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What are Amino Acids and How Does a Regime of Them Benefit the Body?

When it comes to supplements, protein is seen as the most important one of all. However, many people forget that proteins are actually made of amino acids, which are the basic building blocks of life. Whenever you ingest a protein from any source, the body will naturally break it down into individual amino acids. It will then take care of reordering and refolding them so that they're able to fulfill their nutritional needs.

There are some amino acids which act in a unique way, making them particularly useful for fitness. The most important ones for athletes are valine, leucine and isoleucine, collectively called branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). Their unique shape allows the body to use them in very special ways that don't apply to other amino acids.

Even though whey protein will naturally have BCAAs in it, they will be found in only limited amounts and be mixed with other amino acids. Different amino acids compete for absorption, meaning that your body will likely not get to use the full amount of BCAAs in protein. This is why a dedicated supplement of amino acids is necessary. BCAA supplements have many different benefits for the whole body. Here is an overview of the most important ones for athletes:

Improved Endurance

Amino acid supplements modify how carbs and fat, the top fuel sources of the body, are used. Some athletes that need short power bursts face issues with glycogen depletion, which results in exhaustion. A recent study comparing the performance of 7 athletes doing workouts designed to completely deplete their supply of glycogen showed that those who were given BCAAs took 17.2 percent more time to get exhausted when compared to the placebo group.

Better Natural Fat Burning

BCAAs are able to protect glycogen by making the body choose fat as a fuel option. This is perfect for those who seek to lose body fat or who train on a low-carb diet.

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Greater Muscle Growth

Muscle growth is another important benefit of amino acid supplements for athletes. Leucine is especially helpful in this area, as it is able to increase muscle protein synthesis after workouts.

Better Recovery

As BCAAs improve muscle protein synthesis and help protect your muscles from damage, they also allow quicker recovery after workouts. This minimizes downtime and lets you stay on top of your routine.

Improved Mental Focus Abilities

Muscles aren't the only thing that matter for athletes. Long competitions require sharp focus and mental processing. Amino acid supplements have been shown to improve both.

About the Author: Mark Delano is the Managing Editor and handles all day to day operations for He is a personal fitness trainer, nutritionist and avid mountain biker who also enjoys exploring the trails of Arizona. Besides his everyday duties at HealthyMale, Mark is also a guest columnist for several blogs related to men's health.

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