In a nutshell, amino acids take part in a lot of the cells, muscles and tissue. This means that they are part of all the important bodily functions and structuring the cells. Additionally, amino acids play a key role in the transport and storage of nutrients and have an influence over our organs, glands, tendons and arteries.
Why Are Amino Acids Important for the Human Body?First and foremost, amino acids are important because they fulfill the basic needs of the body. Speaking of which, they are optimized throughout the body, help the organs function and provide the energy for growth and health.
Therefore, amino acids are a crucial, yet still basic unit of every protein. They contain an amino group and a carboxylic group, playing extensive roles in many crucial bodily processes. There are over 700 types of amino acids, discovered in plants, bacteria, fungi or algae.
There are mixed statements when it comes to amino acids. Some people claim that there are 20 while others are sure that there are 22 standard amino acids. However, it is sure that there are two main types of amino acids - essential and conditional. Since all of them are the building blocks of protein, it is important to cover them all and show what each and every one of the amino acids can do.
Some of the amino acids in the body are essential for humans because they cannot be created from other compounds, food or supplements - and others are conditional. In order to paint the picture in a better way, we are listing both types of amino acids below.
The 9 Essential Amino Acids
The following amino acids are essential, meaning that they cannot be made by the body. As a result, they must come from food or supplements. There are nine essential amino acids, including:
- Important for bodybuilding: Not really, only when it comes to improving digestion
- Recommended dosage: About 8-10 mg per kilogram of bodyweight
- Side effects: Stress, anxiety and schizophrenia mainly as a result of overdose
- Natural sources: dairy, meat, poultry, fish, rice, wheat, rye
Aside from being a wrap, myelin is a shield that prevents many serious disorders in the brain and spinal cord, blocking the unintended impulses from arriving in the brain. On top of that, histidine helps in radiation protection and removing excess heavy metals from the body, as well as producing gastric juices that speed up and improve digestion.
Ideal for weight loss but also related to many benefits in sexual enjoyment (longer orgasms and extended feelings), histidine is best used in dosages of at least 1000mg daily or 8-10 mg a day per kilogram of bodyweight. The side effects mainly come as a result of overdosing and can result in stress, anxiety and schizophrenia.
- Important for bodybuilding: Yes, especially related to muscle growth
- Recommended dosage: About 8 grams daily, can be separated in 2-3 servings pre-training, post-training and before sleep - or 16mg per kilo of bodyweight
- Side effects: Likely safe, but may cause ammonia
- Natural sources: brown rice, beans, wheat, nuts
The most important function of leucine is to stimulate the muscle protein synthesis. In fact, leucine has the greatest power of stimulation when it comes to muscle growth compared to any other amino acid, which is why many supplements are based on it.
The role in leucine is especially great when it comes to muscle growth, but also noticeable in post-injury recovery, weight loss and establishing a
- Important for bodybuilding: Yes, very similar to leucine's importance as part of the BCAA chain
- Recommended dosage: 10 to 12 mg per kilogram of bodyweight
- Side effects: Overdosing may cause elevated urination, or serious issues if you have kidney or liver disease
- Natural sources: eggs, almonds, fish, liver, chicken, meat, cashews, lentils
Similar to leucine in many ways, isoleucine is known to promote muscle recovery, regulate the blood-sugar levels and stimulates the HGH release. However, isoleucine is independent when it comes to assisting the process of forming hemoglobin and blood clots, as the body's primary defense mechanisms against different types of infections.
- Important for bodybuilding: Yes, since it revitalizes the body to combat fatigue and grows the bones and muscles, while maintaining a positive nitrogen balance
- Recommended dosage: 12 mg per kilogram of bodyweight, but a couple of extra milligrams doesn't hurt
- Side effects: No side effects, but overdosing may result in higher cholesterol, diarrhea and gallstones
- Natural sources: potatoes, eggs, cheese, milk, yeast and lima beans
Also, it is safe to say that lysine is one of the most important amino acids when it comes to maintaining the nitrogen balance and the lean body mass - especially in periods of extreme stress and fatigue. As such, it is also needed in the medical industry, where it is found in the production of various antibodies, hormones, enzymes, collagen and damaged tissue elements.
