If you are taking in protein, you’re getting amino acids, so why does it seem like athletes are adding amino acid supplements to their workout meals too?
First and foremost, nutrition experts tend to agree amino acids obtained from dietary protein are the best for the body, but supplementation does have its purposes and advantages. For instance, it isn’t always practical for a person looking to build body mass to eat the amount of protein needed for muscle development and recovery.
In this situation, someone can keep their protein (and calorie!) intake at a desired level while adding amino acids to give the body a needed boost.
Amino acids, according to WebMD are the result of digested protein in the body. The amino acids utilized for muscle building and recovery are called branched-chain amino acids, and these chemicals are responsible for stimulating the building of muscle and reducing muscle breakdown. Branched-chain amino acids have been shown in research to prevent faulty message transmission in the brain cells of people with advanced liver disease, mania, tardive dyskinesia, and anorexia.
When someone takes amino acid supplements, they are essentially cutting out the “eating protein” part of the process. This method is for people who are already at their maximum caloric intake for the workout they are doing, but need/want to provide their body with the all the building blocks it needs to provide muscles with nutrients. Amino acid supplementation is common for athletes in demanding sports such as competitive mixed martial arts, body building, hockey, football, soccer, etc.
Amino acid supplements help the body recover from strenuous activities and help reduce the rate at which muscle mass is broken down. This is essential for individuals looking to strength train. In addition to muscle recovery and maintenance, amino acids help lessen the feeling of fatigue during a workout, according to BodyBuilding.com. This is because branched-chain amino acids compete with other amino acids that stimulate the perception of fatigue in the brain.
“To get optimal benefits from amino acids they should be taken before working out or after a workout to feed and repair muscles,” indicates Ask Men’s Bryan Tomek. “Capsule form is recommended because heat and pressure are used when developing most tablets and this process can actually destroy amino acids. Choosing the right amino acid will depend on your fitness goals, however isoleucine, leucine and valine help promote muscle growth, while glutamine helps provide glucose to give your body energy.”
Amino acid supplements can be purchased in multi-dose form or as individiual amino acids, like glutamine or leucine, ad it all depends on what benefit you are looking to get from the product. Glutamine and arginine are two of the most common amino acids sold individually.
Arginine is an essential amino acid, meaning the body requires it in order to function normally. When taken as a supplement, if too much arginine is in the body, it is converted it to nitric oxide, a chemical that relaxes your blood vessels and may be of use in managing high blood pressure.
Glutamine is a nonessential amino acid, but research suggests physical stress may deplete glutamine supplies. For this reason, individuals who have an injury or who undergo intense workouts can benefit from taking glutamine.
So who should supplement amino acids?
Natural News indicates people with conditions like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, HIV/Aids, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, adrenal fatigue and liver disease can all benefit from a general amino acid supplement. Other individuals who should consider amino acid supplements are people who do not routinely consume animal proteins, like vegans and vegetarians.
Athletes are a different case when it comes to amino acid supplements, however. While most experts agree amino acids are necessary for people who perform strenuous activities, they may not be needed and may not benefit everyone. Amino acid supplements should only be added to a healthy person’s diet after consultation with a doctor or nutritionist.
Though considered safe for use under a period of 6 month, side-effects have been reported of fatigue and decreased coordination. Branched-chain amino acids may also affect blood sugar and should be used with caution in people who have metabolic disease. Certain medical conditions, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) may be complicated by amino acid supplements.