Amino acids: why are they beneficial for athletes?

What are amino acids?

If you play sports, you have probably heard of amino acids .

But what are they and what are they for?

Amino acids are molecules which, when assembled together, form peptides which make up proteins .

The protein is assimilated by the body and used for the renewal of muscle tissue and the increase in muscle mass.

The human body uses 20 amino acids to make proteins. These are the proteinogenic amino acids:

  • alanine (increases muscle strength);
  • arginine (helps heal wounds);
  • asparagine (involved in the functioning of neurons);
  • aspartate (influences hormones);
  • cysteine ​​(anti-inflammatory);
  • glutamate (neurotransmitter);
  • glutamine (limits muscle wasting and improves sports recovery);
  • glycine (improves recovery and promotes sleep);
  • histidine (promotes healing);
  • isoleucine (balances sugar levels);
  • leucine (essential amino acid for regenerating muscle tissue);
  • lysine (reduces fatigue);
  • methionine (plays a role in cell development);
  • phenylalanine (good functioning of the nervous and hormonal system);
  • proline (good health of vessels and arteries);
  • serine (helps the development of muscle mass);
  • threonine (helps muscle growth);
  • tryptophan (promotes sleep);
  • tyrosine (balances the nervous system);
  • valine (allows muscle coordination, development and tissue repair).

Amino acids are beneficial for athletes because they build muscle fiber , promote muscle growth and improve endurance, sports performance and the immune system.

The role of amino acids

The role of amino acids is to maintain the cellular, muscular and tissue structure of the body.

Your body synthesizes amino acids and/or absorbs them through food. They are used to make tissues, hormones, enzymes, neurotransmitters, etc.

They also act on the functioning of arteries, organs, tendons, glands, etc.

Amino acids also help with wound healing and cell regeneration of skin and hair (by manufacturing collagen and elastin).

These molecules are essential because they also ensure the transport and storage of nutrients in the body.

Essential Amino Acids vs Non-Essential Amino Acids

There are 9 essential amino acids : tryptophan, lysine, valine, methionine, phenylalanine, leucine, isoleucine, histidine and threonine.

They are so called because the body needs them to function, but is unable to make them itself. They must therefore be absorbed by integrating them into the diet .

Conversely, non-essential amino acids can be synthesized by the body. They do not depend on an external nutrient supply.

Sources of amino acids

All plant or animal proteins are a source of amino acids. They are present in many foods such as:

  • meat and fish (chicken, salmon, pork);
  • animal products (eggs, milk, cheese);
  • legumes (lentils, peas, soya);
  • cereals (rice, corn, bread);
  • vegetables (cabbage, spinach, mushroom);
  • the dried fruit
  • oilseeds (nuts), seeds;
  • algae (spirulina).

You can target certain amino acids based on food. For example, wisteria is found in turkey, pumpkin, spirulina and hazelnuts. You'll also find more lysine in egg yolk, quinoa, and fenugreek.

How to consume more amino acids?

To enrich your diet with amino acids, you must start by adopting a healthy and balanced diet, rich in protein . You can add protein foods at breakfast with soy yogurt, for example. Your other two meals of the day should contain protein of plant or animal origin.

Note that consuming plant proteins is better for long-term health compared to animal proteins which promote inflammation.

Post-workout drinks based on vegetable proteins are therefore ideal for enjoying the benefits of amino acids and meeting your protein needs after sport.

The benefits of amino acids for athletes

All amino acids are important for human metabolism.

But when it comes to athletes, we can target three that are particularly useful. They are called BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acid).

These branched amino acids are especially interesting in sports nutrition , because they strengthen resistance, muscular endurance and prevent muscle catabolism.

To learn more about the role of catabolism, learn about how metabolism works .

BCAAs include leucine, isoleucine and valine. They play an essential role in muscle building and energy production.

Here are some benefits of amino acids for athletic people.

Gain muscle with amino acids

Gain muscle with amino acids

Essential amino acids play a role in the preservation and creation of muscle fibers.

This is why having a sufficient protein intake, or adopting a high-protein diet can help you develop muscle mass .

Food supplements based on essential amino acids stimulate mass gain, in particular BCAAs.

Improve blood circulation

Playing sports stimulates the cardiovascular system. To keep it healthy during your training sessions, you need to target a particular amino acid: arginine .

This amino acid regulates the flexibility of blood vessels and reduces blood pressure.

In bodybuilding, it increases muscle congestion which causes muscles to swell during the workout.

Lose weight and preserve your muscles

Burning calories by going into a calorie deficit helps break down fat. You lose fat when you consume less energy than your body needs to function.

But when the body lacks calories, it draws them from its fat reserves located in adipose tissue. It can also use amino acids which are a direct source of energy.

This use is unfavorable for your muscles, since these amino acids were reserved for the production of proteins for your muscle building.

To limit muscle wasting and increase protein synthesis , you can consume more protein during your low-calorie diet or take food supplements based on amino acids.

If amino acid intake remains stable, you continue to stimulate protein synthesis and reduce their breakdown.

As a result, muscle development continues, you continue to burn fat and you retain more energy for training.

Additional information

L carnitine is a derivative of lysine and methionine.

It promotes weight loss and acts as a fat burner. It also increases energy production to improve your physical performance.

The body produces carnitine, particularly by the liver. But you can also meet your needs with an exogenous intake. Animal-based proteins are the main sources of carnitine, especially red meat.

Fight fatigue and improve endurance

Lacking branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) can cause fatigue. During physical exercise, the body uses a mixture of glucose, fats and proteins for fuel.

When carbohydrate intake is lower than normal (during a diet, for example), the body draws on protein reserves (particularly BCAAs), which leads to fatigue.

To combat this, you need to rebalance your amino acid intake. You can take supplements to keep your protein intake stable.

Athletes who regularly consume BCAAs have been shown to have better endurance as well as leaner muscle mass retention.

5 signs you are deficient in essential amino acids

Amino acid deficiencies

An amino acid deficiency impairs your health and manifests itself in the following symptoms:

  1. digestive disorders ;
  2. decreased immunity;
  3. instability of moods;
  4. fertility problems;
  5. slowdown in growth.

Vegetarians and vegans who do not consume animal proteins have no deficiency to worry about as long as they continue to absorb a good amount of protein . In addition, consuming plant proteins has many benefits for health and sports.

There are many sources of plant-based protein. To meet your nutritional needs, add a protein source to each of your meals.

⇒ Discover all the recipes based on plant proteins with OZERS 100% vegan powder.

Sport: different food supplements rich in amino acids

Certain food supplements allow amino acid supplementation according to your needs:

  • BCAA for leucine, valine and isoleucine;
  • EAAs for the absorption of the 9 essential amino acids;
  • the Amino for essential, semi-essential and non-essential amino acids;
  • L-glutamine for muscles and blood circulation;
  • L-Carnitine for weight loss;
  • L-Arginine for strength, endurance and muscle gain.

The more you exercise, the more your amino acid needs increase. You can therefore supplement your daily protein intake with food supplements , such as OZERS vegetable proteins.

Their consumption is recommended during periods of intensive training, in particular to gain mass and lose fat.