Supplements can be a confusing topic even for people experienced with health and fitness. As the landscape of nutrition changes and develops there is always new information being learned about things and how they can affect and change our bodies. So we are taking a little time to discuss the benefits of amino acid supplements.
What are Amino Acids?
In a nutshell, amino acids are the building blocks for protein. They are critical for virtually every function in your body and they make up about 3/4 of your body. There are 20 different amino acids we need in but unfortunately only 10 are actually produced within our body. The remaining 10, which are often called the ‘essential amino acids’ we need to ingest daily from foods and supplements.
What happens if the body doesn’t take in enough of the essentials? Well it needs to get those nutrients from somewhere, so being the enterprising organism it is, your body breaks down proteins to strip out what it needs. That is not a good thing if you are busy trying to repair and build muscles.
Why Take Amino Acid Supplements?
Basically you can’t always count on getting the essential amino acids from your diet alone. If you are serious about fitness then you do not want your body breaking down proteins when it is deficient. In fact you don’t ever want to even be deficient because that means you are missing critical amino acids that are used in your metabolism, muscle growth/recovery, tissue reproduction, and even hair and nail growth!
A diet rich with protein can ensure you get what you need but a lot of people don’t get nearly enough protein in a regular diet. That is a primary reason to take amino acid supplements.
You can get your amino acids in meat (including fish), dairy, eggs, beans, nuts, and seeds. For people who follow a vegan diet, amino acids are an excellent supplement to take if you are unable to keep your protein intake very high.
Additional benefits to amino acid supplements include helping deal with depression and anxiety, assisting with weight loss, and helping with attention deficit disorder.
What Type Should You Take?
There are a few different types of amino acids available on the market. Some are available as just a single essential amino acid and others are grouped together to get you more out of a single pill. Ideally you should try and take a mix of all 10 essential acids not produced by your body in addition to your regular protein intake. It is much better to have an excess of these building blocks rather than be deficient. It is recommended to take them in as few pills as possible so you don’t get confused as to what you took and when.
You can take them at various times of the day but general recommendations from health professionals are before breakfast, before workouts, and after workouts. The idea is to time the release of these nutrients to when your body needs and will use them in the best manner. Taking amino acids before breakfast has been shown to increase the level of growth hormone in the body. Pre-workout ingestion has been shown to help with protein synthesis and post-workout supplementation helps promote faster recovery.
The Bottom Line
More than likely you are either getting just enough or not quite enough of the essential amino acids your body needs. If you expect to be at your best all the time it seems only fair that you provide your body with what it needs to get there; that is the biggest benefit to amino acid supplements.