Muscle growth is one of your chief goals if you’re a bodybuilder, athlete, or exerciser, but you can’t achieve that goal without adequate protein. One of the best ways to power up is through supplemen-tation with amino acids. In this two-part series, you’ll get the inside scoop on everything you need to know about these amazing nutrients .
What Are Amino Acids?Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Without amino acids, your body cannot manufacture protein, and protein is needed to make muscle. Amino acid supplementation is used to provide an ad-ditional source of protein — beyond food — that can be used by the muscles for growth and repair.For good metabolic control, your body required 22 amino acids in a certain bal-ance to synthesize protein for muscular growth.
All but eight of the amino acids can be manufactured by your body. Those eight are called “essential amino acids,” and they are supplied by animal pro-teins such as chicken and fish. Essential amino acids include lysine; methionine; phenylalanine; threonine; tryptophan; and the branched-chain aminos, isoleucine, leucine, and valine. Foods that contain the eight essential amino acids are called “complete proteins.” Of the 22 amino acids, seven are con-sidered “conditionally essential,” which means that under certain conditions such as extreme stress the body cannot manu-facture them. These amino acids include arginine, cysteine, glutamine, histidine, proline, taurine, and tyrosine . The re-maining seven amino acids are termed “nonessential amino acids,” which the body makes on its own. These amino acids include alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, citruline, glutamic acid, glycine, and serine .Now let’s take a look at specific amino acid supplements used in sports nutrition .
All-Purpose Amino Acid SupplementationYour starting point with amino acid supplementation should start with a base formula that supplies a profile of all free form aminos that are available supple-mentally. The designation “free form” is important; it means that the amino acids are more easily assimilated by your body and thus bypass the long digestive process that food goes through. In other words, these protein nutrients get into your system more rapidly so that they can do their regenerative work of repair and building.The benefits of a base formula are as follows:• Assurance that your body is receiv-ing the protein it requires to support your training efforts.• Muscular protection in the wake of intensified training.• Support during stricter competition dieting in order to preserve lean muscle.The supplement we recommend is our Ultimate Amino Formula™, which should be taken with each meal.
It has been specially formulated to meet the needs of dedicated, hard-training athletes and exercisers. Most of the athletes we work with use it year round to help stay in peak condition.Using the Ultimate Amino Formula™ as a base, you should build from there, adding in other amino acids in order to customize your program and meet your other training goals. What follows is a look at other formulations that should be included in your own program.Branched-Chain Amino AcidsThe so-called “branched chain amino acids” (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) are unique in that they can also be used directly as fuel by the muscles. That’s critical, particularly if you work out aero-bically, in addition to your regular weight-training regimen . Unless you properly fuel yourself with quality calories, high-intensity aerobics can result in the loss of lean body mass. Endurance activities, for example, cause loss of lean tissue because as fat and carbohydrate fuels are exhaust-ed, the body draws on its own muscle tissue to use as fuel. Supplementing with BCAAs prevents this from happening.These aminos are utilized by your body in the following way: After a high-pro-tein meal, BCAAs are rapidly absorbed, processed by the liver, and released into the bloodstream. From there, they are taken up by the muscles to be metabolized — unlike other amino acids, which are metabolized in the liver. BCAAs work together with insulin to transport other amino acids into the muscles to be used in growth and re-pair. BCAAs, therefore, should always be taken with meals and never on an empty stomach . Leucine, in particular, affords numer-ous benefits. (1) This amino acid has a higher “oxidation rate” than that of isoleucine or valine.
This point deserves some elaboration. During high-intensity aerobic exercise lasting 60 to 90 minutes or longer, leucine is rapidly used up and depleted. The by-products of its break-down are used to manufacture another amino acid called alanine, which the liver converts to glucose. Eventually, that glu-cose finds its way to the working muscles where it is used for energy. The harder you work out, the more leucine your body will use up. Following aerobic exercise, plasma leucine levels drop 11 to 33 percent; following strength training exercise, 30 percent. In skeletal muscle, leucine levels can decrease by as much as 20 percent with very intense aerobic exercise. Leucine also induces the loss of body fat. Supplementation with BCAAs in which 76 percent of the formulation is leucine has been shown in research to trigger significant and preferential losses of visceral body fat. Located in the deeper layers of the body under the subcutaneous fat, visceral fat is often the hardest fat to lose and doesn’t respond well to dieting, particularly in women.
This finding is significant because it indicates that leucine may be an effective natural supplement for fat loss as long as you select the correct formulation. The Parrillo Muscle Amino Formula™ is contains 400 milligrams of l-leucine, 160 milligrams of l-isoleucine, and 160 milligrams of l-valine – the opti-mum balance for fat-loss needs.What’s more, leucine works together with the other branched chain amino acids to rebuild vital muscle tissue. The more muscle you have, the more efficiently your body burns fat. Further, research in-dicates that consuming BCAAs before or during endurance training may decrease, even prevent, the rate of protein degrada-tion in the muscle; improve both mental and physical performance; and may spare muscle glycogen stores so that you can train longer and harder, aerobically.How to Supplement with Leucine and BCAAsAs noted above, leucine itself can be de-pleted by intense aerobic exercise. Thus, it is important to keep your system well-stocked with this amino acid, particularly during periods of hard training. In one study, during five weeks of speed and strength training, leucine supplementa-tion of 50 milligrams per kilogram of bodyweight a day, along with a high daily protein intake, prevented a decrease in leucine in power-trained athletes. On the Parrillo Nutrition Program, we advise taking two more more capsules of our Muscle Amino Formula with each meal. If you eat five meals a day and take two capsules, you would consume 4000 milligrams, or 4 grams, of leucine daily. Let’s suppose you weigh 200 pounds, or 91 kilograms, and follow the research-prescribed dosage indicated above.
Four grams is roughly what you would need daily – exactly the amount you would get by taking our suggested usage. In all of our supplements, our suggested usages are based on scientific research.Research also specifies that leucine supplementation should be in conjunction with a high-protein eating plan. The leu-cine content of protein foods is thought to vary between five and ten percent.Each day, you should eat 1 .25 to 1 .5 grams of protein per pound of body weight. At least one gram of protein per pound of your body weight should come from complete protein sources such as lean white meat poultry, fish, egg whites, or protein powder. The remaining should come from starchy and fibrous carbohy-drates, which also contain protein.When you supplement with leucine, do so with a carbohydrate. We suggest taking our BCAA supplement with one of our carbohydrate drinks, such as ProCarb™ or 50/50 Plus™.Next month, I will continue this two-part series with a detailed look into a number of amino acids that offer very unique health and muscle-building prop-erties .
1 . Mero, A . 1999 . Leucine supplemen-tation and intensive training. Sports Med-icine 27: 347-358 .