Professional athletes need to take exceptional care of their body. Good nutrition is essential. Finely tuning athletic performance requires paying very close attention to exercise regimes and diet.
Amino acid supplements play a significant role in sustaining top athletic performance.
Here are the Top 6 Amino Acids for Athletes
A non-essential amino acid, L-alanine has a critical role in synthesising protein and is one of the most abundant amino acids in the body. This compound is primarily produced by muscle cells. The liver uses L-alanine to produce pyruvate, an essential compound for synthesising glucose.
Due to the role L-alanine has in maintaining glucose levels, this amino acid is important for energy supply. During the alanine cycle a series of chemical reactions occur breaking down L-alainine into pyruvate and then glucose. This constant cycle delivers vital energy to the cells and is important for athletes that rely on elevated physical exertion.
Classed as a semi-essential amino acid, L-arginine is one of the most important amino acids for athletes. Arginine plays an essential role in blood circulation through the production of nitric oxide (NO). A vasodilator, NO enhances blood flow and regulates blood pressure.
This is very beneficial for athletes as it helps to reduce blood pressure while simultaneously elevating the flow of blood to the muscles. This can improve conditioning and endurance.
Another benefit of L-arginine for athletes is that this amino acid stimulates the release of growth hormones and the breakdown of lipids. This can help to accelerate muscle growth and promote fat burning. Also, arginine assists in the creation of creatine; also one of the key amino acids for athletes.
Three of the best amino acids for athletes are L-valine, L-leucine and L-isoleucine. Together, these amino acids are known as branched chain amino acids, or more commonly referred to as BCAAs. Classified into this group due to their unique structure, BCAAs are among the most widely used amino acids for althetes.
Unable to be synthesised by the body, BCAAs must be sourced through diet. They are commonly taken in supplement form by body builders and other athletes to help improve muscle tone and fitness. BCAAs elevate muscle synthesis and maintenance, while also increasing fat burning and glucose tolerance.
Similar to L-arginine, BCAAs also help with hormone regulation. These amino acids assist the body to lower cortisol (a stress hormone) and increase testosterone. BCAAs can also reduce inflammation and muscle catabolism, allowing for faster recovery times after training sessions and competitions, as well as better retention of lean muscle mass.
Another benefit of BCAAs is that these amino acids for athletes will decrease fatigue and increase endurance. This is achieved by a couple of mechanisms. Firstly, the body can use BCAAs as a fuel source. These amino acids can replenish ATP (Adenosine-Tri-Phosphate) to power the body. Secondly, BCAAs can block the L-tryptophan receptors in the brain that signal fatigue.
L-carnitine is a well-known fat burning amino acid. L-carnitine helps to break down fatty acids so that they can used as energy. Consequently, many athletes take carnitine supplements to support a better muscle/fat ratio while also increasing stamina and endurance.
Not an amino acid in the true sense, creatine is actually a tripeptide made from the amino acids arginine, glycine and methionine. Creatine is perhaps the most well-known and widely used supplement for body builders and other athletes that rely on strength and stamina.
Creatine can enhance power and increase muscle mass. It is very important for supplying the muscles with energy by reacting with phosphate to form ATP. Consequently creatine can help to build strength while also reducing fatigue.
The last in our top six amino acids for athletes is L-glutamine. A non-essential amino acid, glutamine helps to reduce muscle breakdown and enhance protein metabolism. This amino acid helps to transport nitrogen to the muscle cells and builds muscle mass.
Glutamine also stimulates the production of Human Growth Hormone. This hormone helps to boost muscle cell production and increases fat metabolism. When participating in intensive training regimes glutamine levels can become depleted quickly. This may cause a loss in strength and stamina, as well as longer recovery times.
Consequently many athletes take glutamine supplements to not only boost muscle mass, but to also avoid the negative effects of low levels of this amino acid.
Getting the right advice
The top six amino acids for athletes are L-alanine, L-arginine, BCAAs, L-carnitine, creatine and L-glutamine. These amino acids support muscle building and fat burning. They also help to improve strength and stamina while simultaneously reducing recovery times.
All these amino acids and amino acid derivatives are available in supplement form and rather than relying on diet alone, most athletes will take supplements. However, it’s very important to get the right nutritional advice before starting a supplement program.
Prolonged excess consumption of these compounds may cause serious health problems. Also, different training routines and intensities exert different demands on the body. Therefore it’s essential to get professional guidance prior to taking any supplement to support athletic performance.