Supplement Showcase: BCAAs

What are amino acids? What are branched-chain amino acids? What do these have to do with my workouts, and why would I consider spending money on them?

Amino Acids

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein molecules, linked together in chains of thousands of combinations. They wind and loop to make various configurations of proteins, and these are the worker bees of our bodies, the molecules that “do” everything. Conventionally, shorter chains of amino acids are called peptides and longer chains are called polypeptides or proteins.
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Many amino acids exists, but there are 20 standard (or canonical) amino acids encoded by the genetic code (DNA) of our body. How does DNA code for amino acids?

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Protein is King

  Protein

  • Amino Acids are the building blocks of protein. There are 20 different amino acid. To make proteins, they are joined in arrangements of a few dozen to hundreds called polypeptides. Nonessential amino acids are made (synthesized) by the human body and essential amino acids are not made by the body but must be obtained through the diet
    • Essential Amino Acids: Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Tryptophan, Valine, Histidine*
    • Non-Essential Amino Acids: Alanine, Arginine, Asparagine, Aspartic Acid, Cysteine, Glutamic acid, Glutamine, Glycine, Proline, Serine, Tyrosine
  • Protein quality: How well a protein supplies amino acids proportionate to the body’s needs. High quality proteins supply the body with all 9 essential amino acids. Complementary proteins are lower-quality proteins that can, in combination over the course of the day, supply all 9 essential amino acids.
    • High quality: proteins of animal origin including eggs, meat, fish, poultry, dairy products
    • Complementary Proteins: generally, beans/legumes plus grains for example, beans and rice, corn and beans, corn tortillas and refried beans, and peanut butter and bread
  • 1 gram of protein contains 4 kilocalories (Calories)

Functions

  • Proteins are important structural molecules, enzymes, and antibodies in the body
  • They are essential for muscle repair, muscular hypertrophy (growth), catalyzing biochemical reactions, DNA repair, and so much more
  • Consuming protein helps to maintain muscle mass, especially while at a caloric deficit (dieting).

Recommendations

  • Recommended protein for sedentary, non-active adults: 0.36g/pound of body weight per day. A 150lb person should consume at least 54g of protein daily
  • My recommendation of daily protein intake for an active individual is 1.0g/pound of body weight or up to 1.5g/pound if dieting. A 150lb person should consume around 150g of protein, with at least 65% of the protein coming from high-quality sources
  • The best way to meet protein recommendations: protein should be divided equally across 4-5 meals daily separated by 4-6 hours each. Each meal should contain30-45g of protein and 3-4g of leucine. Consumption of a leucine or amino acid supplement in between meals is recommended as well.
    • this strategy maximizes muscle protein synthesis and anabolism (i.e. muscle growth and recovery)
    • If this strategy doesn’t work for your life, modifying it to meet individual needs is ok! Consistency is what is most important.

References

Lee, Sohee. How to Count Macros Ebook 2. Sohee Lee 2015

Baechle, T.R., Earle, R.W. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, 3rd Edition. NSCA 2008.