Every serious athlete knows that today’s performance is only as good as yesterday’s recovery, which is why an amino acid supplement in your nutritional plan is essential to support recovery and performance by repairing and building muscle tissue.
A comprehensive ‘free form’ amino acid (that means they are not bound in complete protein structures) product like Weider Amino 6000 has the potential to support muscle growth and may improve physical performance and exercise capacity by supplying all the essential and non-essential amino acids your body needs in a convenient daily dose.
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Every training plan, no matter your sport, aims to drive specific adaptations to the physical and physiological demands you impose on your body.
By continually stressing various bodily systems with progressively greater training loads and intensities, exercise forces your body to respond by increasing its capacity to manage the physical stress.
These responses can include improvements to cardiovascular function, which carries more oxygen to working muscles; enhancing the efficiency with which muscle cells absorb and utilise energy; and structural changes to muscle tissue, which makes them more efficient as fibres become stronger and can contract with more force.
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Break down to build up
In terms of the effects of exercise on muscle, physical exertion is catabolic in nature as it causes micro-trauma to soft tissue (this is necessary to initiate the rebuilding process) and can break down muscle tissue.
When we train, race or compete, especially over prolonged durations or at high intensities, one of the ways our body meets the increased energy demands is metabolising (breaking down) muscle tissue through a process known as gluconeogenesis.
And this process typically continues after training as part of the natural response to the physical stress from the effort.
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Boost muscle repair and growth
When combined with a healthy, balanced diet, drinking an amino acid drink after your session can flick the proverbial switch on this natural catabolic process to support muscle growth through a process known as muscle protein synthesis (MPS).
Among amino acids, the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are perhaps most important in this process.
The BCAA leucine is particularly beneficial as it is a potent MPS stimulator. It activates a muscle-building (anabolic) pathway, and higher leucine levels indicate to the body that there is sufficient dietary protein to create new muscle tissue.
As such, amino acid supplements typically contain more leucine than the other two BCAAs. The industry standard, which you’ll find in Weider Amino 6000, is a 2:1:1 leucine:isoleucine:valine ratio.
Ultimately, it is only when you shift your body from a catabolic into an anabolic state during your rest and recovery phase that you start to realise the positive adaptations to training that athletes are after!
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Delay fatigue and boost exercise capacity
But it is not only after training, competing or racing when amino acids can deliver benefits to athletes.
Sipping on a supplement that contains all nine essential amino acids, including the BCAAs, before and during exercise may help to boost exercise capacity and delay muscle fatigue during physical activity.
Your body can use the circulating amino acids supplied from the supplement for gluconeogenesis, which can providesome of glucose your body needs for energy when stored glycogen levels run low.
This extra energy can help to boost your exercise capacity, with a study1 that investigated the effect of BCAA supplementation on exercise performance and energy metabolism in glycogen-depleted athletes finding that three days of high-dose BCAA supplementation resulted in increased exercise performance compared to a placebo.
Support your recovery
And providing free form amino acids from a supplement may offer a muscle-sparing benefit, which could help to limit tissue damage to effectively support recovery after exercise.
This anti-catabolic effect is distinct from the anabolic process because the circulating amino acids spare existing muscle tissue, rather than creating new muscle fibres or repairing damaged tissue.
Research substantiates this muscle-sparing benefit. A study conducted at the Institute of Human Physiology in Verona, Italy, found that conditioned athletes who trekked through a mountainous area at an average altitude of 3,255 m for 21 days lost no muscle mass when taking a BCAA supplement. In fact, they gained muscle during that period.
This finding was in stark contrast to the norm, where athletes normally lose significant body mass, particularly from muscle, due to the extreme physical exertion and lack of oxygen (hypoxia) at the higher altitude.
- Branched chain amino acids supplementation enhance exercise capacity and lipid oxidation during endurance exercise after muscle glycogen depletion, The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness; March 2011; 51(1):82-8
- Branched-chain amino acid supplementation during trekking at high altitude. The effects on loss of body mass, body composition, and muscle power. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol, 1992;65(5):394-8. doi: 10.1007/BF00243503.