimal time to take your branch chain amino acid supplement is 45 minutes following your activity. This period is known as the anabolic window. This prime opportunity after an exercise offers optimal benefits from BCAAs and protein to repair and build muscle.

You may also choose to take your BCAA supplement during your workout. This timeframe will help with muscle soreness and give you more mental focus and energy during your lifting session.

Timing Your Amino Acid Supplement According to Your Goals

Alternatively, you can time your supplement consumption around your primary fitness goals. Here are some helpful tips to help you plan the optimal time to incorporate your amino acid supplements:

Pre-Workout

Pre-workout BCAA supplements are ideal for those who want to lose weight while gaining muscle. The amino acids will be absorbed by your muscles 30 to 45 minutes before your workout. 

The 30–45-minute timeframe allows optimal benefits, which include:

  • Maintaining muscle mass during cardio workouts
  • Minimizing muscle fatigue
  • Increasing rep workouts
  • Support and maintain gains
  • Support muscle growth
  • Reduce recovery time

During Your Workout

man working out on athletic field

Taking your branch chain amino acid supplement during your workout is a beneficial option. You'll increase stamina with a significant energy boost. In addition, your supplement will help block serotonin while boosting your clarity and focus. As a result, you'll notice more motivation, strength, and an intensified workout.

Throughout the Day

If you're using amino acid supplements to support general weight maintenance or a healthier diet, the time isn't as important. Taking your supplement at any time during the day can provide you with optimal BCAA benefits for these objectives.

If your goals include weight loss or maintenance, you may choose to take your supplement before or between meals. These timeframes will assist you in controlling your appetite and avoiding excess calorie consumption. 

Proper Amino Acid Supplement Dosage

According to your gender, weight, and health goals, BCAA dosages will differ. While you should follow the instructions for each BCAA supplement, consider the following factors:

  • Women consume an average of 9 grams per day.
  • Men average roughly 12 grams of BCAAs per day.
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Most bodybuilders consume an average of 35 grams per day for optimal results. However, while some weight trainers consume more than 35 grams, there are no proven results justifying the higher dosage. In fact, BCAA benefits tend to stop being seen once you’ve passed a certain dosage threshold.

While there are no current studies with evidence of damaging side effects, it is recommended you stick to the recommended dosage guidelines. 

Understanding the Importance of Protein

Protein is an essential macronutrient that promotes bodily health and wellness. The majority of your immune system, muscles, and organs are made up of protein.

Protein also aids in the maintenance and growth of body tissue and replaces tissues throughout the body. Since proteins are made up of amino acids, it is an essential component of your muscle growth and repair process.

Protein is an essential component of bone, skin, and muscular health. It is essential for keeping your body going, growing, and defending against disease. Protein sources are also used to transport nutrients and oxygen through your blood.

grenade carb killa protein bar

Since your body cannot produce the essential amino acids, implementing a protein-rich diet can help improve and support your health and fitness goals. Complete protein sources are foods that contain all the essential amino acids. Fish, meat, poultry, eggs, and milk are examples of complete protein sources derived from animal products.

Unfortunately, many non-animal-based protein sources are low in one or more of the essential amino acids required for optimum health and well-being. While there are several excellent options, protein powder supplements are highly recommended to fulfill what your body lacks to guarantee optimal health and wellness.

What is Protein Powder?

Protein powders are concentrated sources of protein derived from animal or plant foods. They are valuable additions to diets containing insufficient protein. Protein powder advantages include convenience, energy boosts, and the prevention of certain illnesses.

Who Should Use Supplements for Protein?

There are several reasons why you should consider supplementing your diet with protein powders. First, you don't need to be an athlete to benefit from the advantages and rewards of protein powder supplementation. 

Supplementing with protein is beneficial to everyone, including those who:

  • May be new to working out
  • Are beginning a new workout routine or diet
  • Want to build muscle
  • Are trying to lose weight
  • Wish to increase their number of workouts or their intensity level
  • May be training for a marathon
  • Are recovering from an injury

May be experiencing symptoms of low protein intake, which may include:

  • Unusual bouts of fatigue
  • Weakness while lifting weights or participating in strenuous activities
  • Experiencing slower than usual recovery time after an injury

Protein Powder and BCAAs

You may want to consider combining your branch chain amino acid supplements with a protein powder supplement. The two are known to work well together, yielding excellent results.

The quick and effective work of BCAA supplements allows the protein powder to be quickly and easily absorbed during the anabolic window. Together, these two supplements work to stimulate your hormones, replenish BCAAs, provide energy to push through your sessions, and accomplish incredible gains. You’ll even achieve your muscle-building goals while gaining additional benefits.

