Lots of bodybuilders and other athletes use amino acid supplements. That’s because your body needs amino acids for all types of physiological processes related to exercise, but should you take BCAAs every day. Amino acids are critical for your muscles, recovery, energy levels, strength gains, and fat loss. Additionally, your central nervous system can’t function properly without amino acids. Your brain needs amino acids in order to both send and receive information. If you know which amino acid supplements are most beneficial and when to take them, you can help improve your athletic performance, strength, and body composition to maximize your desired results.
What You Should Know About Essential Amino Acids
Your body has 20 different types of amino acid, 9 of which are considered essential amino acids (EAA). They’re also sometimes referred to as indispensable amino acids (IAA). Your body needs these amino acids in order to function. You must get them either from your food or a supplement. The other 11 amino acids are often classified as nonessential amino acids (NAA). However, they are still essential to your body. You just don’t need them from food or supplement sources because your body can synthesize them from other amino acids. Some of them are considered conditionally essential amino acids because your body can’t synthesize them under certain conditions.
The Essential and Nonessential Amino Acids
|Essential Amino Acids||Nonessential Amino Acids|
If your body doesn’t have enough of one essential amino acid, all the others will become proportionally less effective.
Amino Acids and Protein
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and muscle tissue. You probably know that water comprises the largest portion of your body weight. Proteins comprise the next largest portion.
Why You Need Protein
Every cell in your body requires protein. It’s in your muscles, bone, cartilage, blood, enzymes, and hormones. You need to make sure you’re getting enough protein because it’s vital for virtually everything from healthy muscles, tendons, ligaments, organs, glands, hair, nails, and most body fluids.
- Allows your muscles to contract and hold water
- Gives your hair and skin a protective coating
- Provides the rigid framework of your bones and teeth
- Helps you form tissues
- Regulates your body’s water and acid-base balance
- Stimulates the production of antibodies
Amino Acids and Protein Quality
So, you need protein, but you also need to make sure you’re getting the right kind of protein. What you eat can determine how you look, but also how you feel and how your body functions. You need the right balance of amino acids in your diet to help your body function. The ratio of the EAAs and NAAs in your food determines the protein quality of the food.
It’s vital to get the right amount of essential amino acids, but the NAAs are also important because your body doesn’t synthesize them fast enough to support maximum growth. Even if you find a source that has the perfect amino acid for your lifestyle, though, you have to consider another important factor: the extent to which those acids are actually delivered to your tissues when needed. You’ll also need to consider the issues of digestion, absorption, actual bioavailability, and the potential value of supplementation.
3 Types of Amino Acid Supplements
Before you can decide whether you need to take amino acid supplements, you should know about the different kinds of supplements out there. Most amino acid supplements are derived from egg, animal, or yeast protein. You can buy them as capsules, tablets, or powders. Here are some of the different types:
Peptide Bonded Amino Acids
Peptide bonded amino and carboxyl groups combine to form peptide bonds. A peptide bonded amino acid consists of two or more types of amino acids linked by peptide bonds.
Free Form Amino Acids
Free form amino acids are valuable because you don’t have to digest them. They aren’t chemically bound to any other molecules, so they can move quickly through your digestive system. Amino acids travel from your stomach into your small intestine, where they’re rapidly absorbed into your bloodstream.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) and Muscle Growth
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) have aliphatic side-chains that are non-linear. The side chains are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. The combination of these three essential amino acids make up approximately 1/3 of all skeletal muscle in your body. They play an important role in protein synthesis, muscle development, and muscle recovery.
This is Essentially a Commercial for BPI Sports BCAAs, but They Provide Some Good Info.
How to Choose the Best Supplement for You
There are some studies that show that free form amino acids are the purest and most biologically active source of amino acids on the market. Many companies advertise this. In some circumstances, it may be true. Other companies will tell you that peptide bonded amino acids are the best, and sometimes they are.
There are some studies that support the claim that peptides are adsorbed more quickly than other forms of amino acids. That doesn’t necessarily mean that peptide bonded amino acids will be the best for you. Free form amino acids aren’t absorbed as quickly in your small intestines, but your body has to break the peptide bonded acids down into single molecules before you can absorb them into your bloodstream. This process takes about one and a half hours, and you have to take peptide bonded amino acids with meals. You can take free form amino acids on an empty stomach.
