Is it better to just take proteins? Or should we add amino acids? Do they have the same effect? Will I gain muscle mass if I combine both of them?…
There are still people that have many doubts regarding supplementation, which is completely normal due to the great amount of products that are available in the market. Without going any further, the role of proteins and amino acids is what causes most controversy.
How much Protein do we need?
Our body has a protein synthesis limit, consuming more proteins does not mean that you will gain more muscle. Even though this may seem obvious, we still want to make sure that everything is clear. The organism is extremely efficient when it comes to using the amino acids to build muscle.
This is one of the most frequently asked questions… and the most ignored one once we get an answer…
Then, when we ask how much protein do we need to meet our requirements? we should not expect a 100% exact answer. The world of nutrition is not 100% exact, specially when we deal with subjective profiles. However, if we look at the general advice, we could establish a dose of:
1.8-2.5g per kg lean body weight
This is the first thing we should do before choosing proteins or amino acids
Protein powder will help to meet the individual daily requirements of this nutrient, which will enhance the absorption of nitrogen, muscle growth, the in muscle glycogen resynthesis after training (whey is insulin), and it will reduce the protein breakdown caused by the diet and physical stress…
are the most popular products within sport nutrition, which can be used by athletes, sportspeople, or even anyone who practices sport regularly
Moreover, these supplements provide a series of very important properties for health like reducing “sport anemia”, since they improve certain functions like: increasing the synthesis of hemoglobins, myoglobins, oxidative enzymes, and mitochondria.
Protein Synthesis and Whey
Protein SynthesisWhey Protein has a higher percentage of essential amino acids than any other source of proteins, which means that it is the best supplement to enhance protein synthesis and contribute to building, regenerating, and supporting tissues and systems.
The essential amino acids are directly involved in protein synthesis. Proteins are made of amino acid chains that are bound by peptides
Essential Amino Acids
The “Essential Amino Acids” are those amino acids that cannot be synthesized by our organism, which means that they have to be externally supplied, either through the food we eat, or through supplementation, either in protein powder or directly as isolated amino acids.
The Essential Amino Acids are:
Our organism does not store amino acids like it does with the other macronutrients, carbs and fats, which are deposited as glycogen and in the adipose tissue respectively
Due to this, it is fundamental to consume a proper amount of these tissue building blocks and other related elements
Amino Acid Supplements
We will skip this step by using amino acid products, which provide the amino acid directly.
Now, some people may wonder: why should we take the protein powder instead of the amino acids? The answer is “simple”, if we take a high percentage of amino acids, they will enter the bloodstream really fast since they do not need any digestion. This could result in the saturation of muscle receptors.
…amino acids make up proteins, which have to be digested in order to obtain the amino acids, that is, the protein has to be broken down to its molecular structure…
Amino Acid Supplements are specific products that perform a task that is somehow different to the ones we have previously seen
Amino Acids for Vegans and Vegetarians
Those who follow vegan or vegetarian diets and lifestyles should consider including certain types of amino acids in their diet because the foods they eat may lack some of them, like in the case of Lysine or Leucine.
Amino acid supplementation could be used for the following situations:
- Tryptophan can be used to relieve the symptoms of depression, since it improves the mood, apart from being a precursor form of serotonin.
- Aspartic Acid is used as a hormone enhancer, since it optimizes the free testosterone levels.
- Arginine has vasodilating properties, which increases sport performance. It is a precursor form of nitric oxide.
Differences between taking Proteins or Amino Acids
One of the main differences between taking Proteins or Amino Acids is that if we choose the latter we will be missing very important components that can only be found in proteins (Whey Protein): bioactive peptides.
These protein fractions have a series of properties to strengthen our health
For example, they enhance the immune system, act as anti-microbial or anti-viral agents, improve the absorption and transport of iron, or anti-inflammatory properties among others…
However, consuming amino acids has also some advantages when compared to proteins, specially for Peri-workout Protocols (before, during and/or after the workout), since we will benefits from the absorption rate and the availability of the amino acids. They can also be combined with other supplements such as Carbohydrates, creatine, or Pre-Workout supplements.
There are three essential amino acids that will favor muscle recovery and improve certain aspects of the sport performance during these moments: BCAA’s or Branched Chain Amino Acids, which are Leucine, Valine, and Isoleucine.
You can also add Glutamine since its synthesis can be compromised under certain circumstances, even though it is not an essential amino acid.
Some of these circumstances could be going through more demanding periods, physical stress, or calorie restriction
Another remarkable difference is the digestion. Some people are lactose intolerance and they cannot consume Whey Protein Concentrate, or maybe they are thinking about purchasing Whey Protein Isolate, and add amino acids to their supplementation plan.
At the same time, choosing isolated amino acids will be more relevant for those who suffer any pathology related to the digestive system that may hinder the absorption of important elements
Combining Amino Acids and Proteins
One of the conclusions that we can draw from what we have previously explained is that we do not have to choose either using proteins or amino acids, in fact, they are completely compatible.
An amino acid supply during the Peri-workout can be quite useful to improve the recovery and stimulate the hypertrophy pathway as much as possible
Sarcopenia and Amino acids
The passing of time is related to a loss of muscle mass known as sarcopenia which also increases the risk of suffering some kind of injury. Moreover, the muscle anabolic response also deteriorates.
This means that organism is not as efficient when it comes to absorbing the amino acids from proteins as it used to be.