Who are amino acids intended for?
Each amino acid has its specific role in the body, from which its use as a supplement is derived. Some of them, such as the BCAA, serve mainly for regeneration and even as a source of energy during exercise. Others are ideal for building muscle mass. This includes the category of EAA, among which also belong the BCAA. These are intended mainly for individuals seeking to maximize the growth and protection of their muscle mass. Other amino acids such as arginine or citrulline, are associated with blood circulation in your muscles, which may contribute to your overall athletic performance.
Nutrition supplements rich in amino acids also have their utility outside the scope of sports and exercise. Theanine, for example, synergizes with caffeine and causes it to take its effect in a more gradual way. Carnosine, which naturally occurs in muscles and the brain, is valued for its antioxidative properties. Tyrosine contributes to the synthesis of hormones in your thyroid gland, as well as to the synthesis of adrenaline or dopamine. Amino acids are thus suitable for athletes and other people who want to support specific aspects of their health.
How are amino acids categorized?
Amino acids are most often divided into essential and non-essential.
- Essential amino acids cannot be produced naturally by your body, meaning they have to be supplied from food and nutrition supplements.
- Non-essential amino acids can typically be produced by a healthy human body. However, under certain conditions, some of them might become essential and need to be supplied from external sources. This happens mostly during the period of growth, when experiencing intense stress or straining your body with demanding sports activities.
Complex supplements normally include amino acids from both categories, so as to bring about the broadest spectrum of beneficial effects possible. There are overall 8 essential amino acids, often abbreviated as ‘EAA’, and the products branded thus are designed to help maintain sufficient levels of these crucial substances in your body.
The subcategory of BCAA involves products that offer amino acids with branched chains. More specifically, this category includes valine, leucine and isoleucine. The advantage of these is that they generally tend to decompose much quicker upon consumption, which means they can serve as a source of energy for the muscles that are being currently used. This advantage makes them a popular solution for protecting the muscle mass during the training, the idea being that the body doesn’t end up breaking down your muscle tissue for energy supply (catabolic process). In effect, this further boosts the effectiveness of muscle regeneration process (anabolic process), when used as an ingredient in a post-workout protein drink.
Arginine and glutamine are also important amino acids, and not only for athletes. They are often categorized as conditionally essential, as strenuous physical activity can make their levels drop radically, meaning they need to be resupplied. Arginine is a key component for the production of nitric oxide (NO) in the body. It is directly involved in vessel dilation and proper blood circulation, which reflects on more effective supply of oxygen and other nutrients into your muscles as they work. Glutamine is in turn a source of energy for the cells of the digestive and immune systems.
Other amino acids can help you optimize your intake of cysteine, tyrosine or glycine. Active individuals will particularly appreciate citrulline malate, which restructures into arginine once inside your body, contributing to more effective blood circulation, that can in turn boost your athletic performance. All of these can be used in the form of capsules, tablets, or a soluble powder drink, which is ideal as a pre- or post-workout shake.
To learn more about the effects of amino acids, read our article Amino Acids: Classification, Functions in the Body, Effect on Athletic Performance and the Best Sources.