If you’re wondering why exactly amino acids are so essential then you’re not alone. Even though they’re widely recommended, outside of science journals and studies there’s not a lot of information about what they’re doing for you and why they’re so beneficial.
You might remember learning about amino acids in school and how they are the building blocks of protein. If you’re training or competing then it’s likely that you’re already taking protein supplements, so why would you need to supplement your protein supplement with what is essentially its component parts? The short answer is that while your body can break protein down into certain amino acids there are some that it can’t manufacture on its own. Unfortunately, these also tend to be the ones most important for athletes looking to unlock some extra performance.
When your body breaks protein down into aminos it can put them back together into whatever it needs most at the time from a certain pool of amino acids that it knows how to make. The two most important types for athletes are the branched-chain amino acids; leucine; isoleucine; and valine, and essential amino acids. These essential amino acids can’t be created by your body, and so you need to obtain them from outside sources.
Most of the population will be able to get enough of these by eating a normal balanced diet, but your pool of amino acids is constantly being diminished by their metabolism and if you’re working out a lot you’ll be burning through them faster.
Think of amino acids as your body’s fuel - if you’re just looking to go out for a nice Sunday drive, whatever you’ve got in the tank is probably going to be fine. If you’re looking to race around Silverstone in a supercar then you’re going to need a lot more, and when you’re at a competition (or training for one) your body needs the supercar fuel.
Now you know why amino acid supplements are necessary, but what do exactly do they do? Well, quite a lot, as it turns out.
Exercise puts a lot of stress on your muscles. It’s beneficial stress, sure, but it’s stress all the same, and during intense exercise they can break down and tear. Particular amino acids are really good at encouraging the growth of muscle, leaving them in better shape and better prepared for exercise, and others help strengthen muscle fibers to help protect them from getting damaged in the first place.
A long-term study published in Germany in 2009 on our own AM-formula amino acid found that athletes taking amino acid supplements had a much lower risk of injury, and a much better ability to regenerate after moderate to high intensity training sessions. They were also much less likely to suffer from muscular pain, or pain in their joints.
So many of our cells are made out of amino acids that there are a lot of potential health benefits from taking amino acid supplements and every day people are studying how they help us in more depth and looking at more potential applications for them. What we know for sure right now though is that they can be incredibly beneficial, and that athletes, even at the highest levels, aren’t getting enough of them!