Increased endurance and mental focus? Less muscle wasting and soreness? Will amino acids help you perform better in endurance sports? You’ve probably seen amino supplements advertised and read about athletes who swear by them, but what exactly are amino acids? I won’t try to make you recall your high school chemistry class. Here’s a REALLY basic explanation of what they are and their importance to your body.
What are Amino Acids and Why Should You Care?
There are actually more than 500 amino acids in nature, but only about 20 that make up the many kinds of proteins in our bodies. Of these, 11 “non-essential” Amino Acids we are able to produce within ourselves. The other 9 “essential” Amino Acids we obtain through our diet. The essential Amino Acids are not stored in the body and must be replenished regularly. We generally get enough of them by eating foods that are high in protein, though under stressful conditions (like certain illnesses and extreme exertion) we can fall short even on some non-essential amino acids (conditionally essential).
What are the Functions of the 9 Essential Amino Acids?
We’ll start with the branched chain amino acids (BCAAs). Probably the ones you’ve heard the most buzz about, Isoleucine, Leucine and Valine are essential amino acids with a special shape and function. They are called branched chain amino acids or BCAAs. Branched chain amino acids have been the subject of a great deal of research in the sports science world since the 1980’s. While they alone aren’t going to get you shredded in the gym, BCAA’s do have many proven benefits. Some of these benefits include:
- Reduced exercise fatigue
- Reduction in delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)
- Improved muscle protein synthesis
- Reduced muscle wasting
- Improved mental focus
Isoleucine helps regulate blood sugar and energy levels. It assists in wound healing, stimulating immune function and regulation of several hormones.
Leucine helps stimulate the growth and repair of muscle and bone as well as preventing their breakdown after trauma or stress. It’s used in many metabolic functions and hormone production. Leucine also helps regulate blood sugar levels.
Valine enhances energy, increases endurance and assists in muscle repair. Like the other BCAAs it helps control blood sugar levels and hormone production.
The other 6 Essential Amino Acids
Histidine is necessary for growth, tissue repair and maintaining the health of nerve cells. It’s used to create histamine, which is essential to the immune system, stomach health and sexual functions. It’s used to manufacture blood cells as well as protecting our tissues against radiation and heavy metal damage.
Lisine works to ensure that the body absorbs enough calcium. It helps form collagen and assists in the production of antibodies, hormones and enzymes.
Methionine is important for growth and tissue repair. It also improves the tone and elasticity of skin, hair, and strengthens nails.
Phenylaline is used by the brain to produce chemicals that transmit signals between nerve cells and the brain. It keeps you awake and alert, reduces hunger pains and helps improve memory.
Threonine plays an important role in fat metabolism as well as the building of tooth enamel, collagen and elastin.
Tryptophan is the least plentiful of all of the amino acids in our bodies. It’s found in most proteins and is required to produce serotonin- the neurotransmitter that is essential for regulating mood, appetite, pain and sleep.
How should an athlete make sure they are getting all of the amino acids their bodies require? A healthy diet with high quality protein should get you most of what you need. When you are regularly burning down the house with tough workouts though, you may want to consider taking supplemental amino acids. Try supplementing in small doses before, during and after exercise. Amino acids generally show more effectiveness when taken in combination with each other. You can take the guesswork out of these combinations by choosing a formula that already contains amino acids in ideal ratios. As with any nutrition strategy, be sure to try amino acid supplements regularly during training so that you will be familiar with its effects.
SlayRx Diesel All-in-One Endurance Fuel contains over 10 amino acids, including branched chain amino acids and essential amino acids as well as non essential amino acids. SlayRx Diesel Plus even has caffeine in it for that extra boost.
Citations & References
Gualano AB, Bozza T, Lopes De Campos P, et al. Branched-chain amino acids supplementation enhances exercise capacity and lipid oxidation during endurance exercise after muscle glycogen depletion. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2011;51(1):82–88.
Portier H, Chatard JC, Filaire E, Jaunet-Devienne MF, Robert A, Guezennec CY. Effects of branched-chain amino acids supplementation on physiological and psychological performance during an offshore sailing race. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2008;104(5):787–794. doi:10.1007/s00421-008-0832-5
National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Database. Histidine, CID=6274, https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Histidine (accessed on Dec. 4, 2019)
National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Database. Lysine, CID=5962, https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Lysine (accessed on Dec. 4, 2019)
National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Database. Methionine, CID=6137, https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Methionine (accessed on Dec. 4, 2019)
National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Database. L-Threonine, CID=6288, https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/L-Threonine (accessed on Dec. 4, 2019)
National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Database. Tryptophan, CID=6305, https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Tryptophan (accessed on Dec. 4, 2019)
National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Database. Phenylalanine, CID=6140, https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Phenylalanine (accessed on Dec. 4, 2019)
National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Database. l-Isoleucine, CID=6306, https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/l-Isoleucine (accessed on Dec. 4, 2019)
National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Database. Leucine, CID=6106, https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Leucine (accessed on Dec. 4, 2019)
National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Database. Valine, CID=6287, https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Valine (accessed on Dec. 4, 2019)
J Nutr. 2006 Feb;136(2):529S-532S.Nutraceutical effects of branched-chain amino acids on skeletal muscle. Shimomura Y1, Yamamoto Y, Bajotto G, Sato J, Murakami T, Shimomura N, Kobayashi H, Mawatari K. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16424141