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Amino Acids vs.
Conventional Protein

Amino Acids vs.
Conventional Protein

Though similarities exist between the two, amino acid supplements have some distinct advantages over traditional protein-based products. The free-form nature of amino acids means faster absorption by the body, and the lean, no-frills formulas from aminoVITAL® let you boost performance without excessive amounts of sugar or calories.

Amino Acids Absorb Faster

A comparison of absorption rates shows just how significant this difference can be. Studies have found that liquid whey protein consumed as a meal lead to a spike in the blood’s amino acid concentration after about 90 minutes (6). Free-form amino acids, on the other hand, caused a spike in amino acid concentration in just 30 mins, meaning that amino acids take effect three times as fast as whey protein (10).

Fewer Calories

Amino acid supplements are extremely low in calories, especially compared to protein powders. That’s because aminoVITAL® products offer only those essential ingredients that will actually improve performance – amino acids, vitamins, electrolytes, and a tiny amount of carbohydrates – without the calories, fats, and sugars found in popular protein shakes. Whether your goal is to maintain ketosis or simply reduce your overall calorie intake, amino acids can provide the results you expect without undermining your diet.

The Benefits of Essential
Amino Acids and BCAAS

An “essential” amino acid is one that cannot be synthesized by the human body and so must be obtained through foods or supplements. Among the 20 amino acids that our bodies utilize, nine are considered essential: phenylalanine, valine, threonine, tryptophan, methionine, leucine, isoleucine, lysine, and histidine. Typically, our diet supplies these important compounds, though those with active lifestyles can benefit from additional amino acids.

Three of the nine essential amino acids stand out for their structure and their effects on the body during and after exercise; these are the branched-chain amino acids, leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Of the BCAAs, leucine is arguably the most important because it triggers the synthesis of new muscle tissue, but isoleucine and valine each serve important roles as well.

When to Take Amino Acid Supplements

The timing of amino acid intake is a key factor in ensuring you get the best results from your supplements. While many athletes have their own individual preferences for when to take amino acids, evidence from numerous studies suggests that the best time to take your BCAAs is directly before or after a workout.

How BCAAs Help When
Taken Before a Workout

A study by Shimomura et al. showed that consuming a mixture of BCAAs before exercise allowed participants to more quickly recover their strength. In the experiment, 12 young women performed squats then measured muscle soreness and weakness over the next several days. Those who supplemented with BCAAs before exercise were able to exert the same amount of force on Day 3 as on Day 1 of the trial, whereas the placebo group was only able to use 80% of their full force on Day 3 (10). This suggests that the ingestion of BCAAs could help alleviate muscle damage and speed up the body’s recovery.

in delayed-onset
muscle soreness

However, if there is consistent protein intake throughout the day, pre-workout BCAAs may lose some of their potency, as the body can only absorb and use a limited amount of amino acids in a short span of time. On the other hand, consuming pre-workout amino acids on an empty stomach can improve the supplements’ speed and effectiveness by eliminating competition for nutrient absorption.

Research has shown consuming BCAAs before exercising in a fasted state helps increase fat oxidation, prevent fatigue, and reduce muscle damage. Also, data show that taking amino acids before a workout can decrease the symptoms of delayed-onset muscle soreness by as much as 20%. In short, research suggests that taking amino acids 30-60 minutes before a workout can significantly improve training benefits.

How BCAAs Help
During a Workout

Because BCAAs are available in the bloodstream soon after ingestion, they can provide a useful source of energy on demand. Research shows that BCAA consumption during exercise helps to ward off fatigue and keep your muscles working at peak efficiency for longer, even after glycogen stores have been depleted.

In addition to BCAAs, the amino acids arginine and glutamine help improve athletic performance over time. Arginine helps repair the body, stops the production of ammonia, and promotes the secretion of growth hormone; limiting ammonia output is said to reduce fatigue while growth hormone improves blood circulation during exercise.

Glutamine, on the other hand, has been shown to speed muscle recovery after intense exercise. Although this amino acid is abundant in our bodies, many of our organs need extra glutamine during periods of prolonged or strenuous exercise, when our glutamine stores are used up. Supplementing with arginine, glutamine, and the three BCAAs can help ensure our bodies don’t run out of gas in the middle of a workout.