You’ll also benefit from combining protein powder and BCAAs by experiencing:

  • Decreased muscle repair time
  • A satisfied stomach resulting from reduced cravings
  • Strengthening your immune system
  • More reps and extended sets with a boost in your energy levels 

Protein Powder Benefits

Let’s take a look at some of the top protein powder benefits you can expect when implementing supplements for protein:

  • Weight loss
  • Weight maintenance
  • Improved lean body mass
  • Enhanced endurance
  • Quicker recovery time
  • Support bulking
  • Toned muscles
  • Help producing hormones and enzymes
  • Pre-workout and post-workout support
  • Lower blood pressure

Protein Powder for Weight Loss

Protein powder promotes a healthy metabolism, resulting in a reduction in hunger. In addition, protein supplements may help you lose weight while preserving muscle. 

Protein Powder for Weight Maintenance

Protein supplements can help you reach your weight reduction and management goals. Protein-rich foods make you feel fuller for a more extended time than other fillers you’re used to.

Protein powder supplements support your weight maintenance by helping you cut down on meal sizes and snack less often. You’ll also increase muscle mass with your influx of protein. More muscle means a more active metabolism.

Protein Powder for Improving Lean Body Mass

Protein-enriched drinks, for example, work by enhancing the growth of lean muscle tissue. In addition, supplementing with protein powder has benefited healthy adults who resistance train to enhance muscularity and strength. 

Protein Powder for Quicker Recovery Time

Your damaged cells and tissues require adequate time to heal. Protein powder speeds up the healing process, cutting down your recovery time.

Protein powders are fast-acting and quick-absorbing. So those sore muscles will heal quicker after rigorous workouts, and you’ll be back at it again in less time.

Protein Powder for Bulking

Protein is essential for healthily achieving realistic bulking objectives. In addition, protein powder supplements can assist you in getting your desired muscle mass in less time through quick recovery between rigorous sessions.

Bulking demands the consumption of additional carbohydrates and fats. Protein supplements are developed with large amounts of essential macronutrients to help you achieve a healthy bulk. As a result, they deliver 30 to 200 grams of carbs and 20 to 50 grams of protein in a hurry to help you reach optimal bulking.

Protein Powder for Your Pre-Workout

A pre-workout protein powder shake added to your workout can be the game-changer you're looking for. Consider pre-workout supplements as a way to prepare your body for the strenuous workout it's about to take on.

If you want to boost your workout, a protein powder with carbs will give you the energy you need to perform at your best. In addition, the combination provides your body with extra energy to burn away waste, helping to minimize muscular strain.

The timing of your pre-workout protein powder is crucial. A protein shake should be consumed approximately thirty minutes before your workout for optimum results. If you drink your shake too early, you could miss out on the benefits. Drinking your shake just before a workout may result in stomach discomfort since you won't have enough time to digest it.

Protein Powder for Your Post-Workout

A post-workout protein shake is a great way to replenish nutrients and vitamins vital for recovery after exercise. Furthermore, an excellent workout recuperation allows your muscles and tissues to relax and heal.

Carbohydrates are essential in a high-quality protein powder supplement. Carbs help your body produce insulin more effectively. Your post-workout will aid in the transport of nutrients throughout your muscles to promote rapid healing and recovery.

Like your pre-workout, the timing of your post-workout protein drink is crucial. Drink your shake as soon as possible after your workout. This period is when you'll notice the most benefits from consuming a protein shake.

Protein Powder for Your Blood Pressure

Protein powder even offers health benefits for high blood pressure. The addition of protein supplements can help lower your risk for heart disease. The link may stem from the consumption of bioactive peptides found in dairy products.

Types of Protein Powder

The type of protein powder you select should be based on your fitness goals, health needs, and lifestyle. Whether you're searching for animal- or plant-based options, there are various sources to choose from.

Protein Powder Sources: 

Plant-Based Protein

Vegan- and vegetarian-friendly plant-based protein supplements are composed only of plant protein. They're made up of a wide range of plants to ensure that the supplement provides all the essential amino acids. Single-ingredient plant-based dietary supplements, on the other hand, exist.  

If you have dairy allergies or limitations, vegan powders are an excellent alternative. If you're going vegetarian, we also suggest trying a plant-based diet. You'll make sure your body gets everything it needs while you transition to a vegan lifestyle.

Common sources of plant protein include:

Soy Protein Powder Benefits

Soybean isolate is made when soybeans are ground into a meal and processed. Soy protein powder isolate is a popular option due to its low-carb and high protein content. 

Soy protein is packed full of additional benefits, including:

  • Glutamine for quick recovery
  • BCAAs for recovery support
  • Arginine to dilate blood vessels so nutrients can reach muscles quickly and efficiently

Pea Protein Powder Benefits

There are several excellent plant-based protein powders made with pea protein. Pea offers support for muscle growth and weight loss. In addition, this nutritious, high-quality dairy and soy alternative offers an excellent source of arginine and iron.

Hemp Protein Benefits

Hemp is another supplement commonly used by vegans and those with soy or dairy allergies. Hemp seeds are beneficial as a complete protein packed with essential fatty acids.

Unlike many animal-protein sources, hemp protein does not contain all the worrisome cholesterol and saturated fats.

