Aminos are responsible for more than just promoting major muscle gains. In fact, amino acids, taken either alone or in various combinations as supplements, can enhance other components of your training from digestion and metabolism to blood flow. There are about 80 aminos found in nature, but only 20 are essentially used by the human body.But every single one of those 20 is absolutely essential for the body to function normally. The body can naturally produce 11 aminos by itself and the other 9 must come from a fully planned diet, otherwise the body will start to break down your muscle tissue to make up for the difference and will make it impossible to maintain your current physique.
How much protein do you need? The amount of protein you need in your diet depends on your weight, age and health. As a rough guide, the recommended dietary intake (RDI) for protein (measured in grams per kilogram of bodyweight) is:
0.75 g/kg for adult women
0.84 g/kg for adult men
Around 1 g/kg for pregnant and breastfeeding women, and for men and women over 70 years.
According to Mark Tarnopolsky, M.D., Ph.D., who studies exercise and nutrition at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, highly trained athletes thrive on 0.77 gram of daily protein per pound of body weight. That's 139 grams for a 180-pound man. Men who work out 5 or more days a week for an hour or longer need 0.55 gram per pound. And men who work out 3 to 5 days a week for 45 minutes to an hour need 0.45 gram per pound. So a 180-pound guy who works out regularly needs about 80 grams of protein a day.
Some bodybuilding sites on the other hand, suggest a protein consumption of 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. When it comes to maintaining and gaining muscle, the protein rule is the same no matter your gender.
The main reason for eating complete proteins containing all 20 amino acids (meat, fish, soy, eggs, whey and casein) is to take in a full complement of amino acids with which to build muscle. As your body digests protein, it breaks it down into individual amino components before sending each type of amino where it's needed most. Some of them will be reassembled into protein, also known as muscle. This is how aminos work when they're consumed as whole foods. When they're consumed individually in concentrated doses as supplements, on the other hand, they can perform vastly different functions that go way beyond muscle-making. This is why manipulating amino acid intake through supplementation can bring your workout goals within reach faster. Below is a list of the top 8 amino acids with functions and dosage when taken in individually.
Arginine increases nitric oxide production, which in turn improves blood flow, bringing those muscle fibers more nutrients to help them grow faster. Research shows it effectively increases strength.
Arginine has been shown to trigger herpes outbreaks, so sufferers beware.
Dose: Arginine is most often found in three forms: L-arginine (the simplest form but also thought to be the least readily absorbed by the body), arginine alpha-ketoglutarate and arginine alpha-ketoisocaproate. The dose for each is 1—3 grams in the morning, 30—60 minutes before your workout, and before bed, each on an empty stomach.
Carnitine plays a critical role in helping the body burn fat and is thought to enhance blood flow to exercising muscle, preventing fatigue and damage.
Dose: Look for L-carnitine or acetyl-L-carnitine (thought to improve absorption of carnitine by the brain) and take 1—2 grams in 2—3 divided doses on an empty stomach.
Carnosine is a pro at boosting both muscle strength and endurance. It also functions as an antioxidant, meaning it destroys the free radicals that can damage muscle.
Dose: Don't get confused if you find only bottles that say beta-alanyl-L-histidine on them. Carnosine is actually two aminos in one: histidine and beta-alanine. Take 1—1.5 grams before and after training.
Citrulline is mostly known in bodybuilding circles for its easy conversion into arginine in the body. It also helps remove ammonia from the body. When ammonia builds up in muscle fibers, they fatigue more easily, so less ammonia means longer, better workouts.
Dose: One of the only ways to take citrulline is together with malic acid (which helps burn lactic acid as you work out, preventing muscle fatigue) as citrulline malate. Take 2—3 grams twice daily on an empty stomach, with one dose 30 minutes before workouts and another immediately after.
Glutamine is just about the ideal bodybuilding amino. It enhances muscle growth, boosts recovery and immune function, aids digestion, prevents fatigue and might even blunt your sweet tooth.
Dose: Glutamine can make your digestive tract very unhappy, so start with a smaller dose and work your way up to 1—3 grams 2—4 times per day on an empty stomach.
Glycine can increase growth hormone levels, boost the production of creatine in the body and enhance the firing of nerves that stimulate muscles to contract (which can increase strength). On top of all that, a new study concludes that maintaining glycine levels may help prevent sports injuries such as muscle strains and sprains.
Dose: Take 1—2 grams 30—60 minutes before workouts and before bed on an empty stomach.
Taurine enhances a muscle's ability to contract. It affects both skeletal and heart muscle, meaning that not only will you lift weights better but you might even be able to do it longer.
Dose: Research has shown that taurine levels in muscle fibers drop during exercise, so supplement with 1—2 grams both before and after working out.
Tyrosine can boosts norepinephrine production in the body. Norepinephrine is a hormone that enhances fat loss and can control appetite, making tyrosine a great thermogenic.
Tyrosine has a few warnings attached to it:
- Because it's a precursor for the neurotransmitter dopamine, those with mental disorders should not take it.
- Tyrosine is also related to melanin production and should not be taken by those with skin cancer.
- Tyrosine is involved in thyroid hormone production and should not be taken by those with hyperthyroidism.
Dose: If your energy levels are low before you begin a workout, tyrosine should rev you up. Take 1—2 grams of L-tyrosine on an empty stomach twice a day or 1—2 grams about an hour before training.
While taking amino acids is generally safe (always consult a doctor before starting any new diet or supplementation plan), you should follow certain rules for best results.
ALWAYS NOTE: Don't take amino supplements with food — take them on an empty stomach. This allows them to do their job without any competition from whole foods.