Follow This Simple Rule
Both peptide bonded and free form amino acids are useful and beneficial for growth and development because each one is unique in its own way. Therefore, you should take both for optimal results. Follow this basic rule:
Rule #1 Use Peptide Bonded Amino Acids to Improve the Protein Efficiency Ratio of Dietary Protein
This means you should have a few with each meal. Why? Firstly, it will increase the biological value of your meal and add more protein that is easily available. Secondly, peptide bonded amino acids are usually less expensive than free form.
Rule #2 Use Free Form Amino Acids Immediately Before and BCAAs Immediately After Weight Training.
When you use them properly, free form and branched-chain amino acids can help maximize muscle growth and recovery after intense exercise. When you do intense physical exercise like weight training, you put stress on your muscle fibers, which can cause damage. Your body needs BCAAs to recover. So, if you don’t have extra BCAAs, your body will derive them from complete proteins and breaking down muscle.
Avoid Catabolism in Your Muscles
The process of breaking down muscle tissue for proteins is called catabolism, and it renders the unused portions of the protein incomplete and unusable. By increasing your levels of BCAAs prior to and immediately following weight training, you will supply your body with everything it needs to recover. This will prevent muscle breakdown (catabolism) and promote an anabolic (muscle building) state. Studies also show that if you supplement with free form amino acids, you can get EAAs, high in BCAA content, to your muscles much more effectively. If you are in an intense training regime, try consuming 6-8 g free form before and 2-4 g branched-chain after your workout.
Best Amino Acids for Energy -- The Creatine Connection
There are many misconceptions about muscle contraction and how your body uses energy substrates during heavy, high-intensity weight training. When you’re engaged in a repetitive power workout, a substantial portion of your energy comes from non-carbohydrate sources. When your muscles contract, they use their stores of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) for the first few seconds. ATP is vital to the energy processes of all living cells. Likewise, creatine phosphate replenishes your stores of ATP.
Creatine phosphate is made from three amino acids: arginine, methionine, and glycine. To keep your creatine phosphate and ATP levels high, you need elevated levels of these amino acids in your bloodstream. You can get these proteins from food. However, it takes a lot of time for your body to digest and elevate the levels of these amino acids with conventional foods. You can also end up with unwanted levels of fats and carbohydrates. There has been a recent explosion of creatine supplements in the market. They are invaluable to hard-training bodybuilders and other strength and power athletes. You can use creatine supplements along with free form amino acids to provide a directed source of energy for power and growth.
Your Guide to Amino Acids and Fat Loss
In order to lose fat, two major processes need to occur. First, you must increase the mobilization and circulation of stored fats in your body. Then, your body must transport those fats and convert them to energy at the powerhouse site of your cells, the mitochondria. There are several nutrients that can help convert your fat to energy, including lipotropic agents such as choline, inositol, and the EAA methionine. Insufficient quantities, these nutrients can help you improve the transport and metabolism of fat.
You can also supplement with complete EAA mixtures, BCAAs, and glutamine to help keep your calorie and food volume down while providing targeted support directly to your muscles, liver, and immune system, which are so critical to optimizing your body’s composition.
Thomas DeLauer Discusses BCAAs and Fat Loss
Reduce Your Muscle Catabolism with BCAAs
Your body has the innate ability to break down muscle tissue to use as an energy source during heavy exercise. This muscle catabolism can make your muscles sore, shrink your muscle tissue, and may even lead to injury. A primary cause of muscle catabolism is a biochemical process within your body known as gluconeogenesis. Gluconeogenesis occurs when your body produces or generates glucose from non-carbohydrate sources. If you’re a bodybuilder, the important part of this reaction is known as the glucose-alanine cycle. In this process, your body strips BCAAs from your muscle tissue. Parts of them are converted to the amino acid alanine, which is then transported to your liver and converted into glucose.
Break Down of Glucose-alanine Cycle
If you take supplemental BCAAs, your body doesn’t have to break down muscle tissue to derive extra energy. The School of Human Biology at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, conducted a study that found that you can use up to 4 grams of BCAAs during and after exercise to help you reduce your muscle breakdown during exercise (1).
So Should You Take BCAA Every Day?
If you are in a heavy training routine the answer could very well be yes. Specifically, if you are training everyday then your body will not be able to produce the amino acids it needs fast enough. Then the answer is most likely “Yes” You should take BCAAs every day, at least every day you train. So are you taking BCAA frequently?