|Amino Acids & Bodybuilding
BodybuildingPro.com Articles Database Articles by Writer Articles & Interviews from GetBig.com Amino Acids & Bodybuilding
Brought to you By: GetBig.com
Why do so many bodybuilders know so little about amino acids and protein,
the differences in their form and the best times to ingest them? With nothing
less that optimal muscle growth at stake, time invested in a little research
can pay big dividends - both in terms of physical size and dollars saved.
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and muscle tissue. All types
of physiological processes relating to sport - energy, recovery, muscle /
strength gains and fat loss, as well as mood and brain function - are
intimately and critically linked to amino acids. It's no wonder amino acids
have become major players in athletes' supplementation, especially among
What are Amino Acids?
The 23 or so amino acids are the molecular building blocks of proteins.
According to one accepted classification, 9 are termed indispensable amino
acids (IAA, sometimes called essential), meaning that they must be supplied
from some food or supplement source; the others, which used to be classified
simply as nonessential, are now more correctly termed dispensable amino acids
(DAA) or conditionally indispensable, based on the body's ability to
synthesize them from other amino acids.
What is Bioavailability?
You may not give it much thought when you sink your teeth into a chicken
breast (or lentil stew), but the content and balance of amino acids,
particularly the ratio of IAA to DAA, is what determines the body and health
building value of a protein food or supplement. But that isn't all that
In addition to being influenced by the carbohydrates, fats and total calories
associated with it, protein quality is related to the amount of the specific
aminos within both the IAA and DAA categories (for example, the amount of
glutamine and branched chain amino acids, or BCAAs - leucine, isoleucine and
valine). While the amount of IAAs are generally of greater importance, the DAAs
are also significant because they're synthesized too slowly to support
maximum growth. Even if a source has a perfect amino acid profile for a given
individual and lifestyle, another important factor - to what extent these
acids are actually delivered to the tissues when needed - must be considered.
That, in turn, raises the issues of digestion, absorption, actual
bioavailability and the potential value of supplementation.
Eating quality food is the most common way to get amino acids into the diet,
especially high protein foods like lean meats and nonfat dairy products.
Even some vegetables and legumes can offer high levels of most amino acids.
For serious athletes and those on the run, protein powders and pure free form
amino acids provide a convenient and effective means to supplement dietary
Applications to Bodybuilding
Why would people pay relatively large sums of money for only a few grams of pure
cheaply? Because of bioavailability.
Bioavailability gauges the extent to which an administered substance reaches
its site of action or utilization in the body. Bioavailability is thus a measure
of the efficiency of delivery - how much of what is ingested is actually used
for its intended purpose.
Conceivably, two diets could contain exactly the same amount of particular
amino acids (the same amino acid profile) but have significant differences
in their absorption. A number of factors affect amino acid bioavailability
(see Factors Affecting Amino Acid Bioavailability.
The most reliable way to deliver specific amino acids is to administer
the particular amino acids themselves. The most bioavailable source for oral
use is powdered free form amino acids.
A singular (unbonded) amino acids can specifically elevate its level in the
general circulation within 15 minutes, making it readily available for
metabolism at the site where it's needed. Hence, for example, the
recommendation to use BCAAs before, during and after training both to
prevent central / mental fatigue, as well as to provide a source of energy
to help prevent muscle protein catabolism and to speed recuperation.
Muscle tissue will grow in the presence of a number of factors, including
exercise, hormones (growth hormone, insulin, testosterone and thyroid) and
nutrients. Nutrition science has advanced to the point where athletes who
supplement with free form amino acids can get IAAs, high in BCAA content,
to the muscles much more effectively.
Directed Amino Acids
The key is the window of opportunity that occurs immediately after exercise,
when the muscle is especially receptive to nutrients and the blood flow to the
exercised muscles remains high. The solution to optimizing recovery and growth
in this case could include eating a small meal composed of protein with both
simple and complex carbohydrates.
This isn't the current high tech approach, however. For one, if you trained
hard, chances are - even if a convenient and light, nutritious meal was
readily available - you wouldn't feel like eating. More important, a high
protein meal won't put significant levels of amino acids into your bloodstream
until a couple of hours after you eat it, especially if blood flow to the
gastrointestinal tract has been diminished by a hard training session. The
bottom line: Even if you eat the right foods soon after training, the nutrients
will arrive at the muscle too late to take full advantage of the window
Supplement manufacturers recognized the potential value of free-form amino
use was limited by their expense and a relative lack of convincing supportive
research for a number of years, their popularity has recently increased
dramatically. Prepackaged workout and recovery drinks containing hydrolyzed
(predigested) proteins and often some free-form amino acids now fill
gym refrigerators. Capsules and powdered free-form amino acids, although
still somewhat expensive, are likewise being used by increasing numbers
of top amateur and professional athletes.
