Amino acids are the buzz in the health and fitness industry, and many people take them for various benefits. There are so many different options available with some being “essential” and some described as “branched chain.” What part do they play in the body and what benefits do they provide?
What are Amino Acids?
First, amino acids are organic compounds that serve as the building blocks for proteins. There are twenty amino acids that exist naturally. These compounds are made up of a central carbon atom, a hydrogen atom, an amino group, a carboxylic group, and an R-group or side chain. The R-group or side chain is what makes each amino acid unique.
Some amino acids are considered “essential,” because the body cannot make them on its own. These “essential” amino acids must be obtained from outside sources such as food and supplements.
A branched-chain amino acid, commonly referred to as BCAA are a central carbon atom bound to three or more carbon items. The oft-referred to BCAAs in the world of fitness and health are those that are precursors to proteins (a.k.a. proteinogenic amino acids), like leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
Why are Amino Acids important?
A vital part of the diet, amino acids are critical components for proteins which are a source of energy. In addition, amino acids make up the majority of our cells, muscles and tissue and are integral to many important bodily functions like cell structure. Crucial to all metabolic processes, they are chiefly in charge of the optimal transport and storage of all nutrients essential to life. As amino acids play a crucial role, it is not surprising that their deficiencies can traced to many common metabolic diseases.
What are the benefits of Amino Acids?
The first effects of aging are often displayed on our skin. Various studies confirm the importance of amino acids to furnish the nutrients needed to nourish the skin, hair and nails strength, elasticity and firmness.(1,2,3) Plus, a balanced diet is a requirement for healthy skin.When our diet is off balance, it can lead to hyperacidity.
Hyperacidity causes an imbalance in our bodies’ acid-base which can then lead to a loss of elasticity of skin as well as muscle. The amino acid, Glutamine, is perfect to regulate the acid-base balance. It can eliminate detrimental ammonia from the kidneys. While glutamine is manufactured by the body, as we age the production slows down leading to insufficient quantities. It becomes necessary to seek an outside source to supplement these natural processes; this in turn prevents the body from taking the necessary protein from the muscles and converting it to glutamine and energy. Some researchers have declared glutamine to be the “fountain of youth from within.”(4)
Creatine supplies cells with the capacity to repair damaged DNA. Plus, creatine acts a shield by protecting cells with a film of water against harmful substances. This permits the skin to replace lost moisture. Creatine, such as found in Thermo Ignite, is also integral to not only the formation of collagen, but stimulates the production of collagen. Responsible for skin’s elasticity, strong ligaments, tendons and cartilage, collagen escalates the ability to hold water in the skin. Thus allowing the skin to have a firmer, more elastic, and wrinkle-free appearance.
Glutamine can block against fat storage while also enhancing energy levels.(5) By counteracting dietary fat storage, Glutamine can help regulate weight. One study has shown glutamine supplementation can result in a loss of body fat as well as reduce cravings for sugar and alcohol. (6) Because of its well-documented effects on fat, energy, and anti-aging, Glutamine is not only available in a pharmaceutical grade powder form as a stand-alone, but it is included in the product formulations for Intra Edg3, Thermo Ignite, R5 Reload, Rx Rejuvenate, and Ultimate Cleanse.
Arginine, as found in Thermo Ignite and R5 Reload, improves the burning of excess fat. It may help to prioritize muscle-building over fat storage, according to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2009.(7)
Methionine, as found in R5 Reload, can reduce the fat deposition in the liver and has the ability to dissolve fat in the body.
Amino acids such as arginine, ornithine, and glutamine, such as those found in Rx Rejuvenate, can promote sleep because they remove ammonia from the body through the liver.
Glutamine can counteract symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety. Without glutamine, cells become sluggish and cannot function properly. Studies show that glutamine is depleted during periods of physical or psychological stress.(8,9) If sufficient supply of glutamine is accessible, the body’s own immune and intestinal systems are strengthened, preventing any damage from stress.
