Amino acids are known as the building blocks of life. These organic compounds combine to form proteins, which help to build muscles, provide structure and function for our organs and tissues, and make up our cells.
As supplementation of amino acids grows in popularity among athletes, weekend warriors, and everyday gymgoers, it’s increasingly important to understand exactly what amino acids are and learn more about their well-studied benefits.
Classification of Amino Acids
Whether your dietary protein source is meat, dairy, or plant protein, the protein you consume is broken down into 20 different amino acids classified as either nonessential or essential. Nonessential amino acids can be produced by the body using other amino acids. The nine essential amino acids are so named because the body cannot make them, and they must come from the diet.
One of the most recognized groups of essential amino acids is branched-chain amino acids. These BCAAs — leucine, isoleucine, and valine — are frequently found in workout supplements and recovery products.
Muscle support during any type of workout is crucial for pushing through difficult training and optimizing performance. When taken during a workout, BCAAs can reduce muscle breakdown and are a readily available source of energy for working muscles (1-4). Furthermore, these amino acids are important for muscle recovery after strenuous workouts because they trigger the cellular mechanism for rebuilding proteins in muscle (5).
Why Amino Acids Are a Treat For Your Muscles
Providing your muscles with a source of BCAAs during training not only delays fatigue but also promotes recovery (6,7). Intra-workout supplements like AMPED™ BCAA Plus and performance proteins like AMPED Tri-Release Protein provide a complete amino acid profile to provide further support during weight loss or weight maintenance. Protein that has a higher concentration of BCAAs is more effective in building muscle and supporting weight maintenance (8,9). Both animal- and plant-based proteins such as whey and pea protein have a naturally high amount of BCAAs, (10).
One of the greatest things you can do for your muscles is provide them with the amino acids necessary to optimize your performance goals. Through nutrition or supplementation, amino acids can have positive effects on your health and exercise performance.
- Drummond MJ, et al. Rapamycin administration in humans blocks the contraction-induced increase in skeletal muscle protein synthesis. The J of Physio. 2009; 587:1535-46.
- Doi M, et al. Isoleucine, a potent plasma glucose-lowering amino acid, stimulates glucose uptake in C 2 C 12 myotubes. Biochem and Biophys Res Commun. 2003; 312:1111-7.
- Doi M, et al. Hypoglycemic effect of isoleucine involves increased muscle glucose uptake and whole body glucose oxidation and decreased hepatic gluconeogenesis. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 2007;292:1683-1693.
- Letto J, et al. Valine metabolism. Gluconeogenesis from 3-hydroxyisobutyrate. Biochem J. 1986; 240:909-12.
- Du M, Shen QW, Zhu MJ & Ford SP. Leucine stimulates mammalian target of rapamycin signaling in C2C12 myoblasts in part through inhibition of adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase. J Anim Sci. 2007;85(4):919-27.
- Koo GH, Woo J, Kang S, et al. Effects of supplementation with BCAA and L-glutamine on blood fatigue factors and cytokines in juvenile athletes submitted to maximal intensity rowing performance. J Phys Ther Sci. 2014;26(8):1241-1246.
- Foure A and Bendahan D. Is branched-chain amino acids supplementation an efficient nutritional strategy to alleviate skeletal muscle damage? A systematic review. Nutrients. 2017;9:1047.
- Phillips SM. The science of muscle hypertrophy: making dietary protein count. Proc Nutr Soc 2011;70:100-103.
- Acheson KJ et al. Protein choices targeting thermogenesis and metabolism. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011;93(3):525-34.
- Arciero PJ, Ives SJ, Norton C, Escudero D, Minicucci O, O’Brien G, Paul M, Ormsbee MJ, Miller V, Sheridan C, He F. Protein-Pacing and Multi-Component Exercise Training Improved Physical Performance Outcomes in Exercise-Trained Women: PRISE 3 Study. Nutrients. 2016;8(6):332.