The value of free-form amino acids is first and foremost that they don't
require digestion. The term 'free-form' means exactly that: They are free
of chemical bonds to other molecules and so move quickly through the stomach
and into the small intestine, where they're rapidly absorbed into the
Upon absorption, amino acids are processed by the liver. When you eat a steak,
for example, only relatively few amino acids escape the metabolic actions of
the liver. Yet the liver can process only so many at one time, and taking a
dose of 3-4 grams of rapidly absorbed amino acids exceeds the liver's
capacity, resulting in the aminos being directed to the tissues that require
them, such as muscle in the case of bodybuilder recovering from training.
Thus, the concept of 'directed amino acids'.
While sound in theory, does it work in practice? As early as 1990, the
Bulgarian national weightlifting team began trials to determine if free-form
amino acids were a boost to muscular growth. The work was so successful that
part of the study was replicated on the Colorado Springs Olympic Training
Center. Since then, top bodybuilders and powerlifters around the world today -
including Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates, and 'Mr. Powerlifting' Ed Coan - have
benefited from this new research.
Amino Acids for Energy
Many misconceptions exist about the muscle contraction and the use of energy
substrates during heavy during heavy, high-intensity weight training. When
you're engaged in a repetitive power workout, a substantial portion of
your energy comes from noncarbohydrate sources. When muscle contracts, it uses
its stores of adenosine triphosphate (ATP, a substance vital to the energy
processes of all living cells) for the first few seconds. The compound used to
immediately replenish these stores is creatine phosphate (CP). The recent
explosion of creatine supplements in the market attests to its value to
hard training bodybuilders and other strength / power athletes.
CP is made from three amino acids: arginine, methionine and glycine. To keep
CP and ATP levels high, these amino acids must be elevated in the bloodstream.
Traditionally, these proteins have been supplied by foods in the diet.
Elevating levels of these amino acids or of CP with conventional foods takes
a great deal of time (for digestion) and isn't specific, typically providing
levels of fats and carbohydrates that may or may not be desired. The use of
free-form amino acids, alone and in combination with creatine supplements, can
provide directed source of energy for power and growth.
Amino Acids & Fat Loss
In fat loss, two major processes must occur: 1) the mobilization and
circulation of stored fats in the body must increase; and 2) fats must be
transported and converted to energy at the powerhouse site of cells, the
mitochondria. Several nutrients can assist in the conversion of fat to energy,
including lipotropic agents such as choline, inositol and the IAA methionine
which, in sufficient quantities, can help improve the transport and metabolism
Supplementation with complete IAA mixtures, BCAAs and glutamine can also help
keep calorie and food volume down while providing targeted support directly to the
muscles, liver and immune systems so critical to optimizing body composition.
Reducing Muscle Catabolism
The human body has the innate ability to break down muscle tissue for use as
an energy source during heavy exercise. This muscle catabolism can cause
muscle soreness, shrinkage of muscle tissue and may even lead to injury.
This enemy to bodybuilders is part of a process known as gluconeogenosis,
which means producing or generating glucose from noncarbohydrate sources.
The part of this reaction that of importance to bodybuilders is known as
the glucose - alanine cycle, in which BCAAs are stripped from the muscle
tissue and parts of them are converted to the amino acid alanine, which is
transported to the liver and converted into glucose.
If you consume supplemental BCAA's. the body does not have to break down
muscle tissue to derive extra energy. A study conducted recently at the
School of Human Biology, University of Guelph, Onterio, Canada, confirmed
that the use of BCAA's (up to 4 grams) during and after exercise can
result in a significant reduction of muscle breakdown during exercise.
In addition to BCAAs, arginine is another amino acid that may benefit
bodybuilders. Though it did not live up to its early hype, which touted
the amino acid's ability to raise growth hormone level, new data indicate
that arginine - in large but safe and affordable doses - may be able to
raise GH levels by up to 1,000%.
