There is a lot of talk about amino acids lately in the sports nutrition world. Some praise them as the next best thing, while others are skeptical and stick to using protein powders.
Many people ask what our stance on amino acid supplements is, so we decided it's time we finally answered that question.
What are amino acids?
Many people confuse amino acids and protein.
The difference is simple. Basically, amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Amino acids are joined together by peptide bonds, forming chains - shorter chains of amino acids (2 to 50) are called peptides, and longer chains (50 or more) become proteins.
To use an analogy: the protein is a necklace, amino acids are the beads in that necklace, and the string that ties the beads together are the peptide bonds.
Different types of amino acids
There are 22 proteinogenic (able to form protein) amino acids. We divide them into essential amino acids and non-essential amino acids.
Non-essential amino acids can be produced by the body.
Essential amino acids (EAA), which cannot be produced by the body, are leucine, isoleucine, histidine, lysine, methionine, threonine, phenylalanine, tryptophan, and valine. Since the body cannot produce essential amino acids, we must get them from our diet.
Three of the nine essential amino acids are branched-chain amino acids (BCAA): leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
Amino acid supplements
The most popular type of amino acid supplements are branched-chain amino acids or BCAAs.
Among the many benefits assigned to the BCAA supplements, they are supposed to stimulate muscle growth, alleviate muscle soreness, reduce fatigue, and inhibit the breakdown of muscle.
EAA supplements are less common than BCAA supplements, presumably because they don't bind with water, making them more difficult to use, and have an undesirable bitter taste.
Are BCAA supplements efficient?
As proven by science, BCAA supplements are definitely better than a placebo, as they contain the three branched-chain amino acids, which are all involved in muscle growth.
So far we know that leucine is a key modulator of muscle protein synthesis and has to be present in order to initiate it. However, other amino acids need to be present as well in order to actually end up making new proteins. It is true, BCAA can induce muscle protein synthesis, however, comparing these results from a study investigating the full amino acid profile as found in whey protein, we can clearly see that the synthesis rates are inferior.
So, BCAA is likely only effective due to leucine rather than valine and isoleucine. Also, it is pretty clear that EAA supplements are preferable to BCAA supplements.
EAA supplements versus whey protein
Supplements containing all nine essential amino acids are better than supplements with only the three branched-chain amino acids, but why stop there?
It is true that our body is able to produce the non-essential amino acids by itself, but this doesn't mean it will always be able to produce sufficient quantities.
Taking a complete source of protein will provide your body with both the essential and non-essential amino acids, allowing it to maximize muscle synthesis and muscle recovery.
Our recovery drink Regen contains all the amino acids your body needs after intense exercise
Best source of protein?
The best source of protein will always be whole foods. The research on the subject is still ongoing, but as it stands, animal-based protein is generally more efficient in providing all the nine essential amino acids than plant-based protein, thus being the superior option to stimulate muscle growth and muscle recovery.
Whey protein powder, especially a high-quality 90% whey protein isolate, is the best protein supplement we know, as it provides the body with all the nine essential amino acids and is extremely efficient at stimulating muscle growth and muscle recovery while containing very few carbohydrates and almost no fat.
According to research, amino acid supplements are an inferior option compared to full-protein supplements, but as with everything concerning sports nutrition, other studies might pop up to illuminate different benefits. But for now, we stick to a healthy diet and high-quality whey protein.
Why no BCAA in our Nrgy Unit Drink?
Many manufacturers market BCAA in their sports drinks as a mandatory anti-catabolic agent, claiming they prevent the body from breaking down muscle during exercise.
It sounds great, but is it true?
As with many things marketed today, this claim is based on the silly claim that the body will actually break down muscle during exercise. It is true the body will start breaking down protein when no other source of energy is available, but carbohydrates will always be the preferred fuel for the body, as they are the easiest to transform into glucose.
And what does every functional sports drink contain?
That's right, carbohydrates.
So, the reason why Nrgy Unit Drink does not contain BCAA, EAA, or any other source of protein, is that they are simply not needed. And avoiding adding unnecessary things to our body is a great way to improve our health and fitness in the long run, which is what Nduranz strives for.