Amino Acids for Better Sports Performance

If used the right way, amino acids can help with muscle conditioning and recovery, boost endurance, and build muscle mass more efficiently.

Essential Amino Acids Definition Is Important

Ideal for sports and exercise, amino acids are absorbed into the body in just 30 minutes

Most professional athletes already know about the benefits of amino acids for sports. Now amateur athletes and recreationally active adults are also using amino acid supplements more and more.

Essential amino acids are required to make muscle protein. When we exercise, our bodies require more of them to function well. Essential amino acids are especially abundant in foods high in protein, such as fish, meat, eggs, soybeans, and dairy products. In food form—namely protein—it takes three to four hours for the body to absorb amino acids. But in crystalline form the body can absorb them in just 30 minutes. This means we can consume amino acids when our bodies need them, making them ideal for sports and training.

New research into three amino acids in particular––leucine, alanine and proline––suggests they can enhance muscle recovery, improve endurance, and build muscle mass more efficiently when taken in combination with other amino acids, carbohydrates, or whey protein. Here we will explain how.

Supplementing with LEAA can enhance exercise performance and muscle recovery

During hard or prolonged exercise our bodies run out of energy and begin to break down muscle protein and convert its essential amino acids into energy. In addition, production of muscle protein decreases. This net protein loss leads to muscle weakness and diminished exercise performance.

Leucine is one of three so-called branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which account for roughly 40% of the essential amino acids in muscle protein. Leucine is especially important owing to its role in switching on protein synthesis to build, maintain, and repair weak or damaged muscles. LEAA, a mix of nine essential amino acids rich in leucine, is formulated for quick and efficient production of muscle protein. Research indicates the rate of muscle protein production is largely dependent on the amount of leucine present. Moreover, data shows that LEAA suppresses muscle weakness caused by protein breakdown for several days after exercise and accelerates recovery from physical muscle damage due to exercise.

Supplementing with LEAA at the right time, such as before or during exercise, leads to less breakdown of muscle protein for energy. This reduces muscle fatigue during exercise and damage afterward. And taking LEAA right after exercise or before bed helps damaged muscles recover faster and lessens soreness.

Alanine and proline turn carbohydrates into energy more efficiently

The amino acids alanine and proline help convert carbohydrates into glycogen, strings of glucose units that the body stores in muscle tissue and the liver. During exercise, muscles use glycogen as an energy source, while in the liver they are converted into glucose as needed to maintain blood glucose levels.

Endurance athletes, including long-distance runners, cyclists, and soccer players, know that supplementation with carbohydrates at the right time can maintain blood glucose, boosting stamina and preventing fatigue. This is because the body’s ability to store carbohydrates is limited. Studies show that after about an hour of exercise, blood glucose levels begin to decline. Hence, it is important to maintain the body’s supply to prevent shortages that cause fatigue.

Studies show that alanine and proline enhance glycogen storage by over two-fold to nearly four-fold, respectively. A new study finds that athletes who consumed a carbohydrate mixture containing both alanine and proline were able to maintain their performance significantly longer than those in a control group. In addition to consuming carbohydrates in the form of food throughout the day, it is very important for endurance athletes to supplement with an amino acid-containing carbohydrate mixture during training and competition to maintain optimum performance.

Amino acids help boost muscle mass with less protein and fat

No matter the sport, weight training is widely practiced by amateur and professional athletes to build strength and boost performance. It is also increasingly popular with people who simply want to improve their general fitness or lose weight. For those wanting to add muscle mass, protein is an important nutrient on which to focus.

Nutritionists recommend that, simply to maintain muscle mass, athletes and people who exercise almost daily should consume two grams of protein per kilogram of body weight every day, twice the amount needed by normal healthy adults who are not as physically active. But if you try to obtain this amount from food you may also consume unnecessary fats at the same time.

Consuming powdered whey or other protein supplements is a popular way to get protein without unnecessary fat. Whey protein is efficiently absorbed and utilized by the body. But it can suppress appetite, causing people to cut back on regular meals. However, new research shows that by helping the body produce protein more efficiently, whey powder enriched with a combination of nine essential amino acids—called EAA-enriched WP––can reduce the amount of protein needed to build muscle mass by about 25%. Moreover, this reduced amount of protein results in improvements in body composition, namely more muscle mass and a greater reduction in fat mass, while achieving equivalent gains in muscle strength, as compared to the standard amount of conventional whey protein.

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Amino Acids for Better Sports Performance


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