Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Every tissue in your body, from your skin to the lining of your intestines is made up of billions and billions of amino acids. The body combines and links together several amino acids to form protein, and these proteins are then combined to repair, rebuild, and grow new tissues in the body, such as our muscles, hair, nails, or organs.
There are over 200 amino acids found in nature, but the 20 most important amino acids for people training are the proteinogenic ones. These protein creating aminos are the ones used by the body to construct proteins and play a critical role in development, homeostasis, and growth of organisms.
These 20 amino acids can then be placed into 3 categories:
- EAA’s (Essential amino acids)
- Conditionally essential amino acids
- NON-essential amino acids
These amino acids are classed as essential because the body cannot create them and so it is ESSENTIAL to consume them in our diet.
EAA’s are used for a number of functions in the body, including energy production, cell repair, and nutrient digestion/uptake, but most importantly, they’re required for protein synthesis. A deficiency in any one of the nine EAA’s, and you’ll significantly reduce your ability to rebuild, repair, and grow skeletal muscle tissue.
In addition to building muscle, EAA’s also protect the mitochondria of each cell in your body. The mitochondria are the “power plants” inside each cell in your body responsible for generating ATP, the cellular currency your muscles need to perform at a high level.
In other words, if you’re not consuming sufficient amounts of EAA’s on a daily basis, your body is starved of the essential nutrients it needs to function, let alone perform well or build muscle. Eating a balanced diet rich in the essential amino acids is vital to health, performance, recovery, and growth. You can get all of your EAA requirements from diet alone, but it’s also extremely useful to have a comprehensive EAA supplement that provides everything your body needs for protein synthesis and muscle repair/growth.
No doubt whilst searching for ways to build and recover faster, you’ve come across a class of amino acids called BCAA’s, branched-chain amino acids. BCAA’s are actually a special “subcategory” of the essential amino acids. The three amino acids that comprise the BCAA’s are:
The BCAA’s are the most extensively researched of the amino acids, especially leucine due to their ability to activate the mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway, which drives muscle protein synthesis in the body.
So which is better?
Over the past decade or so, BCAA’s have gained a lot of hype as being essential to muscle growth. While it’s true that they are needed in order to build and repair muscle, what’s lost by the marketing of BCAA products is that they only provide three of the nine EAA’s required for muscle growth.
Consuming only the three BCAA’s deprives your body of the other essential amino acids it needs to construct protein. Remember, your body requires all nine essential amino acids to build muscle, not just the BCAA’s. BCAA supplements can enhance muscular endurance and help prevent catabolism, but the research is pretty clear that EAA’s are king when it comes to maximizing recovery, growth, and performance.
Conditionally Essential Amino Acids
As you might expect, a conditionally essential amino acid is one that under normal circumstances your body has ample amounts of and can produce enough to meet your daily needs. However during times of increased stress (illness or heavy exercise), your body can’t generate enough of these amino acids to keep up with demand, and therefore these amino acids in effect become essential.
To supply your body with the added amounts of the conditionally essential amino acids it needs, you’ll either need to supplement or add more food to your diet.
The conditionally essential amino acids are:
Nonessential Amino Acids
As stated up top, the nonessential amino acids are those that the body can create on its own from the essential amino acids, carbohydrates, and fats you ingest on a daily basis. These do not need to be obtained from the diet, though they can be present in the foods you consume during the day.
The nonessential amino acids are:
- Aspartic acid
- Glutamic acid
The Best EAA Supplement
If you’ve made it to the end of this article, and you fully understand the importance of EAA’s and their role in Building and maintaining muscle tissue, then you’re probably left wondering which is the best supplement to go with.
For us the two most popular are:
TWP Platinum series Endure Here
ProSupps HydroBcaa Here
Both of these products have the full EAA profile with 10g of total EAA’s per serving. For us the Endure comes out slightly ahead due to the added citrulline and Glutamine especially if it is being used around the workout window.