Glutamine increases the production of GABA or gamma-amino-butyric acid, which is found in Rx Rejuvenate. GABA is not only critical to proper neuro transmission; it also acts like a natural sedative in the brain.
Branched Chain Amino Acids, such as leucine, isoleucine, and valine, have been shown to protect muscles by maintaining strength, aiding in recovery, reducing muscle tissue breakdown and increase rate of lean body mass gained. BCAAs, such as those found in Amino Rx-3 and Intra Edg3, taken in conjunction with the proper training and diet programs can result in a greater decrease in body fat percentage, and increase in lean mass and strength.(10)
Amino acids, whether essential or branched chain, are important in all facets of cell metabolism and muscle protein synthesis. Amino acids are an integral part of the balanced diet, and supplementation is strongly suggested to make sure an adequate supply is always on hand. Supplementation choices can vary from pre-workout powders like Thermo Ignite to post-workout powders like R5 Reload to intra workout powders like Intra Edg3 and Glutamine. Encapsulated amino acids are also beneficial such as Amino Rx-3 and Rx Rejuvenate. No matter which way you choose to supplement, be sure to Amino Up for maximum benefit.
1. Saini, R. & Zanwar, A. A. (2013) Arginine Derived Nitric Oxide: Key to Healthy Skin, Bioactive Dietary Factors and Plant Extracts in Dermatology (pp. 73-82)
2. Evangeliou, A. & Vlassopoulos, D. (2003) Carnitine Metabolism and Deficit – When Supplementation is Necessary? Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, Volume 4, issue 3, (pp. 211-219)
3. Reda, E., D’Iddio, S., Nicolai, R., Benatti, P. & Calvani, M. (2003) The Carnitine System and Body Composition Acta Diabetol, issue 40, (pp. 106-103)
4. Bowtell, J.L., Gelly, K., Jackman, M.L., Patel, A., Simeoni, M., Rennie, M.J. (1999) Effect of oral glutamine on whole body carbohydrate storage during recovery from exhaustive exercise Journal Of Applied Physiology, Volume 86, issue 6, (pp. 1770-1777)
5. Prada, P.O., Hirabara, S.M., de Souza, C.T., Schenka, A.A., Zecchin,H.G., Vassallo, J., Velloso, L.A., Carneiro, E., Carvalheira, J.B., Curi, R. & Saad, M.J. (2007) L-glutamine supplementation induces insulin resistance in adipose tissue and improves insulin signalling in liver and muscle with diet-induced obesity,Diabetologia, Volume 50, issue 9, (pp. 149-159)
6. Bowtell, J.L., Gelly, K., Jackman, M.L., Patel, A., Simeoni, M. & Rennie, M.J. (1999) Effect of oral glutamine on whole body carbohydrate storage during recovery from exhaustive exercise, Journal Of Applied Physiology, Volume 86, issue 6, (pp. 1770-1777)
7. Jobgen, W., Meininger, C. et al. (2009) Dietary l-Arginine Supplementation Reduces White Fat Gain and Enhances Skeletal Muscle and Brown Fat Masses in Diet-Induced Obese Rats. The Journal of Nutrition. J Nutr. 2009 Feb; 139(2): 230–237. doi: 10.3945/jn.108.096362 PMCID: PMC3151442
8. Hertz, L., Kvamme, E., McGeer, E.G. & Schousboe, A. (1983) Glutamine, Glutamate, and Gaba in the Central Nervous System, Alan R Liss Inc., New York
9. Bowtell, J.L., Gelly, K., Jackman, M.L., Patel, A., Simeoni, M., Rennie, M.J. (1999) Effect of oral glutamine on whole body carbohydrate storage during recovery from exhaustive exercise, Journal Of Applied Physiology (pp. 1770-1777)
10. Stoppani, J., Scheett, T., Pena, J., Rudolph, C. and Charlebois, D. (2009) Consuming a supplement containing branched-chain amino acids during a resistance-training program increases lean mass, muscle strength and fat loss. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, Volume 6, Supplement 1. 6(Suppl 1):P1 DOI: 10.1186/1550-2783-6-S1-P1