Lysine also helps forming new muscle protein and promotes various cardiovascular benefits including healthy blood vessels, improved circulation etc.
- Important for bodybuilding: Yes, because of its active fat metabolization effects, improved digestion and anti-oxidizing properties
- Recommended dosage: 12 mg per kilogram of bodyweight
- Side effects: There is no side effects reported from this amino acid, although its deficiency may cause dementia, fatty liver, slow growth, weakness and skin disorders
- Natural sources: meat, fish, eggs, garlic, beans, lentils, onions, yogurt and seeds
A lot of people know methionine as one of the amino acids that produces glutathione to detoxify the liver - and one of the three acids that are needed for creation of creatine monohydrate within the body - an essential element linked to major muscle growth and energy production.
- Important for bodybuilding: Yes, since it allows maximal contraction and relaxation of the muscles while upgrading the nerves and supplying the body with extra Vitamin D
- Recommended dosage: 14 mg per kilogram of bodyweight
- Side effects: Overdosing may cause higher blood pressure, headaches, nausea or heart and nerve disorders, and it is not recommended for pregnant women and diabetics
- Natural sources: almonds, avocados, dairy products, nuts and seeds
Basically, what phenyalanine does is elevate the mood by stimulating the central nervous system. This aids in terms of motivation, memory and therefore makes phenyalanine not only an amino acid - but a smart vitamin at the same time. These feelings are a result of the levels of epinephrine, dopamine and nor-epinephrine that are all increased by the amino acid, making you relaxed and motivated at the same time.
On the flip side, phenyalanine has gotten some bad blood from the press over the past decade, mostly because of its use as a non-carbohydrate sweetener in many soft drinks. And even though its toxic effects can be lethal, the same goes for many other elements and supplements - and these 'facts' only take into account heavy amounts of liquids.
- Important for bodybuilding: Yes, because of its maintenance of muscle and absorption of protein
- Recommended dosage: 8 mg per kilogram of bodyweight, best separated in amounts of 500-100 mg when taken as a supplement
- Side effects: Not known
- Natural sources: eggs, dairy and meat
The main benefit of threonine, though, is to produce the amino acids serine and glycine which produce elastin, collagen and muscle tissue. Lastly, threonine allows better absorption of other nutrients which is a thing that makes it more bio-available than other amino acids.
- Important for bodybuilding: Not really, besides the improved athletic performance in general
- Recommended dosage: it depends on several factors (age, gender, health etc.), best consult with your doctor
- Side effects: not recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding moms and can cause side effects including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite and heartburn
- Natural sources: red meat, eggs, fish, chickpeas, poultry, spirulina, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, almonds
Basically, tryphoptan plays a crucial role when it is absorbed in the organism. At that point, it is converted to 5-HTP (5-hydrdoxytryptophan) and later on to serotonin, which is a hormone that transmits the signals between nerve cells and causes the blood vessels to narrow. Hence, the positive benefits regarding stress, anxiety and the other related disorders.
- Important for bodybuilding: Yes, because of its role in repairing and growing the muscle tissue - or when in combination with isoleucine and leucine
- Recommended dosage: 16 mg per kilogram of bodyweight
- Side effects: Crawling sensation in the skin, hallucination or hazardous with people with kidney and liver disease
- Natural sources: mushrooms, soy, peanuts, dairy, grain, meat
Just like most of the other branched-chain amino acids, valine breaks down and converts to glycogen and fuels the body when the carbohydrate storage is low or your diet is deficient of proteins and amino acids.
Conditional (Non-Essential) Amino AcidsThe conditional amino acids are the opposite from the essential ones, which means that they are made in the human body. However, in times of illness or stress, they can be in major deficit, which is why experts recommend taking them as supplements.
In a nutshell, non-essential amino acids are produced as the body needs them. This means that they are not as present in food as the essential ones are. That is after all why taking them in extra free form may be beneficial for everyone.
There are ten conditional amino acids, including alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, arginine, cysteine, glutamine, glycine, glutamic acid, serine, proline and tyrosine. However, in this guide we are focusing on the most important ones and the ones that are commonly labeled as part of many fitness supplements.
