What are amino acids and why are they important for muscle growth?
What are Amino Acids and Why are they Important for Muscle Growth
You may have heard people talking about amino acids - but what are they, and why are they so important?
What are amino acids?
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, which are in turn the building blocks of our bodies. They’re formed as long chains linked by peptide bonds, with their structure, size and shape determining their main functions.
Amino acids play a vital role in how the body runs, by making the proteins which build and repair our muscles; make hormones and enzymes; carry information around our bodies; form antibodies to fight illness; and much more.
Our bodies need 20 amino acids, 11 of which we can make ourselves. The other nine need to be obtained through food - which is where amino acid supplementation comes in.
There are three groups of amino acids:
Essential Amino Acids
These are the amino acids that our bodies are unable to produce, and need to be obtained through our diets.
The nine essential amino acids are: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.
Non-Essential Amino Acids
These are the amino acids our bodies can produce themselves.
The 11 non-essential amino acids are: alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine
Conditional Amino Acids
These are amino acids which are not usually essential, but become so for certain people due to age, health conditions, illness or stress.
Conditional amino acids include: arginine, cysteine, glutamine, tyrosine, glycine, ornithine, proline, and serine.
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
Branched Chain Amino Acids, or BCAAs, are essential amino acids with a branched side chain structure.
There are three BCAAs: leucine, isoleucine and valine. As these amino acids are essential, we need to obtain them through our diets - which is why you often hear of athletes and bodybuilders referring to BCAA supplements.
Another reason for this is their effectiveness when it comes to muscle growth: they’re believed to have the greatest effect on muscle growth of all the amino acids, as well as boosting recovery time post-workout.
Why are amino acids important?
With such an integral role to play in keeping our bodies healthy and functional, it is no surprise that amino acids are hugely important, and boast a wide array of health benefits.
Many studies, however, focus on the effects of amino acids - BCAAs in particular - on muscle growth and athletic performance.
Top brands such as Joker and our own Supplement Dealz offer great BCAA products!
Here are a few of the key benefits of amino acids.
One of the most popular benefits of amino acids is their ability to aid muscle growth, when combined with a healthy diet and effective workout regime.
Studies have shown that consuming a drink with added BCAAs after a resistance based workout can promote muscle protein synthesis (the process of repairing and making muscle), in turn boosting growth - and helping you to make those all important gains.
While effective alone, BCAAs have the highest impact on muscle growth when combined with the other essential amino acids. Research suggests that consuming a whey protein drink containing all BCAAs and other essential amino acids, has a higher impact on muscle growth post-workout than simply consuming BCAAs alone. So while there’s no harm in opting for a BCAA supplement, a complete amino acid supplement may be a more effective option.
It’s always worth remembering that, while a brilliant complement to your workout, supplements alone aren’t the key to muscle growth: they’re most effective when used alongside a good training plan and healthy diet.
Muscle Recovery & DOMS
As well as boosting muscle growth, amino acids also play an important role in aiding muscle recovery and reducing soreness after exercise.
If you’ve ever suffered from aches and pains hours after working out, chances are you’ve experienced DOMS - and would be keen to stop it happening again!
DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) can rear its ugly head in the 24 to 48 hours following exercise, causing stiff and sore muscles; and having a significant impact on recovery time and performance.
Enter amino acids!
Studies have shown that BCAA supplementation can play a role in reducing DOMS severity and healing time, through helping to reduce muscle damage and decrease protein breakdown during exercise.
Prevent Muscle Waste
While our muscle proteins are being broken down and rebuilt constantly, when muscle protein breakdown is higher than muscle protein synthesis, this can result in muscle waste.
Muscle waste occurs in cases of malnutrition, whether from fasting or illness; as well as being a natural effect of ageing.
The benefits of BCAA supplementation aren’t limited to athletes, with research suggesting that it can also help those suffering from muscle waste, whether due to age or illness.
How much amino acids do I need - and how can I get them?
The answer varies from person to person, as does the amount of each individual amino acid we need. Ensuring you are consuming a well rounded, protein rich diet goes a long way towards achieving the required levels of amino acids, while amino acid supplements are available for those wanting an easy and sure fire way to reap the benefits.
Foods rich in amino acids are called ‘complete proteins’, and include animal products such as eggs, meat and dairy; and plant based foods including product from the Quorn range, buckwheat, and quinoa.
Foods rich in BCAAs include milk, chickpeas, meat, lentils and brown rice.
BCAA supplements are another way to add these essential amino acids into your diet.
Amino acids are vital in maintaining our bodily functions, and have a significant role to play in promoting muscle growth. They have a whole host of benefits and if you’ve been wondering why amino acids are important, hopefully we’ve answered that question here!