I adore strength training, I do, but when I walk into a store like Vitamin Shoppe and I’m flabbergasted by all of the supplements available. I’ve been hearing about pre-workout and post-workout supplements, BCAA, protein and aminos. So much information! So I went on a research quest to find out just what the heck aminos are!
The word ‘Aminos’ on that supplement bottle is short for amino acids. Remember those from high school biology? For athletic purposes, supplement makers supply a blend of amino acids that are helpful in reaching specific goals, such as building muscle. I’m going to give you a quick and dirty summary of the amino acids that are relevant to athletes and their uses to athletes, then provide you some links where you can read more.
Essential Amino Acids
- Histidine – only really helps improve digestion. Found in dairy, meat, poultry, fish, rice, wheat and rye. You probably get enough of this in your diet and don’t need to supplement.
- Lysine – maintenance and manufacture of muscle protein, combats fatigue and overtraining, maintains a positive nitrogen balance which creates an anabolic environment in the body. Found in cheese, eggs, milk, yeast, potatoes and lima beans.
- Phenylalaline – allows for maximum contraction and relaxation of the muscles and helps the body convert UV rays to vitamin D. Found in dairy, almonds, avocados, nuts and seeds. You probably get enough from a healthy diet.
- Methionine – fat metabolization, better digestion, anti-oxidation properties. Found in meat, fish, eggs, beans, garlic, lentils, onions, yogurt and seeds.
Subcategory: BCAAs/Branched Chain Amino Acids
- Leucine – regulation of blood sugar, growth and repair of tissues in skin, bone and skeletal muscle. Found in nearly all protein sources, including brown rice, beans, nuts and whole wheat. You probably get enough in your diet.
- Isoleucine – Similar to Leucine, and important as part of the BCAA stack. Found in chicken, cashews, fish, almonds, eggs, liver, lentils, meat.
- Valine – repair and growth of muscle tissue, maintains nitrogen balance and preserves the use of glucose. Found in dairy, meat, grain, mushrooms, soy, peanuts.
- Threonine – the only amino acid you don’t produce in the body. Helps form collagen and elastin and essential to maintaining proper protein balance. Helps you absorb protein and boosts immunity. Found only in animal sources: meat, dairy, eggs.
What I Learned
The truth is, unless you’re a competition bodybuilder or you over-train, the only amino acids you might want to supplement are BCAAs. Even so, if you eat a healthy balanced diet, you probably don’t need to supplement at all, and if you’re serious about muscle building, you should already be adjusting your diet to a healthy balance for results.
Stay tuned for Part II – Non-Essential Amino Acids!