Do you need to take amino acids to build muscle?
In the supplement world, protein – be it from whey or some other type – seems to be the clear winner as far as muscle building goes. But protein is made up of amino acids, shouldn’t they be just as important?
Do they have the same muscle building effect as protein? Should you buy them? Let’s explore the topic.
Amino acids enhance workout performance, promote recovery, and help build muscle. But do we need to buy supplements to keep on hand during workouts?
Why is protein so important for muscle building? Do amino acids render the same effects?
When you consume protein, under any form, it gets broken down into individual aminos that are reordered, refolded and used where they are needed. This is why, basically, amino acids are considered the building blocks of life.
Through this breakdown process, some amino acids are primarily used by the body for fitness purposes, like repairing and building new muscle fibers. When you consume an adequate amount of protein, your body will experience something called a positive balance of nitrogen.
Nitrogen balance is a measure of protein metabolism. That may sound complicated, but it simply means that if the intake of nitrogen into your body is greater than the loss of nitrogen from your body, there is an increase in the total body pool of protein. This positive balance signals your body to get itself into an anabolic, or muscle-building, state.
People who don’t have access to sufficient amounts of protein can experience muscle atrophy and muscle wasting.
How much protein should we consume daily?
The US Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.36 grams per pound, for a normal person, that doesn’t undertake into too much physical activities. But for an active person who works out, a protein intake of approximately 0.45 grams per pound of body weight is adequate.
You might be tempted to think that eating a whole lot more protein is going to lead to even greater results in muscle building. Well, many studies have found that protein intake above 1.2 grams per pound of bodyweight provided no additional muscle-building benefits. In fact, in extreme cases, excess protein consumption could increase the risk of dehydration and kidney damage.
So yes, we need to consume adequate protein to build muscle, but don’t go overboard. Researchers recently measured the effects of protein on muscle synthesis by feeding people steaks and then measured the rate at which their bodies built new muscle tissue after the meal. They found that muscle synthesis went up by 50% after eating some beef. But 4 ounces of beef worked just as well as 12 ounces.
What Are Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)?
There are nine essential amino acids in total, but there’s a key trio that helps you maintain muscle: leucine, isoleucine, and valine, leucine being the one with the superpotent muscle building properties.
To reap the full benefits of leucine, the latest research suggests consuming 2 to 3 grams in one sitting, at least 3 times during the day. You’ll find that sweet spot of 2 to 3 grams leucine in 1 scoop of whey protein (of which about 25% consists of BCAAs), 1 cup of cottage cheese, or 3 ounces of chicken breast.
Truth be told, any animal protein has the leucine, isoleucine, and valine you need, in the doses needed even for a bodybuilder.
So do you need to take a BCAA supplement?
The bottom line on the matter is that if you’re taking in enough protein, then you don’t need to waste your money on amino acids sold separately.
It is important to realize that BCAAs are found naturally in the proteins that you are already eating, like whey or casein protein shakes, eggs, beef, fish, and chicken. This means that for the average guy looking to get fit, there’s no need to add a BCAA supplement to your post-workout protein shake, it won’t give you any added benefits.