The Amino Acid Sports Supplements Guide

The Amino Acid Sports Supplements Guide

The most common summation of amino acids, namely branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), that you’ll likely find online is that amino acids are the building blocks of protein. And while we won’t disagree with this statement, we’ll attempt to describe why some amino acid sports supplements might be worth taking, and, just as importantly, when to take them.

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein; proteins are the building blocks of life.

Everyone on the internet.


Objectively, a linear path from protein ingestion to muscle growth hasn’t been demonstrated. Many suspect that, alongside increased protein ingestion, insulin-like growth factors (IGF-x), testosterone and human growth hormone (H(GH)) stimulated by trauma to muscle fibres each play a role in muscle hypertrophy and adaptation to linearly progressing workloads.


Protein Powder Supplements in Sports Nutrition Guide

2018-02-06 17:00:50By Jack Mann

And, the thinking goes, if muscles are comprised of proteins and ingested proteins are broken down into amino acids before they are re-built as proteins our bodies can use, then amino acid consumption will help to expedite the nutritional side of the muscle growth and repair equation.

Branched-chain amino acids, essential amino acids & non-essential aminos

Amino acids are often broadly categorised as ‘essential’ or ‘non-essential’. The human body doesn’t store amino acids like it does fats and starches. Essential amino acids (EAAs), which cannot be produced by the body, must be derived from the diet. All EAAs contain BCAAs, but increased ingestion of the three branched chain amino acids is thought to have a greater impact on muscle preservation and growth. The 9 EAAs that humans cannot synthesise (self-produce) are:


Essential in the growth and maintenance of healthy tissues, as well as the production of red and white blood cells.


Intrinsic to the production of carnitine and collagen, which, respectively, can help to burn fat for energy and aid in the maintenance and growth of tissue and bones. The Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper has lysine as his favourite amino acid.


Phenylalanine contributes to the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that typically affects mood, alertness and motivation.


Utilised in the breakdown of fats and can aid healthy testosterone levels.


Threonine can help to maintain protein balance and maintain the immune system.


Is turned into the B vitamin, niacin, and is necessary for nitrogen balance in adults.

Leucine (BCAA)

One of the three BCAAs, leucine regulates blood sugar levels, promotes muscle growth and repair and is regarded as an HGH stimulator.

Isoleucine (BCAA)

Similar in structure to leucine, isoleucine helps in the production of haemoglobin, which is itself responsible for the effective transport of oxygen in vertebrates.

Valine (BCAA)

The last of the BCAA triptych, valine helps to maintain the body’s nitrogen levels: typically, when the ratio of nitrogen in the blood is greater than the proportion expelled, then muscle growth and development is better fostered.

Key non-essential amino acids in sports nutrition: taurine & glutamine

Taurine, a staple of many sports drinks, is broadly (and erroneously) categorised as an amino acid – it’s actually a by-product of methionine and cysteine – but nonetheless deserves its place in a bodybuilder’s supplement stack as its antioxidant effects have been linked to increases in VO2max and time to exhaustion when supplemented for a week. Lastly, glutamine supplementation may help to support the immune system and further foster recovery following intense resistance training.

When should I take amino acid sports supplements?

Ultimately, a well-rounded diet comprised of proteins, carbs and fats to hit your macros (full guide coming soon) should provide enough essential and non-essential amino acids for you to achieve your goals. If, however, you’re looking for a natural edge and to expedite recovery, then you might look to take taurine and BCAAs before a workout, BCAAs during a workout and EAAs and glutamine throughout the day. Moreover, BCAAs have recently been shown to be most effective in preventing muscle breakdown when training in a fasted a state, i.e. first thing in the morning before or during a weightlifting workout.

If you’ve enjoyed this guide, why not also check out our complete guides to protein powder supplementation and diet supplements and pills.

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Jack Mann

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