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What Are Amino Acids ? & Why Do We Need Them ?
You’ve probably heard about amino acids on the front of sports nutrition powders and drink mixes, but amino acids play a much larger role than your athletic performance alone. So, what are amino acids and why do you need them? Let’s take a look.
What are Amino Acids?
Amino acids are a group of 20 organic compounds that share specific formation traits. They are known as the ‘building blocks’ of proteins in both plants and animals. Because they play such a foundational role, they are involved in many chemical reactions throughout your body to help maintain your body’s normal functions.
Amino acids are grouped into three categories – Essential, Nonessential, and Conditional. The group to which a specific amino acid belongs depends on where your body obtains it.
Essential Amino Acids: Your body cannot produce essential amino acids. These must be obtained by an external source, usually through food or supplementation. Most people are able to get enough essential amino acids through their diets. The essential amino acids are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.
Nonessential amino acids: Nonessential amino acids are those which your body naturally produces throughout the day whether or not you eat food that contains them. The nonessential amino acids are alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, and glutamic acid.
Conditional amino acids: These amino acids are produced only under specific circumstances, typically when your body is fighting off an illness or dealing with stress. The conditional amino acids are arginine, cysteine, glutamine, tyrosine, glycine, ornithine, proline, and serine.
A balanced diet can help ensure that you get a healthy intake of essential and nonessential amino acids throughout your day. Without an adequate intake of amino acids, your body will not be able to produce proteins in your body as effectively, and in some cases the proteins in muscle and tissues will start to weaken or degrade.Amino acids aren’t limited to athletic performance. Supplementing amino acids can reduce natural muscle loss in aging individuals, especially when used in conjunction with resistance training. Not only that, amino acid supplementation can also help restore previously lost muscle mass in the elderly and assist with maintaining these gains for improved strength and mobility.
What Are 8 Essesntial Amino Acids ?
The eight essential amino acids are:
Three of which are branched-chain. Unlike non-essential amino acids, which your body can produce naturally, you need to source EAA's from food and supplements. EAA's are required to complete protein synthesis as they are responsible for building proteins.
Protein levels need to remain high for exercise because energy levels can deplete rapidly during exercise. Protein helps to promote muscle maintenance and growth.
Although BCAAs are in some of the foods that we eat, when you are following a hard training plan and cutting calories, it can be difficult to make sure you get enough BCAA's regularly – this is where BCAA's supplements can help. They are available as either tablets or powder. You can mix the BCAA powder with sports drinks and water to make a refreshing drink for before, during or after a workout. For many years, it seemed that BCAAs were one of the key supplements which we were told we needed to make progress in the gym. On a level with other ‘essentials’ such as whey, pre-workout and creatine. Up until recently we were all sipping on them in the gym and throughout the day, believing they would help us retain muscle and recover faster.
When To Take BCAA or Amino Acids ?
There is no such time for it. In whole day you can consume at any time. But the best time to be preferred is in pre-workout, intra-workout, or can also be consumed in after-workout.
" Personally speaking, i consume it some-times in intra-workout (specially when i need to hit my legs), & most of the time i prefer in after workout because i think when muscle gets damaged then it's the best to consume it to see better recovery. "
How Much To Take ?
It depends on the serving size. Some Supplements provide with 5gm & some with 10gm. So,that totally depends on the serving size. But if you are a beginner, than just consume 1 scoop of BCAA or Amino.
What Does Research Say ?
The research on BCAA's which led to many of the claims surrounding them were carried out in rats in 2006. New human research is pointing to a balanced profile of amino acids being most beneficial for protein synthesis (i.e., the building of new muscle). This is largely because each amino acid does not work independently. All are required in order to achieve their purpose, the relevant one in this context being protein synthesis. Any supplement which disrupts the balance of their levels, including BCAA's, may actually disrupt this process. All in all, we would recommend that EAA's are the superior choice here for the serious athlete looking to maximize their muscle building potential. EAA's will give you ‘more bang for your buck’ so to say. Of course, you should ensure that all other variables are perfected first.