Free-Form vs. Di & Tripeptides
The form an amino acid takes has been a confusing subject for a number of
years, partly because of research that demonstrated superior absorption of
purified di- and tripeptides fragments. Di- and tripeptides are simply two
and three amino acid molecules bound together, respectively, as opposed to
the single molecules of free-form amino acids.
The fact is, pure, powdered free-form amino acids are absorbed from the small
intestine into the bloodstream and are available to the tissues very quickly.
The problem with pure di- and tripeptides isn't their bioavailability but ?3?
available to consumers. Moreover, hydrolyzed proteins such as whey and
lactalbumin are not necessarily good sources of di- and tripeptides. They
generally contain very few of these amino acid combinations, and what few
they have may get lost in the general wash of longer chain peptides
contained in these hydrolysates.
So while pure di- and tripeptides are efficient in their ability to be
absorbed into the bloodstream, pure free-form amino acids are equal or
superior for bodybuilders and other athletes and more important, are as close
as your nearest health food store.
Factors Affecting Amino Acid Bioavailability
How fat you eat a protein source and the length of time it takes for the
digested amino acids to be available for use by the body are determined
by a number of factors, which include:
Cooking - Amino acids are more or less sensitive to heat. For example,
arginine is extremely stable and will decompose only if exposed to sustained
temperatures about 470 degrees F. Carnitine decomposes at temperatures of
284 F. Cooking, in addition to killing micro-organisms, makes the long
spiral polypeptide chains unwind, causing the amino acid to become more
exposed when it reaches the digestive system.
Physical nature of the food, whether solid, liquid, powder or tablet; whether
and to what extent chemically predigested and the type and amounts of binders,
fillers and other nutritive and non-nutritive materials.
Status of the digestive system - Genetics, age, overall health and specific
diseases and illnesses.
Metabolism or utilization by the intestine before absorption - such as
occurs with glutamine.
Metabolism or utilization in the liver before transfer to the general
circulation - For maximal directed effects, amino acids should be taken on
an empty stomach and in a dosage that enables significant quantities to reach
the target tissues.
Amino Acid Form Comparison & Usage Guide
|Free-Form||Does not require digestion; small amounts quickly
absorbed into bloodstream. ||Nutrients absorbed into bloodstream quickly,
available to muscle or other tissues; helps prevent muscle catabolism. ||
Relatively expensive. ||For example, glutamine: 3-5 grams, 1-5 times per
day before or between meals; same for mixture of IAAs.
|Hydrolyzed ||Predigestion speeds entry into digestive
system, but often contains longer chains that must be broken down. Whey and lactalbumin are examples.||Predigestion speeds absorption||Contains longer chains, which must be broken before being absorbed into bloodstream.
||For maximum mass . strength gains or during periods of high stress or
gastrointestinal problems: 20-30 grams, 1-3 times per day; for optimal health
maintenance: 20 grams once per day.
|Branched Chain ||Aids in the formation of alanine from glucose
during exercise as well as glutamine from glucose and alphaketo glutarate.
||Can be converted into energy to prevent muscle catabolism. || Relatively
expensive form of energy for muscle action. ||During hard training: 4-5 grams
2-5 times per day, especially before and after training. Optimal ratio for
normal use is 2:1:1 (leucine : isoleucine : valine), although higher leucine
content immediately before and after exercise is okay.
|Di-Tripeptides ||Two or three molecule amino acids that
are quickly digested. Depending on conditions, may significantly increase
nitrogen retention. ||Short chains for moderately fast digestion and
absorption. ||Cost, availability, taste, osmolality. || Usually found in
highest quality hydrolyzed protein supplements (see doses above).
The Amino Acid Guide
There are three types of amino acids; the indispensable amino acids, the conditionally
dispensable amino acids, and the dispensable amino acids. Indispensable amino acids,
also called essential amino acids, must be supplied to the body from food
or supplements. Conditionally dispensable amino acids are based on the body's
ability to actually synthesize them from other amino acids.
Dispensable amino acids, also called nonessential amino acids, can be
synthesized by the body from other amino acids. Here is the amino acid
guide and their benefits.
|The Indispensable Amino acids
- A branched chain amino acid readily taken up and used for energy by muscle
- Used to prevent muscle wasting in debilitated individuals
- Essential in the formation of hemoglobin
- A branched chain amino acid used as a source of energy
- Helps reduce muscle protein breakdown
- Modulates uptake of neurotransmitter precursors by the brain as well as
the release of enkephalins, which inhibit the passage of pain signals into the
- Promotes healing of skin and broken bones.
