Amino acids are compounds that are necessary for human life. In fact, as raw materials for proteins, amino acids are considered the “Building Blocks of Life” that may have been key ingredients in the Primordial Soup that sparked existence at the beginning of time!
The body uses amino acids to optimize cell function and produce energy.** Importantly, amino acids are used to create and process proteins, which in turn play an integral part in building and upholding the body's life-sustaining functions and structures.** Additionally, amino acids help to create hormones, enzymes and neurotransmitters.**
Sufficient amino acid intake is essential since the body does not retain excess amino acids from diet for later use. These nutrients must be consumed on a regular basis to meet the requirements of the individual and their specific lifestyle. Because the body becomes less efficient at processing and retaining protein during aging (resulting in the gradual loss of muscle mass), studies show that seniors may benefit from additional amino acids.**
Branched chain amino acids (BCAA) are particularly effective for those who lead very active lives, such as athletes and bodybuilders, because BCAA promote protein synthesis in the body. BCAA also help athletes by encouraging energy production and promoting muscle growth, development, and function.**
Amino Acid Supplements
There are 22 amino acids used by the human body. Of these, some are considered essential amino acids (including isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine), meaning the body cannot create them. These must be supplied by an external source such as a food or supplement.
The remaining compounds are nonessential amino acids (including alanine, arginine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine and tyrosine), which the body can generate. However, this does not necessarily guarantee that enough of these amino acids are produced. Additional amounts from diet and/or supplementation are often needed.
Common dietary sources of amino acids are dairy and meat products and eggs, which contain all essential amino acids. Other foods rich in some, but not all, amino acids include beans, legumes, nuts, apples and pears.
Branched chain amino acid (BCAA) supplements have become popular with bodybuilders and athletes. Supplying isoleucine, leucine and valine, BCAA supplements play a powerful role in muscle building, repair, and maintenance.** Protein is the building block of muscle, and BCAA are the building blocks of protein.** BCAA help prevent muscle breakdown by enhancing protein synthesis in the muscle itself.** BCAA are rapidly absorbed at the site of metabolism – the muscles – where they help protect existing muscle and encourage rapid development of new muscle.** BCAA supplements may also help athletes transcend fatigue.**
Amino Acid Supplements Directions for Use
Consult with your health care professional prior to taking amino acid supplements or beginning any nutritional supplementation regimen. The recommended dosage for amino acids varies widely based on the specific compounds at hand and the needs of the individual, as well as body weight. People who maintain an active lifestyle, particularly those involved in bodybuilding, will likely have higher suggested amino acid intake than people who are less active.