These include adequate protein intake from quality sources (meat, fish, eggs) and a solid resistance training programme, consistently followed, which allows you to progress lifts over time. Amino acids have been one of the premier performance supplements for nearly 40 years. Branched-chain amino acids (BCAA's) are particularly popular among athletes, who swear by their effects on muscle gain, recovery, and athletic performance.
A recent meta-analysis of research conducted between 1985 and 2017 revealed zero human studies in which BCAA's alone were responsible for more efficient protein synthesis or improved athletic performance.
In fact, the meta-analysis detailed two studies which found that BCAA's decreased muscle protein synthesis and actually accelerated the catabolic rate of lean tissue. This means that muscle was being broken down faster than it could be repaired.
The catabolic state was so aggressive in the presence of BCAA's because the body was rapidly trying to derive the other essential amino acids to complete protein synthesis. Without a complete profile of essential amino acids, the body was left with no choice but to break down muscle to derive the six that were missing.
In other words, BCAA's do not work in isolation. All of the essential amino acids are required to complete protein synthesis.
What Is BCAA ?
BCAA's are essential amino acids, but they have a branched-chain structure that sets them apart from the other EAA's. They are the building blocks of protein. Although branched-chain amino acids are in EAA's, the quantity is higher in pure BCAA supplements. They are fast-acting as they are metabolised primarily by the skeletal muscle meaning they skip the liver and directly enter your bloodstream.
A branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) is an amino acid having an aliphatic side-chain with a branch (a central carbon atom bound to three or more carbon atoms). The branched-chain amino acids (BCAA's) are a group of three essential amino acids: LEUCINE, ISO-LEUCINE and VALINE. They are essential, meaning they can't be produced by your body and must be obtained from food. BCAA supplements have been shown to build muscle, decrease muscle fatigue and alleviate muscle soreness.
There are 20 different amino acids that make up the thousands of different proteins in the human body. Nine of the 20 are considered essential amino acids, meaning they cannot be made by your body and must be obtained through your diet. Of the nine essential amino acids, three are the branched-chain amino acids (BCAA's): LEUCINE , ISO-LEUCINE and VALINE.
“Branched-chain” refers to the chemical structure of BCAA's, which are found in protein-rich foods such as eggs, meat and dairy products. They are also a popular dietary supplement sold primarily in powder form.
Here are five proven benefits of BCAA's.
1. Increase Muscle Growth:
One of the most popular uses of BCAA's is to increase muscle growth.The BCAA's leucine activates a certain pathway in the body that stimulates muscle protein synthesis, which is the process of making muscle.
In one study, people who consumed a drink with 5.6 grams of BCAA's after their resistance workout had a 22% greater increase in muscle protein synthesis compared to those who consumed a placebo drink. That being said, this increase in muscle protein synthesis is approximately 50% less than what was observed in other studies where people consumed a whey protein shake containing a similar amount of BCAA's.
Whey protein contains all the essential amino acids needed to build muscle.Therefore, while BCAA's can increase muscle protein synthesis, they can’t do so maximally without the other essential amino acids, such as those found in whey protein or other complete protein sources.
2. Decrease Muscle Soreness
Some research suggests BCAA's can help decrease muscle soreness after a workout.
It’s not uncommon to feel sore a day or two after a workout, especially if your exercise routine is new.
This soreness is called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which develops 12 to 24 hours after exercise and can last up to 72 hours (8Trusted Source).
While the exact cause of DOMS is not clearly understood, researchers believe it’s the result of tiny tears in the muscles after exercise (9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source).
BCAA's have been shown to decrease muscle damage, which may help reduce the length and severity of DOMS.
Several studies show that BCAA's decrease protein breakdown during exercise and decrease levels of creatine kinase, which is an indicator of muscle damage.
In one study, people who supplemented with BCAA's before a squat exercise experienced reduced DOMS and muscle fatigue compared to the placebo group.