How BCAAs Help
After a Workout

During a workout, muscle proteins are both created and destroyed. However, post-workout muscle breakdown tends to exceed muscle creation until you ingest leucine, one of the three BCAAs. Leucine activates the mTOR signaling pathway in skeletal muscle, stimulating protein synthesis and tissue growth in those areas. By consuming BCAAs immediately after exercise, you can effectively trigger muscle repair when your body needs it most.

While BCAAs are present in food and protein supplements, those whole proteins must first be broken down into amino acids via digestion before any benefits can be achieved. In supplement form, however, BCAAs aren’t bound to other amino acids, so no breakdown is required; instead, the free-form amino acids can be rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream for delivery to the muscles. This makes amino acids the superior option for time-sensitive supplementation.

Research has shown

  • Triggers muscle synthesis
  • Prevents muscle damage
  • Promotes tissue recovery
  • Decreases fatigue
  • Suppresses muscle soreness symptoms

The Science Behind How BCAAs Reduce Fatigue

Central Fatigue

Central fatigue, or systematic fatigue, is that mental malaise you feel toward the end of your workout when your body feels willing but your motivation has begun slipping away. Once it hits, the weights get heavier, the miles become longer, and you struggle to complete your routine. As the physical and mental stresses of the day set in, taxing your central nervous system, you experience an all-around weariness that might seem impossible to shake.

Though you may not realize it, this fatigue is the result of lower levels of BCAAs in your bloodstream. As you exercise, your muscles absorb these amino acids to carry out a number of functions, including the creation of new muscle tissue, but the depletion of blood-borne BCAAs comes with a price: it leaves the tryptophan in your body free to access the brain uncontested.

Under normal circumstances, the BCAAs in your blood compete with tryptophan to cross the blood-brain barrier, which only has so many openings. A lower concentration of BCAAs means that greater amounts of tryptophan can cross this barrier and enter the brain, where they are used to create serotonin – a neurotransmitter that regulates things like mood, appetite, and motivation (1). As the level of BCAAs in your body decreases, serotonin levels rise, and fatigue begins to build (7).

The solution to this problem is simple: down a dose of BCAAs, and you can restore the natural balance among amino acids in the blood, pulling tryptophan uptake back to where it should be and preventing the buildup of serotonin. The end result? Less fatigue and a stronger performance at the gym, around the track, or on the field.

Peripheral Fatigue

The term “peripheral fatigue” refers to the loss of energy in the muscles caused by prolonged physical activity. Amino acids – specifically branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs – help protect you from this type of fatigue, allowing you to push your muscles farther than ever before.

While exercising, your body uses glycogen, a form of glucose stored in the muscles and used as energy there, to power your movements; periods of fasting, such as sleep, also deplete glycogen stores. In either case, your muscles lose their primary source of fuel, and with it, the ability to function at peak efficiency.

BCAAs help to counter the effects of depleted glycogen by providing your muscles with an alternative source of fuel (3). Certain amino acids (including glutamine, arginine, and two of the three BCAAs) can also be converted into glucose to provide energy, if needed (8). In addition, amino acid supplements offer secondary fatigue-fighting benefits; for example, arginine helps remove ammonia from the system, which can further reduce fatigue (8).

BCAA supplementation is especially beneficial for those engaging in prolonged exercise or exercising while in a fasted state. If you work out early in the morning, practice intermittent fasting, or follow a ketogenic diet, this applies to you.

The Benefits of
Taking Arginine

  • Promotes vasodilation for improved blood flow
  • Helps remove toxic ammonia from the body
  • Supplies a natural and safe form of growth hormone

The Benefits of
Taking Glutamine

  • Supports intestinal health
  • Fuels the immune system
  • Maintains healthy muscle tissue
  • Aids in recovery after exercise

The Benefits of
Taking Electrolytes

  • Supports optimal rehydration
  • Balances fluids in and around cells
  • Regulates blood pH levels
  • Helps rebuild muscles after exercise