5 Secrets to Taking Amino Acids After Workout vs Food

Ever heard of taking an amino acid supplement for post workout recovery? This article goes through what amino acids are, the best type to take, and five benefits to taking them.

What are amino acids

Amino Acid Structure

Before we dive into the reasons you should take amino acid supplements after your workouts let’s start with a review. Amino acids are molecules that form together to create protein. And, protein is the building block of life and a needed macro-nutrient for almost every part of your body to be healthy. So, protein, and therefore amino acids are pretty important.

There are twenty primary types of amino acids, and your body can produce eleven of them on its own. These amino acids are called non-essential amino acids. They are:

  1. arginine
  2. cysteine
  3. serine
  4. glutamine
  5. tyrosine
  6. proline
  7. glycine
  8. ornithine
  9. aspartate
  10. asparagine
  11. and alanine

Essential amino acids are ones that your body can’t produce on its own. These amino acids need to come from food (or supplement) sources in order to give the body what it needs to survive. The essential amino acids are:

  1. histidine
  2. lysine
  3. tryptophan
  4. methionine
  5. isoleucine
  6. phenylalanine
  7. leucine
  8. threonine
  9. and valine

Many foods you eat normally contain these essential amino acids and as such you should be able to get your daily intake without too much trouble, especially if you eat foods high in them. However, many bodybuilders and other athletes choose to supplement with essential amino acid powders/capsules as a way to make sure they get a fast acting, easy and absorbable source in their system to jump start muscle recovery.

Amino Acid Supplements

Amino Acid Supplements in forms of liquid, powder and pills

Amino acid supplements are available in drink, pill or powder form. You can find amino acid supplements with only one amino acid, but many advise against it, and it may cost a lot in the long run.

The two most popular amino acid supplements are BCCA and EAA.

Let’s start with EAA. EAA stands for “essential amino acids,” and EAA supplements have all nine of the essential amino acids in them.

This is where it sometimes gets a little confusing, because BCCA supplements also contain essential amino acids. BCCA stands for “branched-chain amino acids”, and it specifically refers to just three of the nine essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine.

These three make up the BCCA supplements and are sometimes even regarded as the most important of all the essential amino acids, because they are structured differently- having a chain branched off to the side, and they specifically target muscle growth.

There are many debates about whether EAA supplements are better for you than BCCA. It really just depends on what you want. EAA supplements include all the essential amino acids, and that might be perfect for you, especially if you are protein deficient. But, If you already have a good diet full of amino acids then maybe EAA supplements are overdoing  it and supplementing with BCCA might be the best bet for you.

Why take amino acids

Supplementing with amino acids (BCCA or EAA) have many benefits. Apart from the biggest- that you need amino acids in order to live and function, there are many other reasons to start supplementing with amino acids. Here are just five.

1. Workout recovery

One of the best benefits that comes from amino acids is quicker workout recovery time as well as decreased soreness after exercise. Amino acids build and support cells and muscle, boost energy, and kick start mental and physical post-workout recovery, while helping build protein which in turn helps to build muscle.

2. Better immunity

Tired woman from workout drinks amino acids

Amino acids support, promote, and provide cell strength, cell growth, send nutrients to cells, and overall immunity. They help control cell function and see that the cells get the amount of protein they need. With amino acids and protein being the building blocks of life they also play vital roles in keeping life running smoothly and your body working as it should.

3. Glucose control

Amino acids also serve to alter the energy levels in the cells, providing more energy, and lowering blood glucose levels. They also help produce neurotransmitters which help the body regulate mood and appetite, they regulate digestion, and sleep. Amino acids also promote the growth of hair, skin, and nails, promote a healthy weight, and regulate and produce hormones.

4. Muscle Growth/Strength

A muscular man drinks amino acid after a workout while sitting on a gym bench.

Amino acids help our muscles in growth, strength, recovery, energy, and function. Amino acids (especially the three amino acids in BCCA supplements: leucine, isoleucine, and valine,) help promotes and enhances a healthy musculoskeletal system. They are good for bone growth, muscle growth, increased energy, quickened post-workout recovery time and helping your muscles adapt strengthen while exercising, and performance.

5. Efficient delivery

Taking amino acid supplements vs just getting them from your daily intake of food is beneficial especially for post workout recovery because of how quickly your body can absorb them. Instead of going through the digestive process with food, it can quickly be absorbed and start the amazing benefits. In today’s busy world it is also nice to just take a supplement instead of having to plan meals around workout times.

Foods high in amino acids

Foods high in amino acids: Cottage cheese, chicken, beef, etc.

If you want to up your amino acid intake but don’t want to start taking supplements, here is a list of foods that are high in all the essential amino acids.¬† The foods that contain all nine essential amino acids are called complete proteins, foods that contain only some or most of the nine are called incomplete proteins.

  • Beef (preferably grass fed-grass finished)
  • Hemp Seed Hearts (amazingly high in minerals too!)
  • Quinoa
  • Eggs (among the most absorbable protein on the planet)
  • Turkey, Chicken and other game
  • Fish (complete protein)
  • Cottage Cheese

Eating these foods and more can help you get in your daily intake. But, supplements can be a great resource as well, especially during recovery days.

A word of caution

Taking too many amino acid supplements might not be the healthiest choice and might have potential consequences like an upset stomach, headache, extra strain on your kidneys, fatigue, and more. It’s important to be aware of how much protein and amino acids you’re consuming, the purpose of doing so as to no overdo it. This goes for food and supplements.

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