Therefore, supplementing with BCAAs, especially before exercise, may speed up recovery time.
3. Reduce Exercise Fatigue:
Just as BCAA's may help decrease muscle soreness from exercise, they may also help reduce exercise-induced fatigue.
Everyone experiences fatigue and exhaustion from exercise at some point. How quickly you tire depends on several factors, including exercise intensity and duration, environmental conditions and your nutrition and fitness level (17Trusted Source).
Your muscles use BCAA's during exercise, causing levels in your blood to decrease. When blood levels of BCAA's decline, levels of the essential amino acid tryptophan in your brain increase (18Trusted Source).
In your brain, tryptophan is converted to serotonin, a brain chemical that is thought to contribute to the development of fatigue during exercise (19Trusted Source, 20Trusted Source, 21Trusted Source).
In two studies, participants who supplemented with BCAA's improved their mental focus during exercise, which is thought to result from the fatigue-reducing effect of BCAA's (22Trusted Source, 23Trusted Source).
However, this decrease in fatigue is unlikely to translate to improvements in exercise performance (24Trusted Source, 25Trusted Source).
4. Prevent Muscle Wasting:
BCAA's can help prevent muscle wasting or breakdown. Muscle proteins are constantly broken down and rebuilt (synthesized). The balance between muscle protein breakdown and synthesis determines the amount of protein in muscle (26Trusted Source).
Muscle wasting or breakdown occurs when protein breakdown exceeds muscle protein synthesis. Muscle wasting is a sign of malnutrition and occurs with chronic infections, cancer, periods of fasting and as a natural part of the aging process (27Trusted Source).
In humans, BCAA's account for 35% of the essential amino acids found in muscle proteins. They account for 40% of the total amino acids required by your body (28Trusted Source).
Therefore, it’s important that the BCAA's and other essential amino acids are replaced during times of muscle wasting to halt it or to slow its progression.
Several studies support the use of BCAA supplements for inhibiting muscle protein breakdown. This may improve health outcomes and quality of living in certain populations, such as the elderly and those with wasting diseases like cancer (29Trusted Source, 30Trusted Source, 31Trusted Source).
5. Benefit People With Liver Disease:
BCAA's may improve health in people with cirrhosis, a chronic disease in which the liver does not function properly.
It’s estimated that 50% of people with cirrhosis will develop hepatic encephalopathy, which is the loss of brain function that occurs when the liver is unable to remove toxins from the blood (32Trusted Source). While certain sugars and antibiotics are the mainstays of treatment for hepatic encephalopathy, BCAAs may also benefit people suffering from the disease (33Trusted Source, 34Trusted Source).
One review of 16 studies including 827 people with hepatic encephalopathy found that taking BCAA supplements had a beneficial effect on the symptoms and signs of the disease, but had no effect on mortality (35Trusted Source).
Liver cirrhosis is also a major risk factor for the development of hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common form of liver cancer, for which BCAA supplements may also be useful (36Trusted Source, 37Trusted Source).
Several studies have shown that taking BCAA supplements may offer protection against liver cancer in people with liver cirrhosis (38Trusted Source, 39Trusted Source).
As such, scientific authorities recommend these supplements as a nutritional intervention for liver disease to prevent complications (40Trusted Source, 41).
The Food High In BCAA
They have also successfully been used in a hospital setting to prevent or slow muscle loss and to improve symptoms of liver disease. However, because most people get plenty of BCAA's through their diet, supplementing with BCAA is unlikely to provide additional benefits.
Amino acids are organic compounds that contain amine and carboxyl functional groups, along with a side chain specific to each amino acid. The key elements of an amino acid are carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, although other elements are found in the side chains of certain amino acids.
Role Amino Acids Play
There are 22 amino acids. Amino acids play a role in almost every system throughout your body, including:
Assisting in the creation and growth of muscles, connective tissue, and skin.
Assisting in maintaining muscle tone and tissue strength.
Healing and repair.
Providing energy for your body.
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