Athletes, bodybuilders, and even casual lifters pay very close attention to their amino acid consumption, and that's for good reason. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, they are organic compounds found in our bodies that combine to form proteins. This is the main reason you see lifters take BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids), EAAs (essential amino acids), or other amino supplements. They have benefits that can boost athletic performance and help anyone with muscle-building goals. However, amino acid benefits extend beyond fitness...
They play a large role in many of the chemical reactions throughout your body that help maintain your body's functioning normally. Anyone can benefit from getting more amino acids into their diet! It's helpful to know all the facts about amino acids and what they do so you can start optimizing your diet in a way that ensures you get enough of them, and we're going to help you – below is everything you should know about amino acids so you can decide whether an amino acid supplement is right for you!
What do amino acids do?
As you know, amino acids form protein. Protein is responsible for providing structural components in various areas in the human body, including the muscles, blood, brain, hair, nervous system, and skin. Getting enough protein from animal sources will ensure that you're getting enough amino acids to perform their three main body functions – break down food, promote muscle growth, and repair muscle tissue. These compounds do even more! They make up enzymes that facilitate various processes in our bodies, including carrying nutrients and other necessary molecules through our blood, transporting signals from one body part to another, and so much more – the tasks of amino acids are endless!
However, in order to make sure everything is running smoothly and they are working at optimal levels you need to make sure you're getting enough of all amino acids...
Types of amino acids
There are 20 different amino acids that are grouped into three categories, and they are grouped by where your body obtains them. The three categories are...
- Nonessential amino acids: These amino acids are naturally produced in your body throughout the day, whether you eat amino acid-rich foods or not. They include alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, and glutamic acid.
Essential amino acids: There are four nonessential amino acids and nine essential amino acids. They are named essential because it's essential that we get them through our diet. They include histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.
- Conditional amino acids: These amino acids are also considered nonessential since they're not necessary for everyday living. They are produced only when your body is fighting off an illness or dealing with stress. They include arginine, cysteine, glutamine, tyrosine, glycine, proline, and serine.
Your body needs all 20 amino acids to keep functioning at optimal levels, and so you can reap the benefits they offer!
Health benefits of amino acids
Eating a healthy balanced diet and/or taking an amino acid supplement can help ensure that you're getting a healthy intake of them throughout the day. Without an adequate intake, your body won't effectively produce protein thus leading to weakening in the muscle and tissues.
On the other hand, getting enough amino acids can help...
- Assist in muscle growth, and maintaining muscle tone and tissue strength.
- Heal and repair muscle.
- Provide sustainable energy.
- Regulate mood since it produces hormones and neurotransmitters.
- Maintain structure in the skin, hair, and nails by producing collagen and elastin.
- Improve immune function.
- Normalize digestion.
As you can see amino acids play a major role in your body, and whether you're hitting the weights to increase muscle mass or not, you want to make sure you get enough of the daily recommended intake for non-essential amino acids.
- Histidine: 14 mg
- Isoleucine: 19 mg
- Leucine: 42 mg
- Lysine: 38 mg
- Methionine (and cysteine): 19 mg
- Phenylalanine (and tyrosine): 33 mg
- Threonine: 20 mg
- Tryptophan: 5 mg
- Valine: 24 mg
Now, it's unlikely that you can manage to track your intake of specific amino acids. Instead, focus on getting enough protein in your diet overall. The minimum protein intake requirement is 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight, or seven grams for every 20 pounds. However, those who are highly active or have muscle-building goals will need a higher intake of protein. In this case, we suggest calculating your macros to get a better estimate on how much protein you should be consuming based on your goals and lifestyle!
Foods rich in amino acids
Amino acid supplementation can help boost your intake but always prioritize whole foods first. Not only will you be able to fulfill the daily recommended intake amount, but you'll also benefit from other important nutrients that those foods provide!
You should aim to get your amino acids from high-quality protein sources, meaning they are complete proteins. Complete proteins contain all nine essential amino acids, and they include...
- Dairy products
- Chia seeds
- Soy products
Other good sources of amino acids that aren't considered to be complete proteins, but can boost your intake include legumes, broccoli, spinach, kale, brown rice, and potatoes.
Should you take an amino acid supplement?
Anyone can benefit from taking an amino acid supplement, but most people are able to get their entire recommended daily intake through food. However, anyone who is physically active or following a vegan/plant-based diet could benefit greatly from taking a supplement, like BCAA's or EAAs.
First, those who are following a plant-based diet have minimal protein options. They can get most of their amino acids through chia seeds, quinoa, soy products, and other products, but they're not high-quality like animal products are. Taking an amino acid supplement can help increase their intake so they can reap the health benefits these compounds have to offer.
Athletes can benefit the most from amino acid supplementation because it can help enhance their athletic performance and recovery for better results. The most popular supplement amongst lifters is BCAA's. Branched-chain amino acids have been studied and consistently reported to help...
- Reduce muscle fatigue: Taking a BCAA before or during your workout can counteract tryptophan from rising which is ideal because tryptophan produces the feeling of relaxation. By increasing the levels of BCAA's during high-intensity exercise you give your muscles a rapid source of energy that can help you push through one more rep. Several studies show consistent results of this. One particular study observed two groups during exercise, one was given BCAA's during their workout, and the other was given a placebo. The group that supplemented with BCAA's reported up to 15% less fatigue than the placebo group.
- Promote muscle protein synthesis: The key to muscle growth is to increase muscle protein synthesis (MPS) so it outpaces muscle protein breakdown. BCAA's contain leucine which is responsible for initiating MPS. Studies show that having 2-3 grams of leucine post-workout can help stimulate MPS. One study, in particular, observed two groups. One consumed a drink with 5.6 grams of BCAAs after resistance training, and the other had a placebo drink. Those who supplemented with BCAA's had a 22% increase in MPS, compared to those who consumed a placebo drink. 
- Prevent muscle breakdown and reduce soreness: BCAA's are widely known for improving post-workout recovery, and that's because of their ability to prevent muscle breakdown. Our muscles are made up of about 35% branched-chain amino acids and high-intensity exercise can cause muscle protein breakdown. Supplementing BCAAs prior to or during your training can reduce the amount of damage caused. It also helps reduce your risk of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) because it can help lower the blood levels of the enzymes creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase, the two responsible for severe muscle soreness. One particular study examined the effects of BCAA supplementation and showed that it led to lower levels of muscle soreness and reduced breakdown of muscle protein during exercise.
In summary, amino acids are more than just the building blocks of protein. They are responsible for various processes in the body that are important for your overall health. But those that want to achieve a fitness goal and want to make some serious gains can highly benefit from an amino acid supplement, like BCAA's!
At 373 Lab, we create supplements that will help you achieve greatness. Our BCAA's are made with the fewest ingredients as possible, making sure that BCAA's is the main ingredient and doing their job - helping reduce fatigue during your workout and reduce muscle breakdown and soreness. We provide 5 grams of BCAAs per scoop at a 2:1:1 ratio of L-leucine, L-isoleucine, and L-valine, the ideal split for optimal supplementation.