Often referred to as the building blocks of muscle, (muscle-building protein to be exact) amino acids, and more specifically BCAA, have become staples for anyone serious about getting results in the gym or in their chosen sport.
Approximately 20% of the human body is made up of protein. It plays a major role in all biological processes and amino acids are the building blocks for it – linked together in chains called peptides or polypeptides.
But it would be foolish to suggest amino acids are only good for one thing – they fill a variety of roles, from supporting metabolic function, to protecting the heart and providing an energy source if needed, too.
Types of Amino Acids.
There are two main types of amino acid: Essential and Non-Essential. This can further be broken down into a third group: Conditionally Essential.
‘Essential’ amino acids cannot be synthesised by the body. These need to be consumed via our diet – from foods we eat or supplements we take. ‘Non-Essential’ amino acids are the reverse. These are naturally synthesised by the body. These can sometimes be considered as ‘less’ important. However, they are all important in their own way and all serve different purposes.
‘Conditionally-Essential’ amino acids are a classification of ‘Non-Essential’ amino acids that can be depleted during intensive exercise, illness or stress. In this environment, the ability to replenish suitable levels of the amino acids can be restricted – leading to potential health and performance implications. Glutamine, Tyrosine and Arginine are all popular examples of ‘Conditionally-Essential’ amino acids that are commonly incorporated in a gym goer or athlete’s supplement stack.
Great food sources of Amino Acids.
Most of the amino acids we need can be consumed from our diet, but depending on your lifestyle and the food available to you, it can sometimes be a challenge to consume the right quantity and variety required. Here are a few examples of foods that are high in aminos to get you started.
Lean meats, particularly red meats like beef, are packed full of amino acids. Leaner cuts are generally higher in protein versus fattier alternatives. Consider different varieties like veal, venison or more exotic choices like elk to keep things interesting.
If you’re not a fan of red meat, poultry and fish are jam-packed with aminos too. Chicken and turkey breast are equally popular, and fish such as tuna, salmon or halibut are all high in protein.
Eggs have a fantastic amino acid profile. It’s such a diverse food. A product like our liquid egg whites for example, provides a virtually pure protein – with very little fat or carbohydrates. Liquid egg whites are considered by many to be the gold standard of protein.
Whey protein is another dairy source of protein, containing the full spectrum of amino acids. It is naturally high in BCAA and Glutamine too, making it the perfect complement for active people, particularly those performing strength or resistance training.
Cheese and yoghurt are also good sources of protein. The lower fat varieties generally provide more protein per gram. Cottage cheese is widely used by gym goers who want a snack that is high in protein and relatively low in calories.
If you don’t eat meat or dairy, the challenge to get the amino acids you need from your diet is very real! However, there are a number of great food sources that provide all the amino acids you need – and no animals or dairy in sight.
Quinoa and soy products have complete amino acid profiles. Nuts, seeds and beans also provide good amounts of protein – although the amino profiles aren’t always as varied.
What are BCAA’s?
BCAA, or Branched Chain Amino Acids are the essential amino acids Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine. Unlike regular amino acids, BCAA are metabolised in the muscle, rather than in the liver and must be consumed from our diet.
Whilst amino acids all have specific roles and functions in the body, there is strong evidence to suggest that BCAA plays a vital role in the maintenance of muscle tissue and protein synthesis which is ideal if you’re training for muscle gain or endurance.
The use of BCAA is believed to increase muscle growth, exercise recovery and the ability to endure fatigue. BCAA are especially popular for people who undertake a lot of high intensity activity due to their ability to protect muscle tissue, as well as providing instant energy if needed during intensive bouts of exercise.
Supplementing with Amino Acids.
If you struggle to consume enough amino acids from your diet or if you are training intensively, or specifically to build muscle, an amino acid supplement like EAA (Essential Amino Acids) or instant BCAA are ideal. If you want the absolute best, INFORMED BCAA™ delivers an unrivalled 18g of amino acids, including 10g BCAA in an 8:1:1 ratio.