Additional hemp protein powder benefits include:
  • A boost in metabolism
  • Support for your digestive system
  • Support in gaining lean body mass 

Whey Protein Powder Benefits

Whey is known as the king of protein. Whey is offered in concentrate and isolate form.

Whey concentrate is typically a cost-effective option and is popular as a pre-workout, post-workout, and meal supplement.

In isolate form, whey is a faster absorbing protein. Whey isolates generally offer low-carb and sugar options, ideal for low-carb diets.

Whey isolate is also much easier for the body to process and absorb than whole milk. These advantages allow critical elements to enter the circulation more quickly. This rapid conveyance will significantly enhance your post-workout recovery.

Whey isolate is virtually lactose-free during the refining process. Therefore, this form of whey may benefit individuals who can't digest dairy and may provide an excellent substitute for them.

Whey and casein are the two proteins found in milk. Whey protein powder’s popularity stems in part from Western cultures' dairy fixation. 

Why Whey?

Whey protein, which is produced when milk coagulates, accounts for about 20% of the protein present in milk. It's the cheese industry's watery byproduct. Whey protein is high in essential amino acids and plays a crucial role in maintaining optimal health.

Whey is known for enhancing athletic performance due to its high protein content.

Casein Protein Powder Benefits

Casein is a dairy protein that is digested more slowly than other varieties. It's the final 80% of milk protein and a byproduct of cheese production.

There are several bioactive peptides present in casein. These peptides can help your immune and digestive systems function more effectively and promote heart health.

Casein has been shown to aid in the recovery process after exercise. It may be used as a meal replacement or as a snack before bed. Because digestion takes 5-7 hours, your muscles are fed and nurtured throughout the day, whether you're awake or asleep.

Casein also supports and boosts your overall muscle growth. 

Additional Protein Supplements 

Sometimes, the typical protein supplements won’t fit all your needs. Other options you should consider include:

Egg Albumin

Loaded with egg albumin, egg whites were often a go-to source of protein. Their impressive amino acid profile makes them an excellent option for your muscle-building and lean muscle mass goals. 

Hydrolysate Protein

Hydrolysate protein is derived from casein. This protein source has a solid anabolic impact.

Hydrolysate protein powder is gentler on your stomach. It can also be used before and after your workouts.

Bone Broth Protein

Bone broth is known for its healing benefits; it improves health and physical appearance. In addition, because of the extraction technique, bone broth powdered protein supplements can deliver you all of the protein from the liquid without using casein or whey. 

This nutrient-rich protein includes:

  • Chondroitin and glucosamine for joint health
  • Glutamine for muscle soreness and damage reduction
  • Proline to repair joints
  • Hyaluronic acid for maintaining joint and ligament flexibility
  • Protein collagen
  • Amino acid glycine for muscle loss prevention

Milk Protein

Whey and casein proteins can be found in milk protein isolate. It offers various proteins and is packed with amino acids.

Milk protein powder isn’t a typical first choice but is an option that helps improve bone strength and support the immune system.

Milk protein contains all nine essential amino acids. It provides an excellent source of leucine to start muscle protein synthesis.

Not only does milk protein stimulate muscle growth quicker than casein protein, but the growth may also continue over a more extended period than whey protein powder offers. 

Whey Protein Vs. BCAA Supplements

You may have heard the debate surrounding whey protein versus branch chain amino acid supplements. Consider these two factors when selecting between the two supplements:

Whey protein powder does not meet everyone’s dietary needs. In addition, since it is derived from cow’s milk, not all who use it can tolerate it.

Whey helps you maintain many fitness goals but doesn’t contain all the BCAAs. If you’re working towards building muscle mass, using a BCAA supplement will provide more benefits.

To fully digest whey protein, you’ll need to give it several hours to hit your bloodstream for maximum results.

How Does Whey Build Muscle?

Studies show whey provides a variety of health benefits. It’s no wonder it’s the reigning king of protein powder supplements. Building muscle is by far its most notable benefit for those with fitness goals.

Many weightlifters and athletes turn to whey protein powders for their post-workout needs. When consumed after an intense workout, whey protein supplements significantly increase muscle mass build. Amino acids and whey protein work as a team to strengthen, repair, and build muscle quickly and efficiently.

Whey protein powder supplements are rich in leucine, the amino acid responsible for protein synthesis. The process utilizes the absorbed protein to stack muscle. 

Whey protein powder is also known to stimulate hormones. More specifically, it stimulates insulin, signaling your body to increase its muscle mass. As a result, you'll notice maximized muscle gains during the anabolic window.

When you consume protein and carbs within the critical muscle mass building window, you’ll produce optimal results. The two create a powerful force, offering you a maximum muscle-building opportunity during the anabolic window.

Whether you're working towards leading a healthier lifestyle or stepping up your workout routine, amino acids are the key. So, step up your game with the supplement that will support your goals and needs.

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