Amino Acids: Your Body's Building Blocks!

We hope that the information in this article will serve as a beacon among the sea of misinformation about protein and amino acids.

The deluge of dietary supplements on the market today provides countless avenues for the fitness enthusiast to achieve their goals. Rather than drawing into a fitness lifestyle through proper nutrition, exercise, and rest, many will turn to dietary supplements as a panacea for all their fitness dreams. With all of the misinformation and empty promises that accompany many products, trying to keep afloat on all of the new breakthroughs can be overwhelming. Protein powders are the original bodybuilding supplement and continue to be a staple in the bodybuilder's diet.

Unfortunately, many fitness enthusiasts and bodybuilders' love and devotion to protein far surpass their knowledge of how protein works in the body. Why do so many fitness enthusiasts have such a limited understanding of Protein and Amino Acids? We hope that the information in this article will serve as a beacon among the sea of misinformation about protein and amino acids.

The ultimate value of a food protein or a protein supplement is in its amino acid composition. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and muscle tissue. Many physiological processes relating to bodybuilding from energy, recovery, muscle hypertrophy, fat loss, and strength gains are linked to amino acids.

The twenty-three amino acids are the molecular building blocks of protein. The amino acids can be divided into two groups: essential amino acids and non-essential amino acids. The nine essential amino acids are so designated because they must be supplied by the foods we eat. The twelve non-essential amino acids are so designated based on the body's ability to synthesize them from other amino acids.

How The Body Handles Protein

The fate of an amino acid after it is transported to the liver is highly dependent on the body's needs for that moment. Some amino acids enter the blood stream, where they join amino acids that have been liberated during the constant breakdown and synthesis of body tissue. Other amino acids are used by the liver to manufacture many of the specialized proteins such as liver enzymes, lipoproteins, and the blood protein (albumin).

As these amino acids circulate throughout the body, each cell directed by its own DNA blue print, draws from the common pool of available amino acids to synthesize all the numerous proteins required for its functions.

In order for protein synthesis to occur, an adequate supply of both essential and non-essential amino acids is vital. If one of the essential amino acids is missing then synthesis is halted. These partially assembled proteins are disassembled and the amino acids returned to the blood. Any amino acids that are not used within a short time can not be stored for future use. They are delivered back to the liver and stripped of their nitrogen. Which is then incorporated into urea and excreted by the kidneys. The remaining protein skeleton will be converted to glucose and burned as energy or converted to fat or glycogen for storage.

Although protein synthesis is very important, the body's number one priority is to obtain sufficient energy to carry on vital functions such as circulation, respiration and digestion. Therefore, in the absence of adequate dietary carbohydrates and fat calories, the body will break down not only dietary protein but protein in the blood, liver, pancreas, muscles, and other tissues in order to maintain vital organs and functions.

Applications To Bodybuilding

As we have already discussed, the fate of an amino acid after it is transported to the liver is highly dependent upon the body's needs at that moment. Immediately after exercise, when the muscle is receptive to nutrients and the blood flow to the exercise muscles remain high; a window of opportunity exists to aid muscular growth and recovery. Unfortunately, a high protein meal will not put significant levels of amino acids into your blood stream until a couple of hours after you eat it, especially if blood flow to the gastrointestinal tract has been diminished by a hard training sessions.

The most reliable way to deliver specific amino acids is to administer the particular amino acids themselves through free form amino acids. The value of free form amino acids is first and foremost is that they do not require digestion. They are free of chemical bonds to other molecules and so move quickly through the stomach and into the small intestine, where they are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream within fifteen minutes. This quick absorption helps prevent muscle catabolism.

Without sufficient energy, the human body as discussed above, has the innate ability to break down muscle tissue for use as an energy source during heavy exercise. This process is known as gluconeogenesis, which is the production of glucose from non-carbohydrate sources. The part of the reaction that pertains to our discussion is known as the glucose alanine cycle. During this cycle, BCAAs (three of the essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine) are stripped from the muscle tissue and parts of them are converted to the amino acid alanine, which is transported to the liver and converted to glucose.

Branched-chained amino acids are metabolized directly in the muscle and can be converted into energy to prevent muscle catabolism. If you supplement with BCAAs the body does not have to break down muscle tissue to derive extra energy. A study conducted at the School of Human Biology, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada, confirmed that the use of BCAAs (up to 4 grams) during and after exercise could result in a significant reduction of muscle breakdown during exercise.

Amino acids are truly the building blocks of muscle tissue and protein. We hope that the article clarifies the importance of amino acid supplementation to your diet as well as reinforce amino acids many physiological contributions to bodybuilding.