Why is Supplementing with Amino Acids so Beneficial During Workouts?

Amino Acids, What They Are and Why Do We Need Them

"Providing your body with correct nutrition during exercise is key to maximizing progress towards your goals."

"Providing your body with correct nutrition during exercise is key to maximizing progress towards your goals."

In This Article

  • Amino Acid Benefits
  • When are Amino Acids Especially Important
  • When to Take Amino Acids
  • What's the Right Amino Acid Supplement for me?

Your body is in the perfect state to absorb nutrients during and after you work out or compete. Engaging in Intense Exercise increases blood flow to Working Muscles and cellular absorption in Muscle Fibers allowing your body to better receive and utilize much needed nutrients. But what should those nutrients be?

Providing your body with correct nutrition during exercise is key to maximizing progress towards your goals.  Amino Acids, commonly referred to as the Building Blocks of Protein, play important roles in your body, such as by building muscle and maintaining muscle.

Present during exercise, Amino Acids can minimize the Catabolic (muscle breakdown) effects of exercise while increasing Anabolic (muscle building) effects, improving recovery and decreasing exercise related muscle soreness. [1,2] 

ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT IF YOU’RE FASTING, DIETING OR RESTRICTING CALORIES

Supplementing with Amino Acids seems to be beneficial to everyone that seriously exerts themselves, but, if you’re Fasting or Dieting while Training or Competing, you’re getting comparatively fewer Amino Acids from foods, making Amino Acid supplementation more important for you.

If you train in the morning before you eat, you may not be formally fasting, but you’re in a fasted state  and you may get noticeable results from Amino Acid Supplementation.

Don’t forget to consider your diet and how well it meets your Amino Acid intake needs to determine if a less-than-optimal diet, like mine, could also make Amino Acid supplementation something that you should take more seriously. [3] 

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PRE-WORKOUT OR POST-WORKOUT AMINO ACIDS?

“The goal is to have Amino Acids in your system during your workout, not to drink your Amino Acid Supplement intra-workout.”

Amino Acids are quick absorbing and can be taken pre-workout or intra-workout depending on how you train or compete. If you’re running sprints or doing Cross-Fit you may want to take your Amino Acid Supplement before your event. However, if you’re hitting the gym for Chest Day and resting between sets, you may want to supplement the more traditional way by drinking your Amino Acids throughout your workout. Either way, you will receive the same benefit regardless of when you choose to supplement with your Amino Acids – pre-workout or intra-workout. [4] 

WHICH AMINO ACIDS SHOULD I TAKE ?

The two most popular amino acid supplements are currently Branched Chain Amino Acid (BCAA) Supplement Powders and Essential Amino Acid (EAA) Supplement Powders. BCAAs are also available in tablets, but flavored supplement powders are by far the most popular.

Some amino acids are considered essential because our bodies require them, but cannot make them, meaning that the supply of Essential Amino Acids must come from our diets and our supplements.

It’s important to note that all BCAAs are EAAs, but not all EAAs are BCAAs.

BCAAs consist of three Amino Acids – Leucine, Valine, Isoleucine – and Leucine has been identified as the EAA that has the greatest impact on Muscle Protein Synthesis.
RELATED: Modern Guide to Leucine

With this in mind, we can make some suggestions for when and which Amino Acid Supplement you should take.

Leucine is the Star when it comes to building muscle, so make sure you’re getting enough of it if that’s your goal.  Leucine should be a big part of any BCAA or EAA supplement you choose.

BCAA products generally focus on less amino acids and tend to have larger portions of fewer aminos, including larger portions of leucine.
RELATED: What are BCAAs and What do BCAAs do?

Consider a BCAA powder before or during your workout if your diet is high in proteins that provide you with ample EAAs that are less important for stimulating Muscle Protein Synthesis.

You may want to choose a pre-workout or intra-workout EAA powder if your goal is to provide a more complete Amino Acid profile or if you are not meeting your Essential Amino Acid intake requirements through your diet alone.

RELATED: What are EAAs and What do EAAs do?

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REFERENCES
1. Beelen, M., Koopman, R., Gijsen, A. P., Vandereyt, H., Kies, A. K., Kuipers, H., ... & van Loon, L. J. (2008). Protein coingestion stimulates muscle protein synthesis during resistance-type exercise. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism, 295(1), E70-E77.
2. Pasiakos, S. M., McClung, H. L., McClung, J. P., Margolis, L. M., Andersen, N. E., Cloutier, G. J., ... & Young, A. J. (2011). Leucine-enriched essential amino acid supplementation during moderate steady state exercise enhances post-exercise muscle protein synthesis. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 94(3), 809-818.
3. Gualano, A. B., Bozza, T., De Campos, P. L., Roschel, H., Costa, A. D. S., Marquezi, M. L., ... & Junior, A. H. L. (2011). Branched-chain amino acids supplementation enhances exercise capacity and lipid oxidation during endurance exercise after muscle glycogen depletion. The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness(51), 82-8.
4. Tipton, K. D., Rasmussen, B. B., Miller, S. L., Wolf, S. E., Owens-Stovall, S. K., Petrini, B. E., & Wolfe, R. R. (2001). Timing of amino acid-carbohydrate ingestion alters anabolic response of muscle to resistance exercise. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology And Metabolism, 281(2), E197-E206.