Protein and bodybuilding have gone hand in hand for a long time. Whole proteins were the earliest bodybuilding “supplements.” Milk and whole eggs started it. Scientists quickly isolated the building blocks in protein. The amino acids were isolated and later it was determined that some of those amino acids were essential for muscular growth. It was also discovered that some amino acids are produced by the body, while others must be taken in through the diet. The latter are called essential amino acids.
Macronutrients (such as fat, carbohydrates, and proteins) that are broken down into their respective building blocks before consumption will be utilized by the body quicker. This eliminates a vital step in the digestive process. Amino acids are utilized with more ease, using less energy, than whole proteins. For this reason, amino acids are great when muscles need repair.
When amino acids were separated and identified it became possible to take in more of certain amino acids needed for muscle growth without increasing an already excessive protein intake. The essential amino acids must be taken through the diet since they cannot be produced by the body. These include histidine, tryptophan phenylalanine, valine, threonine, leucine, isoleucine, methionine, and lysine. Some amino acids that are not considered essential may still require additional supplementation. These include glycine, tyrosine, cysteine, arginine, and glutamine. Another nutrient that often gets lumped in with amino acids, and that has direct impact on muscles, is taurine.
Glutamine is one of the most prominent amino acids found in muscle. Arginine and ornithine are also found in high quantities in muscle tissue. Extra glutamine through supplementation ensures an adequate amount for muscle repair and building. Pre- and post-workout, and before bed are key times for glutamine supplementation. The pre-bed dose should include arginine and ornithine, as well.
Although not an amino acid, taurine helps the hard working bodybuilder by reducing muscular fatigue during extreme workouts. Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which include valine, isoleucine, and leucine, increase energy in the muscle. BCAAs make up about a third of the protein in muscle tissue. They increase energy and enhance repair and production of muscle tissue through an increase in insulin production, increasing amino acid uptake in the muscle cells, and increasing protein synthesis in the muscles. This leads to faster recovery times after strenuous workouts.
Amino acid supplements have been around a long time due to their effectiveness. They are generally safe in normal doses, however, extreme doses can lead to problems. The best part of amino acid supplementation is that it allows bodybuilders, who are already taking in large amounts of protein, to focus their supplement program. They can take amino acids targeted on muscular energy and growth. Their low cost also makes them an important part of any supplement program.
A good amino acid supplementation program might include branched-chain amino acids pre-workout with glutamine, ornithine, and arginine post-workout and before bed. This will ensure adequate amino acids for muscle repair and growth. The addition of taurine before the workout might give a much needed boost to the intensity. A quality protein shake in the morning will feed the muscles after the long fast, then additional amino acid supplements throughout the day will keep them fed. Amino acids truly are the foundation of any good supplement program.