Amino Acids in Exercise and Sport

Amino Acids in Exercise and Sport

Amino Acids in Exercise and Sport

by Vanita Dahia

Amino Acids in Exercise and Sport

Taking amino acid muscle bulking powders?

Sports nutrition with enhanced additives in protein powders are growing exponentially in the young sportsperson with increasing demands in endurance, muscle build and optimal recovery. Amino acids with high carb loading is used in debilitated patients and in palliative care.

Why take amino acids in sports?

Amino acids are needed by the body to stimulate muscle build or synthesis, prevent muscle breakdown, and support muscle recovery and are beneficial for:

  • Muscle growth
  • Increased stamina & endurance
  • Increase fat burn
  • Improve recovery & performance

Most sport protein formulae contain a blend of branch chained amino acids (BCAA’s) – leucine, isoleucine, and valine blended together with enhanced or activated amino acids such as AAKG, (Arginine alpha ketoglutarate), or creatine to name a few, key players in amino acid metabolism.

BCAA’s are essential amino acids as they constitute about 35% of muscle tissue and need to be supplemented as they cannot be produced or synthesized by the body.

Why take amino acids?

Three reasons why amino acids are beneficial for exercise:

  1. Build energy supply
    BCAA intake prior to a workout will prime the body to provide sufficient energy for a more intense workout. BCAA increases uptake of essential amino acid tryptophan and reduce the synthesis and release of serotonin, which may delay fatigue during a longer or harder workout.
  2. Build muscle
    During a workout, muscles build and breakdown, and in time, fat breakdown to enable muscle tone build and fat loss, sculpturing the body.
    The rate of muscle breakdown can be slowed during exercise with leucine, an amino acid which stimulates protein synthesis and muscle tissue growth. So leucine essentially primes the body preparing for muscle build and recover after a workout.
    Taking BCAA can also increase the level of Dopamine seen with an increase of 2.5 times normal level of phenylalanine. Dopamine is a reward neurotransmitter which make you feel motivated and satisfied when working out.
  3. Assists with muscle soreness after exercise and prevents muscle damage
    BCAA taken before exercise can reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) as much as 20%. Intense exercise has the potential to damage muscle and is reflected in an increase ib CK (creatinine kinase) and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), indicators of muscle damage.In a study by Coombes et al, the intake of BCAA’s prior to a workout significantly decreased the post-exercise values of these enzymes, suggesting decreased muscle damage.

Testing for amino acid status

Whilst we are concentrating the value of BCAA in exercise, it is equally important to balance all amino acids (essential and non-essential) in sports nutrition. Amino acids do not work independently, they need important vitamin co-factors to stimulate synthesis, utilization and metabolism of amino acids.

The levels of Amino Acids can be tested in plasma , blood spot or urine sample. It is advisable to ensure that all amino acids are balanced if supplemented.

Optimal supplementation involves personalized customization of amino acid formulae based on amino acid test results. See Alchemy of Amino Acids Ebook for more information or contact us or test for Amino Acid Status for further guidance.



Newsholme, E. A., Acworth, I. N., & Blomstrand, E. (1987). Amino acids, brain neurotransmitters and a functional link between muscle and brain that is important in sustained exercise. Advances in Myochemistry, 1, 127-133.

Tipton, K. D., Rasmussen, B. B., Miller, S. L., Wolf, S. E., Owens-Stovall, S. K., Petrini, B. E., & Wolfe, R. R. (2001).

Shimomura, Y., Inaguma, A., Watanabe, S., Yamamoto, Y., Muramatsu, Y., Bajotto, G& Mawatari, K. (2010). Branched-chain amino acid supplementation before squat exercise and delayed-onset muscle soreness. International Journal of Sport Nutrition, 20(3), 236.

Coombes, J. S., & McNaughton, L. S. (2000). Effects of branched-chain amino acid supplementation on serum creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase after prolonged exercise. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 40(3), 240.
June 5, 2018

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