Whether you are a gym-goer or not, you might have heard a lot about amino acids and their popularity for muscle development. When it comes to muscle gain, you might have several concerns like: Why is muscle gain important? What are amino acids? What is the use of amino acids in muscle development? What are the best amino acids for muscle growth and zillions more!
Well, there are many benefits of building muscles. For starters, muscle development helps in regulating various health aspects like blood sugar, controlling body fat, improved physical strength as well as immunity, and more. Some studies show that building muscles in a proper way can help you manage your emotional state as well. So, the most important thing for building muscles is protein and ultimately amino acids.
What are Amino Acids?
If you are someone who has no idea what amino acids are, then in simple words, amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. These are the most important components for the functioning of our body such as transportation of nutrients, prevention of illness, and building and functioning of muscles.
There are 20 amino acids that have their specific function. For example, speaking about muscle development the amino acid leucine triggers muscle protein synthesis. These 20 amino acids are grouped into three groups: essential amino acids, non-essential amino acids, and conditional amino acids. Out of these 20, nine are essential amino acids that are important for the healthy functioning of our body. The nine essential amino acids are Histidine, Methionine, Isoleucine, Phenylalanine, Leucine, Tryptophan, Lysine, Threonine, and Valine. While, there are four non-essential amino acids Alanine, Glutamic acid, Asparagine, and Aspartic acid. The third group is the conditional amino acids which are: Glutamine, Arginine, Cysteine, Ornithine, Proline, Tyrosine, Glycine, and Serine.
Unlike non-essential amino acids, essential amino acids cannot be produced by our body and hence we rely on food to get these amino acids. We require these amino acids daily and get this through our everyday diet. On the other hand, conditional amino acids are not required daily. However, these are the ones who come to the rescue if we fall ill or in case of any injury.
How do we get Amino Acids naturally?
We all know that we get energy through food and all this occurs in our stomachs. However, we do not know that after the food gets broken down in our stomach it moves to the small intestine. Here, with help of components like enzymes, the food is broken down into the required amino acids. The required quantity of amino acids is then absorbed by small finger-like absorbing structures into the body.
As amino acids are proteins, it is easier for our body to break down protein-based food rather than carbohydrates and fats and hence many diet plans focus on protein intake. Normally, through good dietary sources, all the essential amino acids are taken up by our body.
Below are the rich sources of the nine essential amino acids:
Lysine – Eggs, soy, black beans, pumpkin seeds, meat, and quinoa.
Isoleucine – Fish, poultry, eggs, seafood, dairy products, nuts, and seeds.
Threonine – Paneer, cheese, and wheat germ
Methionine – Nuts and seeds, eggs, grains, etc.
Histidine – Poultry meat, seafood, whole grains, and nuts & seeds.
Valine – Soy, peanuts, whole grains, mushrooms, cheese, etc.
Tryptophan – The wheat germ, chicken, turkey, tofu, and paneer.
Leucine – Dairy products, legumes, and soy.
Phenylalanine – Fish and other seafood, meat, beans, and dairy products.
However, many times, due to various reasons, people might face amino acid deficiency. This can cause many issues like decreased immunity, fertility issues, hormonal imbalance, and other health issues. That’s when amino acid tablets or supplements come in handy.
Not only this, even if you work out regularly or are an athlete, amino acid supplements can be taken by consulting a dietician. There are many supplements like BCAA which are the best amino acids for muscle recovery.
Best Amino Acid Supplements
You can find several options of amino acid supplements in the market. However, choosing the right one that fits your goal is important. So, here are the two most common available amino acid supplements and their benefits.
Packed with leucine, isoleucine, and valine, BCAA or branched-chain amino acids is mainly used by athletes and bodybuilders. During workouts, BCAA powder helps in instant muscle repair and recovery. Although we get these amino acids from natural sources, it is really difficult to track the quantity unless you maintain a very strict diet.
EAAs on another hand cannot be synthesized by our body and they can only be taken orally. It contains threonine, phenylalanine, lysine, valine, leucine, tryptophan, methionine, isoleucine, and histidine. While your muscles are recovering, EAAs help in muscle tissue development and cell repair.
BCAAs are a catalyst – a helping source and EAAs are a direct source. Both BCAAs and EAAs play an important role in muscle growth and development.
Benefits of Amino Acid Supplements
Prevents Muscle Breakdown
Our body is designed such that if we do any heavy physical work, our muscle tissues break down immediately through gluconeogenesis. The word gluconeogenesis indicates its process – the production of glucose. This glucose is generated from non-carbohydrate sources in the form of BCAA from the muscles. These amino acids molecules are then transported to the liver which is then used up by our body.
However, BCAA supplements help in the instant absorption of amino acids and prevent muscle breakdown. Muscle breakdown can cause several issues such as muscle soreness and may lead to injuries.
By now you might know our food is broken down into amino acids and is absorbed by our body. However, it takes a lot of energy for all this process to occur and hence pre-packaged amino acids like BCAA pre-workout powder can be taken. These supplements are quickly available for absorption by our body and help in the quick recovery of muscles.
Digestion and Absorption
Normally, food breakdown involves many other components other than amino acids and hence can take up more energy as well as time. As powdered or capsulated amino acid supplements are free from other components, they can quickly move through our digestive system. It quickly absorbs into the bloodstream and does its work instantly.
However, it is important to consume a specified quantity to achieve the desired results.
Increase in Metabolism
For muscle growth, nutrients, hormones, and exercise are very important. The most important factor for all this is metabolism which decides how amino acids transport, absorb, and distribute to various parts of our body. Anabolism and catabolism together are called metabolism. Anabolism is the construction of proteins and nucleic acids for the production of energy for us to work. Catabolism is the breakdown of organic matter (breakdown of food).
If our body receives supplements then this energy is provided instantly which increases our metabolism ultimately helping in muscle growth and fat loss. Now speaking about the best time to take amino acids for muscle growth, it usually is during the workout or pre-workout and post-workout.
Amino Acids in Fat Loss
We all know, many people focus on fat loss. Whether it is an unhealthy lifestyle or any underlying health disorder, weight gain has several health effects. In addition to working out, during the fat loss process, following a diet plan is important. During such a diet, we count our calories and while it is very important for weight loss, the amount of amino acids required by our body also reduces. Hence, taking the best amino acids for muscle growth and fat loss like BCAA’s and glutamine becomes essential. It helps you meet the desired quantity of amino acids for quick metabolism which ultimately aids in losing fat faster.
Whatever your goal might be, amino acids are the most important component for muscle growth as well as healthy life. So, to end this topic, let’s address one very important yet common question, is it safe to take amino acids every day? Then the answer is yes! It is definitely safe to take amino acid supplements daily but it should be consumed in prescribed quantities or as directed by the dietitian.