If you’ve had a smart coach give you advice, you’ll probably know this: there’s no magic shortcut for having a dream body with staggering muscles, though well-supplemented nutrition with the best amino acids for muscle growth and speedy recovery might help; in the end, diet and routine are what will make you achieve your goals and have a healthy body.
However, if you’re getting serious about working out, then you’ll want to get all the help you can, and amino acids can make muscle growing take less time and make you feel better.
But this is where you should be wary. There are any number of supplements on the market that promise a lot more than what they actually deliver. Taking useless amino acids is as good as taking none, so you should know which ones will actually help you and how they help you, so you can introduce the right products according to your needs. If you do it right, amino acids will give you the extra fuel you need to keep pushing yourself forward in a healthy and natural way.
After you’ve established a healthy diet and a good routine, amino acids will help you recover faster and accelerate muscle building. Many of the amino acids you’ll read about are essential, which means that your body can’t produce it by itself and must be absorbed through your diet. All necessary amino acids can be found in food, but that can get a little tricky. Balancing them into your diet can take quite a bit of effort and time, and even doing this might not suffice the needs of an athlete. Amino acid supplements are a more effective way of getting them in your body, and they are also completely natural.
What are amino acids?
If you’re going to use them, you should at least know what they are. Without going into lengthy details, amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Protein is what muscles are made of, which makes amino acids vital for things like muscle growth, recovery, energy, fat loss and strength gain. This is the reason coaches tend to recommend high-protein diets.
When you eat protein in meals, your body breaks them into its different amino acids and utilizes them in different ways. That’s why understanding the role of some important amino acids can go a long way. There are 20 to 22 amino acids in our body, out of which 8 are essential. Essential amino acids, as was explained before, can only be absorbed in the food we eat. Here you’ll find a list of the best amino acids for muscle growth you can find, what they do and how to know which ones you need.
Best Amino Acid Supplements
BCAA: does it do any good?
The answer to that question is not as straightforward as it seems. If you visit gyms a lot, you’ve surely heard of them, and you might even be surrounded by people taking BCAA. The thing is, BCAA might not be of much use to you. A study showed that taking BCAA does not provide the essential amino acids it contains better than food would do, and another one stated that it didn’t improve exercise performance. Although there are several studies that propose a lot of benefits of consuming BCAA, they aren’t really significant for the average working out guy.
BCAA contains three amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine, all of which can be found in meat, eggs, and dairy (leucine is an especially helpful one that we will explain next). However, there is a couple of cases when BCAAs can be of help:
The first one is the case of not getting enough dairy in your diet. The first option you should consider is balancing your diet, but if you can’t for any reason, then BCAA can make a good supplement. The second reason can put BCAAs to very good use: working out while losing weight.
If you’re interested in losing weight, you might be doing fasted training. A fasted workout is proven to increase fat consumption, with the downside of also accelerating muscle loss. In those cases, BCAAs can be of great help to suppress muscle degradation. Besides, amino acids in BCAA are vital in the conversion of fat to energy. Lowering your calorie and food intake will make you consume less amino acids, but with BCAA you can compensate for that loss without damaging your diet.
The recommended dose of BCAAs is of 3-6 grams during or after exercise.
All amino acids are building blocks of muscle, but leucine is the only one that fulfills several other roles. Recent studies have shown that leucine activates a compound in muscles called mTOR, which activates the process of creation of new muscle proteins. Moreover, leucine accelerates protein synthesis, which makes your muscles grow faster. This is why leucine might help you if you’re interested in muscle gain or in preventing muscle loss from dieting.
Only 2.5 grams are necessary in order for leucine to do its effect, but you can bring it up to 8 grams distributed in different meals throughout the day. The source with highest leucine content is whey protein, which you can drink in a whey shake. You can also acquire leucine as a single amino acid supplement or in BCAA, although that last option might not be worth the money.
Creatine is one of the best amino acids for muscle growth, and one of the most effective too. Creatine acts as the energy reserve present in all cells, and when you take creatine those reserves increase. You will notice this extra energy when you work out and find yourself doing a few more repetitions: creatine will enhance your energy in high-intensity exercises.
Creatine will also pull water into your muscle cells, which will, of course, increase their size, but most importantly will lead to long-term muscle growth and increased protein synthesis ―as long as you make sure that energy isn’t wasted, of course. Some studies say that creatine also has anti-catabolic effects, which contributes to muscle growth in endurance exercises. Furthermore, it will improve blood circulation during training and muscular strength. Overall, creatine is a safe and natural supplement that will do you lots of good with almost no catches.
The best way to consume creatine is also the cheapest: creatine monohydrate. The recommended dose is of 5 grams a day. You can take the first half before a workout and the second after.
Unlike the other amino acids we’ve seen, beta-alanine is non-essential, which means we can produce it ourselves. Neither does it synthesize protein. However, there is a special benefit in bumping up your beta-alanine levels during workout: increasing carnosine levels to gain endurance.
When you work out, your muscles convert glucose ―its energy source― into hydrogen. Hydrogen makes your muscles more acidic, which in turn blocks the conversion of energy and stops your muscles from contracting further. As you might guess, this is one of the ways we become fatigued. This is where the beta-alanine comes in: it increases the production of carnosine, which counteracts that acidity and lets your muscles work for longer. This reduces fatigue and increases performance. Beta-alanine will especially boost the performance of short, high-intensity exercises.
It is advised to take 2-6 grams a day. Higher doses often lead to paresthesia, a not harmful side effect often described as “tingling of the skin”. To reduce it, try to scatter the dose through the day.