- Important for bodybuilding: Only with the preservation of muscle mass over a long run and supplying an alternate source of energy as glucose if you are on a diet
- Recommended dosage: 5-10 mg per kilogram of bodyweight, although bodybuilders sometimes go as high as 30-35 mg per kilo
- Side effects: Potentially dangerous to people with liver or kidney diseases or troubles
- Natural sources: large amounts of it in all high-protein foods
Whether you know it as glutamine or L-glutamine, this non-essential amino acid is present in our body in large amounts. In fact, most of the times it forms more than 60% of the total amino acid quantity. Since it passes through the blood-brain barrier, it is often known as brain food.
Glutamine helps memory recall and concentration and converts to glutamic acid in the brain, essential for both brain functioning and increase in GABA for mental activities. On top of that, glutamine is used in the synthesis of muscle tissue and nitrogen elimination. The result is the previously mentioned glutamic acid.
The only downside with the use of glutamine is the fact that most bodybuilders use it as fuel for energy rather than some simple carbohydrates. The best way to supplement yourself with glutamine is to spare the hard-earned muscle and use 2 more doses of it, normally if you can afford it.
- Important for bodybuilding: Yes, with numerous benefits including muscle gain while limiting fat storage, control of the immune system and injury prevention
- Recommended dosage: There is no recommended dosage of L-arginine, which makes the choice simple - even though the large doses may lead to side effects
- Side effects: Overdosing leads to skin thickening, weakness, diarrhea, nausea, loss of immunity
- Natural sources: whole wheat, nuts and seeds
However, L-arginine is used by a lot of people to boost the immune system, improve their athletic performance or shorten their recovery time after an injury or a surgery. That is why L-arginine is popular in bodybuilding - but also medical treatments of erectile dysfunction and high-blood pressure.
Arginine is mostly present in two proteins associated with nucleic acids - histones and protanines. That is how it excites new growth, enhances the immune system and stimulates the size and activity of the thymus gland, which is responsible for the famous 'T-cells'.
- Important for bodybuilding: Yes, mainly because it minimizes the fat buildup around the muscle and provides better synthetic reception of gluco-corticoids and an increase of ATP
- Recommended dosage: 20-200 mg is the best choice, based on muscle weight
- Side effects: overdosing is known to cause diarrhea and fish odor syndrome
- Natural sources: chicken, milk, fish and red meat
Carnitine may be one of the most popular amino acids out there. With a single difference - that it isn't actually an amino acid at all! Instead, the classification of it as an amino acid is only there because of a structural similarity.
Still, carnitine is great for the circulatory system. It all starts with triggering the methionine and lysine to manufacture carnitine. Then, the element is used for transporting the long-chain fatty acids in order to enter and be removed from the inside of a cell. The result is simple - carnitine is beneficial for preventing fatty acid buildup within the heart, liver and muscle as well as improving the anti-oxidizing effect of the vitamins C and E.
Last but not least is the fact that carnitine is the only conditional amino acid that can be considered for long-term use. For example, if you want to stay lean for two years, you can start consuming it and don't stop. At the same time though, it is present in protein-dense foods so you should not see a need to use it permanently.
- Important for bodybuilding: Yes, used by the majority of bodybuilders in order to enhance athletic performance and aid recovery from intense exercise, especially with explosive exercises such as weight lifting or circuit training
- Recommended dosage: 3-5 grams per day in order to maintain your elevated creatine stores and feed the muscleSide effects: although there aren't any reported side effects of creatine, there are concerns that it could harm the heart, liver or kidney function - but all of the mentioned are not proven since creatine causes muscles to draw water from the rest of your body and make it lean
- Natural sources: beef, salmon and tuna
Creatine is a naturally made product from the amino acids L-arginine, L-glycine and L-methionine. If you are taking amino supplements, your body will create its own creatine. Aside from muscle growth and repair, creatine is found to improve the performance especially with high-intensity workouts such as weight lifting or springing. Since it increases the production of ATP (an energy source for muscles during short periods of activity), creatine decreases muscle fatigue and reduces lactic acid, which is a process resulting in lean muscle mass.
