When combined with a clean diet and a rigorous training program, a well-rounded supplement regimen can truly take your gains to the next level. This you know. What you may not know, however, is that some supps are effective, and others are basically worthless. Take branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs): leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Even if you’ve been pressing and squatting for just a few months, you’ve probably heard of them. That’s because the building blocks of protein are pretty high on the supplement totem pole, along with protein powder. The idea is that ingesting those three amino acids helps optimize recovery, so your muscles grow more effectively. That’s why you’re told to take them before you train, while you train, after you train, before you go to bed, and even before you and your girl get it on. (OK, we made that last one up.)
But there’s a new set of molecules on the protein-building block, called essential amino acids (EAAs), and everyone interested in strength and muscle should know about them. In other words: EAAs are the badass younger brother of BCAAs. Below, FLEX takes a deep dive into BCAAs and EAAs, so you’ll be armed with all the knowledge you need when it comes to supplementing right.
AMINO ACIDS 101
Before we discuss how EAAs can make your muscle game stronger, let’s take a look at the nitty-gritty. That is, why and how amino acids are so crucial to supporting muscle growth, health, and strength.
Though there are more than 300 organic compounds called amino acids, only 20 of these occur in proteins in the body. These are called dietary amino acids. They provide the building blocks for protein and also play several important cellular and molecular signaling roles throughout the body, many of which also support muscle building. Aminos are also needed to assist many other essential processes. They help create the antibodies that make up our immune system and the enzymes that perform thousands of chemical reactions. They also provide the necessary ingredients for constructing hormones and the structures that build cell walls. In short: They’re really, really important. And they can be broken down into three types:
Essential Amino Acids:
There are nine EAAs, and the body can’t make these, so we must constantly eat them to replenish our bodies’ supply.
- EAAs: Leucine, isoleucine, valine, methionine, phenylalanine, tryptophan, threonine, lysine, histidine.
Nonessential Amino Acids:
We call these nonessential because, while we still need them to function—along with all 20 dietary amino acids—our bodies synthesize them, so we don’t need to consume protein and other foods to get our ll.
- NEAAs: Alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glycine, proline, serin.
Semiessential Amino Acids:
Think of these guys as the A-Team of amino acids. They come into play only when your body is stressed or sick and you can’t produce sufficient qualities in this state.
- SEAAs: Arginine, glutamine, tyrosine.
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