Supplements

A Guide to Different Amino Acids | What Are They & Their Benefits

Although amino acids are traditionally associated with weight training, there are other reasons to make sure your diet is rich in these important nutrients.

In order to achieve your fitness goals, you must have a sound workout program and a healthy approach to nutrition. Incorporating strategic supplementation can aid you in being able to reach the goals you’ve set yourself.

Besides the better-known supplements such whey protein powder and multivitamins, there are many effective supplements that serve us potential benefits to meet our goals, namely in the form of amino acids.

This article will explore the basics of several amino acid supplements:

Creatine Monohydrate

Type: Performance Enhancer, Nootropic, Muscle Builder

Timing: Any time throughout the day

Effective dosage: 3-5 grams per day (0.067 grams per pound of bodyweight to be exact). Some experts advise cycling off creatine for a week every 4-6 weeks but it is certainly not necessary if you are planning to keep taking creatine.

What and Why:

Creatine is a molecule used in an energy system called Creatine Phosphate pathway that can produce energy at the most rapid rate. Creatine aids not only in performance during strength training [1][2] but also has neuroprotective properties [3]. Creatine’s effectiveness is well-studied as well as its safety. As Kurtis Frank, an editor of the renowned supplement research site Examine.com, puts it, “I honestly see no reason why somebody shouldn’t supplement creatine, nor do I see any logical basis for the seemingly ‘fear’ of this compound in society.”

One can consume creatine through diet by eating read meats but the amount of red meats that one would eat in order to meet the sufficient amount of creatine for the purpose of performance enhancement (3-5 grams) may be unrealistic or cost-inefficient for many people. This is why supplementing with creatine monohydrate in the forms of powder or pills can be greatly beneficial.

Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)

Type: Muscle Builder, Anti-fatigue

Timing: Pre-workout, Intra-workout, and/or between meals

Effective dosage: 5-20 grams per consumption. Can be consumed multiple times throughout the day

What and Why:

BCAAs consist of three amino acids (Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine) that are similar in their structures and have a beneficial influence on the muscles. Isoleucine has benefits in promoting glucose uptake into muscle cells [4] while leucine has benefits in improving muscle protein synthesis [5]. Further study is needed to determine the exact benefits of valine supplementation.

Studies on BCAA supplementation have shown to have an anti-fatigue effect during prolonged exercise [6][7].

Beta-Alanine

Type: Performance Enhancer

Timing: Any time throughout the day

Effective dosage: 4-6 grams per day, taken in two divided doses.

What and Why:

Beta-alanine, a modified form of amino acid alanine, helps buffer acid in muscles that build up during a longer-duration physical performance (higher repetition resistance training or 60-240 second range physical performance).

Beta-alanine supplementation can improve muscular endurance during repeated maximal contractions [8] and also increase performance in short-term high-intensity exercise via either direct or indirect mechanisms [9].

 

Acetyl L-Carnitine (ALCAR)

Type: Fat Loss, Muscle Recovery, Nootropic

Timing: Upon waking and post-workout

Dosage: 1-2 grams per day, taken in two divided doses. Start with lower end dosage and work way up.

What and Why:

ALCAR is a related compound of L-Carnitine with the ability of anti-ageing and protective effects on mitochondria and promotes mitochondria’s potential to burn fat as energy. Although there more research studies need to be done to empirically show the fat loss effect of ALCAR, it has many mechanisms by which it can theoretically increase the rate of fat loss.

ALCAR supplementation has been shown to increase the potency of fat oxidation pathway when paired with exercise [10]. 1-2 grams of ALCAR supplementation has also been shown to be effective in reducing muscular damage via enhancing oxygenation of muscle tissue [11][12].

Citrulline Malate (2:1)

Type: Performance Enhancer

Timing: 30-60 minutes pre-workout

Effective dosage: 6-10 grams

What and Why:

Citrulline malate supplementation has been shown to improve performance during resistance training, with the benefits showing up mainly towards the end of workout sessions [13][14].

From the current research studies available, the effectiveness of citrulline malate supplementation would most likely be more prominent during a high volume training (about 15+ sets per muscle group in 60-80% of 1RM range).

D-Aspartic Acid

Type: Natural Testosterone Booster

Timing: Any time without meals. Take for 8 weeks on and then take full 8 weeks off

Effective dosage: 3-4 grams once per day

What and Why:

D-aspartic acid is one of two variations of amino acid aspartic acid, another form being L-aspartate; the benefits of D-aspartic acid as a testosterone booster are specific to D-aspartic acid and do not extend to its cousin L-aspartate. Being an amino acid regulator of testosterone synthesis, D-aspartic acid works mainly in the central brain and in the testicles by alleviating a rate-limiting step of testosterone synthesis.

D-aspartic acid supplementation has been shown through short-term studies to increase testosterone by 15-60% relative to baseline, depending on the duration of consumption [15][16]. Further studies are needed to show its effectiveness in the long-term increase in testosterone level.

Take Home Message

This article should have helped you to realize the benefits of taking amino acids, and which amino acids will benefit you. It is important to always remember that amino acids are called ‘supplements’ for a reason, and should always be consumed as part of a healthy and balanced diet. Happy training!

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