However, high doses of creatine are known to cause injuries and disorders within the body. From kidney disorders to liver damage and heart strokes, creatine is best used in the recommended doses.
- Important for bodybuilding: Mainly yes, because of the B-vitamins, supplements and the fact that it triggers insulin
- Recommended dosage: 200-300mg, two or three times per day
- Side effects: because of the insulin, the side effects are only limited to diabetics
- Natural sources: wheat, broccoli, eggs, garlic, onion and peppers
From the above mentioned, it is clear that cysteine is a great amino acid and a vital component of life in general. When it comes to exercise, it is found to strengthen the protective lining of the stomach and keep the things that are not wanted in the body.
Beta-Hydroxy Beta-Methyl Butyrate (HMB)
- Important for bodybuilding: Yes, as it prevents muscle loss and fat storage in times of glucose deprivation
- Recommended dosage: 2 to 6 grams per day
- Side effects: unknown
- Natural sources: catfish, grapefruit, alfalfa
The body itself produces up to 1 gram daily, which makes higher doses needed for people who want to supplement with HMB. However, the results of HMB supplementation are not that visible and for many, this amino acid is not found to be as cost-effective as others.
Now that you know all of the essential amino acids and the most common and popular conditional ones, it is time to start listing their benefits in general.
Why Are Amino Acids Important: 12 Benefits of Amino Acid SupplementationBy now, you probably know that proteins are made of amino acids. In fact, it is the amino acids that are the reason that protein is so important. They are seen as the building blocks of life, mostly because they are broken apart when you ingest a protein in your body. After that, they are refolded and turned into whatever is needed at the time.
Leucine, isoleucine and valine are of primary concern to most bodybuilders and athletes. That is mainly because they have a specialized shape that allows them to be used in ways that exploit their full potential. This group is also called BCAA (Branched-chain Amino Acids). But why are they so important?
Below, we are listing all of the benefits of amino acids.
1. A Balanced DosageAmino acids compete for absorption with each other. So, even if you take a protein or a separate supplement, there is a set of BCAAs mixed into the content. In order to get the full benefit of those BCAAs, you should get a dedicated amino acid supplement.
The point here is simple. The goal of using amino acids is to put them into a balance diet and supplement them with the food you eat. Since there are many more amino acids found in supplements than the actual food, the best way to feed your body with them is to regularly supplement according to your needs and desires.
If we take glycine for example - found in gelatin but not meats - we will see that it contains antioxidants, prevents many disorders including cancer, creates muscle tissue and most importantly - converts glucose into energy and therefore lowers the blood sugar. So, if you take glycine in a balanced diet, you can definitely save your life and improve your results even after a few months.
2. Improved Muscle GrowthAmino acids are crucial for muscle growth. In fact, the primary reason people choose them is the muscle growth itself. If we take leucine for an example, we will see that it improves the muscle protein synthesis after exercise. Since it is stimulated by the stress of the workout and encouraged by the jolt, leucine is crucial for muscle growth with all that it takes to prepare your muscles and be ready for your next workout.
Now, a muscle can either grow in size by increasing the diameter of muscle fibers - while their number remains constant. This is only possible if the muscle is strained beyond the optimal performance level, where nerves fire the growth stimulus which causes the protein to deposit in the muscle tissue to increase.
From this, we can definitely came to a conclusion that amino acids are best known for their role in building muscle and strength as one of the primary roles.
3. Increased EnduranceAnother great reason why amino acid supplements increase your endurance is simple - they change the way our body uses the primary fuel sources which are carbs and fat. Many athletes, especially weight lifters, sprinters and high intensity athletes who depend on short bursts need this increased endurance.
This benefit has been backed by many studies, where athletes were given two separate BCAAs - one of which a placebo. The glycogen stores in the real BCAA group saw a 17.2% increase in the time it took the athletes to finish the exercise - and the results were a lot better.
4. Greater Fat BurnBCAAs protect the glycogen of the athletes by simply burning fat. So, people who want to lose some body fat can find them ideal, especially if they are on a low-carb (ketogenic) diet. What will happen is that BCAAs will switch the fat for fuel since there are no carbohydrates coming in.
