Though the rankings are up for debate, long-distance running is certainly one of the most grueling forms of exercise in the world. Practitioners can sometimes run for hours on end, traveling a dozen miles or more and burning away body fat at insane rates. Naturally, such hard work requires much more nutritional support than your average ‘round-the-block jog, but finding the perfect fitness supplement to help with distance and endurance running can be easier said than done. Most products on the market cater to those focused on gaining mass and building ridiculous amounts of muscle; because runners rely more on lean muscle mass than anything else, a standard protein powder might not be the best possible choice for this group. Amino acids – a newer, more advanced form of supplement – can provide a great alternative, but do amino acids really help with distance and endurance running? Keep reading to find out.
How Do Amino Acid + BCAA Supplements Work?
Because they’re relatively new, amino acid supplements are often not well understood by those who’d like to try them. Here, we’ll cover the basics about how amino acid supplements work, then tackle their applications for distance running.
The Basics of Amino Acids
If you had to sit through a biology class in high school or college, odds are you heard the term “amino acids” used more than once. These compounds are the building blocks of proteins, making them crucial for the production of everything from enzymes and neurotransmitters to the cells that form your muscles. There are 20 amino acids our bodies need, nine of which can’t be produced internally and must be obtained from foods or supplements; it’s within this group of nine essential compounds that we find three classified as “branched-chain” amino acids, also known as BCAAs.
Getting to Know the BCAAs
Though they get their name from their unique shape, the three BCAAs – which are named leucine, isoleucine, and valine – are notable for much more than their appearance. Leucine, the most well-known of the BCAAs, is the amino acid responsible for kick-starting the production of new muscle tissue after exercise, which is why it’s so sought-after in modern fitness supplements.
Isoleucine, the second of the BCAAs, may bear a passing resemblance to leucine but works in a very different way; this amino acid improves endurance by promoting the use of glucose (the body’s main source of energy) in muscle tissue, which helps keep you energized during a run. This compound also works to streamline your body’s post-workout recovery process, so you’ll be ready for your next run that much sooner.
Valine, the last of the BCAAs, serves many roles that support a healthy body, but the one that most directly helps runners is the preservation of muscle tissue. Valine works during exercise to protect your muscles from excessive damage, helping you stay strong on a long run and reducing soreness and fatigue.
How BCAA Supplements Help with Endurance Running
Endurance can be a tricky thing to quantify, since so much of it is based on willpower, diet, fitness level, and many other highly individualized factors. However, BCAA supplements offer a number of advantages – in addition to those mentioned above – that can help increase endurance on those long runs, no matter who you are.
BCAAs Help Fight Fatigue
When your body is in equilibrium – as in, you’re not in the middle of a run or still recovering from one – there is a balance between the compounds in your bloodstream, including the BCAAs and tryptophan, another amino acid. Normally, tryptophan and the BCAAs compete for access to the brain via the blood-brain barrier, but that balance is upset when you exercise. As you run, your muscles will soak up the BCAAs in your blood for fuel; this is generally a good thing, but it means less competition for tryptophan at the blood-brain barrier, so more of it winds up in your brain.
Tryptophan isn’t necessarily bad for you, but once in the brain, it’s turned into serotonin, a neurotransmitter linked to feelings of fatigue. By supplementing with BCAAs during a long-distance run, you can re-establish the equilibrium in your bloodstream and effectively limit the amount of tryptophan that gets into your brain, thereby regulating serotonin production and reducing fatigue as you run.
BCAAs Act Fast
When you drink a protein shake, the whole proteins it contains must be broken down in the digestive system before their amino acids can be absorbed. On the other hand, free-form amino acid supplements like those from aminoVITAL® need next to no digestion before they’re put to use by the body. In the middle of a run, this faster bioavailability means support for your muscles when you need it, not an hour later, which is why amino acids make for a superior mid-run supplement for runners. Plus, BCAA supplements from aminoVITAL® offer a dose of electrolytes to help balance hydration and support overall performance.
Try a BCAA Supplement for Distance + Endurance Runners
If you run several times a week, you’re probably well aware of the demands that such an active lifestyle can impose on the body. To combat the wear and tear caused by long-distance runs, try a BCAA supplement from aminoVITAL®. Each formula is carefully calibrated to provide only those ingredients that are essential for performance and recovery; whether you need carbs to replenish your glycogen stores after a run or a light mix of vitamins and amino acids before heading out, our products have you covered. To learn more about amino acid supplements and how they can help improve your distance and endurance running, visit the aminoVITAL® website or call (888) 264-6673 today.