When it comes to health and fitness, we hear a lot about Amino Acids. But what are Amino Acids? Where do they come from? What do Amino Acids do? Which are all great questions. Little do most people know … amino acids come from protein.
Understanding amino acids and when to use amino acid supplements effectively will help you make sure your body has all the amino acids it needs every day for muscle growth and repair, digestion, and metabolism.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Any and all protein that you eat is simply a variety of amino acids connected together. When humans consume protein, their digestive systems break that protein source down into its various amino acids.
As an adult, we can make 13 of the 22 amino acids in our bodies. They are the Non-Essential amino acids. Which means we need them, but since we can produce them within our bodies it is not essential to get them through food, protein shakes, or amino acids supplements. That leaves us with nine more, the essential amino acids or better known as EAAs. Which means we must obtain these through food … hence the name, essential amino acids.
Now, three of those Essential Amino Acids are Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine. These three Amino Acids are the most important for energy production and kick-starting muscle protein synthesis. They are called Branched Chain Amino Acids.
Currently, in the Health and Fitness Industry, the big buzz is about Branched Chain Amino Acids. Many supplement companies have come out with a BCAA product and market them in many different ways. For weight loss, for muscle growth, to be sipped on during the day, post workout, intra-workout, and the list goes on and on.
The simple answer, yes. But no matter what your goals are, there are certain things you need to know and understand to get the best results.
When it comes to where you are getting amino acids from and earning the best results, whole food protein sources are best … complete protein supplements (Phormula-1 and Level-1) are second best … then typically the next most effective choice would be Essential Amino Acid products like Anabolic Bridge … and lastly, Branched Chain Amino Acid products like BCAA.
Now, even though EAA and BCAA are third and fourth on the list they will still help you reach your fat loss or muscle growth goal when used properly. In this blog, I want to cover the two popular times for amino acid supplementation… in-between meals and around your workout.
This way you can have a better idea on whether or not it will be beneficial for you to supplement with amino acids.
For supplementing in-between meals or use during the day, an Essential Amino Acid (EAA) product is a superior choice than a Branched Chain Amino Acid (BCAA) product. By ingesting Essential Amino Acids through food, shakes, or an EAA product you are giving your body the Amino Acids it needs to stay in the anabolic state(primarily burning fat and carbs for fuel and preserving lean muscle).
This will help you build lean muscle, burn more fat, and recover more quickly.
The current trend, however, is for people to sip on BCAA during the dayto stay in the anabolic state between meals. This is not as beneficial as an EAA product (Reminder: BCAA are in EAA) for multiple reasons. The biggest reason being you are simply missing 6 essential amino acids. Think of it like this… BCAAs are bricklayers and the other EAAs and amino acids are bricks. It doesn’t do you a whole lot of good to send bricklayers to the job site if they aren’t accompanied with or closely followed with a supply of bricks to start doing work.
Once again, this is why ingesting complete protein sources through whole foods, or drinking Level-1, is always the best option for getting amino acids into your body since you will be giving your body all the amino acids it needs.
This is why I choose and recommend Anabolic Bridge over BCAA for use in-between meals and shakes. Anabolic Bridge is specifically formulated with the precise ratio of essential amino acids your body needs to stay in the anabolic state when you miss meals or shakes. Personally, I always keep a bottle of Anabolic Bridge in my truck and a few servings in my backpack. If you have a good nutrition plan and stay consistent to it, you most likely won’t use Anabolic Bridge every day. I know I don’t, but it is great to have on hand for when you do need it!
Once again, BCAA’s are heavily marketed to be taken pre, intra, and post workout. So let’s dive into this a bit. When it comes to BCAA before your workout… You do not need to take them. But depending on your goals and your lifestyle there can be situations where amino acid supplementation before your workout will be beneficial.
For example, if you have not eaten in the last two hours and are headed to the gym, using Essential Amino Acids or a quick digesting complete protein source like Phormula-1 is a good idea. This way you are giving your body the full spectrum of amino acids it needs which includes, BCAA. So if you find yourself in the situation of getting ready to workout, and you haven’t eaten recently, using Phormula-1 or a serving of Anabolic Bridge would be my recommendation over using BCAA’s.
This answer … like many when it comes to health and fitness is, it depends. “Workout” is a generic term that can mean very different things to different people.
A workout can mean weight lifting, Crossfit, Bootcamp, bodyweight movements at home or hotel, yoga, running and the list goes on and on. Plus, workouts can vary a lot in duration. Then if you start looking at the intensity of your workout the answer can get more and more complicated.
So in an attempt to keep it simple…. here is my rule of thumb. If you are doing cardio, lifting weights, or training in any way for less than an hour, you do not need to supplement with amino acids.
Now, is there anything wrong with drinking BCAA during your training? No, not at all. You can always drink BCAA, as they won’t hurt your results and will give you some benefit …. I just don’t consider it necessary in this situation. There are most likely other supplements that would have a bigger impact on your results, like making sure to take proper post workout, than to supplement with amino acids during training.
If you are doing post workout properly with Phormula 1 and Ignition, you do not need to take EAAs or BCAAs post workout. Phormula-1 and Ignition will already have everything your body needs to initiate proper recovery from training. In each scoop of Phormula-1, you will get 5 grams of naturally occurring BCAA’s in it plus all the essential and non-essential amino acids. Therefore you do not need to supplement with additional amino acids.
Great question and once again, on an individual level it depends on the person, their goals, and their lifestyle.
But the good news is that there is not a “wrong” or bad time to take BCAA’s … you just might not be getting the maximum benefits of them. This is why I educate my clients on nutrition first, then make sure foundational supplements (the ones that will have the biggest impact on their results) are in place and THEN we can look at adding in BCAA’s. Otherwise, just using a BCAA supplement alone without the other more important things in place first is a waste of money.
As a general rule of thumb though, a great time to add in BCAA’s would be if you’re training for longer than an hour. At this point, Branched Chain Amino Acids become a useful supplement to add to your regiment! They are great to take during your workout to help prevent muscle tissue break down, can help with sustaining better performance throughout longer workouts, and even prime your body for recovery after a long hard training session.
Personally, if I am going to train for longer than an hour here is how I use BCAA’s and what I recommend to my clients as well. Mix 1 scoop of BCAA or 1 scoop of Intra-Formance (has BCAAs in it) into 12-16oz of water and sip on it from roughly the 45-minute mark until about 10 to 15 minutes until you finish your workout.
Amino Acids play a big role in helping you reach your goals. Therefore you want to make sure you understand Amino Acids, what they are, where they come from, and how you’re getting them into your body through nutrition and supplements.
Currently, we hear and see so much information about BCAA, making it the “hottest” amino acid supplement. But when it comes down to it, if you don’t have a good nutrition plan and foundational supplements in place, the benefits you will receive from BCAA’s will be less than what you desire.
In order of operations and achieving the best results, you want to focus on whole food protein sources, Phormula-1 and Ignition post workout, Level 1 when you can’t eat, and Anabolic Bridge when you can’t eat or drink a shake. By giving your body all 22 amino acids or at a bare minimum essential amino acids (which includes BCAA), you are setting yourself up for better fat loss and muscle growth! After that, a BCAA supplement becomes a more beneficial addition to your plan.
I know that I covered a lot, and you might still have questions. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us here at 1st Phorm as we have a team of NASM Certified Personal Trainers and NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist who can help you for free! Whether you need help with your nutrition, workouts, supplements, or all the above … we’ve got your back!
*This post was written by Will Grumke. He is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer, NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist, NASM Certified Weight Loss Specialist, NASM Certified Behavioral Change Specialist, and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer.
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