You might not realize it, but amino acids are some of the most important chemicals in the human body. These substances are used to create a wide variety of essential proteins, including the hormones, enzymes, and neurotransmitters that keep our systems running smoothly. Run out of even one of the 20 amino acids in our bodies, and you could face any number of health problems linked to the brain, gut, and immune systems – to name only a few. Luckily, amino acids are generally easy to come by, but many people are still unfamiliar with just what they do. For instance, do amino acids increase serotonin? To find out, keep reading as the experts at aminoVITAL® provide some answers.
How Amino Acids Make Serotonin
As the word implies, a neurotransmitter – of which serotonin is an example – is a chemical that relays signals between neurons in the brain. Depending on the neurotransmitter in question, these substances can govern everything from mood and appetite to motor control and heart rate. More than 200 individual neurotransmitters exist in the human body, many of which are synthesized from amino acids; this includes serotonin.
The amino acid responsible for the creation of serotonin is called tryptophan. It is an “essential” amino acid, meaning that the body can’t create it on its own and so must obtain it from outside sources, such as foods and supplements. Generally, this happens by consuming protein, which is then broken down into its constituent amino acids and absorbed into the bloodstream.
To create serotonin, tryptophan must travel through the blood and cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB), an extremely selective filter that controls what substances can enter the brain. Because there are only a few pathways across the BBB, tryptophan must compete with other substances, including a class of amino acids called the “branched-chain” amino acids, or BCAAs. Under normal circumstances, the presence of BCAAs in the bloodstream helps to regulate the uptake of tryptophan – and, by extension, the levels of serotonin in the brain – by limiting the available pathways across the BBB, but this balance is thought to be upset during exercise.
Effects of Amino Acids and Serotonin During Exercise
When you engage in prolonged physical activity, your muscles burn through a type of glucose (the body’s main form of fuel) called glycogen, which is stored in the muscles and serves as the go-to source of energy during exercise. Once the supply of glycogen is exhausted, the muscles will then draw BCAAs from the bloodstream, which will then be oxidized and used for energy.
While the addition of this energy source can be helpful in the very short term, it alters the balance at the BBB by reducing the amount of BCAAs available there. This, in turn, makes it easier for tryptophan to cross into the brain, allowing levels of this amino acid to increase there and elevating the level of serotonin.
Because serotonin is linked to a phenomenon called central nervous system fatigue, which inhibits athletic performance and muscle functions, it is believed that exercise-related BCAA absorption and the subsequent uptick in cerebral tryptophan levels cause an increase in fatigue during exercise.
How BCAAs Fight Fatigue
If a lack of branched-chain amino acids in the bloodstream is to blame for some of the fatigue that occurs during exercise, then the simplest solution would seem to be supplementing with BCAAs; by restoring the levels of these amino acids in the blood, someone in the midst of a long run or exercise routine may be able to prevent an increase in tryptophan uptake and serotonin levels. While the three BCAAs – leucine, isoleucine, and valine – can be found in protein-rich foods and supplements, a much faster method of supplementation is the use of amino acid supplements like those from aminoVITAL®.
Benefits of Amino Acid Supplements
In addition to their role in fighting fatigue, amino acid supplements containing BCAAs can offer a number of benefits to the fitness-minded. Each of the BCAAs plays a unique role in supporting performance during and after exercise:
- Leucine is the amino acid responsible for triggering muscle protein synthesis, the process by which the body creates new muscle tissue.
- Isoleucine promotes the flow of glucose to the muscles and helps the cells there convert it into energy more effectively. This amino acid is also thought to improve recovery times by streamlining the post-workout healing process.
- Valine has many functions, but the one most critical to athletic performance is its ability to protect muscle tissue from some of the damage brought on by exercise, preserving muscle mass and reducing the amount of healing that must take place to recover.
Because a supplement made from free-form amino acids requires far less digestion than the whole proteins found in popular powders and shakes, these supplements take effect very quickly – up to three times faster than whey, in fact – making them ideal as pre-workout supplements and mid-workout supplements for fighting fatigue. Best of all, amino acid supplements come with far fewer calories and grams of sugar than most protein supplements, so they’re less likely to undermine your overall weight and fitness goals.
Try a Fast, Effective Amino Acid Supplement from aminoVITAL®
Whether you’re new to the fitness community or a familiar face at your local gym, amino acid supplements from aminoVITAL® have something to offer. These supplements kick in quickly, providing increased energy without the jitters and crash common to stimulants like caffeine, and they support muscle health and performance, too. If you work out regularly, consider trying a BCAA supplement and see the difference for yourself. To learn more about amino acid supplements, visit aminoVITAL® online or call (888) 264-6673 today.