If you are serious about building muscle, you will undoubtedly have looked into sports and performance enhancing supplements. Advertised in magazines and websites and available from specialist stores and on the internet, there are literally thousands upon thousands of supplements to choose from.
Some supplements are “a flash in the pan” products that don’t work very well, if at all, and will soon disappear from the shelves while others have stood the test of time and have been around for many years. Creatine, protein powder, and fish oils are amongst the most enduring supplements around which have proven themselves to be effective. Another perennial crowd-pleasing bodybuilding supplement is amino acids.
Amino acids are an important part of muscle building. They are derived from protein and are essentially the building blocks your body uses to make your muscles and bigger and stronger. If you are serious about bodybuilding, amino acids, like protein and lifting heavy weights, are all but essential.
Amino Acid Benefits
When you lift weights, your muscles are overloaded, and that overload causes micro-trauma. This means they are damaged at a microscopic level.
After a few days’ rests, plenty of sleep, and lots of healthy food, your muscles grow back slightly bigger and stronger than before.
This growth and repair happen most efficiently when there are plenty of amino acids around, which is why they are so important for weight lifting.
Like building a house requires plenty of bricks, building muscle requires and benefits from plenty of amino acids.
Types of Amino Acids
There are two main types of amino acids; those that are deemed essential and those that are non-essential or sometimes called conditionally crucial. The essential amino acids MUST be present in your diet.
They are found in abundance in protein-rich foods like fish, meat, eggs, and dairy. Adequate consumption of these nutritions will provide your body to get enough essential amino acids.
If, however, you lack essential amino acids, your body will not be able to make the non-essential ones, and that’s why amino acids are so important for bodybuilders, weightlifters, and most hard-training strength athletes.
Branched Chain Amino Acids
Of all the bodybuilding amino acids, arguably, the most important are the Branch Chain Amino Acids – BCAA for short. Their names are leucine, isoleucine, and valine, and they are the most abundant amino acids in your muscles.
They are heavily catabolized or broken down during intense bodybuilding training, and most experts agree that if you want to maximize your recovery from your strength training workouts, Branch Chained Amino Acids are very important.
Amino Acids Bodybuilding Benefits
BCAAs are present in high amounts in quality protein foods such as chicken and beef but are especially abundant in whey protein. In addition, you can get Branch Chain Amino Acids in supplemental form – both in powder and capsules/tablets.
Taking BCAAs after exercise can help speed up the muscle building process and may help to minimize post-exercise muscle soreness.
Some people take BCAAs during diets to preserve muscle mass, but while avoiding eating too many calories. Branch Chained Amino Acids contain very few calories making them ideal for those looking to get ripped without losing muscle mass.
Amino Acid Side Bodybuilding Effects
As amino acids are a naturally occurring substance, they do not present any major health risk when consumed according to the manufacturer’s guidelines. However, if taken to excess (which some bodybuilders have been known to do), there is some evidence that suggests amino acids could affect the following:
- Renal function – excess amino acids can put a strain on your kidneys
- Nitrogen balance – excess amino acids can cause you to excrete large amounts of nitrogen leading to a nitrogen imbalance
- Toxicity – when taken to excess, amino acids can build up in your system to toxic levels
- Weight gain – despite being very low in calories, like any foodstuff, if you take too many amino acids, they can contribute to fat gain
It should be stressed, though, that you would have to consume a lot of amino acids to cause any of these problems. If you eat around two grams of protein per kilo of body weight or one gram per pound and supplement with moderate amounts of amnion acids, you are unlikely to suffer any ill effects from amino acids.
Magical Amino Acids?
While amino acids are very beneficial for weightlifters and bodybuilders, they are not magic. They will not make your muscles bigger if you do not train hard, fail to get enough sleep, overeat junk food, or live an otherwise unhealthy lifestyle.
No supplement, not even steroids and growth hormone, will make you a champion if you don’t put in the work in the gym!
Amino acids can be very beneficial, and as they play an important part in muscle growth and repair, it makes a lot of sense to either take them in supplemental form or make sure you are getting plenty of them in the form of protein. Try to make your intake consistent as taking lots one day, and very few the next will not produce the best results.