A study found that this is totally true. Even people who consumed whey protein improved the synthesis of muscle and led to a greater loss of fat, around 7% of their total body weight when using amino acids, and even more in the group that used both amino acids and whey protein.
5. Reduced FatigueAmino acids also have the ability to ward off the mental fatigue that accompanies long workouts. This is mainly because of the relationship between low BCAAs and tryptophan. So, when the amino acid levels drop, the body produces more tryptophan which becomes shifted into serotonin in the brain and leads to feelings of mental fatigue, tiredness and laziness.
Thanks to amino acid supplements, this process is prevented.
6. Improved Mental FocusFrom a short memory boost to better processing abilities, amino acids keep the tryptophan away and are found to last for several hours when it comes to improving the mental focus. This definitely aids working out but is also a great benefit in general.
This benefit is mainly because of the effect of amino acids to the brain's neurotransmitters which affect the behavior and learning skills. The human body naturally produces ten amino acids, and the rest of them must be taken from the food supply. However, the amino acids that are required to build the neurotransmitters are GABA - glycine, taurine, tryptophan and glutamine - all of which essential and coming from the daily diet.
The benefit goes so in depth that amino acids are even used as an alternative form of treatment in addressing ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) in children. The results are always positive - as their anxiety is reduced and their blood tests improve their glutamine score, which is the amino acid responsible for memory and concentration.
7. Muscle SparingIf you think that exercise helps your muscles, you are definitely wrong. What it actually does is damage them and make them work against more pressure. The damage is however rebuilt by your body and that is how it gets stronger. Supplements help this process and give food to your muscles, pumping them and making your body lean.
However, there are times when things go too far and your muscles are broken down too much and feed themselves for fuel. Endurance athletes and sprinters know this by heart because of their caloric deficit which puts them at risk. However, BCAAs protect your muscle fibers from suffering too much damage and definitely prevents major damage from happening.
8. Improved RecoveryAmino acids also come with a great ability - to increase muscle protein synthesis and guard the muscles. This means that you can recover from your workouts more easily, faster and with less downtime when getting back into your routine. Plus, these periods of rest will make your fitness improve and ensure that your recovery is complete.
The effect of amino acids can be best seen in the way they grow, repair and recover the lean muscle tissue. Since everyone's bodies and fitness levels are different, we all react to training and rest recovery differently. One of the most popular amino acid linked to recovery is the lysine, which is found to assist with the growth-hormone release that is crucial in the process of muscle recovery.
9. Reduced Muscle SorenessThe reduced damage and improved recovery has been shown to limit the soreness that sets in after high-intensity or strenuous workouts. This is definitely another great side benefit to the improved recovery and increased endurance.
There are so many studies on the positive benefits of BCAA supplementation with the three crucial amino acids (l-Leucine, l-Isoleucine and l-valine) and their link to sore muscles. The effect of BCAA supplements in long distance runners was proven in studies, where runners reduced their muscle soreness by 32% and demonstrated that these supplements can both lower the muscle damage incurred during exercise and also boost the muscle protein synthesis.
Therefore, it is safe to say that BCAA supplements can reduce muscle soreness and the best way to use them is before, during and after training in optimal doses.
10. Improved Sports PerformanceLast but not the least is a benefit that makes amino acids even better for professional athletes. In many studies, the effects of amino acids in sports performance has been proven with facts and becomes clearly apparent, improving your overall performance.
It doesn't actually matter if you are a professional athlete or not, as long as you take amino acids. The reason for that is because the body responds better to your workouts and your mind operates more efficiently during the sport you are playing, allowing you to maintain a sharp focus and make better decisions.
11. Skin Rejuvenation (Anti-Aging)The right mix of amino acids can provide an amazing regenerative treatment for the skin, hair and nails. This results in beautiful and shiny hair, strong fingernails and a smooth firm skin. The main reason for this are the cell function that gradually slow down as part of the aging process, and ones that are triggered by amino acids that release molecules that recover the damaged genetic material in the cells as we age.
