Even if you’ve only been exercising for a short time, chances are you’ve heard about amino acids, specifically BCAAs or EAAs, especially if bodybuilding or a strength-based sport is your area of interest. You may have heard a little about why they are among the most popular of all supplements, but you may still have questions. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what these compounds are and how they can benefit your exercise goals.
Amino acids are compounds that combine to make proteins. When a person eats a food that contains protein, their digestive system breaks the protein down into amino acids. The body then combines the amino acids in various ways to carry out literally hundreds of daily bodily functions. Amino acids build muscles, stimulate countless chemical reactions in the body, help transport nutrients, help prevent illness, among many other functions. The key here is to realize that after water, your body is made of protein, which is then required by the body to take part in all of its essential daily functions.
Essential Amino Acids (EAAs): You cannot survive without the EAAs. These cannot be made by the body and must come from food and supplements. There are nine: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.
Branched Chain Amino Acids: Of the nine EAAs, three of those, leucine, isoleucine, and valine are known as BCAAs (or branched-chain amino acids), with leucine being the most important when it comes to your training.
Non-Essential Amino Acids: The body produces these non-essential amino acids on its own.
Conditional Amino Acids: These amino acids are non-essential except in times of illness or stress and include cysteine, glutamine, and tyrosine.
When it comes to exercise and the results you hope to achieve, protein in general and the EAAs/BCAAs, in particular, are a critical part of your success. This is because they work together to support the process of muscle growth by stimulating protein synthesis, or positive protein balance. They also help prevent the destructive process of protein breakdown in the muscles and support post-workout recovery. These benefits are critical, even if gaining muscle is not high on your list of exercise priorities.[2,3]
For example, if you are new to fitness, you may have the primary goal of weight loss. However, that’s a misleading term because “weight” means fat, muscle, and water. The correct term is “fat loss,” which means just fat. Therefore, if you want to lose fat, that means you want to maintain your muscle mass, and that’s where EAAs can help.
Additionally, if you are a serious athlete or bodybuilder, adding an EAA supplement can make a big difference in your results. As any serious athlete and bodybuilder knows, maintaining an anabolic environment in the body is crucial to stimulating gains in size and strength, one of the primary ways to do this is through your intake and timing of protein which includes the use of an amino acid supplement. If you fall short here, your chances of making the progress you want to make diminish dramatically.
At this point, it may be important to take a moment and define two key terms that you will see mentioned quite often as you pursue your fitness, bodybuilding, or athletic goals: anabolic and catabolic. The term “anabolic” refers to a normal metabolic process in the body and literally means “building up.” On the opposite end, the term “catabolic” means “tearing down.” Don’t let the mainstream stigma of the term “anabolic steroids” scare you away from what is simply a positive metabolic process. In reality, pretty much everything you do from a nutrition and supplementation standpoint is to try and maintain a positive, or anabolic state in your body, rather than a destructive, or catabolic state. Progress can only occur if your body is in an anabolic environment, regardless of your training level.
As you can see, the use of a good amino acid formula that provides all the EAAs with an emphasis on the BCAAs can be an important addition to your overall exercise and nutrition program. One of the best EAA/BCAA products currently available is Ignite Nutrition’s Amino-Up. This well thought out formula contains 5g of the BCAAs and features the clinical dose of 4g leucine, which is considered the most important amino acid when it comes to training benefits. Additionally, Amino-Up contains the rest of the EAAs plus a comprehensive electrolyte complex for optimal hydration while training. Amino-Up is an advanced product that can be used both before and after you exercise, additionally for those individuals that are involved in bodybuilding or any sport that demands a level of muscle size and strength, Amino-Up can be taken at any time of the day to support your daily intake of protein. Don’t train without it!