- A branched chain amino acid
- Not processed by the liver; rather actively taken up by muscle
- Influences brain uptake of other neurotransmitter precursors (trptophan,
phenylalanine and tryosine).
- One of the major ultraviolet absorbing compounds in the skin
- Important in the production of red and white blood cells; used in the
treatment of anemia
- Used in the treatment of allergic diseases, rheumatoid arthritis and
- Low levels can slow protein synthesis, affecting muscle and connective tissue
- Inhibits viruses; used in the treatment of herpes simplex
- Lysine and Vitamin C together form L-carnitine, a biochemical that enables muscle
tissue to use oxygen more efficiently, delaying fatigue
- Aids bone growth by helping form collagen, the fibrous protein that makes up
bone, cartilage and other connective tissue.
- Precursor of cystine and creatine
- May increase antioxidant levels (glutathione) and reduce blood cholesterol levels.
- Helps remove toxic wastes from the liver and assists in the regeneration of liver and kidney tissue
- The major precursor of tyrosine
- Enhances learning, memory, mood and alertness
- Used in the treatment of some types of depression
- Is a major element in the production of collagen
- Suppresses appetite
- One of the amino detoxifers
- Helps prevent fatty buildup in the liver
- Important component of collagen
- Generally low in vegetarians
- Precursor of key neurotransmitter serotonin, which exerts a calming effect
- Stimulates the release of growth hormones
- Free form of this amino acid is unavailable in the U.S.
- It is only available in natural food sources
|Conditionally Dispensable Amino Acids
- Can increase secretion of insulin, glucagon, growth hormones
- Aids in injury rehabilitation, formation of collagen and immune system stimulation.
- Precursor of creatine, gamma amino butric acid (GABA, a neurotransmitter in the brain)
- May increase sperm count and T-lymphocyte response
- Detoxifies harmful chemicals in combination with L-aspartic acid and L-citruline
- Helps prevent damage from alcohol and tobacco use
- Stimulates white blood cell activity
- Precursor of the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine,
as well as thyroid and growth hormones and melanin (the pigment responsible for
skin and hair color).
- Elevates mood
|Dispensable Amino Acids
- Major component of connective tissue
- Key intermediate in the glucose alanine cycle, which allows muscles and
other tissues to derive energy from amino acids
- Helps build up the immune system
- Helps convert carbohydrates into muscle energy
- Builds immune system immunoglobulins and antibodies
- Reduces ammonia levels after exercises
- Contributes to strong connective4e tissue and tissue antioxidant actions
- Aids in healing processes, stimulates white blood cell activity and helps
diminish pain from inflammation
- Essential for the formation of skin and hair
- A major precursor of glutamine, proline, ornothine, arginine, glutathione, and GABA
- A potential source of energy
- Important in brain metabolism and metabolism of other amino acids.
- Most abundant amino acid
- Plays a key role in immune system functions
- An important source of energy, especially for kidneys and intestines during caloric restrictions.
- A brain fuel that is an aid to memory and a stimulant to intelligence and concentration
- Aids in the manufacture of other amino acids and is a part of the structure
of hemoglobin and cytochromes (enzymes involved in energy production)
- Has a calming effect and is sometimes used to treat manic depressive
and aggressive individuals
- Produces glucagon, which mobilizes glycogen
- Can inhibit sugar cravings
- May help increase growth hormone secretion in high doses
- Aids in immune and liver function
- Promotes healing
- A major component in the formation of connective tissue and heart muscle
- Readily mobilized for muscular energy
- Major constituent of collagen
- Important in cells' energy production
- Aids memory and nervous system function
- Helps builds up immune system by producing immuno-globulins and antibodies
- Aids in the absorption and elimination of fats
- May act as a neurotransmitter in some areas of the brain and retina
Brought to you By: GetBig.com
Visitor Reviews Of This Article!
Read Visitor Reviews - Write Your Own Review
Go to: Getbig Article & Interview Database
Back To Getbig's Main Page
Buy Protein Products!
Special Protein Categories!
|Optimum 100% Whey Protein Optimum 100% Whey Protein won the Supplement Of The Year and Protein Powder Of The Year award for 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008! Since the very beginning, Optimum Nutrition has raised the standard by which all other whey protein supplements are judged. Now we're raising the bar again with the 3rd generation of ON 100% Whey Protein: ON 100% Whey Gold Standard. BUY IT NOW