One of the amino acid that is mostly related to a better skin is creatine. In fact, it is found to stimulate energy metabolism that slows down as we age. The stimulation, however, ha a positive effect on the cell functions and supports the natural mechanisms of all skin functions. More creatine also means more collagen, since it acts as an energy bank for times of thigher energy demand.
12. Improved Sex Life And LibidoThe role of amino acids in male health has been a hot topic over the past couple of years. The main reason for that were actually a few amino acids that are directly linked to the erectile functions - L-arginine, L-carnitine and L-tyrosine.
What is certain that all of these amino acids have a proven effect on the sexual health and function in men. While L-arginine is important for penile health and sexual function, L-carnitine stimulates testosterone production and L-tyrosine helps the body produce hormones like thyroid and dopamine, that directly help males suffering from underactive sexual problems caused by their thyroid experience.
We are dedicating the final part to amino acid supplementation and the right times to take amino acids including EAAs and BCAAs.
When to Take - And How to Use Amino Acids?A lot of people go for amino acids, buy them as supplement formulas and products - but are still wondering what are the best times to take them. The truth is, the time when you take your amino acids is crucial for muscle growth, fat loss, recovery or whatever your goal is.
There is also a big conversation on many forums, groups and social networks about the right time of consuming amino acids. According to many studies and research by experts, most people who do not have gigantic bodies should consume around 10 grams of amino acids 3 times a day as the maximum that our body could use. In case you consume more than this maximum, the amino acids will be just metabolized into sugar or stored as fat.
Whether your appetite is satiated, muscle repair and recovery starts before you are even done with your workout and when you need a fast and instantly absorbable form of protein. This is the point when you are mentally stretched towards the end of your workout, competition, game or race, where amino acids step in as the magic potion that allows the body and brain to continue to repair and work hard instead of getting tired.
That is why many people refer to amino acids as the right way to stop the soreness in the muscles, lose more fat and ultimately, gain muscle and improve your performance. They are the prolonger of our stamina and the element that makes the body leaner during a workout, converting the fat to fuel in an absence of carbs.
In fact, a lot of people use amino acids when they cannot get their hands on a quality protein or when they don't have much time to make a meal after a workout. What the aminos do is feed the muscle while giving the body exactly what it needs - with no fat, artificial sweeteners or added sugars.
So, without any doubt, amino acid supplementation is most effective when it is done before, during and post workouts. This way, it supplies the body with a steady amount of free form amino acids for quick use while you are training and when the recovery begins before you finish training. Taking a supplement first thing in the morning is also great for the body, as it was in a state of catabolism throughout your sleep.
However, there is no actual reason to take amino acid supplements before bed - only because they do not elevate the blood concentrations of the amino acids for a long period enough so they can be beneficial.
The good thing with amino acids is that they work with all types of exercise. Whether you are a bodybuilder, a basketball player or a rowing professional, amino acids are a crucial part of our body which makes them universal for everyone - from amateurs to professional athletes. Not only aminos prevent muscle tissue from breaking down, they also induce muscle protein synthesis, feed the muscles to grow bigger and stronger and get you rid of many health disorders.
The Bottom LineIn the end, we all must agree to the fact that there is no such thing as a secret formula to a leaner body, a greater muscle mass or a breathtaking physique. However, taking amino acids definitely contributes to that image, as long as you are working out properly and having a balanced diet.
Ideal for weight lifters, sprinters, high-intensity workouts, bodybuilders and athletes - it is clear that amino acids are a real game changer out there. Some of them can be found in foods like meat, fish, eggs and nuts/seeds, while others are actually produced in our bodies.
The primary reason people turn to amino acid supplements is because of muscle growth and establishing a lean muscle figure. Yet, it is certain that muscle growth is not the only benefit, especially after covering all of them above.
So, if you are thinking about using amino acids to lose weight, build muscle or just feel more fit - you will definitely get all of the benefits from the amino acid supplements that we have at Tiger Fitness. There are dozens of different amino acid formulas, so you should be careful when choosing the right one for you. However, most of them come with equal benefits to the body, brain and even ones in terms of preventing serious disorders.
For more information on the best amino acid supplements, head to our store and start shopping!